December 22, 2011 —
I live in the beautiful Upper Delaware River Valley with my wife and our six-month-old daughter. Our family is concerned about the negative impacts that industrial natural gas drilling could have upon our town and upon our unique region. More than anything, our rural heritage is about the beauty and health of our natural environment. Our rivers, streams, forests and farm fields are our lifeblood. They nourish our souls and provide us with the diminishingly rare gifts of clean air to breath, pure water to drink, and more and more locally and responsibly raised farm products to eat.
I am heartened by the efforts of our river communities toward protecting our way of life. By acting as stewards of the environment through adoption of prohibitions against heavy industry, they will protect the continued tourism that so many businesses rely upon; they will preserve the character and tranquility of this place that we love to call home; and they will be charting a course of independence from the greed that has for so long corrupted politics and policies at the state and national level.
Is it not our responsibility to stand up to exploitation and to protect the health and prosperity, indeed the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of our townspeople? What the powerful and politically invested corporations want has nothing to do with these fundamental rights of all people everywhere. Too often, the government subsidizes this exploitation and environmental destruction with our tax dollars—and afterward, our tax dollars and personal income go to the clean up and the medical bills, while our property values and natural surroundings decline.
If it is the duty of our governments and our elected officials to safeguard our welfare, where has that protection gone? It has gone to protecting, even promoting an industry which, in the words of Libby Foust, a family farmer in Bradford County, is like a “swarm of locusts.” She warns:
“Our farm was one of the first well sites chosen and is now one of hundreds, soon to be thousands. When the folks in Pennsylvania first heard of the wells coming, they were excited. They had toiled their whole lives just to make ends meet, and maybe this was the road to a better life.
“Then they came. Trucks by the hundreds, tankers, dump trucks, drilling rigs, fracking rigs. Five-acre drilling pads were bulldozed in the middle of farmers’ best fields, million-gallon ponds were installed, roads were built, woods and fields were trenched and bulldozed for tie lines. Drilling rigs went up at an unbelievable rate. From one spot on our farm, I counted eight rigs.
“Now the woods are gone and the dirt road is a main thoroughfare. One entire field is a pumping station. When I first saw this, I cried.”
I applaud the tireless efforts of citizens and local officials for their perseverance, their clarity of vision, their bravery and their patriotism in acting to secure at the local level of government through political and environmental action what our state and federal government have failed to protect. They know that if we sit idle and wait for those higher up to make the “right” decisions, we will be guaranteeing an end to the life that we know and cherish.
I believe that this stand for the rights of self-governance that citizens and that local governments are declaring, will take hold as the sturdy roots of a new, vibrant and sustainable economy—one that is home grown, that fosters community, and whose wealth benefits the people and the natural environment.
[Jack Comstock is a resident and business owner in Glen Spey, NY.]