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Oct 27 / yvonneking

The Problems with Fracking in New York State

James Northrup Speaks Out

James Northrup – (Full 27 Minutes) from Sustainable Otsego on Vimeo.

In an informative, thoughtful, and clear video, James Northrup, a 30-year veteran of the oil and gas industry who was a former planning manager and owner of onshore and offshore oil rigs, discusses the particular problems associated with hydraulic fracturing in the state of New York. According to Northrup:

  1. The drilling regulations in New York are outdated and based on the drilling of small, vertical wells that do not equal the magnitude of a hydraulically fractured well. As Northrup describes it, when you hydrofrack a well, “what effectively you’re doing is you’re exploding a bomb underneath the ground. It’s a horizontal bomb, it’s a pipe bomb but the explosive power of it to break that rock up is equivalent to a really large bomb.” New York’s archaic regulations are not equipped to handle this type of powerful horizontal drilling activity and need to be brought up to the standards of today’s technology.
  2. New York State has a lot of seismic faulting and a large number of aquifers that overlay the Marcellus and Utica Shales. Aquifers are permeable or porous rock formations containing water that can supply wells. The danger this presents is that there may be faults that are not visible from the surface that could be fracked, or opened up and act as a conduit allowing fracking fluid to enter an aquifer and as a result contaminate the well water.
  3. Like Pennsylvania, New York State has no direct taxation on the production of gas, which means that the state would receive absolutely no direct revenue from the extraction of natural gas via hydraulic fracturing. Consequently, the state would lose out on valuable revenue they could use to regulate hydraulic fracturing including but not limited to inspections, necessary cleanups and rebuilding of roads, wastewater disposal and recycling.
  4. Unique to NY is also the fact that the state’s environmental watchdog, the DEC, is also the same agency that issues well permits. This is an inherent conflict of interest that obviously compromises the very department that is charged with ensuring the safety and welfare of the environment. In order for the DEC to properly perform its function, these two tasks must be carried out by separate agencies.
  5. States initiated pooling, the practice of combining tracts of land to meet the spacing requirements for a single well, as a safety measure. However, in New York, this measure intended to protect citizens can be used to compel owners that don’t want to participate in the leasing of their land for gas drilling to participate in forced pooling.
  6. The ownership of water sources in NY also presents an issue when it comes to hydraulic fracturing because the state owns all the lakes except for the reservoirs. This means that municipalities, which use the lakes for drinking water, have no control over their drinking water sources. The state can lease land to a gas driller near a lake used as a water source by a municipality and the city or town would have no say over it.

There are certain safety measures that Northrup believes are necessary for drilling in New York.

  1. One vital safety measure is the use of non-toxic chemicals in hydraulic fracturing and points out that it is not at all necessary for the industry to use toxic chemicals and carcinogens in fracking fluid.
  2. Northrup also recommends that there be no fracking of any horizontal section of a well without first conducting sufficient seismic surveys on it which provide a look at the rock layers to identify whether or not there is any localized faulting.

There are serious issues that are tied to hydraulic fracturing overall and some which are specific to New York State.  Once again, Northrup’s commentary echoes our concerns about how ill-equipped the DEC is to permit, monitor, investigate, and enforce stringent safeguards for high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York.

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7 Comments

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  1. Karla Fisk / Oct 28 2010

    Thank you, thank you, for laying the gist of Northrup’s expert and knowledgable commentary out in print. Every since I first saw this video at the beginning of September I’ve been wishing I could get a transcript.

    This is great to have and I will be forwarding it as well as tweeting it and posting it on my Facebook wall.

  2. meg montgomery / Oct 28 2010

    It is a fabulous, extremely important video and your synopsis is also well done, however – the NORMs and other organic compounds – radon, methane etc – that are released into the ground and air as a result of fracking also need to be discussed, because they are just as likely to poison our water supply and environment as the toxic fracking sludge.

  3. Ron Parker / Nov 4 2010

    Northrup is a banker, albeit a banker who knows some of the jargon. Why not trust actual experts – scientists? geologists? chemists? toxicologists? Is it because they don’t say what the banker says? The banker who is NIMBY about his vacation home? Scientific illiteracy is rampant in our society and we are the lesser for it. What is the real risk to human health from hydrofracking? Unlikely to be much of a problem. Really. The actuality resides somewhere between the Oil and Gas companies who say “totally safe” and the scientific (or, at least, the geological) illiterates who claim “the sky is falling.” I expect that the parade of imaginary horribles (contaminating the unfiltered water supply of New York City, radioactive natural gas causing your nitrate-contaminated shallow dug well to explode) doesn’t include the risky things that you actually chose to do – the one’s that are actual threats to you and your family (drive a car and fill it up with BTEX every payday, smoke cigarettes, drink single malt or Bud light). Etc. How many people die from frack contaminated water every year? How many people die from auto accidents (33,808 in 2009 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year) and cigarettes (440,000 deaths http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4545) every year?

    Rationality is better than irrationality. Every time.

  4. Ron Parker / Nov 4 2010

    Incidentally, here is what rational scientific conservatism puts forth on the issue, from the Pennsylvania Council of Professional Geologists.

    http://www.pcpg.org/MarcellusShale

    (No way, we’d rather trust a banker who doesn’t know any geology – or chemistry or hydrogeology or regulations – to any geologist from Pennsylvania, because they allow fracking).

    If you don’t know what you’re talking about, what do you know?

  5. robert guerrieri / Nov 21 2010

    I for one don’t think we should blow up the earth for gas !!!!
    we already drilled into the ocean floor and look what that got us ,yeah we know everthing RIGHT ! we really know nothing .so now we risk trading drinking water for natural gas ,all you all nuts !!!! and some other idiot wants to block the suns rays from the earth ,another hair brain idea ,just like this one .How about we just control how much the gas and oil companies can make in profit a year and then all the prices will all go down .Do we need people making 3 mil a year for no show jobs .Company jets for execs to fly 300 miles !!! get real people

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