JAMESTOWN, NY – There’s a lot more than needs to be done to regulate hydrofracking before the process can be used in New York State. That was the message last night from a panel of experts and activists at the James Prendergast Library, who were on hand to take part in the library’s Critical Discussion Series.
More than 80 people turned out to hear Moderator Becky Nystrom – a JCC biology professor – along with four speakers from throughout Western New York who’ve either studied or actually fought against hydrofracking in New York State.
Among the most discussed issues of Hydro-fracking was the use of water in the process – which can involve millions of gallons of water, brine and unknown chemicals to create a single frack deep underground and release any gas that may lie within. Speaker Dr. David Kowalski, a professor at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, said that whenever the gas industry claims that hydrofracking is safe, it is actually only referring to one single part of the entire extraction process.
“What the industry is doing is referring strictly to the moment when shale rock is fractured deep underground, even though many of us call the whole process ‘fracking’ or ‘hydraulic fracturing,'” Kawalksi said. “It is one step in the process and that’s the way the industry is referring to it here. It’s basically a PR trick. The strict usage of term ‘hydraulic fracturing’ excludes everything that is going on at the surface, and that’s exactly where the environmental impacts are observable.”
Kawalski said what the industry does talk about is how the chemical-laden water used in fracking is improperly disposed of. He said there have been incidents in other states where animals and people have become sick after being exposed to the chemicals, often times through their drinking water.
Panelist Rita Yelda is a Buffalo resident who is also a member of Food and Water Watch and who also assisted in the effort to have a fracking moratorium put in place in her community. She focused on the current study conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, saying it doesn’t come close to learning all the facts and providing all the information associated with hydrofracking. She said a follow up review of the study by the New York State Health Department, also falls short.
“It amounts to nothing more than a secret, internal review of secret, internal information. S0 we really don’t know what it is they are looking at,” Yelda said. “We really deserve a rigorous, comprehensive, open and participatory health impact assessment process, and that’s really what we need before New York has enough information to move forward with any recommendations regarding fracking.”
In all, the presenters spent over two hours discussing hydrofracking and the impact it has on health and the environment. Other panelists included community activist Sarah Buckley and attorney Robert M. Ciesielski, who also is affiliated with the Sierra Club.
Following their presentations, the group also took several questions from the audience. The told audience members it is up them to pressure the state to do a more thorough review of the process before deciding whether or not hydrofracking should be permitted. They said they can do that by pressuring their local and state representatives, as well as by joining or following groups that are closely following the issue.
We will present audio from the recent Prendergast Library critical discussion during our next episode of Community Matters on Thursday, March 28 at 6 p.m. right here on WRFA.