Resolving the Fracking Issue in Pennsylvania
This paper analyzes the debate over hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as fracking) in Pennsylvania. It provides a brief overview of the history of the practice and the Marcellus Shale, the contested natural gas deposit. The economic importance and environmental risks are established. A thorough overview of existing stakeholders, a summary of their perspectives, and the historical context of their worldviews is provided as a way to shed light on possible areas of compromise moving forward. It then offers a potential solution to the quagmire utilizing several principles of adaptive management. The paper is heavily informed by the environmental evaluation philosophy of Bryan Norton. It also draws on relevant government and university-sponsored studies on fracking, along with media and public relations pieces from relevant stakeholders which illustrate their perspectives.
I. Introduction and History
Fracking, in its essence, is analogous to the debate it has engendered: it’s an explosive process which injects and spreads toxins through a system. The effect of the explosion, whether it be earthquakes or contrarianism; of the toxins, whether they be chemicals or seeds of distrust; is similar in its effects upon the system, whether the system be nature or public discourse. In Pennsylvania, the fracking debate centers around the Marcellus Shale, a 600-mile long stretch of sedimentary rock which was not believed to contain significant deposits of accessible natural gas until 2008. As such, its mining, the attendant debate, and the study of the potential consequences are relatively new, especially as compared to fracking debates in other parts of the country and world.
Some geologists believe the Marcellus to contain enough natural gas to radically affect the national and even international market. The Marcellus location in the Appalachian Basin places it in close proximity to major eastern seaboard markets like Philadelphia and New York City. This is important because the oil must only travel a short distance via pipelines, and also because these industrial cities have the infrastructure for large refineries to handle a significant load of natural gas. Labor unions say that fracking could ultimately lead to hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Pennsylvania.
There is tremendous pressure from natural gas companies like Chevron and Range Resources specifically, and many Big Oil interests to frack and drill to the fullest extent (Range Resources). Despite New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banning fracking, the more progressive and environmentally friendly elements in Pennsylvania politics support it, including Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf. It also has support from labor unions who applaud the jobs it brings, energy advocates, and, in most polls, a majority of Keystone State citizens, ranging from 55 to 75 percent (Robert Morris University, 2015).
Fracking is a turbulent topic nationally, as well. The United States Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a report in 2015 designed to influence future policy toward “unconventional oil and gas drilling,” a category of development of which fracking comprises the majority. The language used to introduce the study is vital to understanding not only the point of the study but also the ultimate philosophy and ethics of the policymakers who commissioned the study. “America’s abundant unconventional oil and gas (UOG) resources are vital components of our Nation’s energy portfolio. UOG development can enhance America’s energy, economic, and environmental security; however, these resources must be extracted in a prudent manner” (US EPA 2015). Indeed, the general national philosophical orientation of policy under the Obama administration toward natural gas development has never been if development should occur, but rather how it should occur.
This “moderate compromise” viewpoint – moderate in that it roughly describes the middle ground between the extreme poles of unwavering environmentalists and unwavering Big Oil lobbyists – is broadly popular. And it is the best compromise that has been meted out thus far. It allows Republicans and fracking advocates to point towards what amounts to a concession to their previous position, and they wear their trendy green badge with pride when courting moderate voters and fighting allegations of environmental irresponsibility. It allows Democrats, on the other hand, to stave off their maddened environmentalist base; they can say, not without undue pride, that they have made some progress toward mitigating greenhouse gases. However, as will be demonstrated, this “moderate compromise” is neither truly moderate nor is it truly a compromise.
Central to the recent progress of fracking policy has been the determination by the EPA that fracking has reduced carbon emissions and is thus mitigating climate change (EPA 2015), as compared to our progression toward climate change under a coal-centric energy plan. It is not this science that is so hotly contested by some environmentalists, but rather the degree to which this claim has been used to justify and establish the “moderate compromise” state in which the country, and to a large extent, Pennsylvania, presently finds itself. The important distinction to be made in reviewing the EPA study is that fracking reduces climate change only to the extent that it replaces our coal infrastructure. Fracking may represent a small improvement over coal in the short term in terms of contribution to climate change, but it’s still contributing. And even with strict regulations in place, methane produced by fracking and the construction of the fracking infrastructure is a 20 times more potent contributor to greenhouse gases than carbon (Ohio Environmental Council). Studies such as the EPA’s, environmentalists argue, detract from the focus on the permanent solution – renewable energy – by justifying a slightly less harmful method of natural gas production in the short term. While natural gas may make a small contribution towards reducing long-term emissions, these renewable resources are the only way that humans are likely to bring about any significant long-term reduction to climate change. It should be noted as well that this discourse has not even yet taken into account the potential risks of fracking on human health and wildlife habitat. The problems with “moderate compromise” are only just beginning.
