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Buffalo to Natural Gas Industry: Frack You

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The New York State Legislature has banned fracking, the practice of hydraulic natural-gas extraction, through 2012. But Buffalo last week took that a step further, prohibiting it entirely, forever.

The Buffalo Common Council voted 9–0 in favor of “Buffalo’s Community Protection from Natural Gas Extraction Ordinance,” which bans hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. It is the second major U.S. city to ban the practice, which entails shooting chemicals mixed with sand and water underground thousands of feet to break up the rock and allow more gas to escape the well.

The Onondaga, near Syracuse in central New York State, have been fighting the practice for years and recently helped convince the state legislature to put a moratorium on the practice through May 2012. New York, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania sit atop the Marcellus shale, which is rich with gas deposits that require this method of extraction.

Buffalo, farther west, sits on both the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations. The city’s ordinance included a ban on the disposal of drilling wastewater or other productions wastes within city limits, said the group Frack Action, which had lobbied for the measure.

“The inclusion of drilling wastes sets the Buffalo legislation apart from Pittsburgh's, and zeroes in on what has proved a contentious issue for the gas industry in Pennsylvania: What to do with the millions of gallons of wastewater generated by the process, which can contain carcinogens, volatile organic compounds, and even radioactive material,” Frack Action said in a press release.

The bill's sponsor, Buffalo Common Council member Joseph Golombek (D) told the Buffalo News, "When it comes to the safety of our residents and protecting our environment, we do have a responsibility."