Second Thought: Wednesday, September 03, 2008
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
The Price of Cake

The only good urban gas well is one that doesn’t get drilled.

By GRAYSON HARPER

There’s something a bit sad and desperate about this gas drilling business. With utility bills mounting, the economy shuddering, and college costs rising so high that it seems only rich families can afford them, little wonder that so many in Fort Worth couldn’t wait to sign on the dotted line when the gas companies were waving the money around.
But now the reality is setting in: homes threatened with eminent domain, dangerous high-pressure gas lines about to be laid beneath our feet, thousands of gas wells — roughly seven pad sites per MAPSCO page — planned for our fair city.
A lot of folks who signed have been running to the city council crying, “Shocked, shocked!” as if they couldn’t have imagined beforehand the ruthless nature of the folks to whom they sold out.
I wonder what they were thinking when they embraced the gas companies in the first place. Of course Chesapeake and the others misled everyone. With so much money at stake, it’s hard to imagine them acting like Boy Scouts.
Of course they manipulate the truth. They withhold crucial information, such as how crazy it is to bury high-pressure pipelines carrying odorless wet gas near homes and schools. Even during a prolonged drought, they forget to mention the amount of clean water — millions of gallons — they will destroy. And they certainly don’t talk about the catastrophic explosions from blown high-pressure pipes and animals dropping dead after drinking water poisoned by failed injection wells.
And how about those injection wells? You think the gas boys are going to share with us the number of such wells in Texas where highly toxic production water is pumped deep underground? Of course not. The answer is more than 30,000, the most of any state in the union, but to say that would be to admit that, thanks to them and their cohorts in the oil sector, our fine state is now one big toxic dump. We have one injection well operating right here in the city limits. Chesapeake would like to drill up to 15 more in and around the city. One thing is certain: An awful lot of wastewater is going somewhere — maybe to a neighborhood near you!
Some of the folks who are complaining are hedging their bets. They’re all for getting out the minerals, “Just don’t come in my yard, not on my street, not if it means my house getting eminent-domained.” As an old friend of mine likes to say, “Everyone wants to go to heaven, they just don’t want to die.”
Will the citizen group known as CREDO — Coalition for a Reformed Drilling Ordinance — be able to change anything for the better? I hope so, but it seems to me the fix is in. Everyone is bought already, from the Texas Legislature to the Railroad Commission that oversees the drilling. Everyone on the Fort Worth City Council (with the noteworthy exception of Joel Burns) has taken contributions from the gas companies. Mayor Mike Moncrief gets royalty checks from Chesapeake, XTO, and others while routinely voting for new permits for them to drill. As the mayor himself said in a recent meeting, “Money talks, everything else walks.” He should know.
The record is clear and was well known before the first person signed away minerals — the duplicity of the industry, the catastrophic accidents, the lack of oversight, the brutal impact on public health and the environment, including air, water, plants, and wildlife. The fact is, you can’t get a “reformed drilling ordinance” because there’s no such thing as “reformed” or responsible gas drilling.
The only right thing to do would be to go back to square one: Pray over it. Ask the “Great Spirit,” or whoever’s in charge hereabouts, for forgiveness. Then regroup and start fighting on the basis that it’s simply dead wrong — unsafe, immoral, insane — to be drilling for gas within the city limits, because our immediate environment will likely end up polluted beyond recognition and our groundwater destroyed, all for the enrichment of a few who — after thoroughly trashing the joint — will move on.
Unless we fight the whole thing, those who worry about lowered property values, noise pollution, explosions, fires, and all kinds of health effects might want to move elsewhere.
This may turn out to be one of those cases where you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
Grayson Harper is a Fort Worth-based writer and artist.


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