Carmichaels, Pa. — My daughter and I live in Greene County, in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, I loved growing up around here; it's a beautiful, quiet place, full of farmlands, forests and the sounds and smells of nature. Now, it's full of fracking wells that threaten our drinking water, pipelines that tear across the landscape, and compressor stations that keep the gas flowing and cause respiratory, cardiovascular, and nervous system damage when they release raw gas and fracking chemicals into the atmosphere.
We have fracking wells 400 feet from our back porch and 1,000 feet from our front porch. The wells are flattened-off sections of hillsides, on top of which are giant cylindrical tanks that hold wastewater from the gas well. Each well has a set of pipes, sticking out above ground showing the location of the well head.
Once a day, the tanks release gas, and we can hear the loud, high-pitched squealing, like a demented boiling kettle, and sometimes smell a pungent odor. If the weather is right, we can see the shimmer of gas leaving the tanks. Fracking trucks from other active sites in the neighborhood speed by our house, kicking up dirt and dust and crowding the quiet rural roads.
Thousands of us are fighting to save our communities from continued destruction, but we can't do it alone. We need help from the people of Massachusetts, Connecticut and the rest of New England, who have been targeted by the fracking industry as potential customers for their gas. If you say "no" to the building of pipelines there, you can help end the extreme energy extraction that is harming our health and well-being, wreaking havoc on the climate and devastating the countryside here.
The energy and pipeline companies can only succeed at exploiting communities in Pennsylvania because people elsewhere are willing to buy their product and allow fracked gas pipelines to be built for exportation. On your end, the industry sells the false hope of lower energy bills, and cashes in on fears of freezing in the dark. In rural Pennsylvania, they've convinced people to sign leases based on the lie of energy independence, and now many leaseholders are angry to see the push to export natural gas.
The reality is that companies will make more money on the global market, where prices are higher, and all they care about is their profits, not the needs of consumers, the country, or the communities directly harmed by fracking. Don't believe their high-minded rhetoric about meeting your needs. If they can make more money by selling the gas elsewhere, that's where it is going to go.
In New England, the Spectra pipeline company seeks approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to make modifications to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline so that gas can flow from Pennsylvania to Dracut, Ma. to the Canadian Maritimes. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities in eastern Canada have received approval to import gas from the U.S. and then export it overseas. From the beginning, they have been counting on the Spectra or Kinder-Morgan pipelines to make the export of fracked Marcellus shale gas profitable.
The Pennsylvania of my childhood is gone forever. If we do not turn away from fossil fuel extraction now, I am afraid there will not be much of a future, here or anywhere, for my little girl.
So I ask those of you in Massachusetts, and in the rest of New England, to step up and get involved in the fight to stop fracked gas pipelines, power plants, compressor stations and export terminals, to protect your future and to stand with us on the front lines against this needless and harmful extreme energy extraction.
Veronica Coptis is chair of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club.