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Monday, January 26, 2015

Statement to Ligonier Township supervisors from 01/22/15

Elizabeth Donohoe, thank you for your attention, gentlemen:

Revealing risk is something all publicly traded companies are required to do. I will begin tonight with a quote from a past gas company prospectus, aimed at potential investors, a quote that reveals the many risks that gas companies admit to when they are forced to. This excerpt, written by the companies themselves, remember, is particularly relevant to the current fracking question here in Ligonier Township; it shows that the very companies doing the drilling know how risky the work is. These are not the words of the increasingly concerned citizens who are reading the unpleasant scientific facts about fracking...no. These are the gas companies themselves saying the following:

“Oil and natural gas operations are subject to many risks, including well blowouts, craterings, explosions, uncontrollable flows of oil, natural gas and well fluids, fires, formations with abnormal pressures, pipeline ruptures, or spills, pollution, releases of toxic natural gas and other environmental hazards and risks. If any of these should occur, (the company goes on to say to their prospective investors), we could sustain losses (meaning 'get sued') as a result of: injury or loss of life; severe damage to property or natural resources; pollution;... . The prospectus goes on, “As we begin drilling to deeper horizons in more geologically complex areas (that would describe Ligonier Valley), we could experience a greater increase in operating and financial risks due to inherent higher reservoir pressures and unknown downhole risk exposure.”

Nice. This is what the oil and gas industry (has to) quietly admit to investors. Every American who watches television and sees their slick ads in newspapers and on billboards is however propagandized by their bucolic scenes suggesting that fracking is apple pie, Mom and Pop, verdant vistas and hints of riches to be had. (Brought to you by the same ad firm who sold cigarette smoking in the 1950s and 60s...pack o' lies there, too, no pun intended.)

The truth for many is quite different, as study after study has revealed: A boom-bust industry, run by out-of-staters, workers unprotected and uninformed of their vulnerabilities, ruined wells, toxic air from flares, first responders under-trained, and on and on. Riches for a pitifully small few, and long-term loss for all. (Yes, all...pro-frackers also breathe air and drink water, and will suffer too, despite their pitiful denial of anything being wrong.)

On the personal side, my family has property in the township, has for years. I live in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, and travel back and forth to the Ligonier Valley. A few years ago, seeing the already obvious damage done by fracking to the people and the land in Bradford and Washington counties, my neighbors and I approached our borough council - we don't have supervisors; we have a council - and we asked that the council ban fracking before it even gets to our borough. Hundreds of residents did not hesitate to sign our petition; it's really a no-brainer for anyone who breathes air or drinks water. (Little joke there.)

Our council looked at the facts and the evidence available even then and, despite being advised by one of the biggest pro-fracking law firms in Pittsburgh, Babst+Calland – B+C represents some of the worst fracking companies, the ones guilty of the kinds of “risks” I just read out above and unfortunately B+C also counsels municipalities, intimidating weak boroughs and township supervisors around fracking – despite the fact that Babst +Calland's top attorney was whispering in their ears, our council understood that their job was to protect the borough and the people in it. Staring down the legal bullies with their vague threats of lawsuits, ignoring the industry flacks who promised them perks, our council stood up for the people they represented. Our council banned fracking, and the ban is in place to this day.

The shale gas is going nowhere, gentlemen; it has been there forever. SLOW DOWN this process, gentlemen. The gas industry is woefully unable to make this a safe process for workers, for first responders, for anyone or anything anywhere around it. Keep it from taking over Ligonier Township, which this map suggests it will do

Do YOUR job, gentlemen: Represent the township's interests* as if ALL of our lives depended on it. In many ways - economically, physically, emotionally – they do.

Thank you for your attention.

*I would add here now: "...not your personal interests" 

P.S. Notice the “we could sustain losses” line in the gas company quote above. "Losses" doesn't refer to water, air quality or life itself...no. It refers merely to a loss of profits...money. Which we can't drink, we can't eat, we can't breathe. Profits are their sociopathic concern above all else....above life itself. It's monstrous, and yet it's become the accepted American way, which desperately needs to change.

NOTE: This statement can be reprinted/forwarded freely in its entirely, without edits or changes.