Interesting article at Salon about the affects of natural gas drilling on the food supply (note – Salon is a left leaning publication). The article explores the drilling process in Pennsylvania where work on the Marcellus Shale began in 2005 and points out of the problems dairy farmers have been struggling against. The ability of fracking fluid to contaminate the food and water supply is my greatest fear as the process takes off in WV (one employee of a large firm told me that this area will be the Texas of natural gas). I do not understand why these corporations that are drilling here are legally able to pump thousands of gallons of water and poisonous chemicals into the ground and not disclose the exact amounts. Some argue that the composition of the fracking fluid is a trade secret, but at this point I would disagree. This process has been in development for years and most of the energy companies already have their own specific mixture and, if they really desired to know the makeup of their competitions concoction, corporate espionage could easily take care of that. Therefore, it really makes no sense why laws remain in place to protect the composition of the fracking fluids unless the corporations have something to hide. Others argue, as reported by Bloomberg, that he fracking process occurs too far underground for the fracking chemicals to contaminate the aquifers. Again, I find this to be an invalid argument. If the chemicals are not contaminating water supplies than the entire documentary Gas Land is a sham (though we must accept that some points were overstated). Why are cattle near gas wells now sick and full of rare chemicals, why are people able to light the water coming out of their faucets on fire, why are corporations paying to have water shipped into areas now being drilled? To say this has no affect is a blatant lie. Furthermore, some water treatment plants that are suppose to dispose of the fracking fluids are just dumping it into rivers. Any argument developed by the energy firms can be countered. Why can’t they just report the chemical compositions of the chemicals and work to protect the health of the people? What are they so afraid of?
The Bloomberg article also attempts to frame the debate as States versus Federal issue. The Texas politicians argues that states are better able to regulate and deal with the proliferation of gas drilling, but that again is false. First, the corporations will fund and buy up all the state politicians who will then remain apathetic to the situations because they want to remain in office. Second, as we can observe in Pennsylvania, the process is occurring so quickly that the state agency cannot keep up the the spread of this industry; the proliferation of drilling is happening so fast the the state Department of Environmental Protection is unable to process the amount paper and field work required by law.
In other related news, the city of Morgantown is working to ban drilling within city limits and yesterday had an intense public forum were city’s residents criticized the state DEP for its inability to deal with the boom in drilling. The WV DEP is now experiencing the same problems as PA; there is too much work, too little manpower, and they are extremely disorganized.