February 15, 2010

The Continued Conflict of Hydrofracking

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Over the past few months, the term “hydrofracking” has appeared all over the Ithaca landscape. Short for hydraulic fracturing, a process that harvests natural gas, the term has been a subject of controversy since it was introduced. From the large anti-fracking lawn signs that have risen up outside of Ithaca homes to a packed State Theater governmental hearing in the Commons, Ithaca residents have made their voices heard loudly against the policy.

Hydrofracking has also made it into the pages of the Sun, with many articles, opinion pieces and editorials highlighting the local and campus reactions to what many view as a major problem. At the center of this controversy, which would feature drilling in Cornell owned land such as the Marcellus Shale, is Cornell University and its administrators.

The University has come under scrutiny for not only the proposed hyrdofracking policies, but also the previous position of Chairman of the Board of Trustees Peter Meinig ‘61. Specifically, previously to becoming Chair, Meinig served on the Board of Directors of Williams Companies, Inc, a major natural gas company. Meinig is also involved with PGI International, Ltd., a Houston company that produces and sells equipment to natural gas companies that may be developing the Marcellus Shale. His stake in PGI is both financial and personal, as his daughter is the current Chair.

In response to this, numerous community members, both from the town of Ithaca and the University, have written to express their desire that Meinig recuse himself from the dealings with hydrofracking, due to his stake in the industry. While the University maintains that he has no conflict of interest, both the letter writers and analysts outside of the community have made it clear that this is source of conflict in an already controversial field. How this is handled will presumably stay as a source of news for as long as hydrofracking is on Ithaca’s mind.

Original Author: Peter Jacobs