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Prepare to be fracked, New York City: I hope you like undisclosed, top secret toxic chemicals that may or may not make your tap water flammable getting blasted into the ground super close to our prime water supply tunnels! Because that's about to happen. Propubilca reveals that the state is working to enshrine rules that would allow fracking to take place within 1,000 feet of the aging underground tunnels that carry 1.2 billion gallons of water a day from upstate New York to the city. If the proposal goes through, Propublica reports that "the state would allow drilling near aqueducts but would require a site-specific environmental review for any application to drill within 1,000 feet of the water supply infrastructure." In other words, all that would stand between legal drilling within hundreds of feet of crucial water supply tunnels would be a state environmental review.
Meaning fracking could take place right next to tunnels that supply over 10 million people with water.
Understandably, that's left plenty of folks more than a little uneasy. Here's Propublica on why this is potentially dangerous:
"That's not enough to protect New York City's water, said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council ... 'There needs to be a buffer area in which there's no drilling whatsoever," Sinding said. "Just having elevated review doesn't cut it.'"Sigh. State officials insist this wouldn't happen with fracking chemicals, but nobody's buying.
In comments on a previous draft of the state fracking guidelines, the city said brittle rock surrounds many of the tunnels. Drilling nearby could shift the earth, exerting pressure on tunnel walls that they weren't designed to withstand. Natural fractures extend as far as seven miles out and 6,000 feet down through the earth; gases and fluids already have a tendency to migrate through those fractures and toward the aqueducts, according to the city.
This is just the latest in a series of disappointing signs from Governor Cuomo's office on the issue -- the man who once said he'd be dedicated to protecting NYC's watersheds is now about to make it legal to drill within a football field's length of the most important supply conduits of all. It seems to this observer that Cuomo is leaning on the goodwill generated from his admirable work in passing marriage equality to push through a pro-fracking measure detested by liberals -- and any New Yorker who cares about the safety of their drinking water shouldn't let him.