News Column

'Fracking' Watchdog Group to Expand Into Ohio

Aug. 21, 2012

Bob Downing, The Akron Beacon Journal

A Pennsylvania-based watchdog/tracking agency for hydraulic fracturing is coming to Ohio.

FracTracker Alliance has received a two-year $130,000 grant from the Cleveland-based George Gund Foundation and intends to hire a staffer who will be based in the Warren-Youngstown area.

The nonprofit organization offers a website and interactive tool to explore data and map the impact of drilling for natural gas and oil.

"We funded FracTracker because we felt there is a real lack of transparency and understanding about all the issues surrounding shale gas drilling," said Caitlin Johnson, a Gund Foundation spokeswoman. "FracTracker is an unbiased source of information, data and analysis. A tool like this is sorely needed as the debate around hydraulic fracturing is all too often defined by ideology instead of facts."

The alliance is dedicated to enhancing the public's understanding of the global shale gas industry by collecting, interpreting and sharing data and visualizations through its website:

The group, based in Camp Hill, Pa., said it works with citizens, organizations and institutions to provide objective, helpful information, to promote awareness and support actions that protect public health, the environment and socioeconomic well-being.

"Thanks to the George Gund Foundation, we're very pleased to be able to strengthen our presence in Ohio and serve as a better resource to those grappling with the challenges of shale gas," said Brook Lenker, FracTracker's executive director.

His group largely has been funded by the Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation. It was founded in 2009.

Most of its work has been in Pennsylvania in counties with Marcellus shale, he said.

His group will appear at the Sept. 6 meeting of the Carroll Concerned Citizens in Carroll County. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Church of Christ-Christian Disciples, 353 Moody St., Carrollton. It is free and open to the public.

"I look forward to meeting citizens and elected officials at the Sept. 6 meeting, where we will kick off our new Ohio initiative, discuss our work and identify opportunities for collaboration," Lenker said.

The Gund Foundation also awarded a $35,000 grant to the national environmental group Earthjustice to review Ohio's rules and regulations on fracking.

Source: (c)2012 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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