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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kasich, Koch and Big-Industry Bucks: Why Ohio Is the Next Fracking Frontier


by: Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report
Fracking opponents in southern Ohio won a victory last week when the United States Forest Service (USFS) withdrew more than 3,000 acres of public lands from a federal oil and gas lease sale scheduled for December 7, 2012. The USFS announced that it needed more time to review the potential effects of fracking after receiving petitions and letters from local leaders who used the old-fashioned method of collecting signatures to catch the attention of government officials.
The fracking industry, on the other hand, has spent $747 million dollars in the past decade to lobby Congress and support politicians in states like Ohio, Michigan and New York as part of a campaign to keep fracking unregulated, according to a recent Common Cause report.
Fracking is short for horizontal hydraulic fracturing, and Ohio is the next ground zero for the rapidly expanding natural-gas drilling method, which has enraged environmentalists and provoked controversy across the country. Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water and chemicals - some of them toxic - into deep underground wells to break up rock and release natural gas.
Common Cause reports that fracking companies spent $2.8 million in political contributions to Ohio parties and candidates since 2001. Republican Gov. John Kasich tops the list and has received $213,519 in campaign contributions from the industry.
Additional analysis of campaign records by Truthout reveals that wealthy executives of companies connected to the natural gas industry, including billionaires William "Bill" Koch and David Koch of Koch brothers fame, funneled an additional $127,268 in personal donations through a political action committee (PAC) to support Kasich's election in 2010.  
Earlier this year, Kasich signed a law passed by Ohio's Republican-controlled legislature allowing drilling companies to frack in state parks, a big signal to the industry that Ohio is open for business.
Kasich and other fracking supporters say the industry will create 200,000 jobs and bring new revenues to the state as drillers seek to exploit the gas-rich Utica and Marcellus shale formations deep under Ohio.
Environmental groups point to hundreds of documented water contamination incidents and two recent rig blowouts in Pennsylvania as evidence that fracking should be highly regulated or even banned. A grassroots movement opposed to fracking has grown in a number of states, and dozens of municipalities across the country have passed measures banning fracking in local areas. 
Kasich is not the only Ohio politician who has enjoyed support from the industry. Former Democratic governor Ted Strickland received $87,450 since 2001. The state-level Republican campaign committees for the Ohio House and Senate have received a combined total of $210,250. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted received $84,750.
Common Cause spokesperson James Browning said Ohio has one of the "worst" lobbying disclosure laws in the country, making it difficult to determine how much the fracking lobby has spent in Ohio.
Fracking companies gave $20.5 million to current members of Congress and spent $726 million lobbying Congress since 2001, according to Common Cause. House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) received $186,900 from fracking interests since 2001, topping the list of Ohioans in Congress. In 2005, Boehner supported the Energy Policy Act, which includes language now known as the "Halliburton Loophole," which exempts the fracking industry from regulation under the Clean Water Act.
Truthout found that wealthy businessmen connected to the natural gas industry donated thousands of dollars to a PAC organized by the Republican Governors Association (RGA) in 2010. The PAC used a majority of the money to pay for attack ads against former governor Strickland, whom Kasich defeated in 2010.
The RGA Ohio PAC raised $45,582 from leaders of natural gas drilling firms, including $11,395 from Bill Koch. Koch founded the Oxbow Group, a fossil fuel firm that partners with gas driller Gunnison Energy Corporation to frack and sell natural gas.
Koch's brother, David, of Koch Industries, which maintains natural gas pipelines, also donated $11,395 to the RGA PAC. Leaders of companies that distribute natural gas donated a combined $81,686, according to campaign records.
The RGA and its Ohio PAC spent $11 million supporting Kasich's 2010 campaign and swooped into Ohio again to defend Senate Bill 5, an anti-collective-bargaining bill championed by Kasich and repealed by Ohio voters on November 8. The RGA set up a front group to hide its finances during the campaign leading up to the referendum on Senate Bill 5. A recent investigation by Truthout revealed that the RGA had raised nearly $5 million from private healthcare, corrections and education firms to support Kasich in 2010 before returning to Ohio in 2011 to protect its investment.
Common Cause reports that heavy political spending by the fracking industry has helped keep it largely unregulated. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report on fracking is due out next year and could pave the way for federal regulations.
(http://moontownshippa.blogspot.com)

From Scientific American


Safety First, Fracking Second

Drilling for natural gas has gotten ahead of the science needed to prove it safe
A decade ago layers of shale lying deep underground supplied only 1 percent of America’s natural gas. Today they provide 30 percent. Drillers are rushing to hydraulically fracture, or “frack,” shales in a growing list of U.S. states. That is good news for national energy security, as well as for the global climate, because burning gas emits less carbon dioxide than burning coal. The benefits come with risks, however, that state and federal governments have yet to grapple with.
Public fears are growing about contamination of drinking-water supplies from the chemicals used in fracking and from the methane gas itself. Field tests show that those worries are not unfounded. A Duke University study published in May found that methane levels in dozens of drinking-water wells within a kilometer (3,280 feet) of new fracking sites were 17 times higher than in wells farther away. Yet states have let companies proceed without adequate regulations. They must begin to provide more effective oversight, and the federal government should step in, too.
Nowhere is the rush to frack, or the uproar, greater than in New York. In July, Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted a ban on fracking. The State Department of Environmental Conservation released an environmental impact statement and was to propose regulations in October. After a public comment period, which will end in early December, the department plans to issue regulations, and drilling most likely will begin. Fracking is already widespread in Wyoming, Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania.
All these states are flying blind. A long list of technical questions remains unanswered about the ways the practice could contaminate drinking water, the extent to which it already has, and what the industry could do to reduce the risks. To fill this gap, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now conducting comprehensive field research. Preliminary results are due in late 2012. Until then, states should put the brakes on the drillers. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie set an example in August when he vetoed a bill that would permanently ban fracking, then approved a one-year moratorium so his state could consider the results of federal studies. The EPA, for its part, could speed up its work.
In addition to bringing some rigor to the debate over fracking, the federal government needs to establish common standards. Many in the gas industry say they are already sufficiently regulated by states, but this assurance is inadequate. For example, Pennsylvania regulators propose to extend a well operator’s liability for water quality out to 2,500 feet from a well, even though horizontal bores from the central well can stretch as far as 5,000 feet.
Scientific advisory panels at the Department of Energy and the EPA have enumerated ways the industry could improve and have called for modest steps, such as establishing maximum contaminant levels allowed in water for all the chemicals used in fracking. Unfortunately, these recommendations do not address the biggest loophole of all. In 2005 Congress—at the behest of then Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of gas driller Halliburton—exempted fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Congress needs to close this so-called Halliburton loophole, as a bill co-sponsored by New York State Representative Maurice Hinchey would do. The FRAC Act would also mandate public disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking across the nation.
Even the incomplete data we now have suggest specific safety measures. First, the weakest link in preventing groundwater contamination is the concrete casing inside well bores [see “The Truth about Fracking,” by Chris Mooney]. Inspection of casings should be legally required. Second, the toxic fluid that is a major by-product of fracking is routinely stored in open pits, which can overflow or leach into the soil. It should be stored in tanks instead. Third, gas companies should inject tracers with the fracking fluid so inspectors can easily see whether any of the fluid ends up in the water streaming from residents’ faucets. Finally, companies or municipalities should have to test aquifers and drinking-water wells for chemicals before drilling begins and then as long as gas extraction continues, so changes in groundwater are obvious.
It is in the industry’s interest to accept improved oversight. Public opinion is turning against fracking. That is unfortunate, because more natural gas could benefit everyone. With basic precautions, we can enjoy both cleaner energy and clean water.

