January 14, 2012
Groton group focuses on fracking
Groton Resource Awareness Coalition trying to shape local debate
GROTON — Facts and figures have run the gamut in local gas drilling debates, but the long-term impact remains unclear.
That is what more than a dozen Groton-area residents want their town and village officials to think about in coming months as they attempt to raise awareness of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, known better as hydrofracking.
The residents formed Groton Resource Awareness Coalition in September.
The group’s members have planned public forums, conducted polls and are working with town and village leaders as they pose the question of whether hydrofracking would be good for the community.
Groton town officials are gathering input about the issue. Groton is one of the last Tompkins County municipalities to enter the hydrofracking discussion. Towns like Dryden and Ulysses have already banned it, while Freeville imposed a moratorium, pending further study of the issue.
“What Groton does is going to affect all of downstream,” said Dyan Lombardi, a GRAC member. “Everybody should have a say.”
GRAC has posed a long list of questions for the town of Groton to consider.
Included in the list:
l Anticipated revenues from gas drilling activity?
l Necessary costs from gas drilling, including road maintenance?
l Noise level consideration?
l Will it be limited to areas already zoned for industrial activity?
The Groton Town Board has promised to gather as much information on the issue as possible.
“We want to make an informed decision,” Groton Town Supervisor Glenn Morey said.
GRAC has more than a dozen members, including Michael Goldstein, a Cornell University associate professor of psychology who has researched hydrofracking at length.
Hydrofracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water treated with chemicals deep underground into the Marcellus Shale formation to crack it and extract natural gas. The formation lies under much of Central New York and the Southern Tier.
The original process has existed since the late 1930s. But, Goldstein said, the current method of hydrofracking has only been used within the past decade.
“The long-term effects of this are simply unknown,” he said.
He presented some of his research to the Town Board Tuesday during its regular monthly meeting. The bottom line is that hydrofracking could dramatically change Groton, Goldstein said.
He and other GRAC members urged the town board not to underestimate that hydrofracking could industrialize Groton’s rural landscape. The group hopes Groton’s quality of life goes undisturbed.
If Groton allows hydrofracking, Goldstein calculated the town would see more than 1 million truck trips in the course of a gas drilling operation. Groton’s roads, not designed for that level of traffic, would be overstressed, he said.
“These are going to be long-term issues faced by the town,” Goldstein said.
Sixty-nine percent of land in the town is leased for gas drilling. And only 6 percent of Groton’s residents are doing the leasing, Goldstein said.
“You look at the map and say this is a done deal in Groton, but when you look at the data ... you see it’s only a small percentage of the people behind it,” he said.
Groton town officials plan to hear a presentation from a gas company and a geological expert in the coming months, Morey said.
Hydrofracking supporters point to economic benefits, including the jobs drilling would bring to communities and income to leaseholders.
But many residents remain concerned about its overall impact in their community.
“What’s in it for us?” asked Groton resident Mike Morris, also a GRAC member.
GRAC follows the lead of other local hydrofracking groups pitching for more discussion, including Gas Drilling Awareness for Cortland County.
Landowners have formed their own coalitions.
Goldstein and GRAC members plan to give another presentation to the Groton village board on Monday.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe