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New York’s Sullivan County May Not See Fracking

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New York’s Sullivan County may never see any natural gas drilling via the controversial technique known as fracking, according to a spokesman for the natural gas industry. At a time when industry is looking to frack into some sensitive environmental areas, the announcement is a bit surprising, until the actual reason is revealed.

Not so much about a concern over environment, infrastructure, or human health, Sullivan County will be spared hydraulic fracturing over economics.

“The geology in Sullivan County begins to get shallower and thinner. Our perspective is that Sullivan County isn’t a target zone for drilling,” said Paul Hartman, director of state government relations for Chesapeake Energy, wrote Record Line. Chesapeake Energy is the second-largest natural gas producer and a drilling leader of the Marcellus Shale, which is underneath Sullivan County. “But the only way to find out is to drill,” added a spokesman. The statement comes just as hearing on proposed fracking regulations are approaching, noted Record Online. Hartman made his comments standing beside a cement and steel well bore in an effort to point out that fracking is safe.

The oil dense Marcellus Shale is a black shale formation that extends deep underground from Ohio and West Virginia northeast into Pennsylvania and southern New York. With an estimated 168-516 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, energy companies are eager to tap New York’s Marcellus Shale, notes NewsInferno. In the past few years, a number of states in the Marcellus Shale have seen a natural gas drilling boom and industry has deployed fracking operations to access this resource, said NewsInferno. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an invasive process by which a cocktail of water, sand, and chemicals is injected into the ground at high pressure to shake loose natural gas deposits locked in shale formations.

Earlier this year, and again, recently, Terry Engelder, Penn State professor of geosciences in the university’s Appalachian Black Shales Group, said “(Drilling) is not going to happen. Sullivan is completely off the table,” citing that county’s poor gas quantity. Meanwhile, industry spokesman, Tom Shepstone, believes Sullivan may have some drillable gas, but only in “the towns of Fremont, Delaware, and the environs,” he said recently, wrote Record Online.

Mike Uretsky, a member of a task force created by the National Petroleum Council, at Energy Secretary, Steven Chu’s, request, agreed with Engelder and Hartman, saying that Sullivan’s geology is “uncertain,” as it is in Wayne County, Pennsylvania. “Nothing is going to happen in Sullivan and Wayne,” said Uretsky, who leased his land for drilling, as did Shepstone, wrote Record Online.

Sullivan County’s Town Board voted unanimously to basically outlaw fracking, passing a zoning law that bans high-impact industrial uses, including drilling, said Record Online. Dryden and other towns in Sullivan County are looking to pass similar laws.

Fracking regulation is largely left to the states; because of a loophole in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, energy companies do not have to release information on the chemicals used in the fluids to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Fracking opponents worry that this type of natural gas drilling could pollute vital drinking water sources, either through the release of naturally occurring hazardous substances from underground, or fracking fluid or fracking wastewater spills or leaks.

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