(T)he shale isn’t going anywhere, it has been there for hundreds of years. Why the rush? If technology had time to catch up, I think the drilling could be completed much more efficiently and have less environmental impact.
Telling personal stories
The oil and gas boom has been underway for a number of years in many locations across North America, and there are now a lot of stories about individuals and families whose lives have been personally affected. This post is part of a regular series of those stories on this blog to help you envision what could happen if drilling expands along the Beartooth Front. Look for these once a week.
Today’s story comes from Pennsylvania, and it offers several lessons for Montanans:
- Be careful what you sign. The landmen aren’t representing you. You need an attorney.
- No matter what anybody tells you, drilling is a mess. Your life will be disrupted, and not for the better.
- Things happen fast, and outside of your control.
Bob Deering is plain spoken and honest. His story is worth listening to.
Previous posts in this series:
Tim and Christine Ruggiero, Wise County, Texas
Laura Amos, Encana, Colorado
Helen Ricker, Poplar, Montana
Diana Daunheimer, Didsbury, Alberta
John Fenton, Pavillion, Wyoming
Linda Monson, Williston, North Dakota
Bob Deering, Pennsylvania
About 5 years ago land men started showing their faces on our mountain. They talked to all the landowners, showing us different contracts for leasing our grounds. Very few of us had any idea what the ramifications of signing that lease would be.
Most of the contracts were for 5 years with an option for renewal. The leases ranged from $5-$50 per acre per year. Most of the hunting camps in the area saw this as a little extra money to help pay property taxes. Some signed and the fun began.
First, seismic testing crews showed up. They carved paths through the woods, drilled holes all over the place, helicopters flew overhead from morning until night, and flags were tied everywhere. It probably would not have been too bad if it was once and done, but we are now on are third time around for testing. Every time it seems to go a different direction: NE-SW, N-S, SE-NW, etc. Each new round of testing wore more paths through the woods. Soon they will be starting again.
“Our 15 foot gravel road is now like a highway”
About 3 ½ years ago the first trucks made a visit. I didn’t invite them, the state did. The trucks carried massive construction equipment: graders, track-hoes, bulldozers, tree cutting equipment, tree shredders. Our rural area started to change: our 15 foot gravel road is now like a highway.
To top it all off, they took over the road repair and traffic control. Now they tell us when it’s safe for us to use our own roads, that is when they’re not using it for their trucks. When winter comes you never know if you’ll be blocked off the roads by a broken down or stuck truck.
Now for the drilling operations. The first several sites were so deep in the State Forest no one knew exactly what was being done. As the sites expanded closer to view, the scope of them was revealed. Each site is approximately 10-15 acres or larger if they have a frack pond. Some of the pad sites are almost adjacent to each other with interconnecting roads and pipelines.
They schedule their workers day and night. Between the noise, dust, and fumes from the trucks, simple things like enjoying a Saturday cookout on the deck have been ruined.
The drilling companies are now in the process of what they call “adding infrastructure”: pipelines, water lines, roads and storage areas. Current laws allow some of these features to be built almost on top of your property. Where we once had darkness we now have stadium lighting. At night it looks as though a shopping center has been added to our neighborhood.
I have been in this area since I was 2 years old. In 2001 my wife and I started to build our retirement home – our dream home really. Well, our dream home is turning into a nightmare. What if conditions deteriorate to the point where we’re forced to move?
Our latest change? The local gas drilling company is building an open-pit frack wastewater retention pond. The site is on ground purchased adjacent to our property.
My wife and I are not “tree huggers,” but we do like wildlife and nature. It might be a coincidence, but bird patterns have changed since the industry came. We’ve kept records of migratory birds passing through our yard for 8 years. For the past 2 years we haven’t gotten grosbeaks or cedar-waxwings. These birds usually show up in the fall like clockwork, within a calendar day or two each year. Evidently the birds are smarter than the people: they moved on.
No more hunting
I won’t get into much about hunting, there are other variables causing changes as well; DCNR and Game Commission rule changes. All I can say, this is the first year since 1965 that I haven’t purchased a hunting license. I would feel guilty shooting any of the few animals we have left.
Some people feel gas drilling is a great thing. Personally, I have reservations. First, the shale gas isn’t going anywhere, it has been there for hundreds of years. Why the rush? If technology had time to catch up, I think the drilling could be completed much more efficiently and have less environmental impact.
I hear stories about the lumber and strip mining days of over 100 years ago, stories about the total devastation of the forests. Well, we certainly haven’t learned much from our past mistakes.