Our family farm is in Bradford County, Pa. Our farm was one of the first well sites chosen and is now one of hundreds, soon to be thousands.
When the folks in Pennsylvania first heard of the wells coming, they were excited. No one had ever experienced the drilling business, so there was nothing to fear. They had toiled their whole lives just to make ends meet, and maybe this was the road to a better life.
Then they came. Trucks by the hundreds, tankers, dump trucks, drilling rigs, fracking rigs. Five-acre drilling pads were bulldozed in the middle of farmers' best fields, million-gallon ponds were installed, roads were built, woods and fields were trenched and bulldozed for tie lines. Drilling rigs went up at an unbelievable rate. From one spot on our farm, I counted eight rigs.
Then the generators started. You could hear them a half-mile away. Then the pumping stations — small, industrial sites with buildings and pipes sticking up out of the ground. They put one of these at the end of our little dirt road. Now the woods are gone and the dirt road is a main thoroughfare. One entire field is a pumping station. When I first saw this, I cried.
This industry is like a swarm of locusts, leaving destruction and a lasting impact on the environment. But it goes much deeper than this. It creates greed and pits neighbor against neighbor, even dividing families. Back home, all rental properties now house gas people, as the landlords raised the rents so high that longtime tenants were forced to move. Every parking area is lined with pipes and equipment associated with the gas business. Roads have been destroyed and are barely passable. Motorists are being forced off the road by a steady stream of big rigs and trucks.
People who are used to a few cars going by their house now have to endure 100 tractor trailers a day. I went up to our well site and counted 80 tankers lined up so closely that you couldn't fit between them.
The gas companies do put on a good show. They have a nice booth at the fair. They buy bicycle helmets for the kids. They pay to have the walkways at the fairgrounds paved. They are always presenting a check for this and a check for that. Their pictures are always in the paper for doing good deeds. What a joke. That's Bradford County.
The Finger Lakes area has been blessed with so much natural beauty — the gorges, the lakes, the vineyards. We have so much to protect. We want our fields to be green so our children can walk through them. We need our water to be clean, not only for ourselves but for our livestock and marine life.
If they start drilling, what's going to happen to the water in our lakes? What's going to happen if there is a drilling accident and people's homes start filling up with methane gas? Don't think it can happen? In northern Pennsylvania, it already has.
I urge you to protect this area, its residents, its natural beauty and our way of life from the ravages of the gas industry.
Note: This piece appeared as a Guest Viewpoint in the Ithaca Journal on Sept 23, 2011