Just when you thought it was safe to poke your head out of the hole it’s been in all winter, you get slapped upside the head by rumors of the natural gas circus coming to town. We live almost on top of the Marcellus shale, a formation that runs beneath much of the southern tier of New York State and northern Pennsylvania. And it turns out that it might now be financially feasible to try to extract the natural gas from this formation. Here’s the beginning of an op-ed piece I wrote for the local paper, The Ithaca Journal.
“I’ve tried to stay away from this topic – don’t want to get sucked into the long protracted battle that promises to ensue – but when the topic comes up three times in one day, I figure it’s a sign. The last straw was when I was rushing through Wegmans trying to pick up items for dinner when I overheard a conversation. As I paused in the baking aisle, two students were discussing a class they were taking. One said, “I feel a little conflicted about natural gas because it’s a non-renewable resource, but hey, the city’s all excited and so is Cornell and Ithaca College.”
They were talking about exploiting the region for the natural gas that lies under our feet. As they discussed who they’d talked to in the area I just stood there and felt sick. Felt like I’d seen all this before. Felt like people who lived in this area had no idea what they were getting in to. I’ve seen what natural gas exploration and drilling can do to an area, and it’s not pretty.
I spent a good part of a year traveling back and forth to Farson, Wyo., doing research for a book. Farson is about 60 miles south of Pinedale in the southwestern part of the state. It’s kind of a godforsaken patch of high desert that gets blazing hot in the summer and cold and snowy in the winter, but I’d grown to love the place. My book was about a hardcore falconer who hunted sage grouse with his birds. But as I spent more time in Wyoming, the book morphed into a story about a changing landscape as well.” (click here to read more . . .)
Looking out on a portion of the Jonah natural gas field outside of Pinedale, Wyo., on a hot July day.