The natural gas industry has embraced hydraulic fracturing, or fracking as it has come to be known in the parlance of our times, and its advocates are actively engaged in positioning it as the silver bullet that will solve virtually all of our nation’s energy woes.
But to say that there are legitimate concerns about the practice and its potential effects on the environment would be an understatement.
To date, most of those concerns have centered around the potential for water contamination in areas where hydraulic fracturing is widely practiced. Indeed, a recent report from researchers at Duke University linked hydraulic fracturing to increased methane content in well water.
But the potential fallout from fracking operations doesn’t end at the water table.
An assessment of the potential impact that natural gas development will have on the communities located within the Marcellus Shale play states that the affect will be nothing less than, “ominous.”
The assessment, a confidential document not meant for public distribution, was done by the New York State Department of Transportation and intended to be used by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as they make policy decisions about the extent to which hydraulic fracturing will, or will not, be permitted with the state. It was obtained by the website un-natural-gas.org.
From the assessment:
The potential transportation impacts are ominous. Assuming current gas drilling technology and a lower level of development than will be experienced in Pennsylvania the Marcellus region will see a peak year increase of up to 1.5-million heavy truck trips, and induced development may increase peak hour trips by 36,000 trips/hour. While this new traffic will be distributed around the Marcellus region this Discussion Paper suggests that it will be necessary to reconstruct hundreds of miles of roads and scores of bridges and undertake safety and operational improvements in many areas.
The annual costs to undertake these transportation projects are estimated to range from $90 to $156 million for State roads and from $121-$222 million for local roads. There is no mechanism in place allowing State and local governments to absorb these additional transportation costs without major impacts to other programs and other municipalities in the State.
“This Discussion Paper also concludes that the New York State Department of Transportation and local governments currently lack the authority and resources necessary to mitigate such problems. And, that if the State is to prepare for and resolve these problems it is time to establish a frank and open dialogue among the many parties involved.
Source: Natural Gas Watch