Monday, June 29, 2009

A Call for Caution: Safety and Responsibility vs. Gas Rush Fever

by Chris Burger, former Broome County legislator, chair of Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition.

Everything about gas drilling cries for caution, due diligence and patience. Its monetary benefits seem obvious, but the costs and risks are far from fully identified, much less comprehended. If there ever is a time for a serious, hardnosed cost-benefit analysis, this situation surely qualifies. It is hard to understate the disastrous consequences if we get it wrong. It is extremely difficult and expensive to address negative health, socio-economic and environmental impacts after the fact.
No one is volunteering to do the socio-economic cost-benefit analysis required for good decision making. ... As important as looking at individual gas wells is, no one is looking at the impact of a "gas field," which is the more relevant question from a community perspective.
One does not need to be against gas drilling to ask these basic questions:

• What well density do we consider acceptable?

• What damage will our drinking water sources sustain?

• How will we dispose of the toxic wastewater generated by the drilling and fracturing?

• What are the effects on agriculture, hunting, and fishing?

• What are the effects on our wildlife in general?

• How will this affect tourism?

* How will it affect our ability to attract young people to our area?

• What air quality and noise levels do we consider acceptable?

• What are the effects on our infrastructure?

• What are the effects on our ability to control flooding?

• How will the many natural faults in our geography impact the safety of the technology?

* How can we eliminate liability for the landowner?

• What regulation is needed to hold the industry fully accountable for all costs associated with drilling?

These questions need to be answered in the context of a fully developed gas field, not a single well.

The saddest refrain emanating from our neighbors just to the south is "if only we knew what we were getting ourselves into." Families have lost water wells to pollution, there have been gas explosions, and home values have plummeted. We need to ask hard questions because drilling will not be restricted to rural areas. It can occur in our suburbs and cities, just as it is happening now under downtown Fort Worth, Texas. A fully developed gas field will affect us all.
Click HERE to read this article in its entirety.
Click HERE, or in the DON'T MISS column (right sidebar) to watch Chris Burger's excellent video overview on drilling for gas in Essential Dissent: Marcellus Shale Play.


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