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Fracking: State Oversight Helps But Many Questions Remain

Submitted by Elizabeth Mooney on Thu, 2012-05-17 11:06.

The report was released the same day as a large rally in Albany against hydrofracking.The report was released the same day as a large rally in Albany against hydrofracking.A new study by the University at Buffalo Shale Resources and Society Institute concludes that state oversight of gas drilling has been effective at reducing environmental problems in Pennsylvania and will prevent major problems here if New York allows hydraulic fracturing.

The study examined almost 3,000 violations from nearly 4,000 gas wells in Pennsylvania since 2008. It found that 62 percent of the violations were administrative and 38 percent were environmental. The environmental violations stemmed from 845 events -- 25 of them classified as "major," defined as site restoration failures, serious contamination of water supplies, major land spills, blowouts, and venting and gas migration.

The authors found the overall number of violations tripled from 99 in 2008 to 331 in the first eight months of 2011 as the number of wells drilled in each period rose from 170 to more than 1,200. But the percentage of environmental violations compared to the number of wells fell from 58.2 percent in 2008 to 30.5 percent in 2010.

"This study presents a compelling case that state oversight of oil and gas regulation has been effective," said lead author Dr.. Timothy Considine. "While prior research has anecdotally reviewed state regulations, now we have comprehensive data that demonstrates, without ambiguity, that state regulation coupled with improvements in industry practices results in a low risk of an environmental event occurring in shale development, and the risks continue to diminish year after year."

But there are still many questions about hydrofracking, not the least about the wastewater it produces. New York Water Rangers released a statement saying the report fails to consider problems related to wastewater treatment and disposal, public health impacts, degraded air quality and industrialization of communities. Just last week, the Water Rangers released a report concluding that New York is not ready to deal with toxic fracking wastewater.

Eliminating a loophole on fracking waste is one of NYLCV's top legislative priorities of the year. 

All three of the report's lead authors have ties to the energy industry as well as being academicians, but Institute Director John Martin said the study was funded entirely by the University at Buffalo with no industry support.


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