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Test Drilling Intensifies Calls for Ban on Fracking in KY

Concerns over fracking in Kentucky have produced large turnouts at public meetings, including this one earlier this year in Berea. There's another meeting on oil and gas development tonight in Hazard. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
Concerns over fracking in Kentucky have produced large turnouts at public meetings, including this one earlier this year in Berea. There's another meeting on oil and gas development tonight in Hazard. Credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
July 30, 2015

HAZARD, Ky. - Eastern Kentucky has become ground zero for testing of potential high-volume, hydraulic fracturing in the state. Tonight in Hazard, the Energy and Environment Cabinet concludes a series of public meetings across the state on oil and gas development.

Kim Walters says she will be there to call for a ban on fracking. Two test wells have been drilled in the Rogersville Shale Formation, one in Lawrence County, the other in Johnson County, where she lives.

"Until they can prove that it's actually a safe method of extraction, I don't think it should happen in Kentucky," she says.

Walters is a member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, a grassroots organization whose members have been turning out in force to push for clean-energy jobs over deep-well fracking.

The executive director of the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association, Andrew McNeill, downplays calls for a ban, claiming they are based, in his words, "on very marginal concerns."

"It's radical and way outside of the mainstream, and reflects a very ideological position of these groups," says McNeill. "Just not a serious or reasonable proposal."

McNeill says the industry is in the research and development phase, testing to determine whether resources can be produced consistently in Kentucky.

Clean-energy proponents have a wide range of safety, health and environmental concerns about fracturing thousands of feet underground to find oil or natural gas. Walters wonders, how much water will it take and what will be in the wastewater it creates?

"The byproduct is probably going to be the most dangerous, but if you look at the amount of water that it takes to do the fracking, I mean neither one are good," she says.

Earlier this year. lawmakers updated the state's oil and gas regulations, including requiring before-and-after water sampling at hydraulic fracking sites.

McNeill says the new rules are "strong, common-sense" protections, but opposition groups claim the changes will not protect landowners or the environment. New York and Maryland have banned hydraulic fracking.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY