At City Frack Hearing, New Questions About Quake Danger

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

fracking, hydraulic fracturing, frack Anti-fracking sign at the final of four public hearings in New York city on the controversial practice known as hydraulic fracturing. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The Bloomberg administration is poised Wednesday to express concern about Albany's plans to allow natural gas drilling near upstate reservoirs during a public hearing in Manhattan on the controversial technique known as fracking.

The hearing on Wednesday was the final in four public hearings on proposed regulations. The topic is a hot-button issue in the city, which gets drinking water from reservoirs upstate.

The New York State Department of Conservation Wednesday extended the comment period for 30 days to January 11, 2012. The extension was met with cheers at the public hearing in Manhattan. No additional public hearings were announced.

City officials believe small earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, could cause cracks in the concrete lining of tunnels that channel millions of gallons of water to New York City taps every day.

At the public hearing, Paul Rush, a Deputy Commissioner at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, said city is focused on understand and reducing seismic risk to tunnels. He said the area has more geofaults than the DEC is aware of and that the biggest remaining risk was to water tunnels.

While the connection between fracking and earthquakes is disputed, Albany’s environmental review assumes that gas drilling can in fact cause earthquakes.

Because the gas in New York’s Marcellus Shale formation is packed tightly into small bubbles thousands of feet below the earth’s surface, drillers must inject water, sand and chemicals underground at high pressures to release the gas

The Cuomo Administration’s draft environmental review of fracking says “the microseisms created by hydraulic fracturing are too small to be felt, or to cause damage at the ground surface or to nearby wells.”

But the Bloomberg administration believes the tremors could damage critical underground infrastructure that lies outside of the proposed “buffer zone” that surrounds city-owned reservoirs.

DEC's Rush on Wednesday said that the 1,000 foot buffer is insufficient, and city-owned roads and bridges could be damaged.

Carter Strickland, Bloomberg’s commissioner of the DEP, told an Assembly committee last October that “repeated microseismic events over the course of years could have a detrimental effect on concrete tunnel liners. Our assessment shows a high density of small faults in the Marcellus shale area around our infrastructure.”

Two conduits, the East Delaware Tunnel and the West Delaware Tunnel, pass through gas-rich areas that lie outside of the Cuomo administration’s proposed no-fracking zone surrounding city reservoirs.

DEP has hired Hager-Richter, a geophysics consultant with offices in New Hampshire and New Jersey, to study the issue, and will include the findings when it publishes its full comments on the state’s draft review.

In May, two earthquakes — 2.3 and 1.5 magnitude — were measured in northwest England, raising suspicions that a nearby gas drilling operation could be responsible. Later, an internal review by the driller concluded that a link was “highly probable.”

The U.S. Geologic Survey notes that human activity has been shown to cause earthquakes. In 1967, fluid injection at a site in Colorado triggered a 5.5 magnitude quake.

Click here for more on fracking and earthquakes. 


Public Comment Hearing

Wednesday 11/30, 1-4 pm and 6-9 pm

Tribeca Performing Arts Center, 199 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007

Anyone is allowed to speak for up to three minutes after their name has been called from a sign-in sheet. Those wishing to speak are encouraged to show up early.

Comments can also be submitted by mail or email. Click here to enter an electronic comment. The comment period ends January 11, 2012.


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Comments [8]

the earthquakes most likely induced by hydraulic fracturing inthe UK are nowhere close to being able to damage any water tunnels or any human made structures. It is scientifically proven fact given the size of these tremors. If one is indeed worried about such possibility, then please forbid all trafic of all vehicles near these tunnels as shaking from passing cars vibrates these structures more than the earthquakes. I am scientist and I am concern about this hysteria.

Dec. 01 2011 11:18 AM

To "Frank from PA" -- the vast majority of gas that would be fracked in NYS, if it is allowed, wouldn't go to any New Yorkers.

Even as we speak, the major pipeline that already runs from Canada to NY is being shifted so it can export gas.

This is about international companies making huge profits, not about energy independence.

Dec. 01 2011 09:23 AM
Frank from PA

Maybe if New Yorkers did not consume so much natural resources, companies would not have to drill. Huh? Kinda makes sense. Maybe New Yorkers could lead the way and show the rest of us by example and do without natural gas to heat their homes for the upcoming winter.

Nov. 30 2011 03:16 PM
Ritter from Narrowsburg, NY

Does anybody have a link or URL to a LiveStream of the NYC SGEIS hearings today?

Please post.


Thank you.

Nov. 30 2011 02:35 PM
Tim Murphy from Sleepy Hollow, New York

The State of New York, and its Governor, is desperate for revenue and jobs. Politicians focused on the next election cycle are much too prominent in this long term decision. The smell of desperation is all over these elected officials and the lobbyists who still run Albany. You can be sure of one thing; in a state that never really made GE accountable for the horrible PCB mess will are still living with in the Hudson Valley, the people of New York will get no remediation from the drillers who will polk thousands of dirty, effluent producing holes in the ground; and then walk away with the profits, leaving us with despoiled land, water and air. Trading our environment for the few thousand short term fracking jobs it creates is one incredibly bad deal!

Nov. 30 2011 02:31 PM
david ores from NYC

Can we compel Big Energy to publish a LIST of all the chemicals they wish to pressure pump into our Earth? Our drinking water? Don't we have that most basic right? I want a LIST!

Are these Chemicals safe for very young children to drink? For pregnant women to ingest? For a developing fetus?

What will THAT lawsuit cost Big Energy and their investors? Every damaged / defective live birth lawsuit in the region will add "Chemicals used in Fracking" to the list of people / corporations to sue for baby damages ...pain & suffering, medical expenses.... For physical defects and autism and...etc.... will add up to multiple billions of dollars.

If we get that LIST of chemicals, I doubt ANYONE will support the insanity any longer.

And energy will not help you if you have no water to drink or use for other purposes.

Do these companies really want to pay out ALL those legal damages? Legal fees?

Nov. 30 2011 12:52 PM
dave from nyc

in the 50s deep wells were used as dumps sites for hydrocarbons raw sewage radioactive waste cynides and numerous other types of waste. the government didnt get involved until the 60s and didnt pass the clean water act until 1972. consequences of deep well injection have yet to be determined,and could prove to be the enviromental disasters of our future. When oil and gas are extracted, large amounts of brine are typically brought to the surface. Often saltier than seawater, this brine can also contain toxic metals and radioactive substances. It can be very damaging to the environment and public health if it is discharged to surface water or the land surface. ‎1.existing fluid may be displaced from pore spaces and forced into existing faults or fracture zones. ‎ fractures may be formed due to hydraulic ftacturing of the aquifer matirial thereby providing conduits for fluid migration. 3.overlying structures may rupture. ‎4.waste fluids may flow up along improperly constructed well casings

Nov. 30 2011 12:39 PM
Janet Ziff from Tribeca

I do not want New York City's drinking water contaminated.

Nov. 30 2011 11:03 AM

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