How the Threat of Fracking Is Returning to New York

Published Dec 8, 2023

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Climate and Energy

9 years after New York banned fracking, this company is scheming to bring it back to the table. To make matters worse, it’s greenwashing the whole thing with a carbon capture scam.

9 years after New York banned fracking, this company is scheming to bring it back to the table. To make matters worse, it’s greenwashing the whole thing with a carbon capture scam.

This fall, a few thousand families in the Southern Tier region of New York began receiving peculiar letters in the mail. A company called Southern Tier Solutions (STS) was inviting them to lease their land for a new project. It beckoned residents to join the company’s efforts to become a “sustainable energy pioneer and a major contributor to the fight against climate change.”

That may sound enticing to any environmentally inclined reader, except for one major detail — STS is planning to frack for gas. Plus, it’s using the climate scam carbon capture and storage to greenwash its proposal and secure hefty taxpayer subsidies.

Nine Years After Fracking Ban, Southern Tier Introduces Its Scheme

In 2014, New York passed its landmark ban on fracking. It was the result of a powerful grassroots campaign that Food & Water Watch was proud to help lead. All the way back in 2011, we became the first national environmental organization to call for a complete ban on fracking.

Since its inception, New York’s ban has protected residents from the dire health effects of fracking. In other states, the fracking boom has contaminated water supplies and spewed noxious air pollution. It has driven illnesses, including cancer, and worsened our climate crisis.

So how does STS claim to work around New York’s ban? By using carbon dioxide instead of water to extract the gas. Essentially, CO2 fracking. And that’s where carbon capture and storage comes in.

Carbon Capture Greenwashes Dirty Fossil Fuels

STS has several plans for getting its hands on carbon dioxide. First, it wants to ship it north from carbon capture plants on the Gulf Coast. Later, it plans to build several gas power plants, which will emit CO2 that STS can capture and inject underground to extract more gas. Eventually, the company envisions building and running direct air capture plants, to suck CO2 directly from the sky. 

STS claims that its use of captured carbon makes its bizarre scheme climate-friendly. By its logic, the emissions from fracking, transporting, and burning gas cancel out once it shoves some CO2 underground, where it may or may not remain

But what if instead of trying to clean up their messes, corporations just didn’t make a mess in the first place? We know we will save time, resources, money, and the climate by ending fossil fuels and transitioning fully to renewables and battery storage.

Not only is STS’s logic faulty; so is its expensive technology. As we have shown in our research, carbon capture has proven to fail, again and again. And because it’s so resource and energy-intensive, U.S. carbon capture projects have actually put more CO2 into the atmosphere than they’ve removed. 

To make matters worse, most captured carbon is used just as STS has proposed — to drill for more oil and gas. Ultimately, carbon capture maintains and reinforces the status quo of drilling and burning fossil fuels, as well as their massive pollution and climate impacts.

At the same time, renewables keep getting cheaper and batteries keep getting better. Which begs the question — why is STS even pursuing carbon capture in the first place?

Federal Subsidies Prop Up Carbon Capture Scams Like CO2 Fracking

Carbon capture has long been economically impractical. But last year, the Inflation Reduction Act changed the balance sheet, buoying carbon capture with more taxpayer dollars

However, these subsidy programs lack guardrails, and they’re ripe for fraud. Take the 45Q program, which distributes tax credits to companies per ton of CO2 captured. In 2020, the Treasury Department found that companies claimed nearly $900 million in 45Q credits without proof that their projects were effectively storing CO2. Additionally, the Energy Department has spent nearly $300 million on four projects that were never even built.

This is concerning, considering the growth that the U.S. is projecting for carbon capture — whether or not it works. According to one estimate, 45Q tax credits would cost taxpayers an estimated $3.2 billion over the next 10 years. And if STS deploys its CO2 fracking scheme, its lifeline will come from taxpayers’ pockets.

Learn more about CO2 fracking, Southern Tier Solutions’ plan, and how you can help us stop it at our December 14 volunteer meeting:

CO2 Fracking Has No Place in New York — Or Anywhere

Southern Tier Solutions wants to remake the face of the region. It’s planning “a dozen or more” hubs, each with its own pipelines, power plants, processing facilities, and well pads. STS itself acknowledges the “aggressive pace of development” required, including a “significant number” of new wells. 

This will bring a host of hazards to communities. Pipelines and processing plants risk deadly explosions, as well as dangerous methane and CO2 leaks. Neighboring communities will face more pollution from industrial facilities and fracking operations. And there is also the risk of earthquakes from pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the earth. 

Right now, STS is pursuing leases from landowners across the Southern Tier. It will also have to apply to the Department of Environmental Conservation for permits.

If allowed, Southern Tier Solutions will get rich off taxpayer dollars, while New Yorkers — and the planet — will pay the price. We can’t let STS greenwash pollution and exploit loopholes. We can’t let it frack gas during a climate emergency and claim it’s a “solution.” 

As STS continues to pursue its dangerous plans, Food & Water Watch is calling on New York leaders, including Governor Hochul, to stop it. We’re joining communities to defend the state’s fracking ban and protect New Yorkers from harmful fracking.

Join us! Tell Governor Hochul to stop this reckless CO2 fracking scheme in its tracks.

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