Hydro-Fracking for natural gas; it’s very controversial. On the plus side it is reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions (because it’s cheaper than coal). It’s also making some folks very rich.
It Pollutes Water
On the downside, it pollutes our water. It also destroys aquatic and terrestrial wildlife habitat, converts rural landscapes into impervious, noisy industrial complexes and has ruined the lives of many people living next to them.
There is a lot more to it of course but why does it always have to be this way: corporate greed and secrecy versus the little guy? The money usually wins. Visit the Roanoke Times “Point-Counterpoint” piece by Greg Kozera, writing for the industry and by Sarah Francisco, Senior Attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center for more. And read Chris Bolgiano’s response to Kozera.
I have no doubt that with American ingenuity we can extract natural gas without ruining our water, wildlife habitat and the lives of rural folks and their communities living next door to the industrial site. To achieve success we need four things: sound engineering, safeguards, superb construction and government oversight. This is not happening.
Truth Be Told
We also need the truth. What are the corporations pumping into the Earth and why aren’t we allowed to know? I have seen many “Youtube” videos of people’s tap water catching on fire and I have heard them say the gas companies are giving them free water for life because their water has been ruined but they can’t tell anyone about it. Is this any way to do business in America?
While the big corporations are making billions of dollars and selling what’s under our land oversees our water is being contaminated and our rural landscapes are being scared.
I don’t want to be one of those environmentalists that prevent new technology from happening just because we don’t have ALL the answers or we can’t prove nothing will ever go wrong (The “Precautionary Principal”) but when I read and hear what the energy corporations are saying I gnash my teeth. How can they think I’m that dumb? I just don’t believe many of the things they are saying. I’ve seen it before in American politics – if you keep telling the same lies eventually we believe them.
It’s being rammed down our throats for the sake of corporate profits.
One place that should definitely be off limits to hydrofracking is the George Washington National Forest (GW). This Forest supplies the drinking water for millions of people – just about every town and city adjacent to it and Washington D.C. It’s not worth the risk for many reasons.
The Forest Service Plan for the GW is under review right now. And they are considering lifting the ban on hydrofracking in this Forest. Read the Southern Environmental Law Center’s position here.
Contact the Secretary of Agriculture right now. Let Secretary Vilsack know that hydrofracking is not an appropriate use of this National Forest.
Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington DC 20250
Thanks for your blog. Do you know where Bob Goodlatte stands on this?
Joe, thanks. My sources tell me he is silent on the issue at this point.
You were probably too kind to big business. The people who make the decisions to continue practices that ruin the land and people’s lives need to be held accountable. Thanks for the post.
I recently spent time in Harrison County, Ohio, some townships in which have been 80% strip mined for coal. Before the strip mining there was “long wall” subsurface mining and after that came “high wall” surface mining which left the land in unreclaimed bluffs with corrugated tops. Some of the previously strip-mined land is now up for a second round of strip mining under “improved” technology which will extract coal not economically attractive before. And after all the strip mining is done, the coal company is leasing its lands to frackers. When ultimately the land of Harrison County is wrung out and most of the farms and villages are destroyed and the remnant population reduced to groveling before the coal company and fearful of raising a voice against the only remaining economic activity in the region, the coal company magnanimously donates the land to the state, which manages it for hunting, which, in the words of a native, means “The land is not managed at all so it grows up in autumn olive.”
Many in Harrison County will tell you that the extractive economy, the exploitative mindset, is a slippery slope. Once the land is degraded and the farmers and villagers run off, the destruction accelerates in directions unforeseen.
The people of the eastern Alleghenies and the Shenandoah Valley have no interest in playing on that slope. We have only to look to our neighbors slightly to the west to see what life and land become in the hands of an extractive economy.
Thanks, Bobby, for your excellent post. As you point out, this is not a matter on which we can be passive.
Michael, thanks so much for your comment. Very enlightening and very well written.
