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Avella Criticizes DEC Pick for Expert to Study Hydrofracking

State senator says he is concerned with agency's choice for seismic impact study.

State Sen. Tony Avella, D-Bayside, said he was concerned by an independent expert who had been chosen by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to study the impacts of hydrofracking in New York.

The DEC picked Robert Jacobi, a geologist and gas-industry consultant, to review the potential seismic impacts of high-volume horizontal hydrofracking, which is a process of removing natural gas and petroleum by drilling through rock layers, in the state.

Jacobi has taught at the University of Buffalo for more than 30 years, but has also advised gas-drilling companies, such as Pittsburgh’s EQT Corp., for 19 years.

Avella said he was concerned that Jacobi’s association with the gas-drilling industry was a conflict of interest for carrying out the review.

“Unfortunately, nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to the state’s review of hydrofracking,” Avella said. “The fact that the state would choose these so-called independent experts with significant ties to the oil and gas industry is appalling and calls into question the state’s commitment to an open and fair review process.”

The state senator said he had “no confidence” that the hydrofracking review would be objective.

The DEC could not immediately be reached for comment.

Avella said he was also troubled by the fact that the University of Buffalo shut down the Shale Resources and Society Institute run by Jacobi due to the professor’s ties to the industry.

Hydrofracking has been a topic of controversy in New York State. Those who support the procedure argue that it could be a source of energy and revenue for the state. But its opponents say it could pose dangers to the state’s water supply.

Avella has called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to undertake a comprehensive study of the potential health impacts associated with hydrofracking.

Matthew Frisch February 07, 2013 at 08:42 PM
HIgh volume slick water hydrofracking in the marcelus shale involves drilling vertically approx. 1 mile and then horizontally within the shale layer for miles in multiple directions. "Fracking' comes in when approx. 5 million gallons of water, comparable quantities of silica sand and a toxic soup of dozens of chemicals are trucked to the site, pumped into the well and blasted, under extremely high pressure, at the shale rock formation with the goal of releasing the bubbles of methane to rise to the surface and be captured. It's a highly invasive, highly industrial undertaking. Gas companies are proposing 50,000 to 100,000 of these wells to be located in a wide swath of NY State lying above the Marcelus shale including the southern tier. A sampling of the ennvironmental problems with fracking are the following. The toxic soup of fracking fluid can migrate into underground aquifers and domestic wells when well casing fail or fissures exist or are opened in the shale. New York State lists 350 potential fracking chemicals. Approximately 20% of those are known carcinogens; dozens more are neural inhibitors. Most of the frack fluid remains underground. The flowback which pushes up to the surface has to be held in storage ponds for disposal. Marcelus shale has a higher incidence of radon and other types of radioactivity than is safe. In addition, many heavy metals are released and flow back to the surface.
Matthew Frisch February 07, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Fracking will accelerate climate change while causing serious degradation to the land and posing serious public health risks. Currently, the market price of natural gas is very low. Fracking is not currently profitable and the energy is not needed for local consumption. The gas would probably be exported. Landowners who lease their land to gas companies receive royalties for the gas that is extracted. The payments can be substantial- in the 6 figure range. However, the gas may no last. When the gas companies leave, the land may no longer be usable for farming and its resale value may be greatly devalued. When the gas cash runs out, the landowner will have no revenue stream and the land and water may have been contaminated. All the money and effort which is put into fracking is money and effort which is not put into developing green energy and sustainable business development. Fracking digs our collective climate change hole deeper.
max February 08, 2013 at 12:25 PM
They should stay the frack out of NYS.
Harriet Brown February 08, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Senator Avella is absolutely right. When you get experts, you shouldn't hire those who are tied to the industry in question.
Matthew Frisch February 09, 2013 at 03:29 AM
People are saying that the increased availability and use of gas is the reason NY's carbon output went down 8% last year and this might be true. But scientists also know that 20% of gas arising from fracking escapes into the atmosphere and methane is 20x as damaging a greenhouse gas as CO2. The thousands of truck trips/well and other heavy industry associated with fracking give it a huge carbon footprint+ it polluted water and air. It is neither clean nor green.

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