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Marcellus Shale forum in Wellsville draws over 200


More than 200 people interested in finding out the facts about hydrofracking in the Marcellus Shale area attended a forum on the campus of Alfred State College Saturday.

The four-hour forum included experts from the drilling industry, a health researcher, a consultant opposed to hydrofracking and county Legislator Kevin LaForge of Wellsville, chairman of the county Special Communications & Technology Ad Hoc Committee. In Central and Western New York, Marcellus Shale stretches about 6,000 feet below the surface.

Organizer Brent Kelley said he was pleased with the turnout.

Mike Atchie, local government specialist for the Chesapeake Energy Corporation, described the drilling process and the precautions his company routinely puts in place to prevent spills and leaks. The precautions include a closed-loop system to reuse fracking fluid. Chesapeake Energy currently has 24 productive gas wells in Northern Pennsylvania.

Matthew Cortese, a researcher on the health impacts of hydrofracking, said the gas captured in the Marcellus Shale is not captured in pockets, so vertical drilling does not work. Marcellus Shale gas is molecular. Hydrofracking is necessary to force the gas molecules out of the shale into fractures, allowing it to be recovered, Cortese said. However, he said, there are 900 or more different chemicals that can be used in fracking fluids. Not all of the health impacts on water and air from those chemicals have been thoroughly studied.

“I’m not against drilling. I’m not against fracking. I think we shouldn’t do it under the current regulations,” he said.

There is a moratorium in New York state against Marcellus Shale drilling until the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Draft Impact Statement is completed. Walter Hang, principal and consultant for Toxics Targeting, said the document (originally to be released in June) will not be released until the end of the summer. He predicted that after a comment period of 30 to 90 days, it will take another year before the state enacts regulations for drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

However, while Cortese suggested even more studies to clarify health impacts, Art Van Tyne, a local geologist, and Jack Liguori of Rushford, a former pilot, disagreed.
Liguori said, “Sometimes you have to start moving ahead to solve the problems.”

Van Tyne stated, “There may be problems if you sat and drank this stuff (hydrofracking fluid), but there are warnings on your toothpaste tubes to not swallow it. If we continue studying this, we may not get any drilling at all and there is an economic benefit to drilling in the Marcellus Shale.”

Cheryl Green of Hornell is part owner of a family farm in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Marcellus Shale drilling has gone on for over two years there.

“God only created so much land and we are the keepers of the land,” she said.