Since 1949 fracking was considered a safe practice yet recently large numbers of people have been standing against the practice pointing out that at its recent invasive volume and practice it is far from that. In 1949 there was only vertical hydraulic fracturing and very little of it, but as of the early 2000’s there is horizontal hydraulic fracturing and mass amounts of it. Although fracking companies like EQT will tell you that horizontal fracking has “less of a ecological footprint” it has little to nothing to do with having an impact on the ecological damage it causes and everything to do with capitalizing on production.
Mandy Kendall, the August/September participant of the Artist in the Library Series used her exhibit Sacrificial Fire to make probably one of the more subtle arguments recently waged against fracking; though if her exhibit is subtle, I’d vow to approach everything else about fracking carefully and with real concern.
Mandy Kendall’s approach to fracking is one that is too often ignored. By targeting the fracking sites in Lawrence County her work implies that even if water damage wasn’t the issue, there is a lot of light pollution and noise pollution that comes with hydraulic fracking. Urban cities that are already well lit are probably less affected by the light pollution from fracking because there is already a cloud of light covering the city, but in Lawrence County fracking creates an ominous glow for tens of miles from this one-source-star-blocking light. And as far as the noise, some of the neighbors moved just because they couldn’t hold a normal conversation without screaming at each other.
We made that scenario a reality August 13th at the Braddock Carnegie Library when Mandy brought along some sound recordings of neighborhoods in Lawrence County and played them while we engaged with each other to discuss how we can stop the frack movement from taking over North Braddock. While I was mostly busy with patrons at the front desk I stepped in from time to time for a moment to see frustration rising, people asking if we can just shut the noise off.
“I can’t hear myself think!… Literally.” one woman begged.
Another patron asked, “Is it possible to even fight this? Seems to me if a mayor or someone above us wants it to happen then it’s going to happen. And even if we do want to complain, like to the media, why would they care? It seems to me that they want to stop us from complaining because they are all on board with the money they offer.”
That statement was a bell that rang true to me. I attended a public meeting with EQT in McKeesport the first week of October, part of Fawn Walker Montgomery’s mission to increase transparency to the city. As an anti-frack Mckeesport citizen, I asked a series of questions that shed some light on the negativity fracking brought to the table. Mayor Cherepko was upset by citizen fears and relayed unto us that-
“The city is desperate and needs the money and so we have to allow it. Year after year I catch myself trying to make sure this city doesn’t shut down! Because that’s an option we’ve come dangerously close to using. It’s either use another band aid or shut down the city. That’s it.”
What is he saying? Frack or Flint? No police force, fire department or God forbid garbage days if someone like EQT doesn’t save us? It interests me how often this happens. This theology that the only way cities can gain revenue is by depending on large corporations to hold them afloat. There is almost never the discussion of encouraging local wealth that can add to city revenue such as. If local owned businesses was something that is encouraged more maybe some cities wouldn’t be so “desperate” but not just any businesses; why not encourage movements like Worker Owned Cooperatives? If there were more city wide acknowledgments of those types of businesses (btw I don’t believe there is such a thing in Allegheny County), there would be more funding available for them. By design WOC’s create community wealth and participation in ways that fracking wouldn’t even compare to. How? Well because WOC’s wouldn’t be a quick fix. Those types of businesses would provide for poor communities consistently for the duration of the businesses existence. Sure there are hurdles, but the main hurdle is simply educating leaders, funders and the community about such a business movement.
Why is it that frack corporations target poor communities anyway? I’d take a moment to consider. If the idea of fracking is so sound then people in rich communities wouldn’t mind benefiting from it either. More wealth for them right? It seems to me the message is pretty apparent. If the only people frack corporations can convince are collective desperates such as these groups of mayors, then richer communities are aware of the damage fracking can cause and even they feel that the money is not worth the ecological damage. I’m getting pretty tired of being the crash dummy for corporate needs.