Most Farmers and Land Owners Abhor Drilling & Fracking & Pipelines

by S. Tom Bond on October 6, 2017

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Reasons why farmers and land owners hate fracking

Essay by S. Tom Bond, Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV

Placement of wells, access roads and pipelines destroys the surface value of the land. Well pads and roads are rocked to a depth that will support heavy trucks in any weather, often 18 inches. Drainage is changed, with new gullies formed, and silt produced and discharged into streams. “Reclamation” never restores a fully productive surface.

Pipelines from wells to connectors go up and down steep grades, many of them over 45 degrees. They are kept cleared for the length of the project with consequent loss of timber. They are a source of erosion, timber is lost, and timber along the right-of-way grows in to cover the vacated area, the so-called “edge effect.” This spoils the timber along the right of way. Value of half-grown timber is lost. When the project is “completed,” 70 years at the best are required to produce a merchantable crop.

These rights-of-way are attractive to trespassers, and interrupt habitat and animal migration patterns. There will be a gate on the property line or more access roads to get company line walkers from one farm to another,

Building sites are foreclosed. If the landowner wants to cross the pipeline with farm equipment, that is usually no problem. If he wants to sell timber or has other reasons heavy equipment must cross the pipeline, special precautions must be taken to prevent damage to the pipeline. If these precautions are not written into the contract, such activity is precluded. Smart landowners seek advice on this, but those who do not will not be able to use their land to its fullest potential.

Big diameter pipelines for transmission are a particular horror. They often go straight up and down hills, cutting very deep. Here in West Virginia, in many places that means cutting through solid stone. One can see both bulldozers and backhoes with special cutting blades that rotate using tungsten carbide cutting edges. And what is the back filling material? The same broken stones, since it the grade is too steep to move in material that will pack. The result is a subsurface stream along the pipeline, rock scratched protective coating on the outside of the big pipes, and plenty of oxygen and water to the steel underneath the coating to cause rusting.

Diversion ditches are intended to remove surface water over the pipes. There should be tight packing around the pipes below to prevent underground flow under the breakers. Another problem with breakers is exemplified by is a place a few miles from where a large-diameter pipeline where the line goes straight up a mountainside for half a mile, and all the diversion ditches on both sides go out the same distance. This dumps the water from the right-of-way into the same course, so that it simply builds up as it goes down the hillside, and will become massive gullies after heavy rainfall. In another, a culvert through a fill goes under the pipeline. It is a wooded watershed, so sticks will wash down and block the culvert, causing it to flow over the fill and wash down to the pipe, exposing it.

All of this is minutia for the planners, executives and politicians, but it is minutia on a grand scale. It is devastating to landowners who are denied production and lose the capital they had in the land. To add insult to injury, landowners must continue to pay the same, or even higher property taxes, if it is mistakenly determined by the assessor that there has been value-added to the land. The opposite is true, recognized by banks that often won’t loan on land within so many feet of an explosive hazard or frack site (industrial hazard), and insurance can raise the rates landowners pay, considering them to be in a commercial zone.

Apparently, the assumption by thw fracking business and its hangers-on is that the landowner loses nothing in the exchange, which is absolutely not true. The gas drilling company may pay a few dollars nominal compensation, but this is only a pittance compared to the costs to landowners, which are many, still downplayed by industry, and misunderstood by the general public.

Appalachia, and West Virginia in particular, is a source of water for much of the country, and our well water has historically been good up until recently, misplaced septic systems and water well drillers who stop too soon, not withstanding. With the takeover of the fracking industry, many who had good wells for decades have now lost their water completely or had it contaminated due to fracking. The new thing is to pipe city water to these locations, to somehow ameliorate the destruction of a vital resource, on which lives and property values depend. So one must pay a water bill, instead of a few more cents on their electric bill.

Air pollution is also a problem near fracked wells and pump stations. Methane is odorless, but here in central West Virginia older wells the gas is naturally odorized. That odor is familiar to anyone who goes out of doors because many older installations leak badly. Pipes, old wells, plugged wells all na befund to leak. It seams reasonable this will happen in time to newer installations, too.

The people who initiate and control destruction of these resources apparently have no understanding of the food situation, either:
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1. More than 50% of U.S. agricultural market value and 93% of U.S. farms – both conventional and organic – operate within shale basins and active shale plays;
2. Some 3,000 acres of productive farmland are lost each day;
3. In 2017, the U. S. used 46 million acres to grow wheat, and 40.3 was in lawns, about the area of Florida.

It is impossible to have organic farming where shale drilling has occurred. With the world population increasing so rapidly, we must address these problems immediately.

Unfortunately, most rural people are undereducated and inarticulate on these issues. They lack the ability to influence others, to understand well or explain the losses they must endure due to fracking. And most of them are involved in their own corner of the world, too busy making a living to see the big picture. Moreover, West Virginia has been in the grip of extraction for over 150 years. Most people believe there is no way to change things and so they do not write or call their senators. Many don’t talk to their neighbors about fracking, or even vote.

The Farm Bureau does a lot to help farmers with their small, close-up problems. However, the leadership consists of men with larger farms who come in dead tired at night and fall asleep watching Fox News. Many of them are attracted by the idea of giving up what they think will be a small part of their resources for a very large chunk of easy money now, not realizing or caring for the long-term consequences of making such a deal.

Rural people are engaged in a vital industry little understood by the public and by businessmen in other industries. Many rural people have little understanding of these problems themselves, simply following tradition. There is no inorganic food, all is by production of plants and animals, and this production cannot be easily increased by throwing more inorganic input and capital into the pot, the development pattern characteristic of many businesses.

With the population bomb going off, food production should be a major worry for planners and government. The normal business cycle, 5 to 7 years, passes by very quickly in the world where a new generation comes along every 20 to 25 years

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joe Perebzak October 7, 2017 at 10:10 am

Tom, very well written.

One thing you didn’t touch on was many country people’s income is less than city incomes. Big energy knows this and flash huge money offers to take land.

They sell or lease land not caring how it will affect their neighbors lives.

I am one of those neighbors who’s life has been destroyed by my neighbors decision to sell land for a compressor station.

Few care about country living anymore.

Joe Perebzak, Noble County, Ohio

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