As I look back over the past decade of my life, ever since the fossil fuel industry set its sights on PA’s Marcellus Shale, several memories stand in sharp relief against the blurred background of 1,000 remembered conversations, hearings, presentations, testimonies, demonstrations, marches and encounters.
The first took place at Laporte High School during a debate between two PhDs: Tony Ingraffea of Cornell University and Terry Engelder of PSU. It was here that I first heard the term “Sacrifice Zone,” the new name for the land that sits atop the shale, the land where I live.
Ingraffea, with a doctorate in rock fracture mechanics (aka fracking), issued dire warnings of what was to come. He explained that, with billions of dollars at stake, the gas industry has no shortage of smooth- talking front men and lobbyists who are very good at perpetuating the myths required to keep the public in the dark, and state and federal law (and regulation) makers on the industry’s side of any debate.
In sharp contrast, Engelder, whose doctorate is in geology, began his segment by quoting John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” According to Engelder, we were about to be given a wonderful opportunity – not only could we exercise our unfaltering patriotism to America by helping to end our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, we could get rich in the process. Gee. Lucky us. What’s not to love?
Another of my vivid recollections took place at a meeting held at the Community Baptist Church on Route 87, hosted by Inflection Energy. After being asked to sign in and share our contact information, we were invited to choose from an assortment of Inflection-emblazoned items as a souvenir of the evening (pens, baseball caps, coffee mugs, Frisbees, etc), fed a pork bar-b-q and baked beans supper, and expected to sit through a Power Point presentation given by Mr. Tom Gillespie, Inflection’s Director of Regulatory, Health, Safety and Environment. (No, that title does not contain a typo, unless one exists on the Inflection web site.) Mr. Gillespie’s turtleneck and tweed sport coat with suede elbow patches were a perfect complement to his everybody’s-favorite-college-professor demeanor. Gillespie’s talk, a virtual Hallelujah Chorus for unconventional gas drilling and the opportunity for lease-signing that was to follow, ran way over time, leaving only a few minutes for questions from the audience. I can still see the woman who raised her hand and timidly asked about the chemicals used in the fracking process, something the esteemed Mr. Gillespie had failed to mention. The casual tone of his reply reminded me of a parent reassuring a child there are no monsters under the bed. The Director of Regulatory, Health, Safety and Environment promised the audience that there was nothing to worry about, that the chemicals used by the gas industry are nothing new and are considered ubiquitous in other areas of life. Fracking chemicals, he explained, can be put into one of three classifications: those found in women’s cosmetics, those used by backyard swimming pool owners and those used by dentists. Monsters under the bed? No way. No worries.
Responsible Drilling Alliance – Barb Jarmoska, RDA Board of Directors – 11.26.2017
Posted by: Nelson Bailey