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Hydrofracking: You can't zone yourself out

Just as there's an inherent risk in changing a light bulb, there's an inherent risk in hydrofracking, said veteran hydrogeologist Bill Kappel to guests at the Skaneateles Lake Watershed Officials meeting Monday May 26.

"Even with the most stringent guidelines, you're going to see accidents," Kappel said. " But you never hear about the hundreds of other Marcellus wells that had to be drilled in Pennsylvania that they haven't gotten wrong."

So the question to ask, Kappel continued, is how much are we willing to risk?

The meeting, hosted by the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, brought in officials from the towns of Spafford, Scott, Sempronious and Niles along with the village and town of Skaneateles. Prior to Kappel's presentation, updates were given by Skaneateles Lake Watershed Agricultural Program Manager Mark Burger and Andy Zepp, executive director for the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Zepp reported on a recent study conducted by the Land Trust "that was based on about a year, year and a half of outreach to folks in the southern half of the watershed."

Mark Whitmore of the Land Trust surveyed landowners, local officials and other stakeholders on the resources of the southern end of Skaneateles Lake, and the results confirmed their theory.

"Every person involved understands that we have something special," Zepp said. "Not just locally, but regionally and nationally. I heard more than one person say if the country was settled from west to east, the south end of the lake would probably be a national park."

Zepp said they also knew the southern end has not experienced a lot of development pressure.

"It hasn't happened, but there's a perception that it's coming over the hill," he said.

Skaneateles Lake sits atop a bed of Marcellus Shale. According to a May 2009 United States Geological Survey fact sheet by Kappel and David Soeder, in November 2008, the Chesapeake Energy Corporation estimated that more than 363 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas could be extracted from the Marcellus Shale. Considering the United States uses 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year, the appeal of drilling for Marcellus Shale is hard to ignore.

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