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Wednesday, May 04th

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Fracking Runs Afoul of Hometown U.S.A.

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Cooperstown, NYFilled with nostalgia for hot days and salty sweet Cracker Jacks, each year hundreds of thousands of baseball fans make the pilgrimage to this tiny village in the northern Catskill Mountains to celebrate America's oldest past time.

But Cooperstown's draw goes beyond Doubleday Field and the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Its rustic yet sophisticated charm lures city dwellers and out-of-state homesteaders craving fresh air, rural landscapes and down-home attractions. Spend a day in Cooperstown and it's easy to see why novelist James Fenimore Cooper immortalized it in The Leatherstocking Tales.

America's hometown, however, is under siege from an energy industry that threatens its very character and livelihood. And, it's not alone. The extreme form of gas extraction known as fracking is spreading to towns across the U.S., with more than 200,000 wells drilled in just under a decade. With it, the boom brings uncertainties about tainted water, poisoned animals and destroyed landscapes.

The oil and gas takeover of main street communities is cheered on by the usual crowds, including pro-industry groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which favor short-term private gain over the long-term interests of communities. The national groups' views, however, can clash with their local counterparts, such as the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce, which see and feel fracking's real-life impacts. They know fracking threatens their neighborhoods, and support bans against the practice. When it comes to politics and baseball, the locals always root for the home team.

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