An academic lecture on the environmental impacts of hydrofracking can get a bit dry even for Center Sustainable Rural Communities director Bob Nied.
“We can bring in experts to list all the facts, and we have,” he said, “but everyone has already heard it, already read the articles.”
For the upcoming Fracked For Real event, set for Wednesday evening at the Cobleskill-Richmondville High School, the center plans to take a more human angle, bringing in a few regular folks from Pennsylvania who have experienced hydrofracking firsthand.
Schoharie County sits on the northern edge a field of Marcellus Shale, an underground rock formation currently proving very productive for gas drilling operations in Pennsylvania.
There is not yet the same level of interest in Schoharie as more southern locations, but with 4,000 acres already leased for drilling and a gas pipeline propsed to run through the county, Center organizers worry the fracking operations will move north.
Nied hopes a few personal testimonies will tip the scales in the local struggle between the growth of an industry that could prove an economic boon and the possible environmental risk of pumping millions of gallons of shale fracturing water and chemicals into the ground.
“People are making decisions about whether to allow hydrofracking,” he said. “The only way they’ll truly understand the issue is by hearing from people who live in it everyday, who can talk about how their lives changed.”
Vera Scroggins, one of the speakers, is pretty effective at painting an eerie picture of the industry. She described the hydrofracking wells near here Pennsylvania home as huge industrial islands reminiscent of alien colonies.
“The men scurrying around in their Hazmat suits, all the machinery,” she said. “From a distance, I feel like I’m watching an interplanetary invasion, something humans would never do on their own.”
She said just driving to the grocery has become a white-knuckle experience of dodging heavy cement and waste trucks cruising narrow country roads.
Even so, Scroggins considers herself lucky. She lives by a lake with the nearest gas well a half-mile away beyond a grove of trees. Her drinking water is still pure and the trees muffle the sound of machinery, but at night, she can see the flares of excess gas burning off.
“When I look up at the sky, It’s lit up bright orange,” she said. “I can see it pulsating with the flares.”
The other speakers, Carol French and Carolyn Knapp are dairy farmers who leased some of their land to the gas companies. Now French and her daughter say they’re dealing with rashes and illness from the chemicals.
Fracked For Real will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Cobleskill-Richmondville High School auditorium. Admission is free.
Independent Oil and Gas Association officials could not be reached for comment on Center for Sustainable Rural Communities activities or the likelihood of large hydrofracking operations coming to Schoharie County.
For more information on Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, visit ruralcommunities.org.
If you go
What: Fracked For Real
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Cobleskill-Richmondville High School auditorium