Oh goodness. Oh, my goodness. I am so torn up. Every day I gain more exposure to the issue of Hydraulic Fracturing. This past weekend, two young people and I went from Pittsburgh to the homestead of board members of theAllegheny Defense Project (ADP) for the group’s annual Fall Gathering. This was a wonderful weekend of fellowship, home-cooked (and produced) food, education, music and a Marcellus well site visit. These people’s property is within thousands of feet of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF), and is precisely 6,000ft from a Natural Gas Well.
The first night as we sat around a beautiful fire on a chilly Friday night and all packed it in kind of early. Sharing a tent with my friend, we stayed warm and dry and I listened to my favorite sound, rain falling on my tent. The next morning was greeted with cloudy skies, cold weather and hot coffee! In the morning we talked about the events of the ADP over the last year and what we are doing to move forward and protect our sacred places!
Then, we took the longest mile hike through the woods to a Marcellus well in the ANF. Along the way, we passed bubbling springs and beautiful newts. With this well installed it’s only a matter of time before this spring is left unusable and the newts leave what is currently a healthy forest. (That's right, fracking does happen in our National Forests, as public land we own, it's our duty to protect it!)
In my newness to the area, I’d never been to a Marcellus well. I was expecting tailing ponds for the left over waste water, leaking pipes and machinery everywhere. This is not how this site looked. Not to say I was disappointed, but I was. I was ready to see big bad drilling in all its destructive force. But, the clear cut acres and gravel pad were enough for me to say this is not okay!
Now, I reflect on a conversation I had with my mother just yesterday. Some context for my family, I have a close relative who just joined the dark side as a facilities manager for a natural gas field in another state, and of course they are now the voice in her other ear, promising that their company is different, that they really care and are doing their best not to have negative impacts. Unfortunately here, best intentions don’t cut it when lives are destroyed.
So my mom says to me, “Well Kathryn, you know, not all companies operate in the same way. Some DO clean up their sites and make sure wells are properly installed. I was just talking to ___ and they said they leave their sites clean and properly dispose of all waste.”
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH- “mother, you know there is no such thing as safe here! Human error and accidents occur, with anything. Not to mention that proper disposal of waste water is impossible when the chemicals in the water are not disclosed so they can be properly delt with. The fact that there are over 8,000 currently active wells, countless discarded and lost wells, and more on the way in PA alone, there is NO way that the cumulative impact of hydraulic fracturing is NOT going to have serious ramifications on the people in this commonwealth, and adjacent states! Do you know that there are counties here where houses have blown up and people can’t drink their water and when it comes out of the faucet it looks like tea?”
And then she starts talking about how long movements take, and I’m like seriously mother, I know. I know, this is what I do! Sometimes it’s like talking to a brick wall that talks back, and all I wanted was to voice my frustrations with getting more people active, and she just reiterates the problem I face by feeding me the lines my family member told to her, and of course she believes. (…side note, I love my mother tremendously and I would never be where I am today without her!)
So at this point, you're probably wondering what my point is. It's simple really, get educated, get mad, and get active. As young people who are going to be dealing with these ramifications for the REST OF OUR LIVES, it is our duty to correct the slew of misinformation being pumped out (no pun intended) by gas companies. They call us green slime; well, they are poison to touch.
Get educated, get mad, and get active. www.ssc.org for more information on how to get involved and what we do.
p.s. ...as I am uploading my photo for this blog, I look at my phone and am greeted by an e-mail from my mom, "I love you Kathryn. You know this fracking issue produces a conflict within me. I am totally with you....but I love ___ and I can't be against them. I am proud of what you are doing with your life. Forgive me when I attempt to soften your attitudes...."
(I am crying now, by the way) As I know this is my battle, and how tough it is for me and my family, I understand the dilemnas of others. I want everyone to have jobs, good jobs, but I cannot sit back and watch people lose their homes, their water and air quality so we can continue to produce energy that kills us.
Kathryn Hilton, Sierra Student Coalition Campus Coordinator PA.