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Should you make the Earth move … January 1, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in Energy, Environment, Justice, Politics.
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… you should need to explain to the rest of US why this is a good thing, what it might mean in all regards and how you plan to compensate US should your actions do real harm.

That’s all I’m saying when it comes to the 4.0 earthquake yesterday near Youngtown, Ohio, with clear circumstantial evidence that the tumbler was triggered by deep underground pressure applied near a fault line by fracking fluids injected by a company seeking oil. You can read about it here.

Nothing proven yet, and the company has paused injections to allow for an investigation. All good, rational community-minded responses.

The thing is, this is not an isolated phenomenon. It’s a coincidence that has cropped up many times down in the Oklahoma-Texas-Arkansas region where fracking is commonplace.  It’s also logical, since the concept of fracking is designed to pressure deep shale to “crack” and release natural gases to be recovered. It follows that such pressure applied in a poor location could cause other pressure “adjustments” — like shifts along fault lines, known and not known.

This is NOT an argument for banning fracking as a gas extraction method. Given the current economy and need for this fuel, such a conclusion would be knee-jerk and unsound.

But it does underscore in a huge way the stakes all of US have in what happens to that rock tens of thousands of feet below our feet. In addition to the petrochemicals and gas trapped there are things like water supplies — and the underpinnings of our communities. There is no inherent “right” to the riches down there, although our laws allow for the leasing of the privilege to gather it up. Along  with that comes the inherent responsibility to do that responsibly — meaning, with responsibility for all the results of that activity.

A simple rule applies: If you break it, you’ve bought it. No blanket waivers of liabilities to the rest of US.

That’s what the discussion of “fracking” needs to concentrate on: Holding people doing that fracking to full responsibility to the rest of US for any and all damage done in the process — to drinking water, to surface waters with any waste fluids and to anything on top should you cause things like earthquakes.

And not with some years-later claim on some multi-layered corporate shell long stripped of any resources to draw on for damages. Up front, with bonds or clear assets set in reserve to compensate. That will add to the cost, of course. But that is a legitimate cost of doing such business, just as it is in many other endeavors. This industry should not be sheltered from that cost — meaning: subsidized because the risk is offloaded to US.

This is another case where we should simply say no to profits being 100% privatized, while the risks and fallout costs are shifted to US — the public, be we just 100 people who rely on aquifers for water, or tens of thousands who rely on the Earth’s crust for our lives.

I don’t know where all the lines are. Reasonable people can draw them. But they will only be counted as “reasonable” if they  acknowledge their responsibility — to the community.

That’s not “the government” talking. It’s the nation.