Hosts of fracking forums hope to educate, inform

Upcoming events focus on controversial practice
Nov. 19, 2013 @ 04:59 AM

 

WANT TO GO?

Today at 11 a.m. — Lois Gibbs visits the Lee County Courthouse for a public forum.

Tonight at 7 p.m. — Lois Gibbs visits the Cumnock Union United Methodist Church for a vigil.

Wednesday at 7 p.m. — Lois Gibbs visits the Pittsboro campus of Central Carolina Community College for a public forum.

Thursday at 7 p.m. — A bipartisan panel discussion at the Moore County Senior Enrichment Center, hosted by the Moore County League of Women Voters.

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Lois Gibbs, billed as the "mother of the grassroots environmental movement," because of her work fighting pollution in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in the 1970s and 1980s, will be in Sanford today talking about hydraulic fracturing.

She's not a fan.

"Fracking is horrible," Gibbs said over the phone this weekend. "I mean, everything about it is horrible."

Gibbs received national attention in 1982 when a TV movie called "Lois Gibbs: The Love Canal Story" put a spotlight on her years-old fight against the local, state and federal governments after discovering that her neighborhood and the nearby elementary school had been built on top of a toxic waste dump.

Since winning her battle in New York, she has been writing books and traveling the country working with environmental groups — including previous stops in North Carolina to speak out against large landfills known as mega-dumps and other topics.

Gibbs will be in Sanford today at two events open to the public and organized by a statewide anti-fracking group, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League: a public forum at 11 a.m. at the Lee County Courthouse and a 7 p.m. vigil at Cumnock Union United Methodist Church, 851 Cumnock Road.

On Wednesday, she'll be in Pittsboro at 7 p.m. for a public forum at Central Carolina Community College's campus at 764 West St, Pittsboro, in multi-purpose room 7. She said she would invite the whole community to come to any of these events, including — and especially — those who support hydraulic fracturing or are on the fence about it.

"A lot of the people who support fracking support it because they don't understand the consequences and implications," she said, adding that based on her travels to states where fracking is already happening, she has seen it damage both the land and local communities. In addition to pollution, she said, neighbors start fighting over contracts or drill sites; an influx of young, rowdy drill workers can lead to trouble, and there's often an increase in traffic accidents and other issues.

But while Gibbs and the environmental defense league have their agenda, a separate event is taking a decidedly bipartisan approach.

Thursday at 7 p.m., the Moore County League of Women Voters will host a forum featuring Jim Womack, Ellie Kinnaird, James Robinson and Ted Feitshans. The event will take place at the Moore County Senior Enrichment Center, located at 8040 U.S. 15-501 in West End, between Carthage and Pinehurst.

Womack, a Lee County commissioner and chairman of the state committee in charge of developing regulations for hydraulic fracturing and everything surrounding it, is a proponent of drilling. Kinnaird, a longtime member of the N.C. Senate who resigned in August, opposes fracking. She served on several legislative or state committees on energy and the environment.

Robinson works with the Rural Advancement Foundation International in Pittsboro and has done extensive research into landowners' rights and mineral rights issues. Feitshans is an attorney, economist and N.C. State University professor considered an expert in estate planning, water quality, environmental law, agriculture law and other areas with relevance to fracking.

Mary Price, the league's current president, said the league is not choosing sides and simply wants to have an informative debate in which political, legal, environmental and economic arguments both for and against the controversial subject can be heard.

"We hope that [those who attend] will be more educated about fracking when they leave," Price said. "We are not taking a stand one way or the other, but we do think there are a lot of issues that people need to be aware of."