Hydrofracking Debate Ignited in Buffalo

September 22, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Hydrofracking Debate Ignited in Buffalo

September 22, 2012 Updated Oct 10, 2013 at 3:53 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) Proponents and protesters have descended on Buffalo this weekend to debate the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing in New York State.

The Buffalo Niagara Convention Center hosted a symposium on shale gas, held by the Buffalo Association of Professional Geologists, on Friday.

The symposium attempted to tackle the critical issue surrounding shale gas: how to extract the natural gas safely and efficiently.

Shale gas is currently extracted through the process of hydraulic fracturing, or "hydrofracking." The process is used in several states across the country, most notably in Pennsylvania. Hydrofracking is not currently practiced in New York State, pending a decision by the DEC and Governor Andrew Cuomo on potential health and environmental risks.

Parts of Western New York, mainly in the Southern Tier, have the potential to see hydrofracking if Governor Cuomo approves the process.

Proponents of hydrofracking, including many geologists at the symposium, say that it can be an economic game-changer when done correctly. Hydrofracking generates income for the petroleum industry and several support industries, including steel manufacturing.

Several local community organizations are against hydraulic fracturing due to health and environmental concerns, specifically over public water supplies. They say extracting shale gas brings drills dangerously close to natural wells, leaving the risk for contamination.

Those organizations, including the Food & Water Watch and WNY Drilling Defense, are convening in Niagara Square Saturday to urge Governor Cuomo to place a permanent ban on hydrofracking in New York State.