Bobby, i do not agree that American ingenuity can develop safe fracking procedures. It is inherently a dangerous process, plus it demands that the countryside be fragmented into small pieces by various industrial sites, new roads, and pipelines. Have you heard that the rapid rise in Lyme disease is being linked to forest fragmentation due to fracking, through the explosion of white footed mice in edge habitats? Mice are more preferred hosts for the deer tick than deer. This is just one unanticipated consequence, and you can bet many more will follow. My view is, why pursue such a dangerous practice, which may leak more methane and cause more climate change than it saves thru “cleaner burning” gas, when renewable energies are easily available? Go solar, and take advantage of the 80% drop in costs over the past 5 years — ever since i started putting panels on my roof (i take full credit for the fall in prices). Distributed solar offers enormous advantages like individual and community security in the face of ever worse storms and true democracy, as people gain control of their own electricity use. –chris
Lynn, Kim and also Bruce Ritchie have been sounding the alarm and getting out the facts for some time now. Others continue to take up the cause of careful and continuous oversight of this process, and preventing construction in the most vulnerable places, such as GWNF. I think Lynn sent me this very useful link to hydrofracking construction in the area. I hope it has been updated.
When you see Rockingham County Natural Gas LEases, click on Map It.
Green dots will show up for leased sites. Use the zoom tool to focus
in on an area.
To see a specific green dot, click on the Information icon, then click
on the green dot. A box will pop up. Click on view to see the exact
location, the leasor, and the number of acres.
Thanks, Bobby. The GW is also an Important Bird Area in Virgina, providing critical habitat for several high priority species, including the Peregrine Falcon, the Wood Thrush and the Northern Saw-whet Owl. You can find out more at http://www.virginiaauduboncouncil.org and look under the Virginia IBAs tab for the Upper Blue Ridge Mountains IBA and others.
Great post, Booby! George and I are gnashing our teeth right alongside you and our letter is on its way to the Honorable gentleman. Thanks so much. Carol
Whoops! You of all people are not a booby, although the blue footed ones are beautiful! Sorry!
Ha, Carol, thanks for sending in your letter. I knew what you meant….I do it all the time.
Very nice post. I feel your pain; what gets me the most is how people are sworn to secrecy when something goes wrong due to fracking. Their silence is literally bought and sold. That to me isn’t just bad business. It is absolute corruption.
Natalie, I agree. Thanks for stopping by.
I was glad to see you finally touched on the topic of hydraulic fracturing. I also beleive that with better engineering and more safe guards we can safely extract natural gas however we’ve progressed too fast ahead of regulation, engineering and studies on the effects this process with cause to the environment. I wish you had touched a little on HF’s exemptions from environmental laws like the safe water drinking act and the clean water act. I also wish you had mentioned the major push out west to frack on federal public land out in the western states. They are facing the same dilemma as the GW National Forest.
All the best,
Logan, thanks for stopping by and making some very good comments. One of the things that makes me gnash my teeth and rub myself with ashes is their claim that they are in “compliance” with so many federal and state laws. The fact is they are indeed “exempt” from these laws. So, by stating they are in compliance is not really a lie but it is very misleading.
Hello Bobby…my friend, Joe McCue just sent me to your blog. I’m going to enjoy seeing what you have to say on issues regarding the environment. I help with a FB page “Don’t Frack the George Washington National Forest” and I will post your blog there.
I like what you have to say.
Thanks so much Henri. Glad I am on your team.
There should be no controversy when it comes to hydro fracking the earth. What part of breaking up the precious shale layers of the earth seems logical? The fact that millions and millions of gallons of an essential and rare liquid, water, is being wasted to produce gas by fracking is not logical. When you add to the equation that millions and millions of gallons of poisons, produced by a company with a long history of environmental violations and abuse, is added to the water for fracking, thus poisoning ground water among other things, what is the debate? Fracking is wrong, it needs to be stopped now. We do not need it. We need to promote solar and safe wind installations. We have the answers to our energy needs, and we do not have to hurt the Earth or animals to start using them today.
