Area students debate fracking at watershed meeting

2013-03-16T20:15:00Z 2013-03-16T22:43:06Z Area students debate fracking at watershed meetingPhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | Members of the Chesterton and Valparaiso high school debating teams will debate the pros and cons of fracking at Monday's meeting of the Valparaiso Chain of Lakes Watershed Group.

Watershed Group President Walt Breitinger said the topic will be: Resolved, the United States should ban the ecologically damaging process known as fracking. Ronald Kovach and Jessica Ratel-Khan, of Chesterton High, will argue in favor of the issue, and Troy Borlick and Gavin White, of Valparaiso High, will provide the opposing view.

The debate will start at 7 p.m. in the commissioners chambers at the Porter County Administration Center. The watershed group's meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. The debate is sponsored by the watershed group and Green Drinks, and the event is free and open to the public.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of injecting water and chemicals into the ground to break up shale to release natural gas deposits.

"There have been two movies on the topic of fracking, and a national and statewide debate is going on now," Breitinger said. "As an environmentalist, I'm concerned about it, and the purpose of the debate is to enlighten people on the details of fracking and on how to debate environmental topics."

This is the sixth debate on environmental issues held by the watershed group. Breitinger said the student debates are a good chance for the students to display their forensic talents in a different arena than the formal debate competitions held by the schools. They also can be very entertaining for the public to watch.

"You will typically see a lot of good verbal sparring," he said. "They don't attack the other debaters personally, but they will rip each other's arguments very aggressively. Their fact checking is incredible. They kind of get the blood pressure going, but it's all fair play. The level of discourse is much higher than is typical in political arenas. The students make the politicians look very inept."

The debate is expected to last about an hour and 15 minutes and will be followed by a question and answer session with the public. Everyone can then reconvene at Greek's Pizza nearby to meet the students.

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