This piece from New York Times editorial writer Verlyn Klinkenborg on proposed gas drilling in the Catskill mountains of New York pulled at my heartstrings. To date, much of the criticism of the drilling proposals has centered on the risk to drinking water. And rightly so: while drilling for gas, companies inject millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the underground rock deposits to force the gas to the surface. The technique, known as hydraulic fracturing (or hydrofracking), can poison drinking water supplies as well as put a strain on water resources.
But Klinkenborg takes some time out to walk the riverbanks of the East Branch of the Delaware River and imagine how drilling will alter the landscape of this special patch of earth. How it will turn a small clearing in the woods into an industrial landing pad for drilling equipment. Or a simple gravel fishing path into a byway for heavy machinery.
The full piece is here.
Full disclosure: I grew up in the Catskills and have walked these same riverbanks. Plus, I get terribly nostalgic for the pastoral paradise of my childhood during a sweltering summer in the city. But who doesn’t?
Another casualty in this rush to exploit prices for natural gas is less tangible: Klinkenborg describes how gas companies have divided neighbor against neighbor, with some folks holding out when the company reps come calling, only to watch as their neighbors, one-by-one, cash in on the promise of riches. This squares with many of the reports we’ve heard from the field. It’s quite sad to think of how the fabric of these communities is unraveling as kind of a gloomy predecessor to the impending physical destruction.
Sigh. One thing’s certain: life is getting a lot more complicated for folks in the idyllic haunts of New York’s Catskill Mountains.