Sunday, January 1, 2012

Word of Mouth - Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage

Happy 2012! *Tosses confetti into air*

I thought the best way to start off a new year was with a book review. What better way to ring in 2012 than with a new book to chat about?! I`ve finally gotten back into my reading rhythm since all the edits I`m going to do for now on ‘Of Gods & Goats’ are done and the holidays are behind us. This time around we`ll be sipping coffee and noshing about ‘Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage’ by Stephanie C. Hamel.

I have two confessions to make pertaining to this book. One is that I am SO bummed that I missed my chance to meet and talk to the author when she was having a book-event at our local indie bookstore, From my Shelf Books. I was deeply into NaNoWriMo mode and totally missed her appearance. Shame on me. Secondly, I must confess to doing what no reader should do. I judged the book by the cover before I read it. Shame on me twice. When I stopped into Kasey`s bookstore to pick up my copy, I had this niggling thought that this book would be dry, and filled with geological terminology that I would never grasp. BUT, the inclusion of the word ‘marriage’ placated my doubting Thomas nature. I can now say that Ms. Hamel`s book is anything but dry and filled with scientific jargon that left me bored. Learn from my mistakes people.

Ms. Hamel`s accounting of her struggle with the temptation of leasing her land to the natural gas companies is compelling, brutally honest and moving. The story takes place right in my neck of the woods, where gas drilling and ‘fracking’ (which is fracturing the shale beneath the surface) is in full swing. You cannot go anywhere in North-central Pennsylvania without seeing signs of natural gas drilling. Our once quiet roads are now crammed with tanker trucks carrying ‘fracking liquids’ (whatever they are). The hotels and motels and any rental house in the area are filled with out-of-state gas workers, and the pastoral acres that once had cattle and sheep meandering peacefully now have brightly lit towers instead of farm animals. It has been an economic boon to our poor county, and to the folks who signed the gas leases, myself and my hubby included. But at what cost to the environment?

Those questions, and countless more, are looked at with an amazingly honest eye in Ms. Hamel`s book. She does not shy away from showing us just how this heated topic tore into her marriage. She was firmly against signing the gas lease; her husband was strongly for signing. She didn`t wish to see the idyllic farmland she had spent summers playing on as a child turned into a drilling site. Her husband was looking at their financial future, and the very shaky job he had. Both had very good points. There is no right or wrong in this I learned when my husband and I sat down and talked about signing that gas lease a few years ago.

Since Ms. Hamel has a PhD in environmental health sciences, she was even more torn by the quandary. She couldn`t ignore the possible effects of gas drilling, but, she also had two young boys at home. The signing bonuses and royalties began to really erode her strong convictions, as it would anyone. She takes us through the journey in a book that is laid out in a journal form, as she speaks with friends, neighbors, professors, officials and family. She explores how taxing she was on her husband, and he her, as they grappled with this tempting, and possibly ecologically damaging, situation.

I was compelled to read and witness this one family`s tussle with very tough questions. It is a heartfelt and honest book. It will make you think about our role as stewards of the earth. What we are handing to our children? How much do our ideals mean when faced with going up against a large industry that has state law giving them the right to collect gas from under our property via a neighbors well, even if we don`t sign the lease, which would leave us sitting there without a dime while our neighbors rake in cash hand over fist? Ms. Hamel doesn`t have all the answers but she does pose some very thought-provoking questions that anyone, be they surrounded by natural gas drilling or not, will ponder over for quite a long time.


Michele Stefanides said...

I'm looking forward to reading this, Vicki. We don't have to worry about an actual gas drill/pad (not sure of the proper terminology) here in the borough. But my husband and son say the possibility exists of the gas companies drilling in the vicinity and somehow being able to access gas in our neighborhood. If that becomes a reality, my family says that it is possible that our neighbors could sign a lease, and if we didn't, the gas companies could still access our property. If that would become a reality, I would sign a lease. I'm sort of on the fence about the balance of the energy our country needs and the environmental impact. But I will say this, if the gas companies are going to take something from my property anyway, they darn well are going to pay me for it.

Sharon said...

This sounds like an interesting book, I do not know that the fracking is safe and what will happen on down the road after it. I can see why the upset in her marriage when they had different views on the subject.

V.L. Locey said...

It is a very good book that gives the reader plenty to think about. I`ve been watching towers go up in our county left and right, and although I know this country needs the gas, I have to wonder what costs all the drilling will have on the earth.

Jim said...

This DOES look like a good for and a very relevant one for today. I am very aware of what is going on in Nebraska right now and the Canadian company that wants to 'pipe' raw oil products through their state an onwards to California I believe. Lots of environmental concerns by the Nebraskans as well as an opportunity to create jobs. What to do? Good questions.
I will look into this book! Thanks for review and good job at it too!
Guess you can't be good at everything!!!!(knitting/crochet) lol

V.L. Locey said...

Jim, you`re too funny! I think I`ll leave the knitting needles to you. My granny squares were granny circles!