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Special Reports Last Updated: Aug 16th, 2010 - 00:20:51

EPA defers hearing on hydraulic fracturing
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Aug 16, 2010, 00:21

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The New York Times and Catskill Mountainkeeper have reported that the EPA�s last hearing on fracking, held in Canonsburg, Pa., in July drew over 1,200 people without a hitch. Unfortunately, the follow-up, all-day hearing that had been scheduled for last Thursday at the Oncenter Complex Convention Center in Syracuse, NY, was cancelled last Tuesday.

This was after Onondaga Country officials expressed �concern� that they were not given enough time to ready security in anticipation of �rallies� and �protests� at the event.

This is in spite of the fact that successful meetings have been held around the country on the impact of �fracking,� the nickname for the eco-unfriendly natural gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing. The Environmental Protection Agency (famous for okaying the 911 Ground Zero site for first responder workers to work in -- the workers who are now suffering fatal illnesses), this same EPA is now claiming it needs an �acceptable� site for a hearing and for the �passionate� crowds that will show up for it.

Of course, many people are passionately against fracking. It poisons water used in the process with chemicals. It poisons water supplies, the land it is used on, the air near it, and helps to destroy landscapes. All this so natural gas drillers can continue to profit from the desecration of the environment, and entire communities can suffer illnesses from �drinking the waters� fouled by fracking. One wonders whose side the EPA is on, the profiteers, those doing the �fracking,� or the people in communities across America suffering from its effects?

The drillers are passionate, too - passionate about making money at untold costs to others in the community. Thus, the hearing had been moved to Syracuse after the original venue Binghamton University, raised its prices for the alternate site from $6,000 to $32,000, causing the university to back off to supposedly protect its solvency.

Judith Enck, the EPA�s regional administrator in New York, claimed that Binghamton University had been agreed on as a site last month but all of a sudden decided to change the meeting�s location to a room, a room mind you, with no air conditioning, in the height of August�s dog days, for conceivably thousands of people.

Enck, with a flair for understatement said, �It is regretful that Binghamton University has put the EPA, and more importantly, thousands of people on both sides of the issue who had planned to attend this meeting, in this inconvenient and difficult position . . . Universities are places where civic participation should flourish, especially on a major environmental topic like hydraulic fracturing�s potential impact on drinking water.� For sure!

The university officials claimed that they had raised the price to cover security and logistical costs, that is after consulting with local law enforcement officials, special interest groups and others that claimed as many as 8,000 people could show up for the hearing, far more than the peaceful 1,200 participants that the EPA had pre-registered for the event. In the estimation of this writer, these are pure scare tactics designed to have this meeting put off until September, and to have passage of the final bill delayed.

Our very own Governor Paterson has vanished from the issue as usual, and has no alternatives to offer. The EPA is supposedly hunting for a new site �and hopes,� �hopes� mind you, to hold the �hearing,� not the final passage of a permanent bill against �fracking� in September.

As you may or may not now, hydraulic fracturing is a form of natural gas drilling that includes injecting millions of gallons of chemically treated water deep into the ground to release the natural gas. In doing so, the water becomes poisoned with the various chemicals, and can contain so much natural gas in it that it will burn if a match or cigarette lighter is put to it. That is the kind of hazard we are talking about.

The cancellation of this new meeting disappointed many of the people whose planned attendance had supposedly stirred some concern for the host venues. Roger Downs, the Sierra Club�s senior staff member in New York said that environmental and grassroots groups had planned to bus in people from around the state to the hearing to hold a rally. Isn�t this a constitutional right, to rally?

Downs said the rally was intended to signal concern over drilling but also support for the EPA, which is �soliciting testimony� for a study on the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. The fact is, the impact is awful, as witnessed from more than one million wells worldwide as the drillers create fractures extending from a wellbore into targeted rock formations.

Hydraulic fracturing was in fact �exempted by the Bush-Cheney Energy Policy Act of 2005 from the United States� basic environmental regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clear Air Act,� as reported in the HBO documentary Gasland, by filmmaker Josh Fox, who also estimates that some 450,000 wells in the U.S., using some 40 trillion gallons of chemically infused water, have been contaminated by the drilling, with much of this water left seeping or injected into the ground.

This has been accomplished by thousands of rigs in some 34 states, drilling into huge shale fields, tight sands or coal bed seams containing gas deposits trapped in the rock. Each well calls for the use of fracking flue -- chemical cocktails consisting of 596 chemicals, including carcinogens and neurotoxins, as well as one to 7 million gallons of water, which are now infused with the chemicals.

This could lead to the poisoning of the Delaware River near the area containing the payload of natural gas in the tri-state area, called the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. An offer of $100,000 was made to Josh Fox for his swath of land, which he turned down to go across the country and more closely examine this ecological hazard. Every American should be aware of this potential ecological disaster, and the political machinations now being attempted to forestall discussion and passage of a no-fracking bill.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer and life-long resident of New York City. Reach him at His new book, State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 on� is available at, Amazon or He has also written hundreds of articles on American and world politics as an Associate Editor of Online Journal.

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