By Bob Quarteroni
So, sanity to the north of us has been joined by sanity to the south of us, leaving an island of environmental lunacy here in Pennsyl(less)vania.
That’s because Maryland has joined New York in banning fracking, putting the good of the environment and its people above the good of the gas companies, the lawmakers sucking – tick-like — campaign money off of them, and landowners reaping rewards for puncturing the land.
And this was a real shocker because Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, is a rock-ribbed pro-business Republican.
But in a rare non-partisan — and eminently sensible — move, he signed a bill totally banning fracking in the state, saying “The possible environmental risks of fracking simply outweigh any potential benefits…”
Maryland follows New York, which in 2015 became the first state with significant shale gas potential to ban fracking. The Empire State’s decision came after seven years of extensive study of the environmental and health impact of fracking.
Which leaves us in the middle, bloated with gas but light on political will, commonsense and environmental concern.
But you say, you are dead wrong. Fracking is a good thing. Look at the jobs, look at the low natural gas prices, look at the economic development, look at the money flowing across the commonwealth from this mass gas dash.
To which I say, look at the drinking water contamination, health care costs, wastewater disposal mess, habitat destruction, methane pollution and its impact on climate change, air pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals, gas explosion blowout dangers and fracking-induced earthquakes.
That list could easily be tripled but you get the general idea of the true fun facts of fracking here in Gasland. The whole bloated mess is nicely summed up by Environment America.
“Over the past decade, fracking has spread rapidly, leaving a trail of contaminated water, polluted air, and marred landscapes in its wake. However, the true costs of fracking…are likely to be borne by the public, rather than the oil and gas industry. And as with the damage done by previous extractive booms, the public may experience these costs for decades to come.”
Aware of all this and more, both New York and Maryland did the right thing, and banned fracking.
Here? Just the opposite. Gov. Wolf, once called the most liberal governor in the nation by Inside.Gov, has drilled countless holes in that now hollow claim.
In late March, he released a report from a study that found that Pennsylvania could support as many as four more ethane cracker plants, along with the one already ok’d in Beaver County.
And these cracker plants are such fun things.
According to Triblive.com, the proposed plant Royal Dutch Shell might build in Beaver County “would have the potential to rank among the top 10 air polluters in an area struggling with federal limits, based on estimates in its application for a state air permit.”
How a liberal like Wolf could have flopped on his back and started acting like a loyal spaniel for the gas industry leads to some interesting speculation. Worry about his political future? Realpolitiks? Industry pressure? We can only guess.
But he’s all in on it, that’s for sure. Instances abound.
On Wolf’s Watch, the Department of Environmental Protection, responding to Right-to-Know requests, reported that it had approved 47 new natural gas power plants since the beginning of 2014.
As Will Bunch said in Philly.com, said “Pennsylvania should ban fracking — but that clearly won’t happen in the near future, not with so many members of our thoroughly corrupt legislature still milking the cash cow of Big Oil and Gas.”
Wolf’s lapdog act isn’t reserved for just the energy companies, he’s also being tickled in the belly by his fellow traveler, Donald Trump.
In a Pittsburgh speech at a fracking conference last September Trump outlined his scorched-earth policy, promising to lift environmental regulations and open federal lands to oil and gas production.
“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy and allow this wealth to pour into our communities — including right here in Pennsylvania. The shale energy revolution will unleash massive wealth for American workers and families.”
So, while we’re sandwiched by two going-clean states, we’re also saddled with two going-nowhere-on-the environment political big dogs, barking out miasmas to choke us all.
What can we do?
We have to channel the nascent grass-roots fervor that Trump’s election has aroused and use that energy to stand up to the power brokers, the pay-to-play politicians, the turncoat governors, the powerful lobbyists and the deep pocketed energy companies.
And we have to be willing to pay more — and I have no idea how much more that would be – for natural gas if we hope to have the wherewithal to hold the energy companies to more stringent operating guidelines, to hire sufficient enforcement personnel, to mitigate the environmental messes the companies inevitably cause and to keep fighting for clean renewable energy sources as an alternative to the gas blast.
What else can we do?
Especially when you consider the state of confusion we live in – the dirty meat in a clean gas-free sandwich — where the “most liberal governor” in the nation has to learn an environmental lesson from a staunchly conservative Republican governor
Forget political labels, just color Wolf opaque to reason and very, very stupid for not seeing the environmental light, as Maryland has so clearly done.