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Environmentalists Press For Fracking Ban In Massachusetts

Environmental activists in Massachusetts are trying to launch a preemptive strike against hydraulic fracturing. While the controversial gas drilling practice has been the subject of fierce debate in New York for years it has drawn little attention in Massachusetts.

   The group Environment Massachusetts is urging Massachusetts lawmakers to enact a ban on fracking even though geologists and the petroleum industry insist the chances are remote the controversial gas drilling technique-- where water and chemicals are used to break rock--  would ever be used in the Bay State.

   Ben Hellerstein, field associate with Environment Massachusetts said the group is in the early stages of a campaign to build public awareness about fracking in Massachusetts.

   At a news conference in Springfield  last week, Hellerstein released a report called  “Fracking by the Numbers.”  The report, prepared by a national umbrella organization Environment America, purports to quantify the impact of the gas drilling practice on drinking water, the air and the land in states where fracking is allowed.

   Hellerstein pointed to statistics that show 82,000 fracking wells were drilled in the last seven years and 280 billion gallons of wastewater were produced last year alone.

   A bill to ban fracking has been filed in the Massachusetts House. It has just 14 cosponsors. Steve Dodge, associate director of the New England Petroleum Council said there is no reason for Massachusetts to enact a fracking ban.

   The U.S. Geological Survey last year announced the discovery of shale gas deposits in the Connecticut River Valley.  Geologists at a meeting at UMass Amherst last December concluded it was unlikely any commercial drilling would occur.

   Hellerstein said if the gas industry has no interest in drilling in Massachusetts, than there should be no objections to a fracking ban.

   Joining Environment Massachusetts at the Springfield news conference was City Councilor Kateri Walsh

   Environment Massachusetts is also seeking a ban on bringing contaminated wastewater from hydrofracking  to wastewater treatment plants in Massachusetts.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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