- Worldviews of Key Stakeholders
The worldviews of many of the stakeholders center around a single principle or goal; yet in all cases, there is no need for those goals to run contrary to the goals of environmentalists. However, the choice by politicians, businesses, and labor groups to pursue fracking as the means to their ends has consequences which other means would not.
Stakeholder 1: Politicians and Governor Tom Wolf
Politicians are perhaps the most important of these three because they have the final say. In Pennsylvania, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf is not clearly a friend or an enemy to fracking. Much of his campaign focused on increasing jobs in the state, and he has directly opposed a neighboring Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo of New York, who led a statewide ban of fracking there in 2015. In 2015, Wolf banned fracking in Pennsylvania state parks and forests. He has proposed an increased tax on natural gas mining to pay for his public schools initiative. And most controversially, he worked with Republicans on a bill that will allow treated minewater discharged from coal mines to be used for fracking, without making gas companies responsible for the entire watershed, but only the water they extracted (Environmentalists, such as representatives from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, derided the bill because they said it would allow gas giants to pilfer from streams that already have an interrupted flow due to coal mines. These watersheds, they argued, will never again have a healthy flow if the fracking industry is allowed access (Delaware Riverkeeper Network 2016).
In a certain way, Wolf’s actions reflect many of the same wise use principles advocated by another Pennsylvania governor, Gifford Pinchot. A fundamental recognition of the economic value of natural resources is firmly entrenched in his worldview, but he has also taken strong steps to limit unnecessary waste and to protect parts of the environment from unregulated corruption. Similar to Wolf’s opinions on fracking, Wolf and his team think that “To regulate grazing is usually far better than to forbid it altogether.” (as quoted in Norton 1991, pg. 29) And just as Pinchot used his concessions on grazing as a fulcrum to win greater protection for the Forest Reserves as a whole, so too has Wolf leveraged his concessions in a virulent political atmosphere to both try to keep fracking safe and to win return concessions from opponents on other topics, like his prized education legislation. Materialism is another underlying influence in Wolf’s worldview that can be traced to Pinchot; from his campaign’s infancy and through his first year in office, Wolf’s team has frequently used terms like “prosperity,” “job growth,” and “energy leader.” It evokes a crucial question about what defines the “good life” in the worldviews of Pinchot and many modern Democrats who compromise on issues like fracking. For Pinchot and for Wolf, the good life is closely tied with materialism and economic well-being for the greatest number. In his support for regulated fracking, Wolf’s use of job growth language reflects his money-centric utilitarian value systems. While Wolf’s willingness to compromise indicates one possible, short-term way forward in a ceaselessly stalemated Pennsylvania, it fails in most important ways to stop unsustainable and destructive trends.
Stakeholder 2: Labor Unions
Labor unions are oriented around a single, express purpose: to create more jobs. For whatever tangential goals they may profess, those ends are generally subservient to the single most important one. In the case of fracking, unions involved are mostly concerned with short-term economic sustainability and demonstrate little concern for values unrelated to economic prosperity. In Pennsylvania, the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), typically aligned with progressive causes, has 20,000 members. The group has come out strongly in favor of fracking due to the number of jobs it will create: hundreds of thousands, in their estimate.
From what can be determined from their public statements, speeches, and political endorsements, many labor unions reflect an exploitationist worldview that is moderate by elements of a Pinchot-istic conservationism. Dennis Martire, vice president of LiUNA, summarized opposing views on fracking in this way in a 2014 letter: “Working families do not have time to listen to talking heads ramble on and on about fracking. These families need good jobs now” (LiUNA 2014). This folksy, simplistic stance resonates not only with most laborers but also with a majority of Pennsylvanians, polls show (Robert Morris University 2015). It’s also similar to Norton’s description of exploitationism in North America from 1500 until the mid-nineteenth century. “Raw natural resources were therefore seen as uncontrolled by man, unproductive, and valueless until human labor was mixed with them” (Norton 1991, pg. 76). Furthermore, in the exploitationist view, human labor is “the only true scarce resource.”
