To frack or not to frack
Is wide-spread natural gas drilling in New York's future?
Monday, August 13, 2012 - 18:19
FRACK ATTACK: Anti-fracking protests becoming common across the U.S. (Photo: billb1961/Flickr)
To frack or not to frack — that is the question.
New York's 56th governor, Andrew Cuomo, is the one who will make the final decision in stopping or spreading the highly controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as "fracking."
"Gasland": A new perspective
With his 2010 movie "Gasland," Josh Fox got the whole country's attention. He explored the consequences of fracking when a company proposed drilling for natural gas on his Pennsylvania property. Fox began the film with a lot of questions and ended with some very explosive and fiery answers. Labeled as an "anti-fracking" film, "Gasland" takes a bold stance on the issue. While watching, we explored communities already affected by fracking. The fracked communities seemed like they were in another world. The Marcellus Shale formation has attracted the natural gas industry, and fracking seems to be moving closer and closer home.
The Marcellus Shale is a large natural gas reserve that extends across parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. As shale formations go, the Marcellus formation is one of the largest in the world. It has enormous potential for future natural gas drilling. But at what cost?
What is the fracking truth?
The truth (read: the real truth) is hard to find with so many different stakeholders expressing what they believe to be true. Fox's "Gasland" was rebutted by a film called "Truthland." In "Truthland," a Pennsylvania woman named Shelly set out to see for herself if Fox accurately portrayed fracking. Shelly lives on the Marcellus Shale and natural gas wells are proposed on her property, just like Fox. As a caring family member, Shelly wanted to make sure her family was going to be safe living near natural gas drilling sites. At the end of her film, she came to a different conclusion than Fox. "Truthland" can be viewed online.
The different views articulated in films, articles, book and so forth are what make finding the truth so challenging. The pure, unbiased truth is sometimes hard to see through others' ulterior motives.
Testimonials: Pros and cons
Many people have publicly expressed their beliefs on fracking. New York State Senator Bill Perkins is one of them. He tells Governor Cuomo to "stop fracking around with our health." Senator Perkins, representing New York's 30th District, believes that fracking threatens the health and safety of New Yorkers.
And Senator Perkins is not alone. In a Letter to the Editor from the Buffalo news, a woman whose hometown is just a few miles away from Dimock, P.A., a fracking town shown in "Gasland," wrote on what goes on in a fracking community. Her letter reports that fracking wells are "huge" and run all day, every day. She urges everyone, pro- or anti-fracking, to "get all the facts."
Not everyone is against fracking. There are people in New York who strongly believe in the future of fracking in the state. Natural gas does produce less carbon than other fossil fuels, so many see that as a plus. Other people also believe fracking has been around long enough for the gas industry to know what is and what is not safe.
Getting all the facts may be a challenge, though, with all the emotionally charged testimonials floating around.
Quit fracking around
New Yorkers from all across the state are practicing their right to protest. On Aug. 11, 2012, a group of more than 150 protesters gathered at the Schlumberger Limited industrial facility to "close the plant for one day." Schlumberger Limited is a 24 hour a day plant that supplies natural gas drilling companies with the supplies they need and is located in Horseheads, N.Y.
Interested in participating in upcoming anti-fracking rallies? Governor Cuomo will be at the New York State Fair on opening day, Aug. 23, 2012. Frack Action is planning to hold a rally outside the Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in hopes of persuading Governor Cuomo to be "a hero and ban fracking" in New York. The group asks that you sign up online and R.S.V.P. on Facebook.
What the future has in store
Josh Fox, who took a short break from making "Gasland 2," created a short film about fracking New York. The film, titled "The Sky is Pink," was made for New Yorkers, to show them what fracking could bring to the state. As Fox points out in both his films, there are issues of health and safety that seem to follow fracking. He asks Gov. Cuomo specifically to seriously look at the facts, and not allow fracking in the state. Humans aren't the only ones who could suffer from the effects of fracking: the environment is also at risk. The chemicals used in the fracking process have the possibility of sinking into the natural environment, which poses a series threat to plants and animals.
In the end, the decision, in New York, belongs to Governor Cuomo. So, Governor, as Josh Fox put it, "what color will the sky be over New York?"