Students protest hydrofracking at Dansville hearing

On Wednesday Nov. 16, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation held two public hearings in Dansville to discuss whether the state should permit hydraulic fracturing.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as "hydrofracking" or "fracking," is a method of gas extraction that involves pumping highly pressurized water containing chemicals and other substances into the ground. The process has some negative effects, which are of concern to environmentalists, including the fracturing of rock layers, groundwater contamination because of the chemicals used and unsafe disposal of wastewater.

Hydraulic fracturing is a well-established method of gas extraction but is relatively new to the Northeast. Although hydrofracking is a viable method of extracting a fossil fuel besides oil and could be profitable to those who allow it on their land, there is great concern amongst citizens in the New York region over the risks to public and environmental health.

The DEC hearings, held at Dansville Middle School, were the first in a series the DEC scheduled to obtain public input on draft regulations to allow hydraulic fracturing in the state.

The Geneseo Environmental Organization (GEO) was a driving force in getting students involved in the hearings, organizing carpools to Dansville and passing around anti-fracking petitions in the past few weeks. As a result, many Geneseo students turned out to voice their opposition to hydrofracking in New York.

Several GEO representatives spoke at the hearings, including president and junior Yael Massen, vice president and junior Lisa Johnson, and members of the organization junior Tamar Massen, sophomore Jennifer Benson and junior Katie Kreidler.

"The Geneseo students had a really good reaction from the crowd," Massen said.

"I think it went pretty well … a lot of people were interested and engaged," Johnson added.

Massen explained that although there was a great turnout at the protest, it will not necessarily result in the DEC banning hydrofracking in New York.

"The DEC just held the hearings to let people voice their own opinion – to get the steam out," Massen said.

GEO is also working with local officials in order to insure that the DEC hears as many voices in opposition to hydrofracking as possible. The Conesus Town Board is circulating an online petition for a moratorium on hydrofracking in the town. The goal is to get 2,000 signatures before Dec. 12, which is the last day to submit a public comment on the issue to the DEC.

"Conesus is where we get our water, so it's pretty important," Johnson said.

GEO is also planning to encourage President Christopher Dahl to take an active role in representing Geneseo in the fight against hydrofracking.

"We want to determine what we can do as a college to publically oppose fracking by our deadline on Dec. 12," Johnson said.

Johnson emphasized that hydrofracking presents not only environmental concerns, but political and social problems as well. She said that "it's a human issue" and that gas companies are taking advantage of landowners who sign leases to allow hydrofracking and who learn too late that it may affect their ability to sell their land.