Fracking


COMMENT




BURNING LOVE



                           
12-5-11


by 




From The New Yorker Magazine


Americans have never met a hydrocarbon they didn’t like. Oil, natural gas, liquefied natural gas, tar-sands oil, coal-bed methane, and coal, which is, mostly, carbon—the country loves them all, not wisely, but too well. To the extent that the United States has an energy policy, it is perhaps best summed up as: if you’ve got it, burn it.
America’s latest hydrocarbon crush is shale gas. Shale gas has been around for a long time—the Marcellus Shale, which underlies much of Pennsylvania and western New York, dates back to the mid-Devonian period, almost four hundred million years ago—and geologists have been aware of its potential as a fuel source for many decades. But it wasn’t until recently that, owing to advances in drilling technology, extracting the gas became a lucrative proposition. The result has been what National Geographic has called “the great shale gas rush.” In the past ten months alone, some sixteen hundred new wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania; it is projected that the total number in the state could eventually grow to more than a hundred thousand. Nationally, shale-gas production has increased by a factor of twelve in the past ten years.

Like many rushes before it, the shale-gas version has made some people wealthy and others miserable. Landowners in shale-rich areas have received thousands of dollars an acre in up-front payments for the right to drill under their property, with the promise of thousands more to come in royalties. A new term has been invented to describe them: “shaleionaires.”

Meanwhile, some of their neighbors—who are, perhaps, also shaleionaires—have watched their tap water turn brown and, on occasion, explode. Shale gas is embedded in dense rock, so drillers use a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals to open up fissures in the stone through which it can escape. (This is the process known as “hydraulic fracturing,” or, more colloquially, “fracking.”) In the 2005 energy bill, largely crafted by Vice-President Dick Cheney, fracking was explicitly exempted from federal review under the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a result of this dispensation, which has been dubbed the Halliburton Loophole, drilling companies are under no obligation to make public which chemicals they use. Likely candidates include such recognized or suspected carcinogens as benzene and formaldehyde.
Shale gas is found deep underground; most of the Marcellus Shale sits a mile or more beneath the surface, far below the level of groundwater. Industry officials argue that the depth of the formations makes it impossible for fracking to pollute drinking-water supplies. “There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one—not one—reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated,” Rex Tillerson, the chairman and C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, declared at a congressional hearing last year.

Shale gas itself presents another potential problem. A recent study by researchers at Duke University showed that methane frequently leaks into drinking water near active fracking sites, which probably explains why some homeowners have been able to set their tap water on fire. Yet another possible source of contamination is so-called “flowback” water. Huge quantities of water are used in fracking, and as much as forty per cent of it can come back up out of the gas wells, bringing with it corrosive salts, volatile organic compounds, and radioactive elements, such as radium. Citing public-health concerns, Pennsylvania recently asked drillers to stop taking flowback water to municipal treatment plants.


New York State currently has a moratorium on fracking permits, pending the adoption of new regulations. Anxiety about New York City’s drinking-water supply has prompted the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to recommend, in a set of draft rules, that the practice be prohibited in the city’s upstate watershed. (The department is holding a hearing on the proposed regulations this week in Manhattan; a similar hearing, held earlier this month in Binghamton, drew nearly two thousand people.) There is also a moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Basin, which spans parts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania and is the source of drinking water for fifteen million people. The Delaware River Basin Commission, the body charged with protecting water quality in the region, was expected to lift that moratorium last week; however, the decision was put off after Delaware’s governor, Jack Markell, a commission member, announced that he would vote against the move. “Once hydrofracturing begins in the basin, the proverbial ‘faucet’ cannot be turned off, with any damage to our freshwater supplies likely requiring generations of effort to clean up,” Markell wrote in a letter explaining his decision.

Nevertheless, as the Times recently reported, contamination with fracking fluid has occurred. (Details of contamination cases are difficult to get, because most of the records have been sealed in litigation.) And, just a few weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that drinking water in Pavillion, Wyoming, contained a chemical that is commonly found in fracking fluid, although the agency has not yet determined whether fracking was the source. The E.P.A. is also investigating several cases of suspected contamination in the town of Dimock, Pennsylvania.

Every kind of energy extraction, of course, poses risks. Mountaintop-removal mining, as the name suggests, involves “removing” entire mountaintops, usually with explosives, to get at a layer of coal. Coal plants, meanwhile, produce almost twice the volume of greenhouse gases as natural-gas plants per unit of energy generated. In the end, the best case to be made for fracking is that much of what is already being done is probably even worse.

The trouble with this sort of argument is that, in the absence of a rational energy policy, there’s no reason to substitute shale gas for coal. We can combust them both! The way things now stand, there’s nothing to prevent us from getting wasted mountains and polluted drinking water, and a ruined climate to boot.

