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Shale Gas Exploration Raises Hope, Fear In Poland

MONIKA SCISLOWSKA

SZYMKOWO, Poland (AP) â¿¿ A slender shale gas rig rising from the midst of plowed fields and farm houses in Poland has inspired both hope for a local community's prosperity and fears it will ruin bucolic and peaceful village life.

The rig in the central Polish village of Szymkowo belongs to Canadian-based Talisman Energy Inc., one among some two dozen international companies across Poland exploring thousands of meters (yards) underground for hidden deposits of natural gas hailed as a vast new source of fuel.

Inspired by the huge success of shale gas in the United States, Poland is a pioneer in Europe, pressing ahead as other EU countries â¿¿ like France, Germany and Bulgaria â¿¿ impose moratoriums over worries that the drilling technique will poison water and pollute the air.

Poland has high hopes of breaking its 70-percent dependence on unreliable imports from Russian supplier Gazprom, create new jobs and cut rising energy prices.

In sparsely populated Szymkowo, Justyna Kulakowska is notably less enthusiastic.

Kulakowska said she doesn't believe that shale gas â¿¿ if foundâ¿¿ could improve things for the village. The community would be paid "peanuts," she said, while others get rich.

The soaring 40-meter (130-foot) rig, jutting out from a rural, flat field of patchy trees, dominates the skyline, along with a nearby tiny wind farm built two years ago. But Kulakowska fears its impact will be much worse.

"We will have nothing in the end, only the stench, when they go," said Kulakowska, 33, whose new pink house is just some 200 meters (yards) from the rig, which has towered over the area since March. Her home's value has already plunged some 30 percent, she said.

"I am concerned for our water, because the village has its own drinking water well," she said. "They say it is safe, but anything can happen."

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