Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Editorial: Can natural gas drilling and agriculture coexist?

This holiday season, the only decoration on my front lawn is a "No Fracking" sign. I wrote unconventional holiday letters to NYS government officials, expressing my opposition to hydrofracking.

In case you haven't heard, hydrofracking is a drilling technique that uses millions of gallons of water, mixed with chemicals and sand, to blast through shale rock and release natural gas.

Why post about gas drilling on a food website? Growing food and extracting gas both require land and water. Hydrofracking turns rural, agricultural land into large scale industrial sites (see photos).

I do not want my food grown near an industrial wasteland. Do you?

You might think I'm exaggerating, but here in Tompkins County, almost 40% of land is leased and that's nearly equivalent to the amount of land farmed, as 580 small farms. Current rules allow gas wells to be placed as close as one per 40 acres. Gas drilling in other states has caused a myriad of problems.

In other parts of the world, people struggle for access to clean water and good farmland. And we're considering throwing ours away for short-term gain? Consider a global perspective and a few facts:
  • According to the United Nations, 1.1 billion people, or 18 per cent of the world's population, lack access to safe drinking water. Will rural New Yorkers be added to that group?
  • Many nations lack good soil and some have resorted to buying farmland in poor countries to ensure their food supplies. The US, and New York State in particular, already has great soil and advanced agriculture - why not protect what we have?
  • But isn't natural gas "clean"? Natural gas does burn cleaner than coal, but it still pollutes, it is still a non-renewable fossil fuel, and it still contributes to global warming.
Humans need air, water, and land to survive. Gas is optional.

Currently, a draft environmental statement is up for public comment, and the deadline for comments is December 31, 2009.

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