|Karen Truelove from Silt, CO – source|
Michael McCarty, Contributing Writer
Silt, Colorado — Our house has a big picture window on the upper level, facing south. I often sit behind it before the sun arrives, with coffee, looking. I like to observe the sun’s first searching rays wake up the mountain peaks above us, each one receiving its due as the sun climbs skyward.
I study my view, on the lookout for the flick of a mule deer’s ear in the pasture to our west, the prance of a coyote as he heads for the safety of protective cover, or the twitch of a magpie’s tail in the apricot tree in our garden. For more than a couple of years — in fact an eternity — I have watched in horror as the natural gas drilling rigs arrive and deploy their forces on the brushy slopes and hills across the Colorado River. Ever closer, they dot the landscape of my picture window in increasing numbers, and fill my mind with increasing dread and impending doom. I wish they would go away. I wish I could wave my hand and wish them away. Just go away, I pray.
When we purchased our property, we were told that our area had been explored in the past and it was found that it was not economically feasible to recover what gas deposits existed below our feet. No one then talked of the many impacts of heavy truck traffic, the legalities of natural gas leases, and the harsh realities of the split estate. Then came hydraulic fracturing and our world changed. We did not see it coming. We were not consulted.
Soon, our neighborhood was bustling with gas workers and pickup trucks, and the acrid smell of diesel fuel and angst left hanging on the wind. Our roads and highways became suddenly congested, property values exploded, and great plans were made. The mad fool’s rush was on. We began hearing the cries from the people and landowners in the direct line of fire. This is not right, they said. How can this be, they shouted? How can you hurt us so badly?
I remember sitting behind my window as the first uncontrolled well fire belched huge clouds of rolling black smoke blowing east across my view. I rose and stood transfixed, mortified, slapped out of my chair with a wave of revulsion and outrage with fist in the air. How can this happen, I asked? Who else is watching this? Will anybody be held accountable? To what account?
The economy has crashed along with our housing prices and the nation’s hopes. Another boom, then bust. It has slowed the industry down to some degree, as has some new environmental regulation. Yet, the damage continues. We need the jobs they say. I’m sorry, but we do not have ears for this line of argument.
We hear about well water that smells of noxious chemicals and can be ignited at the tap. We hear of strange skin rashes and people getting sick. Some move to get out of the way. Some abandon their homes and run. And still the rigs come. We were told of an industry insider who claimed that they would frack every square mile in the state of Colorado, and the west. They are sure of it. They are proud of it. Drill baby drill, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.
It’s mom’s apple pie, the colors red, white, and blue, and the american way. Stay out of our way, they say. We have the law on our side.
I want to know why no one asked me how I feel about it, or inquired of my friend the magpie. I want to know why the gas executives feel it is “O.K.” for me to breathe the bad air from their vent stacks, or to suffer the sight of ravaged hillsides and the land scars that they leave behind. I want someone to look me in the eye and explain to me why I must bear the blinding lights of their rig towers and tall cranes at night, beaming directly into my being and destroying my peace of mind. I want to know why they think it is acceptable for me to worry about my health and the health of my friends and family. Give me a reason why you are prepared to jeopardize the lives of my kids and their kids and the environment that sustains them.
I have a simple answer for them, had they bothered to ask if I would allow them in our neighborhood. The answer is no, hell no! Can I make it any clearer? How dare you to presume otherwise.
I also beg a question of them. How about this one? Just who on god’s green earth do you think you are? I have a suggestion, too. Take your proprietary cocktails of poisons and death and leave. Get out of my backyard, which is vast and indomitable. It does not belong to you. Get out of my community and keep on going until you run right out of the west and drown in the sea. Go now! There is a special place in hell just for you, and the reservation is yours forever. Take your fracking fluids with you.
Michael Patrick McCarty earned a B.S. Degree in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University. He has worked in both the public and private sectors in a variety of capacities relating to fisheries and wildlife biology, water and environmental quality, and outdoor recreation. Michael and his wife steward a small acreage they have named Peach Valley Heritage Farms. It’s a “work in progress” for sure, but a little piece of heaven in the Rockies, just the same. Their work can be found at The Backyard Provider.
Read other articles by Michael McCarty here.
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