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What's Water Worth?

“What’s Water Worth?” panel

Barnard Eco-Reps joined the panelists and Margot Schloss ’09, currently an Urban Fellow at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. (Left to right) Margot Schloss; Helen Kilian ’13; Carly Werther ’14; Maddie Wolberg ’13; Anne Brink ’13; Naomi Wasserman ’13; Jess Epsten ’11; Martin Stute, Ann Whitney Olin Associate Professor of Environmental Science; Cas Holloway, commissioner, New York City Department of Environmental Protection; Paul Gallay, executive director, Riverkeeper; John Conrad, hydrogeologist and member Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York.

On April 5, students, faculty, and members of the community gathered to hear from a panel of experts on hydraulic fracturing, or “hydrofracking,” a controversial process of fracturing rocks to stimulate the release of natural gas. The event “What’s Water Worth?” took place just a few months after the New York State Senate passed a temporary moratorium on hydrofracking in December. Although hydrofracking raises environmental and health concerns, many communities in the state rely on the gas drilling industry and fear the economic consequences of this ban.

The panelists represented key players and varying perspectives on the issue: Paul Gallay, executive director of the watchdog organization Riverkeeper; Caswell F. Holloway, commissioner of New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection; John Conrad, a hydrogeologist with Conrad Geoscience Corp. representing the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York State.

Both Mr. Gallay and Commissioner Holloway argued that hydrofracking endangers our water supply and has the potential to cause environmental contamination due to the large amount of chemical-laden wastewater that results from the process. Mr. Conrad countered that properly regulated hydrofracking will not pose a danger, and it is a viable way to attain cleaner natural gas and reduce oil dependency.

Moderated by Martin Stute, Barnard’s Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Environmental Science, the panelists also discussed whether or not the process should be allowed in New York State, and in particular on the Marcellus Shale, a large reservoir of natural gas beneath the New York Watershed, which is New York City’s primary source of drinking water.

—Maddie Wolberg ’13

Listen to the full audio from this event by downloading the podcast from iTunes U.