In the coming decades, ever-improving technologies will almost certainly make new sources of hydrocarbons accessible. At some point, either we will outgrow our infatuation or we will burn our way to a very dark place. 

(http://moontownshippa.blogspot.com)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

If You Sign A Gas Lease, Is Your Mortgage Safe?


Officials Push for Clarity on Oil and Gas Leases

Federal lawmakers, bank regulators and law enforcement officials are broadening their efforts to ensure that the growing number of oil and gas leases being signed by landowners across the country comply with mortgage rules and do not create new risks for lenders, appraisers or landowners.

The efforts stem from mounting concern that mortgages may be invalidated by people’s signing such leases without first getting permission from their banks.
Leases often allow certain activities, like storing hazardous waste on a property, that are expressly forbidden by mortgages because they can harm  resale values. Such activities also violate rules set by institutions like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Farmer Mac, which buy mortgages from banks.
Banks have become increasingly reluctant to give mortgages for properties with gas leases on them. Lenders have predicted that the conflicts between leases and mortgage rules are not likely to lead to foreclosures, but are likely to result in new rules from local banks and additional hurdles to getting a home loan or refinancing an existing mortgage.
As a result, lawmakers and regulators have called for investigations — and started their own — to determine the scope of the problem and potential solutions.
Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, Democrat of Arizona, sent a letter this week to the inspector general of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, asking him to conduct an audit to estimate how many mortgages that have been bought or sold by these federally backed agencies have leases on them. The letter also called for the inspector general to determine whether additional guidance should be provided to mortgage lenders, homeowners and potential borrowers.
“It is clear to me that we cannot wait any longer, and a strictly hands-off ‘buyer beware’ attitude is no longer appropriate,” Mr. Grijalva wrote.
In another letter sent last month, Representative John Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland, asked the House Committee on Financial Services to hold a hearing to discuss how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plan to address these issues.
“These potential conflicts also pose major risks for the fragile housing market,” Mr. Sarbanes wrote in the Oct. 26 letter, explaining how the conflicts may result in secondary mortgage lenders facing new financial burdens. “Investors could attempt to walk away from any security backed violated mortgages.”
Several other members of Congress have sent letters asking about conflicting language in mortgages and leases to other federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Federal Housing Administration, which provide federal assistance to mortgage borrowers, and to state regulators.
The actions come after an article in The New York Times last month that described the growing concerns about conflicts between mortgage rules and millions of oil and gas leases. State officials have also started investigating the problem.
“After reviewing a limited number of leases, we have concerns,” Maryland banking regulators wrote to federal regulators in an Oct. 24 letter. Aside from the conflicts between leases and mortgages found in other states, the state regulators pointed to provisions in Maryland regulations that could allow drillers to use land in ways that further violate mortgage standards.
In Ohio, bank regulators sent a letter in September to state lawmakers warning that if borrowers did not get their lenders’ consent before signing a drilling lease, they would be violating the terms of their mortgage. The regulators added that they planned to begin contacting banks to find out what steps they were taking to mitigate risks of such conflicts.
State lawmakers in Maryland, Ohio and Texas have also written their state bank regulators in recent weeks asking them to review the problem.
Bank regulators from Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania said they were planning a regional meeting on the matter in the next several months with officials from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which acquired some mortgages when banks collapsed in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Plans of the meeting were discussed in a letter sent by state regulators to a Maryland lawmaker, Delegate Heather R. Mizeur, whose office has started working on legislation.
An article in The New York State Bar Association Journal’s November/December issue stated that the leases affected not only mortgages but also home insurance. In October, the Maryland attorney general, Douglas F. Gansler, published a statewide alert warning landowners to check mortgages before signing a natural gas lease.
Aside from the mortgage rules themselves, Mr. Gansler said that title insurance also often contains restrictions that, “if violated, would make it difficult to get title insurance and thus, difficult to get a mortgage or refinance.” He added that his office had convened a team of lawyers that was working on a landowners’ guide about the conflicts, to be published in coming months.



Last month, Maryland real estate officials also wrote about the issue to a commission appointed by the governor that is reviewing drilling regulations. The officials asked that the commission consider creating a registry of all leases in the state so that regulators and the public could determine which properties also had mortgages on them.
Over 100,000 acres in Maryland have already been leased for drilling, but the state has imposed a temporary moratorium on any new drilling while state officials review regulations. Officials at the Federal Housing Finance Agency have said they are still studying the issue.
In letters sent to Congress, the agency said that before it decided whether to issue additional guidance for banks it was waiting for results from an Environmental Protection Agency national study on the safety of drilling and the technique commonly used after drilling known as fracking, which involves injecting at high pressure millions of gallons of water and chemicals into underground rocks to free the gas or oil trapped there.
“Clearly, F.H.F.A wants to assure that no threats to collateral occur,” a letter from the Housing Finance Agency said. “At the same time, the agency does not want to impact adversely homeowners by addressing a matter that has not been determined by the responsible agencies.”
But several members of Congress have urged the agency not to wait for the E.P.A. study since it is not focused on mortgage rules or ways in which values might be affected by drilling.
In an interview, an official with the Housing Finance Agency who is not authorized to speak to the press, said the agency is still reviewing the matter. During a Nov. 3 House subcommittee hearing on the mortgage market, Edward J. DeMarco, the acting director of the Housing Finance Agency, said that his staff was finding it hard to gather information about the number of mortgages on leased properties, in part because many of the drilling leases were not being filed with local officials.
“I’d be very happy to go back and take a serious look at whether an audit is in order, whether that’s feasible and practical,” Mr. DeMarco said. “Our ability to effectively gather this information is uncertain at the moment.”
(http://moontownshippa.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hey Moon Township Officials-It is time to do what is right for everyone!


News Nearby: Experts Brief Property Owners on Marcellus Shale Land Use

From the Forest Hills/Regent Square Patch

Industry experts at Moon Township forum say property owners should ban together when considering leasing land to Marcellus Shale drilling companies.



