By LISA BICKNELL
Three public meetings are being held to gather input from citizens around the state as state officials continue working to update regulations for the oil and gas industry, in particular the “unconventional” methods of deep-well hydraulic fracturing.
The first permit in Kentucky to allow for the controversial and relatively new practice of “fracking” was issued for a site in Johnson County in April.
A public hearing was held before that permit was issued, but some complained they were quickly shut down when they tried to voice their concerns.
Perhaps state officials are feeling public pressure to rectify that situation with the three hearings.
The first one was on July 7 in Madisonville, in western Kentucky. According to a news report on WFIE’s website, most of those who attended that meeting expressed views against fracking.
Two more meetings are upcoming. One will be one on July 23 in the auditorium at the Center for Rural Development, located at 2292 South Highway 27, in Somerset. A third meeting will be on July 30 at the Hazard Community and Technical College. It will be in room 208 of the Jolly Center, located in the JCC building.
Both meetings begin at 6 p.m. and will last until 8 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.
The meetings are not debates, according to Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters in an article in The Lane Report published on June 23, 2015.
They are described as listening sessions and participants are allowed to make brief spoken comments. Citizens are also permitted to submit written comments.
Remarks will be videotaped and used in a report that will be made available to the state government oil and gas workgroup. That workgroup is said to include industry representatives, regulators and environmental interests.
The report will be made available to the Governor’s office and to the Kentucky General Assembly. I hope they pay close attention to citizens’ concerns.
Those unable to attend the meetings in person may submit written comments to OilandGasComments@ky.gov between July 7 and July 31.
If I don’t get to attend, I do plan to send a written statement.
I will share that the more I read about hydraulic fracturing, the more concerned I become about it happening here.
Concern is growing all across the nation. In March, the state of Maryland extended its current moratorium on fracking for three more years, calling it an “ultrahazardous activity.”
One delegate who supported the moratorium said, “We’ve got to get this right, because if we get this wrong, it is unfixable,” an Appalachian Voices website reported.
New York and New Jersey have already completely banned the practice, while citizens in other states are also calling for temporary bans (moratoriums).
I think a moratorium (at least) would be the prudent thing to do in Kentucky. We should learn from the mistakes of other states who are “working out the kinks” of the relatively new process before we throw caution to the winds and do irreparable damage to our own water supplies.
Speaking of which, in early June, the EPA released the findings of a study, 1000 pages long, about the impact of fracking on drinking water. An article in EcoWatch said the study, commissioned by Congress in 2010, found that fracking does pollute ground water sources.
While some have accused the EPA of “overreach” when it comes to regulating coal, the EPA has been oddly silent about the effects of fracking.
I’m sure the prospect of energy independence sounds pretty seductive to our leaders, and understandably so.
But at what cost? Using up huge quantities of fresh water, as California is doing? (Fracking drill sites typically require three to six million gallons of water—each.) Making people sick with cancer and respiratory disease? Causing birth defects?
Numerous geological reports from Oklahoma leave little doubt that there is a direct correlation between the increase in fracking and earthquake activity, which should be a real concern here in Kentucky with our porous karst topography, dotted with sinkholes, caves and springs.
Pipeline explosions are becoming increasingly common across the country, another direct consequence of fracking.
Rolling Stone magazine recently featured an article written by Paul Solotaroff entitled, “What’s Killing the Babies of Vernal, Utah.”
The writer interviewed a fifty-something year-old grandmother, Donna Young, a midwife in the fracking boomtown of Vernal.
Young had a remarkably successful midwifery practice until recent years when she noticed an alarming number of expectant mothers getting sick and birthing stillborn babies or babies with birth defects.
The town of Vernal is located in a “basin” surrounded by mountains, the writer says, and the air inverts, or settles, in the basin under certain weather conditions, much like it does in our own valleys.
Unfortunately, the air in Vernal is laden with the toxic by-products of fracking, such as methane gas.
When Young began voicing opinions that the polluted air was causing stillbirths, she became a target. She now sleeps with a pistol by her side, because she claims her life has been threatened.
To me, these are but a few of the reasons Kentucky should at least say “wait” before it issues any more fracking permits.
Those fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere. They’ve been there for milleniums.
Besides, there are cleaner ways of producing energy. There are homes right here in Estill County completely powered by solar, and the process isn’t making anyone sick.
If you have concerns about fracking, send your comments to OilandGasComments@ky.gov between now and July 31 or attend one of the upcoming public meetings in Somerset or Hazard.