New Environment New York Report First to Quantify Threat of Gas Drilling

Media Contacts
John Rumpler

Clean Water Director and Senior Attorney, Environment America

Environment New York Research & Policy Center

Today, a new Environment New York Research and Policy Center report called “Fracking by the Numbers” measures the damage being done by dirty drilling across the country for the first time. The report comes as the Cuomo Administration is deciding whether to allow fracking in New York. Although many leases have been signed and are pending the state’s approval, the report is the first study of its kind to measure the footprint of fracking damage to date—including toxic wastewater, water use, chemical use, air pollution, land damage and global warming emissions.

“The numbers don’t lie—fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If fracking is allowed here, this is the kind of damage we will see in New York,” said Heather Leibowitz, Campaign Director from Environment New York. The report found that in 2012 alone, fracking nationwide created more than 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater; enough to replace the average flow of the Hudson River near Troy, NY for twenty eight days with a river of toxic fracking waste, or completely fill the Empire State Building more than 1,000 times over.

“Governor Cuomo needs to show the rest of the nation that New York isn’t going to add to the tragic environmental tally fracking is racking up. He needs to do better than that for our communities,” said Eric Weltman, senior organizer with Food & Water Watch. “Fracking in America means so much more than blasting water and chemicals into the ground. Each year, it means hundreds of billions of gallons of toxic waste, half a million tons of air pollution, and acre upon acre of destroyed forest and farmland.”

Of particular concern, the report shows that Pennsylvania produced 1.2 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012 and more than 2.5 billion gallons since the fracking boom began there. Often laced with cancer-causing and even radioactive material, toxic fracking waste has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico. Wastewater from Pennsylvania is also being dumped within New York’s borders.

Shiela Bushkin, MD, stated “The term High Volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing is a misnomer. It should have been more accurately named, ‘Massively High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing’. This industry is characterized by the unprecedented degree of geographical exploitation and the staggering extent of environmental damage and subsequent resulting human and animal adverse health consequences. This new report, ‘Fracking by the Numbers’, is a painstakingly well documented account of the statistically significant evidence of the many impacts of fracking.

“There are grave health and environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing, including potential long-term effects on water supplies, animals, and people who live near fracking sites” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “If fracking cannot be done safely – and I believe it cannot – then it should not be done at all.”

Barbara Warren RN, MS from Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments stated: “The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments is very concerned about the health impacts we are already seeing in communities across the country where fracking is taking place. Public Health Pioneers in the early nineteenth century firmly established the connection between people’s health and the state of the environment—clean water, clean air, proper sanitation and separation of industry from where people live. These basic health protections understood in the 19th century have been discarded in the rush to drill.”

In addition to the new numbers in today’s report, Eric Whalen, Field Organizer at Environment New York added one more: Environment New York has delivered nearly 35,000 hand-signed petitions calling on Governor Cuomo to ban fracking.

“The bottom line is this: the numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said Whalen. “For public health and our environment, we need to stop to fracking in New York before it starts.”

“Hyrdro-fracking is an unsafe, under-regulated method used by an under-regulated industry that poses a serious risk to public health,” said Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick. “Fracking not only compromises our food and water sheds, it pollutes the air, damages our land and contributes to global warming. I continue to call for a complete moratorium on fracking in New York. Our health and well-being cannot be sold for any price.”

Anton Konev, Albany Common Councilman, 11th ward, a co-sponsor of the Laws in the City of Albany to ban hydrofracking and its waste from City landfill, stated: “The short term economic benefit of hydrofracking is not worth the long term damage to our environment. Additionally, as a government official, I know that resources are scarce. We should be devoting those scarce resources toward infrastructure investments and encouragement of renewable energy: solar, wind, hydro. National and state priorities need to go toward those renewable sources of energy. We are already way behind China and many other countries in those investments. We can’t afford to not catch up.”

On the federal level, Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania (D-Scranton) recently introduced the CLEANER Act (H.R. 2825)—a bill to close the loophole exempting oil and gas waste from the nation’s hazardous waste law.

“Here in New York, we can stop the fracking frenzy before it ever starts,” concluded Leibowitz. “Governor Cuomo can protect our health and communities by listening to New Yorker’s call for a ban on fracking. But for places where fracking is already generating billions of gallons of toxic waste and making people sick, it’s time for Washington to step in; officials can start by closing the loophole exempting toxic fracking waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law.”