AlterNet: By Gloria Flora: Fracking the Commons: Why Your Public Lands Are Under Assault -

by Oil and Gas Drilling: As a Forest Supervisor with the U.S. Forest Service in the late 1990s, I put a 15-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Montana's Rocky Mountain Front. I made this controversial decision because the ecosystems on the Front are irreplaceably rich and diverse and diverse, because I'd witnessed first-hand the cultural connections in spirit, mind, and body that countless connections in spirit, mind, and body, that countless people both near and far had to this extraordinary place. The towering limestone cliffs, the wealth of wildlife, and the sheer wildness resonate deeply with the human psyche, and have done so for countless generations for over ten thousand years. I thought I'd seen the worst of the oil and gas industry during that battle: its death-grip on public agencies, its demand for ever more leases, and its running roughshod over drilling regulations with impunity. But some years later I learned about an insidious new threat from the fossil fuel industry, hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." In fracking, fluid is injected into underground shale formations to break them apart and release trapped natural gas and increasingly, oil. Unfortunately, fracking fluid contaminates our water, fracked gas escapes into the atmosphere, and the breakneck pace of drilling for these low-quality wells wreak havoc on wildlife habitat and human communities alike. In the early 2000s, fracking was mostly confined to the Southwest and seemed little more tan a crazy, expensive, last-ditch effort to squeeze the last bits of gas out of old fields. But as the easy-to-get fossil fuels have been depleted, and as government subsidies for fossil fuels have increased, such last-ditch efforts have become the industry standard. Today, the battle I fought over the Rocky Mountain Front seems small in comparison to what the fossil fuel industry aims  to do across the entire country with fracking, including on public lands. Public lands, private profit. In recent years, fracking has spread from the rugged and remote public lands in the American West to the well-populated, bucolic landscapes of Pennsylvania. After decades of the oil and gas industry quietly cracking apart the crust of the earth, well, "quietly" if you aren't in the vicinity people are finally sitting up and taking notice. Communities across the US are attempting to ban fracking to protect their citizens, and so far over 250 have succeeded. Vermont has a ban, and Maryland and New York have moratoriums in place. The fight is far from over: Pennsylvania, for example, has passed a draconian piece of legislation that strips communities of the ability to regulate, where, when and how fracking should occur. But local and state-level lawmaking, while important, addressed only part of the picture. A significant amount of fracked wells are currently drilled on federal lands, that is, public, and our national commons.    

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