Former Broome County legislator Chris Burger has seen the effects that hydraulic fracturing has had in states like Pennsylvania, and he believes New York should proceed with caution, if at all.
That’s the message Burger gave to a receptive crowd at a Jan. 25 lecture on the subject at the Mahopac Library. Burger, also the chairman of the Broome County Energy Advisory Board, laid out the risks of hydro-fracking in his speech and PowerPoint presentation and went on to say the rewards didn’t measure up.
“It seems like we’re going through a lot of trouble in our current mode of energy consumption to not get very much out of it,” he said.
Hydro-fracking differs from conventional drilling for natural gas in that gas is withdrawn from tight shale deposits rather than pockets of gas. To pool the natural gas for extraction, a mixture of granular material is forced down at high pressure to fracture the shale layer, Burger said.
Then-governor David Paterson issued a moratorium on hydro-fracking last December while the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation studies the issue. Environmental advocates have pointed to the potential negative impacts, including contamination of the air and water, while proponents of the drilling have called the practice safe and effective.
Southeast resident Ann Fanizzi, chair of the Putnam County Coalition to Preserve Open Space and a member of the Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition, was a driving force in organizing the lecture, called “The Dirty Secret of ‘Clean’ Natural Gas.” Fanizzi has been an outspoken opponent of hydro-fracking.
The moratorium, issued by executive order, will run at least until the DEC completes a Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which will be July 1 at the earliest. DEC Spokesman Michael Bopp said even if the moratorium ends, it could still be years before permits are issued.
Proponents of hydro-fracking, including many business groups, have pointed to its potential for job creation as well as the country’s need to end its reliance on foreign oil. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a group promoting “responsible development of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale geological formation,” has called for an end to the moratorium.
The Marcellus Shale runs through much of the eastern portion of the United States, including many counties in New York. Putnam and Westchester, though, are not part of the Marcellus Shale.