Written by Jane K. Dove
A standing-room-only crowd of about 80 area residents filled the Lewisboro Library to capacity on Dec. 21 as State Senator Greg Ball, 40th District, called for a one-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in New York state.
During an hour-long address, followed by a question-and-answer session, he also proposed tough new legislative standards to regulate the money-rich industry.
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking or fracking, is a controversial drilling technique that uses high-pressure water, chemicals and sand to crack shale and release natural gas.
Currently being used in Pennsylvania and other states with the requisite shale formations, it has become a contentious environmental issue because of concerns over pollution, spills, contamination of drinking water, death and injury to livestock, possible effects on human health, and devaluation of property.
Although it has been promoted here as a job-creator by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, hydrofracking is viewed with suspicion by many. It is roundly decried in the documentary film Gasland, which showcases some of its devastating impacts, including gas-contaminated kitchen tap water bursting into flame.
“I grew up on a farm in Pawling,” Sen. Ball said. “We had pigs, goats, chickens and crops. Farming is in my heart and soul. When I recently toured Pennsylvania and saw first-hand the devastation there, I realized something has to be done. Too many lives and businesses have already been disrupted.”
Sen. Ball said a one-year moratorium is needed because there is currently no funding to properly regulate the industry. “We need to enact a one-year moratorium and then properly regulate the hydrofracking industry. Once we have regulations in place people won’t find it so attractive to frack in New York state.”
Mr. Ball said that other states, including Pennsylvania, had enthusiastically welcomed the hydrofracking industry, with sometimes negative effects.
“This past August, I went on a tour of Bradford County, Pennsylvania, and spoke to property owners about the real impact of hydraulic fracturing on their lives,” he said. “I was shocked to learn that many of these families saw as much as a 90% devaluation of their home and property values because of this industry coming into their backyards.”
Sen. Ball said hydrofracking had caused contamination to their ground water and soil, ultimately destroying their property. “In addition, this contamination led to livestock birth defects and deaths, causing families to suffer operating losses,” he said. “We can’t let this happen here. Something has to be done.”
Sen. Ball presented slides showing the environmental ravages of hydrofracking.
“Streams and wetlands have been destroyed; natural habitats of wildlife damaged and fragmented; billions of gallons of water withdrawn from the earth to be used in processing; aquatic life killed off; water supplies cross contaminated; and a host of other cumulative natural and economic impacts. Hydrofracking is nothing less than an assault on private property.”
Protecting property owners
Sen. Ball said he believed the only way to protect all New Yorkers from the financial and health issues associated with the hydraulic fracturing process is by passing “Property Owner’s Bill of Rights” (S5879), which he introduced into the state legislature this past Sept. 9.
“With this legislation, natural gas companies will be mandated to do several things, including fully disclosing all chemicals used; provide property owners with free medical monitoring for life; reimburse property owners and/or make full remediation of soil and water damage in the event of contamination; and arrange for an independent appraisal of a land owner’s property before signing a lease agreement.”
Mr. Ball said he believed the anti-hydrofracking movement is “beginning to gain traction.”
“I believe we are beginning to shift the debate in the right direction,” he said. “Unfortunately, many Pennsylvania legislators have been bought off, with the companies getting the red carpet treatment. We need to properly regulate this industry so that people won’t want to frack in New York state. We need a moratorium first and then we need the legislation.”
Responding to questions from the audience, Mr. Ball urged them to be pro-active in lobbying against hydrofracking in New York state.
“Some of the things you can do are to communicate with Gov. Cuomo’s office as well as other legislators that you know are pro-fracking,” he said. “You need to level informed and constructive criticism against the practice with people you know are in favor of it.”
Assemblyman Robert Castelli, 89th District, present at the seminar, agreed. “Hydrofracking is an incredibly powerful industry with tons of money,” he said. “Target the individuals that are pro-fracking and let them know your concerns about all of the impacts.”
Sen. Ball said an energized and united front is needed.
“This industry is extremely aggressive about shutting down dissension,” he said. “They pit neighbor against neighbor and will even go after you personally. But we must keep up the pressure. Let’s get the moratorium done first and then work on the comprehensive legislative we need to prevent unregulated hydrofracking from taking hold in New York state. It’s a tough battle but we can win.” (ARTICLE)
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