The decision on whether fracking will be allowed in New York has state residents divided, putting Governor Andrew Cuomo between a rock and a hard place while deciding whether to approve regulations and allow fracking as the state approaches its Feb. 27 deadline.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of natural gas drilling. Many environmentalists argue that there are potential risks, not only to the environment but also to people’s health. The Southern Tier of New York, which includes Tompkins County, is located on the Marcellus Shale, an underground rock formation rich in gas.
A poll released by Siena College last week found that 40 percent of people in the state support fracking, while 40 percent were found to be against the gas drilling technique.
In June 2012, Cuomo worked to modify the plans for hydrofracking, limiting the number of counties that would be drilled from 13 to five. The counties include Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga.
Those who support fracking in the state are pushing legislators to acknowledge the economic benefits to the area. Ecology and Environment, a consultant contracted by the DEC, completed a study that calculated anywhere from 13,941 to 53,969 new jobs would be created over the next 30 years if hydrofracking were to be approved.
The Department of Environmental Conservation is currently working on a revised draft of its Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement regarding the concerns of hydrofracking, collaborating with the Department of Health to find potential health risks.
If the health department finds that the information provided by the DEC adequately addresses health concerns, fracking could begin sooner than expected, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in an interview with The Huffington Post. However, Martens said if the Department of Health does not conclude that public health concerns are fully addressed, fracking would be delayed even further.
Maura Stephens, associate director of the Park Center for Independent Media and adviser of Ithaca College’s anti-fracking organization, Frack Off, said if fracking is allowed, it would pose a high threat.
“Many people have come to recognize, as I do, that fracking would destroy everything we hold dear and is one of the greatest threats facing us as individuals, as communities and as a species,” Stephens said.
Freshman Erika Bucior was one of the students who attended the environmental rally in Washington D.C., this past weekend. She said Cuomo should take the opposition seriously.
“Governor Cuomo should use this demonstration to understand that an anti-fracking sentiment isn’t just held by a few environmentalist groups but by a wider variety of educated citizens who are counting on him to make the right decision for future generations,” Bucior said.
In recent interviews, Governor Cuomo has shown uncertainty about what his decision will be, saying this issue is too important to be rushed.
Tompkins County Legislator Jim Dennis said the state should evaluate the impacts of fracking in individual counties and sort out possible health issues before granting approval.