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A New Yorker's Guide to Industrial Gas Drilling

The public safety of New Yorkers is at stake as gas drilling in the state threatens drinking water supplies for millions of people.

Earthjustice is working with local citizen groups in New York to press decision-makers to hold off on opening up more of the state to fracking until we know more about its effect on our health.

Map of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale in New York State.
Map of the Marcellus Shale in New York State.

Gas drilling in New York? I thought that only happened in other places.

Lured by rising gas prices, oil and gas companies like Exxon and BP are at New York's doorstep, clamoring for access to underground reserves throughout the state and demanding the right to blast millions of gallons of chemically-treated water into the earth to extract the gas. This controversial technique is known as "hydraulic fracturing." And if it sounds scary, that's because it is. Of particular interest to oil and gas companies is a geologic formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which stretches primarily from New York to Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

What? They want to blast millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals into the ground?

Yes. What's more, the companies won't tell us what chemicals they're using. And that may end up being the least of our problems. Once the oil and gas companies are done with the water, it's even more contaminated, sometimes even radioactive. If not handled properly, this wastewater can poison drinking water wells and public water supplies. Not to mention the air pollution, heavy truck traffic, and destruction of forests that comes with all of this industrial activity.

How will I be affected?

The areas where oil and gas companies want to drill stretch through the Southern Tier and Catskill areas of Upstate New York. These areas supply drinking water for more than 13 million people—including people upstate, in New York City, and in Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, and Putnam counties. So if you live in these areas or if you've ever taken a hike through the Catskills, gone for a swim in the Finger Lakes, enjoyed fresh milk and cheese from one of New York's dairies, chances are none of these things will be the same once the drill rigs roll in from Texas.

How do you know that all of this terrible stuff might happen?

We've witnessed what has happened right next door in Pennsylvania, where the pace of drilling has tripled over the past year. Oil and gas companies are contaminating water faster than the state's treatment plants can handle it. In some cases, people's wells have even exploded, residents can light the water from their faucet on fire, and pets have gotten sick from drinking tap water. The Monongahela River, a drinking water source for 350,000 people, was poisoned. Pristine state forest is being handed over to oil and gas companies.

Radioactive waste and flaming tap water? What can I do to help?

We are facing the fight of our lives to keep oil and gas companies at bay while we figure out how to keep New Yorkers safe. Our state leaders need to hear from you. Take action today!

Spotlight Features

New York and Fracking

New York sits atop the Marcellus Shale deposit. View a map of some of the high profile incidents ("fraccidents") related to the country's gas drilling boom that have occurred near the state.

Fracking Runs Afoul of Hometown U.S.A.

It's easy to understand why leaders and citizens in Cooperstown, NY, rose up to protect their town against fracking—and towns across America are following suit.