St. Lawrence County League of Women Voters expresses concern about proposed state fracking regulations
Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 5:07 pm

The St. Lawrence County League of Women Voters has formally expressed concern that proposed state fracking regulations may not adequately protect air and water quality.

After taking over 21,000 public comments on the revised draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS), the state Department of Environmental Conservation must now get to work on finalizing regulations around Horizontal Drilling and High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing. Also known as “fracking,” it involves forcing a pressurized fluid into layers of deep below the ground into veins to extract natural gas, petroleum or coal seam gas.

According to Joseph Martens, state environmental commissioner, “if high-volume hydraulic fracturing moves forward in New York, it will move forward with the strictest standards in the nation to ensure New York’s drinking water and other natural resources are thoroughly protected.”

The St. Lawrence County League co-sponsored a number of educational area programs on shale gas drilling, the most notable of which was bringing Deborah Rogers to Potsdam from her home in Texas to discuss the finances behind shale oil drilling, environmental and health problems associated with it, and what New York state residents could expect if fracking is permitted to go forward.

Based on the Executive Committee’s study of the issues surround fracking, the local LWV unit wrote to the DEC expressing concerns. They included protection of land owner rights in regard to air quality and water safety with pre and post-drilling water testing and concerns about the chemicals added to the water using in hyrdofracking for toxicity and carcinogens.

Additional concerns included the damage to land property values for landowners on or near drill sites. In particular, the League noted the need for remediation by the gas companies for all damages done to private property as result of drilling, with independent audits and remediation or compensation at the expense of the drilling company to repay landowners for damages.

Similarly, drilling companies must be responsible for additional burdens placed on localities and communities who will be under the burden of increased expense due to drilling. Increased costs due to drilling for highway maintenance, fire and police protection, or other services like health care must be the responsibility of the energy companies.

The issue of safe and adequate waste disposal was dressed in the letter, in particular regarding the disposal of toxic wastes and safe industrial treatment of spent hyrdofracking fluids. Currently the state does not have a single waste water treatment plant capable of taking the toxins out of fracking fluid.

The LWV recommended the use of unique chemical tracers so that each well and its fluid could be later identified in the event of contamination or leakage. A related recommendation is requiring drillers to have sufficient bonding to ensure that any adverse impacts of the drilling operation will be taken care of. Without such bonding, efforts to obtain financial remuneration by residents or communities could be tied up in years of costly negotiation.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization open to women and men, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

The goal of the League is to empower citizens to participate in the democratic process by study of key community issues in an unbiased manner to enable people to seek positive solutions to public policy issues.

For more information, contact SLC League Chair Sue Cypert at 386-8659 or gardency@yahoo.com or Secretary Kathleen Stein at kstein1@twcny.rr.com or visit the SLC League website at http://slc-leaguewv.org/.