Trying to build on lessons learned from Pennsylvania’s drilling debacle, state Sen. Greg Ball continued his campaign for tougher regulations on hydraulic fracturing in New York State at Lewisboro Library this past Wednesday.
Ball’s presentation, which was borrowed from the executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, focused on the environmental impacts of “fracking,” specifically its affects on groundwater and public health risks associated with the natural gas extraction process. Through comparing Pennsylvania’s current environmental mess and civil unrest to what could potentially happen in New York should it go unregulated, Ball has drawn attention to the need for tighter restrictions if fracking is realized as an industry in the state.
“[Pennsylvania] just doesn’t have the manpower to prevent—they have more punitive manpower in place but they can’t prevent it and they’re actually actively allowing it because they lack the regulations to protect the environment and the water supply,” Ball said. “When you’re in Pennsylvania, you realize it’s the sportsmen, the farmers and the private property owners that are being affected.”
During the presentation, Ball spotlighted the cocktail of chemicals used when companies expel the water solution deep down into the Earth to fracture the rock; a mixture of surfactants, organics, metals and radioactive elements—all of which go largely unregulated, resulting in groundwater contamination and polluted runoff into lakes, streams and ponds. The slideshow also highlighted the wasteful nature of these drilling companies, which use about 10 billion gallons a day for fracking.
“The wars of the future are going to be fought not over oil, but over water and we have gotten away for a very long time in the Northeast with having a vast supply of water,” Ball said. “So this is very scary talking about a resource like this that can become easily contaminated.”
Ball was joined by state Assemblyman Bob Castelli, who co-sponsored the state’s legislation that initiated a fracking moratorium in 2010. Castelli urged audience members to aim their comments and questions to pro-fracking public officials, rather than reach out to those who view the process as a problem.
“Target the individuals that will have the greatest impact on it,” Castelli said. “If you look at the individuals who are the biggest proponents of it, your time is better spent calling them than calling us who are already on your side of the particular issue.”
The 89th District assemblyman also compelled the crowd to keep their plight for tougher fracking regulations apolitical.
“Any time you reduce any of these issues to a political issue, the issue loses,” Castelli said. “The environment is sacrosanct—it’s not a Republican or a Democrat, a conservative or liberal issue, it’s all our issue and it needs to be elevated to a level of discourse where politics stays out of it.”
Ball and Castelli fielded questions and comments from the crowd, most of which was comprised of anti-fracking advocates. Susan Leifer, a Pleasantville resident, said the issue should not be entirely about fracking, but more importantly, a shift to the use of alternative energy.
“I’m just wondering right now whether we ought to be putting energy, or a lot of energy into alternate energy because that’s going to stop this in some way—solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy, there’s a solar bill out there that’s been floating around for a while and we should get it passed,” Leifer said. “First of all, it’s not the kind of energy that kind be exported, second of all it’s the kind of jobs that stay in the community and third of all it’s not destroying the wind, it’s not destroying the ground, it’s not destroying anything.”
Though Ball hasn’t completely ruled out the possibility of fracking in New York State, he does agree that government needs to play a proactive role in ensuring that the process is carried out in a safe, clean manner. Just last week, he held an emergency press conference asking the state to issue a one-year moratorium.
“I’m a limited government guy, but limited government should do things well—it should take care of poor people, it should protect our environment, it should take care of women and children, it should stay the hell out of our lives to the extend possible,” Ball said. “But if you’re pouring contaminants into a stream, the government should step in with a very heavy foot.”