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Source: The Syracuse Post-Standard

Panelists discuss hydrofracking in Marcellus


Posted: September 27, 2012
Originally Published: September 26, 2012

Sarah Eckel, of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, listens to a pro-hydrofracking speaker.

The town of Marcellus along with the Otisco Lake Preservation Association held an informational hearing on hydrofracking on Wednesday night September 26, 2012. The town’s moratorium on hydrofracking expires in January. Sarah Eckel, of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment listens to a pro-hydrofracking speaker. Stephen D. Cannerelli / The Post-Standard

Marcellus, NY -- For nearly three hours Wednesday night, more than 200 people heard reasons why hydrofracking could benefit the town of Marcellus and reasons why it could be harmful.

“Gas development is not pretty,” said Uni Blake, an environmental consultant for Hometown Energy Group in Oneonta. “Most people don’t want it in their backyard, but once it’s done it’s done.”

Blake, one of six panelists, told the crowd in the Marcellus High School auditorium there is no major health crisis involved, but instead some isolated cases of health complaints. “We can work hard to make it safe,” she said. “America has the technology and the ability. If you ban it here, it goes somewhere else.”

Advocates talked about the tens of thousands of jobs that are created and the financial benefits to a community. Nick Schoonover, chairman of the Tioga County Landowners Group, said more than 1 million oil and gas wells have been fracked nationwide since 1945, and 76,000 wells – including 14,000 still active -- have been drilled in New York state.

But the panelists who oppose hydrofracking said the jobs won’t stay and the longterm risks aren’t worth the potential immediate financial benefits. “This is a boom-bust industry,” said Kelly Branigan, a registered nurse from Middlefield whose husband lived and worked in a hydrofracking community in Pennsylvania. “You see the impacts every day. You live with the constant truck traffic 24-7. It never stops,” Branigan said. Studies nationwide show an increase in drugs and prostitution, among other crimes, Branigan said. Research also has shown how rents skyrocket to “take advantage of the transient gas workers who need housing, displacing local residents who can’t afford those increases,” she said.

Sarah Eckel, legislative and policy director for the Syracuse-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said hydrofracking was not worth the risks to the environment. “Once you pollute something you can’t take it back,” she said.

Hydrofracking Forum in Marcellus The town of Marcellus along with the Otisco Lake Preservation Association held an informational hearing on hydrofracking on Wednesday night September 26, 2012 at Marcellus High School. Both opponents and supporters of hydrofracking spoke and gave presentations. The town’s moratorium on hydrofracking expires in January. Video by Stephen D. Cannerelli (4:10)

Many residents in the audience agreed.

One community member shouted to the hydrofracking proponents: “Do you drink fracking water?”

Another man yelled, “You can’t drink gas.”

Karen Moreau, executive director of New York State Petroleum Council, explained that “it’s a matter of concentration (of the fracking fluid in the water).” She also told the crowd hydrofracking could be a resource and benefit to rural landowners who have unproductive farm acreage. But she also added, “I know whatever I say, it won’t make a difference to certain people in this room.”

The town of Marcellus and Otisco Lake Preservation Association hosted the public information forum on hydrofracking.

Marcellus is one of five towns that gets its public water supply from Otisco Lake. The lake’s watershed also lies in Otisco, Spafford, Onondaga and Tully.

The lake association opposes hydrofracking. Hydrofracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves drilling deep and horizontally and injecting water, sand and chemicals to release natural gas.

Marcellus Town Supervisor Dan Ross said the panelists spoke to help educate the town board and the public on current issues related to hydrofracking. The Marcellus Town Board has had a moratorium on hydrofracking for the past two years. It is set to expire in January. The board can either let the moratorium expire and if the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues permits, hydrofracking could occur in the town. Or board members could decide to ban hydrofracking, Ross said.

“I haven’t reached a conclusion yet,” Ross said. “I just wanted to get as much information so the board can move forward, and the community can be informed and provide us their thoughts. It’s going to have an impact on their lives.”