Tag Archives: Natural Gas Development

No, Hell No!

Magpie In Flight

Michael Patrick McCarty

Silt, Colorado

February 4, 2012

Our house has a big picture window on the upper level, facing south. I often sit behind it before the sun arrives, with coffee, looking. I like to observe the sun’s first searching rays wake up the mountain peaks above us, each one receiving it’s due as the sun climbs skyward. I study my view, on the lookout for the flick of a mule deer’s ear in the pasture to our west, the prance of a coyote as he heads for the safety of protective cover, or the twitch of a magpie’s tail in the apricot tree in our garden.

For more than a couple of years, in fact an eternity, I have watched in horror as the natural gas drilling rigs arrived and deployed their forces on the brushy slopes and hills across the Colorado River. Ever closer, they dot the landscape of my picture window in increasing numbers, and fill my mind with increasing dread and impending doom. I wish they would go away. I wish I could wave my hand and wish them away. Just go away, I pray.

When we purchased our property, we were told that our area had been explored in the past and it was found that it was not economically feasible to recover what gas deposits existed below our feet. No one then talked of the many impacts of heavy truck traffic, the legalities of natural gas leases, and the harsh realities of the split estate. Then came hydraulic fracturing and our world changed. We did not see it coming. We were not consulted.

Soon, our neighborhood was bustling with gas workers and pick up trucks, and the acrid smell of diesel fuel and angst left hanging on the wind. Our roads and highways became suddenly congested, property values exploded, and great plans were made. The mad fool’s rush was on. We began hearing the cries from the people and landowners in the direct line of fire. This is not right, they said. How can this be, they shouted? How can you hurt us so badly?

I remember sitting behind my window as the first uncontrolled well fire belched huge clouds of rolling black smoke blowing east across my view. I rose and stood transfixed, mortified, slapped out of my chair with a wave of revulsion and outrage with fist in the air. How can this happen, I asked? Who else is watching this? Will anybody be held accountable? To what account?

The economy has crashed along with our housing prices and the nation’s hopes. Another boom, then bust. It has slowed the industry down to some degree, as has some new environmental regulation. Yet, the damage continues. We need the jobs they say. I’m sorry, but we do not have ears for this line of argument.

We hear about well water that smells of noxious chemicals and can be ignited at the tap. We hear of strange skin rashes and people getting sick. Some move to get out-of-the-way. Some abandon their homes and run. And still the rigs come. We were told of an industry insider who claimed that they would frack every square mile in the state of Colorado, and the west. They are sure of it. They are proud of it. Drill baby drill, full speed ahead and damn the torpedos. It’s mom’s apple pie, the colors red, white, and blue, and the american way. Stay out of our way, they say. We have the law on our side.

I want to know why no one asked me how I felt about it, or inquired of my friend the  magpie. I want to know why the gas executives feel it is “O.K.” for me to breathe the bad air from their vent stacks, or to suffer the sight of ravaged hillsides and the land scars that they leave behind. I want someone to look me in the eye and explain to me why I must bear the blinding lights of their rig towers and tall cranes at night, beaming directly into my being and destroying my peace of mind. I want to know why they think it is acceptable for me to worry about my health and the health of my friends and family. Give me a reason why you are prepared to jeopardize the lives of my kids and their kids and the environment that sustains them.

I have a simple answer for them, had they bothered to ask if I would allow them in our neighborhood. The answer is no, hell no! Can I make it any clearer? How dare you to presume otherwise.

I also beg a question of them. How about this one? Just who on god’s green earth do you think you are?

I have a suggestion too. Take your proprietary cocktails of poisons and death and leave. Get out of my backyard, which is vast and indomitable. It does not belong to you. Get out of my community and keep on going until you run right out of the west and drown in the sea.

There is a special place in hell just for you, and your seat at that table is your’s forever.

Take your fracking fluids with you!


You Might Also See: We’re Fracked, and Other Horrid Tales!

Michael Patrick McCarty

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Update August 25, 2013

As stated on https://pirtekusafranchise.com/franchise-opportunity/the-process/ this site,  the opposition to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, continues to grow exponentially with each passing day. On August 22, 2013, a coalition of 276 environmental and consumer organizations delivered a petition to the White House signed by almost 3/4 of a million people calling for an end to fracking on all public lands.

This is a most encouraging turn of events, and far removed from the anxious, lonely days when so many of us heard our small, insignificant voices crying from the wilderness of the public grounds.

Well, not any more.

There is world changing power in numbers, and I have no doubt that the movement will continue to grow as all of the adverse environmental and social effects become more evident.

I remain a steadfast opponent, for any number of reasons. In fact I can go much farther than that.

I have heard of fracking being compared to “a dirty bomb”, for the numerous radioactive isotopes and other contaminated products that result from this insidious and dangerous process.

