Gas and land

Gas and land

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East Pond, at Gateway National Refuge Area. Photo courtesy of NPS.

U.S. athletes triumphed during the recent Olympiad—loved watching it! I wish I could say the same about our triumphant leadership in other fields, especially when it comes to breaking away from dependence on fossil fuels. Where I live, this issue has acquired new urgency—New York hovers on the brink of allowing shale gas drilling in parts of the state. (A refresher—shale gas drilling/hydrofracking is the high-pressure injection of water, sand, and chemicals in order to extract natural gas from underground shale formations.)

As in neighboring Pennsylvania, the fracking fields will mainly be in the rural countryside; so far, it looks like an area in central NY (Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties) will host the first permitted wells. The issues are many, and include possible watershed contamination, the problem of wastewater and its treatment, radically increased road use, and how the practice will change the look of the rural countryside. A recent letter to the Buffalo News from a former resident of a “fracking” area of PA described the mise en scene of fracking this way:

Fracking wells are not small; they are huge and can take up an acre or more (look up “Fracking Hollenbeck Gas Site” on youtube).
They are very loud, lit all night, stink and run 24/7. They are everywhere. The ground shakes. Traffic has increased. Water transport trucks are on the roads at all hours. Small-town county roads weren’t made for these constant heavy loads and have quickly worn down, resulting in continuous construction and increased traffic problems.

Judging from the images of fracking fields I’ve seen, this description is not out of bounds. Hard to imagine this being the scene in any part of the Finger Lakes I’ve visited. And this is not even to discuss the deeper environmental impacts.

Does any of this have to do with gardening? Sure. My gardening takes place in a larger context of the parks, reserves, and other natural areas that exist in my area of the world. By creating a garden in my little urban corner, I’m basically trying to emulate, in some small way, the natural beauty I seek in such unspoiled countryside that remains.

Although Western New York does not, as of yet, stand in much risk of being a shale gas source, we all potentially stand to be affected by some sort of fuel development. Recently, I received an email from a community gardener in New York City who is fighting a natural gas pipeline  and accompanying facilities scheduled to be installed under the Gateway National Recreation Area and Jacob Riis Beach. It’s not fracking but it is opening up a national park to industrial use. Like me, Karen Orlando—the gardener who, among many others, opposes this project—is an urbanite who cherishes such wild sites that can exist in densely populated areas. The precedent of allowing pipelines and industrial facilities in New York’s Gateway opens the door to the same in a refuge like Tifft Nature Preserve in Buffalo.

It’s all connected. And as much as I rejoice in our superiority in water polo, I could wish that we showed a similar determination to excel in finding energy alternatives. For the sake of gardens everywhere—in all the different forms a garden can take.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on August 13, 2012 at 9:03 am, in the category Gardening on the Planet, Ministry of Controversy.

9 Comments
    • Kara
    • 1st January 1970

    I live in rural, central PA and I totally agree with you about this. You do not want this in your state. That video was a real eye-opener. I had no idea it was such a big, noisy operation. Although I am not really effected by the gas fracking here, it isn’t far from where I live and it’s very controversial. Our state governor literally sold us out to the gas companies and I don’t trust their assurances that this won’t result in environmental problems.

    • Karen Orlando
    • 11th January 2006

    Thanks for the coverage!!!

    • Jason
    • 23rd January 2012

    Sometimes it seems we will not be satisfied until every quiet, beautiful place has been wrecked. I get the sense these fracking fields are vulnerable because they are not seen by many urban people. There will be no fracking in the Hamptons. To stop fracking, urbanites and suburbanites will have to convince policy makers that they care deeply about the countryside.

    • Mark N Denver
    • 30th April 2016

    Until we are ready to take out our gas/oil furnaces or abandon the northern areas of the country for residences then we will simply have to put up with some form of hydrocarbon production and distribution. Until our scientists come up with a better way to generate heat then we are stuck with this mode of living. Complaining about production/distribution methods will do nothing. Just think what it would be like in Buffalo this winter without a viable form of energy…

    • admin
    • 13th May 2016

    Hey Mark, that gas powers electrical plants that make the air condidioning so people can live in the southern states. Where I live we are just on the brink of the big drilling to begin. Since natural gas price is down, things have slowed a little. Nothing new here, we were stripped mined for coal. Ohio had the strongest coal mining reclamation rules in the country, the feds fashioned theris after ours. Don’t think that is going to be the case with the fracking. Too many jobs being created and an R governor.

    • Barbara The Healthy Nut
    • 1st October 2016

    Just stumbled on your blog/newsletter and I love it!! I wish I had the energy to write about subjects like this. I think you are right on about everything and I especially agree with your above comment about why solar/wind has not been developed. I recall the gas lines of the early and mid ’70’s. It was as plain as day what needed to happen back then. It didn’t and the reason was $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    • admin
    • 4th November 2016

    I’m a resident of Northeast PA where the gas industry is very actively drilling right now. I’m not going to go into the pros and cons or even my feelings about the process because truthfully I’m conflicted and a little overwhelmed by the impact (positive and negative).

    • admin
    • 4th November 2016

    Susan, NO ONE in this county was forced to sign a well contract. Every land owner was contacted and given a CHOICE to sign (or not). We chose against, by the way, as did many of our friends.

    • Gail Carriveau
    • 15th November 2016

    Fracking is impacting parts of Wisconsin due to the state having the right type sand required for the fracking process. This has been creating an uproar to the neighbors that would be affected by the noise from the trucks hauling all hours of the day.

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