Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dwelling on the Negative Impacts of Natural Gas Development

The increasing reports in the media of problems associated with natural gas development are never mirrored with the industry’s success stories; and we know they are out there.  In my small home town, I can barely walk down the street without someone stopping to ask me a question or deliver to me some friendly advice in any and all topics related to natural gas development. If you live around here and have not heard about “fracking” or “fracing” then I raise my hat to you.
There are so many misconceptions, half-truths, rumors, hypes and rhetoric floating around that it seems virtually impossible to get a straight and consistent answer from anywhere or anyone. I decided to quickly inventory what negative aspects of drilling from some of my encounters in the past week. What I found was that there are two broad perceptions of what negative natural gas development related impacts look like.
The first perception is the one commonly depicted by those who oppose anything to do with natural gas in NYS (except when the natural gas is used for heating their homes or firing up their BBQs). This is the perception recently depicted on a UTICA NBC affiliate primetime news story. The story was about a group of people who took a trip to PA to see firsthand what natural gas development looks like. Their story painted a rather macabre picture. They brought back tales of animals dropping dead after drinking frac fluid, trucks carrying toxic loads of cargo to nearby landfills and of a lady contaminated with radioactive barium (ahem).  These assertions along with others, paint a picture of PA being a vast wasteland of truck conveys, whipping up dust, spilling their toxic loads as they careen round corners and rig-workers carousing and ripping apart towns with their rough lifestyle. In conclusion, PA is a living hell. Note: There is no upside to this version.
The other story was brought back to me from PA by a friend; just a normal everyday Jane Doe who has travelled the Southern Tier for her work. Her downside version, tells of a country side changed by natural gas development; the inconvenient increases in traffic, the longer lines at the gas station and at the delis, the decrease in affordable housing, and the crumbling roads (which most she says are being repaired by the gas companies) and strained infrastructure. There are also stories of people’s wells affected (with water buffalos in their yards) and stories of people inconvenienced by the noise and lights associated with the well drilling.  However, she does note that most of the folks realize that the negative impacts are only temporary and some are looking forward to a return to quieter days. The conclusion, PA residents are dealing with the growing pains related to change.  Note: This version has an upside.
Which version is more realistic, plausible, believable?  I leave that decision up to you.

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