August 22, 2011

Drilling for gold with silver

Grassroots groups and plenty of ordinary citizens are losing their patience with the WV legislature for its failure so far to regulate Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, which can have all kinds of negative consequences for citizens, landowners, taxpayers and the natural environment.

A number of groups joined together today in the state capitol for a well-attended press conference on the subject. You know it's a good press conference when the reporters outnumber the speakers and this would definitely qualify.

Some speakers were landowners who told gut wrenching stories about damage to health, family and property and even the loss of a beloved home. Others addressed broader issues.

Aside from compelling stories, for me the stickiest soundbite had to do with water, which is something that will be trashed in massive quantities in the hyraulic fracking process used in Marcellus drilling. As one speaker put it, "Water is life. Everyone knows that."

Water is likely to be the most valuable commodity (and it's really sad that water is becoming a commodity) in the coming century. The speaker predicted that water will continue to be a precious and declining resource long after the drilling is done. Squandering water in this way is like "using gold to drill for silver."

Here's my take on the issue. If memory serves, F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there were no second acts in American life. I don't think that's the case. The Marcellus Shale issue gives WV leaders something like a second chance to have some control over how powerful extractive industries treat the state and its people. State leaders had the same chance 100 or so years ago and blew it.

In their defense, it probably would have been hard for a state politician living in the 1880s to imagine the abuses and exploitation the coal industry would inflict on the state. Current lawmakers have no such excuse.

GO LONG. E.J. Dionne Jr. advises President Obama to try something other than capitulation here.

RELIGIOUS RIGHT: the sequel.

A WORTHY SUBJECT. This item on the art of airplane sleeping speaks to my condition as it is yet another valuable art I haven't mastered.


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