Monday, August 06, 2012

Under the Surface: The ugliness of hydrofracking

WATKINS GLEN, New York - "Under The Surface: Fracking, Fortunes and the fate of Marcellus Shale" is an important book coming out at a critical time in New York.

Within weeks, it's possible the governor of New York will give the green light to limited hydrofracking for natural gas in a handful of Southern New York townships.

If he does, and the drilling starts, the state will be in for the same kind of environmental and health disaster that goes by the name Pennsylvania.

Journalist-Author Tom Wilber does a good job of walking through the history of Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania, telling the story in chronological style and sometimes in almost maddening detail.

But that same maddening detail also paints a complete picture, which most observers don't have and can't have because the incidents of toxic chemical spills, poisoned water wells, gas well blowouts - even deaths - are scattered about the state and rarely make huge headlines.

Yet when taken together, the indictment of the hydrofracking process - and the companies doing the work - is overwhelming.

Wilber's book makes it clear that hydrofracking for natural gas is not safe and probably cannot be done safely, not matter how loudly proponents shout.

Author Tom Wilber
One criticism of the book will likely be that Wilber lets the gas companies off the hook a little lightly in spots - a holdover from his days as an objective news reporter in New York State. His fairness doesn't obscure the incredible damage that has been done, however. It might give the book more credibility with people still on the fence about hydrofracking.

He clearly shows through interviews, data, and observation that property values have gone to near zero in many places, how greedy (and willing to lie) gas corporations seem to be and outlines the often bumbling efforts of Pennsylvania regulators and other key players to handle the all-too-slick, slick-water hydrofracking companies.

The most depresssing news in the book is that all the problems are getting even worse since the change of administrations in Pennsylvia.

"Under the Surface" was published in 2012 by the Cornell University Press.

It should be read soon, in case NY Governor Andrew Cuomo decides he needs gas company money for his planned 2016 campaign for President of the U.S.

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