A recent article from The Guardian reports that Mark Walport, a leading UK government scientist, has likened risks from fracking to thalidomide and asbestos – in other words, technologies that had good intentions but hideous, unforeseen results. The article itself is worth a read.
More interesting to me was a report from a former shale worker that appeared on reddit, /u/Raleon. I found his commentary more unsettling than the original Guardian text:
Hey there, I drove oversize load escort trucks (flashing light trucks around huge transport loads) around the Marcellus shale region, specifically helping guide the trucks transporting the set-up and tear-down of wells, and guiding fracking injection fluid trucks in and waste trucks out. I talked to the drivers in particular quite a bit, especially during downtime in between trips, and the site workers a fair bit as well. My best friend is a geologist who worked for the drilling companies during the time the well is set up and functioning, specifically analyzing the soil samples to determine how deep they were and how far to drill so they didn’t miss the pockets they’re looking for.
Regulation is a mess, and corrupt as hell. I saw a lot of the violations myself, personally, because I was “one of them” as a driver. The sites operate under the radar most of the time, and when inspectors show up, they know well in advance just from the truckers on the way. Hide this, cover this up, release this water here to wash away that… it’s all of the companies, too, and could well be considered business standard practices for the Marcellus shale area across all of which I transported loads from site to site in. We worked with numerous companies, so this was not an isolated thing by any means.
The roads get destroyed, especially in rural areas. The water sheds get destroyed from the dumping, and in some places, the companies make so much money (and save so much from not properly disposing) that they’re fine with the operating cost of paying the fine the few times they get caught. There’s no process by which they can be shut down for doing it literally hundreds of times, so at a certain point, they completely give up on anything but the most basic pretense of following responsible procedures for disposal; before we start discussing the inevitability of their slurry slipping out into surrounding material even occasionally. It only really has to happen once for it to be shown to be unsafe, and we’ve got multiple cases in which it’s affected the surrounding earth, not to mention earthquakes, and, no less than two of which are contaminated water supplies.
In several of those states, the citizens quite simply do not have mineral rights on their property. That’s all well and good, rules and rules and fair’s fair, right? I mean, it’s no big deal if these people’s families were essentially swindled by a process they didn’t understand… but, such as it is, the only valid complaint they have is the complete destruction of local infrastructure for short-term benefits, benefits usually seen by the local governing crony’s beneficiaries and not the populace – but again, it’s not the fracking company’s fault that they specifically choose and bribe the easiest localities to get tax breaks or exemptions first, right?
It’s all legal, it’s just ethically circumspect; it remains legal because there’s been no specific regulation on the industry at all. The simple fact is that new things often are bad, and this industry has in no way shape or form set itself a good precedent for being trustworthy. There’s no time at which we should allow any industry to self-regulate, much like we don’t allow individuals who have a conflict of interest to continue to assert their power in that situation. Seriously, since when did we start taking people’s word for it? Reading Rainbow? Anyone?
It’s not that it’s new that’s specifically the issue, however; it’s that they’re actively trying to hinder independent research about the process, they spend an inordinate sum of money ‘selling’ the concept to us, and then refuse to allow the public information about something they openly share within the industry itself, as if it’s some patented secret only the good old boys club should know about; though they certainly don’t treat it like a secret within the industry.
We’ve already seen real issues with fracking – it’s time to take it seriously, and put it under the microscope, instead of hub-bubbing about back and forth about what it even is, when the real issue is that we’re not being allowed to tell them even something so simple as they’re responsible if they mess things up.
Right now, we’re not even capable of holding them responsible for their failures on the most basic level, and there’s no criminality for colossal mistakes either. If fracking caused an epic earthquake and killed millions of people / wildlife / made a large swath of land unlivable, there’s no one who would ever go to prison over their mistakes, because they can just shrug and say “we didn’t know, we didn’t do it on purpose, and there’s no way we could have known”, only because they won’t let us know what they know and that they know in the first place that it’s got serious drawbacks and real, actual, terrible possible consequences that aren’t fear-mongering. It’sidentical to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
There’s no accountability for a profit-seeking venture with public risks, and that’s a real issue.
The issue is difficult for the average lay person to sort through. There’s a lot of money at stake, and it’s hard to know whose information to trust, given that it’s so easy for paid shills to write convincing-sounding articles on the internet and elsewhere. I’m doing my best to read, sort, and filter it all, but at this point my gut tells me that this is an unproven strategy that will have severe ecological repercussions down the line.
I may be one small voice in the desert, but I think the industry is compromising the health of future generations in exchange for profit today, and it’s not right.
The Old Wolf has spoken.