Starkey Citizens for a Clean & Healthy Environment
Wawarsing Town Board Votes Unanimously to Ban Fracking

WAWARSING, N.Y. — The Town Board has adopted a ban on hydrofracking, the controversial process of drilling for natural gas in shale formations.

The board’s Thursday night vote in favor of the ban was unanimous after a public hearing drew no comments of support for fracking.

Among the speakers at the hearing was the Rev. Jeff Golliher of St. John’s Episcopal Church, who said fracking was an issue that spanned the globe.

“The big problem in all of this is that we can talk about it in terms of the environment or energy or water contamination, air pollution, jobs, health and so on, but it is not any one of these things. It is all of the above,” Golliher said. “It turns out that what is at stake wherever we are is the viability of our community.”

Opponents of fracking — formally horizontal hydraulic fracturing — claim chemicals that are injected into the ground at high pressure as part of the process can contaminate water supplies. The energy industry says the process is safe.

Supporters of fracking say the vast Marcellus Shale, which extends into Ulster and Greene counties, has the potential for successful wells. Hartwick College geology Professor Bob Titus, however, said in a recent email to the Freeman that it’s unlikely there will be efforts to establish drilling in the area because the “eastern reaches of the Marcellus were baked during New England mountain building about 350 million years ago. That cooked the natural gas out of our local Marcellus.”

Golliher was critical of New York, which is taking comments on proposed rules governing fracking in the state, and said the “real facts are not so easy to come by.” He said SUNY Buffalo closed its Shale Resources Research Department because it found the “faculty is on the board and payroll of the fracking industry.”

Florance Lasicki, a three-year resident of Kerhonkson, said the town of Rochester, which abuts Wawarsing, passed a land-use ordinance against fracking in August and was supportive of an ordinance being passed in Wawarsing.

Lasicki said she visited a fracking well in Dimock, Pa., and that he “senses were on overloaded” and the chemical and toxic chemicals were foul. She predicted a decrease in property values in areas where fracking is carried out and that fracking would contaminate her neighbor’s artesian well. Lasicki then wondered aloud why the fracking industry was exempt from the federal Clean Water Act.

Wawarsing Supervisor Scott Carlsen said he did not understand why Gov. Andrew Cuomo was not supporting the towns that were trying to pass laws against fracking. Carlsen noted that when the his Town Board first looked at a fracking ban early this year, they had help from Ulster County. He also said they looked at other towns’ anti-fracking laws to make sure a local law would stand up in court.
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