NY Issues New Assessment of Fracking's Impact on Environment
Last week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released a statement regarding the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, also known as hydrofracking or simply "fracking." The hydrofracking process involves drilling a well and injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals under high pressure into the well, literally "fracturing" the ground to release natural gas. Other states throughout the country, including Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania (see picture of a Pennsylvania fracking site at right), are now fracking, and it has been a controversial environmental issue in New York, where the Marcellus Shale (pictured at right), a region with great potential for gas development, underlies much of the western part of the state as well as portions of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This region also includes a number of very large population centers that rely on the water shed for potable water and agricultural irrigation.
In November 2010, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed a bill to implement a moratorium on hydrofracturing drilling permits until May 15, 2011. Then-Governor Paterson vetoed the bill and instead issued an Executive Order that gave the state Department of Environmental Conservation until June 1 to review the environmental impacts of hydrofracturing; the department's revised statement (mentioned above) was released this month for public review.
As a basis for its advocacy, the Reform Jewish Voice of New York State (RJV) looks to the book of Genesis, which calls us to "till and tend" the Earth (Genesis 2:15), and the Midrash, which further reminds us that if we fail to heed this call, there will be nobody left to repair the damage we create (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13). As the Reform Movement's state-level advocacy organization modeled after the Religious Action Center, RJV is playing an instrumental role in educating our congregations and New York state legislators about the environmental impacts of hydrofracking while advocating for the urgent need to find alternative energy sources, thereby reducing our nation's dependence on fossil fuels. RJV also is bringing a progressive Jewish voice to a conversation often dominated by science and industry.
For now, the moratorium is still in effect, and the state of New York is accepting public comments on its environmental impact statement. RJV's position is that the process of hydrofracking must be proven safe and there must be a clear evaluation of the long-term environmental damage and societal impacts before the moratorium can be lifted. RJV also believes there must be proper regulatory standards, wastewater disposal methods and drinking water security before further drilling can be considered acceptable.
As we approach the High Holidays, a time of reflection within ourselves and about our relationships with others, we can also choose to think about the land that we all share. As Jews, we recognize our responsibility to safeguard the earth for our children and grandchildren. To that end, the expansion of hydrofracking without proper consideration for the potentially dangerous environmental consequences must not be allowed to occur.
Molly Benoit is a 2011-2012 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant.