Fracking – NY DEC Reviewing Rules; VT House Passes 3-Year Moratorium

People gather in Albany, NY to protest fracking. Photo by Bennet V via

People gather in Albany, NY to protest fracking. Photo by Bennet V via

The issue of using hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” as a means of extracting natural gas from shale and other tightly packed rock formations has stirred a great deal of controversy. In fracking, gas companies inject pressurized water, sand, and a proprietary blend of chemicals into deep, horizontally-drilled wells. The water fractures the rock formation releasing the natural gas stored there and the sand particles keep the fissures open. The companies then have to cope with the chemical laden water. Each well may use over a million gallons of water. One concern is that the wastewater will contaminate drinking water wells. Federal data suggests that the chemicals used include neurotoxins and carcinogens. Additional potential problems are soil contamination from the fracturing chemicals, risks to air quality from combustion and venting, and mishandling of wastes.

In southern New York, where appropriate rock formations are common, the debate about the issue has torn communities. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is in the process of reviewing their rules with regard to fracking. Currently there is a moratorium on the procedure. DEC expects to decide on new rules within a few months.

Shale formations extend into Vermont, particularly in the Champlain Basin. In advance of any proposals to utilize fracking in Vermont, the Vermont House passed a bill placing a three-year moratorium on the process. To date, no permit applications have been requested in the state so the moratorium will give the Agency of Natural Resources time to consider guidelines for any fracking applications in the future. It will also give Vermonters time to see how the debate in New York develops and to review an EPA assessment on the impacts of fracking to drinking water which is expected to be complete by 2014. The bill now sits in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. 

LCC supports a fracking moratorium in the Champlain watershed. “There simply is not enough known or disclosed about the process and too little oversight at this time,” said LCC Executive Director Lori Fisher. “We urge Vermonters to contact their state senators and ask them to support passage of a ban on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.”