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.
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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?
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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: Environmentalism, Fracking, Lieutenant Governer Cawley, Pennsylvania