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New York

Hydrofracking and the Marcellus Shale


Impacts Assessment

An Assessment of the Potential Impacts of High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing on New York's Forests

The Nature Conservancy in New York appreciates and supports the science-based approach taken by Governor Cuomo, DEC, and DOH in determining whether to permit fracking in New York State. The Conservancy was pleased to participate in the process by providing research and analysis with respect to landscape fragmentation impacts, and the Conservancy consistently urged that the decision be objective and based upon the best available information.

The decision reflects years of study, much public engagement, and full consideration of the specific impacts that this activity would have in New York State. The Conservancy looks forward to continuing to work with the Cuomo administration and New York State to address the energy and environmental policy challenges and opportunities ahead.

What is Marcellus Shale?

Marcellus Shale is the largest shale plate in the US. It is sometimes called the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas." The formation stretches from West Virginia to New York’s southern tier; it's been estimated that it could meet the US demand for natural gas for anywhere from 3 to 25 years.

What is hydrofracking?

If drilling is done in New York's Marcellus Shale formation, it will be with a process called high volume horizontal fracturing, or hydrofracking, which drills down into beds of rock (known as shale) using large volumes of highly pressurized water to crack the shale, releasing natural gas trapped in the rock. This process uses between 1.5 - 9 million gallons of water per fracking treatment over a 4- to 6-week period. This water is treated with a wide array of chemicals. Thirty to 40 percent of this water returns to the surface, contaminated with salts, metals, oil and grease, fracking chemicals and radioactive materials.

What are the impacts of hydrofracking on the environment?

It’s actually what we don’t know about the impacts of hydrofracking that make it so important to examine this process so closely. But this is what we know:

  • Hydrofracking can affect streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater – critical water supplies for New Yorkers.
  • Marcellus Shale lies under the New York City watershed and the Delaware River Basin, which together provide drinking water for more than 16 million people. Water used in the hydrofracking process comes back contaminated, requiring high-level treatment. The lack of adequate treatment facilities in New York is a serious problem.
  • Hydrofracking requires as much as nine million gallons of water per well; withdrawing this much from surface and groundwater sources may disrupt natural flows.
  • New York's forests provide clean water and clean air, and support wildlife, recreation and economic activities. Marcellus Shale runs through some of the largest forested regions of our state. Clearing for well pads, roads and pipelines would break up the forest and degrade habitat, diminishing the valuable functions they provide today. 

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