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League of Women Voters presents on fracking in Portland

February 6, 2014
By Samantha McDonnell - , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

PORTLAND - Fracking was a topic of conversation at a recent Portland Town Board special meeting. The board heard a presentation about hydrofracking by the League of Women Voters which urged the board to consider a moratorium or even a ban on fracking.

Several members from the LWV spoke out against fracking within the town limits. Karen Harvey said many of the chemical waste ponds due to fracking have found traces of methane, arsenic, lead and benzene. She also said there have been traces of radioactive chemicals in landfills.

"Levels of radioactivity have been detected in the landfills in New York state. There is no known way to remove this radioactivity. That is one of our concerns," Harvey said.

Gen Ludemann said the drilling necessary for fracking is noisy and pollutes the air. Drilling produces between one and five million gallons of water and thousands of tons of sand polluting natural resources. She said there are between 120 to 400 tons of chemicals per well and over 1,200 trips made by trucks are required; any damage incurred by these trucks is usually the town's responsibility. She referred to a recent chemical spill in Elk River in W. Va., and said we don't need those types of accidents in western New York.

Another concern of residents was clean drinking water and fracking disturbing that water supply. Mitch Fitzgibbon, a resident of the town, said he has a spring on his property and works hard to keep the water uncontaminated.

"... So far they have found over thousands of chemicals in fracking water. They haven't passed any determinations about the quality or the toxicity of the water. Every time you make energy, we will screw something up," said Fitzgibbon. "We have to make a choice about which industry is going to have the least impact on our lives and environment. This industry is probably the worst choice we can make."

Audrey Dowling, who also spoke at the meeting, said when private companies come into a municipality to frack, many will bring their own employees and not create new jobs. Fitzgibbon urged the town to pass a moratorium on fracking, citing it is "a darn good idea." He said at the end of a year-long moratorium, the town should consider banning fracking altogether.

All those in attendance were not against fracking. Ernie Rammell who works for a gas company in Westfield said there is currently no hydraulic fracking within the county, but individuals are drilling wells and fracking; there are more than 5,500 wells in Chautauqua County. He said the restrictions for fracking is quite strict.

Rammell also commented saying there is no Marcellus Shale of value within the county.

"Every chemical that is used in my fracking operation is reported to the state and the town," Rammell said.

Minda Rae Amiran, a member of the LWV, said the group is not trying to take away business from individuals such as Rammell. She said they are opposed to high-volume deep drilling. Rammell asked the town to only enter in a moratorium for a year for Marcellus Shale and high-volume deep fracking. He also asked the town board to continually do their research on the matter.

Bob Reuther, who works in the natural gas industry, said a lot of the information presented at the meeting was misinformation or inaccurate. He said a lot of fracking research, even by university professors, has been discredited and discounted. He said by discrediting natural gas "shows a complete lack of understanding how much natural gas contributes to this county and municipality." He cited the switch to natural gas for NRG in the city of Dunkirk as one example of the need.

Supervisor Dan Schrantz thanked everyone for attending the meeting. He said the town board will continue to review the matter of fracking and make a decision at a later date.



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