In New York, All Fracking is Local

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A natural gas station near a hydraulic fracturing site in Springville, Pennsylvania (Spencer Platt/Getty)

Tom Wilber, journalist in Central New York and the author of Under the Surface: Fracking, Fortunes, and the Fate of the Marcellus Shale (Cornell Univ Pr, 2012), talks about the implications of the NY Court of Appeals ruling that allows local communities to opt out -- or in -- of fracking.


Tom Wilber

Comments [17]


933 days 16 hours and 27 minutes

.... until this anti-semite leaves the White House

Jul. 01 2014 08:34 PM
Brian from PA

I am just confused - you want to ban development of a fuel that NY state and other Eastern States consumes like made and has changed recent laws in NYC to encourage. Very confusing discussion. In rural areas, the voting is still 1 person 1 vote not 1 vote per acre or per house. So NY is going to build solar panels and wind turbines in the Catskills - Really?

Jul. 01 2014 05:43 PM

Let us not forget the now proven connection between the start of fracking in some areas and the increased earthquake incidence in Ohio, Western PA, TX,OK, etc.

No one can prevent the chemical mixes from percolating deeper into the formation or its travel horizontally from the drilling sites.

Add in the well-site excess gas burn off & you get traveling air pollution.

Jul. 01 2014 12:09 PM

This issue should be treated just like birth control. If we leave it to each jurisdiction's judgement, the social environment will soon be polluted.
Soon everyone will be promiscuously fracking the earth. Unless we take a moral stand against such practices everywhere, there won't be a sustainable environment anywhere.

Jul. 01 2014 11:32 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Chris, that's why we have to step up our efforts to ban fracking at the state & national levels.

Estelle, you need to ask NPR why they accept underwriting from "," not WNYC. OK, maybe WNYC could do it as a news story. I'd like to hear that.

Jul. 01 2014 10:52 AM

you let that crazy woman babble sooooo long...

Jul. 01 2014 10:47 AM
Amy from Manhattan

There's a direct effect of fracking on NYC. The Spectra pipeline is already online & supplying gas to NYC. If you have a gas stove, a gas dryer, or a gas boiler in the city, at least some of the gas it burns is coming from the Marcellus Shale. This gas has more radon than the gas from southern & southwestern states that we had been getting before. Radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. I've been participating in radon testing of my stove for the 2 years before Spectra came online & once (this year) after. It went up this year; although it's still within what's considered safe limits, the percentage of Marcellus gas in the gas we get will increase if fracking is allowed. More info is available at

BTW, there was an anti-fracking rally yesterday across the street from Gov. Cuomo's fundraiser in NYC. We're showing our opposition to fracking at all of these events.

Jul. 01 2014 10:43 AM
Ed from Westchester

Action of the State IS needed.

Even if a locality enacts a ban on fracking, the fracking process can nevertheless affect that municipality because fracking is a horizontal process: if the neighboring town permits fracking, a well placed in a town that permits fracking near the border of a town that has enacted a ban can enter that town underground horizontally. I am a land use attorney and have attended numerous conferences at which fracking has been discussed, and so far no one has been able to answer the question of whether a ban in one town can prevent a neighboring town's well from boring underneath land in the banning municipality.

Moreover, aquifers, like shale, do not follow municipal borders. Pollution from fracking in a town that permits fracking can pollute water supplies of "downstream" towns that may ban the process.

In short, then, local bans may not protect the residents of the municipalities that enact the bans. State or regional action is required.

Jul. 01 2014 10:35 AM

While I am against fracking for a number of reasons, I found Millie's call (West 72nd St) elitist and even offensive. So she a number of other second-home owners from the city are unhappy that the locals are still in control. The fact that they have attempted numerous times to change the "good 'ol boys" council members and have been unsuccessful shows that there is local support for what they believe will help their town - that the local support probably extends beyond a handful of wealthy land owners (and I doubt the NYC folks are poor themselves). Considering the economic devastation of many upstate towns I think fracking opponents could show some greater consideration of these "good oil' boys" feelings and not resort to name-calling.

Jul. 01 2014 10:34 AM
Patrick from Bronxville, NY

Chris, in Putnam, regarding your comment, I'd say that it is indeed a tough situation where the resources sought are not strictly within the boundaries of a local government. That is to say, the Marcellus Shale is a vast pool of minerals spreading across a geography with no respect for local government boundaries, county boundaries, even watersheds. But this fact does not mean that citizens at the local level ought to ignore every tool that is at their hand to seek solutions to address the impacts of this particular land use. It is better to make an attempt to define their community's future than to throw their hands up and yield to the fact that the hazards of this particular land use will poison a water table that transits across property lines or town lines, generate emissions that will waft across property lines or town lines, or cause heavy trucking to use local roads that will be battered not that are nest to a town allowing this land use.

Jul. 01 2014 10:28 AM

The proposed barrier to protect the nyc watershed is technically inadequate from fracking fluid contamination, mini earthquakes affecting the aqueducts and the predictable number of accidents.

Jul. 01 2014 10:26 AM
J Reilly from Bellmore, NY

I can't call from work. I always ask the same question; is natural gas safe after its been fracked? There are reports of houses and buildings exploding several times a year in this area alone. When a tornado levels a town out west the emergency personel have to stop the gas fires before they can search for survivors. I think we should question natural gas before we even question fracking.

Jul. 01 2014 10:15 AM
Jessie Henshaw from Way Uptown

But... who is holding the communities harmless against the ecological risks. Shouldn't that be in the ordinances allowing it????

Jul. 01 2014 10:15 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

Why does NPR accept advertising from, an organization that promotes fracking?

Jul. 01 2014 10:15 AM
patrick Hewes from Bronville, NY

Hi. So, I read the first of two Appeals Court opinions. I write as a city planner, so local government is my business.

I am on hold for a live connection.

I hope that your guest will spend time on discuss the constitutional support for local governments to regulate the use of land. Specifically, the first of the two opinions are clear in stating that it is the "Where," not the "How" that local government has the authority to prohibit.

This may feel like a technical way of approaching the issue, but for those in NYC, where local gov't can seem disconnected, or abstract, elsewhere, your local government can be very real, very intimate. And, that local governments, as reflections of citizen involvement, can indeed prohibit a prohibit a land use.

Referencing the appellant's efforts to use the state-wide oil gas solutions state law, which regulates the "how" of oil and gas industrial processes.

Jul. 01 2014 10:13 AM
Nick M from Manhattan

Ommegang Brewery is a massive employer near Cooperstown and an institution in the craft beer world. Fracking will affect the quality of their water which is detrimental to their product.

Jul. 01 2014 10:09 AM
Chris from Putnam County

What this does is guarantee that fracking will happen. It will be approved in some towns and will therefore effect people in nearby municipalities that have not approved it. Very very bad idea.

Jul. 01 2014 10:09 AM

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