I just returned from a presentation by our new neighbors, Mountaineer Keystone. They were kind enough to come out to Hiram and offer a presentation with a time for questions and answers.
The evening began with a presentation from OOGEEP on the benefits of hydraulic fracturing in our neighborhood. Would you believe that fracking is 100% benefit without any downsides? That is what we were informed by the educational arm of the industry – an organization that “is not” funded by any particular drilling company… just the whole industry. In an audacious move, the representative informed us that she “was not here to tell you to lease your land or not” but she did want us to know that this method of drilling is:
- completely safe
- would hire tons of people in our community (hopefully even our poor kids who have no future otherwise)
- solve our energy needs (“‘alternative’ fuels are no alternative”)
- present you with bags of money
- never contaminate your water (but if it did, they would take care of it!)
While the presentation was basically an insult, it was somewhat informational.
OOGEEP concluded the presentation and then employees from MK stepped up to tell us who they are and what they do with the company. It does seem that this company has some better goals within the structure of this industry:
- They want to recycle 100% of their water (They could recycle this water perhaps 10 times before it could no longer be in use, but that would still reduce their consumption by 90%, which when each well uses around 5,000,000 gallons of water, is a big difference).
- They lay down two protective layers of matting to keep the production water from spilling on the ground.
- They also lay down two protective layers of matting around each production tank.
- They seek to hire local folks to work.
- Their wells have four layers of concrete/casings.
Prior to this evening, I had heard that this company was portraying themselves as “The Good Guys” in the industry, and it appears that they do have some admirable goals and experience to support their aspirations.
However, throughout the entire evening, there was something that left me feeling worse about the prospective development than when we began.
I had a conversation with one of the owners of the company who is also their chief geologist. We spoke before the meeting began and he told me a little about the casings but more about the geology involved. He informed me about the potential for oil in this region and was very knowledgeable about the great resource that our aquifers present to this region.
I am not a geologist. This man is. So when he tells me about the formations and the ability to pressurize this rock and to release the abundance of oil and gas within, I listen and I can respect the knowledge that this man possesses and I do not.
Then, he proceeded to tell me that he was the only person to debate Josh Fox (the director of GasLand) and how he clearly won the debate. Now, he said, Fox won’t debate anyone about hydraulic fracturing.
This man then told me that, “It’s just like how Al Gore won’t go and debate anyone about climate change.”
Then, he told me about how he and his wife were paid to fly to China to present in a panel to the public and government about natural gas development. Apparently, he was then asked by the Land Minister and Energy Minister, “What is the greatest impediment to development in our country?” He replied, “The Chinese Government.” If they were to open up development to foreign companies (I.e. US companies), they could transform the energy position of China overnight.
It wasn’t until I was walking home from the meeting that I began to process through these things. I was reminded of the Enron situation and the documentary about how that whole situation emerged, “The Smartest Guys in the Room.”
Those folks thought – they knew – that they were the smartest guys and could do no wrong.
Call me old-fashioned, but I admire and respect people who have a decent sense of humility – to understand what they know and to have some idea of what they don’t.
I would expect a geologist to know what is going on 10,000 feet below the ground.
However, I do not expect him to know more than the 97% of scientists who study the atmosphere and climate. I do not expect him to know more about the economy and politics than the leaders of a country (China, after all, has a greater economic growth rate than does the US at this time).
When one of the owners of the company and the chief geologist believes he can do no wrong,
When the industry representative believes that hydraulic fracturing has never messed with the water of anyone,
When the industry employees believe that hydraulic fracturing has never messed with water of anyone,
And yet, when THEY ALL ACKNOWLEDGED THAT WATER WAS CONTAMINATED IN DIMOCK, PENNSYLVANIA at the end of the meeting… but insisted that it was a “casing” issue and not a “hydraulic fracturing” issue,
I am worried.
Caution can lead to a healthy approach to and rate of development. Hubris can lead to failure and calamity and contamination, just ask BP.
I suppose that I will be “glad” that it’s “The Good Guys” who are drilling rather than the bad guys, but after listening to the absolute confidence expressed by the owner, employees, and representatives, I am concerned.
I am more concerned than when I began, because I would be more willing to trust an industry that is willing to confess its faults and the possibility of error rather than one who can only deny every possibility of error and believe that they are in control of everything.
We have a long record of people discovering that they didn’t know it all, and unfortunately, this knowledge has a nasty habit of bringing down others with them.
I hope that prudence will enter into the production.
And I hope that local control and democracy will return so that we can have the choice to turn away folks and industries such as these who insist that “absolutely nothing can go wrong.”