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On demagoguery

September 16, 2011

Although this touches on a political hot button, I will stick this in my Skepticism category because it was an amusing combination of credulity and incredulity.

The other day I found an editorial in the Beaver County Times online. Yes, I still check it out from time to time. This particular article was about taxing ‘natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale’, i.e. fracking. Interesting that the Times uses this euphemistic terminology as if to avoid the bad impression fracking has earned, especially in Pennsylvania.

I am aware of some environmental damage that has resulted in PA, so I left a comment with the wiki link to document my problems with fracking. Today, I found a typical conservative’s response from someone calling themselves ‘macalot’. Deriding my documentation as ‘fear mongering’ and ‘half truths’. Of course, macalot could not be bothered to provide any citations for his claims about water safety or property values, but that’s ok. I’m supposed to ‘do my homework’ and not ‘repeat what others have told you’.

Needless to say, it’s funny to me.  🙂  Not only does this fellow not even attempt to address the information from the wiki, he attacks it baselessly, then makes some baseless claims and refuses to back his up. I suppose by the same token, I could dismiss his ‘half truths’ myself…but I suppose that would be repeating what others have told me, heh. Credulity and incredulity. I see this often when it comes to politics and religion. It’s very selective incredulity – like his, towards documented fact – paired with extreme credulity towards the POV that suits him.

So, these are the facts relevant to Pennsylvania, and as facts, they can stand by themselves.

However, heavy trucks and tankers crack the pavement and cause potholes. Such road damage is expensive for municipalities to repair.[128] Engineers in Pennsylvania Department of Transportation have documented damage caused by the heavy trucks and tankers. Damages include but are not limited to the crushing of drain pipes, potholes, rutting, and other such pavement fatigue failures. The cost of these repairs are often much higher than the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is allowed to charge for use of the roads. In addition to causing road damage, when heavy trucks and tankers drive over farmland, they compact the subsoil, which increases runoff and decreases crop productivity for years. Ecologists also have concerns about the ecological impact on forests when trees are cut down to make way for access roads. Ornithologists have already documented declining populations of woodland birds.[128]

So, the PA DoT has documented road damage, and while they’re apparently allowed to charge a certain amount for expected road damage, evidently they can’t charge enough to actually make up for the damage caused by the industry. You’d think a sensible state gov’t would set it down that whatever damage your industry causes, they can at least pay to fix, but no. Sweet deal that must be. I wonder which Republicans are responsible for it, although I wouldn’t put it past Ed Rendell to have signed off.

It is alleged that gas drilling in Northeast Pennsylvania caused methane to infiltrate up to 15 homes in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, via groundwater contamination. This conclusion came from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, though it is disputed by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp which was cited for causing the contamination. It is also disputed by other long-term area residents who have noted that high methane levels had been present for more than 60 years prior to hydrofracking in Dimock. [134] Northeast Pennsylvania is not the only place to experience groundwater contamination following commencement of gas drilling operations.[135]

Note here, the allegation as it’s worded comes from the PA DEP, not some biased non-state environmental organization. The corporations and some local residents are the ones trying to dismiss it, although I wonder if it’s normal to be able to set your water on fire out there. Maybe it is; but if so, I wonder why they wouldn’t have complained about it before.

Also interesting – the corporations at times take surface water without a permit, and don’t much care about their contaminated runoff:

Chesapeake’s (The gas Company) countered with a No-Drilling Pledge for the NYC watershed area, and five miles around the watershed, however, opposes any legislation like that presented by Jim Brennan, D-Brooklyn (Brooklyn, NY), October 2009.[131] The Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which oversees this other portion of the watershed, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, issued orders to suspend operations at several wells in May 2008 because surface water was being diverted by the drillers without the necessary permits, and precautions to protect streams from contaminated runoff were questioned.[132] The practices of “land men” who acquire leases for drilling and extraction rights have also been widely questioned.[133]

Again, it’s that dastardly PA DEP coming to the rescue.

So, this is the documented record of corporate recklessness, their interest in illegal activities over getting permits, and the damage they do to roads, the land, and the water supply. Hopefully there will be enough folks in PA who are interested in their rights and their land and water to put a stop to these activities, enough at least to overrule the likes of ‘macalot’. Best of luck if not.

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