In early May, Long Islanders held an anti-fracking forum in Port Washington against lifting the ban on hydrofracking in New York State. Nassau and Suffolk counties have already banned sewage treatment plants from accepting wastewater from hydrofracking regions. Long Island activists are calling on local representatives, Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and Senator Jack Martins (R-Mineola), and Governor Cuomo to place a permanent ban on hydrofracking in the state.
New York farmers have been caught in the middle of the hydrofracking debate since the statewide moratorium was established four years ago. The moratorium is in place until the Department of Environmental Conservation completes an environmental impact review, addressing concerns over wastewater contamination.
In other parts of the country, hydrofracking has been found to cause a variety of unwelcome side effects, such as releasing gas into well water, poisoning cows who drink contaminated water, undermining the viability of agricultural lands, and is suspected to be linked to high cancer rates in areas where hydrofracking is prevalent.
Hyrdrofracking is the process by which pressurized water is used to release natural gas trapped within layers of rock thousands of feet below the surface. The process requires that wells be sealed with a viscous substance to replace the gas that had been removed. Aside from the methane released, the chemicals included in this substance are the source of contamination for local water wells.
Farmers in New York are finding them on both sides of the debate. While some farmers support the ban for fear of poisoning their livestock, other farmers see the wealth incurred by their counterparts in nearby states, such as Pennsylvania where hydrofracking is legal. Pennsylvanian farmers who allow drilling on their land receive substantial paychecks, allowing them to reinvest in their agrobusiness, buy new equipment and achieve a new level of security in their finances. Other farmers find concern in reports from Louisana where 17 cows died after drinking contaminated water, and Pennsylvania where 28 cows were quarantined from sale after drinking wastewater.
At the anti-fracking forum, Adrienne Esposito said, “Let’s not fall for the false choice between jobs and a clean, healthy environment.” More recently, Geisinger Health Systems, which serves many patients in areas where hydrofracking is prevalent, has announced it will be conducting an analysis of the public health impact of the thousands of wells in the Pennsylvania area. Geisinger, with 2.6 million patients in 44 northern counties, is expected to release its findings within the year and will be a much anticipated addition to the ongoing debate over hydrofracking in New York.