I was saddened to hear the news of the fire at Wayne County Commissioner Brian Smith’s farm. He was understandably emotional, but luckily, there was no loss of human life. Quick media coverage allowed us to be informed and learn that his barn had burned down and that he had lost some cattle and a dog. I hope it brings him some comfort to know that many who heard of his misfortune wish him the best.
Contrast this with those who have been affected by hydraulic fracturing just to the west of us, outside of the Delaware River Basin. When those people lose their well water to methane or chemical contaminants, when their cattle and pets fall ill or die from drinking polluted water, when families get sick from toxic contaminants in their water and air, when their children get daily nosebleeds, when they develop severe respiratory conditions, when they begin to show signs of neurological damage—when these things happen, there is no media coverage, no outpouring of support from the community, just a slow, nightmarish poisoning of themselves, their animals and the land where their food is grown.
The gas companies might pay the harmed to move away from their hell, but only if they sign a non-disclosure agreement so they can never disclose what’s happened to them and why. Instead of quick media coverage and support from the community, these unfortunate people, already impacted, get only gas industry denials and their experiences labeled as “anecdotal stories” lacking documented evidence.
Commissioner Smith can rebuild. I hope he does, and I wish him the very best. But he and his fellow commissioners would do well to understand that most people impacted by gas drilling cannot.