As one of the organizers of an event about fracking in Pike County recently, I heard criticism that we were one-sided for not inviting gas exploration companies to participate. After some time to reflect, many things come to mind.
Mother Nature can do many things, but cannot produce fact sheets or hire lawyers or conduct public relations campaigns. Sticking up for Mother Nature easily starts to feel one-sided, since there are no financial rewards. If you get involved, expect expenses and critiques, not income and praise.
Gas companies are spending money to make money. You cant turn on your television without hearing their point of view, as millions of advertising dollars go to sell the idea of clean natural gas. Clean for the consumer perhaps, but not clean where its extracted. Getting it out of the ground creates many forms of pollution. Gas companies dont mention such side effects in their advertising, as drug companies are required to do, nor do they account for them in earnings reports. When taxpayers pay to clean up after a handful of companies and landowners have pocketed the proceeds, that is one-sided.
Gas exploration in our region brings to mind a previous exploration, half a millennia ago. People were already living here, but that did not faze the explorers. Europe was overpopulated and straining; millions of acres of untapped wilderness beckoned. The explorers observed vast resources, certain they could be better exploited. One-sided economics, not the existing population, determined events.
With energy economics driving a new exploration, we, the current inhabitants, need to voice our concerns. There is a record of what has happened in other communities. Go to Google and look it up. How many of our elected officials have visited a region where 10,000 gas wells have already been drilled, come back and looked us in the eye, and told us theres nothing to worry about? I dont know of any. Fourteen hundred tanker truck trips per million gallons of water, 1 to 5 million gallons per well, per frack, on Twin Lakes Road? Thats one-sided.
We, the current inhabitants of this region, need to wake up and get on the same page quickly. Hunters and fisherman, environmentalists and lake communities, realtors and the tourist industry, small and large businesses, churches and artists, hikers and bikers, parents and politicians, anybody who cares first and foremost about our currently high quality of life. Such an alliance may not come about naturally over any other issue, but our diverse interests are in immediate jeopardy. Gas drilling would transform the region in ways contrary to how most of us envision it, how I envisioned it 13 years ago, intentionally locating near game lands and hunt clubs with no expectation of using either, because I believed that they had their own reasons for protecting the environment.
We need to talk, learn the facts about how gas drilling has altered other communities and regions, and figure out how to join forces to protect our greatest assets.
Some will gain if we change horses and natural gas becomes our primary industry, but larger numbers will not, and many things will change. If it happens, I will move. But where will you go, people ask? Some place already spoiled perhaps, as long as I wont be forced to envision and then witness the slow-motion rape of a loved one.
If thats one sidedness, I apologize in advance.
[Jeffrey Seeds is an artist and web designer living in Shohola, PA.]