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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing to lift the moratorium on natural gas drilling, known as hydraulic fracturing, in New York State. Hydro-fracking is, in many opinions, an environmentally reckless technique to extract natural gas from shale. While the lifting of the moratorium is still months away, it comes despite the massive efforts from environmental and community groups in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania who have protected the Marcellus Shale watershed.
A statement released by the State Department of Environmental Conservation confirms there will be environmental restrictions placed on the natural gas drilling permits in New York State, such as no drilling within 2,000 feet of a public reservoir.
However, ninety percent of the New York City’s drinking water comes from ground zero of where various oil companies want to drill into the Marcellus Shale for natural gas. Every time a well is drilled, the companies use an estimated 5 to 9 million gallons of water. Each time a well is fractured, it’s another 5-9 million gallons of water. A well can be fractured multiple times. Up to 275 different toxic chemicals are used in the process and after the well is drilled, there are millions of gallons of industrial waste, essentially radioactive water. 40-70 percent of this water stays underground.
The watershed is 13,000 square miles. Those that want to mine this resource say it will reduce dependence on foreign oil and boost the economy. However, many have shown this statement to be false as the natural gas from the United States is being sold to foreign countries such as Norway and France.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit is pending against several federal agencies affiliated with the Delaware River Basin Commission to block final regulations on hydro-fracking until a full environmental review can be conducted. Past shows on hydro-fracking: Law and Disorder March 21, 2011 / Law and Disorder March 29, 2010.
Attorney Jordan Yeager:
- Hydro-fracking is part of a broader industrial practice. Basically what we’re doing is allowing companies to drill down a mile deep through our aquifers, which we all depend on for our drinking water.
- Once they get down there, they start to drill horizontally; they’re aiming for the shale formations underground.
- In order to release the gas from the shale, they blast it with this nasty stuff, chemicals that they don’t want to disclose.
- They’re also developing and industrializing large swaths of land. When they do that they’re polluting the waters of New York and Pennsylvania and every place where this is happening.
- Generally what is proposed is to allow around 85 percent of New York State that has Marcellus Shale to be open to drilling that they would not allow to take place in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds. And they would not allow it to take place within what they consider primary aquifers and state-owned game land.
- But all other places and private land, they would allow it to happen.
- Those people who live in New York City, and in Syracuse, those people would be protected from this activity, but the people in the rest of the state would be subjected to it.
- For every 17 or 18 gas wells that you drill, you can expect to see water contamination from that.
- But then we’d ask, why would we allow the rest of New York to be exposed to it?
- In Pennsylvania, it’s completely ruining the roads in the northern half of the state, it’s tearing up communities. In Bradford County we had a blowout not too long ago, which caused damage not only to streams but to drinking water in that area.
- We are going to see continued failures wherever this happens. The question is, are we going to allow it to happen? Are we going to force this practice to follow the science and only allow it to happen if the science says it can be done safely? We’re simply not there.
- In Pennsylvania, what we’re seeing is most of those jobs they’re talking about are going to folks outside the state. They’re bringing in people from the western states, who have experience in drilling. You have to also look at the broader economic impact. When a community loses its water supply, that is a bigger impact than a handful of jobs.
- If we don’t have clean water in order to live and for other businesses to operate, we’re going to see much greater economic damage.
- We’ve been dealing with the Delaware Water Basin Commission to make sure they don’t allow the Delaware River to be poisoned by these activities.
- When the people of Pennsylvania, the people of New York and New Jersey, are fully awakened to the dangers of this activity, we’ll be able to build a movement and reign it in.
- There are dangers associated with these industrial activities, and we have to look at the dangers in the broadest sense.
- Natural gas has been identified by some as a clean fuel, but that’s when they compare it to how it burns and how coal burns. That’s one part of the natural gas story.
- You have to also look at the dangers in the process of extraction. When we drill down a mile deep, we’re finding naturally occurring radioactive material and as part of the drilling process, we’re then bringing that up to the surface.
- Look, we need energy. We need to decide what level of risk we’re comfortable with. In my opinion, we need to be looking at renewable energy, like solar, like wind, get investments, and get them to a larger scale.
- With this new direction from New York, we need to make sure there’s adequate time for public participation and what was announced last week, is they would only allow a 60-day public comment period. That’s simply not enough. They haven’t looked at the research that’s been established since they closed the record in 2009.
- The public needs more than 60 days to educate the folks at the state level about what we’ve been learning since December 2009. We ought to be looking at a 6 month period on what was proposed for New York State.
Guest – Attorney Jordan Yeager, a National Lawyers Guild member, a cooperating attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and member of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability. Curtin & Heefner LLP recently elected Yeager to its partnership. Mr. Yeager is a member of the firm’s Employment and Public Sector Section. Formerly in private practice as the named partner in a public interest law firm, Mr. Yeager served successfully as counsel in several groundbreaking cases, including matters involving constitutional rights issues; claims of reasonable accommodation against a municipal defendant; and the right to a jury trial in a whistle-blower retaliation case.
Protests and demonstrations continue to erupt in Greece as demonstrators rise up in the streets against deep cuts in services and jobs from austerity. Austerity is the name of the government’s response to the demand of its creditors. Austerity imposes on society a severe regimen of rising taxes and/or cuts to government spending to satisfy creditors. Greece, as predicted by economics professor Rick Wolff a year ago, has been hit the hardest by the global economic disaster. Why? For many reasons: it has a strong working class, socialist roots and a public sector made primarily of union jobs. The austerity has cut into working-class jobs as the country privatizes the post office, gas, waterworks and railway. Meanwhile, the wealthy continue to evade taxes in Greece and in the United States.
Professor Costas Panayotakis:
- I was in Athens the last few days. What you have in the European Union is imbalances that resulted partly from the introduction of the Euro, but also, by the general phenomenon of some countries being more technologically advanced than others.
- Right now you have a crisis, partly a European crisis, it’s not that Greek culture is a pathological culture, as the mainstream media sometimes presents. Each crisis has its specifics: Ireland, Portugal; in Greece, the specificity is that the wealthy are not paying taxes.
- There are tax evasion problems, the problem in Greece is primarily of revenues rather than spending.
- The mainstream media talks about the “bloated” public sector of Greece. The public sector is aligned with other public sectors in other countries. Now what they’re trying to do, of course, is traffic out jobs from the public sector to make Greece’s public sector a small part of the economy as it is in developing countries in Africa.
- Because its debt has become so unmanageable, there was an austerity package that was adopted last year that’s worth $110 billion. Drastic cuts in public spending and the welfare state.
- Now what’s happened, as is often the case with IMF problems, is that the program didn’t work the way they said it was going to. Now Greece needs another loan to keep servicing its debt. One of the conditions is that Greece has this huge fire sale of all its public assets. The hope is that it’s going to raise 50 billion Euros.
- Because values in all the public companies have shrunk rapidly, whoever buys them will buy at a really low price. Many Greeks are up in arms about that. Now they see the banks wanting to follow up with more of the same, that’s why 80 percent of Greeks oppose this policy.
- We had a 2-day general strike last week. A 48-hour general strike had not happened in Greece for decades.
- You also have a demand for real democracy, direct democracy. One of the demands was not to pass the austerity package.
- Every 3 months there are news measures that have to be adopted in order for Greece to get the next installment of the loan. If Greece defaulted on their loan, it would affect the Eurozone in a very direct way, it would affect European banks.
- I think the lesson to take away from this is that fighting back is necessary.
Guest – Costas Panayotakis, a professor at the New York City College of Technology.