Fighting Fracking to Save the Land

The threat of environmental destruction creates unity among those who believe that their efforts, no matter how small, have the power to create change.

| July 2016

Fracture: Essays, Poems and Stories on Fracking in America (Ice Cube Press, 2016) edited by Taylor Brorby and Stefanie Brook Trout combines the perspectives of over fifty writers who discuss the complexities of fracking through their own experiences, investigative journalism, story-telling, and verse. These individual voices explore fracking’s effects on local communities as well as its global impacts. In the following excerpt, “Faith on the Front Lines" Louise A. Blum writes about her personal experience standing up against the fracking industry.

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It is so hot my skin is slick with sweat. My shirt clings to my back with a disagreeable tenacity. The sun bores down with all the subtlety of a drill bit; overhead, a few clouds wrestle half-heartedly for rain and give it up. It is an unseasonably warm day in late May, but then again, aren’t all the seasons coming earlier these days? It’s hard to remember what the weather is supposed to be. We stand in a line, side by side: before us the road, behind us the vast bowl of Seneca Lake, all around us the rolling hills and vineyards of the New York Finger Lakes. If you kept your eyes closed, you could imagine that all was right with the world. You could forget that beneath the lake lie hundreds of acres of depleted salt caverns and that just behind us, Crestwood Midstream, a Texas-based energy company, is gearing up for work. But of course we are not here to forget. We are here to remind. We form a human blockade before these gates, to prevent the trucks from entering or leaving, to interfere with business, or, at the very least, to bear witness to a crime that is about to be committed: the storage of that liquid propane gas in those abandoned, unlined salt caverns beneath a lake that provides the drinking water for a hundred thousand people.

A constant stream of traffic barrels past; drivers honk vigorously, give us the thumbs up, or, sometimes, a gesture of another kind.

“So why do you do this?” the reporter asks. “Why stand all day in the sun?” My brain struggles to connect some thoughts, but they disperse like the clouds beneath the sun’s fierce glare. “What do you hope to accomplish?” he asks.

He’s a nice guy; he waits patiently for my response. We had thought that Governor Cuomo’s ban on fracking in New York State had put an end to all this. We wouldn’t end up like our neighbor, Pennsylvania, its mountains fracked beyond recognition, its streams cloudy, its water poisoned. But the industry’s latest response to the claims of pollution has been to propose the use of LPG—that is, liquid petroleum gas—instead of water to frack the wells. Pumping methane, propane, and butane into the earth to fracture rock has been touted as much more “environmentally conscious” than the use of water. Whereas water returns to the surface along with the natural gas, bringing with it all the chemicals that are used in fracking, LPG remains obediently where it’s been put: in the earth.