Marian Schweighofer said it started for her on an evening four years ago, when a group of her fellow farmers in Wayne County gathered around a kitchen table.
The group met to discuss the increasing number of offers each of them was fielding from natural gas drilling companies seeking to lease large tracts of Eastern Pennsylvania farmland to drill for Marcellus Shale gas.
The neighbors collectively owned 10,000 acres of land.
“We needed to find a way to pull our community together,” Schweighofer told a small audience of property owners Saturday at Robert Morris University. “We needed to be proactive now rather than reactive later.
“Please realize that every part of the lease is negotiable,” she said.
Schweighofer and a group of industry experts talked to Pittsburgh-area property owners about drawing up leases with drilling companies, hydrofracturing practices and air and water quality.
The event, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Western Pennsylvania, briefed property owners on what they may expect should a drilling company request to use their land. 
Schweighofer’s neighborhood group eventually grew to include more than 1,800 property owners who call themselves the North Wayne Property Owners Alliance. The group, which controls more than 100,000 acres of Wayne County land, banned together to negotiate leasing and water quality-control terms for drilling companies and subcontractors.
Davitt Woodwell, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, said Schweighofer’s coalition is one others in Pennsylvania should emulate.
“The industry is very different than it was three years ago,” Woodwell said. “Get an attorney who has experience doing these leases. Don’t do it yourself.”
Moon Township officials are in the processes of adding Marcellus Shale drilling regulations into the township’s oil- and gas- drilling ordinance.
No one has applied for a permit to drill for Marcellus Shale gas in the township, Moon Manager Jeanne Creese said, although township officials believe drilling companies have leased at least three tracts of land in Moon. 
[But Jeanne, is it not right that deals with landowners are currently being made? Editor's note.]
"There is some inevitability to this process," said panelist William Danchuk, a land use attorney. "But we can make changes to our lives and behavior to make it work." 

Get an attorney           

Danchuk said any property owner considering leasing land to a drilling company should first consult an attorney with expertise in land use.
“Everyone who I know who has signer’s regret did not get an attorney,” Danchuk said. “Every day there is another change, every day there is another nuance in the industry.”
Danchuck said leasing specifications may include provisions covering wildlife protection, noise control or a ban on surface-drilling activity. 
Property owners also should be more mindful of collecting royalties over the course of the land use rather than money earned upfront from the lease, he said.
“A lot of property owners are looking for front-end money,” he said. “Negate the front-end money—it’s a wash.”

Insist on testing water          

Woodwell said property owners should request that companies test ground water near the property over the course of the lease.
He also said property owners should also include a clause in their leases that pertains to recreational use. Owners should make sure to prohibit drilling company personnel and contractors from hunting, fishing, swimming and camping on their property, he said.
They also should negotiate what infrastructure will be placed on their land, including storage facilities, surface roads and pipelines, Woodwell said.

Work alongside neighbors

Panelists said property owners who own sprawling tracts of land will have most control in the negotiating process.
Officials in Moon have said the township's level of development and population density mean drilling companies may not aggressively target the area at all. 
“We thought if we could hold the properties together we would be in a better place to negotiate,” Schweighofer said.
Schweighofer owns more than 700 acres of farmland, but she said suburban neighbors with smaller land plots can work alongside one another in the leasing process. 
“[Companies will] come in, and say 'All your neighbors are doing this,' ” Woodwell said. “ 'This is what they’ve all signed, so you need to do this.' That’s not always the case.
“People getting together have leverage,” he added.  “If you go in as a group, you’ve got a much better opportunity to get the best terms in your lease going forward.”

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Fracturing of Pennsylvania


The Fracturing of Pennsylvania, by ELIZA GRISWOLD    November 17, 2011 NYT Magazine

Amwell Township is a 44-square-mile plot of steep ravines and grassy pasturelands planted with alfalfa, trefoil and timothy in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania. It’s home to some 4,000 people, most of whom live in villages named Amity, Lone Pine and Prosperity.

From some views, this diamond-shaped cut of land looks like the hardscrabble farmland it has been since the 18th century, when English and Scottish settlers successfully drove away the members of a Native American village called Annawanna, or “the path of the water.” Arrowheads still line the streambeds. Hickory trees march out along its high, dry ridges. Box elders ring the lower, wetter gullies. The air smells of sweet grass. Cows moo. Horses whinny.

From other vantages, it looks like an American natural-gas field, home to 10 gas wells, a compressor station — which feeds fresh gas into pipelines leading to homes hundreds of miles away — and what was, until late this summer, an open five-acre water-impoundment chemical pond. Trucks rev engines over fresh earth. Backhoes grind stubborn stones. Pipeline snakes beneath clear-cut hillsides.
The township sits atop the Marcellus Shale Deposit, one of the largest fields of natural gas in the world, a formation that stretches beneath 575 miles of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Shale gas, even its fiercest critics concede, presents an opportunity for the United States to be less dependent on foreign oil. According to Wood Mackenzie, an energy-consulting firm, the Marcellus formation will supply 6 percent of America’s gas this year, a figure expected to more than double by 2020.
About five years ago, leases began to appear in the mailboxes of residents of Amwell Township from Range Resources, a Texas-based oil company seeking to harvest gas through hydraulic fracturing. “Fracking,” as it is known, is a process of natural-gas drilling that involves pumping vast quantities of water, sand and chemicals thousands of feet into the earth to crack the deep shale deposits and free bubbles of gas from the ancient, porous rock. Harvesting this gas promises either to provide Americans with a clean domestic energy source or to despoil rural areas and poison our air and drinking water, depending on whom you ask.
On Nov. 21, the Delaware River Basin Commission, which involves four states — Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Delaware — will vote on rules governing fracking in the river’s watershed, which supplies some 15 million people with drinking water. The states most affected will be New York and Pennsylvania, which sit on the Marcellus Shale, where the gas is closest to the surface.
This summer, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York moved to lift the state’s yearlong moratorium on fracking against vocal opposition from environmentalists and many local residents. Following a series of hearings this month, New York will decide whether to allow fracking early next year. In the meantime, New Yorkers are looking to Pennsylvania, the first neighbor to welcome fracking, as a model.
There are more than 4,000 Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania, with projections ranging from 2,500 new wells a year to a total of more than 100,000 over the next few decades; 458 of those wells are in Washington County and 60 are in Amwell Township, to which fracking has given an injection of new income and business; it has also spurred one of the first E.P.A. investigations into fracking’s effects on rivers, streams, drinking water and human health.
Just before Christmas in 2008, a handful of neighbors granted Range Resources the right to drill thousands of feet below their homes and up to two miles in any direction. Signing leases here is nothing new. For the past 200 years, one industry after another has extracted minerals from the land. In the 1800s, it was coal; in the 1900s it was glass, coke and steel and industrial mining. “Sooner or later, somebody wants to go around, under or through you,” one farmer and gun-shop proprietor told me. “You make your best deal and you talk to a lawyer. At least these companies pay something up front.”
What these companies paid was more than many people in Amwell Township, where the per capita income in the 2000 census was $18,285, were accustomed to seeing in their lifetimes, even if the windfall wasn’t the same for everyone. Next-door neighbors made, upon signing, between $1,500 and more than $500,000 for the same amount of land. Curiously enough, the huge gap in payments didn’t cause much trouble among neighbors, at least at first. Most, if they express a political viewpoint at all, are old-school libertarians who believe each man has the right to live by his will and abilities.
The conflict instead is between “country folk and city people,” Bill Hartley, 63, a barber and a cattle farmer told me. “The country folk want the drilling and have mineral rights. The city folk don’t want the drilling and have no rights to sell.”

