Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Always a price

Since this state was created, West Virginia has been on the front line of being used and abused.

It all started with the mass clearing of timber from our virgin valleys. Shortly after, we began to mine coal, and created huge stretches of barrren land that was fit for neither man nor beast. In more recent history we found some oil and gas pockets relatively near the surface.

Now we have learned that Hampshire County is on the fringes of what may be one of the largest gas fields in the world. Yahoo! We are all going to be rich! Whoa boy, don’t let the cart get ahead of the horses. My high school physics teacher had a banner in the front of the room that has stuck with me. It said, “YOU DON’T GET SOMETHING FOR NOTHING”. I have learned over and over that this simple saying could be the most important set of words to the survival of our species.

Everything we do has environmental repercussions. Whether it is throwing a plastic bottle into the trash, digging massive holes in the earth, or dumping enormous amounts of toxic trash into landfills, the air or the streams and oceans, it all has an impact on our planet. And the problem is that this planet is our home!

Now back to the current gas issue. In order to get this gas from the earth, they are going to have to drill down about a mile into the earth into the Marcellus shale, and then use a process called fracking (hydraulic fracture) to get the gas to leave its comfortable home embedded in the rock. This process of fracking has the potential to create some serious problems for the people living within a couple of miles of the drill site.

When they do the fracking, they use as much as 300 tons of extremely toxic chemicals to cause the ground to release the gas, and this process can be repeated as many as 18 times. Much of this chemical is left in the earth, with the potential to move into the ground water. On top of this, if the drill hole encounters gas pockets while drilling into the Marcellus shale, that gas has the potential of entering the groundwater.
As one of my friends said, “Yeah, I can sell the gas rights and make a lot of money, then move somewhere else, or I could choose not to sell the rights, and stay where I am”. Everybody has their own agenda, and in our culture having money seems to be one of the most important measures of success. But at what cost?

As a parent, one of my biggest concerns is that my children be given the potential to have an enjoyable life. How can I do that if the earth beneath our feet is destroyed or made inhabitable, or the water is no longer drinkable?

The people of Hampshire County are going to have to make a difficult decision in the near future. I hope that they spend the time to learn the total implications of allowing the oil and gas companies to drill into the earth near their home.

Remember, you don’t get something for nothing. There is always a price.

--Charlie Streisel

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