Not All That It's Fracked Up To Be...

My esteemed Lieutenant Governor recently announced that our drinking water will not be affected by fracking.  A toast to Lieutenant Governor Cawley.  Drink up.  And if your tap should catch fire, just think of it as having your water already boiled for tea without the unnecessary middlemen of a stove and tea pot.  Now that I’ve been reassured, I can put my brain back upon the shelf and forget all this controversy about fracking.  If the Lieutenant Governor says it’s safe, well, then, it must be.
* * *
Squints, V, Destructo and I went to the used bookstore the other day.  The owner stood at the register, sorting out recent acquisitions.  Near the front windows, a barrel-chested man with a beard and ponytail laced with gray stood puzzling over a massive book with a yellow cover. 
A woman came in after us, little boy in tow.  She rounded the corner and saw Destructo lying in the teen section.  She jumped.  “Oh!”
“Sorry,” I said.  “He’s in training.”
“It’s OK,” she said.  “I’m scared of big dogs.  But you’re not scary,” she cooed to Destructo.  She showed me a scar on her leg, the remains of a long-ago bite by a friend’s dog.  “But I didn’t sue,” she explained.  “We were friends.”
“Blood and guts,” her son said, picking up a book.
“No,” she said, “we don’t talk about that.  No horror.”  She snatched the book away and put it back on the shelf.
The barrel-chested man grunted and walked toward the checkout, balancing the open book on his meaty palm.  I glanced at the book.  Upon the page there were some sketches of plants. 
“How would you say this word?”  He held the book towards the owner.  Pointed.
“Purse lain?” She ventured a guess.  “I’m not quite sure.”
“Huh.”  He scratched his head.  “I know what it is, but I don’t know how to say it.  Whenever I open my mouth, people don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.”  He returned to the front of the store and continued reading. 
Now, one might be tempted to mock a man who doesn’t know how to pronounce a word.  Instead, I admired his courage for asking for help.  Here was a man trying to educate himself about something he didn’t understand.  When did I take the time to try to understand fracking?
* * *
Today, I spent one hour researching fracking.  This is some of what I read:  
·         Fracking is a process of getting to natural gas unreachable by conventional means.  It involves millions of gallons of water laced with several hundred tons of a chemical cocktail.  Depending upon the method used, over five hundred unknown chemicals can make up this cocktail (http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/whats-fracking/).  While not required by law, some companies are beginning—under pressure—to publish the chemicals they use in the process. 
·         During the well drilling, the first part of the fracking procedure, flammable methane gas can get into the water supply.
·         Less than fifty percent of water contaminated by fracking is recovered for treatment.
·         Fracking water, full of chemicals and radioactive materials, has been dumped in rivers and streams. 
·         Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor Cawley was recently appointed chair of the newly-created Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.  This commission, ostensibly to ensure that Pennsylvania’s natural gas is recovered in an environmentally-friendly manner, has on its board one geologist and four environmentalists.  Also serving are people with interests in the gas industry and individuals known to have made generous contributions to Pennsylvania Governor Corbett’s campaigns (Mauriello, Tracie and Laura Olson, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, March 13, 2011: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11072/1131681-454.stm).
·         Fracking has been associated with water pollution, air pollution, destruction of private wells, and illness in humans and animals.
One hour is not sufficient time to devote to understanding the issue of fracking.  Some of the above information may not be completely accurate.  The material is often confusing, biased or incomplete.  But that doesn’t get us off the hook.
We need to educate ourselves.  We need to open up our mouths.  We need to demonstrate to our leaders that we know what the hell we’re talking about. 
Lieutenant Governor Cawley indicated that fracking will bring thousands of mining jobs to Pennsylvania.  It’s up to us to decide whether those jobs are worth it.

 

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Not All That It's Fracked Up To Be...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Not All That It's Fracked Up To Be...

