Hydraulic Fracturing & Gas Drilling 

Position Statement on Gas Drilling and Fracking in the Cayuga Lake Watershed.                               

Impacts on: Water; Economy; Global Climate and Hydrologic  Cycle; Health.    

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Position Statement: In hydraulic fracturing we have identified a key threat to the Cayuga Lake Watershed. Findings: 

  • A growing body of science indicates that shale gas extraction would contaminate our fresh waters, pollute our air, negatively impact sustainable livelihoods and our local economy, and aggravate climate change. 
  • Development of shale gas would also forestall the growth of the renewable energy sector that offers to bolster our economic vitality and curtail greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • We oppose the continuation of hydraulic fracturing and urge immediate emphasis on an energy policy that promotes conservation and renewable energy sources. 
  •  View full statement as pdf 

Impacts on Water: Thousands of cases of pollution of ground and surface waters with hydraulic fracturing chemicals and methane have been reported (1-4). Two recent studies have confirmed contamination of underground water by hydraulic fracturing (2, 3). Alarmingly, one of these found systematic contamination of water wells within 1 km of active Marcellus gas wells with shale methane, averaging 17-times the levels of more distant wells (3)

Contamination of fresh waters has occurred in all phases of shale gas mining, from blowouts, to underground contamination, to leaking wastewater pits, to tanker truck accidents (1).  Based on 2005-2009 gas lease data and a “build-out analysis” of cumulative impacts of mining Marcellus shale gas, Tompkins County would expect the development of 2100 Marcellus gas wells that would result in 16,800 tons/year of sediment runoff, 336 leaking wells, and 42 incidents of ground water contamination (1, 6). Each well would use 5 million gallons of water amended with 167 tons of chemicals per hydraulic fracturing event (1).  

Many of the 750 chemicals identified in hydraulic fracturing fluids can damage organs, disrupt hormone systems and reproductive cycles, cause cancer, induce developmental defects, and cause death (6-9). And a recent analysis of case studies provides compelling evidence that water contamination from gas drilling has caused such illnesses and death in livestock and humans (7)

The U.S. Geological Survey has noted that ubiquitous faults not recognized by the NYSDEC would provide conduits between fractured shale and underground waters (5). Neither the gas industry nor New York State has the capacity to properly cleanse or dispose of this toxic wastewater(1).  

These facts, as well as the exemption of the gas industry from Federal environmental safeguards, lead us to suspect that hydraulic fracturing of deep shale formations presents a pervasive hazard to underground and surface waters. 

Water Impacts References: 1. Tompkins County Council of Governments. 2011. Community impact assessment: High volume hydraulic fracturing: http://www.tompkins-co.org/tccog/ 

2. DiGiulio, D.C., R. T. Wilkin, C. Miller, and G. Oberley. 2011. Investigation of groundwater contamination near Pavillion, Wyoming. U. S. Env. Protection Agency draft report: http://www.epa.gov/region8/superfund/wy/pavillion/ 

3. Osborn S.G., Vengosh A., Warner N.R., and R.B. Jackson. 2011. Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108: 8172–8176: http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/cgc/pnas2011.pdf  

4. Entrekin, S., M Evans-White, B. Johnston, and E. Hagenbuch. 2011. Rapid expansion of natural gas development poses a threat to surface waters. Frontiers in Ecology & Environment. 9: 503-511.

5. U.S. Geological Survey, New York Water Science Center. 2011. Comment on the Revised Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement: http://www.scribd.com/doc/83492110/USGS-Letter-to-DEC 

Economic Impacts: The Cayuga Lake Watershed is distinctive in its natural beauty and economic vitality, with striking natural features, healthy urban centers, several renowned academic institutions, and productive rural landscapes (1).  

Although gas development would bring gas industry jobs, associated services, and royalties for struggling landowners, it would also harm our existing agriculture and tourism trades because it requires heavy industrial activity across the landscape. There has been insufficient attention to these impacts by gas drilling advocates. Several studies have found that regions subjected to intensive energy extraction, including gas development, have suffered economically in the long term in comparison to non-urban regions not experiencing such activity (1, 10)

Even the direct economic benefits to landowners and municipalities are often disappointing because shale plays are turning out to be far less productive than projected by the gas industry (11)

Economic Impacts References: 1. Tompkins County Council of Governments. 2011. Community impact assessment: High volume hydraulic fracturing: http://www.tompkins-co.org/tccog/ 

10. Freudenburg, W.R. and L.J. Wilson. 2002. Mining the data: Analyzing the economic implications of mining for nonmetropolitan regions. Sociological Inquiry 72:549-575: http://www.tcgasmap.org/media/Mining%20Economic%20Implications%20for%20Rural%20Areas.pdf

11. Berman, A.E. 2009. Facts are stubborn things. Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas – USA. (This is a censored article written by for World Oil, a petroleum industry trade publication, by one of its contributing editors): http://www.aspousa.org/index.php/2009/11/facts-are-stubborn-things-arthur-e-berman-november-2009/

