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June 1, 2011

NY tries to ride to rescue on hydrofracking

by Geoff Grant

A story in the New York Times this week put the issue of hydrofracking back in the news. I would say it put it back under the glare of the spotlight, but the story ran on A22, and the spotlight’s a little dim back there.

I give the Times credit, though. It is one of the few news organizations devoting resources to what seems certain to become a much larger story — and problem — in the years ahead.

It’s not hard to extrapolate why hydrofracking looms as an issue for us all. It’s a potentially hazardous type of gas extraction, practiced by private companies who face no federal regulations and few, if any, state or regional regulations.

If you’re not familiar with the dangers associated with hydrofracking, here are a few things to know. Some of the fluids used in the extraction process are known carcinogens, which may cause cancer. People and animals may be exposed to those toxins as hydrofracking has been shown to pollute ground water. And the fracturing of the earth may increase the risk of earthquakes. So yes, more studies need to be done.

 The story in the Times underscored those problems as a New York state official filed a lawsuit against the federal government to force an environmental impact study of the controversial drilling before the Delaware River Basin Commission moves forward with its own regulations.

Considering the vast amount of drinking water New York gets from the Delaware River Basin, it’s a smart and essential move by the state. But it’s frustrating to once again read a story where the onus has been put on a state to play the first line of defense against a potentially lethal environmental practice.

The impact of hydrofracking is so widespread, the concern for its dangers should be also.

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