[Author’s note: In the Tuesday 5/31/11 edition of the NY Daily News, columnist Bill Hammond wrote a very condescending and one-sided opinion piece on the issue of hydraulic fracturing in NY State. The following is the response I sent to the News for publication. I don’t expect the News to print it, so I’ve posted it here.]
Dear Mr. Hammond,
Picked me up a copy of your paper yesterday and saw your piece on this fric-a-frac thing or whatever it’s called. I always take great interest in things that might affect me and the family even if I don’t always know all that much about it. So, naturally, as I’m reading it, a lot of questions popped into my head. You seem to have a good head on your shoulders and to be real schooled on this subject. I hope you can help me figure it out.
My family’s been in these parts for generations. We been through all kinds of bust and booms over the years. It ain’t always been an easy life but as long as the land’s fertile, the water clear and the air sweet, it’s been pretty good to us. What I been hearing now, though, scares the dickens out of me. Now you pointed out that we already have drilling rigs operating up here and that’s true. Don’t mean we like ‘em much or that we want more. They take up a lot more land than you might think. And that’s just drilling straight down. These new rigs are supposed to be drilling sideways, if you can believe it. How much land are these things gonna need? I heard something like 15 acres for one rig. And maybe 40 rigs on one site. How many sites are we talking here? And if that ain’t enough to concern us, I hear they need millions of gallons of clean water to pump down there to break up the shale. And they gotta mix it with some concoction made out of things we don’t know nothing about. And they won’t tell us either. It’s like “it’s for us to know and you to find out”. Not exactly a neighborly attitude for a bunch a fellas that need our land so bad. I did hear that benzene was in it. I don’t know if you know this but the hardware store stopped carrying benzene years ago because it was too dangerous to use. If I can’t use it why can they? You say there ain’t necessarily a connection between the drilling and all the problems I been hearing about. Smoking don’t necessarily cause cancer either but most folks know better than to risk it these days. Then there’s all the trucks and machinery that’ll have to come to the sites. We don’t have much in the way of highways up here. We don’t even have all that many paved roads. We’ve already had a taste of the noise and the fumes. It can only gonna get worse.
On top of this, they can take the water from anywhere. I’ve heard of folks who had ponds on their own land pumped dry. Time was when a man respected another man’s right to use water. Now those politicians we send to Albany are messing with our God given right for the benefit of the gas company?
I don’t know a lot about science but I know shale. All of us up this way know it. One thing I can tell you is you never know how or where it’s gonna split. Nature’s gotta mind of it’s own. Pretty good bet them gas boys don’t know either, no matter what their experts might tell ‘em.
Now I know you said we should all just calm down because the answer to all our concerns is rules and regulations. My brother runs a little business a couple of towns over. He’s supposed to have an inspector come by every six months to make sure he’s following the rules. I can’t tell you the last time he saw one. He heard with all the money problems we got these days and the budget cuts to all the agencies they don’t have enough inspectors to go around. Whose gonna be guarding this henhouse?
You said you’re depressed because folks seem to have lost trust and faith in business. I been around the block once or twice. I know a thing or two about business. Like they always say “Let the buyer beware”. They also say “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.” We got sheep up here. We know when the wool’s being pulled over our eyes.
Y’know, a lot of the folks here and in towns all around have been getting together to figure out how to stop this. We got all sorts of folks meeting – church leaders, farmers, small business owners, even winery and brewery owners (they’re a big business up this way and they depend on clean air, water and land). They ain’t exactly peasants with torches and pitchforks. We have representatives from the Indian tribes too. This is still their native and sacred land no matter how much we’ve changed it. We get a lot of visitors out here that come for the view and the connection to the land and the history. How much more will we lose if there’s nothing but an industrial site to visit?
Then I got to thinking about another thing. How is this gas supposed to be delivered? It sure can’t be trucked out. I guess this means we’re gonna need pipelines to run it through. Nobody’s even talking about this. Where are these pipelines gonna go? They’re not gonna be just a local problem. I suspect, folks in the city are not gonna be too happy about the answer. Y’know pipelines leak too; sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident.
A lot of us up here are on board with the new ways of producing power. We know better than most folks how the sun and water can work for us. It has been for centuries. Why aren’t we doing more to use these natural and clean gifts of nature than trying to fill a sack with cats?
I hope you can ease our minds some and assure us that they have it under control.. Otherwise, my brother can get us a good deal on pitchforks. We’ll probably have enough fuel for the torches.