Effects on Global Climate and Hydrologic Cycle: Because natural gas burns cleaner than coal it has been heavily promoted as a “bridge fuel” to our renewable energy future. If shale gas presented a real opportunity to effectively address climate change we would need to give it serious consideration. But full-cycle analyses (including fugitive emissions of methane during mining and transportation) of greenhouse gas impacts of different fossil fuels indicate that shale gas produces more warming than coal(12). And recent field measurements from a Colorado gas field indicate that methane leakage is even greater than previously estimated (13)

Human society is now estimated to combust about 100,000 years of plant growth annually, fueling the increasing carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere (1). Climate scientists have concluded that we are beyond the safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide and that immediate action is required to avoid irreversible “tipping points” within the next couple decades that will lead to a drastically altered global climate (14)

Climate change has already altered regional hydrological cycles and this would amplify with further warming (15)

Global Climate and Hydrologic Cycle References: 1. Tompkins County Council of Governments. 2011. Community impact assessment: High volume hydraulic fracturing: http://www.tompkins-co.org/tccog/ 

12. Howarth, R.W., R. Santoro, and A. Ingraffea. 2012. Venting and leaking of methane from shale gas development: response to Cathles et al. Climatic  Change  (doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0401-0). 

13. Petron, G. et al. 2012. Hydrocarbon emissions characterization in the Colorado Front Range – A pilot study. Journal of Geophysical Research (doi: 10.1029/2011JD016360) 

14. Hansen J, Sato M, Kharecha P, Russell G, Lea DW, and Siddall M. 2007. Climate change and trace gases. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 365: 1925–1954. (doi:10.1098/rsta.2007.2052) 

15. Hayhoe, K., C.P. Wake, T.G. Huntington, L. Luo, M.D. Schwartz, J. Sheffield, E. Wood, B. Anderson, J. Bradbury, A. DeGaetano, T.J. Troy, and D. Wolfe. 2006. Past and future changes in climate and hydrological indicators in the U.S. Northeast. Climate Dynamics (doi: 10.1007/s00382-006-0187-8). 

Health Impacts References: 6. Bishop, R. 2011. Chemical and biological risk assessment for natural gas extraction in New York:                      

7. Bamberger, M. and R.E. Oswald. 2012. Impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health. New Solutions, 51-77: http://www.damascuscitizensforsustainability.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Bamberger_Oswald_NS22_in_press.pdf 

8. Colborn, T.; Kwiatkowski, C.; Schultz, K., and M. Bachran. 2011. Natural gas operations from a public health perspective. Human & Ecological Risk Assessment 17:1039-1056 (doi: 10.1080/10807039.2011.605662). 

9. Finkel, M. and A. Law. 2011. The rush to drill for natural gas: A public health cautionary tale. American Journal of Public Health 101:784-785: http://www.psehealthyenergy.org/The_Rush_to_Drill_for_Natural_Gas__A_Public_Health_Cautionary_Tale

Information & Action

Water withdrawals for gas drilling and fracking uses, NY StateNew (2013) NY DEC water withdrawal regulations for NYS, with concerns for Great Lakes Basin area (Finger Lakes), on Rachel Treichler’s New York Water Law blog

Community organizations to join or contact: Dryden Resource Awareness Coalition (DRAC) ; Finger Lakes Clean Water Initiative ; Gas Drilling Awareness for Cortland County (GDACC)Gas Free SenecaShaleshock Citizen's Action Coalition provides a full list of community groups and organizations.

Tompkins County, NY documents and decisions: Tompkins County Council of Governments. 2011. Community impact assessment: High volume hydraulic fracturing:  http://www.tompkins-co.org/tccog/

Leased property, concerned, want to know about rights and lease termination:  The organization Fleased is providing a voice for fellow landholders who leased mineral rights before we knew that shale gas exploitation threatened our land, air, water, and communities: fleased.org

Rights of NY towns to ban gas drilling and fracking: The Community Environmental Defense Council Inc: Advice for your town on a gas drilling ban or moratorium  

Challenges to NY towns’ rights to ban gas drilling and fracking: Legal challenges to NY towns’ rights to ban gas drilling and fracking and info on the Town of Dryden NY lawsuit.

Maps of gas leases:

Maps of Bans and Moratoria: Current High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing Drilling Bans and Moratoria in NY State: fracktracker.org - Includes maps and lists of communities that have passed bans, moratoria, or have movements for prohibition. 

Documentaries, Films, Videos, Art


Cornell University Cooperative Extension Natural Gas Resource Center provides a full spectrum of information about gas drilling and fracking.  

River Network "Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources" (2012):  http://www.rivernetwork.org/resource-library/river-voices-hydraulic-fracturing-water-resources-2012