For every type of fossil fuel that we so profligately burn, it seems there’s a newsworthy disaster lately relating to the method of getting it out of the ground. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, of course, need no introduction. The various coal-mining disasters, with their loss of human life and despoliation of entire landscapes, are similarly well-known.
And natural gas has hydraulic fracturing, aka hydrofracking. Although this isn’t the nationally-known buzzword that BP is, hydrofracking – a technique in which high-pressure liquid is used to fracture rock and extract the gas – has also started racking up a litany of accidents, notably in Pennsylvania.
The deposits of natural gas involved in these untoward events are found in a rock formation called the Marcellus Shale – a formation that also extends into New York. Other shale beds in New York, notably the Utica shale, are also believed to contain commercially significant concentrations of natural gas.
The battle is heating up between those who favor bringing hydrofracking into New York State, citing potential economic benefits for financially beleaguered communities, and those who fear that the process could actually strip entire regions of the ability to make money via recreation, tourism, and agriculture, while profiting mainly out-of-state gas companies and degrading both human quality of life and the environment. Tempers are high, since both paying the mortgage and keeping benzene out of the family’s well are potentially matters of life and death.
I, as you might have guessed, say nay on hydrofracking. Once you’ve contaminated an aquifer, you can’t un-contaminate it – and it is no exaggeration to say that groundwater is the life’s blood of everything that makes Central and Western New York valuable on a human scale. But this is a bird blog. What of the birds?
Well, it turns out that in addition to all the other problems with hydrofracking, they possess – as if representing a giant, gratuitous middle finger extended heartily to Mother Nature – extremely bright lights which are kept running whenever the well is.
And we all know how helpful bright, isolated, man-made lights are for migrating birds.
Even if you favor natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, it’s plain that a negative impact as incidental as light pollution should be monitored closely, regulated vigorously, and mitigated to the greatest extent possible. But energy companies are notoriously adverse to even the most sensible regulation, so action must be taken to ensure that their feet are held to the fire by state government. Contacting the DEC and your elected officials directly is the most effective step.
For a one-click way to register your disapproval of the entire hydrofracking fiasco, there is also the option of signing the petition. Better still if you do all of the above.