Thank you, Mr. Chairman and to the bill sponsors, Sen. Gordon and Sen. Greenstein. Gas drilling is dirty, dangerous and can only deliver pollution to our drinking water. The Legislature should stand up for clean water and pass this legislation to ban fracking.
The rush to drill is a 21st century gold rush – a bonanza for natural gas drillers who are happy to drill first, and ask questions later.
The initial findings from the EPA Wyoming fracking study only confirm what we already know – fracking pollutes drinking water supplies. In the most densely-populated state in the country, we can’t gamble with our drinking water by allowing a rogue industry a foothold in our state.
Drinking Water Contamination: According to the EPA study released late last year, a pair of environmental monitoring wells drilled deep into an aquifer in Pavillion, Wyo., contain high levels of cancer-causing compounds and chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. The findings are consistent with water samples the EPA has collected from at least 42 homes in the area since 2008.
Last year – after warning residents not to drink or cook with the water and to ventilate their homes when they showered -- the EPA drilled the monitoring wells to get a more precise picture of the extent of the contamination.
The Pavillion area has been drilled extensively for natural gas over the last two decades and is home to hundreds of gas wells. Residents have said that for nearly a decade that fracking has caused their water to turn black and smell like gasoline. Some residents suffer from neurological impairment, loss of smell, and nerve pain they associate with exposure to pollutants.
The chemical compounds the EPA detected are consistent with those produced from drilling processes, including a solvent called 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE) -- widely used in fracking. The wells also contained benzene at 50 times the level that is considered safe for people, as well as phenols -- another dangerous human carcinogen -- acetone, toluene, naphthalene and traces of diesel fuel.
Earthquakes: Fracking’s full impacts are just now starting to come to light. Youngstown, Ohio is many things, including the subject of a Bruce Springsteen song. Until last year, it was not known for earthquakes…because the city had never suffered from a recorded earthquake. By New Year’s Eve, Youngstown had suffered 11 of them in 2011 alone, slightly less than one a month.
The epicenter of the New Year’s Eve quake was within half mile of the 9,000-foot-deep well. All of the earthquakes emanated from within five miles of local drilling, and in some cases as close as a few thousand feet.
Because quakes are otherwise rare in the Youngstown area, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in November asked Columbia University's Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) to place mobile seismographs in the vicinity to better determine what was going on.
Columbia University researchers needed only a day or two to determine with 95 percent certainty that the epicenters of the two holiday quakes were within 100 meters of each other, and within 0.8 kilometer of the injection well. The team also determined that the quakes were caused by slippage along a fault at about the same depth as the injection site, almost three kilometers down.
Inherently Unsafe: The best argument to ban fracking comes from the disaster that is the Pennsylvania fracking industry. Yesterday, our sister organization, PennEnvironment released a report documenting the number of violations from gas drilling companies using DEP data. Between 2008 and 2011, they identified 3,355 violations of environmental laws by 64 different gas drilling companies, despite an enforcement staff that has been drastically reduced because of budget cuts.
Fracking is a dangerous business, and the Legislature shouldn’t play a wait-and-see game to see if gas drillers develop a taste for the Garden State. We won’t get a second chance with our drinking water, and we need the Legislature to listen to the public and ban fracking.