Is it or isn't it?
by James Jones
Shortly after the PA DEP news release this afternoon detailing the quarantine of 28 cows who may have ingested wastewater from a leaking East Resources Fracking wastewater pond, an East Resources spokesman told the Associated Press that the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture may have over-reacted in quarantining the affected cows, that, testing ordered by the state showed that there were no harmful chemicals in the wastewater.
Previous news reports of the harmful dangers of Marcellus Shale wastewater have mentioned hazards like radioactivity in the water at 269 times the limit allowed in drinking water, and a myriad of dangerous chemicals that by themselves would have to be placarded as hazardous material.
And yet, in disposal of this wastewater, trucks hauling it are not required to display hazardous material signs. Those trucks are instead regulated the same as garbage trucks and only required to have a sign labeled as residual waste. When these trucks spill, it is considered a pollutant, not a hazardous material incident. Emergency responders found that out after a recent rollover of one of the tank trucks hauling brine in Potter County. The Fire Chief in charge reported it a Hazmat incident and it was dispatched as a Hazmat incident, only to be corrected a couple of days later by a Pennsylvania State Police news release that related that drilling brine is not a Hazardous Material and does not have to be placarded.
And just why do we need to know about this drilling waste?
If the Agriculture Department and the DEP did not err in their quarantine and resulting news release issued to the media describing possible deleterious effects from the cattle drinking from the waste water leak that ponded in their pasture, then we are looking at extreme and far reaching consequences to allowing Marcellus Drilling in Pennsylvania.
The Northern Tier of Pennsylvania is home to some of the best hunting grounds in the country. People from around the country come to these counties to hunt deer, bear and other animals. Many from the cities have camps where they make an annual pilgrimage to hunt for venison.
If these beef cows are in fact damaged from drinking this frack water, and it is likely that they did drink it as the animals like the salt taste, then it's likely that there won't be many deer who have not sampled these frack ponds across the northern tier. The low fences that enclose these ponds have no ability to keep out the deer and other animals that may decide to check them out.
If that is the case, then Pennsylvanians will more than likely have to kiss their venison goodbye. Hunters will be issued a warning with their hunting licenses not to eat what they shoot.
If this effluent that they have been pumping into the streams through our sewer plants and into the waters of the Commonwealth is capable of making beef inedible, then it probably is also capable of doing the same thing to the fish population, so you can catch them if they live long enough, but don't eat them. Night fishermen may be able to get a clue about this if the fish glow in the dark from the radioactivity.
On the other hand, Marcellus Gas is a great economic boon to the areas where drilling is taking place, both for the Commonwealth that has gained millions of dollars from leasing and will make much more from royalties as production ramps up and pipelines are put in place to take the Marcellus Gas to market and the individual landowner who has received hundreds of times what they paid for the land, by leasing the oil and gas rights.
With the rest of the country in dire economic straits, the drilling is making many jobs and enriching businesses in the food and lodging areas. Those business people spend money in the local area and the trickle down effect is good for most everyone. Farmers struggling to hold onto family farms, have been bailed out and some can now live like millionaires . It's hard to knock that, when historically farmers have worked from daylight to after dark, 7 days a week, and the only time that they get ahead is when they retire and sell out the farm.
Is it, or isn't it?
If it isn't dangerous, the brine from the well fracking could be spread on the highways in the wintertime and marketed across the northern states for snow and ice control. Possibly the chemicals in it could be recycled leaving only the salt that could be sold as salt blocks.
But we need to know, before we create an environmental disaster. Or nearly as bad, stifle an industry that can replace imported oil and power our vehicles and heat our homes, and bring a certain amount of prosperity to an area where there has never been prosperity since the big timber harvesting days of the early 1900's.
We need to know if this drilling is going to ruin our aquifers? Before we allow more drilling in our state forests and game lands, we need to know what the effect of all this earthmoving and drilling activity is going to be. Will it forever change the wilderness for the worse? Will it ruin the habitat for our wild friends. Will it pollute our streams & rivers so the fish and aquatic creatures can't live there anymore? Will our forests & streams be posted with no trespassing signs as the oil and gas companies protect their interest from the general public's view?
But if all these fears are baseless, as the publicity machine of the big oil and gas corporations continue to state, then we should be welcoming the drillers with open arms, as they are our economic salvation.
The question remains. Is it or isn't it?
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Posted by Solomon's words for the wise at 7/01/2010 06:48:00 PM