Emotions run high in gas drilling debate
TIOGA COUNTY, N.Y. - New York may be weeks or even days away from seeing the first drilling permits allowing hydraulic fracturing, according to a story reported by CBS Evening News last Sunday that sent shockwaves through the Southern Tier's supporters and opponents of fracking. According to the report, a decision is expected after Labor Day, also recognizing that New York will have the strictest regulations in the nation should fracking be allowed.
In another blow to opponents of fracking, the controversial town of Dimock, Pa. has been in the news as well. First, water samples in Dimock were found to be safe to drink by the Environmental Protection Agency on July 25 after months of testing. This week news came that Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation has been cleared to resume drilling at existing wells in Dimock, having addressed the problem.
Those findings don't surprise Perry Pierce, a Navy veteran who lives in the Town of Owego and supports fracking. "There have been lots of lies by people who don't want fracking," Pierce said. He noted that there are wells within a half mile of his home across the border in Pennsylvania, and there has been no toxic gas, huge increase in traffic, or overwhelming impact to the environment. Pierce said he fought 21 years for the country to protect our rights, but not for people to abuse freedom of speech by spreading misinformation.
"Jobs and tax benefits have to be taken into account when you're talking about fracking," Pierce said, "we have to be pro jobs."
Opponents point to the environment when they talk about fracking. While groundwater contamination from the controversial process is unclear, numerous surface spills are well documented and a cause for concern. "It's a very dangerous option, there needs to be serious study," Karen Kucharski said. Kucharski is an artist who lives in Apalachin and is opposed to fracking. "There should be a moratorium in place before (New York Governor Andrew) Cuomo makes the announcement."
Opponents to fracking believe it is a forgone conclusion that fracking is on its way, and that despite their activism and over 2,000 signatures collected against fracking and for a moratorium, the Town of Owego will not enact a moratorium on fracking before permits are issued by the state. Kucharski holds on to hope that a moratorium will be enacted in Owego before New York allows fracking. She reminds people that a quarter of the Earth's fresh water is in the Northeast United States, and needs to be protected from the dangers of fracking.
Kucharski said she has an exhibit of her art on display at the Tioga County Historical Society Museum through October. She has redesigned the Town of Owego logo, replacing the word Ahwaga with Fracked, and the healthy tree with a drilling rig. She told the town board, "If you allow fracking in our town and continue to use the current logo, you will go against the symbol of this town." Her artwork can be seen at www.karenkucharski.com.