January 3, 2013 10:22:40 AM
The Caledonia Board of Alderman signed a lease Wednesday night allowing Fletcher Petroleum Corp. to begin the hydraulic fracturing process -- commonly referred to as "fracking" -- on a small parcel of town-owned land.
With little fanfare, the board signed an agreement giving the Fairhope, Ala., based company a three-year lease on a .075 acre parcel. The town of Caledonia received $100 for the lease.
Mayor George Gerhart noted that the signing of the lease was a formality; the board of alderman voted to approve the fracking at its last meeting.
Foster Kennedy, an Aberdeen resident, represents Fletcher Petroleum. While acknowledging that fracking is controversial, Kennedy said he has worked on more than 100 wells that use the process and has never encountered a safety issue related to fracking.
Gerhart said he believed the fracking process was safe "as long as the process is done correctly."
Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling horizontally instead of straight down, using high-pressure jets of water, sand and chemicals to split the shale and release previously unreachable reserves of natural gas and oil.
Kennedy said there are several other wells in Caledonia, and at least two of them are still producing. He added that all of them were drilled without incident. However, the current fracking process, which has sparked controversy across the country, was not used during the drilling of those wells.
During a brief discussion about the new lease, the board of alderman spoke confidentially about the process and brushed aside any notion that fracking is anything other than the best option for the residents of Caledonia.
While the alderman do not appear to be concerned about fracking, environmentalists are questioning the safety of pumping fracking fluid into the ground. They argue the fluid, which contains hundreds of chemicals, could potentially contaminate the drinking water of the communities where the wells are located.
The debate is far from one-sided, however.
Documentaries and articles in various national publications, arguing the pros and cons of the process, have failed to produce a consensus on the safety of fracking.
Still, the alderman of Caledonia are confident they have made the right decision.
No start-up date has been announced by Fletcher Petroleum.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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