Academic experts and activists continue to show concern about how hydraulic fracturing could affect New York state.
If specific counties in New York allow hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, a fluid would be injected down a pipe into the naturally-occurring fractures in shale, releasing natural gas.
Alexander Bartholomew, assistant professor of geology, said there are two units of rock oil that gas companies are after for hydrofracking: the Marcellus Shale, which is Middle Devonian and is about 390 million years old, and the Utica Shale, which is Upper Ordovician and is about 460 million years old.
The Marcellus Shale is a sedimentary rock formation that extends from Tennessee, through most of West Virginia, across Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio and into the Southern Tier of New York, according to nypirg.org. Although the natural gas at first was considered too difficult to extract, advancements in natural gas extractions has made it easier to obtain.
Because of its location, Bartholomew said New Paltz “doesn’t really have to worry because we don’t have the right rock or gas under the town.”
However, many other New York state counties should worry, Bartholomew said, including Western-most Ulster County, Delaware County and Western Sullivan County.
New York City is fighting hydraulic fracturing because it holds a potential threat and could greatly affect the water supply system.
“The city is fearful because of surface water contamination. The city has one of the largest, if not the largest, unfiltered water supplies that comes from surficial water in the world,” Bartholomew said. “In other words, they take stream water, put it into reservoirs, then pipe that water down into New York City and it’s treated there but it’s not filtered. There’s a big difference between treatment and filtered.”
Brian Obach, associate professor and chair of the department of sociology, said gas developers are “more likely to target more economically depressed and politically marginalized communities before they come knocking on doors around here.”
“New Paltz is a very politically mobilized community and developers know that. Local residents and students here and in their home communities should pressure their political leaders to protect their areas from fracking,” Obach said. “Many municipalities have already passed various measures to restrict fracking. Ideally state and federal restrictions should be put in place.”
Rosalyn Cherry, local activist and member of New Paltz Defense Against Fracking as well as the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition (CAC), said “New York state is at a crossroads to frack or not to frack.”
Cherry said the oil and gas industries have spent a lot of money trying to convince the state legislatures to issue permits to start fracking in New York state.
Cherry said fracking can have a negative affect on the air, water and public safety.
Two counties, Dryden and Middlefield, issued land ordinances and “were victorious and can keep fracking, and its related activities, out of their communities.” Such land ordinances allow communities to ban fracking from their area.
“There is another type of ordinance that we in New Paltz have presented to the New Paltz Town Board based on community rights. That we have a right to clean air and water, and thus there will be no fracking, no pipelines, no truck traffic, etc,” Cherry said. “The town of Wales has passed such an ordinance and I am sure we will in New Paltz. We have formed New Paltz Defense Against Fracking modeled after our friends nearby with Rochester Defense Against Fracking.”
Cherry said the oil and gas industries are making expensive advertisements emphasizing the benefits of using natural gas, but they are “lies and we have the proof.”
“What we need help with is first for all SUNY students to contact Governor Cuomo. This is students not just in New Paltz but in over 60 other SUNY campuses across the state,” Cherry said. “Also for them to reach out to family and friends where the only truth many people have about fracking is the lies of the oil and gas companies.”