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Poloncarz hears fracking pros and cons ahead of county decision

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

A public hearing on a proposal to restrict natural gas fracking in Erie County Monday turned into an attack on opponents and on Governor Cuomo for blocking fracking statewide.Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says he will have a decision next week on a proposal to limit fracking in the county, principally by barring it on county-owned land and not allowing county-owned sewage treatment plants to treat the contaminated water produced by the drilling process. 

Poloncarz sat through a Rath Building hearing which ran more than 90 minutes with some speakers backing fracking. He says the real issue is what the governor does.

"Will he lift the moratorium on fracking or not? Because regardless of what I to do, this only affects county-owned land. If I sign this bill and Governor Cuomo lifts the moratorium, there could still be fracking in Erie County, just on private land. Nothing that Erie County has done so far would prohibit that. It's all going to depend on what Governor Cuomo does," Poloncarz said.

Albany has been studying fracking for six years and it isn't clear when the study will end. Fracking supporters told the public hearing the governor is playing politics in the delay and said he is blocking jobs and cash for government treasuries and private landowners.

Nurse Mary Herbst says she worked in Niagara County at the time of Love Canal and worries about hazardous chemicals.

"The residents of Love Canal paid dearly for that disaster and I was there to witness it," said Herbst. "One of the most prevalent chemicals that seeped into the ground there was benzene, a know human carcinogen, which was detected in high concentrations. It's also used in fracking."

Pennsylvania's Bradford County is the epicenter of fracking south of the state line. County Commissioner Doug McLinko says his county is doing well because of gas wells.

"We have 2,000 wells. We have 1,000 miles of gathering lines. We have 550 units. We have our farms being saved because they don't have to split apart to save them anymore. We have senior citizens now that can stay in their homes that might have a couple of acres. Our economy is fantastic. The state of Pennsylvania is seeing billions of dollars in the general coffers," said McLinko.

McLinko says fracking is a national security issue because it produces natural gas here so we don't have to depend on oil and gas from countries where we have soldiers dying for energy.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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