A young buck and a young dough and a grass field late summer at dusk
A young buck and a young dough and a grass field late summer at dusk

On August 4, 2010, the New York State Senate passed a short-term moratorium on a controversy-laden type of natural gas drilling. The questionable method, hydraulic fracturing – commonly known as “hydrofracking” – uses massive amounts of a pressurized solution comprised of water, sand and chemicals to crack rocks housing natural-gas deposits, allowing the escaping gas to be collected.

While certainly not a new method, having been used to gather difficult-to-obtain gas deposits for decades, hydrofracking has come under fire in recent years. Environmental watchdogs began scrutinizing it following the 2005 federal Energy Policy Act that specifically exempted it from the oversight of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing concerns about possible groundwater contamination from hydrofracking in general, but specifically about a modified version called “horizontal fracking.”

A large shipping vessel for natural gas. shown at port

Opponents of all fracking-based drilling express doubts as to whether these methods adequately protect watersheds and groundwater deposits. Environmental activists are particularly concerned about horizontal fracking, as it has the potential to weaken rocks that support groundwater deposits and can possibly lead to contamination of critical water supplies and injury of workers involved in the extraction process.

Proponents of natural-gas drilling – through hydrofracking or more traditional means – including the  (API) insist that drilling is perfectly safe, and that by not drilling, New York is losing out on billions of dollars of profit and potential jobs.

Both the API and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, Inc., argue that no scientific evidence conclusively links groundwater or soil contamination with the practice of hydrofracking.

The New York State Assembly has yet to vote on the moratorium, and even if it does pass, it would only end drilling temporarily (until May 2011). In the meantime, if you’re concerned about the effects of hydrofracking in your area, you should speak with an environmental law attorney experienced in handling cases involving groundwater contamination and toxic-chemical exposure.