Will Gas Drilling Destroy NYC’s Drinking Water?

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Will Gas Drilling Destroy NYC’s Drinking Water?

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's long awaited plan for drilling in the Marcellus Shale was just released. The Shale, which stretches from Ohio to New York is believed to be the country's largest remaining reservoir of natural gas. Drilling has begun in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and there have already been reports of contaminated wells. A recent EPA report also found evidence of toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing in wells drilled in Wyoming.

So what did the DEC SAY? 

Well, not so fast. The natural gas industry, with Halliburton leading the charge, has skirted the Clean Water Act for years. They're not about to give up now. Capitalizing on fears of global warming and the growing disdain for fossil fuels, they're pushing gas drilling as a clean, green alternative. And their message seems to be swaying Washington. The new climate bill introduced last week by Sen. John Kerry and Barbara Boxer includes incentives for natural gas.

The clean and green sounds nice. Except, of course, it's not that simple. As viewers of this program will recall, the actual process of fracturing rock to release and pump the gas involves millions of gallons of water mixed with toxic chemicals and sand-- and in New York's case - the watershed that supplies some 9 million people with drinking water. 

Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer and several environmental organizations have called for a ban on drilling -- at least in the city's watershed, "Kill the Drill." In their opinion, the risk is just too great.

The DEC however, in an 800 page review requires companies to disclose the chemicals they're using but there is no ban. Reassured? Neither was Scott Stringer -- Pennsylvania and Colorado had special permits and buffer zones too. Human error nonetheless resulted in the pollution of freshwater there. 

Gas drilling's not only a threat to the drinking water--also to forests and farmland--and the DEC plan approves storage of toxic wastewater in tanks for decades. There is a comment period. It'll run through November 30. You can find out more here.

Laura Flanders

Laura is YES! Magazine's 2013 Local Economies Reporting Fellow and is executive producer and founder and host of "GRITtv with Laura Flanders." Follow her on Twitter @GRITlaura.

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