Why regulation cannot protect us

•     No regulation can prevent the extraordinary squandering of fresh water, 5½ million gallons average per well, 100% of which becomes contaminated — permanently — and removed from the natural water cycle. This in an era of critically diminishing supplies of fresh water in the US and around the world.

According to Prof. Tony Ingraffea, Cornell rock fracture specialist, the oil and gas industry intends to drill tens of thousands of wells in the New York portion of the Marcellus layer. Add to this the number it may drill in other shales and sandstones.

•     No regulation can prevent the salts, heavy metals and radioactive substances loosened by the fracking process from coming up with the fracking fluids.

•     No regulation can stop up to 65% to 90% of the toxic fracking chemicals from remaining underground.

•     No regulation can prevent these chemicals, salts, heavy metals and radioactive substances, now loosened and mixed by the fracking process, from becoming a toxic underground plume that can wangle its way into existing fissures as well as into new fractures created by the drilling.

•     No regulation can predict or control the underground migration of these toxic plumes. Similar plumes are already oozing under Sublette County, Wyoming, Endicott, New York, and Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

•     No regulation can predict or control the time frame — years, decades, millennia? — over which such plumes will migrate.

•     No regulation can prevent the deterioration of the steel and cement casing intended to protect drinking water over the decades and centuries ahead.

•     No regulation, in this era of economic plummet, can scrape together the billions of dollars needed to construct and maintain industrial waste treatment plants (reverse osmosis or dialysis), which do not exist anywhere in this state, that might be able to filter the toxic chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials from fracking waste.

Radioactive cuttings and drilling muds from Pennsylvania are already being dumped in NYS landfills, potentially leaching in unpredictable directions.

•     No regulation can create a safe manner or safe location for permanent storage of waste — even if the economy could support the very expensive construction and maintenance of appropriate industrial waste treatment plants. Once supposedly filtered, the remaining toxic waste still must be put somewhere.

The “produced” waters that continue to flow from wells during gas production are too saline to be treated and must be stored somewhere.

•     No regulation can avoid the risk from high-pressure disposal in injection wells — of potential leakage and aquifer contamination, or of earthquakes. Tremors from such activity have already caused damage in Ashtabula, Ohio, and authorities are presently investigating swarms of quakes in Celburne, Texas, Guy, Arkansas, and Gassaway, West Virginia that may be caused by fracking fluid disposal in injection wells.

•     No regulation can require that gas produced will contribute to “energy independence.” The gas will be shipped overseas if it’s more profitable to export than to sell domestically. At present, Asian, European and Canadian corporations already own significant pieces of US drilling companies, land and leases — thus, some profit may already be going beyond our borders.

•     No regulation can guarantee enforcement. Without 24/7 oversight, drillers will not obey the grossly inadequate rules now in place to safeguard the safety and health of people, other living things or the environment. A trail of ruined lives and landscapes is documented in thousands of articles, many YouTube videos and several films, one of which — Gasland — was nominated for an Oscar.

Even though New York State is planning to issue permits to hydrofrack in state forests, former Governor Paterson reduced DEC staff and budget drastically. The approximately 16 inspectors now employed is a number ludicrously inadequate to deal with the level of industrialization the drillers have planned.

•     Only a drastic change in existing regulation can thwart eminent domain abuse. New York State’s particularly vicious form is “compulsory integration,” which forces landowners who do not wish to lease to have their property drilled anyway. Until this is repaired, local, often poor citizens are influenced or manipulated by wealthy corporations, and powerful local and state agencies. Fixing this would leave all other vulnerabilities intact.

– Carl Arnold