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Syracuse Resident on Hydraulic Fracturing: “I just really wish we could have an honest debate here”

Earlier this week, EPA found itself in the unenviable position of having to scramble for an alternate location for hosting its previously scheduled public information session on the shale gas stimulation technique known as hydraulic fracturing.

Of course, it was pure coincidence that the agency settled on the one city in the state whose newspaper ran four separate letters to the editor late last week targeting with misinformation the technology in question.

Syracuse, of course, is the city we’re talking about, and even though New York State has more than 13,000 oil and natural gas wells in operation today – the vast majority of which have been fractured – activists continue to spread misleading information about the 60-year-old technology, and the many state and federal regulations in place to ensure that this process is conducted in a safe and environmentally sound manner.

Last week the readers of Syracuse’s Post-Standard witnessed this effort first hand and in full-force – four letters in a single day. Luckily however, there are folks out there who know the truth, speak the truth and are willing to set the record straight on a technology been deployed over 1.1 million different times without a single confirmed case of groundwater contamination.

Which brings us to the first letter from last week’s Aug. 6 Post-Standard:

“Here are some of the exemptions from the United States federal laws that the natural gas industry can ignore due to the “Cheney loophole” in the Federal Energy Act of 2005: Exemptions of the gas (and oil) industry: 1) the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2) the Clean Water Act, 3) the Clean Air Act, 4) the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, 5) waste management laws, 6) public right to know provisions of the emergency planning and community right to know act.” – David Kauber, Aurora

Funny thing about these claims? Not a single one is backed up by fact. And no, just because Josh Fox says it’s true, doesn’t mean it is. Local resident Andy Leahy sums it up best in today’s Post-Standard:

“I’m going to have to leave aside the preposterous claims that the oil and gas industry is exempt from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Superfund law and so on… The history of the Safe Drinking Water Act, on the other hand, carries a slightly more interesting “kernel of truth,” from which the activists have sprouted their claims. For more than two decades since passage in 1974, no one in authority on any state or federal level interpreted underground injection control as encompassing oil and gas well “stimulation,” or fracturing, as had long been routinely deployed during development of these resources… in the late 1990s there was a very effective lawsuit brought by an environmental group having to do with hydraulic fracturing for coalbed methane in Alabama.”

Mr. Leahy goes on to write:

“The Energy Policy Act of 2005, among many other things, rendered this Alabama legal decision ineffective by clarifying congressional intent within SDWA. It said clearly that hydraulic fracturing was not meant, and was never meant, by Congress to be covered under the federal underground injection control program. So that’s the exemption, the so-called “Halliburton loophole.” It just confirmed the status quo, which is that the states remain the primary regulators of oil and gas exploration activity.”

You can imagine the substance of the other three letters – which you can read here if you’d like. But to save you the time, effort and tears, we’ll leave you with this little nugget:

We are a well-informed, intelligent, educated people who are well aware of what we have to lose if the gas companies are allowed to frack within the aquifers of our state. We know that we are exempt from the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts.” – Beverly Ann Scholl, Skaneateles

Sorry, Ms. Scholl, educated people support their arguments with facts, not fiction.

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