The New York State Preliminary Revised Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement July 2011 on Marcellus Shale is over 900 pages long.  I'm not that sad that I've read it all, but I've done a lot so you don't have to.

Having laboured at one time for not only the City of New York but also the UK Department of Health, I have waded through enough inconsequential government claptrap to last me a lifetime, but from what I've seen so far, much of this document is the soul of clarity and reason. The document simply confronts fears or issues and presents facts with little or no commentary. One can't escape that the overall conclusion of the SGEIS is very similar to that of the UK Parliament Energy and Climate Change Committee or even the French Senate report of earlier this year: What is the fuss about?

The overall tone is: Here is the controversy, here are the facts, here are the solutions. Note that a blanket leave it in the ground solution is not provided. Politically, that is going to mean some angry ultras.  But the vast majority, once and if they learn the facts, are going to ask: What is the fuss about? 

A good place to start is water. Almost every story talking about the environmental impact of shale starts, and often finishes, with the shale gas uses a lot of water objection.  This is a key objection.The average sounds like whole lot of water. The average water use per well is 4.2 million US Gallons but only 85% of that is fresh. The New York State facts speak for themselves.

6.1.1.6 Aquifer Depletion
The primary concern regarding groundwater withdrawal is aquifer depletion that could affect
other uses, including nearby public and private water supply wells. This includes cumulative
impacts from numerous groundwater withdrawals and potential aquifer depletion from the
incremental increase in withdrawals if groundwater supplies are used for hydraulic fracturing.

And in the best deadpan, isn't this blindingly obvious even to the intellectually challenged community way that governments must present reports these days:

Essentially, surface water and groundwater are one continuous resource; therefore, it also is
possible that aquifer depletion can occur if an excessive volume of water is removed from a
surface water body that recharges an aquifer. Such an action would result in a reduction of
recharge which could potentially deplete an aquifer. This “influent” condition of surface water
recharging groundwater occurs mainly in arid and semi-arid climates, and is not common in New
York.

Depletion of both groundwater and surface water can occur when significant water withdrawals
are transported out of the basin from which they originated. These transfers break the natural
hydrologic cycle, since the transported water never makes it downstream nor returns to the
original watershed to help recharge the aquifer. Without the natural flow regime, including
seasonal high flows, stream channel and riparian habitats critical for maintaining the aquatic
biota of the stream may be adversely impacted.

It's significant, that the word significant is underlined in the original document. It signifies what willl follow, my emphasis:

Depletion of both groundwater and surface water can occur when significant water withdrawals
are transported out of the basin from which they originated. These transfers break the natural
hydrologic cycle, since the transported water never makes it downstream nor returns to the
original watershed to help recharge the aquifer. Without the natural flow regime, including
seasonal high flows, stream channel and riparian habitats critical for maintaining the aquatic
biota of the stream may be adversely impacted.

Total daily fresh water withdrawal in New York has been estimated at approximately 10.3 billion
gallons.7 This equates to an annual total of about 3.8 trillion gallons. Based on this calculation,
at peak activity high-volume hydraulic fracturing would result in increased demand for fresh
water in New York of 0.24%.

The climate of New York State is not too different from almost anywhere in Europe. So we can say that the impact of shale on water resources will be minimal. That is being polite. It is actually peanuts. Entirely inconsequential. One quarter of one per cent of total water use.Those concerned about depletion of water have far greater enemies than shale. Let's look at this chart from page 6-15 and put this issue to bed once and for all.  The figures are MGD millions of gallons of water per day.:

NewYorkShaleWater

This is by no means new data, but if I or Chesapeake or EID pointed them out in the past, much of the press aver that gas industry lobbyists/stooges/apologists would say that anyway. But here in black and white and pretty colours is the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stating scientific fact. Only the truly paranoid can, and most likely shall, argue with their figures.

 


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