Supporters, opponents: NY has a lot to learn about fracking

Posted at: 05/06/2013 5:07 PM
Updated at: 05/06/2013 6:12 PM
By: Jessica Layton

Is New York State missing out on what many are calling the next big thing for the energy industry? Or is the state smart to hold off on hydro-fracking until lawmakers have more information?

In Pennsylvania, they've been hydro-fracking for years.

Supporters and opponents don't agree on much of anything - except - that New York State leaders need to travel to Pennsylvania like NewsChannel 13 did, to see the effects of fracking for themselves.

14 miles southwest of the New York border, there's a main street bustling like never before. A county where the commissioner says they didn't experience the recession.

“Probably a $20 million dollar investment here and that came because of natural gas,” Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko said, and he wants to tell a story he says doesn't get told nearly enough, saying that “Misinformation is the biggest problem”

NewsChannel 13’s Jessica Layton jumped in his pickup truck for a tour of the county, making several stops along the way. Looking out at the rolling hills surrounding the Susquehanna River

He points out a gas drilling site, water withdrawl trucks, a hydrofracking site - all next to a family farm.

Fracking fuses water with sand and chemicals to crack rocks deep beneath the ground, releasing trapped shale gas. It's an industry that's been going strong in Eastern Pennsylvania for about five years. 

A year ago there were 50 fracking rigs going at once. Now there are about 15.

 “I know you're aware of the argument that you're trading the long term health of the environment for short term economic gain. What's your response? That is completely bologna”

“Never once was water well affected by hydrofracking,” he said. He calls it the world's latest cycle of industry. One he says is making a world of difference for the 65,000 people living here, saying,

“We eliminated all our county debt, cut taxes 6%, seen 100 million added to the value of our county.”

“Business has just been booming. It has been for eight straight years, it's unbelievable, said Hotel Operations Director Gregg Murrelle.

Gregg Murrelle is the hotel operations director at the Comfort Inn. The chain hasn't had a vacant room here in months. He credits all the workers and business fracking companies are bringing in. At a Main Street jewelry store where they make ruby studded oil rigs and diamond encrusted drill charms

Owners Gary and Cindy Wilcox say it's like the Christmas shopping season year round. They also lease their land for fracking.

“We really haven't had any problems,” they say.

But try telling that to fracking opponent Tammy Manning.

“Oh I worry about it all the time,” says Tammy.  

She lives in neighboring Susquehanna County. And believes all the economic prosperity from fracking is a trade off for her family's health.

“Our well was erupting, it was literally erupting,” said Tammy, “we're at our wits end and don't know what to do.”

 Manning lives on Route 29 in Montrose Pennsylvania.

Convinced the Hollenbeck fracking site up the hill was to blame for off the chart levels of methane, she convinced the State to set up an 11,000 gallon water tank in her yard for laundry and bathing. They buy bottled water for cooking and drinking. But it doesn't help her sleep at night. Her biggest fear is explosions.

Manning's concern grabbed the attention of fracking opponents like Yoko Ono - who visited her property in December. And Manning was at the New York State Capitol for a rally against drilling with celebrity Mark Ruffalo last year.

But last week, the EPA wrapped up a 16 month investigation - concluding hydro fracking isn't to blame for high methane levels in water.

“Nobody in our state wants to admit anything is the fault of hydrofracking. Why do you think that is? Money,” she said.

As New York leaders continue debating the issue at the Capitol, Manning is pleading with Governor Cuomo, asking him not to put his state at risk.

Back on his flourishing Main Street, McLinko says people like Manning have created unnecessary panic that has New York missing out on the next big thing. And he had a proposal for Governor Cuomo:

“Come on down, jump in my pickup truck, let's go for a ride, we'll take you on the same thing, you bring him down. We'll extend the invitation, ok!”