At Hartley’s Styling Shop, the barbershop Hartley has run out of a rented trailer on his great-great-grandfather’s farm for the past 16 years, the gas boom is all anyone talks about. There’s a barber pole spinning outside and a Jacuzzi in the bathroom. A John Deere clock tells time according to a tractor. When I met Hartley there early last spring, he was alone, reclining in his barber’s chair and chain-smoking, as he had been for hours, or maybe years. The trailer’s air and Naugahyde chairs were saturated with stale smoke.
“Do you mind if I smoke?” he asked. I didn’t. “Good, because I would have told you, ‘Tough.’ ” Hartley, who has the long, hollow face of an Appalachian Marlboro Man, keeps 35 cows on 110 acres of rocky fields of fescue. Until recently, like most farmers he knows, he needed a second job to pay for the cows. Raising cows costs more than $300 a head per year. It takes a good year for Hartley to break even. Now he has more money than he ever imagined. Signing his gas lease at “a little more” than $1,000 an acre netted him in excess of $110,000 upon signing, plus 12.5 percent of the royalties from gas produced on his land. Hartley prefers not to discuss exact amounts. “That’s nobody’s business,” he said. But after the first couple of years, production tends to drop off precipitously, and the royalty checks will dwindle. So Hartley still cuts hair. “And I like people,” he said.
As Hartley sees it, the gas industry has helped him to preserve his farm, cows and way of life. “I don’t want to say you have to be born into it,” he said. “But it has to be in your blood.”
The Marcellus boom has brought a host of economic benefits to Western Pennsylvania — new jobs, booked motel rooms, busy food franchises and newly paved roads — and promises to bring more. According to a recent study by Pennsylvania State University, the industry has created 23,000 jobs, including employment for roustabouts, construction workers, helicopter pilots, sign makers, Laundromat workers, electricians, caterers, chambermaids, office workers, water haulers and land surveyors. Not to mention that leaseholders are saving, on average, 55 percent of the money they make upon signing leases and 66 percent of their royalties, according to the Pennsylvania State University study.
Hartley’s cousin Stacey Haney lives two and a half miles from Hartley’s farm. A brown-haired, blue-eyed former beautician, Haney, 42, is a nurse at the nearby Washington Hospital. Hartley and Haney share a kind of tough self-reliance, as well as a quick, dark wit.
“We came into this world poor, and we’ll go out of this world poor,” Haney says. This is her family’s motto. Haney — a single mother who wears her hair in a shag — works full time and is raising her two children, Paige, 12, and Harley, 15, along with an ark of 4-H animals. Her father, Larry, whom everyone calls Pappy, is a steelworker. He has had long stints of unemployment, beginning when Stacey was in second grade. He’s also a sometime farmer whose butternuts have won first place so often at the Washington County Fair that no one else bothers to enter anymore. The fair is the highlight of the Haneys’ year: beribboned photos of their award-winning rabbits, goats and pigs line the walls of their immaculate three-bedroom home, which Haney has hand-stenciled with deer tracks.
When the natural-gas industry came to town, Haney saw an opportunity to pay off farm bills and make a profit from the land. Word had it that the companies were interested in signing up large parcels, so in the winter of 2008, Haney, who owned only eight acres, persuaded two of her neighbors to pool their land on a lease for which she was paid, in installments, $1,000 dollars per acre and 15 percent royalties.
The money would help to pay the taxes on their farms. The land man who came to the Haney home to sell the lease showed pictures of a farm and pasture with a well cap “the size of a garbage can,” Haney said, which she found reassuring. And it didn’t seem as if the drilling would affect their lives much. Range Resources was involved in the community in small ways too. For the past several years, it operated a booth at the Washington County Fair. In 2010, the company offered kids an extra $100 for the farm animals they auctioned. That was the year Stacey Haney’s son, Harley, took his breeding goat, Boots, all the way to grand champion.

