My wife and I were invited to back-to-back weekend weddings in California
and Colorado in the fall of 2004. We decided to rent a car for the week in
between and explore the western United States.
As I often do when I travel, I watch the local evening newscast to see
what the issues are in the different cities, towns and counties and compare them
with the issues we face here in Central New York. I find that by-and-large,
communities grapple with the same issues we do: schools, crime, housing,
jobs…but the one thing that stands apart out west are the “water wars”. The
shortage of water is a crisis and the quality of the water is equally as
troublesome. Examples are articles highlighting 2014 California water drought
causes war between farmers and fisherman; and 2013 Texas-Oklahoma water
wars could impact much of West.
Upon returning home to our beautiful Central New York area, it struck me that we must be conscious of our precious water supply, not take it for granted and protect the value of this natural resource. The Northeastern United States holds over 20 percent of the available freshwater in the world. It seems to me that the next “gold rush” will be coming east for our water.
Almost half of the water for Central New York homes comes from Skaneateles Lake and Otisco Lake providing approximately 18 million gallons a day. The recreational and tourism opportunities, as well as the sheer beauty of the other Finger Lakes are worth our protection as well. We must protect our water from disasters such as the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill of
1989 and the Gulf Coast Disaster of 2010.
We only need to look at the damage done to Onondaga Lake when we turned a blind eye for decades to the pollution being done, as an excuse for industry, progress and jobs. We must never again take such a singular view of these decisions. We must take a parallel course so that we can advance technology, creating new jobs and at the same time protecting our water supply. These are not easy decisions.
With information substantiating both sides of the fracking argument, I lean toward restraint. We must assess the true public health and environmental impact of the new drilling techniques.
Hydraulic fracking – commonly referred to as hydrofracking – is a process used to extract natural gas by injecting a chemical cocktail and highly pressurized water into underground rock formations. There is concern that hydrofracking could contaminate clean drinking water supplies and cause damage to the surrounding environment.
Do I believe that we can develop techniques that will safely extract natural gas? Yes I do.
If we can send a man to the moon and back, we can invent anything! But, my issue is “human-error”. How do we put in place a monitoring system and regulatory control that insures the best possible protections from man-made errors? The environmental tragedy causedby the Exxon Valdez was human error. The Gulf Coast disaster was caused by human greed. Assessing whether the technology of horizontal hydrofracking can be done safely is only the first step. The oversight of safeguarding the process and who pays for it is the second step.
In my opinion, we are not there yet. I support prudent, thoughtful and data-driven information that we are waiting for the DEC to provide. I support legislation that passed the NYS
Assembly to continue the moratorium until May 2015. I support Governor Cuomo’s decision that, “we will not rush to judgment”.
The natural gas that is stored in our Central New York shale isn’t going anywhere and the price for this gas isn’t going down. But the question we must ask ourselves is this: “what is the cost of damage to our precious and valuable water supply worth if we don’t get this decision right?”