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Crackered out and Fracked up- A Tale of Two States

Updated: Feb 26

An essay on environmental collapse - Fracking, war zones and other fraught issues- Brian Keeler

Liquified Natural Gas, (LNG) and Fracking are very much in the news these days (again) with front page articles in the local and regional newspapers, and in the national media reports as well. Let's start with the good stuff.

In two of the Ithaca newspapers the recent headlines were of the Green New Deal and the push for clean energy. Here in Ithaca contracts were awarded for the electrification of several buildings with the goal of making the city eventually independent of fossil-based fuels. Of course, this makes us a better planet, more responsible citizens working for a good cause to benefit the planet and everyone's lives. Also in the news regionally in New York was that state lawmakers were tightening up legislation to prevent fracking companies from exploiting a loophole in the laws. The fracking interests are trying to sidestep the law against hydraulic fracking by attempting to frack with other means. So kudos to the lawmakers for being on top of this issue.

Above- the Susquehanna River valley at French Azilum, PA is part of the beautiful area of northern Pennsylvania that is threatened by the LNG industry. This painting by the author shows the view from the Marie Antoinette Overlook near Wyalusing. Wyalusing is the site of a proposed LNG facility.

To view a video of this work being completed-

In Pennsylvania, by comparison, the legislatures in my home area, Bradford County and the northeast are fighting to undermine protections to the environment and attempting to give fracking companies unlimited license to do as they wish. Also, to show the contrast, in my hometown, administrators of the school district voted to transfer the heating system of the school to natural gas. Hence, as the title of this article indicates, the tale of the two states is drawn out in high relief to show the vast differences in protecting the beauty of the land and the safety of the people.

For those of you who have been following my blog posts or letters to the editors know that the issue of LNG has been very much on my mind and of concern to many in Pennsylvania and beyond. A planned LNG plant in Browntown,PA (just east of Wyalusing) has laid dormant for several years, but this 265 acre behemoth could awaken again and pose the specter of shipping LNG down through Pennsylvania to a port across the river from Philadelphia. And, in the courageous leadership department, President Biden has rightfully put a pause on the further development of LNG. He has received enormous amounts of pushback form many sectors.

A point of case is in a recent op-ed piece in the February 22, 2024 issue of the Wall Street Journal. This editorial by a Democratic congressman from Ohio, Tim Ryan bemoans Biden's decision as atrocious politics. Ryan finds the enormous "cracker plant" near Pittsburgh, PA a source of pride and he glows with warmth and good feelings about the benefits of this fossil fuel plant. Cracker plant is the term now used to describe the operation of turning fossil fuels into plastics. The term derives from the process where the shale gas is "cracked" and the molecules split apart, and then reform into ethylene.When one reads the essays like Ryan's and others we realize the scope of what we're up against.

And, an article in the January 30th issue of the Washington Post, by their editorial board, called Biden's decision to pause the shipment of LNG and developent as "Political Theatre." So you can see that lackeys for the fossil fuel industry are gathering in force and trying to make the principled stand by Biden into a wedge issue in this election year.

The sheer breadth of the violations on the environment due to all aspects of this industry are truly astounding. Mr. Ryan is doubly wrong and going in the opposite direction from a sane trajectory to benefit our world. There were times when fracking was touted as an energy source to make us independent of foreign sources of energy. Forget that now, as this move taking fracked gas directly into plastics blows that pretense. With this relationship between shaled gas and the plastics industry, it is a violation of air quality, safety, and now our oceans and so much more- that are filling with millions of tons of plastics. I would ask, is this (Cracking and fracking) right livelihood?- as it represents a deleterious end product with catastrophic results for everyone.

The war zone aspect- mentioned in the subtitle of this essay has to do with Ukraine and Europe in general. Republicans were once touting LNG as a patriotic duty to help Ukraine. They've now changed their tune, and for the most part have denied approving aid for the embattled country. Worse yet, was the remark from Trump inviting Russia to attack our NATO allies. We recall of course that Trump was also the guy that pulled our nation our the Paris Climate Agreement. And in my hometown newspaper the editorial referred to this act as showing leadership. Again, you can see what incredible ignorance we are faced with- from the political leaders of certain stripes and their enablers.

We can reasonably find ourselves wishfully reminiscing about the days when doing good things for the land, water and air was regarded as the right thing to do by just about everyone. Now it appears to be a polemic and taken for granted that republicans automatically oppose any policy that curtails polluting industries. The subtitle of this essay mentions "other fraught issues" which is indeed what enviornmental advocacy had become- in some respects. In other words, being in favor of the Paris Peace Accords or similar measures are probably all part of that term bandied about the likes of Ron DeSantis- woke politics. This is what it has come to.

