The Fracking Divide: Neighbor Vs. Neighbor

By
Morgan Lentes

Dateline
Updated Thu, Feb 23, 2012 1:18 pm

The debate over hydraulic fracturing is causing a group of people who are often on the same side to find themselves sitting on opposites sides of the table.

Neighbors are making decisions about leasing their land for fracking that will directly impact the person living next to them.

Athens business owner Christine Hughes isn't excited about the possibility of fracking in her own backyard or her neighbors.

"I certainly wouldn't have chosen Athens if I knew it was going to turn into an industrial zone. I'm sure most neighborhoods and communities feel similarly," says Hughes.

For environmental activisit Heather Cantino, the possibility of fracking in the county could forever change the community she loves.

"I would like to live here the rest of my life and I'm really terrified that this community will be totally destroyed," says Cantino.

But for some landowners thinking about leasing their land, it's not all doom and gloom.

"Oil and gas production have always played a role in the economy in Athens County and I think it can play a much larger role," says Athens County Landowner Pat Smith.

Smith, a lifelong resident of Athens, says fracking could be a positive addition to the county, especially when it comes to the economy and jobs.

"I think our area could use any shot in the arm it can get from an economic standpoint. Certainly there's a lot of capable people here that could use a job," says Smith.

Hughes co-owns the Village Bakery and buys locally-produced food for her restaurant.

She says she's worried about the possible impact on the food she serves her customers.

"My people that I buy from aren't interested in having their land drilled. But they may not be able to continue to grow food and produce food for me and other local restaurants and customers, if the land around them continues to pollute their land and water," says Hughes.

However, that's not a big concern for Alex Couladis, who plans to lease his land.

He's reassured by the steps drilling companies are taking to protect his property.

"I think that the companies know they're being watched and they know that people are going to be looking for environmental issues and they're, I think, ahead of the curve of even the state agencies and the EPA in terms of how safe they need to be," says Couladis.

But, those against fracking, don't think anyone should put trust in the companies.

"Companies can't regulate themselves. That's what government is for. I mean companies are set to make profit. They want to do things as cheaply as possible," says Cantino.

But, Smith suggests there are downsides to almost everything.

"I think anybody whose not concerned about the environment is a fool because we have an environment and we need to live in it. I don't necessarily agree that, you know, if there's any chance of any negative thing happening, then you can't do anything else," says Smith.

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