Commentary by S. Tom Bond, Lewis County, WV
Republican Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, has characterized persons criticizing shale drilling as “unreasoning opposition,” according to an article in the Canon McMillan Patch. Coreitt, who has managed to “tic off” about everybody outside the shale drilling industry and its minions, from the American Planning Association to the public health industry for his Act 13 excesses, as well as industries producing renewable energy, environmentalists, and a large number of ordinary citizens who have to bear the decline in property values and destruction of their surroundings and health. The governor even wants universities to drill on their grounds to “help solve their financial problems.”
Shale drilling is big industry, not concentrated, but with the potential to spread over 100,000 square miles of Appalachia and hundreds of thousands more in other areas. It consumes vast quantities of refined petroleum products, tens of thousands of tons of steel and a wide assortment of industrial chemicals, which are used in vast quantities. Each square mile of shale will be touched, if the industry has its way. Parks, airports, national forests, cities and towns, rivers and lakes, homes and all other industry in the area, will have on every square mile four to six acre pads filled with 18 inches of stone, a miniature brownfield and something like military free fire zones along the pipelines and access roads.
The fact is that Gov. Corbett has a pathological aversion to evidence. His world is determined by claims of the shale drilling industry such as: We don’t destroy water. We don’t make anyone sick. Of course our balance sheet doesn’t show costs to the public – there are none. And so on. Considering the amount of money investors have put into shale drilling and the acute sensitivity of investors to adverse news, what else could the industry say? Look at what happened to Chesapeake as a result of Aubrey McClendon’s financial antics when they became public.
If the governor wanted evidence he’d send people out to talk to victims. Of course, his campaign donations from the industry stand in the way. Just as campaign donations stand in the way of fact-finding in other states.
The ground under the Shale drilling industry is shifting, though. The public health industry has a strong moral backbone. They are gearing up to go for data in spite of Act 13. There are suits all over the place. Google “shale drilling suit” and there are pages of articles on the subject. Along with the Shale industry advertisements, of course, top and bottom of the page. One of the most interesting is against OSHA by Petro-Hunt. It is clear the industry risks it employees in many ways, just as it does residents by such things as inordinately long hours, silica dust, breathing vapors, for example.
Several newspapers now have special shale drilling sections. One of the most comprehensive is here. Publications by opponents are increasing in number and sophistication. An organization called Host Farms exists to invite and encourage researchers interested in measuring the parameters in question. There was a worldwide protest against shale drilling Saturday, September 22.
In New York’s Finger Lakes region, Inergy Corporation plans to build a LPG storage facility in caverns formed from mining salt. The community is uniting against the plan. Businesses including Tourism,Vineyards and Wineries. Watkins Glen businesses (which are close enough to be affected by catastrophic fires), are lining up against it. Nothing so complete has been faced by the industry before.
And moratoria are being declared in many jurisdictions. The most recent is Quebec. “On her way into her first cabinet meeting Thursday morning, Natural Resources Minister Martine Ouellet told reporters she does not believe natural gas can ever be safely extracted from shale rock. She vowed to impose a complete moratorium on the industry until a new and more complete environmental assessment by the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) is completed.”
So, Gov. Corbett, there are good reasons. You can’t see them because your eyes are closed. And your mind, too. If you don’t open them the world will pass you by.
>>> S. Tom Bond, is farming 500 acres in Lewis County in central West Virginia. He has a Ph.D. in chemistry and has taught chemistry at the high school and college level. He is active in the Guardians of the West Fork and the Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact <<<