Hydrofracking and its impact on the local area will be the focus of an Earth Day talk Friday, April 19, at Keuka College.
David F. Slottje and Helen H. Slottje, co-founders of Community Environmental Defense Council Inc. (CEDC), an environmental law firm, will speak on “Fighting Fracking: A View from the Trenches.” at 3:30 p.m. in Jephson Science Center 104. It is free and open to the public.
According to Kasey Klingensmith, professor of biology, law firms across the state say local governments can’t stop fracking in New York because state law takes away local authority to enact laws relating to the regulation of the gas industry.
“But Helen and David argued that banning drilling was not the same as regulating it,” said Klingensmith. “They developed and advanced the thesis that New York municipalities may utilize local land use authority. This allows them to enact laws prohibiting gas drilling and associated activities outright. It also provides protective laws—which are not laws relating to the regulation of the gas industry.”
For more than three years, the Slottjes have crisscrossed the state, teaching towns that they can enact laws to keep drilling out, and drafting those laws at no charge.
“Following CEDC’s lead, nearly 150 municipalities have passed either a ban or moratorium on gas drilling,” said Klingensmith. “CEDC’s work has energized the anti-fracking movement, brought hope to local residents, empowered local governments, and continues to send Albany politicians a clear message that New York will not be fracked.”
Helen Slottje received a bachelor’s degree in economics with honors from the College of the Holy Cross and received her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. studied at Harvard Law School from 1990 to 1991.
David Slottje graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He received his law degree from Emory University.
An opinion piece by Dr. Sander A. Diamond, professor of history
The debate among those who believe that hydrofracking is not only safe but will also give a much needed boost to the economy of the Southern Tier and those who believe that the damage it will cause in no way justifies placing both the environment and so many people at risk has been bitter, rising to a level of acrimony not seen in decades.
The objections raised by those opposed to fracking are focused on the massive amounts of water needed in the process, as well as the disposal of the toxic mix of water and chemicals, the waste or residue. However, there is another consideration. The draught conditions we have witnessed nationally and locally are a harbinger of the future, a much changed climate. Coastal regions are in harm’s way from the expected rise of the level of the oceans, but the interior will experience draught. Portions of the Mississippi are now closed to heavy shipping and the grain harvest has been nearly halved. Closer to home, the grape harvest is down 20 percent due to the draught conditions. In time, water may be more valuable than gas and oil. The water removed from local supplies to permit fracking will be hard to replace, and while some would argue that the waste water can be reprocessed and used, it is hardly an argument in support of fracking.
Moreover, the last thing that anyone would want is the use of water from the bucolic Finger Lakes region. It is a treasure not to be tampered with and will remain, for decades to come, a breadbasket reliant on water from rain and table water.
Those in favor of fracking argue that it will be a boom to a region that has been left behind. There is much to be said for this, but even if environmental and health concerns are alleviated, there are still reasons why fracking may not be the solution for the Southern Tier’s economic woes.
The price of processed gas has fallen dramatically and will for the foreseeable future, and major gas companies may cap production until the price rises. Massive deposits of gas are now being brought to the surface elsewhere and the Southern Tier would enter the world of gas production late. The wells in nearby Pennsylvania will be full throttle soon. The glut on the market could easily turn from boom to bust, and farmers who have abandoned their fields having found a pot of gold in fracking will be reduced to penury.
Ben Franklin once said, “Do not ask the price of water when the well runs dry.” By extension, those in the Southern Tier do not want to say years from now, “Do not ask the price of gas when the well runs dry.”
Rather than putting their faith in gas they should consider restoring the farming economy. With the current world population at 7.3 billion and perhaps reaching10 billion in the next 60 years, and U.S. population climbing to 350 million in a few decades, producing food is the future.
By an odd twist of history and need, the very region that was part of New York state’s breadbasket has before it the prospect of a revival that would benefit the state and the nation, especially dairy production now that factories are being built to produce yogurt in Central New York. Food is what everyone needs, human fuel so-to-speak. People in this region only have to look at what happened to the economy of the Finger Lakes—a virtual explosion of grape production with once abandoned farms brought back to life by the arrival of the Pennsylvania Dutch. To be sure, the money made by those who have signed leases with the gas companies is significant, but taking the long view, economic security will be found in the revival of the growing of products and in dairy, not gas production.
The controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) will be the focus of two presentations this week at Keuka College.
Professor of Biology Kasey Klingensmith, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Andrew Robak, and Peter Gamba, founding member of the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, will discuss the issue Wednesday, April 20, from 6-7 p.m. in Hegeman 109.
The anti-hydrofracking documentary All Fracked Up will be screened Thursday, April 21 from 6-9 p.m. in Hegeman 109. Filmmakers Jeff and Jodi Andrysick will be on hand to answer questions.
Both events, sponsored by the Chemistry Club, are free and open to the public.
The term hydrofracking describes the process by which millions of gallons of a highly pressurized mixture of sand, water, and chemicals are pumped horizontally into underground shale deposits to either create new fractures in the rock or expand existing cracks to access natural gas deposits and bring the gas to the surface.
Energy companies and environmentalists agree that natural gas will help slow climate change because it burns more cleanly than coal or oil and using it will help wean the country from its dependency on other countries for oil. However, considerable controversy surrounds the current implementation of hydraulic fracturing technology in the United States, including upstate New York.
That is because environmental safety and health concerns have emerged and are being debated at the state and national levels.
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