Hydraulic Fracturing aka "Fracking." It's the kind of thing you may disagree with in philosophy and routinely oppose. The data sounds pretty bleak, after all. You may have read the articles, you probably saw the Gasland films or heard about the faucets lit afire. You've possibly signed petitions and you'll probably sign more. But it's not until you stand on a crumbling road, watching fumes rise from platforms carved into the formerly bucolic piece of country that you may realize that "fighting the good fight" had been more like playing a half-hearted game of checkers with your back to the real battle.
PEC-NYC traveled to Pennsylvania on Saturday, Sept. 6 with Food and Water Watch to visit fracking sites. This is an extraordinarily beautiful part of the country: lush deciduous forest sweeping down rolling hillsides and trickling creeks. It's home to a plethora of organic, family-owned.
|Beautiful Susquehana County, PA. Photo courtesy of George Courtney.|
|Gas excavation in Susquehana County, PA. Photo by George Courtney|
In roughly ten minutes time, people complained of headaches. I felt dizzy. Was it fatigue? Or was the air really that bad? If we were feeling icky already, how were the workers faring? The video below was taken by George Courtney. The sounds and fumes continue 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
|Overview of one site. The blue dots along the bottom are water tanks. Fracking sites need millions of gallons of water to function--even while whole sections of the nation experience extreme drought. Photo by Erik McGregor.|
|One of many shuttered businesses in Susquehanna County. The gas money is NOT going back into the local community. Photo by George Courtney.|
It's like aliens came in and sucked all the life out of the land, leaving a few humans behind with water that looks like mucus--water that is also laced with uranium. Nowhere in these areas can you find signs of "economic prosperity" or "all the jobs" promised by this practice. You can find plenty of people cooking with donated Aquafine water because their wells have gone bad. You can also find lots of cancer cases among them. But all that economic promise must have been swept up and taken with the aliens because it sure can't be found on the earth it fracked.
We are Witches. We could help! We went there ready to uncross and heal, but it felt as effective as giving Magickal CPR to a corpse. "It's too late for us," the land Spirits seemed to say.
The guy in the photo below is Ray Kemble--a former gas company employee and a resident of Dimock, PA. You may remember him from Gasland the Movie as one of the people who was able to light his running faucet on fire. A fracking well went into the property directly across the road from him in 2009. His water has been contaminated ever since. He, like many other residents, depends on private donations of bottled water as his home supplies nothing potable. When one member of our group asked for a sample of his water, Ray said that the law dictates that he cannot not give away any water from his home as he possesses the knowledge that it contains uranium, and knowingly handing off uranium is a serious crime--even if that uranium comes from your own faucet. The gas companies have denied the testing results of the water and continues to insist that it is safe to drink.
|Dimock, PA resident Ray Kemble holding samples of his property's well water. The one on the right was taken from his well in January, 2014. Photo courtesy of Erik McGregor.|
|Water donations from the Fracking Reality Tour. Photo by Erik McGregor.|
|Water truck heading to fracking site within residential area. Photo by Erik McGregor|
As we rode through the countryside, we saw dairy cows housed on the very same property as these fracking wells. The same animals producing milk, cheese, eggs, and meat are breathing gas-filled air, drinking chemical-laden water, and eating grass exposed to the same. Vera pointed out that not only are these farms likely to lose their organic labels soon due to contamination, but that within a few years it may be impossible to produce or sell farm products from this region.
|Farm in Dimock Township sharing land with a fracking well. Photo by Erik Mc Gregor|
A few key talking points if your pro-fracking friends and relatives still don't agree:
* It does NOT benefit economy. Look at the pictures above--towns are not thriving. Workers are imported and kept close to the site. The money coming to these communities comes via leasing of willing landowners and settlements to the disaffected. All then must deal with the health effects, contaminated water, and homes that will never sell. The only people thriving are those selling the gas.
* It does NOT create energy independence. This gas is being processed to be sold overseas to India and China where it can be marked up 5x its worth in the US. This gas is not for us. It is meant to be sold, as evidenced by the push for liquified natural gas export stations petitioning for construction along USA coastlines.
* It CANNOT be done safely. This technology is barely a decade old and as you can see above, there are tremendous problems with it. In 2005, the Bush/Cheney energy bill exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
There were too many wells to keep up with. As we rode along, Vera pointed them out as quickly as she could, but she couldn't finish explaining the damage to one property and the strange cancers that had befallen the residents before we passed another one with an equally upsetting story.
|Members of PEC-NYC at Ray Kemble's home. From left: Me (Courtney Weber), George Courtney, Wendi McDermott, Reagan Porter, Gary Suto. Photo courtesy of Reagan Porter.|
Before I went to sleep and dreamed of a pounding on doors and screaming of a rotten-egg smell (the smell of a gas leak), I thought of the end of The Two Towers (Yes, I read the books, but quoting from the movie right now!) when Merry says to Pippin: "The fires of Isengard will spread, and the forest of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn. And all that was once great and good in this world will be gone. There won't *be* a Shire, Pippin." There really was no going home.
New York is my Shire--OUR Shire. We all have our own Shires and whether you call it Goliath, or Sauron, or Cabot Oil and Gas, if we pretend the battle against fracking is "over there," by the time it's "over here" it's already too late. We may come across as bleeding-hearted-liberal-faux-h
|Sept. 6 "Fracking Reality Tour." Photo courtesy of Erik McGregor|
If you are a New York State Resident, contact Governor Cuomo. Go on record saying: "BAN FRACKING NOW." New York is in a precarious place. The world is watching our space. If we frack, other undecided states will frack, too. If we ban, more bans will follow. When the Marriage Equality bill passed, other states nearly immediately followed suit. We can't just hide in our Big Apple Shire. We must keep it out--forever.
If you are not sure if your state will allow fracking, do a web search and if it's looking like your state might frack, join the movement to stop it.
Thank you for reading, listening, and sharing.
HPS, Novices of the Old Ways--NY