However, LiUNA in particular does go out of their way to declare their support for what they call an “all of the above” energy policy. They acknowledge the existence of climate change and advocate for carbon reduction regulations. “However, attempts to derail energy production project-by-project, as some in the environmental movement advocate, won’t impact climate change and will only stall creation of desperately needed jobs. LIUNA opposes extreme environmental measures that undermine U.S. economic growth, harm working families and place ourselves at a disadvantage to other nations.” (LiUNA 2016) An acknowledgement of the science behind climate change does not indicate too significant a shift in worldview, but it does indicate some measure of evolution beyond exploitationism. LiUNA recognizes the earth is a commodity which produces jobs, and that without regulation, it could be “denuded, eroded, and aesthetically degraded in pursuit of individual profit” (Norton 1991, pg. 78). However, in this mixed worldview, the environment itself does not have any value outside of a commodity to be maintained, and it thus supports a type of “weak sustainability” (Norton 2015, pg. 73).
Stakeholder 3: Citizens of Pennsylvania
Mirroring the ideologies of their governors, New York and Pennsylvania have radically different views over their share of the Marcellus. Like Gov. Cuomo, polls show New Yorkers overwhelmingly oppose fracking, while Pennsylvanians, by a smaller but still significant margin, support it. A June 2015 poll from Robert Morris University showed that 74 percent of Pennsylvanians think fracking would help the economy, while 50 percent agreed that fracking contributes to climate change. This indicates a different worldview entirely: in our scientifically informed age (74 percent of poll respondents demonstrated what researchers called an “advanced knowledge” of fracking), there is a large group of people that recognize the damages caused by the process, and want to continue for the sake of the economy anyway (Robert Morris University 2015). An atypical exploitationist worldview, as developed between 1500 and 1850, was historically held by people ignorant of the science behind the damage they were incurring. This worldview holds its roots in that thought-process and shares values of materialism, but demonstrates altogether distinct cognizance of the consequences of industry.
Stakeholder 4: Big Oil and the Natural Gas Lobby
The values actually underpinning the viewpoints of major oil companies involved in fracking in Pennsyvlania must be separated from the rhetoric used to improve public image and perception. The same mediums which reflect what other stakeholders probably truly desire are used by oil companies to sway the public’s consciousness. For example, politicians really do want an improved economy and thus better polling numbers (and future leverage from compromises). Labor unions really do want more jobs because that’s why they exist. Environmentalists want to protect the environment because they are environmentalists. When these stakeholders put out email blasts and television advertisements, there is minimal dissonance between their values and their message.
The same is not true of fracking companies. Businesses like Range Resources focus on environmental stewardship messaging on their website, and fracking companies routinely run television advertisements set in picturesque natural environments and focusing on a commitment to the protection of people and places. This should not be confused to mean that these companies hold environmental values, as their viewpoints are almost entirely in polar contrast to that notion.
Their true values, more likely, are elucidated elsewhere; a “commitment to shareholders,” as Range Resources repeatedly notes on their website, gets at the purpose of the company, which is to be as profitable as possible (Range Resources). This also falls in line with the natural gas lobby’s goal of as much de-regulation as possible. They fall in the category of weak sustainability.
Stakeholder 5: Environmentalists
The environmentalist worldview on fracking may emphasize one type of argument or one type of value when conceiving a given argument against fracking, but the most fundamental and most important bedrock value of places greater importance on the environment than other considerations. Trout Unlimited supports careful energy development and focuses their protection almost exclusively on fishable trout rivers and habitat vital to supporting healthy populations of trout. They do see some intrinsic value in nature, but are careful, in policy statements and in framing their public face, to make clear that they do not support bans on natural gas drilling (Trout Unlimited). They exhibit many aspects of normative sustainability and some Pinchot-ism. Most environmental groups with a stake in the fracking issue are the legacy of Muir. The Sierra Club, Environment PA, and Conserve PA are perhaps the loudest voices, and each are rigidly pro-regulation with the ultimate goal of banning fracking outright. They support strong sustainability and preservationism.
Stakeholder 6: Future Generations
Future generations are voiceless and, as Norton notes, it’s almost impossible to know how to fairly judge what they might value. However, Norton was able to define living sustainability as living in such a way that future generations have options. A sustainable generation “fulfills its needs and desires so as not to destroy important and valued opportunities for future generations” (Norton 2015, pg. 104). As a stakeholder with an unknown environmental value orientation – and a perhaps high number of different orientations – the interest of future generations is to preserve the possibility of choice. Seeing as the Marcellus cannot be un-fracked, and as it is possible that some of the damage done by fracking might not be able to be undone, an ethical consideration of future generations based on Norton’s definition would necessarily take an anti-fracking position. That is the only position which leaves open the possibility of both not fracking or going ahead with fracking in the present, thus preserving the opportunity for any policy in the future.