We just marked the one year anniversary of the rail disaster in New Palestine, Ohio where there was a huge chemical spill. With this industrial accident in Mr. Ryan's home state, one would think that the issue of shipping LNG by rail would occur to him.

Above- Apainting by the author shows the Susquehanna River at Sugar Run, PA. This beautiful shore and village is directly across from the site of the proprosed LNG.

We formed a group several years ago to advocate for sane policies in Pennsylvania to protect the safety and beauty of the Susquehanna region and beyond. Our website and the facilitated seminars help to bring out the facts. Our organization's facilitator, Diana Dakey has written a cogent letter to PA Senator Casey in regards to LNG. Here is an excerpt.

"I am greatly troubled by your statement, “we have concerns about the long-term impacts that this pause will have on the thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry. If this decision puts Pennsylvania energy jobs at risk, we will push the Biden Administration to reverse this decision.” Why should future natural-gas-production jobs be elevated above the health and safety of Pennsylvanians and the protection of the planet from runaway global warming? The pause is not a retroactive review of already authorized exports and is not a shut-down of domestic gas operations. Therefore, the pause will not cause layoffs in the gas industry.

Your concern, about the “immediate impacts on Pennsylvania,” is cogent. But the impact will be from LNG projects, not from a pause. You are aware that communities in eastern Pennsylvania are under existential threat from two projected LNG export projects. The New Fortress Energy LNG plant in Wyalusing Township, Bradford County (4), would move massive quantities of explosive LNG almost 200 miles to an export location on the Delaware River. I live in one of the communities that will be threatened by this LNG transport.

Another proposed project, Penn America LNG would “be a disaster for Chester and the region.” (5)

So, yes, there are “immediate impacts on Pennsylvania.”

Well said Diana. Here is the link to the website for Protect Northern PA- Check it out to get the facts about fracking.

I am currently reading Bill Gates' book, "How to Avoid a Climate Disaster." It is a thorough appraisal of our world and it shows the challenges and dangers we are up against. But as a caveat, I take a breath when I read commentaries like Congressman Ryan's, as we know that millions of Americans are watching Fox News and they are in complete denial of the issue of global warming. Still, we take inspiration from the likes of Gates and many others like Bill McKibben. Gates offers us hope as he thinks we have the means and methods to attain zero carbon emissions. 51 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year is the astounding amount that we humans put into the atmosphere each year. Gates, shows lots of science on how to get to zero. The political push back and obfuscation from many quarters shows that we may not have the collective will.

On a personal note, a fracking truck recently sideswiped and destroyed some of my property at my family house in Wyalusing, PA. This huge semi-truck came down the alley next to my propety, which is just wide enough for one car. Then the driver proceeded to turn the corner and willfully tore up walls, an antique fence, sidewalks and more. The trucking company is refusing to pay, saying there were no witnesses. Hmm, not exactly endearing of the industry.

The above transgression is rather a small incident in a long history of safety lapses, traffic accidents, water quality issues and so much more related to the incursion of this huge industry into an agrarian and beautiful region of PA. The LNG plant near Wyalusing, if it were to proceed. would present a huge danger to many. It has already obliterated historic grounds and could put at risk thousands of lives.

Above- Truck damage to the author's property in Wyalusing, PA. One of the many incidents and results of the massive influx of fracking-related traffic. Dissavowing the act and shirking responsibilty is the response from the trucking company that caused this.

As I write this essay, I have been reminded by the musician, Joe Jencks (who will perform at the Susquehanna Summer Solstice Fest) this year, that it is the 84th anniversary of Woody Guthrie's song, "This Land is Your Land." The song encapsulated the idealism and vision of a citizenry concerned about their country. Joe Jencks, like Guthrie sings songs of alturism. social justice and hope and we can see how they are kindred spirits. Here is what Joe had to say-

On this date in 1940, Woody Guthrie wrote “This Land Is Your Land.” It was following a frigid trip - partially by hitchhiking, partially by rail - from California to Manhattan. The Great Depression was still raging. Guthrie had previously heard Kate Smith’s recording of “God Bless America” and resolved to himself: “We can’t just bless America, we’ve got to change it” AMEN!

Above- Woody Guthrie- the composer of "This Land is Your Land."

So, in conlcusion, I would say that the contrasts of the two states, Pennsylvania and New York show how one region can make decisions and make policies for the betterment of their residents (and the planet) while this other entrenches a backwards industry and disregards science and facts.

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