Nobody likes being a guinea pig. But apparently that’s what happened in Pennsylvania and some of the other places where the boom in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, first hit in the late 2000s. Thousands of acres were leased — often by farmers and other property owners in economically depressed areas — and then rigs began to dot the rolling hillsides, But all of this happened before the key regulators — let alone the general public — had any idea of how pulling so much natural gas from so deep under the earth might affect the air that neighbors breathed or the water that they drank and bathed in.
If you’ve been reading this blog or any of the other environmental websites, you know some of the horror stories that ensued — of contaminated wells, accidents that devastated pristine streams or massive dumping of radioactive or otherwise polluted wastewater. Even officials from the fracking industry can’t deny it any more — they admit that “mistakes were made” in the early states like Pennsylvania, but now they swear, swear that we should trust them, that if we let them move into new locales like New York State that they will finally get it right.
I’m not buying that, and I’m not the only one. I want to share a fantastic editorial that ran recently in the Albany Times-Union newspaper that really exposed the lies of the fracking industry. It was called, “The gas industry’s hot air“:
The industry initially told New Yorkers that the chemicals it wanted to pump into the ground were a secret, proprietary mix. When it became clear that answer was unacceptable, industry leaders offered that there was nothing worse in the recipe than what’s in a typical kitchen cabinet. When people pointed out that there’s a lot under our sinks no human ought to drink, they were told it was only a tiny percentage of the fracking fluid. Then, when the millions of gallons that tiny percentage represented became apparent, we were assured it was too far underground to worry about the stuff getting into drinking water.
Except when it did. Then the industry blamed poor well construction, not the drilling, as if those are unrelated. And it only happened once, after all. Then twice. Well, more times, really.
Now the gas industry seems to have a new line: Mistakes were made. The early work in Pennsylvania, which had opened its doors to fracking, “was not the industry’s finest hour,” in the words of Mark Bolling, an executive with Southwestern Energy Co. So much for a process New Yorkers were assured was perfectly safe.
We would like to see clean, safe natural gas extraction in New York. But given its track record, we simply don’t trust a gas industry that time and again has given us the sense that it’s pulling one over on us.
Everyday folks — and not just newspaper editorial writers — are getting the message about fracking. The CBS late night host David Letterman, who rarely makes a serious commentary on political issues, broke that rule the other night with an epic rant against the natural-gas industry. The basic message was this: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re screwed“:
Here’s what I know about fracking: The greedy oil and gas companies of this country have decided that they can squeeze every last little ounce of oil and gas out of previously pumped wells by injecting the substrata of our planet with highly toxic, carcinogenic chemicals, which then seep into the aquifer and hence into the water supply of Americans…
The Delaware water gap has been ruined, the Hudson Valley has been ruined. Most of Pennsylvania has been ruined. Virginia, West Virginia has been ruined. Colorado has been ruined. New Mexico has been ruined.
They’re poisoning our drinking water and the EPA said, “You know what? You no longer have to comply with EPA standards for stuff you put into the water.” So the greedy oil and gas companies said, “Great, let’s go crazy,” and then some states are saying, “No, we have transparency laws, so the oil and gas companies say, “Okay, we’ll tell you everything but 2 percent of what we’re putting into your tap water.”
And that’s supposed to make us feel better.
No, it’s not. Frankly, we shouldn’t feel better about fracking. David Letterman gets it. The editorial page editors of the Albany Times-Union get it. The industry claims there’s a learning curve — but the industry can’t be trusted. In New York, officials are considering whether to extend a moratorium on fracking, and the evidence is overwhelming that these restrictions should continue. There needs to be sound science, and airtight regulation before we can take fracking seriously. We can’t afford to take the industry at face value, or to let citizens in one more state be used as guinea pigs.
To read all of the editorial “The gas industry’s hot air,” please go to: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Editorial-The-gas-industry-s-hot-air-4572748.php
Foe excerpts from the David Letterman rant, please read: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/05/1213953/-David-Letterman-on-Fracking-Ladies-and-Gentlemen-We-re-Screwed
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