I’ve been busy commenting on the proposed New York State regulations for gas drilling. One of the notable changes from the last bunch is the setback of a well pad from a house, school, or business is now 500 feet instead of 100 feet. Wow what a relief! Now a gas pad will be 1/10 of a mile from my house and my well and my barn and my children’s schools.
But let me think… How far is 500 feet? Out here in the country where I live on a state highway the telephone poles are about 100 feet apart. So five hundred feet would be five telephone poles. A football field is 360 feet long so 500 feet would be one and one-half football fields. City blocks vary, but usually range from 200 to 300 feet, so 500 feet would be about 2 blocks. Washington Cathedral is 500 feet long. A mid-size car is about 15 feet long, so 30 lined up bumper to bumper would be 500 feet.
But wait a minute. That regulation said well pad. But a well pad is just the concrete square where the wells are. Surrounding that pad are generators, roads, and trucks that occupy much more space than the well pad alone. So it is very likely that the gas drilling operations will be a lot closer to you and me than 500 feet.
And 500 feet is not going to protect us very much from the round-the-clock noise pollution, the light pollution, and the release of toxic fumes. A NOAA study found toxic fumes increases correlated with increased gas drilling in the western states. A University of Colorado study measured toxic emissions over Denver from gas sites miles away. These toxins that include benzene and hydrocarbons are damaging to human health.
So why 500 feet? Oh. That’s the distance banks require to approve a mortgage next to a gas site. So much for regulations to protect our health and safety.