A note is needed to defend an obvious argument against this interpretation of Norton. This logic could be interpreted to mean that no decisions of import can ever be made, because three generations from now, individuals will have the same concern for three generations after that. “Opportunities” could then be justifiably endlessly preserved. This is not true. Fracking persists as a wicked problem today, but that may not be the case in three generations’ time. Adaptive management relies on the importance of scale, and understands the value of Leopold’s concepts of ecological and geological time. In three generations, science and technology could resolve the issue. Values could shift enough that there are no longer any supporters of fracking. Adaptive managers are malleable and responsive; their policy shifts depending on the changing conditions. Therefore, an adaptive consideration of the values of future generations should always be considered on a case by case basis and should be consistently re-evaluated.
III. Toward Compromise and Solutions
Incommensurability of Existing Stakeholders
In the most visibly public context of the debate, email blasts, opposing sides are equally playing what Norton calls the side of the Optim. Fracking activists release lists of “10 Reasons Fracking Improves American Lives.” Environmentalists release lists of public lands and wildlife habitat destroyed by fracking. Almost without exception, neither mentions nor includes the other in their decision context. Their “boundaries” (Norton 2015, pg. 51) are very narrow, and do not consider all of the parties, nor all of the values, which will be affected in the pursuit of their single, overriding objective. Similarly, both sides use the same words to describe completely different things; they do not have a common language, and therefore speak past each other. “Languages…disclose the world differently,” Norton (1991, pg. 74) notes. In Pennsylvania, pro-fracking groups urge the public to support “what is best for the future of Pennsylvania” (Range Resources). The Marcellus Protest organization uses the exact same phrase (Marcellus Protest). Pro-fracking activists identify an ideal “future” with completely different values than environmentalists: one in which cheaper gas prices, for example, are highly valued. Local groups like the local chapter of the Sierra Club, meanwhile, don’t consider the price of gas in their arguments; they want renewable energy to replace fossil fuels. However, more importantly, the Sierra Club generally does not consider the economy within their “boundary” of discourse
Fundamentally, these groups are speaking different languages and cannot “agree about what they disagree about” (Norton 2015, pg. 37). Trout Unlimited and Governor Wolf, respectively, fall ideologically between the environmentalist and pro-fracking poles, and in many ways their “moderate compromising” stances do offer a glimpse at one possible solution to the problem. In fact, they have already satisfied many of the requirements of an adaptive approach. In Pennsylvania, this precise type of nefarious “moderate compromise” is played out most clearly in the recent proposed updates to the regulation of fracking in the state, which come after five years of political negotiation. Environmentalists complain that regulations, especially pertaining to protecting wells and the drinking water supply, do not go nearly far enough (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection 2016). Industry lobbyists complain the regulations cripple their business potential. It’s a seemingly sparkling example of adaptive management, where no side is happy but each have received some of what they wanted, and an unsatisfying compromise, located near the precise center of ideologue spectrum, is meted out after years of patience. As further investigation demonstrates, however, this “moderate compromise” is neither truly moderate nor is it a true compromise, as it does not justly take into account the needs of all of the issue’s most important stakeholders. Ultimately, it is a matter of policymakers asking the wrong question: “how do we develop natural gas and protect the environment?” Instead, to produce an ethically acceptable compromise that is truly “moderate” to all existing stakeholders, they should be asking the most important question that can be asked in the 21st century: “how do we wean off non-sustainable energy sources entirely?” With all six stakeholders listed above present at the table, that question cannot be asked. One stakeholder must go.
