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All fracked up

It seems to be the issue that won't go away. It's become one of those issues you politely avoid with friends to forestall any unpleasantness.

Hydraulic fracturing, or "hydrofracking" as it's known more exactly, is the process of extracting natural gas from underground shale formations by injecting fluid which displaces the gas forcing it to the surface. There. We've exhausted our scientific base.

But Mat Webber seems to know more. "To me, this is the environmental issue of our time," he said recently.

Webber is on the hydrofracking committee of the Cazenovia Advisory Conservation Commission. The group is supposed to look into issues and measures that will protect the interest of Cazenovia residents.

One could quibble about Webber's statement in the face of biological warfare, global terrorism or even the economy.

But he's correct as far as Cazenovia is concerned. It's unknown just how much natural gas is sandwiched in the Cazenovia area shale, but unlocking it could forever change Cazenovia. It might, on the negative side, poison the lake. On the positive side, Cazenovia could become a boom town of drilling roughnecks and engineers with supporting business feeding from the gas boom.

Neither Webb nor anyone else knows what that future will bring. There is a great need for the new jobs in Central New York gas drilling would bring. Protecting the lake and our water sources is a greater responsibility.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is promising to come up with regulations to make gas drilling safer but that mandate has become a politically charged debate. How the state will finally act or if the DEC will act at all is an ongoing battle.

But in Cazenovia, in the civilized fashion we've come to expect, people like Webb are drilling down looking for facts and exploring the ramifications. That lays open the promise that Cazenovians will solve the hydrofracking challenge for Cazenovians. It's good thing. We should be grateful for those who are trying to broaden community understanding without polarize the process. Keep up the good work.

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