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Equal protection

December 22, 2011

Dave Colavito’s call in the December 15 issue of The River Reporter for strict liability in the SGEIS is exactly right.

In its own language, the SGEIS shows that it does not protect all New Yorkers equally. Section says, “ …detailed well pad containment requirements and setbacks proposed for high-volume hydraulic fracturing are likely to effectively contain most surface spills at and in the vicinity of well pads.”

Section “Turbidity, or suspension of solids in the water supply, can result from any aquifer penetration… if sufficient porosity and permeability or a natural subsurface fracture is present to transmit the disturbance. The majority of these situations correct themselves in a short time.”

Section “Well pad containment practices and setbacks are likely to effectively contain most spills at those locations. There is a continuing risk, however, of releases from chemicals, petroleum products and drilling fluids from the well pad… In general, the pollutants of key concern when managing an unfiltered drinking water system are: (i) nutrient phosphorus; (ii) microbial pathogens; (iii) suspended sediment (or “turbidity”); and (iv) toxic compounds.”

That’s the SGEIS on why New York City’s water is off limits. But the water in our area is also non-filtered. Is our topography less permeable than the New York City watershed? Everywhere? Is our area free of subsurface fractures? Everywhere? Ours is the area where fracking is to be allowed. Ours is the area to be protected by the stipulations that the SGEIS considers mostly effective.

The implication is clear: accidents may happen. The SGEIS must make explicit that the process of fracking is a hazardous activity. Therefore, strict liability must be applied when incidents occur. As written, the SGEIS turns its back on—perhaps only a few—sacrificial individuals who are not given equal protection under the law.

Roy Tedoff
Hortonville, NY