A welcome ban

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Drilling image courtesy of Shutterstock

Large-scale environmental issues are not always considered appropriate subject matter in the garden blogging world, but I’ve never been able to see the reason.  Going from discussing the use of chemical solutions in a domestic landscape to the use of chemical solutions injected at high pressure in a rural landscape does not seem an illogical progression to me. What we do to the land—at any level and in any amount—matters. Recently, the trend in gardening has been to do as little as possible.

Like many New Yorkers (not all, for sure), I was pleased and relieved when Governor Andrew Cuomo made a six-year moratorium on fracking into a permanent ban last Wednesday, citing the long-awaited results of the state’s public health review.

The report is lengthy, but, in a nutshell, the concerns include respiratory problems, drinking water issues, seismic activity, soil contamination, general noise and disturbance, and general health complaints.  There is much that is not conclusive, but that’s just it. There are too many unknowns and not enough comprehensive studies of the long-term effects of injecting water and chemicals into the Marcellus shale for natural gas extraction. While many other states seem more than happy to accept the unknowns and the risks, I’m glad that New York is not. And it’s already been banned at the local level in 63% of the communities where it’s possible.

I’ve seen plenty of images of what fracking looks like in a rural community, and I’ve read as many stories of fracking gone awry. The most recent incident caused an evacuation near Columbus, Ohio after a well exploded—residents still don’t know if they can come home for Christmas.

There are farmers who want the opportunity to lease to drilling operations. There are also farmers, winemakers, microbreweries, distilleries, and other small producers who rely on clean water. I visited winemakers in the Finger Lakes who were dreading the effect fracking could have on their scenery as much as their groundwater.

They, and many others, have extra reasons to raise their glasses this week.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on December 23, 2014 at 9:14 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet.

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  1. 31st July 2016 at 2:19 pm —

    I live in ohio where our governor is a “Drill, baby drill” type of guy. Local government regulations mean nothing.
    New York state’s ban on fracking really really pisses me off. New York is perfectly happy to benefit from the cheap natural gas they are getting from ohio and pa. I read an article how NYC buildings have converted from fuel oil to natural gas and their air is is much cleaner and they are saving so much money).
    So New York benefits at the expense of their rural neighbors to the west. But who cares about a bunch of Appalachian hill jacks as long as we get clean natural gas in New York? And don’t bring up acid rain because ohio’s coalfired power plants are closing or adding $$$ improvements. But we still get all the east coast garbage. Oh wait, I’m going off on a rant tangent, I just think if you don’t allow drilling you shouldn’t get any of the fracking products. Grrrr.

  2. 21st November 2016 at 8:03 pm —

    You make great points, but mine remains the same. We don’t know enough about the dangers of this method to allow it.

  3. 22nd November 2016 at 3:00 am —

    Tibs, if I knew 15 years ago what I know now, I wouldn’t have bought this house I love, along with its natural gas heating, water tank, and decorative fireplace. I’m looking for a local outfit that will replace my central heating with an electric one; the water heater is easy. The fireplace, well, if I can get the gas company to just shut of my line altogether, then I can probably replace it with one of those electric fake fires. Fossil fuels are killing us all, even if we export the source to China – or the American West.

  4. 24th November 2016 at 5:26 am —

    Electricity is made in either coal or natural gas fired plants. Are you planning to go off grid? If not, don’t see any advantage to going all electric.

  5. 24th November 2016 at 10:36 am —

    Fine. So let’s outlaw fracking nationally. Then watch the price of energy triple while we send all our dollars to oppressive governments in oil producing countries that don’t give a rip about the environment. And while we are at it, watch the use of coal go back up because it is a lot cheaper to use than imported oil, or now less-available natural gas.
    But don’t add wind power because the turbines kill birds and don’t look so nice on the horizon. And don’t even think about nuclear power. Then there’s always solar, though have you seen the list of toxins used in those things….

  6. 24th November 2016 at 12:06 pm —


  7. 24th November 2016 at 12:11 pm —

    Everything on this planet, including the gas and oil we are all so fond of, is fueled by the sun.
    Why are we still stuck on this issue? A giant battery literally glides across the sky over our heads every damn day.
    Fracking seems like a desperate act. Let’s pass it by and look up for a while.
    Gardeners may not possess all the answers, certainly, to these kind of issues but we spend a lot of time listening to the planet and our ears are keen. Maybe we are humanity’s canaries in the coal mine.

  8. 24th November 2016 at 12:33 pm —

    That is great news! You know what they say: every environmental win is tentative but each loss can be permanent to every living thing on the planet. Congratulations. I do not know why environmental issues are so often avoided by gardening blogs. I would have thought they would have much in common.

  9. 24th November 2016 at 12:38 pm —

    We now pause for this Public Service Announcement…..Can we shed the ridiculous argument about wind turbines being worse for birds than all the habitat destruction of coal mining, or the poisoning of air and water and climate disruption caused by coal and natural gas? On a per kilowatt basis (you know, an apples to apples basis) fossil fuels kill many, many times as many birds as wind or solar. Due to Actual Facts, we are all now hereby empowered to tell anyone to “just shut up” when they raise their Unfounded Opinion that “wind turbines are worse because they kill so many birds.” By any rational measure wind and solar cause so much less environmental damage than coal or natural gas it’s a no-brainer on that score……We now return you to our regularly scheduled Rant.

  10. 24th November 2016 at 12:58 pm —

    Hmm, the killing of a hundred thousand and more hawks, eagles, condors, other birds and bats is well documented. I wonder where you got the ‘information’ on fossil fuels killing more. It doesn’t seem logical or remotely true. Maybe you have a legitimate source?

  11. 24th November 2016 at 12:59 pm —

    I have never been able to figure out how such operations as fracking are seen as econimically viable, while spending money into solar power is too expensive. Even in New England there is a lot of sun that would cut down substantially on other types of energy – until it is so efficient we don’t need oil or coal at all.

  12. 24th November 2016 at 12:59 pm —

    Solar is the world’s most expensive municipal power; it is also very unreliable requiring back-up power from less efficient fossil fuel plants that have to ramp power up and down quickly (about 15% less efficient). This means they use as much or more fossil fuel, they pollute as much or more they also (on a system basis) produce as much or more carbon dioxide.

  13. 24th November 2016 at 1:01 pm —

    I live on Franklin mountain near Oneonta, NY, and was ecstatic to hear Cuomo’s announcement of the “permanent” ban on fracking in NY state. Unfortunately the DEC allows PA’s toxic fracking wastewater to be sprayed on NY roads and to be shipped to NY municipal wastewater treatment plants. And the un-Constitutional pipeline was just approved by FERC, to transport PA fracked gas to the ports of Boston and NYC, supposedly for northeastern households. Cabot and Williams, the companies behind the pipeline, have told their own shareholders that this will enable them to sell the gas overseas, but somehow FERC just gave them eminent domain powers to blaze a 50-foot wide path through the woods and fields of NY. It will come within a mile of our beautiful farm, with its heavy trucks, noise and dangers. So we would be most happy if Ohio and PA kept their frigging fracked gas and wastes all to themselves, thank you very much.

  14. 24th November 2016 at 4:11 pm —

    Drinking water aquifers exist at about 500 feet deep. Fracking is done at depths of 6,000 to 10,000 feet well below any drinkable water. At these depths the 98% water fracking fluids are far milder than the toxic water that exists at these depths.

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A welcome ban