Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fracking reality

Last week, a group of us from Hampshire County Independent Network—Jim Dodgins, Windy Cutler, and myself—joined Brent Walls, the Upper Potomac Manager for the Potomac Riverkeepers, in a tour of a natural gas well where the process of hydraulic fracture, or “fracking,” had been used.

The well was not in operation, but had the capacity to be linked to a network of wells in this region. There is a pipeline nearby.

The well sat on about a two-acre flat round space, covered with gravel and carved out of a ridge, near the top. Brent told us that fracking operations usually take more space. But the trees had been cut to the top of the ridge, so there was capacity to expand. Brent also pointed out the fine sand that had been used in the fracking process, in a small circle a dozen paces from the wellhead.

Just below the well you could see the outlines of about a quarter-acre pond that had been covered up. We wondered if the liner that held the toxic mix of chemicals and water used in the fracking process had been buried with the pond.

There are many questions that surround the fracking process, the subject of at least two draft laws that will be considered in the upcoming regular session of the West Virginia legislature, beginning next month. It is our responsibility as citizens to learn what we can about this process, which is just beginning to boom in this Marcellus shale region, and which has the potential to cause such catastrophic damage to our drinking water, without which life as we know it ceases to exist—the reason New York state just declared a 6-month moratorium on the fracking process, while their legislature investigates it further.

To help with local education on this issue, HCIN will sponsor a viewing of the documentary film, “Gasland,” at the Hampshire County public library in Romney, Monday evening, January 17th at 6 pm. Brent Walls will be there to answer any questions you may have afterwards. I hope you can join us.

Update: Here's a link to a Google map, helpfully sent by Brent, showing the location of the library:,-78.757537&spn=0.001122,0.002393&z=19


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--Michael Hasty

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