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Limited Fracking is Still Fracking

J. Mijin Cha

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering allowing hydraulic fracking on a limited basis in towns  that approve drilling for natural gas. New York currently has a temporary moratorium on all fracking while an environmental review is conducted. The Administration stressed that no final decision had been made, but considering even limited fracking is the wrong way forward.

We’ve highlighted several times the dangers of fracking, which include polluted water, hazardous working conditions, and health problems for neighboring communities. It also results in flammable tap water and earthquakes. The thing is that these negatives are not a question of how much fracking occurs but are instead guaranteed outcomes from the process itself. Forgive the analogy but allowing a little bit of fracking is like saying you are a little bit pregnant. Once you allow fracking, groundwater will be polluted, workers will be put at risk, and neighboring residents’ health will be impacted.

Limiting the amount of fracking just means that you pick certain towns and their residents to endure the consequences of fracking, leaving a segment of the population to suffer so that we can feed our fossil fuel addiction. In Cuomo’s proposal, fracking would be allowed in portions of Broome, Chenango, Steuben, and Tioga counties. These areas, as well as much of rural upstate New York, are economically depressed. Fracking companies exploit this vulnerability with empty promises of jobs and economic development. In fact, the jobs do not materialize and communities, who are already economically marginalized, are left to clean up the mess left behind.

And, on top of all this, the natural gas supply is finite. The Energy Information Agency found that the Marsellus Shale has a six-year supply of gas. Six years. All of this environmental destruction and economic harm for a six year supply of gas. Without substantial investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency, we will continue the destructive pattern of energy exploration. Residents living along fossil fuel reserves, who are often from poor and low-income populations, will suffer just to feed our energy demands. Is this the way we want to move forward?