When one thinks of “gas companies,” or “fracking,” some might envision powerful corporations with massive facilities that are ravaging Mother Earth. But when CFACT recently visited several fracking companies in NW Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest, a very different picture came to light.
CFACT staff met with a few, family-owned small businesses that operate fracking rigs throughout the area. This type of fracking, technically termed “hydraulic fracturing,” is a process that uses water and sand to break up sandstone under the Earth’s surface to release natural gas and oil, and is responsible for much of the energy revolution taking place in America today.
“Guys are out here in 12-degree weather and snow for over 12 hours a day doing hard manual labor while water is splashing on them,” said Collegians Southern Director Graham Beduze. “And all so we can heat our homes.”
Each drilling operation CFACT visited was in a small clearing with hundreds of trees in every direction. Hardly a scene of environmental catastrophe as painted by the Greens. At most, these operators cut down a handful of trees to make the well more accessible. Once this type of drilling is complete, the large trucks roll out and leave a small well pump.
Despite this slight environmental impact, these small businesses have almost been driven out of business by regulations from the federal EPA and PA State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). One particularly onerous regulation is known as the “Methane Rule” that was put in place by the Obama Administration to limit methane emissions from fracking facilities. “This rule alone would cost each operator $10,000-$15,000 to comply with per facility,” explained Arthur Stewart, secretary of the PGCC, a group created by fracking operators to protect themselves against government overreach. “But the methane released is minuscule. You can stand right next to the collection facilities and be perfectly fine.” Many businesses considered closing down. Then, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, appointed by President Trump, put the rule on hold.
Another owner-operator explained his frustrations with the State DEP. “I had a small trickling leak of water from my truck, and the inspector fined us $7,000. We fought it in court and got it reduced, but that took months and thousands more in attorney fees.”
Still another operator told us about the roller coaster of dealing with his state’s bureaucracy: “I was driving back from a hearing at the Capitol and called my family. ‘This is it, we’ll have to just pack up the fracking business and do something else,’ I said. Then the legislature passed a bill to restrict those regulations, and we had new life again.”
Despite numerous studies declaring fracking safe, the limited environmental impact compared even to solar and wind, and the reduction in utility bills it provides to struggling families, fracking has been vilified.
Arthur Stewart articulated the feelings of the owners, the workers, and their families when referring to cities and governments: “We’re just out here clinging to the hope that they’ll need rural America again.”
CFACT will continue to fight for these family-owned businesses that are the backbone of America, whether in the sphere of public opinion, testifying at government hearings, or explaining the truth on college campuses across America.