Chris, I think you’re right. I don’t think fracking can be done safely under any circumstances. The industry’s own research shows that 5% of well casings fail immediately and that 50% will fail within 30 years. That kind of guaranteed pollution is just not acceptable. And for what benefit — a few temporary construction jobs to install fracking equipment? As to U.S. energy independence, it’s bunk. The industry is trying to build export terminals to put the gas on ships to China, where it can get a higher price. So more fracking will simply pollute our rural areas while offering America no benefit. Only the gas drillers will profit. Fracking is a bad deal for the rest of us.
Bobby, thanks for this article. Very important topic. Our group, Transition Staunton Augusta, showed the documentary film “Gasland 2” this summer and hosted a discussion about fracking in the GW National Forest. Afterwards, I wrote a review of the film for the online magazine Transition Voice:
I urge anyone who cares about clean water and the threat of fracking to see this powerful and well documented film.
Eric, thanks so much for your comments and for hosting the viewing of the movie. Good work my friend.
Bobby, as usual, you post a thoughtful, indepth commentary on one of the greatest current regional threats to water, wildlife, and way of life. Yes, there are a few benefits re natural gas versus other fossil few sources – however, they pale in comparison to the negative impacts. I also must agree with Chris Bolgiano that given the nature of the practise (fragmentation, risks for faulty infrastructure, industrial traffic), I don’t see a future for this type of extraction in our region – at all.
Thanks to all for tuning in to this important issue — please pass this blog and the word around.
Thanks for your posting Faye. I have had at least two comments via email that purport that well water contamination from fracking is only 5% which, according to EPA is insignificant. Rather disturbing.
This fracking is another insidious activity by the oil industry with no concern for the long term impact of their actions. I also don’t think technology will render this material for our use without deep, long and lasting impacts, yet to be understood. If the most important and valuable product to come out of a forest is the water, then the same would apply for the ground. The notion that putting the chemicals in the ground below the water level is insanity created by greed for profits. Why is the identity of the chemicals a secret, are they suggesting that it is proprietorial and they need to protect their processes for professional reasons? Sounds like more smoke and mirrors to me. Omission of truth is lying Bobby, (raise your right hand…whole truth and nothing but the truth)- they know and won’t tell for their own reasons of pure profit. It would seem that some laws could be made to force the energy industries to invest in alternative energy for our future – when oil is to expensive, unavailable or finally identified as the evil force on our natural world and society that it is. But I’m afraid that my idea of having Exxon buying out Maxwell House so they could use their logo – “Good to the last drop”, is appropriate, because that is what’s happening.
I know folks in Pa. that are living off the proceeds of fracking their land and it is an awful scene… and bottled water instead of, out of your tap – should be a glaring indictment of the entire practice…
Bobby, maybe we should pipe the fracking water to D. C. The current cool-aid down there is wearing thin. While I certainly agree that we need to proceed with extreme caution and probably stay out of the GWNF lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. I would personally prefer the careful use of fracking over bowing to Putin or starting yet another war over oil in the middle east which our liberal friends in D. C. seem hell bent on doing despite their opposition to the other ones. Keep up the good work!
Good comment Buff. Totally agree.
I have been hearing more and more about these issues related to the process of hydraulic fracturing. What I want to know is: Is there an alternative? Natural gas seems to be the way to go (at least for now, to hold us over until green technology catches up to our demands) to provide energy for the USA. How can we access these deposits without fracking?
James, Thanks. I believe we can frack and should, provided we have sound engineering, superior construction and adequate oversight. I do not mean to convey that we should not frack but what I am trying to convey is that we should not frack in the George Washington National Forest. Is is inappropriate because this NF was designated because it produces water for millions of people. Secondy, industrial fracking means lots of logging, road building, bull dozing, big trucks etc. It’s industrial and again not appropriate in this National Forest.