Cyclists launch anti-fracking drive in Greenfield

GREENFIELD — Using the power of their 12 legs, a team of college-age students from around the country pedaled to Franklin County to battle against climate change.

The “Climate Summer” cyclists, one of four teams fanning out across New England, are visiting Greenfield to promote a ban on any hydraulic fracturing in the state and a halt to the possibility of a New England Tar Sands pipeline.

They’re planning a “climate cafe” today beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Green Fields Market, where they plan a forum and letter-writing campaign to urge that initiatives to boost natural gas supplies be halted to focus time and funding on developing renewable power sources instead. The “Better Futures Project” they represent is aimed at stopping climate change caused by the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels — even the relatively cleaner fuels like natural gas that comes from the controversial hydraulic fracturing drilling method referred to as “fracking.”

e_SDLqInstead of seeing natural gas as a safe alternative (to coal and oil) or a ‘bridge’ fuel, we want to throw out the idea that any money being spent on natural gas would be better spent on renewables,” said Matt Menezes, a recent University of Virginia graduate from Colorado planning to return to Virginia to earn a master’s degree in public policy. “We see natural gas as a bridge to nowhere.”

Menezes, who said fracking, to extract natural gas from shale, hits him “on a personal level,” because the northern part of his home state has been declared something of a “national energy sacrifice zone,” added, “Fracking specifically, creates a lot of dangerous economic incentives, where people are asked to have the land bought out from under them, and it can cause horrible water pollution for large areas. We want folks to learn more about that and take the fight against fracking into their own hands.

That fight, sparked by a U.S. Geological Survey study last year that found limited deposits of shale gas along the southern Pioneer Valley, in a geological formation called the Hartford Basin, has led to legislation filed by Rep. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, which would ban fracking in the state.

Rep. Denise Andrews, D-Orange, a co-sponsor of the bill along with Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst, said, “I don’t believe fracking is the appropriate source for supply while we have better options available to us … Fracking has some very serious concerns on environmental and safety, for sure.” Andrews said she favors development of renewable power sources, including wind, hydropower and solar, as well as continuing to increase energy efficiency and reducing consumption.

In a report last December, the Massachusetts Geological Survey based at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, released a report saying that hydraulic fracturing for shale gas was “probably not” coming to the state, and that no companies had as yet expressed an interest in exploring for or developing shale gas in the Hartford Basin.

“Based on a survey of all available scientific data, the geologic conditions in the Connecticut Valley in western Massachusetts are not optimum for shale gas development,” the report concluded. “Black shale units in the Hartford Basin are generally too thin, laterally discontinuous and are cut by too many pre-existing natural fractures and extinct faults. This makes extraction of hydrocarbons economically not feasible with today’s technology at current market prices ... However, more data need to be collected to completely rule out that possibility.

It also pointed out that oil and gas wells or conventional or enhanced hydrocarbon recovery are already prohibited under the state’s Underground Injection Control Regulations.

New York has imposed a two-year moratorium on fracking and Vermont has also enacted a ban, but Menezes said, “For Massachusetts to take the lead on banning fracking ... would be a huge step ... We want to encourage people to stand up and say no to fracking, and reject that as part of our energy future, and to lead other states standing up against this infrastructure, instead putting time and money into alternatives.”

The bicycling group, being hosted locally by Greening Greenfield and Second Congregational Church, arrived in Greenfield in time to coincide with presentation to legislators at the Statehouse of a petition with 10,000 signatures supporting the fracking ban.

Meanwhile, the teams cycling through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine will be calling attention to a Natural Resources Defense Council report last year describing the possibility that tar sands oil could be shipped Alberta to Montreal across a network of Canadian pipelines, and then southeast to Portland.

After attending the Saturday Greenfield Farmers Market and other gatherings around the area, Menezes said his cycling group, from Massachusetts, New Jersey and Colorado, will head south to Northampton, Holyoke and Westfield, traveling eventually to Cape Cod to converge with the other teams in support of the Cape Wind project.

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You can reach Richie Davis at:
or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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