The human mind has an amazing capacity for denial, and “out of sight – out of mind” seems to be a mantra built deeply into the collective mind.

Never is this more apparent in this liquid, sleeping monster beneath our feet. Why, for example are so many people so easily convinced that the deadly chemicals used in the fracking process are of no concern, because they are injected thousands of feet or more below the surface of the earth? Is it somehow O.K. to poison the ground water there, because we are told to believe that it will never contaminate our drinking water? Is it somehow right to destroy something, simply because it is far, far away?

I will not take the time here to argue about odds and statistics or the general opportunities for contamination. I won’t delve into the secret chemical compositions of the fracking fluids, or the politics of leases or good old boy deals or the public’s right to know. Like many of us, I already know far more about these kind of things than I ever cared to know. I no longer trust, because the public trust was sold away long before we raised our heads.

I prefer to get right to the heart of the matter, which in my humble opinion is quite obvious.

If something does not change, fracking will become the most devastating environmental holocaust ever perpetrated upon the human race. There – I said it.

Now that’s a head spinning mouthful of “no, tell me what you really think”!

It will affect more people than the atmospheric A-bomb tests, Chernobyl, and even yes, Fukushima, which by the way has not even begun yet to lay us low in a pulsating and inescapable cloud of darkness. It’s a horrifying pretense.

I hope I am very, very wrong, About fracking, and all of it. Perhaps I will not live long enough to see its deadly fingers touch the world like I know it could. I am but one individual, but I cry for the children and the poisoned world left for other’s to bear when I am gone.

The hour has grown very, very late, but maybe, just maybe, it is not too late to pull back from the precipice. It’s time to get involved in the anti-fracking campaign, and I don’t mean tomorrow, but today. Tell whoever you can to help stop the madness now.

The public lands belong to us – to everyone, and they must be managed for the generations to come. They are our birthright, won in blood, and the legacy of a free and independent people.

They are not held in trust for others to despoil and poison.

No More Fracking! No, Hell No!

We’re Fracked!, and Other Horrid Tales

Last week my wife and I attended a meeting regarding one energy company’s plans for natural gas drilling in our community near Silt, Colorado, on Colorado’s western slope. The small meeting room was packed, the tension high. The meeting had been announced in the paper on short notice, without regard to the previous requests of local community contacts for increased communication and appropriate notifications. Area residents wanted to know just what was up, and how new drilling operations would affect their property and their lives. They were ready to do battle to protect themselves from the onslaught.

The top executive and main spokesman fairly well diffused the situation by stating that their would be no new drilling activities north of the Colorado River in 2012. The public crowd seemed stunned, deflated, and perplexed. Had we not been told that drilling and fracking would occur in our area this year, and that it was imminent?

Most of the natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations in our area have taken place south of Highway I-70 and the Colorado River. You can check for a recreational dispensary near me, here! The activities have been and continue to be intense. There have been consequences and environmental insults too numerous to mention here. Just recently it was announced that the Garfield County Commissioners have moved to complete a study exploring a link between natural gas development and methane in the shallow groundwater deposits. An earlier phase of the study led one geological consultant to conclude that methane levels were increasing in domestic water wells because of gas development. It was later found that methane and methane compounds turned up in all six groundwater monitoring wells.

So, as you can see, I for one am extremely glad that there will be no drilling near my house in 2012. For now, I, along with others, can breathe a sigh of relief. We can wait until 2013 or later for the industry to poison our water wells, foul our once glorious sweet mountain air, and run us off the road with heavy tanker trucks sloshing about with thousands of gallons of hazardous waste on board. Recently, a tanker truck overturned and spilled an estimated 500 gallons of produced water, which is found deep underground with oil and gas deposits and comes to the surface along will hydraulic fracturing fluids. The spill narrowly missed a contamination of the Colorado River. We should all feel good that a crisis was averted and the spill team was johnny on the spot, you see. The trout in the river are a bit nervous though.

No one really knows why they will not work on our side of the river this year. It could be because natural gas prices are way down and they will have to wait until they rise again. It could be that the previous exploratory wells have proved unworthy for production to be economically feasible. They are still studying that one, we are told. Or, it could be that they are simply too busy already with there ongoing operations south of the river, gleefully fracking away. They did mention briefly that there is ongoing litigation related to their exploratory drilling operations on the north side. One family feels that they were made sick. They had already been forced to flee. Could that have something to do with the ceasing of drilling here, pray tell?

I listened to the industry executive describe their ongoing and future plans. He was a true expert in the art of deflecting the discussion away from the heart of the matter. No doubt this was a skill which had helped him to get where he was on the corporate ladder. I studied his demeanor, his expressions, and body language. I watched him bite his lip and spit out his words, albeit quite professionally. His utter contempt for the general public was not concealable. It was obvious that he did not want to be there.

