Commentary by S. Tom Bond, Resident Farmer, Jane Lew, Lewis County, WV
America’s Natural Gas Alliance and Energize WV with Natural Gas held another of its Town Hall information meetings in Buckhannon Wednesday evening, May 22. The presentation and room decoration were similar to a one I attended at Bridgeport a year or so ago, perhaps a little less elaborate.
There was a talk by a good female speaker emphasizing the points the industry wishes the audience to accept: economic effect, fracking is not new technology, everything is done to avoid water contamination, they are thoroughly regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection, gas is the coming thing, and basically no one is harmed. Then a well prepared video give much the same points with pictures and (very few) graphics. The visual displays around the room were much more limited than the previous meeting I attended. But the obligatory sweet food bar was present.
A little over half the 100 or so seats available were occupied. Quite a few industry people present. They were office workers in casual clothes, heavy labor was conspicuously absent. The rest of the crowd was “civilians.”
After the presentation, the floor was opened for questions to a panel of four central West Virginia management employees. The first few questions were soft, but after the first hard question was asked a flood of more pointed questions came out. One involved the “Halliburton loophole,” another recent research in water contamination, and still another was “Isn’t our water being destroyed?” Property rights questions were popular, several coming from people who appeared to be having problems on property they own.
After the meeting there was a friendly conversation between the people in the panel and the woman who gave the first talk, on one hand, and people from the audience, on the other, all very polite and reasonable. Both the higher level of comprehension and questions by the audience and the conversations afterwards were in sharp contrast to the earlier meeting at Bridgeport.
I read about how land and minerals are being expropriated in many countries by governments for the benefit of foreign investors, simply kicking the previous owner-users out without recourse and without an alternative way to make a living. The civility of a meeting like this makes you glad to be in the United States. You may feel you and your heirs (in the broadest sense) are losing something valuable, but it is not being taken at gunpoint.