On October 10th of 2011, in response to the tremendous destruction of Hurricane Lee for my town, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding townships, I wrote a short piece titled ” Fracking, Floods, and Fools” (Fracking, Floods, and Fools | Raging Chicken Press). In it I speculated about what the next flood event might be like for a state whose rivers and creeks are imperiled by a tsunami made not of natural causes, but of the unnatural design of the genocidal profiteers of the slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing industry. What I wrote then seems almost quaint by comparison to what has transpired over this last year–a year of nearly incalculable damage matched only by an equally stunning capacity for denial, evasion, and dismissal on behalf of an industry whose growth can only be rightly described as malignant both in its sheer scope and in its potential to poison us:
What will the next flood be like? The one that happens once fracking is in full-swing as I’ve detailed in my previous three letters? Can we really afford to be scraping THAT sludge off our salvageables? Are we willing to brook THAT for the few jobs that will come of the gas boom? What adds insult to injury—what makes it personal—is that an industry poised to make billions from something that offers us little but cancer, destroyed property values, obliterated roads and bridges, and community division—brags on its propaganda website—The Marcellus Shale Coalition—about corporate donations to communities affected by Hurricane Lee. A million dollars total from eleven corporations compared to Chesapeake’s Aubry McClendon’s $112.5 million take-home pay last year—the biggest CEO package in the U.S.—should leave us nothing but cold. If we don’t muster our collective voices and demand fracking be BANNED, we’ll won’t just be cold. We’ll be fools.
Today is October 28th, 2012, and we are once again posturing for a hurricane–Sandy. What will this flood be like? Like last year, I spent the day before the storm’s arrival battening down my hatches–buying candles and batteries, making sure I had plenty of food and water for my animals, making sure my roof and my fences were as clear of heavy branches as I could make them. Unlike last year, however, I went out yet one more day before the storm and took photographs of frack pads, compressor stations, and pipelines–every one a potential flood disaster, every one a reminder that fracking from the drill site to the export depot, from flaring to venting to compressor emissions to truck exhaust to waste water pits to water withdrawal to sand dust masquerading as air, not only contributes to climate change, but converts water from a necessary condition of life into an enemy. As I reported in October of 2011, once water is permanently contaminated with the now well-established toxins utilized in the fracking process, the only irony–and it is a perverse one–is that it is reliably plentiful only when it is falling in like rivers from the sky during yet another hurricane. Rivers effected by the toxic processes of its return to the water cycle–however unintended, however concealed by the industry.
Welcome to water in the world of climate change sponsored by, for example, Anadarko–a corporation who’ll no doubt donate something salutary to flood relief, 2012, a corporation preparing to frack one of the most pristine and beautiful state forests in Pennsylvania: The Loyalsock.
Every one of the photographs enclosed is connected to water. Each set was taken at a different site, all on one day, all within about an hour of eachother.
Consider: this pipeline constuction is just off Rt. 118, heading towards Lairdsville, Pennsylvania.
And just behind that stand of trees is this beautiful creek…
Across the road from an historic barn and it’s bucolic farm, horses included….
Later that same day, this was the scene on this road just yards from this barn, as the clouds gathered, the mud churned, and the dusk fell…
Or consider the simply spectacular beauty of Rock Run Valley, Loyalsock State Forest…
Just a stone’s throw away from Riverdale–the Mobile Home Community butchered by Aqua America, and now transformed from a neighborhood next to a river into a water withdrawal for fracking whose pipelines reach under roadways and over mountains to drill sites. Consider Riverdale during the Occupation to save the park, June 9th, 2012:
And now, Riverdale Unrecognizable…
Just a few dozen yards beyond these trees is the same Susquehanna River…
Or, consider photographs taken just a few miles away from Riverdale, Tiadaghton State Forest (PA DCNR – Tiadaghton), whose larger streams include Pine Creek, Lycoming Creek, and Loyalsock Creek, all of which flow into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, and support a great variety of fish”…
But what Anadarko sees is not these stately and fire-colored trees, but rather the copper color of coins (The Fracking of Pennsylvania State Parks):
This state forest is a matter of minutes on Rt. 973 from this fracking monster whose venting toxic vapors produced so acrid a smell that I could taste it in my mouth and feel it stinging my eyes…
It’s all about water.
The water we have squandered; the water we need; the water that’s coming in Hurricane Sandy. And ultimately it’s all the same water, however much we want to pretend that because it’s falling in cold sheets from the sky that it’s somehow purified, that if it’s flowing in a river like the Susquehanna it’s relieved of its pollutants.
Just a few more pictures. These of a muddy destroyed, once forested landscape, once small mountain, that’s now the buried secret of the Marc One Pipeline destined to transport gas from Sullivan County–just another thirty minutes from the Anadarko Fracking Drill site, Lycoming County–to its ultimate destination to global ports. Here, I think, the irony is inescapable–the fracktastrophe of this form of mineral extraction is as global as it ports, its corporations, its government collusion–and its hurricanes.
What will this muddy, oily wasteland look like Wednesday morning, October 31st? Halloween is supposed only to raise the goblins of our imaginations. When we take off a costume intended to produce fright, what’s underneath is supposed only to produce chuckling and relief. What this mud conceals, however, is nothing but a shallow grave for pipeline that, like a scene from Night of the Living Dead, is waiting to eat us.
Or if not exactly eat us from the outside, something worse.
Fracking will consume us from the inside via the very stuff of life, and nothing could, I think, be more worthy of the term “catastrophe” than that.
So as I watch the weather with all my neighbors, friends, and fellow fracktivists, all I can think about is water–making sure there’s enough for my animals to drink, making sure its not sweltering up my basement, making sure my well pump’s not destroyed this time.
But mostly, I wonder what’s in it because for as crisp and delicious as is the water flowing from Pine Creek in the Tiadaghton State Forest appears to be, this may be as deceptive as the prospect that the ghouls from Night of the LIving Dead are people. Or better–the ghouls from Night of the LIving Dead are people–every bit as much as the water from the Susquehanna is clean.
Just yards from this photograph of the Susquehanna is Riverdale–or what was Riverdale. Just out of picture range are the bulldozers, a floating barge, exposed pipelines, welders, trucks, Skip Leonard on his tractor, and millions of dollars worth of water waiting to be pumped over the mountain to thirsty frack pads.
Bring on the hurricane. It cannot be worse than the frackerific storm that’s already laid us to siege.