As evidence mounts, fracking not inevitable

As evidence mounts, fracking not inevitable by Chris Burger, November 30, 2012, Press connects
Until recently, many considered gas drilling in our shale deposits (fracking) to be “inevitable,” and for good reason. The fossil fuel industry is very powerful, used to “getting its way” with well connected lobbyists and huge monetary resources. Also, many feel our nation is addicted to fossil fuels, pointing to the telltale psychological signs: denying there’s a problem and a willingness to take ever increasing risks to get the next “fix.”

Unfortunately for the gas industry, some folks understood the difference between conventional gas drilling and fracking. They convinced then-Gov. David Paterson that a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) was warranted, beginning the study of a process that had avoided close scrutiny up until then and, in fact, had quietly received major exemptions from cornerstone environmental regulations.

Knowledgeable people began to look at the industry’s track record and question industry claims. Many wanted science informing decision-making, but the more study and science were called for, the more the industry lobbied to get the SGEIS done with. Faith in the process was severely damaged when Paterson caved to industry pressure and released a draft prematurely. It was the first mistake the industry made. Deficiencies and major gaps in the document were easily identified.

Thankfully, Gov. Andrew Cuomo shows willingness to let science inform the decision on fracking and has backed away from a set timeframe. Health effects are now being looked at. This, necessarily, will require assessing cumulative effects as well. Hopefully, a serious look at negative economic effects will soon follow.

The industry used classic bait-and-switch tactics with its public relations campaign. The public, however, became painfully aware that natural gas from conventional drilling was not what the industry was selling. For every advertisement for the “clean, green fuel,” there were media reports about the latest problems stemming from fracking. The more vehemently the industry insisted there were no problems, the more scrutiny was given to their proclamations. The industry’s credibility plummeted.

Most people now understand that fracking is neither good for the environment nor public health, but some still believe the grand predictions of economic prosperity. History and several good economic studies paint a different picture. Experience shows that while a few individuals profit; communities as a whole are left economically diminished.

Our nation began doing something about our dependence on fossil fuels back in the early 1980s, but was sidetracked when more powerful technology was developed to extract ever-harder-to-reach deposits. Each new technology has brought increased risks to public health and environmental damage. The good news is that more and more people are now aware of the dark side of our fossil fuel dependence and addiction. We can only hope that this time we don’t get diverted. [Emphasis added]

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