Problems of living near gas wells

By Kathryn Hatch

I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to figure out how to tell you about the gas wells we live half a mile from, on the North Fork Road. I just tossed my first letter, as it was basically a fact sheet that bored even me.  I realized last night, that I need to just get real, and tell you how I feel about living near them.
I moved up here from the flatlands of the midwest in 1969 to get married.  We moved to the Homer area in 1980, and bought three acres on Mile 9, in 1983.  We, and our three kids, lived in a wall tent for three years, while building our cabin.  We’re still here, and our kids bought property across the road, so this feels like home.
However, it still took me 20 years to fall in love with Alaska.  It happened when we worked on the Exxon-Valdez oil spill, walking local beaches hunting for oil and dead animals. The beauty of this pristine wilderness finally sunk in, and it awed me to the core. I was sickened to realize that an oil company was allowed to do so much damage to such a natural treasure.  Tears still come, when I think of that.
Now we’re dealing with oil and gas corporations again, and the sick feeling has returned. I hate what’s happening here. I wish all of you would drive up here and see for yourself what’s happening.  A picture is worth a thousand words. It’s a diesel-powered industrial zone, with noise, lights, toxic smells, traffic, and what feels like a total disregard for the rest of us. They get away with this because of the “Halliburton Loophole,” that George W. Bush, and Dick Cheney orchestrated, to benefit the gas/oil companies. It seems they no longer have to comply with the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, CERCLA, the Superfund Act, nor NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act), that had previously regulated the gas/oil industry.  Even if you own your water rights, and they screw it up, it’s your problem. If they pollute your land, your air, your drinking water, there’s not much you can do about it. The agencies that used to help us, like EPA, DEC, and DNR, have no real power to stop them anymore.  It’s a very helpless feeling knowing we have to sit here and take whatever they dish out.  It shouldn’t be this way, but money is power, and powerful corporations are running our world, at our expense.
This is happening all across the country.  You can see if for yourself by going to Youtube and typing in “Marcellus Shale,” or “Barnett Shale,” and see what’s going on.  Or go to Facebook and search “gasland” to find some amazing people who are actively and peacefully doing all they can to stop the corporate takeover of their land and lives.  If you love Alaska, educate yourselves about this, because it’s beginning here, too.  The pad near us has plans for 10 wells, and another company plans 12 wells east of Nikolaevsk.  That’s 22 wells, and because they’ve built a pipeline up here that goes into Anchor Point, my feeling is that this is just the beginning. You don’t spend that kind of money, if you don’t plan to use it to full advantage.  In some areas of the Lower 48, there are gas pads on every 10 acres. The gas companies are leasing land in 34 states. Over half of New York state is now leased, and three-fourth of Pennsylvania is now leased.  Currently, over 5,884 square miles have been leased in Alaska, with about 25 square miles of it being up here. 
So, what can we do, you may be asking.  Come watch a free showing of the movie, “Gasland,” at 6 p.m., March 15 at the Methodist Church in Homer to learn more.  Say “no” to gas in your area. Natural gas, a non-renewable fossil fuel, is methane, which is 75 times more harmful in many ways than CO2 could ever be.  Instead of giving gas companies $6,000 plus per home to hook up, realize that the prices are going up, and once you’re hooked up, you’re hooked, like a fish.  Swim away.  We have the second highest tides in the world, which could be harnessed, as well as high wind and solar potential here as alternative energies.  Use that money to upgrade to renewable energy.  Most Alaskans are creative, independent people, who are here, because we love it here, so let’s work together to start making changes that give us “real energy independence” from these corporations.  Just three states, North Dakota, Kansas and Texas, have enough wind energy to power all of our buildings, and every car in the United States and that’s just one source.  It can be done and must be done, if we want to keep Alaska as pristine as it once was.  You can call me, and I can tell you more, at 235-2865.

Kathryn Hatch, a North Fork resident, has live in the Homer area 30 years.

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Posted by on Mar 9th, 2011 and filed under Letters to the Editor, Point of View. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses for “Problems of living near gas wells”

  1. Well done, Kathy. The state of Alaska, and certainly its people, have been taken advantage of for decades. Sparse population and multiple large corporations are rarely a good mix. Undoubtedly, many of these corporations have provided needed jobs, boosting economies and help keep taxes low. However, we have for too long, let most of these very same things serve as an excuse for these same corporations to avoid accountability and responsibility when things go wrong. Natural gas well development is an inherently dangerous business. It’s dangerous for the men who work out in the fields, but it’s even more dangerous for the people who are forced to live near these operations. The closer these operations are to ou homes, the greater the risk.

