Large-scale environmental issues are not always considered appropriate subject matter in the garden blogging world, but I’ve never been able to see the reason. Going from discussing the use of chemical solutions in a domestic landscape to the use of chemical solutions injected at high pressure in a rural landscape does not seem an illogical progression to me. What we do to the land—at any level and in any amount—matters. Recently, the trend in gardening has been to do as little as possible.
Like many New Yorkers (not all, for sure), I was pleased and relieved when Governor Andrew Cuomo made a six-year moratorium on fracking into a permanent ban last Wednesday, citing the long-awaited results of the state’s public health review.
The report is lengthy, but, in a nutshell, the concerns include respiratory problems, drinking water issues, seismic activity, soil contamination, general noise and disturbance, and general health complaints. There is much that is not conclusive, but that’s just it. There are too many unknowns and not enough comprehensive studies of the long-term effects of injecting water and chemicals into the Marcellus shale for natural gas extraction. While many other states seem more than happy to accept the unknowns and the risks, I’m glad that New York is not. And it’s already been banned at the local level in 63% of the communities where it’s possible.
I’ve seen plenty of images of what fracking looks like in a rural community, and I’ve read as many stories of fracking gone awry. The most recent incident caused an evacuation near Columbus, Ohio after a well exploded—residents still don’t know if they can come home for Christmas.
There are farmers who want the opportunity to lease to drilling operations. There are also farmers, winemakers, microbreweries, distilleries, and other small producers who rely on clean water. I visited winemakers in the Finger Lakes who were dreading the effect fracking could have on their scenery as much as their groundwater.
They, and many others, have extra reasons to raise their glasses this week.