Shale gas is fracturing America's communities

Shale gas is fracturing America's communities

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By Emilio Godoy

Since 2008, Scroggins of the Shaleshock Media movement has been a determined activist against the exploration and exploitation of shale gas (rock or shale) in the municipality of Montrose, in the state of Pennsylvania, in the northeast of this country. The development of this unconventional hydrocarbon, also known by the English word shale, requires the technique of hydraulic fracturing, fracking in English.

In this town, inhabited by about 1,600 people and part of Susquehanna County, there are about 1,100 wells in about 600 fields, in addition to 43 stations that compact the gas to transport it far away.

All these infrastructures are close to homes and schools, and are in the hands of seven companies. This state is traversed by the Marcellus gas basin, one of the three great reservoirs of the resource that has turned the United States into "Frackistan" due to the increasing use of fracking in the oil and gas industry.

In these deposits, the hydrocarbon molecule is trapped in deep, perforated and broken rocks by the heavy injection of a mixture of water, sand and chemical additives, which are considered harmful to health and the environment. In this way, the gas or oil is released. But the technology generates massive volumes of liquid waste that must be treated for recycling and emissions of methane, more polluting than carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming.

“Wells pollute the water with methane, and the gas leaks into the atmosphere.

Many people do not know what is happening, they have no information. I don't feel safe with fracking, ”said Scroggins, who lives in Montrose with her husband, a retired teacher, and has a gas well as a neighbor that operates a kilometer from their home. Fracking has altered the landscape, as the development of the wells has resulted in the presence of dozens of trucks hauling dirt, sand and water.

The companies plant tall steel towers to drill the well, and when the gas comes out it is as if an iron were passing over it, because the ground was visibly flattened. Only the top of the well and the tubes that transport the hydrocarbon flourish, criticize their forced neighbors. The industrialization of these rural areas has made them unattractive, while, activists say, the accumulation of methane can degenerate into explosions or respiratory problems for people.

In its 2015 Annual Energy Prospectus, the state Energy Information Administration indicates that in 2014 the shale sector contributed 11.34 trillion (million million) cubic feet of gas, equivalent to 47 percent of the country's total gas production . Shale oil production, the report adds, was 4.2 million barrels a day last year, equivalent to 49 percent of the country's total oil extraction.

Oil is the main national source of energy, with 36 percent of the total, followed by gas, with 27 percent, and coal, with 19 percent.

In Pennsylvania, gas production jumped from 9,757 cubic feet in 2008 to 3.05 million in 2013. In this state, the cradle of the first American oil boom and hydraulic fracturing, 9,200 wells have been drilled, while the permits granted exceed the 16,000.

The United States is the country that currently exploits shale hydrocarbons most intensively and commercially. This development has been facilitated since the 2005 Energy Policy Law exempted the oil industry from the seven major environmental standards. For this reason, the industry has unleashed a tidal wave of lawsuits around environmental, sanitary and contractual issues, when state regulations were adverse to it.

In September 2012, the US Legislative Congress approved the Oil and Gas Law, known as Law 13, which canceled the power of localities to endorse or veto hydro-fracture permits. After the appeal filed by environmental councils, individuals and organizations, the country's Supreme Court of Justice declared that law unconstitutional, which once again empowered local administrations to use their territorial laws to make decisions on shale development in their jurisdictions.

The commuter constantly bumps into signs on the highway that say "Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful," but what happens on its rural thoroughfares contributes little to that motto. Ray Kimble, a 59-year-old mechanic, can attest to the contradiction with that claim in Dimock, the nearby town where he lives.

He complains to IPS that his town has suffered from water contamination since 2009, due to waste from the gas industry, where he worked as a transporter. “They have destroyed the town.

We don't want them here, ”said Kimble, who alleges that he has a persistent cough and inflamed ankles from gases and contact with you who worked in the sector. Now he refuses to drink the water that comes out of the taps and is dedicated to transporting the resource to families affected by a reported contamination. Dimock is a town of about 1,500 inhabitants and the scene of the highly-awarded documentary "Gasland", by the American Joshua Fox, which exposes the damage caused by fracking and incubated the first legal claims against the so-called "shale lords", which led to in extrajudicial settlements.

Kimble's house is just over 150 meters from a gas well. With shale, "there are short-term gains, but what happens when the fields dry up and the legacy of waste remains?" Activist Tyson Slocum told IPS.

“There remains contaminated water, backflow fluids, transformation of rural agricultural areas affected by the operation of the wells. There are few long-term legal and financial obligations to ensure that the legacy is adequately addressed, ”said this director of the Energy program of the non-governmental Public Citizen. This organization promotes consumer defense and has advised those affected by fracking.

The industry is now facing falling international hydrocarbon prices, contracting financing, and growing opposition from the population to its technology.

In the last eight months, some 400 cities in 28 states have approved vetoes or moratoriums on fracking. The most significant cases occurred in the states of New York, which censored this extraction in December, and Vermont in 2012. “Why don't they put a well next to a politician's house? Citizens do not want it next to our houses, "said Scroggins. “Hopefully a major leak doesn't happen, because it will be devastating. But the industry does not accept having done something wrong, "added the activist.

For Slocum, the states have accommodated themselves to the interests of the industry. "The balance between profits and public health has been debased, the debate on jobs and economic benefits is secondary," he said.

Inter Press Service -IPS Venezuela

Video: Shale gas (May 2022).