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Letter: Once we start fracking we can’t turn back clock

Once we start fracking we can’t turn back clock

Farmer and essayist Wendell Berry once proposed that we adopt land-use policies that compensate for the limits of our ecological knowledge – that for any action with potential for large and unforeseen consequences, we should proceed incrementally, with small, reversible steps.

In New York State, water is perhaps our greatest natural asset, surrounded as we are by two Great Lakes, an ocean and hundreds of rivers, creeks, springs and seeps. Up to half the water flowing into our streams is from ground water-bearing formations or aquifers.

High-volume hydrofracking for natural gas takes place thousands of feet below this water supply. The shale gas industry tells us that there is no connection between the fractured shale layers and our groundwater supply. But in New York we have good reason to doubt that. On the Niagara Frontier, how much prime land is indefinitely off-line because of landfill chemicals remaining and still migrating through the naturally fractured bedrock? That may have been an unforeseen consequence of burying wastes 50 years ago, but it should not be unforeseen now.

Can the shale gas industry really guarantee no connectivity? Especially since there is no requirement for companies to track the volumes and flows of the chemical-laden fracking water that are left underground, or injected into unknown fault zones? Are not the well-bore holes themselves, and their cement linings, certain to deteriorate over time – potential pathways for groundwater contamination?

Earthquakes and water pollution are just two of the negative impacts that have been linked to high-volume hydrofracking in its relatively short lifetime. And not just in Ohio, but in the United Kingdom and other countries around the world.

Energy sources like wind and solar are not only renewable, they provide a more incremental and prudent approach to the challenge of energy development in our state. Once fracked, we can never be unfracked.

Margaret Wooster