Written by: Brian J. Howard
KATONAH — Regulating hydraulic fracturing won’t work, filmmaker Josh Fox told lawmakers Monday, because they can only speculate about its actual impacts.
Fox’s Academy Award-nominated documentary, “Gasland,” looks at the environmental, health and economic effects of the natural gas drilling technique. He testified at a packed hearing that he’d traveled to several states that claim to effectively regulate what’s commonly called hydrofracking but found no evidence of those claims.
“The regulatory approach does not work,” he said.
The hearing was hosted by state Sens. Greg Ball, R-Patterson; Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers; and Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan.
Despite the promise of jobs and economic revitalization, detractors say hydraulic fracturing threatens the well-being of entire communities.
“The health and character of New Yorkstate will be significantly and forever compromised by this inherently unsafe and untested process,” Fox said.
Economic, medical and drilling industry experts were equally critical. Pennsylvaniaresidents who live where the practice is common told of companies strongarming homeowners to obtain advantageous drilling-lease terms then failing to own up to contaminated wells even as they delivered free water and sought non-disclosure agreements after drilling mishaps.
“We’re not experts, we’re not hydrologists,” said Craig Sautner of Dimock, Pa., who blamed drilling for a host of chemicals in his tap water. “All we are is victims of circumstances that can happen when things go wrong.”
“Our fate is sealed,” said fellow Dimock resident Victoria Sweitzer, a retired schoolteacher. “New York has an opportunity and a challenge. You can determine your fate.”
The hearing comes as New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation gets set to release a draft study on hydraulic fracturing. Opponents want 180 days, rather than the 60 proposed, to comment on it.
Ball said he wanted to hear both sides of the issue but that industry officials invited to testify declined. In a joint letter, the heads of the Independent Gas & Oil Association of New York and the New YorkState Petroleum Council said they declined because it appeared to be a one-sided forum. (READ MORE)