I sat quietly as his minions and underlings answered our questions, quite eager to please the boss. They were experts at deflection too. Their job was to answer it right, without saying too much or providing opportunity for alarm or additional questions. They were prepared and ready and they knew just what to say. They were happy to answer, without apology. All was right in their world. I looked at all of them and thought that there is no doubt that they have drunk the Kool-Aid. They are perfectly possessed, but by what is open for debate. For them it is a righteous endeavor and I do not believe they are capable of hearing anything we would like to say.

Before attending the meeting, I read a newspaper article that discussed the fact that the frequency and number of spills and releases attributed to the natural gas industry in our state had dropped significantly in 2011 compared to 2010. A specialist with the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission (COGCC) had praised the industry for it’s improving record. Their report stated that 54 spills and ongoing releases were documented in 2011, compared to 99 incidents in 2010. However, the COGCC conceded that their five field inspectors had a difficult time covering the large northwest quadrant of Colorado – and that spills and releases could occur without being reported. They also reported that total drilling activity for 2011 was considerably down.

Spills are handled differently in each case. Sometimes, clean dirt is poured on top of an area where a spill has taken place, and then “blended” until the contaminant level meets appropriate standards. In other words, they are diluted and left in the hopes that they degrade over time, as they migrate down to groundwater.

I don’t know about others, but somehow this does not provide me comfort nor speak well of the natural gas industry. Am I to celebrate the fact that “only” 54 spills were documented, and that many others are most probably unreported?  Does anyone know exactly what was spilled and the details of all of their potential health effects? Am I to assume that my water well or the well of my neighbors will not be contaminated, because someone said it would be O.K.? I know that I am not the only one asking these questions. I hope that more and more people will ask them also.

During the meeting I asked about the newly passed law regarding the disclosure of the content of fracking fluids. One of the representatives was happy to answer. He assured me that it was a good law, and that they were happy to comply. They had in fact been already complying. Of course, they still did not have to reveal any formulas that could be designated as “proprietary”. Indeed.

He assured me that only about 1% of the fluid mixture contained anything to be concerned about. Really. So in other words, about 1% of the fracking fluids contained something to be concerned about. Huh?

The boss stepped in to purport the joys and harmlessness of fracking fluids. He said in a nutshell that the industry was already addressing the concerns of the public and was working to stay ahead of the curve. The composition of fracking fluids were becoming more “green”. He projected that within about six years the standard for fracking fluids would result in a mixture that would present very little for the public to worry about.

Again, – really? So, for at least six years I do have something to worry about. But not too much, because only 1% of the fracking fluids contain anything that might harm me. One percent equals one of a hundred. Might you be aware of potential harmful effects of some chemicals in concentrations of say, one in a million? Or how about, one in a billion. That’s a very small number for an effect that may produce a result that can be devastating to human health. Of course, there are some bad things that we do not have to tell you about. Well, I feel better. You can frack a lot of wells in six years. No wonder they are working as fast as they can.

After the general discussion, I questioned an engineer about the ins and outs of well casing design, which he was obviously very into and happy to discuss. He told me that their casings were double and triple lined with pipe and concrete. There was no way that the shallow ground water table could be affected, because there was no chance for a leak or cross contamination.

Really? I guess he had not read of the recent findings concerning the lax and inconsistent federal oversight of the drilling industry on public lands. Only six percent of violations resulted in monetary fines over 13 years, totaling less than $275,000. A total of 113 major violations cited inadequate well-casing or cementing. These procedures are a key defense against groundwater contamination. Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey stated that “This report indicates that confidence in the oversight of drilling on public lands should be limited, at best”.

Later, I pointed to the big wall map of our area and asked the boss about the possible locations of possible pipe lines on the north side of the river. He looked at me kind of funny, and it seemed like he did not want to answer. Finally, he waved his hand across the map a time or two. He then said something like “the exact location isn’t that important”. “Funny thing”, I said. I told him it was kind of important to me,as he had just swept his finger very close to or directly through my property. He turned and walked away.

So, folks, how to you tell when one of the local gas industry reps is probably lying. You guessed it, their lips are moving. They must lie. The truth does damage. From my point of view, one spill is one spill too many. One percent of anything bad is one percent too much. One improperly cemented well casing is one mistake past acceptable.

This meeting could have happened in any fire station or town hall across the united states. There might not be too much we can do to stop them. My advice is to start screaming and keep screaming loudly. Scream until someone gets the message. Keep out of our neighborhoods. You are not welcome here.

Take a moment to ask the good citizens of Pavillion, Wyoming what they might think of hydraulic fracturing. They are screaming right now.