Kurt Heidinger: Fracked gas is not low cost or environmentally responsible

Last modified: Monday, May 18, 2015

To the editor:

As reported in an April 27 Gazette story about Berkshire Gas backing a pipeline through western Massachusetts, company spokesman Christopher Farrell made several wild claims before the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce that deserve correction, including one about “ecoterrorists” operating in our area. (Editor’s note: Farrell later apologized for describing local pipeline opponents as engaging in ecoterrorism.)

I’ll focus on one claim, because its falsehood undermines every other one he made. Farrell said the hydro-fracked natural gas service that Berkshire Gas provides is “low cost” and “environmentally responsible,” when it is neither.

In 2005, the Bush administration passed and the Obama administration never repealed, energy legislation that exempts fracking operations from regulation under key provisions of the Clean Water Act. This means that frackers do not have to spend money to plan and implement measures to protect water resources, which saves them enormous amounts of money. That in turn leads to an overabundance of cheap gas.

Presently, we are not paying the actual price for fracked gas — a price that would include full enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Enforcement would put frackers out of business, for they are barely profitable as it is. It would also leave Farrell having to explain the real cost of Berkshire Gas’ service, which he does not want to do.

Unfortunately, the exemption of fracking operations from the Clean Water Act amounts to a corporate welfare program, and has not and will not prevent the pollution of our nation’s finite and economically valuable water resources. All it has done is make it possible for frackers — and companies like Berkshire Gas — to pretend their product is “environmentally responsible.”

When the pricetag finally arrives for all the water that has been polluted and all the communities and businesses damaged by fracking, our children will pay for it. Not a single penny will be made by frackers when we take into account these ignored costs. Instead they will leave a massive debt that they, and Berkshire Gas, have every intention of passing on to future generations.

Kurt Heidinger



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