30th June 2011 – By scientificamerican.com
The French parliament voted on June 30 to ban the controversial technique for extracting natural gas from shale rock deposits known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the web sites of Le Monde and other French media reported.
The bill had already passed the National Assembly, the country’s lower chamber, on June 21, and on June 30 a Senate vote of 176 to 151 made France the first country to enact such a ban, just as New York State is preparing to lift a moratorium on the same method.
The vote was divided along party lines, with the majority conservative party voting in favor and the opposition voting against the bill, according to Le Monde. The Socialist Party, in particular, opposed the bill because it did not go far enough. The bill’s critics said that it left open possible loopholes and that in particular it does not prevent the exploitation of oil shale deposits by techniques other than fracking. An earlier version of the bill, which the Socialists had supported, would have banned any kind of development of the deposits, Le Monde reported.
Companies that currently own permits for drilling in oil shale deposits on French land will have two months to notify the state what extraction technique they use. If they declare to be using fracking, or if they fail to respond, their permits will be automatically revoked.
Fracking requires the injection of vast quantities of water and potentially hazardous chemicals into the ground to force the release of natural gas. The U.S. government is investigating the environmental impact of the technique, which critics say produces toxic waste and pollutes water wells.
New York Steps Closer to Allowing Hydrofracking
June 30, 2011 – scientificamerican.com
New York state would throw open its share of one of the world’s richest natural gas deposits to drilling under recommendations made by its environmental agency, creating a potential boom feared by environmentalists.
While taking steps to protect New York City’s drinking water, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recommendations to Governor Andrew Cuomo would lift an effective moratorium on the controversial natural gas extraction technique known as hydraulic fracturing.
Also called “fracking” or “hydrofracking,” the process blasts vast amounts of water mixed with sand and chemicals deep into shale rock, freeing trapped gas. Critics say leaks of the chemicals at the surface endanger groundwater and that drilling operations pollute the air.
“The summary announced today seems to completely ignore the fact that the fracking is unsafe and that the industrial waste produced by this process is hazardous and needs to be treated as such,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.
Industry officials say opponents have exaggerated the environmental impact, while economic benefits to the state would be significant. New York is home to a large piece of the Marcellus Shale, a massive formation believed to be one of the richest natural gas deposits on the planet.
Natural gas drilling in New York state would lead to $11.4 billion in economic output and raise $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue, according to a study led by Timothy Considine, a professor of energy economics at the University of Wyoming and an advocate for drilling in New York.
“Governor Cuomo has made a courageous and sound decision based on the facts and the merits of shale drilling,” Considine said. “The upstate New York economy is quite depressed and needs a shot in the arm. This will be very good for that particular region.”
The DEC’s recommendations could become law after a 60-day period for public comment and an environmental impact statement. The agency recommended not drilling in the watersheds that serve New York City and Syracuse.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the DEC made the right decision in rejecting drilling in the city’s watershed.
“Governor Cuomo and (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens deserve an enormous amount of credit for protecting the unfiltered drinking water supplies of more than 9 million New Yorkers, while increasing our ability to harness the benefits of New York’s natural gas resources,” Bloomberg said in a statement.
Sheldon Silver, New York Assembly Speaker and a Manhattan Democrat, urged the state to wait until the federal Environmental Protection Agency finishes its review.
“There are simply too many unknowns to risk inflicting long-term, potentially catastrophic damage to New York’s environment and water supply,” he said.
Drilling also would be banned within primary aquifers and surface drilling prohibited on state-owned land, including parks, forest areas and wildlife management areas.
Environmentalists have argued that if drilling in the watershed is unsafe, it should be considered unsafe anywhere.
“All parts of the state deserve to be protected equally from this environmentally destructive drilling technique,” Environmental Advocates of New York said in a statement.
Considine, the University of Wyoming professor, looked at the environmental impact of drilling in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania to gauge the impact in New York. Of the 2,139 wells drilled from 2008 to 2010 in the Pennsylvania Marcellus shale, 1,924 incurred environmental violations, the report said.