Bad news, nature lovers: One of the 10 most endangered environments in the South is right around the corner. The Southern Environmental Law Center’s current list (which also includes more faraway spots like the Alabama coast) names the George Washington National Forest an endangered spot because of the possibility of hydrofracking. That’s a new method of extracting natural gas that uses large amounts of water and injects carcinogens into the water table.
I have some secondhand experience with this practice because my family lives in Pennsylvania, where "fracking" is already widespread. (The Marcellus Shale formation, in which the natural gas has up till now been trapped, underlies a large swath of the country from New York State to Tennessee.)
Less than a mile from my mother’s house, for example, two well sites have been installed in the last several years. One defaced an old farm (think muddy road and all-night lights) and another currently consists of a gravel pad, awaiting its well, in a formerly beautiful field.
The aesthetics are bad enough, but other aspects are worse. There’s the risk to drinking water. There’s the light and noise pollution. And as Sandra Steingraber puts it in the current issue of Orion, where she often writes about this issue, "Fracking constitutes consumptive water use…fracking turns fresh water into poison and makes the water disappear. That’s something we’ve not done before on a large scale."
Everybody who cares about the local environment needs to stay informed about this issue and be ready to make their views known.