Rockler: Officials must research environmental, health issues before implementing hydrofracking

On Friday, Syracuse University hosted a debate about whether or not hydrofracking causes more harm than good. New York state needs to make the difficult decision whether or not to allow fracking to take place. Environmental concerns need to be prioritized and economic benefit should not come at the price of environmental damage.

After observing four experts, invited to the debate by the Campbell Public Affairs Institute, argue the issue on both sides, it is clear from the debate that more needs to be known about the process and how it affects the environment.

New York state remains divided on whether or not to allow hydraulic fracturing to access natural gas trapped beneath rock. The debate on whether or not to allow it has become a controversial political issue in the state. It is currently not allowed within the boarders of the state until further research is conducted.

The state has undergone an environmental review for the past four years. A report will be released in several months with the results of the Department of Environmental Conservation findings about the health effects.


Hydrofracking is a process where water and other chemicals are forced into the ground, fracturing rock that traps the gas underground. There is no overwhelming research evidence that suggests the practice is safe or dangerous.

Proponents believe that economic benefits are reason enough to allow it. Tim Whitesell, supervisor of the town of Binghamton, argued hydrofracking could create 240,000 jobs along with $11.4 million in economic benefits for the state.

Ed Hinchey, an independent consultant and geologist, said that the people who live where hydrofracking takes place like the benefits. “This is what they’re looking for. It’s economic growth, it’s jobs,” he said. The 100,000 wells already drilled in the United States are evidence that hydrofracking is not problematic, Hinchey said.


But, the possible environmental damages that may come with fracking have not been thoroughly explored. We cannot engage in a policy that would potentially benefit the economy at the cost of the environment.

“It is simply an uncontrolled, unsuccessful experiment to the detriment of public health,” said Paul Gallay, an attorney who previously worked for the state attorney general’s Environmental Protection Bureau.

One of the main uses for natural gas, which is the product of hydrofracking, is for space heating and hot water heating. Gallay argues home weatherization could decrease the nation’s need for natural gas, while also providing an economic benefit to all. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the stimulus, allocated $5 billion to help weatherize homes for low-income families.

Further studies are needed. Many of the studies on hydrofracking are recent and the health effects are still not well known. While there are many wells already in the country, there have been problems with drinking-water contamination.

Vermont has already banned hydrofracking, citing environmental concerns. In Europe, France has also banned it.

Until more is know about the environmental and health costs that come with hydrofraking, New York state should not allow it to take place solely for economic benefits.

Harmen Rockler is a senior newspaper journalism and political science major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at or followed on Twitter at @LeftofBoston.


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