Fracking finds supporters, opponents at SHS

To drill or not to drill?

That was the question on many minds in the Skaneateles High School auditorium on Tuesday night, Jan. 23. About 100 people attended the school environmental club's presentation on hydraulic fracturing where they heard positions both for and against the controversial drilling process.

Hydraulic fracturing, or "hydrofracking," is a method of drilling for natural gas that injects sand and liquid under high pressure down a well in order to release gas from fractures in rock.

In high-volume hydraulic fracturing, millions of gallons of water are used to release the gas from the rock. Sand and a relatively small amount of chemicals are used also. Chemicals usually make up 0.5 percent of the mixture, according to a fact sheet from the US Geological Survey.

For example, a fracturing job that uses three million gallons of fluid would include about 15,000 gallons of chemicals.

Some opponents to hydraulic fracturing are concerned that these chemicals, or naturally occurring chemicals in the ground, may be released into the aquifer. Proponents are more confident of the process and emphasize the positive economic impact gas drilling may have.

The presentation included a showing of the movie "Split Estate," a film that is highly critical of hydraulic fracturing and includes accounts from the western United States. The testimonials present hydraulic fracturing as unsafe and dangerous to public health.

In an attempt to keep the presentation balanced, the environmental club projected a PowerPoint presentation along side the movie. It contained statements from the natural gas industry refuting some of the claims of "Split Estate."

After the movie, there was a 15-minute presentation by David Palmerton, a geologist and environmental consultant. Palmerton concentrated on the upside of natural gas drilling.

Natural gas is superior in that it produces less carbon dioxide compared to wood, coal or electricity, Palmerton said, and development of natural gas resources will provide new jobs and tax revenue.

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