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The Dansville Online
  • Wide spectrum of opinions at DEC hydrofracking hearing in Dansville

  • With hundreds of people filling Dansville for an afternoon session and hundreds more piling in for the evening public hearing, New York residents came with strong arguments both for an against hydrofracking, but nothing in between.

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  •  On this issue, no one sits on the fence.
    With hundreds of people filling Dansville for an afternoon session and hundreds more piling in for the evening public hearing, New York residents came with strong arguments both for an against hydrofracking, but nothing in between.
    The public hearing was a chance for the Department of Environmental Conservation to hear public comment on its regulations on high volume hydraulic fracturing within the state’s borders, something that could become a reality without much more of a wait.
    During the afternoon session, 64 people were able to get their opinions out to the audience and DEC officials. It is estimated that 800 - 900 people came through the former school to attend, some 160 in hopes of speaking. The evening session brought more people, all limited to three minutes of commenting time each.
    Protesters against the drilling industry rallied outside the building before and between the public hearings while drilling proponents had a truck with a billboard promoting natural gas driving the streets nearby.
    Passionate comments were commonplace both in and outside of the public hearings with cheers, signs and the occasional sneers from both sides throughout the day.
    One of the first to speak for the industry during the meeting was like many — concerned about the dire economic state that has been affecting New York for too long.
    Robert Nichols, member of the Steuben County Legislature and supervisor of Town of Tuscarora said he was in favor of the industry being allowed in New York because of the financial needs of so many within the state.
    “I have faith in the DEC that you folks will do the right thing if you have the manpower to protect our resources,” Nichols said. “We need drilling, it’s a good way to create jobs, it’s a clean energy source and it’s, in my opinion, a real plus for our state and our community.”
    While there were some who showed up to the meeting with fervor on the side of the gas industry, creation of jobs, the bigger and louder sections of the crowd seemed to be those against hydrofracking within the state.
    Jane Russell, supervisor of the Town of Pulteney, spoke against the industry for the residents of the town that recently elected her.
    “We do not want or need the gas industry to ruin our home. Fortunately for us, the devastation of northern Pennsylvania is close to home of and easily observed. Let us learn from the greed and haste to frack. Please preserve our state so we can proudly say for generations to come ‘I love New York,’” Russell said.
    With the DEC ending the public comment period Dec. 12 and state officials saying permits for high-volume hydraulic fracturing could be issued next year, the hearing was a great mix of protesters worried about the looming deadline and supporters of the industry who believe the wait has already been long enough.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Three and a half years is too long,” said Linda Knowles, resident of the Town of Thurston who lives on 100 acres of land. “You accept all the ill effects and the benefits still outweigh the risks, especially with the precautions you have taken,” said Knowles, who told the officials the document has become overworked after too much time spent between consulting professionals and hearing thousands of public comments.
    Jason Ballard, of Lindley NY, said living close to the Pennsylvania border has given him a chance to see the gas wells and benefits firsthand.
    “Our communities and our state … are running on fumes. We are sitting on a tank — a full tank, one of the biggest in the world,” he said, pushing permitting of hydrofracking within New York’s borders.  “Don’t base your regulations on a bunch of ‘nimwits’ that don’t know what they’re talking about, that don’t have the facts.”
    However, while proponents of the industry focused on the economic benefit, many of those against hydrofracking were concerned about businesses that could be hurt in the Finger Lakes region.
    Kate Bartholomew, of Montour Falls, “The contamination of any of these lakes would undoubtedly have severe and devastating effects on the entire region,” Bartholomew said. speaking of the Finger Lakes region.
    She, among many others, noted the fragility of wineries, farms and the tourist attractions of the Finger Lakes themselves that would be affected by the industry.
    “Is all that gas that could be extracted from near the Finger Lakes watershed worth all the potential damage it could do?,” asked Janet Stone, a 75-year-old Pulteney resident.
    Noting the protection from hydrofracking near Syracuse and New York City watersheds, Stone asked for the same protections in the Finger Lakes. “Are we considered less important? Expendable? Collateral damage? Can you tell me?,” she said.
    Many protesters also came from Rochester, driving an hour to tell officials that the industry should not be allowed in with what they deemed insufficient testing to prove safety. Talk of earthquakes that are now said to be caused by the horizontal drilling, contamination of lakes and threats to the rural way of life were just a few of the arguments made against hydrofracking. However, on the side of the proponents, one point was lasting — the potential money.
    Ed Blume, owner of a dairy farm in Jasper, commended the work the DEC has done and asked the issue be resolved now.
    “While I personally believe it goes too far in establishing boundaries and setbacks in certain areas, I believe that under these guidelines hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling can be done safely and profitably,” he said, “and that this industry alone is the economic miracle that can lift this state out of long economic decline.”
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