By John Peters
The oil and gas industry apparently believes its own propaganda – that modern drilling techniques are environmentally friendly. Maybe it’s time the true-believers at the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York stop by my small farm in the Town of Arcade and see, first hand, the mess made by one of their drillers.
Before the drillers arrived two years ago, my land produced excellent quality hay, feed for my livestock. Then the state Department of Environmental Conservation gave the company permission to level eight acres of land for a drilling rig next to my hay fields.
Down the drill bit went to the Theresa sandstone 6,000 feet below. Up came tens of thousands of gallons of toxic drilling fluids to fill a pond built for that purpose. But, when four days of heavy rain washed out the small poly-lined pond, guess where all of those toxic fluids ended up? Yep, in my fields and an adjoining neighbor’s field.
How could this happen if the drilling is environmentally friendly? Well, first of all, the drillers did not care enough to protect my land from a natural downpour, a commonplace event. Perhaps to save a few construction dollars and fatten their bottom line?
Next, the DEC failed to inspect the drilling operation to make sure my land was protected. If the DEC has the authority to issue the drilling permit, doesn’t it also share the responsibility to protect my land and, when things go wrong, share the blame? Can we count on the state to do its job? Apparently not.
I asked the Wyoming County Soil and Conservation office to look at my hay field. Its agent described the damage caused by the drillers in a blistering five-page report. At last, I had some hope that the drilling company would do the right thing and offer to pay for removal of the toxic wastes covering my hay field. Nope. The company did not move. And the county has no legal authority to force drillers to fix anything.
Then, to my surprise, an engineering firm hired by the drillers stopped by. His conclusion agreed with the Wyoming County study. My hay field was ruined by the company’s own drillers. The engineer’s recommendation: Build a storm retention pond and release the water slowly through the new roadway. The storm water retention pond was never built.
Finally it dawned on me. No one would help me. Not the drilling company. Not the Oil and Gas Association that represents the drilling company. Not my own town government, not even the state agency that gave the driller a license to ruin my hay field.
Now I am buying hay at $8 a bale for my cattle – many times more than the costs to grow my own hay. I have hired a lawyer and I am suing the drillers.
The next time you are tempted to believe the oil and gas industry propaganda, stop by my farm for a dose of reality.
John Peters runs a small farm in the Town of Arcade.