My esteemed Lieutenant Governor recently announced that our drinking water will not be affected by fracking.  A toast to Lieutenant Governor Cawley.  Drink up.  And if your tap should catch fire, just think of it as having your water already boiled for tea without the unnecessary middlemen of a stove and tea pot.  Now that I’ve been reassured, I can put my brain back upon the shelf and forget all this controversy about fracking.  If the Lieutenant Governor says it’s safe, well, then, it must be.
* * *
Squints, V, Destructo and I went to the used bookstore the other day.  The owner stood at the register, sorting out recent acquisitions.  Near the front windows, a barrel-chested man with a beard and ponytail laced with gray stood puzzling over a massive book with a yellow cover. 
A woman came in after us, little boy in tow.  She rounded the corner and saw Destructo lying in the teen section.  She jumped.  “Oh!”
“Sorry,” I said.  “He’s in training.”
“It’s OK,” she said.  “I’m scared of big dogs.  But you’re not scary,” she cooed to Destructo.  She showed me a scar on her leg, the remains of a long-ago bite by a friend’s dog.  “But I didn’t sue,” she explained.  “We were friends.”
“Blood and guts,” her son said, picking up a book.
“No,” she said, “we don’t talk about that.  No horror.”  She snatched the book away and put it back on the shelf.
The barrel-chested man grunted and walked toward the checkout, balancing the open book on his meaty palm.  I glanced at the book.  Upon the page there were some sketches of plants. 
“How would you say this word?”  He held the book towards the owner.  Pointed.
“Purse lain?” She ventured a guess.  “I’m not quite sure.”
“Huh.”  He scratched his head.  “I know what it is, but I don’t know how to say it.  Whenever I open my mouth, people don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.”  He returned to the front of the store and continued reading. 
Now, one might be tempted to mock a man who doesn’t know how to pronounce a word.  Instead, I admired his courage for asking for help.  Here was a man trying to educate himself about something he didn’t understand.  When did I take the time to try to understand fracking?
* * *
Today, I spent one hour researching fracking.  This is some of what I read:  
·         Fracking is a process of getting to natural gas unreachable by conventional means.  It involves millions of gallons of water laced with several hundred tons of a chemical cocktail.  Depending upon the method used, over five hundred unknown chemicals can make up this cocktail (http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/whats-fracking/).  While not required by law, some companies are beginning—under pressure—to publish the chemicals they use in the process. 
·         During the well drilling, the first part of the fracking procedure, flammable methane gas can get into the water supply.
·         Less than fifty percent of water contaminated by fracking is recovered for treatment.
·         Fracking water, full of chemicals and radioactive materials, has been dumped in rivers and streams. 
·         Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor Cawley was recently appointed chair of the newly-created Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.  This commission, ostensibly to ensure that Pennsylvania’s natural gas is recovered in an environmentally-friendly manner, has on its board one geologist and four environmentalists.  Also serving are people with interests in the gas industry and individuals known to have made generous contributions to Pennsylvania Governor Corbett’s campaigns (Mauriello, Tracie and Laura Olson, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, March 13, 2011: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11072/1131681-454.stm).
·         Fracking has been associated with water pollution, air pollution, destruction of private wells, and illness in humans and animals.
One hour is not sufficient time to devote to understanding the issue of fracking.  Some of the above information may not be completely accurate.  The material is often confusing, biased or incomplete.  But that doesn’t get us off the hook.
We need to educate ourselves.  We need to open up our mouths.  We need to demonstrate to our leaders that we know what the hell we’re talking about. 
Lieutenant Governor Cawley indicated that fracking will bring thousands of mining jobs to Pennsylvania.  It’s up to us to decide whether those jobs are worth it.

 

Labels: , , ,

12 Comments:

At June 15, 2011 at 10:19 PM , Anonymous From Tracie said...

I saw that documentary, Gasland, a few months ago, and from what I saw, I would say that the jobs are not worth it.

It seems pretty scary and dangerous to me.

 
At June 16, 2011 at 4:27 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Tracie-
I haven't seen Gasland yet but after doing all this research, I moved it to the top of my Netflix queue. Thanks for reading.

 
At June 16, 2011 at 9:08 AM , Anonymous Elizabeth Young said...

Excellent post! I love posts about human right and the environment, things that MATTER.
Great work!

 
At June 16, 2011 at 11:57 AM , Anonymous Cheryl P. said...

I would be very interested in your thoughts after you see Gasland. It sounds like a destructive way to make some quick-fix solutions to increase gas reserves. I am never in favor for bridging the gap on gas supplies that negatively impact the enviroment. In Kansas we aren't hearing anything about fracking. Most of the talk here is encouraging wind farms. I am sure there are things that would make me crazy here also, I just haven't heard about them maybe.

 
At June 16, 2011 at 12:40 PM , Anonymous Mary R said...

Fracking is horrible. And even if "thousands of mining jobs" are brought to Pennsylvania, it doesn't guarantee that Pennsylvanians will fill them.

 
At June 16, 2011 at 12:43 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I agree. I also wonder whether we'll see an upswing in health-industry jobs as we struggle to deal with the health-related effects of fracking.

 
At June 16, 2011 at 12:43 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I'll keep you posted, Cheryl! Thanks for reading.

 
At June 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. Fracking has been going on for quite some time out west. I'd like to hear more about the impacts there.

 
At June 16, 2011 at 1:34 PM , Anonymous jaum said...

There are two types of fracking, one is the traditional straight down well and this has been an acceptable practice for years. The second type is fracking of wells that are drilled and slant off into a series of horizontal levels, and this is the type that is causing all the concern. I don't know enough about that type to be pro or con.

At the beginning of the article you've implied that a statement from our government is suspect and maybe they've earned our skeptical reaction. Or maybe the point is we need to be active enough on issues like this that we can either support it or reject it and move for change.

I think that an article that includes points that can be refuted weakens the argument. For example I don't believe that ANY radioactive material is used in this process, and most of the water IS recovered either initially or as the well continues to produce, and in our State, the disposal of that material is strictly regulated. Others reading what may be a 90% accurate article will tend to dimiss the whole thing if just one thing can be refuted

BUT the article makes you think... about taking political statements at face value, and the very real need to be informed so that popular political sound bites become dangerous ground for officials.

I loved your transition using the man who asked the question!

 
At June 16, 2011 at 1:42 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I'm ashamed that I know next to nothing about this--and many other--issues affecting me. And you're right: some of what I posted may be inaccurate. It IS difficult wading through this material and trying to figure out what's going on.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 6:27 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading and following! We're actually headed back to that bookstore today--There are so many interesting people there.

 
At June 21, 2011 at 9:29 AM , Anonymous Evergreen eden said...

Haha it sounds like it! Make sure to keep us updated on it. I love it! :)

 

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