At the fair, Haney ran into her next-door neighbor, Beth Voyles, 54, a horse trainer and dog breeder, who signed the lease with Haney in 2008. She told Haney that her 11 /2-year-old boxer, Cummins, had just died. Voyles thought that he was poisoned. She saw the dog drinking repeatedly from a puddle of road runoff, and she thought that the water the gas company used to wet down the roads probably had antifreeze in it. “We do not use ethylene glycol in the fracking process,” Matt Pitzarella of Range Resources told me. He also said that the dog’s veterinarian couldn’t confirm the dog had been poisoned and that another possible cause of death was cancer.
A month later, Haney’s dog, Hunter, also died suddenly. Soon after, Voyles called Haney to tell her that her barrel horse, Jody, was dead. Lab results revealed a high level of toxicity in her liver. Voyles sent her animals’ test results to Range Resources. In response, Range Resources wrote to Voyles to say that, as the veterinarian indicated, the horse died of toxicity of the liver, not antifreeze poisoning. The company did acknowledge that the vet suspected the horse died of poisoning by heavy metals. Subsequent tests of the Voyleses’ water supply by Range Resources revealed no heavy metals.
Voyles’s boxers began to abort litters of puppies; six were born with cleft palates. They died within hours. Others were born dead or without legs or hair. Unsure what to do, Voyles stored 15 of the puppies in her freezer. (Range Resources says it was never notified about the puppies.) By December, Boots, the grand-champion goat, aborted two babies. Haney had to put her down the day after Christmas.
What was going on with the animals? Where were the toxic chemicals in their blood coming from? Haney feared that the arrival of the gas industry and the drilling that had begun less than 1,000 feet from her home might have something to do with it.
In Amwell Township, your opinion of fracking tends to correspond with how much money you’re making and with how close you live to the gas wells, chemical ponds, pipelines and compressor stations springing up in the area. Many of those who live nearby fear that a leak in the plastic liner of a chemical pond could drip into a watershed or that a truck spill could send carcinogens into a field of beef cattle. (According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 65 Marcellus wells drilled this year have been cited for faulty cement casings, which could result in leaks.) But for many other residents, including Haney’s neighbors, the risks seem small, and the benefits — clean fuel, economic development — far outweigh them.
On a Saturday morning in July 2011, Bill Hartley’s Styling Shop bustled with clients — a truck driver, a leaseholder, a landowner — all of whom profited from the gas boom. One was Ray Day, 64, a ginger-haired farmer, who, along with his brothers and sisters, owns nearly 300 acres of Amwell Township. Thanks to the money he received from allowing Range Resources to drill, build a compressor station and dig a chemical pond on his land, he has been able to reroof two barns, buy a new hay baler and construct an addition to his house for his 94-year-old mother. “I only buy something if I can pay cash,” Day said later. And he still has plenty of money left over. Was he planning a vacation, maybe to Florida? Day snorted good-naturedly. “Farmers don’t go to Florida,” he said.
A few days later, I met up with Day off 1-79 at the Amity-Lone Pine exit, a little more than a mile from Stacey Haney’s home, and followed him past the local elementary school to a barn, with a white wooden sign that said Day Farm 1912. We drove a few thousand yards up a steep hill to a gated compound, where we were met by a young woman who’d come from West Virginia, along with her husband, a driller, to work as a security guard for Range Resources. She called headquarters to confirm my permission to visit. As we waited, Day pointed out a 40-by-100 fabric hoop structure where he stores round bales of hay. During the hydraulic fracturing, which took place 24 hours a day in March and April 2010, the huge open shed served as a parking area and meeting place.

Day pointed to where there had been a truck spill of chemically treated water used in fracking, and then he pointed to the stream below, which flows into the watershed at Ten-Mile Creek and then onto the Monongahela River. The spill hadn’t reached the stream, he said. Moreover, he’d been impressed with Range Resource’s openness about what happened. Every hour while fracking, workers walked the temporary plastic pipeline, full of chemical water, that ran between his site and the pond near Stacey Haney’s home. While walking the line, workers discovered several cracks that spilled frack water on the frozen ground. Such cracks are not unusual. “We all know they leak,” one Range employee wrote in an internal e-mail, which has become a matter of public record pending a lawsuit.
“None of it leaked on my property,” Day said later. Finally, the guard let us go up and take a look at the 3.5-acre chemical impoundment, known as a frack pond, which was 20 feet deep. The used frack water, called flowback, was milky gray. The aerators hummed. The impoundment, like many nearby, sat at the top of a watershed. We’d only been at the pond for a couple of minutes before a sedan raced up the hill behind us. My access had been denied. Later, Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range Resources, said that OSHA regulations regarding equipment and the company’s own safety standards required that all visitors wear protective gear.
Day drove me next to the well pad, a football field of cement and a few condensate tanks that painters were rendering forest green. Long before the recent drillers came, this was named the Well Field, after an oil well locals said was drilled here in the 1920s. Like some of his neighbors, Day signed a gas lease in part to protect his land from what he saw as a far more rapacious industry headed his way: long-wall coal mining, a process that takes a ribbon of coal out of a seam over miles. “Long-wall mining is so much more destructive than this, the way I see it,” he said. “Hopefully with these pipes they wouldn’t want to mine coal underneath us.”
The fracturing was now over, the major pieces of equipment were gone and the field was replanted with medium red clover. Day wasn’t concerned about the impact of drilling. “Nothing I’ve seen would indicate an adverse effect,” he said, “except the odor coming off the compressor station.” (Range Resources­ told Day that the smell comes from anaerobic bacteria that are more prevalent in this fracking process but that they are harmless. Investigating air quality around compressor stations is part of the E.P.A.’s ongoing study.) Day, like most of his neighbors, trusted the companies to use best practices. A man’s word means a lot here. After all, without regulation or oversight, he and other farmers worked together to do things like fence streams to keep cattle out of them.
We drove back through an alfalfa field to the farm. “You haven’t asked me what my profession is,” Day said. I’d assumed he was a farmer. “No one here could survive on farming,” he replied. “I taught science in local schools for 35 years.”

For Day and others, allowing the gas company to drill on their land isn’t simply a matter of cash. They also firmly believe that natural gas should be used as a bridge between foreign oil and sustainable energy sources, like solar and wind. “Natural gas is the most eco-friendly fuel source that we have,” said Rick Baker, 59, a piano tuner who lives on 91 acres located between Bill Hartley and Stacey Haney. “Some people will argue with me on this, but it burns clean.” He’s such a proponent of drilling that he even agreed to star in a commercial for Range Resources, for which he was paid $200.

