NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Supports Fracking...as Long as the Fracked Land Is Far From NYC

It is inevitable that fracking's toxic mess would reach New York's watershed.

Fracking? Yes! (So long as its far, far away from my home or my city). (Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)
A six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, Jon writes about all things ocean.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made a big deal during his three terms of outlawing things he considers bad for human health: secondhand smoke, trans fats, too much salt ,and extra sugary drinks, while encouraging healthier lifestyle choices, including breastfeeding.

So what was the mayor thinking when two weeks ago he came out very publicly for fracking in an op-ed written for the Washington Post?

“So, for a practical point of view, you either are going to have coal spewing stuff into the air or you’re going to use natural gas,” Bloomberg wrote. “If you’re going to use natural gas, it will be gotten out by fracking. Anybody that thinks you can do it without that just doesn’t understand how it works.”

MORE: Mark Ruffalo to NY Governor Cuomo: Do the Right Thing on Fracking

He went on to say that fracking done right would ultimately be good for New York state’s economy. The mayor backed up his words in a way only a billionaire can by donating $6 million to the Environmental Defense Fund to be spent making sure fracking rules and regulations are followed in 14 states, including New York.

But as in any pro-fracking story, Bloomberg provided his own backdoor, saying that fracking was good for New York as long as it wasn’t done anywhere near New York City’s watershed—which runs more than 120 miles upstate from the city—“nor anbody else’s.” (Italics mine!)

“Other than that, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” he wrote.

Which seems incredibly naïve for a man of the world (the mayor owns 11 homes, none in fracking territory), since the reality of hydro-fracking is that keeping its polluting processes separate from underground water sources is, well, impossible.

Each natural gas well that is fracked requires injecting five million gallons of water, 50,000 gallons of unnamed chemicals, and tons of finely-ground sand underground and exploding the concoction. It is inevitable that the process will mingle its toxic mess with underground waters and that the produced water recovered from the process will eventually mix with rivers, creeks, streams and lakes above ground.

The mayor calls for the drilling to take place under “common sense” regulations, in order to minimize environmental harm. Yet he should know better than anyone that in tight budgetary times, despite his generous donation to the EDF, that there is going to be no extra money for helping the DEC monitor all the new drilling that will happen in New York if and when Governor Andrew Cuomo lifts the moratorium against fracking. Nor will there be any provision for a fund to help repair the bridges, roads and highways that will suffer thanks to the additional hundreds of thousands of truck trips and heavy construction that fracking will require.

“He speaks for himself, not the upstate New Yorkers who would be most directly and most immediately affected by fracking,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, told The New York Times.

The op-ed is a bold statement coming from Bloomberg, putting him on the same page as Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Obama. Here’s what the mayor said two years ago about drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which cuts across the state, after a city-commissioned study showed there would be “serious risks” to the water supply if drilling were allowed in its watershed:

“The portions of the Marcellus Shale where the City's watershed lies must be treated differently and the Department of Environmental Conservation's decision today recognizes that crucial fact. We firmly believe, based on the best available science and current industry and technological practices, that drilling cannot be permitted in the City's watershed. We are confident that the additional reviews now required for any drilling proposal in the watershed will lead the State to that same conclusion.”

Writing in the Times-Herald Record, Ken Hall rebutted the downriver mayor’s positive spin on fracking:

“It is absurd, even indefensible, for an elected official to say that his water is more important and his watershed more fragile than yours, but that is what Bloomberg has long maintained. Had he said all along that the protection for the watershed would set the standard for the state, New York would have disappeared from the hydro-fracking map because there really is no way to offer that kind of protection with that kind of guarantee. But he was willing to say that New York has two types of water supplies—those worth exempting and those not worth the bother. Now the question is how much of a bother he really wants all these rules to be.”

Should New City Mayor Micheal Bloomberg have come out in support of fracking? Make your argument in our comment section below.

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