Laura Nayibi Arias, Culture Editor
The Marcellus Shale Seminar will be offered again at the University of Albany (SUNY) this semester for the third time since it was established in 2010. The seminar starts on March 26 and is an eight week course offered in the graduate Master Regional Planning program. The course focuses on the new Department of Public Health review of the draft Supplemental GEIS for high volume horizontal fracking (HVHF) as well as other hydraulic fracturing related health studies.
It will be taught by SUNY Albany professor Erica Levine Powers who is the lead editor and contributing author of “Beyond the Fracking Wars: A Guide for Lawyers, Public Officials, Planners and Citizens” (Erica Levine Powers and Beth Kinne, eds.), a book being published by the American Bar Association, scheduled to launch in August 2013. Powers shares that she has served as a panelist on fracking and natural resources development for the American Bar Association, Section of State and Local Government Law, and the American Planning Association, including national webinars.
Powers began to offer the course in January 2010, having student enrollments from the Master of Regional Planning and Master of Arts in Geography programs, as well as undergraduate seniors majoring in Biology and Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences. Students questioned the concept of hydro-fracking, wondering about the impacts of this method of gas extraction. The course requires students to research in hopes of finding these answers themselves.
Powers states that such course is important and relevant today because it allows students the opportunity to “do research in the actual laws and agency procedures that are involved, to develop skills of critical thinking, and by research, writing and oral presentations to learn to rely on their own judgment rather than accepting a point of view propounded by the media or advocates.” She argues that these skills are important for citizens in a democracy, and “students are the leaders of the future. ”Powers also shares that students are incredibly excited to the course because it is a current “hot topic.”
With New York State residents increasing dialogue about hydraulic fracturing and its affects on environmental and human health, courses like the Marcellus Shale seminar are critical when living in a state where fracking is so immensely debated and for most people, intolerable.