Anti-fracking group wants ban in Owego
OWEGO — Board members received a petition from Residents Against Fracking in Tioga that contained 1,000 signatures of residents requesting the municipality place a moratorium on natural gas drilling within the town during Tuesday’s meeting.
Many applauded as Dr. Michael Tunick, of Endwell Family Physicians, implored board members to understand the health issues associated with consuming contaminated water as a result of fracking.
“In med school the first thing we were taught was to do no harm. There are hundreds of chemicals used in fracking and are kept proprietary. Tioga County said they are going to test for 16 out of these hundreds of chemicals - carcinogenic, toxic chemicals that cause an innumerable amount of diseases and disorders,” said Tunick.
“Whatever we choose to do will change this town forever. Gas companies care about money, gas, and answering to their shareholders. We need to get answers. We need put our health first. Do no harm. I want you guys to remember that - do no harm,” Tunick continued.
Pro-fracking residents were also present to voice their opinion to board members.
“I have 30 acres. I stand to gain money if they frack on it. I am 100 percent for drilling. I have relatives in Pa. who have seen it - the growth for jobs is tremendous and we need those jobs. We are hurting. We need jobs in this area, and some risk is acceptable,” said town resident Bill Gamble.
Economic development was a major theme of those speaking in favor of drilling, and Doug Barton, the Director of Economic Planning for Tioga County offered a perspective on the potential job influx that could come if gas drilling is allowed.
“Jobs are critical. Jobs are what keep people here. Jobs keep young people here,” said Barton, who added that if people are not employed here, they will have no money to spend to support other local businesses.
Another resident refuted Barton’s position saying, “Jobs do not bring people here. People come here because of the scenic hills and country side. No one will want to come to a wasteland.”
Continuing the point further, resident Mike Mercincavage said “Safe water always trumps jobs. We can survive without a job, we cannot survive without water.”
After listening to residents speak emphatically on both sides of the issue town Supervisor Doug Castellucci commented that he and the board members had been aware of the many concerns revolving around natural gas drilling for the past four years.
Castellucci also commented on the town’s focus has been on flood-related issues.
When pressed by Dr. Tunick on when the board would make a decision on if a ban or moratorium would be put in place, Castellucci stated:
“I can honestly tell you a ban is not in the question. We can stay neutral or put a moratorium, but if we ban it we will be sued from one side, and if we don’t- we will be sued. There is a lot of legal concern and cost and we are in a fragile position in our town,” said Castellucci, noting the town’s still fresh flood wounds.
Castellucci continued that the board would weigh all concerns and would make the public aware when the board would officially decide on the matter.