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Spills Raise Worries on Water Safety in NY Gas Drilling



September 28, 2009

ALBANY, N.Y. - Spills of cancer-causing chemicals at a natural gas drilling site in Pennsylvania have some New Yorkers more worried than ever about planned drilling in New York's Marcellus Shale geological formation. They say drilling service companies like Halliburton need to reveal what chemicals they use to fracture shale and extract natural gas - a process called "fracking." The technique, using high-pressure water and chemicals to break up shale rock, was in use at a drilling site in Dimock Township, Pennsylvania, 40 miles south of Binghamton, N.Y. Three chemical spills occurred there, releasing dangerous carcinogens and killing fish in a nearby creek.

Among those concerned is Deborah Goldberg of Earthjustice.

"It's a symptom of an industry that is moving way too fast with far too little control."

The drilling industry says the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing are safe.

Halliburton makes the chemical compound that was used to fracture underground shale at the site of the spills in Pennsylvania. Goldberg says that, so far, regulators haven't been successful at discovering exactly what chemicals are being used.

"The service industries, Halliburton being one of the prominent ones, have steadfastly refused to disclose precisely what they are using as a fracturer."

Halliburton refers questions to its Web site.

Stan Scobie of Binghamton is a member of the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Council, and as someone living over the Marcellus shale formation, he's worried.

"Those regulatory folks will say, 'Well, there are some problems, but they're few and far between.' How few and how far between? What are my chances? Is it going to wreck my water well so that I can't live there anymore and my house and land aren't worth anything?"

Scobie says the potential creation of jobs from natural gas drilling using fracking has to be balanced with a concern for possible threats to health and the environment. Others ask why the focus is on fossil fuels when the emphasis should be on the transition to non-carbon-producing, sustainable energy sources.

Final regulations for drilling in the Marcellus Shale range in New York's Southern Tier are expected out of Albany any day now. The shale formation, which runs underneath the four states of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, is thought to contain about 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY
 

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