Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Catching up; deep thoughts

Dear Friends,

I realize it's been several weeks since my last post.  First it was due to a tropical vacation, then the holidays hit, and before I knew it, it was mid-January.  My apologies for seeming to drop into a black hole.  Lately, however, I've struggled with what to post.

I started this blog a little more than a year ago, when gas drilling operations in my area began to overwhelm the landscape.  As I watched what was happening around my beloved hometown, I wrestled to find a way to deal with my feelings of helplessness.  To my dismay, many area residents seemed resigned to what was happening.  After a few months of gas drilling on my mind (and in my hearing, in my sights....), it occurred to me that I didn't have to feel helpless--there *was* something I could do.

I put to use my skills as a librarian and created this site to be a sort of "one stop shop" for people like me--people who were concerned about what was happening, wanted to educate themselves about natural gas drilling and network with similar-minded folks.  My goal was to reach the widest possible audience and to make the information easily accessible.  I spent a considerable amount of time researching and identifying authoritative local, state and national resources.  When I started this process, I didn't know beans about fracking, the current means by which natural gas is extracted.  Now, I know more than I wish I did.

I had also never built a blog or linked it to other social media sites, so I had to educate myself on that too.  I created links to other topical blogs and made it easy for visitors to find and contact their legislators or locate the latest information in their newspapers (you don't even have to do the search--click on the link and it's done for you!)

But over the course of the past year as the number of blog/Facebook fans grew, so did the number of drill  sites in my area.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not against gas drilling.  Many people I know are finally out of debt or at the very least, aren't living paycheck to paycheck since they leased their mineral rights or allowed compressor stations to be built on their property.  I'm thankful for that.  But I'm increasingly frightened at the cost of this new-found wealth.

I'm for responsible gas extraction; unfortunately fracking is not a responsible means by which to extract gas.  It's quicker and cheaper.  It also negates the entire marketing campaign by which gas companies insist natural gas is a "cleaner, greener" fuel.  I can assure anyone who believes that piece of fiction that it's just that:  fiction.  Anyone who doubts it need only live next to a drill site...or two.  Or three.

The cost of this new-found wealth is steep and the repercussions far-reaching.  As drilling activity increased, more of our roads were destroyed by the constant stream of heavy equipment and trucks that come with it; state police stings netted hundreds and hundreds of gas truck violations.  More leaks, explosions and "accidents" occurred.  A resident was murdered by a gas company worker.  Jobs were promised; instead hotels were booked solid and new ones built to accomodate workers from out of state.  Hunters were warned they could be stopped and questioned if they inadvertently stepped on land under development by gas companies.  Even our state parks were not immune to the onslaught of the drills.  Then came the recent state elections.  Incredibly, PA residents elected a new governor and other legislators who were "gas friendly" and had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations.  Either people voted against their own self interests...or apathy prevented them from voting at all.

Perhaps I was fooling myself into thinking that I could actually make a difference.  As I look at what's happening around me, it's hard not to feel that the gas companies have won.  And dear readers, I'm having a really hard time coming to terms with that.