"Science does not have two sides." Standing with her son Sean Lennon, artist and activist Yoko Ono made a passionate appeal to logic while officially launching the pair's group, Artists Against Fracking, in New York on Aug. 29.
Ono and Lennon, who previously introduced their organization on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," have recruited over 180 musicians, artists and filmmakers to the coalition.
The two urged the public at the New York event to take a stand against fracking -- a controversial method for extracting natural gas -- and to call on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to reject the practice.
The debate over hydraulic fracturing is centered in several ways on the New York area, from proposals for natural gas development in the state and ongoing fracking in neighboring Pennsylvania to increasingly outspoken activism against the practice from New York-based artists. Yet, Ono and Lennon's group is not relying solely on the voices of prominent fellow activists.
As Lennon said, introducing professor Anthony Ingraffea at the launch of Artists Against Fracking: "You don't have to take my word for it."
Ingraffea, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Cornell University, worked with the oil and gas industry for over three decades and was named one of Time's "People Who Mattered" in 2011.
Ingraffea told The Huffington Post that even with the gas industry's "very best efforts, they're still still going to come up short." Ingraffea explained that an important, but often misunderstood difference between the actual drilling of natural gas wells and hydraulic fracturing (which involves injecting water, chemicals and sand into the well), is that "Fracking is not the major cause of drinking water loss."
"It's the [initial] drilling, the cementing and the casing of the wells that are causing most of the problems with contamination of drinking water supplies," Ingraffea said.
Pressure upon a well's metal casing -- which protects the well and helps carry the gas to the surface -- and the cement that holds it in place, has allowed for the sort of leakage known as gas migration, which can contaminate water sources.
Says Ingraffea, "That's well known in the industry, it's not as well-understood by the public."
Such gas migration related to well drilling and casing has put Pennsylvania towns like Dimock on the map, for the industry and activists.
A representative of the Marcellus Shale Coalition told HuffPost in an email that Pennsylvania drilling regulations enacted in February 2011 include "comprehensive measures to prevent gas migration as happened in Dimock Township." While these rules are intended to mitigate gas migration and water contamination, and ensure transparency, other townships have since experienced contamination.
Supporters of the gas industry often cite the economic opportunities surrounding industry expansion. Yet the industry has slowed in Pennsylvania in the past year, as natural gas prices have dropped.
"The industry has literally shot itself in the foot by oversupply," said Ingraffea, the Cornell professor.
Debate over shale gas drilling in New York has grown louder in recent months and Ingraffea has shown concern for the state's 2011 environmental assessment. Regarding the risk of cement failure leading to gas migration and potential contamination of drinking water sources, Ingraffea wrote to the state Department of Environmental Conservation that the industry itself expects the initial failure rate for these wells to be 5 percent, worsening as the wells age.
Even if leaked methane doesn't invade drinking water sources, it is still entering the atmosphere. According to the EPA, the natural gas industry was the greatest source of U.S. methane emissions in 1990, 2000 and in every year between 2005 and 2009. Methane is "about 21 times more powerful" as a greenhouse gas, according to the agency. The industry has pushed back against the EPA and claimed that their methane emissions are less significant.
Despite opposing pressure from powerful industries, Ono has high hopes for Artists Against Fracking and New York's energy future.
As Ono told the public, "Logic will overcome everything."
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