About a year before Haney’s dog died, in the summer of 2009, she began to notice that sometimes her water was black and that it seemed to be eating away at her faucets, washing machine, hot-water heater and dishwasher. When she took a shower, the smell was terrible — like rotten eggs and diarrhea. Haney started buying bottled water for drinking and cooking, but she couldn’t afford to do the same for her animals.
Later that summer, her son, Harley, was stricken with mysterious stomach pains and periods of extreme fatigue, which sent him to the emergency room and to Pittsburgh’s Children’s Hospital a half-dozen times. “He couldn’t lift his head out of my lap,” Haney said. Early in November of the following year, after the animals died, Haney decided to have Harley tested for heavy metals and ethylene glycol. While she waited for the results, Haney called Range Resources and asked that it supply her with drinking water. The company tested her water and found nothing wrong with it. Haney’s father began to haul water to her barn.
A week later, on Haney’s 41st birthday, Harley’s test results came back. Harley had elevated levels of arsenic. Haney called Range Resources again. The company delivered a 5,100-gallon tank of drinking water, called a water buffalo, the next day. “Our policy is if you have a complaint or a concern, we’ll supply you with a water source within 24 hours,” Pitzarella of Range Resources said. He added that the company has “never seen any evidence that anyone in that household has arsenic issues.”
Although she was able to work 40 hours as a nurse and care for two kids and a small farm, Haney wasn’t feeling great, either. So a few months later, she had herself and Paige tested too. Their tests results showed they had small amounts of heavy metals like arsenic and industrial solvents like benzene and toluene in their blood. Dr. Philip Landrigan of Mount Sinai said that the results show evidence of exposure, but that it was difficult to determine potential health effects at the levels found. But he added: “These people are exposed to arsenic and benzene, known human carcinogens. There’s considered to be no safe levels of these chemicals.” Pitzarella says that Range Resources was never shown these reports and that arsenic has nothing to do with fracking. Pitzarella cited a study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania that found that 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s water wells had at least one pre-existing water-quality problem, and that there was no obvious influence on private water-well quality from fracking. In a previous study, 2 percent of the state’s wells had arsenic levels that exceeded health standards.
Soon Haney and her kids began to notice that even outdoors it smelled a lot like the shower — a combination of sweet metal, rotten eggs and raw sewage. Talking to neighbors, Haney learned that atop a hill, about 1,500 feet from her home and less than 800 feet from that of her neighbor, Beth Voyles, there was an open, five-acre chemical impoundment filled with chemically treated water.
Haney figured out how to navigate Google Earth on her son’s computer. (She doesn’t own one, nor does she have an e-mail address.) There was her gravel driveway and her house hidden under the canopy of maple trees. And there was the six-football-field-square black pond that dwarfed her neighbor’s silver-roofed house. The grass surrounding the pond looked dead.

Popular concerns about natural-gas drilling have centered on what chemicals companies are putting into the earth, not least because this list is a proprietary secret. In 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney spearheaded an amendment to the energy bill, which critics call the Halliburton Loophole. This legislation exempts hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act and protects companies like Halliburton, of which Cheney was once the C.E.O., from disclosing what chemicals are going into the ground.

But the problem, it turns out, lies also in the dissolved substances coming out: namely salts (bromides, chlorides), radionuclides like strontium and barium, as well as what are commonly called BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene), volatile organic compounds that can be injurious to human health.
The industry acknowledges that the question of how to handle the wastewater that comes from fracking is one of its most pressing problems. In Pennsylvania this problem is particularly acute. Pennsylvania’s geological formations, unlike those of other states where natural-gas drilling has occurred, don’t allow for the usual method of disposal: injection wells that store flowback deep below the earth’s surface. Disposing of the chemical water has meant trucking it to another state or paying local treatment facilities to process it. The facilities, which are not equipped to remove salts, have often sent the frack water back into local rivers. In 2008, a United States Steel plant in Clairton, Pa., complained that the water from the Monongahela River was unfit for use. Loaded with salts, the water tasted and smelled odd and was corroding not only industrial equipment but also dishwashers and kitchen faucets. For several months, the Monongahela River, which provides most people in the Pittsburgh area with drinking water, no longer met state and federal standards. Following a request from the State of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found it would require five times the amount of water in their reservoirs to dilute the river. It took five months to clean it up.
“Salt is a serious problem,” Rose Reilly, a water biologist for the Army Corps of Engineers, said. It has to be managed like any other pollutant. “It isn’t biodegradable.”
This past spring, in response to public outcry, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection asked gas companies to stop sending flowback to treatment plants. But it was a request — not a regulation. And enacting such measures is expensive. Shale gas is different from other kinds of oil exploration because there’s no eureka moment. If you drill, you’re sure to hit it. “This is a widget business,” says Bobby Vagt, president of the Heinz Endowment, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that supports development in southwestern Pennsylvania; he ran gas and oil companies in Texas for 15 years. “The lower you can keep the costs — of every step of the process, including pipelines and road building — the more money you’re going to make.”
The challenge, as Tim Kelsey, a professor of agricultural economics at Pennsylvania State, points out, “is making sure that the community isn’t left holding the bag.” This is an economic issue as much as an environmental one. Banks have expressed reluctance to back home mortgages within up to three miles of a well. Whole towns could become brown fields, and home values would drop precipitously. Currently, companies operating in Pennsylvania pay no tax to extract gas. (Gov. Tom Corbett reportedly received at least $1 million in campaign donations from gas interests.) Corbett recently introduced legislation that would levy fees that critics say would amount to a tax of 1 percent per well on gas extraction, significantly lower than Arkansas (3.54 percent) and Texas (5.4 percent). Pennsylvania Democrats call the measure, which they see as friendly to oil and gas interests, “Drill, baby, drill.”

But for men like Bill Hartley and others who welcome the arrival of fracking in the state, it’s not the politics of deep drilling that matter. What matters is preserving common resources. “My one concern is our water,” Hartley said. “My grandfather taught me water is life.”

