Clearspeak: Self-interests, missing monuments and frackers

Community Columnist


Finally, there’s a different kind of preservation at stake in the hot-button issue of hydraulic fracturing.

Unless you’ve recently returned from long space journey, you’re probably aware of the natural gas reserves locked into the vast unit of underground sedimentary rock known as the “Marcellus Shale,” a rock formation under parts of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, estimated to contain 141 trillion cubic feet of gas. In New York, the Marcellus Shale extends underneath much of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, with its northern edges extending through Central New York, including an east-west band running underneath Syracuse.

The Marcellus Shale is estimated to contain enough untapped natural gas to meet the entire nation’s demand for six years at current consumption rates. Its proximity to the high energy demand markets along the East Coast make it a tempting resource for energy development.

Tapping this resource involves a drilling technology known as hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a “hydrofracking” or simply “fracking.” There is currently a fracking frenzy in states like Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas, which has helped create tens of thousands of jobs, lowered energy prices for consumers and offered the promise of lessening American dependence on foreign energy.

The problem is that the fracking technique hydraulically forces a nasty mix of pollutants deep underground, threatening the underground aquifers on which we all depend.

Opponents like to point to the lack of transparency in the fracking process. Of what, exactly, does the witch’s brew of chemicals getting driven underground consist? The oil and gas industry has been less than forthcoming.

Attention investors: Another transparency issue has opened on the financial front a different basis for opposing fracking. The Securities and Exchange Commission (those good folks who supposedly protect investors) has opened inquiries directed at oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The thrust of the investigation suggests that investors may have been misled by inflated economic projections made in connection with fracking operations.

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