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Environment


Frackmolishing: A controversial approach to recovering vitality
The city arguably hardest hit in Ohio's industrial collapse looks at tapping the drilling boom.
by WKSU's TIM RUDELL


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Tim Rudell
 
Abandoned house on Youngstown's south side. Several other derelict structures near it have been removed
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“Frackmolishing” is the latest manufactured word making its way into the popular lexicon. It seems to have originated in Youngstown. And WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports on the unusual idea it was created to describe.

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Imagine 90-foot-tall drilling rigs lighting the night sky in Youngstown -- for the purpose, at least partly, of ridding the city’s urban blight.  That’s what some planners see in an idea of leasing city land for fracking.

Youngstown was in the news in the early 2000s when it mapped out a plan to tear down swaths of the city where abandoned buildings have created wastelands.  Four thousand buildings have to go--at a cost of up to 10-thousdand dollars per. Youngstown Development Director Bill Davignon. “we have been steady at committing a million dollars or more, from every available resource, for demolition for over ten years now.  And that barely keeps up with the continued abandonment.  Demolition and blight and abandonment is a moving target because we keep losing population.”

To help keep up with the cost, City Council may authorize leasing fracking rights on about 400 acres of city property and using the money to continue the tear downs. Thus the term: “frackmolishing” was born.  And how much money may be involved?  “…anywhere from $2,500 per acre to $5,000 per acre, just to sign the lease…so, it could be anywhere form a $500,000 to $2,000,000.”

Ray Beiersdorfer lives on Youngstown’s north side, a few miles from a conventional well that allowed underground gas to escape during drilling two years ago.  His house filled with fumes.  Then he was jolted by earthquakes attributed to a disposal well for waste water from fracking a few miles east.   He doesn’t want more surprises from below. “That’s what frustrates me about city council.  I’ve said to them, what have you done to educate yourselves about the environmental and health risks of fracking.  And they won’t answer the question.  The first time I asked it, they said ‘we’re not here to argue,’ and a friend of mine on Council, whom I worked with for a number of years, walked out of the room.”

Davignon says finding out what the risks really are IS the city’s plan…and that council voted to gather bids, no more. “That’s the way it was put forth: pass the legislation to authorize the city to seek proposals, but then not enter into any agreements until after the EPA concludes a study on safety issues surrounding the fracking industry. 

 Beiersdorfer, who is also a professor of geology at Youngstown State University and a scientist who has long spoken and written critically of fracking,  says there are other risks to consider, too, including the demolition process itself; and he’s worried about problems compounding.“They’re bringing in a process with a lot of environmental and health risks associated with it.  To then knock down building which also have environmental and health risks associated with the demolition.”

Davignon agrees, but says city leaders are trying to address the issues.“So we are putting in our new zoning ordinance limits on where fracking can take place. And kind of keep it in industrial areas and not residential areas.”

Beiersdorfer says he and his neighbors are still concerned, and especially about whether city planners are being realistic. “Over eleven hundred people signed an on-line petition put together by a woman on the north side.  She had moved here from New York.  Took the boards off a house and invested $60,000 of her own money fixing it up.  She has two small children.  And now she’s terrified that they’re going to be fracking right beside her; and also that her property value is going to go down.”

If Youngstown City Council does a predicted, and waits for the U.S. EPA to issue its findings about fracking, nothing further will happen with fackmolishing” until January at the earliest…when the EPA may issue a progress report…and perhaps not until 2014 when the full report is due.  


Related WKSU Stories

State renews waste well permits after 10 month review
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fracking to fight urban blight
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Environmental group says that Ohio isn't financially prepared for fracking
Monday, September 24, 2012

Fracking requires about 5 million gallons of water per well
Monday, September 24, 2012

Anti-fracking groups organize nationwide rallies
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A business EXPO that may help avoid the bust
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Three non-water ways to frack a well
Thursday, August 23, 2012

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