Video presentation prompts heated local debate

What started out as an educational video on the ethics of fracking followed by a question and answer session turned into a heated debate recently at Jamestown Community College North Training Center in Dunkirk.

League of Women Voters Chairman of Voter Services and moderator Minda Rae Amiran commented on the large crowd on hand.

“This is a hot issue,” she said. “We (LWV) have educated ourselves a lot on this issue; we want people to know the dangers of fracking.”

A 35-minute DVD called “Ethics Of Fracking” caused quite a stir .

JCC geology instructor Glenn Wahl addressed the group after the video ended.

“I have spent hundreds of hours studying these issues, and although I am no expert, I have taught environmental issues,” he said. “This DVD touched on about 30 different issues with fracking. There are over 100 more I could write on the board.”

There were pro-fracking people in the audience who found the video to be a scare tactic without any facts.

They cited a scene in the beginning of the video which showed flames coming from a faucet as something they believe has nothing to do with fracking.

“It is true some water has natural methane which can catch on fire, but when you get closer to fracking, the methane is in the water,” Wahl said. “The drilling from fracking does induce chemicals in the water that can catch fire.”

Fracking has been going on since 1947 and there are some who believe the old ways of fracking are not as dangerous as the new ways.

“When you talk about the actually fracking – when the drill hits the rock – that isn’t causing the problems,” Wahl said. “What is causing the problems is the process that comes after hitting the rock, when tons of chemicals are being poured down the hole.”

High-volume hydraulic fracking is not allowed in New York, but there are five different landfills that take fracking waste from Pennsylvania.

“We have the waste come here from Pa. (Pennsylvania) classified as industrial waste, when in fact, it is hazardous waste we are putting in our landfills,” Wahl said. “This causes high levels of radioactive material on our land.”

Wahl said the notion of a mile of solid rock under us that protects us is not true.

“Research does show the methane finds its way into the well water,” he said. “We need much better cement seals; ones that last more than seven years.”

“There is no such thing as solid rock,” he continued. “There are tons of cracks and thousands of abandoned wells; all this can provide a pathway for the toxic materials to surface.”

Industrial worker Mike Hogan said he had been in the fracking business since the ’80s and none of the things being said were true.

“The League of Women Voters are biased to show this video,” he said. “The cement comment is false because there is cement still standing in Rome from before Christ.”

“There is more plain water now due to the horizontal well, which replaces six vertical wells,” he continued. “These fracking jobs are not going on in grape vineyards; it only disturbs about six acres.”

Wahl said vertical drilling is not as dangerous as horizontal drilling.

“There is a lot going into wastewater treatment plants that end up in streams and rivers,” he explained. “These streams and rivers have high radioactive substances.”

New York permits fracking waste to be used to salt the roads since it has eight times more salt than ocean water.

“They call it frack flowback and it is used to salt the roads,” Wahl said. “It is only from conventional drilling.”

The few people who were anti-fracking in the audience were concerned about the water being taken away from residents.

“The gas companies find it really expensive to get water so they use the streams and rivers,” Wahl said. “Sometimes they buy the water from a municipality.”

“Some argue a golf course does as much damage with water as fracking,” Wahl said. “Golf courses are part of the cycle; the water stays as part of the process; fracking takes water away and doesn’t give it back.”

“Every energy source has an impact,” he added. “We want to chose one with the least amount of problems so our future generations don’t curse us out. We want to keep water and air clean; our health depends on it.”

Wahl believes it all boils down to greed.

“They throw the ‘safe ‘word out there even though they have been proven wrong over and over because they know they are the largest profit makers of gas,” he said.

Amiran wrapped things up by saying, “The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan organization. We don’t ever support candidates. We believe in equal pay for men and woman and have open minds.”

“We believe there should be a hold on fracking until safer procedures are in place,” she continued. “Congressman (Tom) Reed doesn’t want fracking in the Finger Lakes because it disturbs tourism and I think our lakes are just as good.”