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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 11/25/15

The Fracking Crisis: A Manufacturer's Perspective

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[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a letter to OpEdNews readers from Mark Lichty, a business owner and film producer in Pennsylvania]

I am asking business owners and executives in Pennsylvania to join me in petitioning Gov. Wolf to put a moratorium on fracking.

Until I became involved with the film, Groundswell Rising, I had no issue with fracking. Ads told me it was safe. The hypnotizing blue flame and minimal emissions, convinced me to accept the platitudes of the industry. Only when I began the research did I understand that there were dire environmental and health consequences.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court came to the same conclusion when the chief justice stated, "Fracking is detrimental to the health and the environment." The Secretary of Health in New York concurred as when he issued his extensive report outlining the health and environmental consequences. The Pennsylvania Auditor General put to bed any lingering doubts about the matter when he stated the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was doing a "woefully inadequate job" of regulating the gas industry. Hundreds of studies have reinforced the conclusion that fracking is dangerous.

To quell any lingering doubts, The Physicians for Social Responsibility concluded that "fracking poses serious threats to air water, health, public safety [and] climate stability."

Our politicians can no longer claim not to be aware of this tsunami of evidence. Choosing not to address fracking with this evidence has serious moral implications. Choosing not to know of this evidence has its own moral implications.

Unfortunately, all of this evidence came too late for me. Eight years ago I converted my manufacturing plant to gas, driven by the attractive economics of gas and thinking that I was doing the right environmental move. It turns out I wasn't. I had spent over $200,000 converting to gas. Had I remained with oil, I would now have funds to consider alternative energy sources. That option is not now available. My business is a microcosm for the nation and the planet. As the country spends funds on infrastructure supporting gas, we will not have the funds to consider more responsible alternatives. For example, if a city converts its fleet to gas, it may be decades before it could afford electric vehicles. As the infrastructure becomes entrenched in fossil fuels, we will be unable for many years to extricate ourselves.

In the face of all of these studies and a tsunami of anecdotal evidence about the harmful effects of fracking, gas companies are permitted to go on with nonsensical advertising that fracking is safe.

We know from numerous impartial studies that there are serious health and environmental risks with fracking. Second, the industry speaks of jobs, but jobs could be created in the alternative energy sector as well if we weren't providing life support to the dinosaur of fossil fuels. Finally, they claim we need fracking for our national security, but we know from the export terminals being created, that it is about profit. What the gas companies are seeking to do is export our national security. If they were concerned about national security, they would keep it in the ground and not export it.

Private permits continue unabated, and we now have 17,000 drilling permits in Pennsylvania. Even if we had a moratorium on permits today , we would have enough gas for many years to come. Knowing that New York had studied this extensively, and that there are hundreds of studies establishing health and environmental consequences, why would one not take the moral high ground, and abide by the precautionary principle that no further permits until we evaluate the safety?

A moratorium on future permits would allow these wells to be studied, so lives would be saved, taxpayers would not be saddled with the health and environmental costs resulting form this toxic process. We already know from another extraction process, coal mining, that that is the inevitable consequence of not following the precautionary principle. Write to Gov. Tom Wolf and your legislators asking that they call for a moratorium, follow the precautionary principle, and investigate before they devastate.

I believe that Gov. Wolf will wake up once he sees the overwhelming evidence re fracking.

I am seeking a few good business people who share my concern and will meet with the governor. Remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (paraphrasing), "We will repent in the future not for the evil acts of a few, but for the silence of the many."

Please email me at mlichty@ptd.net if you want to lend your voice.

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Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist and professor of journalism emeritus. His current books are Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution , America's Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government's Violation of (more...)

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