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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