    When, exactly, did we get so desperate for natural gas that we were so willing to trade our health, property values and endanger our children and their future for it? “Drill Here, Drill Now” may already be a cliche’, but drilling ‘here’ shouldn’t include just outside your children’s bedrrooms. What’s driving this is not a quest for indepedence of foreign oil, it’s what it always has been-greed.

    We know this now more than ever, when drilling on the Barnett Shale has exploded, and turned large tracts of land into toxic waste zones and destroyed property values. The Fayetteville Shale is now being fully exploited, causing much pain and anguish for the people living nearby, but also hundreds of earthquakes. The Marcellus Shale is also now being exploited, and some of the operators who are finding more resistance to drilling in Texas and Arkansas, are selling off their assets to concentrate their efforts in the Marcellus, where there’s even a bigger gold mine than the Barnett and Fayetteville combined, and more importantly, people largely ignorant of the dangers. The operators are drilling like mad on the Marcellus now, and are ramping up production now having inserted their choice of political candidate into the Governor’s office. Industry funded his campaign with millions, and he’s now returning the favor by opening up massive square miles of state parks to drilling, appointing an Industry flack to ‘oversee’ this process, and appointing gas and oil execs to his ‘oversight’ gas and oil review board.

    If the object here is to use our resources in an effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, then why did Chesapeake just sell off $5 BILLION in Fayettveille assets to a FOREIGN company? Why is CHK and others working very hard to transport-and sell- natural gas and liquified natural gas-OVERSEAS?

    While there are certainly manufacturing plants that operate on natural gas, and even some power plants that provide us with electricty, there atre millions upon millions of cars, trucks and other vehicles on the road that run on OIL, not natural gas. Most of the power plants, steel mills and other manufacturing are operating on COAL, not gas.

    Lastly, if you’re ever have the opportunity to see natural gas well development up close (and if you haven’t, it will be coming to your home soon enough) you’ll certainly notice that the drilling rigs run on diesel fuel, which belch out massive amounts of exhaust 24/7 for a month or more, the hundreds of semi trucks coming to pick up waste water/condensate/gravel, the dozens of pick up trucks contantly in and out of the pad sites, the portable lighting runs on diesel, as does the generators that power all of their other equipment, camper trailers, offices, etc. While natural gas may very well burn cleaner than coal, you’ll notice no one is saying the extraction process is cleaner.

    Just to be clear- I’m not opposed to drilling, I’m opposed to being poisoned. Drilling must be done responsibly, and there must be stiff penalties for infractions and violations. Repeat offenders-much like repeat drunk drivers, must be dealt with sternly. Either Drill Right, or not at all. I can be reached at

  2. Maka says:

    Kathy, and Timothy, what great informative and humanly sensitive letters you’ve both written. Thank you. My father was an oil driller, and I AM opposed to drilling. Alternative energy is a must for survival of life on planet earth. Otherwise, we can grab what we can grab like the oil drilling corporations are doing today, and destabilize the planet even faster for the rest of us.

    Corporations truly belong to no country. Enough money can prove no one controls where corporations drill. Unsuspecting citizens allow this to happen wherever the corporate money goes around the world, BECAUSE, citizens believe they elect governments to restrict corporate destruction, however, no one ever comes between the corporate money desires. So then, governments too become corporations through the “hush” money from corporate thieves. Am I wrong?

    Are we incapable of saving ourselves from corporate greed?

  3. Maka says:

    We drove from the North Fork to the South Fork last night. Quite taken back at the EXTREMELY UNNATURAL BURNOFF we could see from miles away, it seemed like I was a child again, back in Borger, Texas. Boy does that whole place stink. People who are forced to live there eventually get accustomed to the smell. It stings the nose and makes the eyes burn 24/7. Hundreds of thousands of grasshopper-like pumping rigs could/can still be seen throughout the land, reducing wild life and nature sustaining plant life to stunted and scrub accounts. Always, the reports will come out positive for the corporations ($$$), making truth impossible for the little man and mother nature.

    Who is making the money on this project, I wonder?

  4. Rod Fletcher says:

    Small world, I’ve talked to Tim and posted his story in our Peters Township, PA Marcellus Shale website. People here are still incredibly ignorant on what this work in our residential township will mean for their property values on their 1/2 acre lots. Meanwhile, my brother is a local resident in Homer and also worked on the cleanup after the Valdez disaster. He built sea otter cages and carted them across the bay. I’ve been to beautiful Homer and the impact this hydraulic fracturing will have on your thriving tourism industry there is bound to be devastating.

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