I am particularly concerned about small towns in rural areas of our country which are vulnerable to the seductive promises made by the gas drilling industry. The poorer the people, the easier it is to get leases signed it seems to me.
Laceyville, PA, is about as small as they come, a little borough of .2 square miles with a population of 396 (2000). The last census reported 108 families reside in Laceyville, 162 households. The median income for a household was $29,375. About 11% of families were below the poverty line. Farming, logging, and quarrying are the main businesses. Laceyville children attend Wyalusing schools, and three churches serve the spiritual needs of the residents. The fire department and ambulance services are staffed by volunteers.
An article about Laceyville's "windfall" income from gas drilling activity appeared October 8th in the Rocket-Courier, a Wyalusing newspaper. Some borough leaders are looking forward to the money they will receive from leasing publically owned properties. They expect to receive about $100,000. Public lands not yet leased will be leased in the near future. The borough council plans to repair local roads and to repair the old well which is being replaced by a new water well. Once the new well is functional, the old well could be used to sell water to gas companies. One council member strongly opposed any money going for additional police.
The problem for the people of Laceyville may have a lot to do with water. Other small towns have had their water sources tainted from the effects of gas drilling. In Dimock, PA, for example, as many as nine families cannot use their water as a result of drilling by Cabot. Recently there were three toxic spills in the course of one week. Long and short term health issues are showing up around the country where gas drilling is going on. Air pollution is a huge problem as well. Wherever a well pad is installed, a superfund site is the eventual result. Natural gas drilling is a dirty, toxic process even if everything goes as planned. However, accidents are commonplace.
I wonder how much $100,000 will help the good people of Laceyville if they have problems with soil, air, or water pollution. Contaminated water cannot be replaced or cleaned up. If the reservoirs are compromised, how will Laceyville get their water?
Read the Rocket Courier article by David Keeler here.