Tomgram: Ellen Cantarow, The Frontlines of Fracking
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What kind of world is this? In China, an almost 1,350 square milefreshwater lake — that’s more than four times the size of New York City — recently dried up due to an ongoing drought. In the high Sierra of America’s West, bears have forgone hibernating as a result of (what were once, at least) unseasonably warm conditions. Across the continent in Maine, increasing ocean acidity is thought to be behind the spread of coastal “dead mud” which may have “disastrous implications for clammers, lobstermen, oyster farmers, and others whose livelihoods depend on healthy coastal ecosystems.” Meanwhile, across the globe in Australia, blistering heat chased koalas from the trees and sent many to the hospital, possibly baked 100,000 bats to death, and isthreatening cattle and crops.
In a world wracked by increasing climate chaos, the seemingly appropriate response would be immediate remediation and mitigation efforts. Instead, this world being what it is, we have just the opposite. In the U.S., this means increased coal consumption and a resulting rise in carbon emissions for the first time in years. It means that, despite so much recent damage from “wild weather” flooding all over the country, the Federal Emergency Management Agency often relies on inaccurate flood maps, leaving property owners in jeopardy. It also means the administration of embattled New Jersey Governor Chris Christiepushing to, as the New York Times put it, “thread a 22-mile-long [gas] pipeline through the heart of the Pinelands, a 1.1-million-acre protected expanse of scrub pines, gnarly oaks, and yellow-brown river deltas.”
New Jersey is far from alone when it comes to pipeline peril. Today, TomDispatch regular Ellen Cantarow takes us to the frontlines of fracking. Once, this would have meant a trip to the ancient undulating hills of Wisconsin, which are being despoiled for the silica used in hydraulic fracturing, or the increasingly toxic towns of rural Pennsylvania where such silica and water, as well as a noxious chemical stew, are all forced at high pressure into deep underground deposits of shale. With a gas pipeline snaking toward her hometown, Cantarow points out that the frontline of increasing fossil-fuel use and abuse is everywhere. You don’t need to go looking for a frack fight, anymore. It’s coming looking for you. Nick Turse
No Pipe Dream
Is Fracking About to Arrive on Your Doorstep?
By Ellen Cantarow
For the past several years, I’ve been writing about what happens when big oil and gas corporations drill where people live. “Fracking” — high-volume hydraulic fracturing, which extracts oil and methane from deep shale — has become my beat. My interviewees live in Pennsylvania’s shale-gas fields; among Wisconsin’s hills, where corporations have been mining silica, an essential fracking ingredient; and in New York, where one of the most powerful grassroots movements in the state’s long history of dissent has become ground zero for anti-fracking activism across the country. Some of the people I’ve met have become friends. We email, talk by phone, and visit. But until recently I’d always felt at a remove from the dangers they face: contaminated water wells, poisoned air, sick and dying animals,industry-related illnesses. Under Massachusetts, where I live, lie no methane- or oil-rich shale deposits, so there’s no drilling.
But this past September, I learned that Spectra Energy, one of the largest natural gas infrastructure companies in North America, hadproposed changes in a pipeline it owns, the Algonquin, which runs from Texas into my hometown, Boston. The expanded Algonquin would carry unconventional gas — gas extracted from deep rock formations like shale — into Massachusetts from the great Marcellus formation that sprawls along the Appalachian basin from West Virginia to New York. Suddenly, I’m in the crosshairs of the fracking industry, too.
We all are.