Trailer Talk's Frack Talk: Why Food and Fuel Shouldn't Mix -- A Farmer Speaks Out On the Dangers of Fracking
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This brings us to the DRBC and its pending decision about drilling in the watershed. There is outcry from environmental groups such as Catskill Mountainkeeper, which is urging the DRBC to do an environmental impact study, and there are lawsuits pending from two attorneys general. (From the DRBC Web site: XTO Energy is requesting to withdraw up to 250,000 gallons per day of surface water from Oquaga Creek in the Town of Sanford in Broome County to support the company's planned natural gas exploration and production activities within the Delaware River Basin in Broome and Delaware counties in N.Y. Oquaga Creek drains to the West Branch Delaware River.)
On April 18, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman demanded the Feds commit to a federal study of the safety impacts of drilling and fracking in the Delaware River Basin or he'll sue. Now the Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler has filed suit to ascertain the gas drilling effect on water. Enter Exxon-Mobil and its request to withdraw water and the public has again responded to the commission with an unprecented 7,000 comments so the docket has been tabled that would have allowed EXXON-Mobil to withdraw water and a public hearing with the DRBC is being held on June 1 in Deposit, New York.
As summer begins and we gather to share fresh produce and meals together, Greg Swartz spoke with me about farming and the natural gas well that sits in wait up the road, to be fracked or not.
You can listen to theaudio interviewof Sabrina's interview with Greg Swartz on Trailer Talk.
Sabrina Artel: I want to talk to you about your farm, about the vegetables you're sharing with us, and also about the Marcellus Shale and natural gas drilling.
Greg Swartz: Well, fortunately, so far there's no direct impact on this year's harvest from the Marcellus Shale. Here at Willow Wisp we have 12 acres of land, about four of which is intensively cultivated for vegetables, and over the next couple of years there will be more and more land under cultivation. But we grow about 40 different kinds of vegetables as well as herbs and cut flowers. As you said, we're located in Damascus, Pennsylvania, in Wayne County, which is in a sense "Ground Zero" for the fight for and against gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region.
And we're in a pretty interesting situation because 85 percent of the land base in Damascus Township has been leased, and so here at the farm, when you stand on the farm and look around 360 degrees, every single piece of land except for one small half-acre or acre parcel ... every tree and blade of grass and stream is leased land, which means that the gas companies have secured the right to drill on all of that land surrounding us.
The state of things in the Delaware River Basin currently are that they've drilled three test wells, or exploratory wells, in Wayne County this summer. They have -- let's see -- 11 more ready to go that they'll do in the spring. So, they do these test wells as a precursor to full-blown development to do, and their statements -- the gas drilling companies' statements, anyway -- is to do geologic testing to look at the different strata and to get a read on the quality of the gas.
SA: On my way to your farm, Greg, I passed one of these test well sites, about a third of a mile away from your home. Could you share with us who put that there; what's the story with that land; and what has the experience been with the drilling, and knowing that that is so close to your home?