On Sunday May 8, 2011, Mother’s Day, when Haney and her kids were returning from dinner at a nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant, they turned onto McAdams Road, and the smell of raw sewage was “enough to make you gag,” Haney’s daughter, Paige, told me. They weren’t the only ones to smell it. Beth Voyles, Haney’s neighbor, called the Department of Environmental Protection to register yet another complaint about the stench. The D.E.P. sent out a water specialist, John Carson. His field notes, made public following a subpoena, indicate that he, too, smelled a “strong odor” at the impoundment but not on her property. Voyles claims that Carson refused to take her complaint. When asked for comment, a D.E.P. spokesman, Kevin Sunday, said in an e-mail that the “D.E.P. responds promptly to any and all complaints. There is an ongoing investigation into the impoundment. This is a matter of active litigation and cannot be discussed further.” Range Resources says that the D.E.P. visited the area on 24 separate occasions and found no malodor.
Range Resources did have an explanation: the power had failed at the impoundment, shutting down the aerators that move oxygen into the water to prevent bacteria from growing. Range Resources maintains that a D.E.P. study from 2010 indicates no air pollution of any kind at the pond next door to the Haneys and the Voyleses, or anywhere else, for that matter. Critics of this study say the effect of fracking on air quality remains underinvestigated.
That same day, when Voyles told Range Resources she had developed blisters in her nose, it offered to put her up in a hotel, as it does for all nuisance complaints, but she didn’t want to leave her dogs and horses behind. (Range later said that it had no record of the complaint.) Next door on McAdams Road, Haney and her kids began to have intense periods of dizziness and nosebleeds. Of the three, Harley was the worst off. Haney took him to their family physician, Craig Fox, in the nearby town of Washington. Like most local doctors, Dr. Fox had never seen such symptoms before.
Haney says that Dr. Fox’s advice to her was unequivocal: “Get Harley out of that house right away. I don’t want him anywhere near there, even driving by, for 30 days.” So Haney took Harley to a friend’s house in Eighty-Four, a town named for the lumber company. She took her daughter to her parents’ house in Amity. Each day, she spent about four hours in the car shuttling the kids from school, to and from friends’ homes and driving to the farm to feed the animals, which were O.K. some days and vomiting or collapsing on others. Haney found a cousin willing to take her pigs, but she had nowhere to house the other animals, so they remained at the farm. She stayed home for less than an hour at a time, long enough to put a load of laundry into the washer. Every two days, she spent $50 on gas. Their farmhouse stood abandoned. “Our home has become a $300,000 cat mansion,” Haney said when I visited her in July.
Haney is no left-leaning environmentalist; she is a self-proclaimed redneck who is proud to trace her roots here back at least 150 years. This is not the kind of fight she usually takes on. “I’m not going to sit back and let them make my kids sick,” she says. “People ask me why I don’t just move out, but where would I go? I can’t afford another mortgage, and if I default on this place, we will lose it. ”
Beth Voyles is equally frustrated. Although the results of her medical tests are inconclusive, she complains of blisters in her nose and throat, headaches and nosebleeds, joint aches, rashes, an inability to concentrate, a metal taste in her mouth. Voyles filed suit against the Department of Environmental Protection in May. Range Resources chose to join the case, because its rights are also at stake. Documents from industry sources and the D.E.P. — now a matter of public record — support the suit’s allegations of a series of structural violations and hazardous incidents surrounding the pond. They include half a dozen tears in the pond’s plastic liner (at least one caused by a deer — its carcass had to be dragged out); at least four cracks in a temporary plastic transfer pipeline leading to an open field; two truck spills, one of which contaminated a cattle pasture; and a leak in an adjacent pond that held drill cuttings. Range admits that after this leak, the level of total dissolved solids, or salts, spiked in the water. Of all these violations, the D.E.P. issued a citation for only the last. The D.E.P. declined to comment, citing the ongoing case.

In mid-July, Voyles’s 25-year-old daughter, Ashley, was riding her paint gelding, Dude, behind the chemical pond. Ashley could hear a hissing and bubbling sound in the stream. There were pools of red foamy oil slick. “It was rainbow water,” Ashley said. The next morning Haney and Voyles called in the alphabet soup of government agencies they’ve contacted over the past year to test the water in the pools: the D.E.P., the E.P.A., the Fish and Boat Commission. They also called Range Resources. Sunday, the D.E.P. spokesman, said that it was most likely decayed vegetation that gave off gas. Later, test results of the area commissioned by Range Resources revealed the presence of acetone, toluene, benzene, phenol, arsenic, barium, heavy metals and methane. The company maintains that none of these were found in drinking water.

Bill Hartley, Rick Baker, Beth Voyles and Stacey Haney received their first royalty checks this summer from the nine gas wells that lie on the square mile between them. Stacey used most of her $9,000 check to pay off the bills she incurred: $4,500 went to co-pays and deductibles for doctors’ visits; $1,150 went to pay for gas. She set $2,700 aside to pay taxes on the earnings. The remaining $750 she used as a down payment on a camper. Haney finally moved the kids to live behind her parents’ home in Amity. Subsequently, the benzene and toluene levels in each of her children’s urine dropped precipitously. For Haney, who continues to return to the farm to feed the animals every evening, the benzene and toluene levels remain higher. Harley still suffers from acute nausea, for which his doctor has prescribed Zofran, a medication frequently given to chemotherapy patients. “They’ve ruined our lives,” Haney said. “I have to worry every day if my kids are going to have cancer. I will worry for the rest of my life about them with the amount of carcinogens we now have in our blood. We’ve lost everything — our pets, the value of our house. No amount of money that we’d ever get from royalties would ever replace my children’s health.”
The people of Amwell are no strangers to the price of development — the loss of a farm’s spring, the sinking of a family home when the coal mine burrows beneath it — or the price of its absence — shuttered mills and lost jobs. But given our energy needs, the use of fracking and the number of wells are likely to grow. The question is whether regulations to address environmental and health issues can keep pace with a booming industry.
Haney’s neighbors have heard about Harley’s illness. “I don’t know what to make of it,” his cousin Bill Hartley says. “It could very well be there’s a leak in the pond.” Haney’s neighbor Rick Baker is also unsure of what the problem is. “I don’t deny there’s something going on there,” he said. “It concerns me.” He called Range Resources after it first delivered the water buffalo to say he was glad the company was taking care of the problem. Baker stands by the positive impact the industry has had on Amwell and thousands of other townships. “This is definitely the right thing for Western Pennsylvania,” he says. “We’re sitting on one of the largest natural-gas reserves in the world. We need this natural gas to keep functioning.” And the economic benefits were essential, he adds. “There are still people sitting in bars waiting for the steel mills to reopen.” Yet Baker says he feels different from the way he did six months ago, when we first spoke. “The safety and environmental issues have to be addressed,” he says. The future scares him. With big oil — Chevron, BP, among others — looking to get involved in the industry, Baker fears that it won’t be accountable to individuals like himself and Haney.
Haney still made it to this year’s Washington County Fair, where her daughter, Paige, lost the Spam bake-off. Paige’s goat, Crunch, won first place, and her rabbit, Phantom, almost took best in show. As usual, Pappy’s butternuts placed first. In the fair’s main hall at the craft division, a glossy ribbon hung from a child’s three-foot high Lego Patterson rig, a model of a gas well. It won first prize.

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