Narrowing the Stakeholder Field
Norton said that it is vital to realize that so many debates only take into account a part of the problem. Once everyone sits down together and explains all sides of the issue at hand, then there will be a chance to work toward a solution (as quoted in conversation with MSES 5015, Green Mountain College, 5/15/2016). Once all sides of the fracking issue are analyzed, there remains one errant piece opposed to even most moderate of demands from other stakeholders: big oil. These giant oil companies are completely unique stakeholders in that they are the only group that does not come from Pennsylvania. This means that unlike any of the other stakeholders, they are not sharing in whatever consequences of fracking that may exist. Shareholders and decision makers in these companies will not be without jobs if fracking is banned in Pennsylvania. Oil companies do not suffer the joblessness of Pennsylvanians, which Governor Wolf and labor unions are concerned about, nor is it their children who will be born unusually small, as studies suggest is one consequence of fracking. Oil companies will not feel the loss of land for wildlife and wild humans to roam on; it will not be their land and streams which are covered in black tar by pipeline spills and accidents, sometimes hundreds of miles from the source of the well. Nor do oil companies share in the loss of fishable waters. This distinctness from other stakeholders means that oil companies are not bound to any community and thus have no reason to come to the bargaining table. A “hammer” does not currently exist to force them into negotiations (as quoted in conversation with Norton, MSES 5015, Green Mountain College, 5/15/2016). In the Platte River case, the Endangered Species Act loomed as a threat to punish the states and local landowners if they refused to compromise with the federal government in providing adequate habitat protection (Norton 2015). However, oil companies do not live on the Marcellus Shale, and their basic everyday survival is not at stake; the worst thing they face under the current regime of moderate compromise is increased regulations. As long as this regime is the standard operating assumption for all stakeholders, there can be little serious progress in a direction that will satisfy the other five stakeholders. As it stands, big oil companies would gain nothing from even a preliminary exploration of avenues toward talks of even further significant compromise, and therefore would have no reason to even come to the table.
Perhaps even more importantly, oil companies have already proven to be a nefarious influence at the bargaining table. In the recently passed 2016 Pennsylvania Congressional budget, $150,000 was earmarked to go directly to the Shale Alliance for Energy Research (SAFER PA), described as an “independent” research firm developing its own science around the Marcellus in Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Office of the Budget 2016). SAFER is backed by the shale industry and five of its eight board members are executives at shale companies. Even Republicans have decried SAFER for masquerading as independent (SAFER 2016). As NPR points out, SAFER has advocated for fracking practices widely considered to be disastrous and reckless, including deep injection wells, which have been tied to earthquakes (NPR 2016). To the extent that this kind of research could eventually be interpreted by the general public, politicians, or other stakeholders to be legitimate and unbiased, it is corrupting the diplomatic process.
As such, as a potential solution to the fracking crisis is conceptualized from this point forward, these corporations will not be considered as stakeholders in the traditional sense. This is not to say that their values will not be reflected in the debate to come; as the sections above have indicated, the majority of the citizens of Pennsylvania apparently share the values of oil companies. And for practical purposes, the presence and power of these companies will be acknowledged. But their needs will not be given the same weight as that of other stakeholders.
An Institution Built to Compromise
There is ample room for growth with an adaptive management approach that does not include big oil companies. On the most practical level, there does not seem to exist an organization that “can bring together members of existing institutions as responses to (the) problem” (Norton 2015, pg. 60). As Norton notes, building such institutions is crucial to adaptive management, as existing organizations are not designed to address wicked problems. This collaboration could be ideal for social learning, as it helps to tease out and reinforce shared values. An organization whose purpose is to define the shared values of all the major fracking stakeholders – energy activists, labor groups, trout advocates, local citizens, politicians, and other environmental activists – is much better equipped to direct policy.
No such group – termed here as the “Marcellus Compact” – exists in Pennsylvania. And considering things on a statewide level could be a part of the problem. In the United States, fracking is addressed almost exclusively at the state level. The Marcellus Shale, of course, is not even contained to one state, but expands into parts of New York, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Stakeholders are affected differently in each area, depending on the part of the reserve in question, the degree of fracking utilized, the proximity of human populations, and other conditions unique to each location. To begin with, the Marcellus Compact would include representatives from all of the stakeholders that have already been identified, and just as importantly, in all of the areas affected by the Formation. If the ultimate goal is to strategize a way to move beyond non-renewable energy entirely, it will be important to expand geographical boundaries and empower adaptive, local-based renewable initiatives.
