A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
I guess that having lived in the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia tri-state area for decades of my life should have hardened me to the apparently popular concept that it is completely acceptable to rape the environment to make a few people rich. But it hasn’t.
The grade school I attended as a child was called Indian Run, based on the red-orange hue of the water in the creek that ran through the neighborhood, thanks to run-off from coal mines.
When I read last week that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection would be releasing a report that oil and gas operations in the state damaged people’s water supplies 209 times since the end of 2007, it did not fail to enrage me, even after all these years.
I have tried, ever since fracking replaced casinos as Pennsylvania’s supposed El Dorado of unearned wealth, to make light of it. My usual laugh line on the subject is to claim that I won’t mind having to shower with bottled water. But the fact is that, even though the oil and gas companies have made a mighty effort in recent years to buy our support for what they are doing, they still are raping the environment to the profit of very few, with the vast mass of us paying the price, now and in the future.
The fact that Gov. Tom Corbett and the Legislature have been entirely complicit, not only in what the companies are doing but also in seeing that they are not adequately taxed for it — even to the level that other gas-fracking states do — makes it worse, although, honestly, we should be paying the taxes we need to meet our needs in education, infrastructure and law and order in any case. These functions should be financed without whatever could be legitimately extracted from the fracking companies. After all, what they are doing to the environment and our future cannot be compensated for by taxes, even high taxes.
Normally I don’t write about fracking, which is off my normal beat of international affairs, national politics and economics. Instead, I’ve squirreled away information and brooded on it, until now, when it has made me angry enough to address the subject in a column.
It has been preposterous from the start to imagine that frackers could do what they do — pump a combination of water, sand and noxious chemicals underground to break up shale formations that then cough up to the surface petroleum and gas-bearing liquid — without fouling the water supply. Whether they do it going down, or coming up, or breaking up the shale down below, they are definitely going to mess up our underground water supply over the long run. [continue reading]
— by Dan Simpson writing for The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.