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One side looked to oil, while another looked to water when the Douglaston Civic Association hosted a hydrofracking debate forum last Thursday night.
Proponents of the oil extraction procedure spoke alongside opponents, including state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), to a crowded and engaged group at the meeting.
The senator was one of three speakers to address the crowd of nearly 50 Douglaston residents. Avella said it was one of the largest crowds he had seen for a hydrofracking discussion.
“I’m up here to scare you,” Avella said to demonstrate his opposition to the matter. “This threatens our water.”
Avella spoke strongly of his opposition to the procedure, which involves the extraction of natural gas and petroleum through the drilling of rock, focusing on the threat it might pose to New York’s water supply.
He pointed to similar cases in other states where water supplies were contaminated or ruined due to harmful chemicals used in the process and said arguments that hydrofracking might create jobs were not completely valid.
“I believe this is not worth the few jobs and the little money for the possibility of contaminating our water,” he said.
The debate centered around balancing the benefits of more affordable energy and the environmental consequences of extracting more fuel from the ground, especially under New York soil.
The senator has sponsored legislation to combat hydrofracking in New York and said the issue was primarily divided along party lines in Albany.
Republicans, Avella said, were overwhelmingly in support of the procedure moving forward in New York due to an anticipated economic boom. Democrats, however, have generally opposed any sort of hydrofracking in the state for environmental reasons, Avella said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not yet decided whether or not he supports such a procedure.
Arthur “Jerry” Kremer is a former state assemblyman and founding chairman of Empire Government Strategies, a state lobbying firm, and said fracking opponents like Avella used fear to convince voters over to their side.
“Don’t let people scare you into opposing everything,” Kremer said to the crowd. “You can’t be against everything because we’re paying the price for it now.”
Kremer, a former chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, cited the state’s economic woes in tandem with the country being “strangled by Arab oil” as main issues that hydrofracking in New York could alleviate.
He said that as long as the process is regulated and kept safe, drilling in New York would tap into an “enormous” source of natural gas for the state and the country.
But Patricia Wood, executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, said the environment takes precedent over profit. In her rebuttal to Kremer’s think-for-yourself supporting lecture on hydrofracking in New York, Woods mentioned there were several environmental consequences that have gone under the radar.
“There’s great concern. Serious scientists are looking at the facts and making serious comments against it,” Woods said. “Citizens take all of the risks in this and the benefits go to oil companies.”
Kremer argued that landowners in Pennsylvania financially benefited from allowing drilling on their property and it was a formula that could help upstate New York farmers.
Avella, however, called it a short-term fix that would only hurt farmers in the end because it could potentially lower property values and rid farmers of their poultry, livestock and dairy.
Instead of looking for ways to locate and extract more natural gas, Woods said residents should explore renewable energy and conservation. Those methods, however, are often drowned out, according to Woods.
“We don’t talk about conservation in this country because no one makes any money from it,” she said.
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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