Launching Compromise via Hypothesis
With the Compact in place, the next step is to implement a plan that will satisfy all stakeholders and successfully pivot discussion toward the more ethically pressing matter of renewable energy. Similar to the Chesapeake Watershed case, much of the resistance to fracking in Pennsylvania is “bottom-up.” Residents are beginning to notice health effects and are coalescing together against fracking as a public health threat. Research from the University of Pennsylvania shows that hospitals in areas near fracking wells have noted inexplicable spikes in cardiovascular events. Babies have been shown, on average, to be born smaller in these areas (PLOS ONE). Just as residents of the Chesapeake asked, “Why can’t Bernie see his toes?” (Norton 2015, pg. 254) in regards to water quality, increasing numbers of residents in some sections of Pennsylvania are asking, why can’t I breathe? And why is my drinking water contaminated? However, polls show that unlike the Chesapeake, this shift in the public consciousness is not comprehensive, and perhaps it will not be for many years. Norton notes that it took the Chesapeake several decades to complete the transformation.
The Marcellus Compact must follow the example of Norton’s Platte River in formulating its solution. Fracking advocates like the Marcellus Shale Coalition point out that the studies Pennsylvania fracking to health problems are very limited; indeed, although people have been speculating and complaining since day one, the first official peer-reviewed study – from UPenn, referenced above – was only released in July of 2015. The study, furthermore, only reflects a circumstantial link, merely demonstrating that certain health problems came about in the same time and place as fracking. There is no hard scientific proof, as of yet, in Pennsylvania, that shows these problems were caused by fracking. The FWS and state groups were able to reach a compromise in the Platte River case by “substituting experiments for immediate agreements” (Norton 2015, pg. 246). Science which definitively proves fracking’s health risks would go a long way toward prying stakeholders away from moderate compromise and toward a total fracking ban in Pennsylvania. And such definitive science, one way or the other, would be of interest to all shareholders. While a more conclusive science is investigated, the Marcellus Compact should agree to a ten-year moratorium on fracking. At the conclusion of this test period, if a commission of researchers from all stakeholders finds that there is still insufficient evidence that fracking harms human health, and that the region would be better off if fracking was re-instituted, then fracking can continue. In the meantime, the Compact will lead aggressive investment into a wide diversity of renewable energy projects, adaptively determined based on place and need.
Unexamined, a ban seems outrageous to propose given the current virulence of the fracking debate. But when fracking advocates and even some in the moderate compromise camp defend fracking, it is not really fracking itself they are defending. They are defending the values which they perceive can only be protected by fracking. A careful analysis of the shared values of stakeholders shows a significant overlap of shared values that, when made plain by the open dialogue fostered in the Compact, would lead to support of the hypothesis-ban. To being with, Pennsylvania citizens who might not care about damage to the environment still care about potential harm to their unborn babies. Labor unions care about the health of their workers, not just their paychecks, and it’s likely they would be swayed by the need for more definitive studies as well. Environmentalists would obviously be on board. More information would continue to give future generations more educated options. And as the Compact continued to work to find more common ground between Governor Wolf and the other stakeholders, he would likely jump at such an opportunity so long as it was politically safe. And with a strong Compact united against Big Oil, it would be.
Renewable energy is the logical solution to the fracking debate because when oil companies are removed from the equation, it offers a resolution which satisfies the viewpoints of all existing parties. From a practical political point of view, there is almost nothing that Governor Wolf could do that would have a more lasting legacy and positive impact on the state than helping the Compact implement a robust renewable energy plan. In the meantime, citizens and labor unions would have their economic values recognized; a wind farm, for example, creates jobs in perpetuity, whereas a fracked well only creates jobs until the well is dry. Most importantly, the crucial values of health and sustainable job growth, which are shared by all parties, enjoy significantly greater protection than they ever did under the current regime of moderate compromise.
Oil companies leapt recklessly into the fracking fray when the Marcellus Shale was first discovered to be a potent resource in 2004. There was no time to carefully consider and examine the potential health and environment effects. All other stakeholders, especially public health officials, and even those who support fracking, have been playing catch-up to oil companies, which operate under a radically different value system, ever since.
The need for an organization like the Marcellus Compact, which can create a common language and open channel between environmentalists, labor unions, everyday citizens, and politicians, and which can also represent the interests of future generations, has never been more abundantly clear. These are the people who will face the benefits and consequences of any proposed fracking policy, and it is illogical to spend so much energy disagreeing and working for a vague and unsatisfying middle ground when the underlying values indicate fertile ground for convergence. The greatest challenge will undoubtedly lie in ridding all stakeholders of the current operating system of moderate compromise: that tempting, easy, and most straightforward of paths that wrongly gives equal voice to the oil giants who have no local stake. To win, the opponents of fracking and natural gas in general must cease to be as fractured as the layers of rock above the Marcellus Shale after they have been blown to their poisonous and virulent bits.
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