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Ball: Draw a Line in the Sand Over Fracking

Fracking, the controversial drilling technique that uses high-pressure water, chemicals and sand to crack shale and release natural gas, has quickly become one of the most contentious environmental issues in recent years because of concerns over pollution, spills and contamination of drinking water. With the recent report released by the Department of Environmental Conservation regarding hydraulic fracturing as a method of extracting natural gas, it’s time to focus on how property owners will be affected and how best to protect them.

In August of this year, I went on a tour of Bradford County, Pa., and spoke to property owners about the real impact of hydraulic fracturing. I was shocked to learn that many of these hardworking families saw as much as a 90 percent devaluation of their home values because of this big money industry coming into their backyards. The hydrofracking process caused contamination to their ground water and soil, which ultimately destroyed their property. In addition, this contamination led to livestock birth defects and deaths and, as you can imagine, this caused the families to suffer operating losses.

The only way to protect all New Yorkers from the financial and health risks associated with the chemical concoction used in the hydraulic fracturing process is to enact a “Property Owner’s Bill of Rights” (S5879). With this legislation, these are some of the key items natural gas companies will be mandated to do:

Fully disclose all chemicals used and all compounds created from the fracking process

Inform the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources what chemicals were injected, the source of water used, how much water was used, and whether any radioactive components resulted from the process

Reimburse property owners 150 percent of the real estate’s market value of property based on estimates prior to drilling and 100 percent of the cost for full remediation of soil and water in the event that there’s any contamination

Provide property owners with free medical monitoring for life

Conduct an appraisal of land owner’s property before signing lease agreement using three independent appraisers at the cost of the company

Conduct environmental impact assessment process similar to New York’s SEQR Process to assess the potential dangers for hydraulic fracturing

We cannot allow our state to become part of the “Gasland” online map— we must draw the line in the sand for property owners here and now. Without a system to protect our property, health and financial well-being, oil and gas companies will continue to rake in profits while raking communities over the proverbial coals.

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