Veronica Roberts

September 13, 2010, Pennsylvania]------Fracking. Have you ever hear of it? Don't feel bad, neither have I, until recently, that is.

Hydraulic fracturing or 'Fracking" is a term used by the Natural Gas Exploration folks to describe the process used to extract the "natural gas" from deep beneath the earth. In fact way, way down to the rock formation. Think of it like deep sea drilling for oil, on land.

We have all seen the devastation that deep water drilling can unleash on us and the environment if something goes wrong. Natural Oil exploration has been touted as the safe, clean, "made in America,” lucrative alternative. Another plus, there seems to be an endless supply.

Many say this is our answer to weaning ourselves off the dreaded dependency on foreign oil, but is it really the panacea they've made it out to be?

A resounding no says residents in rural Eastern Pennsylvania. They have been knocking on government doors to get help for what they say is a methane pollution in their communities.

They say, the "fracking" has released dangerous gases into their water supply and has rendered it undrinkable. In fact, the people of those communities say they cannot use the water period. One resident can be seen in the Gasland documentary, demonstrating just how flammable the water is.

The documentary continuously showcased the plight of residents in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country, who are suffering because the dangerous gases unleashed. They were told by the EPA and the gas companies that the process was safe. Residents now say it's not.

State officials have finally agreed, and has ordered the gas companies to finance the import of clean fresh water to the affected areas. The gas companies have said they weren’t responsible and insist the Eastern Pennsylvania’s water supply is clean.

Sources say that these companies have been quite blatant in their recruitment of governmental officials. Barbara Sexton, executive vice-secretary of the environmental protection Rendell, left to work for Chesapeake Energy Corp, one of the nation’s leading gas exploration companies, based in Oklahoma.

Another, K Scott Roy, Rendell chief of Staff, left last fall to work for Range Resources Corp. They are just one of many. Conflict of interest anyone?

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents more than 2 dozens gas companies, is aggressively trying to spin their image as the good guys, in the wake of all this evidence of water and soil contamination.

Kristi Gittins, a member of the Executive Committee of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, reportedly said, “We have a lot of work to do explaining the economic benefits for Pennsylvania and for the energy security of the nation.” So I guess “the economic benefits” trumps the danger to lives…hmmm.

Economic benefits indeed. Natural Gas exploration is the new “gold rush.” According to the American Petroleum Institute, this industry’s estimated worth: 2 trillions dollars. How much did they donate to the esteemed political candidates of Pennsylvania in 2001? 3 million. How much was their lobbying tally? Another $4.2 million since 2007, according to a report by Common Cause.

Connecting the dots? Meanwhile the people of Pennsylvania’s water continue to ignite, their homes have to have methane vents for fear it would explode and their animals fall sick and die. “Gotta love America.” As an esteemed writer here on Allvoices said in a comment, "Is Frack our crack?" Has this become our new dangerous addiction in our zealous quest to quench our insatiable need for energy?

By Veronica P Roberts 9.13.10