In partnership with Marfa Dialogues/NY, Creative Time Reports recently published an article by artists Barbara Arrindell and Ruth Hardinger. In it, they “argue that natural gas is not a ‘bridge fuel’ to less hazardous energy sources, but a grave danger to communal resources and the global climate.”
The gas and oil industry would like to craft a wholesome image of natural gas as a clean resource and a “nonfossil” fuel. Neither of these characterizations is accurate. Yes, gas does burn with a nice blue flame at the end user’s stove. However, getting that gas to the stove is seriously contaminating our air and water. This is because pumping it in means using high-volume, slick-water hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Unbeknownst to many, the process has profound health and environmental impacts. Thanks to aged and faulty infrastructure, often built on the cheap and left unchecked for years, gas inevitably leaks on the way from wells to pipelines. Add up all the dangers along the way, and one will soon find that gas has a larger global climate impact than oil or coal.
Later in the article, the authors discuss how even a place like New York City is affected by the fracking that happens miles away:
When we mention fracking to people in New York City, they often ask if we’re concerned about a place upstate, as though we are protected because it happens so far away. Nothing could be further from the truth. The numerous risks associated with fracking for New York City residents include contamination of drinking water from the Delaware Catskill Watershed and exposure to radon, a radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer, from gas used for cooking. Since November 1, 2013, the Spectra pipeline, built by the Texas-based company Spectra Energy, has started pumping a mix of Marcellus shale natural gas that has the highest levels of radon in the United States from Manhattan’s West Village to the East 14th Street Con Edison plant, and to New Yorkers’ homes.
The Spectra pipeline is not the only recent danger New Yorkers face from the gas industry. The Rockaway Lateral pipeline, if approved, will run from underneath Brooklyn across Jamaica Bay and Rockaway Beach, threatening the ecosystem of Rockaway Bay. As we continue to develop natural gas, there will be more air pollution, contamination and impacts on food and the foodshed. With more drilling, there will be more waste and cuttings from drill sites, which trucks will be transporting to Long Island waste plants, likely resulting in spills and the contamination of Long Island Sound and the ocean beaches. Greater dependence on increasingly limited supplies of natural gas will also lead to much higher prices. The high levels of methane emissions unleashed by projects like the Spectra and Rockaway pipelines will contribute to accelerating climate change and attendant dangers like rising seas. In Manhattan we are standing in a cloud of methane from a leaky infrastructure, and the water around us is swelling.
Be sure to continue reading at Creative Time Reports.
Above image by Christy Rupp, Exploit/Exhale, 2010. Included in the Cooper Union exhibition “Emissions: Images from the Mixing Layer” as part of Marfa Dialogues/NY.