It was Ben who first told me about our new neighbor, Marcellus Shale. I asked him when and where this new neighbor would be living and if I should take him my usual gift of Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins (let me know if you want the recipe; they’re yummy). But I was not prepared for Ben’s answer…

BEN: “I am talking about an it, not a who. This neighbor will be leasing land rather than buying a home in which to live. Marcellus Shale is not a neighbor you want!”

ME: “Now that’s pretty cryptic, Ben. What do you mean?”

Remember, I’m still in the corner of my living room, along with other Wish passengers, listening to a conversation between the me in 2007 and my neighbor Ben. So, I already know about Marcellus Shale being a formation of 400-million-year-old rock containing approximately 410 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, which, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, could supply U.S. consumers’ energy needs for hundreds of years. And, oh, it runs below my home and that of homes, businesses, schools, religious institutions, daycare centers, streams and rivers, etc., throughout Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, and portions of Kentucky and Tennessee.

On one side of the Marcellus Shale proverbial gold coin is a HUGE, VALUABLE, and RICH resource. But on the flip side is a DIRTY, CORRUPT, and DANGEROUS industry! As time unfolds, some of us learn that this new gold rush, like all gold rushes, is based on greed rather than need. Some of us, myself included, feel this gold rush is a harbinger of massive pollution, political division, deceit, denial, destruction, and death. However, others believe differently that the new gold rush will lead the United States into energy independence and world dominance.

BEN: “What I mean is just this … there are several oil/gas companies approaching neighbors who own at least 40 acres of land. These ‘land-men,’ that’s what they’re called, are offering big bucks to landowners for leasing.”

ME: “Leasing for what?”

BEN: “I’m getting to that. Just listen. They want to lease land for unconventional fracking. And they have come here from Texas and Louisiana. These companies drill where it’s flat. They may not understand our lay of the land, which is undermined by coal, subject to landslides, and which may even run along fault lines.”

ME: “Back up. You are going too fast for me! Exactly what is unconventional fracking?”

BEN: “First of all, fracking, in general, is the process used to extract gas and oil from the ground for several purposes. Mainly to heat our homes or drive our cars. But it can also be used in other ways. Like, don’t you love cooking with your new gas burners. Listen, we’ve been getting our fuel in a conventional manner for over 100 years, but it’s a slow process, and our country has been and still is dependent on imported oil and gas. A new technique was recently discovered that will release these elements from the ground much faster, and that’s what the companies are hell bent on doing.”

ME: “I’m sorry, but I gotta interrupt again ’cause I still don’t get it. Why the concern?”

BEN: “As I started to say, conventional drilling is vertical, but unconventional drilling is horizontal. This is a very complicated process, and one I cannot fully explain. What you need to know is that it causes mini explosions deep in the ground along horizontal planes. The gas, otherwise trapped in rock, is then released along with the junk that comes back up with it. Remember that the process uses massive amounts of clean water mixed with sand and nasty chemicals that the companies won’t disclose.”

ME: “Why not?”

BEN: “They call it their ‘secret sauce.’ Although doctors are finally allowed to know what the chemicals are, they can’t disclose the information to patients who may have been poisoned by exposure. This ‘gag rule’ protects these vast, multi-billion dollar corporations from revealing what they call proprietary information. In the meantime, workers, as well as people living near fracking rigs, are getting sick.  And if that’s not bad enough, I have more bad news to share.


Stay tuned to learn more …