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Fears of Fracking In the Foothills of KY

PHOTO: A citizen picks up a sign in opposition to hydraulic fracking in Kentucky as she leaves an informational meeting about the technology. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: A citizen picks up a sign in opposition to hydraulic fracking in Kentucky as she leaves an informational meeting about the technology. Photo by Greg Stotelmyer.
January 29, 2015

BEREA, Ky. - Fears of fracking have reached the foothills of central and eastern Kentucky, prompting concerned citizens to quickly organize. Landowners in Madison, Rockcastle and Jackson counties say "land men" from energy companies have been hounding them to sign leases for their property's mineral rights.

The worries about hydraulic fracking drew hundreds of people to an informational meeting in Berea this week, including Janice Owens, who owns 30 acres on Clear Creek in Rockcastle County.

"It's emotional," says Owens. "It's emotional, it really is. We want to protect our home for our children."

The natural gas industry's potential development of the deep shale formation, known as the Rogersville Shale, has raised concerns about water and air pollution, truck traffic and a maze of pipelines.

But, the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association defends the technology. It's statement is: "Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are proven and safe methods of maximizing oil and gas production."

Vicki Spurlock, who owns four a half acres in the Red Lick area of Madison County, says one of her neighbors has already signed a lease.

"I came here worried and concerned and I'm leaving here scared," Spurlock says. "There are a lot of people that have signed that don't know the truth, or the whole facts, of what damages can be done."

Spurlock and others say they have been offered $30 an acre for their land's mineral rights.

Tom FitzGerald, who heads the Kentucky Resources Council, an environmental advocacy group, told the citizens the leases were not drafted with the landowners' rights and protections in mind.

"They were drafted to be as broad as possible," he says. "To require as little as possible and to shed as many responsibilities as possible in order to maximize the profit."

FitzGerald says Kentucky's laws are not adequate to deal with fracking. He expects a bill will be filed during this year's legislative session to close the "gaps in the regulations."

The industry's association, Kentucky Oil and Gas Association, claims, "state government has very strong regulations to protect fresh water aquifers and the environment."

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY