People seek info before fracking begins in our communities
See more about "Fracking in Our Community: A Panel Discussion"
Published: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 08:02
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa.-- Dozens of people, including members of the local Amish community, gathered in Wilmington Area High School's auditorium to hear a panel of experts discuss the merits and pitfalls of drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica Shale beneath Lawrence and Mercer counties. On this particular Wednesday night on Feb.15, about 200 people came out to hear from five experts addressing the complexity and issues associated with the drilling technique referred to as fracking. Many wanted information about leasing property, local and state regulation, the impact on air and water and the rush by energy companies to put out big dollars for access and drilling rights.
Sponsored by The Fracking Truth Alliance, the event strove to present both sides of the issue. The Alliance kept speakers to a strict time limit and did not tolerate audience outbursts. The function was in no way associated with Wilmington High School. WCN's Joe Ligo attended the panel discussion and found out more about the risks and rewards of leasing property for drilling.
John Stolz, a microbiologist and director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, says living with the fracking will turn out contrary with what drillers claim. He also stressed landowners should never accept what they're told about leasing without talking to neighbors and getting independent information.
The Fracking Truth Allience of Lawrence and Mercer Counties sponsored the meeting. The activist group worked to include industry-experts as well as scientists, public policy experts and even a Pittsburgh city councilman critical of the process. However, none of the energy companies involved in the gas drilling industry attended.
Alliance organizers say Marcellus Shale gas-well development is now in Lawrence County. They say two wells opened last year and six more have permits so far for this year.
Some people want to know about leasing and how drillers pay land owners. Others wanted to know what happens if water or wells are tainted.
Jim Litwinowicz, owner of 45-acres of property near New Castle and a leasing agent, joined the panel. He says fracking can be done safely. He represents a group of local landowners who have joined together to negotiate leasing agreements with a driller. He says believes the fracking fluid used to release trapped natural gas in the Marcellus Shale will remain thousands of feet below any water aquifer and poses little risk to water quality.
Some landowners wanted to know how much control they will have if they lease their property or how much regulation local government can place on drillers. Jill Kriesky of the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health. She says current state regulation makes her nervous. She says public health officials are not included in drafting laws which now allow drillers to keep what chemicals they use in fracking secret.
Pittsburgh City councilman Doug Shields traveled to New Wilmington to discuss his position as a public official critical of the drilling process. He explained the City of Pittsburgh has actually banned fracking within city limits.