Something Important To Me

It is 2017 and we now have a new President, I wish him the best of luck.

With that being said, I am concerned about this recent article I read:

“Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of Interior, on Tuesday said he would consider an expansion of energy drilling and mining on federal lands but would ensure sensitive areas remain protected.

The former Navy SEAL sought to outline a measured approach to the job of managing America’s national parks, forests and tribal lands during a four-hour Senate confirmation hearing that was mostly cordial, lacking some of the hot-tempered grilling that has marked other sessions to vet Trump’s cabinet nominees.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-congress-zinke-idUSKBN1511DQ

Here’s another article that suggests there might be drilling within National parks:

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-energy-nationalparks-idUSKBN14V1EP

Donald Trump ran under the tagline of “Make America Great Again”, but America’s outdoors and parks are already magnificent, I would argue that America’s most unbelievable and majestic asset is the varying landscapes and parks that it offers. For all of us that work hard every week, it is so wonderful to sneak out onto a trail or hop into a boat onto a creek or river, this beauty is the perfect counterweight to the Walmarts, Sunocos, and McDonalds we see on every corner.

Logically, I do not understand why it is important that we open up national parks for drilling because our current gas prices are super low due to the overwhelming supply that already exists. In fact, the only reason prices recently nudged up a little is because OPEC is reducing supply ( https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-30/opec-said-to-agree-oil-production-cuts-as-saudis-soften-on-iran) and several US suppliers closed wells due to the lack of unprofitable operations with the low oil prices (http://www.offshore-mag.com/articles/print/volume-76/issue-6/gulf-of-mexico/low-oil-prices-continue-to-take-toll-on-drilling.html). Supplying oil does NOT seem like it is a problem, in fact, it seems like oil supply is the problem, there is too much and it is driving down the price too much and no one is making money.

But let’s assume that we are now very worried about oil supply, is fracking the right answer? Well, people need to first consider the earth quakes. Oklahoma does a lot of fracking and as their fracking has increased, so have their earthquakes. Earthquakes and Oklahoma are two things you do not normally associate with each other, for good reason, because in 2008, only 2 earthquakes occurred. However, once fracking began picking up, that number rose to 889 in 2015 and was 572 as of November 2016 ( http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/11/07/oklahoma-earthquake-fracking-well/93447830/).

The earthquakes are pretty small and maybe that’s just an Oklahoma thing. Someone might say, “if fracking is done right, it is perfectly fine, it can be totally safe”. That might actually be true, but the problem is that people do the fracking and people have an amazing capacity to make mistakes. We know the big issues like the BP Oil Well Explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, we know the Exxon Valdez, but even more common are dumb truck crashes and spills that cause the toxic wastewater to spill out into lakes and streams. For example:

This article happened in my township in Pennsylvania:

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/marcellusshale/2014/04/22/Washington-County-crash-sends-fracking-water-in-stream/stories/201404220103

Here’s a Washington Post article about wastewater somehow leaking from storage wells:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/05/11/this-mystery-was-solved-scientists-say-chemicals-from-fracking-wastewater-can-taint-fresh-water-nearby/?utm_term=.a43a6cd85ef3

Here’s an article about wastewater spilling from a drill site and wiping out a species of fish in Kentucky:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/28/fracking-fluid-kentucky-fish_n_3832139.html

Here’s a Popular Mechanics article about a Pennsylvania well site that overflowed, which caused the toxic water to spill everywhere and get into a local creek and possibly in resident’s drinking wells.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/a6597/pennsylvania-fracking-accident-what-went-wrong-5598621/

This last site is admittedly some conservationist concerned about fracking, but the list of Pennsylvania creeks (14 of them) harmed by fracking wastewater spills checks out:

Big Poisons, No Plan: List of PA Streams with Frack Fluid Spills

My last problem with all of this is that once the companies drill this stuff, they leave. Do you know when you buy a home in Pittsburgh, you are encouraged to buy Mine Subsidence Insurance? My realtor said, “Yeah, people have mined all under Pittsburgh for over 200 years and chances are there are mines under your home or near your home. Sometimes those mines collapse and the land caves in and that really will mess up your house, you can buy Mine Subsidence Insurance to get money if that happens to you.” I could not possibly conceive that the scenario she outlined was actually possible, but sure enough, here’s Pennsylvania’s website encouraging residents to buy it:

http://www.dep.state.pa.us/msiHomeowners/

These companies disappear, they do not stick around to clean up the mess, I never received any benefit from this mining under my house, but I did inherit the possibility that my house may cave in and now have to pay more to protect this asset.

As you know, I love the outdoors, I love hiking and fishing and I have my own personal experience with gas drilling and how it negatively impacted a park that I enjoy. I was walking through Mingo Creek Park on a trail with Benny and Rosie. All of the sudden, the trails smelled terrible, like methane gas. I could hear the earth bubbling and hissing and I could not figure out what the hell was going on. I looked deep into some pricker bushes (they call them jagger bushes in Pittsburgh) and found this marker, the sound and presumably the smell was emerging near this sign. Turn on your volume and hear for yourself.

I crawled into the bushes, found the company name and tried to call them to notify them of the issue. The line was disconnected, the company no longer exists, but we still have the problem, gas polluting the air, who know what it can do to the environment or if it is flammable, but it is still there is you want to see it.

img_0529

So, please Mr. President, think twice before we drill in National parks. When people say drilling is safe and it does not harm the environment, that is total bull, it happens all the time and this land must be protected, it is the one thing that everyone agrees makes America great already.

4 thoughts on “Something Important To Me

  1. Appreciated your thoughtful, well documented article about the push for increased oil and gas drilling in our national parks. Not only do we need to continue to protest projects like the Keystone Pipeline which threatens water supplies, but stricter regulations requiring companies to put up financial assurances need to be put in place so funds for closing leaky pipes like you uncovered are available.

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