Story written by Andy McDonald and originally published in the Richmond Register. Find the original article here.
Environmental activist Craig Williams urged the city of Berea to go on record Tuesday in opposition to hydraulic fracturing in the Berea area. The controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep shale beds could potentially degrade the water, air and soil in all of Madison County, he said.
The same request will be presented to the Madison Fiscal Court and the Richmond City Commission, Williams added.
“Needless to say, there are countless people who are concerned about having this sort of exploration and drilling occur in this region,” he said, addressing the council on behalf of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF).
Materials KEF presented to the council outline what it claims are environmental risks of fracking, as the method is more commonly known. These include the assertion that fracking poses risks to ground water. According to KEF, as well as media reports, fracking involves pumping water and potentially carcinogenic chemicals into the ground to extract oil or gas.
In a draft resolution submitted by Williams, over 600 potentially dangerous chemicals are employed in the process, many of which are identified as hazardous pollutants, according to the draft. If that is true, Williams said the resulting water pollution from fracking could be devastating.
“It’s the position of the KEF that this would be to the long-term detriment to our region,” Williams said. “It may be an economic boon for certain individual property owners, but in the long run, we think it would be a disaster, particularly with the way the water sheds are positioned around the Berea water supply. The reservoirs could all be heavily impacted by this in a negative way and put our entire source of drinking water and potable water at risk.”
The draft resolution also asserts that fracking would pose a threat to farming by degrading water, soil and air quality. With that in mind, the proposed resolution would have the city of Berea take two steps. First, the city would declare its opposition to fracking based on alleged risks to local water sheds. Second, the city would urge landowners to carefully consider long-term impacts of fracking before entering into leases that would allow the process to be used on their property.
Council member Ronnie Terrill asked Williams if he knew whether Magistrate Larry Combs has entered into a fracking lease. In a Jan. 7 Richmond Register story, Combs was quoted as saying he has leased his mineral rights, but the lease would not allow fracking.
“He signed a lease,” Williams said, “and I understand he’s also out there advocating for other people in that neighborhood to do likewise.”
Because property owners stand to gain as much as 12.5 percent of the profits from oil proceeds if petroleum is found on their properties, the prospect of allowing fracking could be attractive to many, Williams said. But he claimed the practice has degraded water, air and soil resources in other parts of the country.
“We can’t afford to have those assets degraded to the point that we become like the Marcellus Shale region of Ohio or western Pennsylvania that has just been decimated by this sort of operation,” Williams said, noting fracking leases often give developers the right to inject fracking waste products back into the ground of a landowner’s property. “After they frack it, according to these leases, they can deep well inject the waste product onto the same property that they just fracked the oil from. It’s a recipe for environmental degradation.”
After the presentation, Terrill and council member Diane Kerby urged citizens to attend the Jan. 27 forum that Frack Free Foothills will conduct at the Acton Folk Center on Jefferson Street in Berea. Terrill said he hoped state legislators, including Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Richmond, and Rep. Rita Smart, D-Richmond, and other officials would attend.
“I really want to encourage people to attend this meeting,” Terrill said. “If we don’t stop this now, I’d hate to think what will happen.”
Kerby, meanwhile, urged a cooperative effort among the three local governments.
“This is in our back yard,” Kerby said. “It’s one thing to be appalled at what’s happening elsewhere in the country. But this could happen here unless we do something about it. I encourage the people of the county and the city of Richmond to attend the meeting. They need to be partners in this as well.”
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