Dec. 2, 2009

'No fracking way,' chant protestors at anti-drilling rally

"Frack no, we won't go, we want everyone to know!" shouted Fil Eden '10, president of student environmental group Kyoto Now!, during a rally against hydraulic fracturing of shale to extract natural gas.

The rally on Ho Plaza Dec. 1, organized by Kyoto Now! and attended by about 50 students, staff, faculty and community members, sought to raise awareness among students and demonstrate to the Cornell administration that people on campus are concerned about hydraulic fracturing, also called hydrofracing (spelled by some groups as 'hydrofracking').

Hydrofracing is a process in which water is mixed with sand and chemicals and pumped under pressure into natural gas repositories, like those found in shale, to aid extraction. While gas companies, some landowners and others argue the drilling provides an ample source of domestic energy and stimulates local economies, opponents cite numerous instances across the country of groundwater contamination from the chemicals.

The drilling process uses 3-8 million gallons of water per drilling site, combined with chemicals "characterized by the [Environmental Protection Agency] as the most dangerous used by the oil and gas industry," said Jason Corwin '02, a graduate student in natural resources, speaking at the rally. "The short-term economic gain is nothing compared to the long-term environmental damage," he added.

"It's an unsafe process that is going to potentially harm a lot of people's lives," said protestor Troy Pasulka '10, holding an anti-fracing sign.

Kyoto Now! members will meet with Susan Murphy, Cornell vice president for student and academic services, and Kyu Whang, vice president for facilities services, Dec. 2 to discuss concerns regarding future Cornell plans to lease land to gas companies. "It needs to be a transparent process if the university decides to lease land for drilling," Eden said.

Any considerations of gas drilling must equally include the perspectives of faculty members who conduct research on water contamination and students concerned for their health, with the opinions of trustees and others, Eden said.

Other speakers included Linda Nicholson, professor of biochemistry and physical biochemistry; Michael Luis Ristorucci, a graduate student in industrial and labor relations; and K.C. Alvey '12, a member of the Take Back the Tap Campaign.

The Sustainability Hub and the community group Shaleshock Citizens Action Alliance also helped plan the event.