Courtesy of Gloria Betlem
This painting by South Lima artist Gloria Betlem, based on research by geologists familiar with hydraulic fracturing, expresses the scenario of groundwater contamination. Her show "Finger Lakes: Above and Below" is on display at the Ruth Geos. Davison Gallery, Roberts Wesleyan College through Nov. 11.
Natural gas drilling
Fracking fears stir opposition
A group of concerned citizens organized last month in Hemlock, calling itself Frack Free Genesee, has begun a campaign trumpeting what it believes are the dangers which the hydraulic fracturing method of natural gas extraction poses for Livingston County.
“This huge unregulated industry which has besieged Pennsylvania now turns it’s eyes northward” said FFG spokesman Jamie Carestio.
FFG has been securing spots on town board meeting agendas. A power point presentation is made, and a proposal for the town to adopt a moratorium delaying fracking within its boundaries is presented.
Carestio and his colleagues visited the Livonia Town Board last Thursday, No. 3, and were scheduled to be at Nunda on Nov. 9; Geneseo and Portage on Nov. 10; Springwater on Nov. 14; Wayland, Conesus, and Sparta on Nov. 15; and Dansville on Dec. 6.
The group is additionally encouraging people to speak out against fracking on Nov. 16 at an New York State Department of Environmental Conservation hearing at the new Dansville Middle School.
Hearing times will be 1-4pm and 6-9pm with a ‘people’s mic’ all day long. The day will also see a rally in the nearby park with music and speakers, and a free screening of ‘Gasland’ at the Star Theater at 4pm.
Related events include a public forum at the Ossian Community Center on Nov. 11 at 7pm, and a free showing of the documentary ‘Gasland’ at the Lakeville UCC church Nov. 12 at 7 pm and at Dansville Star Theater Nov. 13 at noon.
Fracking was perfected in the 1990s as a way of extracting methane gas trapped in underground formations of shale. Wells are drilled vertically, then horizontally for large distances. The shale is denoted with explosives, then the methane is forced to the surface using chemically treated water under high pressure.
The density of wells will “industrialize the landscape,” critics state.
Of particular concern for the FFG activists is the so-called “Haliburton Loophole” in New York State’s 2005 safe drinking water act, allowing fracking in western New York while simultaneously protecting areas of open body water sources for New York City and Syracuse.
Other concerns are methane and fracking compound contamination in wells, dumping of toxic and radioactive wastes into water treatment plants, significant truck traffic increases, diesel generators “running 24/7 for months on end,” and “industrialization of our rural communities.”
DEC is in the latter stage of an approval process which could sanction well drilling in our region as early as January of 2012. Private sanctioning will be established if 60 percent or more of the property in a specified tract has an owner or owners favoring fracking.
The Livonia Town Board, and particularly Supervisor Eric Gott, appeared sympathetic towards the FFG concerns. However, any decision to enact a moratorium was deferred to town attorney Jim Campbell.
Campbell cautioned that, besides being a new topic for most local attorneys, hydrofracking environmental law appears to have been designed at the state level with the intent of being exclusionary to local regulation. For that reason, any moratorium enacted by the town needs to be carefully crafted with an eye to the degree of risk the town is willing to take versus the need to minimize town exposure against potential lawsuits by the hydrofracking industry.
To date, no representatives of the hydrofracking industry have approached town board with challenges to the FFG contentions.