Monday, July 6, 2009

by Mort Malkin

Gas Mining — No Free Lunch

Some large property owners see the discovery of “natural gas in the bedrock of Wayne County (PA) and Sullivan County (NY) as a Godsend. But, the internet tells us that gas mining sites in Hickory PA, Dimock PA, Ohio, Colorado, Texas, and Wyoming have experienced: fires, explosions, chemical pollution of aquifers, and industrialization of the rural landscape. Our God-given common sense should tell us there’s no free lunch. The goddess of unforeseen consequences is already telling us not to fracture the spine of the earth and not to inject a million gallons of water laced with polycyclic organo-hydrocarbons (chemicals of unpronounceable names) at every drill site.

The gas deposits that the Great Spirit placed in small pockets and crevices a mile deep in the bedrock were meant to be used only in the event of a dire environmental emergency. When the sun stops shining on Arizona & southern California, when the wind stops blowing over the plains of the mid-west, when the tides stop flowing in Puget Sound — only then will it be time to break up the bedrock into mini-tectonic plates to get at the gas deposits. Gasoline at $3 or $4 a gallon for our cars is not enough of an emergency to monkey around with the infrastructure of the Earth. Good planets are hard to find.

Recent issues of newspapers in the Delaware Valley have reported on community meetings where gas drilling was of more concern than global heating, more than changes in hunting regulations, and more than the recent increase in deer ticks in the countryside. Yes, environmental sequelae of gas drilling and the ethics of the great corporations involved are disquieting. At one meeting on the NY side of the River, the township supervisors were worried that the huge trucks used by the drilling companies will tear up the rural roads in a great demolition derby. At another meeting a Penn State water resource “associate” spoke to a group of landowners who had already signed leases with gas companies. Seventy percent of them said that now they were nervous that their water wells might become polluted by chemicals used in the “fracking” process. They took the money but didn’t run — they were planning to continue living on their property. The speaker advised them to test
their water before drilling started. Under further questioning, he admitted the gas companies didn’t have to reveal the proprietary mixture of chemicals they used. So, which of the hundreds of chemicals found at various drilling sites around the nation should be included in the testing? Methylnapthalene, 2-butoxyethanol, ethoxylphenol, toluene, xylene, dipropylene …? Will Halliburton provide kits for testing Halad 344 and HAI 81M?

Just in case the chemical laced fracking fluids don’t get into the aquifer through the drilling pipes or the fractured shale layer, 70% of the million gallons pumped down come up as toxic waste water which is stored in an adjacent pit lined with a plastic sheet. Even if the plastic doesn’t leak, a heavy rain will cause the pit to overflow. It’s hard to keep water (with chemicals) where it belongs.

The latest unforeseenity of the goddess has occurred around Fort Worth TX where they have been fracking the Barnett shale for a few years. Several earthquakes have been reported in an area that till now has been free of quakes for the entire history of the Lone Star state. But don’t worry. None of the rock & roll geological events was over 2.8 on the Richter Scale.

Maybe a little respect for Mother Earth would be to our benefit. What goes around comes around.

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