Appalachian Basin

Natural Gas Scare Tactics Come to Washington County

The Observer-Reporter recently ran an article which attempted to scare people about the process of natural gas development.  The author, an associate professor in the biology department at Washington & Jefferson College has no background in natural gas development yet seems to have all the “facts.”

Recently, I stumbled upon an article in the Observer-Reporter (O-R) titled; Drilling, Fracking Not Safe, written by Candy DeBerry. This piece was designed to be a rebuttal to another article in the O-R titled; Natural Gas Provides a better life written by Steve Duran.  Duran’s piece serves the purpose of showing those who don’t know much about farming life, that things are not good and getting worse for farmers and other landowners without the economic stimulus natural gas development will bring.

We all realize at this point that accidents can, and occasionally do, happen with natural gas development and that we don’t have such a thing as a perfect source of energy.  DeBerry continues to use scare tactics to try to persuade people shale gas development is the worse thing in the world.  The worst part about it is this; she does all this from her perch as an associate professor in the biology department at Washington & Jefferson College.

My first question to DeBerry is, how does being an associate professor in the biology department at Washington & Jefferson College make you an expert in shale gas development?  That’s right, it doesn’t.  Throughout her piece, I can tell she has never taken a ride through Washington County and seen natural gas development first hand.  Heck, she can come on to my place and I’ll take her around. I live within 4 miles of two compressor stations, multiple well sites (one being right across the road to my house), a processing plant, not to mention hundreds of feet of pipeline. All the while, and most importantly, however, my neighbors and I are still able to keep our farms and properties.


Processing Plant Located Near My Home

DeBerry states:

High noise levels cause an increase in stress hormones, which leads to high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It also suppresses the immune system. Studies have shown effects on learning in school children. Noise impacts wildlife as well, interfering with animal-to-animal communication, predator and prey detection, and navigation and migration.

My question here is, what about city life?  This is a classic example of someone looking to scapegoat the natural gas industry to promote their own agenda.  A simple Google search brought up a talk DeBerry gave at the Mother Earth News Fair titled Native Plants for Attracting Pollinators to Your Garden.  When asked about her background on this topic here’s what she said:

I am first and foremost an ecological gardener – I garden primarily to increase biodiversity and attract wildlife. My 1/3 acre suburban property has been certified as Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, a Bird Habitat by Audubon Pennsylvania, and a Monarch Waystation by Monarch Watch. I am applying for certification of my property as a Pollinator Friendly Garden by Penn State. My favorite way to learn more about native plants and ecological gardening is by attending the annual Native Plants at the Landscape Conference at Millersville University. I regularly share my knowledge and experience by speaking to community organizations about native plants, environmentally-friendly gardening, and creating habitats for wildlife.

Her background has nothing to do with shale gas development.  Rather, the temporary inconveniences of dust, noise and truck traffic seem to temporarily  interfere with her life as an ecological gardener.  What her piece comes down to is that it’s okay for farmers like Steve Duran to lose something that has been in his family for years by squelching his mineral rights, but it’s not okay for her life as an ecological gardener to be impacted in the slightest.

As I continued to read her piece I couldn’t help but notice all of her “can” and “mays” as illustrated in the excerpt below:

Dust associated with fracking may come from dried flowback fluids that in many places are sprayed as de-icing brine on roads. In addition to high levels of sodium and calcium, frack flowback fluids can also contain cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and dozens of other chemicals which can harm eyes, skin, liver, kidneys, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system, and the central nervous system. Particularly insidious are the endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which at extremely low levels can alter development, reproduction, metabolism, and behavior in humans and wildlife.

This sort of equivocation says it all, doesn’t it?  There is no hard evidence – only speculation promulgated by someone who wants us to think a PhD makes you an expert on anything, regardless of your experience or training. Yes, accidents may happen and things can happen in association with shale gas development. But because there is a risk associated with this does that mean we should stop all development?  If we did this, how would Deberry use her appliances and heat her home, which, as she admitted, require natural gas.  This is a source of energy used by millions of people including DeBerry and in the process farmers like Duran have the ability to keep doing what they have been doing for generations, farming. May it continue.


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