Forum on Fracking Raises Many Questions for Locals – Bedford-Katonah, NY Patch | Katonah Real Estate

Expressing concerns about the impact of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” on their water supply, locals asked their state legislators Thursday night how they were going to stop the controversial natural gas drilling process from happening in New York State.

“Will you support a bill to prohibit fracking? What will you do to protect us in Albany?” asked Suzannah Glidden, a North Salem resident and director at Croton Watershed Clean Water Coalition, of Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R, C, I – Goldens Bridge) and Sen. Greg Ball (R, C – Patterson).

The legislators were joined by a panel of three speakers at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Bedford, Lewisboro, North Salem. Each presented a different perspective about fracking, a process by which water, sand and chemicals are injected into a well at a pressure high enough to fracture the shale and release natural gas for energy use.

Kevin Winn, Bedford’s public works commissioner, discussed Bedford’s water supply and the potential impacts of fracking on local water quality; Jannette Barth, Ph.D., senior economist with Pepacton Institute LLC, presented her analysis of the economic impact assessment in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement and Larissa Durska, a board certified pediatrician and advocate for children’s health gave an overview of what she saw as key health concerns around hydraulic fracturing.

The perspective that was missing was that of the gas companies, said Katherine Dering, who moderated the forum for the League of Women Voters. “This is a one-sided talk to help us learn about the potential impact of fracking,” she said.

The talk came amid a series of public hearings that are being held throughout the state to discuss the DEC’s environmental impact statement. The public comment period has been extended until Jan. 11, after which time the DEC is expected to rule on whether gas drilling can expand in New York.

After a screening of a 10-minute trailer of the film Gasland, a film that depicts environmental damage from natural gas drilling, Ball spoke of his recent tour of damaged land near drilling sites in Pennsylvania, and his proposed Property owner bill of rights (S.5879) that would require gas companies, among other things, to disclose all chemicals used in the hydrofracking process.

Castelli, who answered Glidden by saying he’d need to read through the bill prohibiting fracking before supporting it, announced several bills he’d proposed around natural gas drilling, including making defilement of a water supply unlawful.

There seemed to be more questions than answers by the end of the forum—both about the drilling process itself and how legislation that would regulate the drilling industry will move through the state assembly and senate.

“I’m concerned about how they will make water potable again after using it for extraction,” said Gerry Voege, 72, of Katonah, after the talk. He also raised concerns about the DEC study which Barth described as lacking in balance and information.

Lori Evans of Katonah said she was concerned about how the chemical mix used in fracking was not analyzed on a public health level.

Any drilling that took place in the New York City watershed, which overlaps with the Marcellus Shale, could negatively affect Westchester’s water supply, said Winn, from groundwater and well contamination to runoff from the development of industrial sites to the generation of wastewater without a disposal plan.

Dyrszka, a pediatrician and children’s health advocate said 47 percent of the chemicals used in fracking have the potential to disrupt the human endocrine system. “Fracking will be detrimental to college students and campers across New York’s southern tier, which includes many SUNY campuses, summer camps and second home owners,” she said.

Barth cited negative effects drilling could have on other industries such as tourism and agriculture, noting that air pollution and contaminated water would affect farms growing fresh produce and raising sustainable meat purchased in local farm markets. She stated her concerns about what she perceived to be an incomplete economic assessment in the DEC report, disputing the notion, among other things, that shale drilling will bring long-term prosperity to upstate New York.

“Jobs tend to be filled by transient workers who send wages home to families to be spent elsewhere,” said Barth. “And some industries will decline like tourism, agriculture, winemaking, hunting, fishing and recreation. Property values will go down.”

Ellen Weininger, an environmental health educator, asked the panelists what they thought would happen in Albany and if the governor was feeling the pressure.

Castelli answered by describing the almost-sisyphean nature of getting bills signed into law—of 10,000 bills proposed in a legislative session, about 200 are signed into law, on average—but Dyrszka and others attempted to inspire the group into action, encouraging letter and phone campaigns to Albany legislators.

“We as a medical community have warned the governor about the dangers of fracking,” she said. “This will affect us for a very long time and we will be picking up the pieces for a very long time. It’s the age of activism. We have Occupy Wall Street now. Join us.”

For further information on resources discussed at the forum, visit Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and A Million Fracking Letters.

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