Frostburg Students and Residents Rally for a Local Ban of Fracking at City Council Meeting
Dozens rallied on Thursday night, October 20, in protest of the current Zoning Ordinance at the City Council Meeting. The group calls themselves “Frack-Free Frostburg” and includes Frostburg residents, FSU and ACM students, and many more from Maryland and neighboring states.
The current Zoning Ordinance is set to expire in October of 2017. It was rewritten and established in 2014, and it states that the extraction of any mineral is prohibited within Frostburg. However, according to Kathy Powell, a professor in the department of social work at FSU, “The current ordinance does leave room for interpretation. There are potential loopholes allowing energy companies to frack.”
During the rally, four speakers were present. They included John Bambacus, former mayor of Frostburg; Woody Getz, the Commissioner of Public Works in Frostburg; Creed Calhoun of Friendsville, M.d., a city that recently banned fracking; and Nina Forsythe, who is currently working to adopt a statewide ban of fracking.
The rally began with Carroll Smith giving a summary of the Zoning Ordinance and the group’s goals stating, “Our City Council has told us the fracking will never happen in Frostburg and that they have taken steps to protect us, but we know that the only feel-safe way to protect Frostburg residents is a Frostburg Ban Ordinance.”
Speakers asserted that much of the concern of the practice of fracking lies with the history of coal mining in Frostburg and the location of the city’s watershed.
At the City Council meeting, fewer than twenty speakers from the public were heard amongst City Council members. Those who did voice concerns consisted of Frostburg residents, from farmers to business owners; residents of Friendsville; a couple of women participating in Water Walk Maryland, a 313 mile walk to promote a statewide ban of fracking; an FSU student; and even a former Waynesburg resident, a town highly fracked, who is new to the community.
Each of these speakers brought their own unique method for getting their opinion across to the City Council. These concerns ranged from water and air contamination to heath problems related to the practice of fracking, as well as Frostburg’s geography and history. One resident even used religious ties and biblical verses to support her argument against fracking.
Michala Garrison, FSU sophomore and Cumberland native, spoke during the meeting as a representation from a younger generation and also from an FSU student’s perspective. Garrison brought emotional responses with her speech as she stated, “My generation accepts the truth of climate change and we are scared. We are scared because our politicians are the ones who determine what type of future we will live in and a slow-go approach is not fast enough to provide a healthy planet to my generation and future ones coming.” Garrison also spoke of the scenery the city offers to FSU students and the danger hydraulic fracking could cause on that natural landscape.
Brooke Harper, current Hagerstown resident but a relative of the Harpers of the Brownsville neighborhood in Frostburg, brought another emotional position on fracking, relating her concerns to the work of her grandfather nearly 60 years before. She spoke about continuing her grandfather’s legacy, a man who had stood up to the issue of integration when it came to the municipal pool in Frostburg.
She focused on health issues and the importance that banning fracking would have in protecting the health of the community. She commented, “You all have the opportunity to stand on the right side of history on this issue.”
Aeryn Boyd and Kimb Alexander, the two representatives on the Water Walk Maryland group, brought a powerful message of the effects fracking has had on towns already. Alexander went so far as to present a bottle of contaminated water from Dimock, Paa.
The Council was very respectful towards the speakers, allowing each one three minutes to talk, and assuring that the concerns made at the meeting would necessitate “tweaking” to the ordinance, although no mention of directly banning fracking was confirmed.
Robert Flanigan, mayor of Frostburg, ended the meeting thanking the speakers for coming out and voicing their concerns. He assured those attending that they had done their research before the Zoning Ordinance in 2014 was established. He stated, “we appreciate all the input tonight, but we have researched…or we wouldn’t have passed what we passed. Now if it’s got some holes in it, we’ll take care of it…again if we gotta tweak it, we’ll tweak it. We’ll make it right because we are a green community here.”
There will be a scheduling of a meeting with the Commissioner of Water, Parks & Recreation, Brian Alderton, in which Kathy Powell will be notified as the contact representative of Frack-Free Frostburg. This meeting will include the proposed ordinance, and will be a place for reviews, edits, and amendments to be discussed. For more information, contact Dr. Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org.