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December 24, 2012

Fracking regs don't sound so safe

Fracking regs

don’t sound so safe

I recently received an email from New Yorkers Against Fracking asking that I email the state Department of Environmental Conservation each day for 30 days concerning 30 regulations developed to supposedly make sure that fracking in New York will be safe. 

This “letter a day for 30 days” parallels a practice that many Christians follow during Advent, the season before Christmas. I liked the connection and have been trying (though not always succeeding) to be faithful.

The regulation for Dec. 16 concerned flare stacks. It reads, “The venting of any gas originating from the objective formation (that is the shale formation) during flowback (that time after a well is drilled but before the gas is collected) must be through a flare stack at least 30 feet in height, unless the absence of H2S has been demonstrated at a previous well on the same pad which was completed in the same producing horizon. Gas vented through the flare stack must be ignited whenever possible. The stack must be equipped with a self-ignition device.”

I certainly wouldn’t like to live near a flare stack. The “flowback” may last from days to weeks. Flare stacks are serious air polluters and so represent a known hazard to human health. In addition to nitrogen oxides, which create smog (ozone), burning flare stacks release formaldehyde and benzene. Both are human carcinogens. Also, a flare stack is very loud with a sound often compared to a jet engine.

Now maybe H2S doesn’t occur often. It is both explosive and poisonous. Chronic low-level exposure is linked to respiratory irritation, dizziness, memory loss and miscarriage. H2S also is a nerve poison. High levels can be deadly. Flaring does convert hydrogen sulfide to less-toxic sulfur dioxide. However, sulfur dioxide is also a pollutant and causes acid rain.

Kate Ryan

Delhi

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