POSITION STATEMENT: High-volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing

New York Interfaith Power and Light Position Statement on high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing
January 9, 2013

New York Interfaith Power & Light calls upon the DEC and Governor Cuomo to prohibit high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing at this time.

New York Interfaith Power & Light is a non-profit organization representing 90 congregations of all faiths across the state of New York. We regularly communicate with more than 1600 people via email. We are a part of the national Interfaith Power and Light movement, with chapters in 39 states and we address climate change from a faith perspective.

We support creation stewardship, including intelligent energy use, energy efficiency, and community health. It has become clear that serious questions are yet to be answered about both the health and climate impacts of high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

Scientists continue to gather evidence about methane leaks from fracked wells (Pétron, G. et al. J. Geophys. Res. 117, D04304, 2012). Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and leaking methane will likely negate any climate benefits that fracked gas has over coal.

Evidence of other health and environmental concerns continues to mount as well. And there is not sufficient corresponding evidence that the natural gas industry has adequately addressed these safety concerns.

Our previous position statement on hydrofracking calls upon the EPA to use the precautionary principle when assessing this type of natural gas extraction. The precautionary principle states that if a practice has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, that the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those promoting the practice. In this case that would be those entities promoting hydraulic fracturing.

Now that a decision is at hand it is clear that serious questions are yet to be answered about both health impacts and climate impacts. Applying the precautionary principle, it is clear that it would be inappropriate to open New York to high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing at this time, with the current state of drilling technology and environmental science.

3 thoughts on “POSITION STATEMENT: High-volume Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing

  1. Thank you so much for this thoughtful response to fracking. I’m in Sustainable Warwick,an organization in Warwick, NY, which has asked the Town Board to prohibit fracking and fracking wastes. We are worried that the governor and the DEC will not adequately protect NYS. It is good to have an organization like yours weigh in on this important issue and remind people that the precautionary principle is best, especially considering how dire the consequences might be.

  2. I am strongly supportive of New York Interfaith Power and Light and the positive work you do for bringing communities of faith together to live out our commandment of stewardship for God’s Creation. I believe the potential distributive justice concerns associated with shale gas development should give individuals and policy makers pause in deciding how to act on this controversial topic.

    I am concerned, however, that NYIPL may not be operating under correct assumptions of the effects of shale gas on climate change. At least, I believe there is more nuance to the issue than expressed in your position statement. For example, if not simply incorrect, the following statement at least needs clarification: “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and leaking methane will likely negate any climate benefits that fracked gas has over coal.” (Please see the meta-analysis performed on this topic by: Weber, C. L., Clavin, C. 2012. Life cycle carbon footprint of shale gas: Review of evidence and implications. Environmental Science and Technology, 46, 5688-5695.)

    The position statement also cites the precautionary principle. This “principle” has the potential to be useful as a philosophical and ethical tool when well defined, but can be “self-refuting and incoherent” when not treated with delicacy. (Please see: Per Sandin, “Common sense precaution and varieties of the precautionary principle,” In Risk: Philosophical Perspectives (London: Routledge, 2007), 99-112.)

    To strengthen its position statement, I would recommend that NYIPL offer additional thoughts on what it means by the “precautionary principle” (and why their use of it is philosophically justifiable and not simply an incoherent principle that prevents all action, including inaction). I would also suggest bringing attention to distributive justice concerns related to shale gas development, and the relation of this to the commandments in Leviticus 19, to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

    In humble respect of the positive work you do in our state, nation, and world,

    Darrick

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