Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Looking for Gas in All the Wrong Places



I am currently reading ANGLER, a biography of Dick Cheney by Barton Gellman.  I knew the former power behind the throne was a train wreck, but to read about his many misdeeds convinced me that he is one of the worst human beings to ever gain power in the USA.


On August 19, I joined some 200 people at the Creative Alliance to watch the Josh Fox documentary GASLAND. It was hosted by Clean Water Action and featured a panel discussion afterwards.  I had seen portions of the film before, and Josh Fox has appeared on Democracy Now several times.  However, what I found out it is

that Halliburton is behind many of the fracking operations, and Dirty Dick had oil and gas companies made exempt in 2005 from the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.  It has to be one of the great crimes of our times to destroy water supplies for profit.  


It is devastating to see on camera how the lives of people and animals are being destroyed.  Thanks for standing up all you people of Andes, New York.







Opinionator - A Gathering of Opinion From Around the Web

August 22, 2011, 9:30 pm

Looking for Gas in All the Wrong Places



It was a big week in Andes, N.Y. Last Thursday, the New York Post devoted a full page to the small Catskill village, describing in some detail the Andes Hotel, the surrounding “rolling corn and hay fields,” the affordable housing, the Hunting Tavern Museum, the country store, the coffee shop, the tea shop, the farmer’s market, the art galleries and antique stores, the occasional celebrity resident, the extraordinary natural beauty — everything that led the Post, in an earlier article about great day-trip destinations, to dub Andes Woodstock-as-it-used-to-be.

And then, the very next evening, there was another event that provided an ironic counterpoint to that summer valentine. One hundred sixty Andeans, including the town supervisor, members of the town board and candidates running for a seat on the board, met in the school gym to hear a presentation on the geology of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” (the process of extracting natural gas by blasting underground rock formations with a huge volume of chemical-laced water pumped down at very high levels of pressure) and to express their views about what fracking would mean if it came to the town.

The first thing to say is that 160 is an enormous number given that the town’s population is 1,600 and residents weren’t given much notice of the meeting. Were a corresponding percentage of New Yorkers to turn up at a public hearing, there would be no place large enough to hold the more than 800,000 attendees. The second thing to say is that many stayed for the entire three hours and 40 minutes, the length of a short Wagner opera.

The first hour and a quarter was taken up by a sober, pretty much even-handed, explanation of the hydraulics of fracking, the locations in New York of the most promising sites for drilling, the effects on the landscape, the dangers of leakage, explosions, contamination and discharge of radiation, the available methods for containing or mitigating these dangers and the effectiveness (not yet very great) of those methods. As a life-long academic, I was amazed at the sustained and respectful attention of the audience members, many of whom (it turned out) already knew most of what they were being told. It is a rule in my profession that if you talk longer than 50 minutes you will lose your audience. On this occasion, the patience displayed was extraordinary and it extended into the question and answer period, which lasted another 75 minutes.

Then came the evening’s centerpiece, three-minute prepared statements delivered by townspeople who had signed up in advance. It is often said that the opponents of fracking are mostly second-home-owners and weekenders who selfishly prefer their enjoyment of a bucolic landscape to the needs of the long-termers who came before them. But the speakers who stood up to have their say represented every sector of the population — farmers, small-business owners, real estate agents, six-generation natives, newcomers, artists, musicians.

As different as they were, the message was the same and it was eloquently proclaimed: “What we have here is unique and beautiful.” “We have to take action to keep the town we love.” “We must take our destiny into our own hands.” “Andes could become the model for the country.” One of the speakers was a local and a folksinger. She made up a song on the spot and taught it to everyone. The refrain was “If we work together / Then we can make it better.”

Interspersed with the expressions of love, hope and resolution were substantive points of anxiety. No one knows how much contaminated water will escape and where it will go. Even if we stop it here other towns might surrender and we could see a truck kicking up dust and leaking sand every 60 seconds, seven days a week. The noise level will make conversation impossible; no more sitting on the porch of the hotel or the coffee shop. Property values will plummet by 50 to 75 percent (this from a long-time Realtor). Banks are reluctant to write mortgages on property that is being drilled on. There might be limited short-term benefits to a few, but the boom will be followed by a bust, and when it is all over “people won’t want to live here anymore.”

There was agreement that regulation wasn’t the answer, first because no regulation could prevent the disasters that come along inevitably with a project this large, and second because the state couldn’t be counted on either to pass or enforce regulations: “I can’t trust an industry that has got itself exempted from the air and clean water act.” The position that emerged at the end of the evening was simple and unequivocal: “You can’t regulate them but you can ban them if you are sophisticated enough legally and if you remain strong and stay the course.” Every statement was greeted with loud applause. One speaker called for a straw poll. “Anyone in favor of fracking?” Not a hand was raised.

“Inspiring” is not a word I usually use, but this evening was inspiring. The devotion to community, the civic-mindedness, the sheer intelligence displayed by everyone who spoke was a more powerful argument for coming to Andes than the beauties and attractions listed by the Post. But the argument will come to nothing, and everything the Post celebrates will be no more, if the rural birthright of Andes is sold for a mess of fracking.

·                                 Copyright 2011 The New York Times Company


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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