I am posting here a letter I sent to SLOLife, which the editor-in-chief, Tom Franciskovich was so gracious to publish, despite my criticism of his earlier article. In recent weeks in SLO county there have been other battles over water in the north county which will certainly be eclipsed if fracking is allowed.
In any event, if my arguments here are useful, use them in your own local fight if frackers are snooping around...
FRACKING: Short term Gains – Long Term Pains
By Robert Sachs, SLO resident
I read with interest Tom Franciskovich’s fracking article in the August 2013 SLO Life magazine. Despite its seeming objectivity into the pros and cons of this oil extraction process, I felt that the article was clearly on the side of the frackers. Sure, methane released into the atmosphere leading to more global warming was mentioned. Also included was the issue of methane in the drinking water. Nothing, however, was mentioned of health problems that people have experienced or the shrinking water table that farmers or ranchers have to deal with that threaten their livelihoods and our food supply.
Of course, Franciskovich’s article talked about our pristine San Luis Obispo lifestyle and our tourism. But, he made this aspect of the central coast sound obscene – almost self indulgent and petty. He does this by focusing primarily on the dollars tourism brings in versus the dollars fracking could bring into the SLO county economy.
Thus the lion share of the article talks about the boom fracking has been for the American economy. We are less dependent on foreign oil. And Europe is buying oil from us. Where fracking has been allowed, state and regional economic outlooks have become outrageously rosey. This is looking at revenues, not into the faces of the people who know the darker side of what fracking brings.
Millions of jobs Franciskovich mentions. Millions. Think of the current population of San Luis Obispo county. Then think of ag land and open spaces being gobbled up by housing developments. Obviously developers would love it. And the frackers promise that they will provide money for infrastructure; better hospitals and schools, etc. With respect to hospitals and health care, what if in allowing fracking we are creating the health problems that demand more hospital services? Sounds a bit self-destructive and pointless to me.
Envision San Luis Obispo twenty-five years down the road after fracking. Visualize another million people in the area. Visualize the roads and the traffic. Visualize paved over areas for malls and hospitals where there use to be fields that once grew our food. Visualize our children with respiratory and digestive complaints as our water become more contaminated and our air more saturated with petrochemical pollutants – and whatever chemicals they are allowed to use that we are told we are not allowed to even ask about. Good-bye SLO life. Hello asphalt jungle. Hey, but we got tons of money!!!
So, what will the board of supervisors do? Developers want to develop. Infrastructures are crying out for more money. Will our board be willing to look around at the real-time realities of fracked communities without staying fixated on the bottom line? Will they be willing to look at where the money has really gone and who really benefits? Will they have the moral backbone to resist all the perks and benefits that will be lavished upon them by oil companies? Will they be willing to risk their political careers for the higher ground? And, when the poor, hurt oil companies decide that they are going to try to sue our county if we don’t bend to their will, where will the men and women of the board and our community stand?
George W. Bush said that we are “addicted to oil.” Actually, he got that line from George Clooney in “Syriana.” And, just as Mr. Bush was willing to plagiarize George Clooney for a good sound bite, rather than address the addiction, he went along with his oil cronies and sanctioned a more deadly way to satisfy the itch. We haven’t overcome our addiction to oil. Fracking just allows us to do it dirtier and deadlier.