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City Council: Locals speak out against fracking

A nearly full house of residents, students and local business owners packed last night’s Athens City Council meeting to speak out about hydraulic fracturing and help Council explore avenues to regulate the drilling method.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a controversial method of extracting natural gas and isn’t entirely regulated. The closest fracking has come to Athens is in Mineral, Ohio, where Oxford Mining has leased 157 acres from the Athens Fish and Game Club for $10 an acre, according to a previous Post article.

Fracture mining’s threat of polluting Athens’ drinking water was the main concern of local business owner Christine Hughes, owner of Village Bakery & Café, Della Zona and Catalyst Café.

“Fracking’s harmful effects are grossly understated, and it’s Council’s responsibility to protect our drinking water,” Hughes said.

Athens City School District’s nurse Janalee Stock echoed those same concerns, citing research showing contaminated drinking water’s contributions to early onset cancer.

A number of residents called on council to stand up against fracking and not “compromise the integrity,” as they claimed past legislation had done.

One resident, Warren Taylor, brought fracking’s effects on Ohio’s largest business to Council’s attention.

“Fracking pollutes water, air and soil. (Agriculture) is our future,” Taylor said. “Lets not rush into something that we can’t put right.”

After the last resident left the podium, Mayor Paul Wiehl urged residents to begin writing letters to county commissioners, state representatives and senators to let them know about their concerns.

“The fact that so many of you showed up here tonight shows that something must be done,” Wiehl said.

Council then moved into discussion about domestic partnership benefits for city employees, an addition to a series of laws dealing with the LGBT community including hate crime legislation passed earlier this year.

Elahu Gosney, D-at large, said costs to the city would be low and creating this law would benefit both homosexual couples, as well as heterosexual couples.

“This law would further promote tolerance in our community,” Gosney said.

This is the first draft in domestic partnership benefits legislation and will be up for first reading during next week’s Council meeting.

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