The Pennsylvania Constitution stipulates that its citizens have a right to “clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment.”
Allow me to propose, herewith, an amendment: “… and a toxin-free CSA box, goddamn it.” (Would Benjamin Franklin approve of that wording? Who cares, he’s dead!)
In New Sewickley Township, about 30 miles north of the city of Pittsburgh, there’s a new microcosm of the ongoing tug-of-war between the oil and gas industry and people who just happen to like clean air and water (crazy! I know). Kretschmann Farm, which has supplied certified organic produce to the greater Pittsburgh area for 36 years, is engaged in battle with Cardinal Midstream, a Texas-based corporation proposing to build a natural gas compressor station right next door.
A bit of background, for those who are new here: Most of Pennsylvania sits on the Marcellus Shale, the country’s top source of natural gas. The state has 6,391 active fracking wells, and with salivating oil and gas companies aggressively courting legislators and landowners across the state, that number is rapidly growing. But this has all happened very quickly — 10 years ago, the use of “fracking” in conversation was more likely to be understood as a hedged expletive than anything else.
In Pennsylvania, one has to move pretty quickly to keep up with the developments surrounding natural gas infrastructure. But unfortunately, research on the health and environmental effects of fracking tends to move very slowly.
In that regard, Becky Kretschmann, who owns Kretschmann Farm with her husband, Don, tells me that her opposition to the proposed compressor plant has to do more with the possibility of how it could contaminate their crops.
“We just know there’s the possibility of all sorts of toxins,” she says. “It’s very difficult to get access to the sites to do research, and there is not a lot done yet — although it’s in the process — in terms of relating health issues with fracking and these compressor plants. But the research is really in its infancy. So, lots to do before we sleep.”
It’s not like these concerns are unwarranted. A few recent and alarming news items from the Keystone State regarding its natural gas industry: Hundreds of incidences of contaminated water, health workers prohibited from discussing fracking with patients, and faulty measurement of harmful emissions.