In an article in Sunday’s Messenger Post newspapers, Beth Kinne, assistant professor of environmental studies, is quoted about the controversial natural gas drilling method called hydrofracking that is currently taking place in Pennsylvania and is being discussed in regards to the Finger Lakes.
The article notes Kinne believes that most people think water is ‘renewable.’ “She hopes more people become aware of the potential threat to the Finger Lakes region from hydrofracking. It won’t be easy to protect the natural resource.”
It quotes her, “Gas companies are powerful.”
Kinne joined the faculty in 2008. She earned a B.A. in biology from the University of Virginia, a M.S. in resource management and environmental studies from the University of British Columbia, and a J.D. and LL.M (Asian and Comparative Law) from the University of Washington.
The full article follows.
Digging into the details of Marcellus shale gas drilling
Julie Sherwood • staff writer • October 24, 2010
Just how dangerous is a controversial natural gas drilling method called hydrofracking?
While politicians take sides on the issue and many citizens are still just hearing about it, a program at Wood Library seeking to educate people continued on Tuesday, with such experts as Anthony Ingraffea. The nationally recognized Cornell University professor and researcher concentrates on computer simulations and physical testing of complex fracturing processes.
What happens to the mixture of water and chemicals resulting from the drilling method of hydraulic fracturing is what disturbs Ingraffea and many citizens and experts.
Hydraulic fracturing involves the high-pressure injection of millions of gallons of chemical-laced water into a well to crack rock and release gas. Though not yet permitted in New York, the Southern Tier and areas of the Finger Lakes region have been targeted because the Marcellus Shale deposits found under portions of the eastern United States – in which energy companies are exploring mining large stores of natural gas – extends from the Appalachian basin into the Finger Lakes.
Not long ago, Ingraffea and colleagues visited a vast hydrofracking “Waterfluid Recycling Facility” near a Wegmans supermarket in Williamsport, Pa.
“There is no magic bullet that makes this waste fluid disappear,” Ingraffea told the crowd at the library.
After his proximity to the site, he felt nauseous and had a persistent headache, he said.
“When the industry came to Pennsylvania and West Virginia a few years ago, the process was not green,” said Ingraffea, who was a structural engineer with the Grumman Aerospace Corporation and a county engineer with the Peace Corps in Venezuela. He has taught structural mechanics, finite element methods and fracture mechanics at Cornell since 1977.
Now, with the industry setting its sites on expanding, it may be forced to bring its methods up to speed, he said. But whether those methods will work or even be required is up in the air, he added
Each well uses about 5 million gallons of water and 25,000 gallons of chemicals, Ingraffea said.
Those who oppose hydrofracking point to recent troubles in Pennsylvania and other areas where it is allowed. That includes an explosion in Pennsylvania in May when a valve on a gas rig failed, 1,435 documented cases of methane contamination of home drinking water and roads destroyed from truck traffic.
Ingraffea showed documents that quoted industry representatives from fuel companies including Halliburton and Chesapeake Energy Corp. saying the recycling of the waste fluid process is “still in the research and development stage.”
The state’s next governor will decide what to tell the state Department of Environmental Conservation, he said. While the Legislature can pass new laws, “there is going to be a lot of lobbying going on.”
Fewer than 2 percent of property owners in the Marcellus Shale area of the state will see any immediate financial benefit from drilling, he said. At the same time, unlike other states, New
York does not levy a special tax on the fuel companies that drill.
And “nobody has set up a fund to pay for damages,” he said, which can include everything from health ailments coming from contaminated water to reduced property values.
Many of those who attended the event were anxious to learn more and caution others about the potential threat.
“A lot of people haven’t heard about this,” said Tina Blackwood, a third-grade teacher who lives in Canandaigua.
Blackwood’s 8-year-old students know the difference between “wants” and “needs,” she said.
When it comes to natural gas versus water, they know water is the essential.
Beth Kinne, an attorney with expertise in water issues who teaches environmental studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, said her students – adults – for the most part think water is “renewable.” She hopes more people become aware of the potential threat to the Finger Lakes region from hydrofracking. It won’t be easy to protect the natural resource, she said.
“Gas companies are powerful,” Kinne said.
Bob Aldrich of Mendon said he is concerned.
“I don’t think it’s worth it,” he said. “I see no reason to risk destroying the Finger Lakes for little benefit from natural gas.”
Leo Fabris of Gorham said he will do what he can to encourage people to educate themselves about the issue.
“A lot of people aren’t aware of how dangerous the process is,” he said. “The industry will do what it wants, unless we stop it.”
Wood Library continues its series Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., at the library at 134 N. Main St., Canandaigua.
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