11/5/11

In Rural Towns, a Fracking Hell

In their ad campaigns, gas companies pitch industrialized gas drilling as clean and tidy, but Pennsylvanians know that, in reality, hydrofracking ("fracking") is a rural hell.

It takes up to 8 months to prepare a site for fracking . It starts with cutting down trees, clearing roads, leveling land, seismic testing, building the infrastructure for a drilling rig the size of 15-story-building, with supports, lights, containers and manpower, before operations begin.

The work goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It takes millions of gallons of water from local waterways and a thousand trucks to frack just one well -- and the Marcellus Shale region is mapped for up to 30,000 wells.

People who live near fracking operations, with orange methane flares raging all night, have been leaving their homes and sleeping in their cars at local school parking lots.

Desperate local residents, their homes now unliveable, complain of headaches, earaches, sore throats.

They know that they're on their own.  At best, anti-fracking activists say, state regulators are underfunded.  At worst, they're in cahoots with the drilling companies.  As one local activist, once a fracking believer, said:
"We have no regulators...We're 100 percent on our own...There are some individuals in agencies that are personally involved and want to do something, but the agencies themselves are not interested. "
It doesn't take people long to figure out, once they get past their greed, that fracking is a bad deal.  The millions of gallons of water taken from local waterways to frack just one well is either recycled as barely treated toxic waste or stays in the well.  Once that water is gone from the water table, it's gone forever.

But fracking isn't just sucking our rivers dry and contaminating our precious groundwater, it's polluting the air, disrupting lives, dividing families, ending friendships, breaking up congregations and dividing towns across rural America.

People -- many of them hard-core Conservatives -- who have directly encountered the reality of fracking have been transformed into anti-fracking activists as a result of its impact on their families and their communities.

Their backs against the wall, they have dedicated themselves to fighting what they see as a holy war, doing the detective work, policing fracking operations, feeding back the data to a growing grassroots network of anti-fracking activists.  They are mobilized through Google groups, FaceBook and YouTube. They have bought billboards and aerial banners.  They have organized marches and community forums.   They live and breathe the battle against fracking.

On the other side of their fight are their own governors and legislatures. The Pennsylvania Senate is trying to strip its local municipalities of the power to enact zoning ordinances, to facilitate fracking by ending local control of land use.

Pennsylvania may allow Cabot Oil and Gas, after finding it responsible for contaminating local drinking water in Dimock three years ago, to go back to drilling in the devastated town.

Nobody saw it coming. When a neighbor approached one Pennsylvania resident about gas drilling 4 years ago, telling him that fracking was "free money", he trusted it would mean nothing more than a couple of grand a month, and signed the lease.

Last year, he found out that that several of his neighbors had contaminated well water and that another had left his home because of barium poisoning. The river nearby is bubbling with methane.

Only then did he start asking questions.  As a result, he's given up on the political process, seeing both parties as corrupt, the regulatory process as broken, and corporate America as running the show.

He's selling out and moving to North Carolina -- but he'd like to keep the fracking royalty check.

The post from Alternet.

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