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March 18, 2010

Butternuts group sponsors gas-drilling forum

The Concerned Citizens of the Butternut Valley is hosting a public forum titled ``Gas Drilling: What Lies Beneath, What Lies Ahead,’’ to be held on March 23 at 7 p.m. at Morris Central School. It will address concerns related to horizontal drilling for natural gas, an issue that has been the subject of intense public debate over the last year.

``We share concerns for the future of this beautiful area and feel it’s imperative for our residents to know all the implications and `what ifs’ associated with natural gas drilling,’’ said Fred Johnson, one of the forum organizers.

``We have an opportunity to make decisions based experiences in other states and on a complete review of the procedures, regulations and consequences associated with the fracking process,’’ he said.

``Fracking’’ refers to hydrofracturing or hydraulic fracturing _ a process used to extract natural gas from previously impermeable shale. Millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are injected at high pressure into horizontally drilled wells thousands of feet below the surface to extract the gas for energy use. Concern about the environmental impacts of this process has been expressed by many individuals and environmental groups throughout the state.

Governor Paterson is currently reviewing thousands of public comments on the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement crafted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Public input on this document was closed at the end of 2009. The SGEIS will regulate horizontal gas drilling operations, should this process ultimately be permitted in the state.

Presenters and topics for the evening’s program include Brian Brock, a geologist who will talk about how natural gas was formed, where it is now, and how gas companies plan to extract it from the earth’s sub-surface.

Scott Fickbohm, District manager, Otsego County Soil & Water Conservation will speak on watershed issues, drawing from his agency’s comments on DEC’s recently issued draft regulations.

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