Fracking: A Preemptive Ban

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A bill to ban fracking in Massachusetts has gained the support of more 20 state legislators, including, from Western Massachusetts, Ellen Story (D-Amherst), Peter Kocot (D-Northampton) and John Scibak (D-South Hadley). Also backing the bill, H707, is Lori Ehrlich, the representative from Marblehead who has filed a bill to organize and speed up the process of repairing gas line leaks in the state (see “A Bomb Under Our Streets,” December 6, 2012).

The Massachusetts Geological Society has pointed out that the layers of natural gas-bearing shale that run north and south through the Pioneer Valley are not continuous, and that given current prices and technology, it’s not likely that any company would find it profitable to extract gas from this region. But fracking opponents’ fears have been reinforced by statements made at a conference a natural gas industry group held at UMass in December. At that meeting, Andrew Stone, executive director of the American Ground Water Trust, said that gas extraction on a small scale could occur here in the future, and that landowners and towns “need to be ready for it.”

It’s important, opponents say, to get laws in place in advance to deter fracking.

Meanwhile the Beat Back Fracking campaign is planning a public meeting for May 23 at the Westfield Public Library to discuss a natural gas-fired power facility proposed by Pioneer Valley Energy Center. In yet another example of the conflict between energy development and water supply needs in the U.S., the plant is expected to draw 2 million gallons of water per day from Holyoke’s Tighe-Carmody Reservoir in Southampton.•

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