Monday, November 25, 2013

A wasteland is sustainable. But what dumb-monkey wants it?

If you've found your way to my blog, The Wrench, you've likely read my recent Facebook post just before I deactivated that account. That was very hard to do. But I have things to say, and this is a better, much less cluttered place to say them. I have also returned to Twitter:

So, thank you for visiting. I am currently under a bit of construction, but promise to return by the 10th of December--when the new issue of the excellent journal, The American Prospect, will issue its electronic copy of Barry Yeoman's The Shale Rebellion.

In the mean time, you might enjoy some of the other essays I have reposted here--many originally posted at Raging Chicken Press (

When I return, my aim will be to offer essays, photographs, youtubes--some mine, some provided by others--that reach beyond the shale fields--without ever quite leaving them.

Not that I wouldn't like to.

But I can no more completely expunge myself from the struggle to end industrialized fossil fuel extraction than, well, any of us can who inhabit the planet and give a damn.

My project will be to write through some of the endless ligature which connects energy production and consumption to other vital issues--people, animals, ecologies--and to the future.

A wasteland is sustainable.

But it's not remotely good enough.

In fact, what it deserves is to be subjected to satire, puppet-shows, lampoons, howling send-ups, and withering exposure.

So, this dumb-monkey has a new year's resolution: if words are the best of all weapons, then let's take the frackin' MoFo's down.

2014. It's nearly here.

Wendy Lynne Lee

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Comments on "Gas drilling may not be top issue for voters in Pa. governor’s race,"

Why should ordinary Pennsylvanians take fracking to be an important campaign issue when some of the people most negatively impacted by natural gas development have gotten on board with a candidate--John Hanger--who claims that despite all of its well-documented hazards, "[s]hale gas in the US is no Ponzi scheme, resting on sketchy reserves, as some have recklessly asserted, but a durable economic bonanza that could return energy intensive manufacturing jobs to many communities" ( No one buys into the Saudi Arabia of natural gas bridge to renewables argument more fervently than John Hanger--and no one should know better just how flawed is this reasoning than residents of Dimock. So to see just such folks--and their compatriots in, for example, Breath Easy Susquehanna County--fall behind a gubernatorial candidate who rejects his own party's moratorium resolution is at least baffling--and it is certainly disappointing (http://www.hangerforgovernor.c....

But besides these, it is rank hypocrisy to bemoan the fate of the "citizens of the Commonwealth" all the while endorsing a candidate who is as deep in the pockets of the gas companies as any Republican, and promoting practices--"best practices"--that will encourage only more fracking with its immediate consequences in disease and its long-term consequences as climate change.

As for Patrick Henderson--the only place beyond which we need to look no further is Pennsylvania legislation like SB 259/HB 1414 HB 1717, SB 367, and HB 1576--just to name a few, all written by and for the gas companies to expedite their profit margins at the expense of our private property rights, our health, our endangered species, and our public lands.

Henderson's reference to Act 13's provision to ensure "that health care professionals have access to this [exposure to toxins] information" is particularly perverse since this provision includes the infamous gag order on physicians in direct violation of the Hippocratic Oath as well as the principle of informed consent--and in so doing trades the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians for the protection of frack chemical trade secrets. To boast that this is good for Pennsylvanians takes the sort of arrogance that the Corbett administration is known for--but that John Hanger has also done very little to oppose.

What these polls suggest is only that the gas industry pitch to "cheap, abundant, American!" has been successful--and that's not surprising. After all, polls also show that many Pennsylvanians remain unconvinced about climate change, evolution, and the fundamental humanity of gay and lesbian people--but climate change is very real, evolution is a bedrock of the life sciences, and that we're even still debating fundamental humanity should embarrass us.

Fracking, its massive industrializing infrastructure, its contribution to climate change, and its potential to destroy entire ways of life--especially in rural communities--is also very real. There are no "best practices" or "regulations" or "middle grounds" that will accomplish anything beyond slowing slightly the rate of irreversible harm. And until we make THAT the clear issue for our fellow here in PA and everywhere there's frackable shale we will continue on the course of being converted into a resource colony for whomever is willing to pay top dollar for the gas.

Monday, November 18, 2013

For My Good Friends in the Global Anti-Fracking Movement: Romania, April 2013

I don't know that there is any single shale gas experience. Some of us live with fracking--it's noise, its flarings, its massive truck traffic, and its potential for hazard-- literally in the back yards of our churches, our day care canters, our elementary schools, our retirement homes and our grocery stores. Others are subjected to the endless humming noise of compressor stations, not to mention the ozone and the ever-present threat of explosion. Others are faced with pipeline construction though their communities, their forest lands, their private properties.

But whatever the particular form extreme extraction takes--whatever aspect of one's community, lands, and waterways are affected by shale industrialization--the hazards are well-documented. and the evidence of the danger mounting.

At first, our focus in the U.S. anti-fracking movement was aimed at the process of natural gas extraction via hydraulic slickwater horizontal fracturing--fracking. The fact that water is permanently destroyed in the millions of gallons is at least alarming. Added to that is the fact that the frack-fluids themselves are saturated by a chemical cocktail which includes carcinogens, biocides, surfactants, and other toxic agents, and that the "produced water (flowback) may also be radioactive, and what you have is a recipe for disaster.

In 2013, however, we have also begun to devote a growing movement's concerted attention to the crucial infrastructure of the fracking industry: compressor stations, dehydrator stations, water withdrawals, pipelines, deep injection waste storage wells, frack waste processing plants, and truck fleets--the necessary conditions without which there is no way to frack or to get the product to market. At every juncture of this form of natural gas production is danger: pipelines leak; compressor stations and dehydrators explode; deep injection wells are the sites of earthquakes. At every juncture, in other words, is the potential for what we have come to call a frack-tastrophe, and all humor aside, what it spells is disease, suffering, property loss, and death.

We also recognize that extreme extraction is not simply an issue for citizens of the United States, but is in fact fully global in its implications. Every day is a new opportunity to recognize that whatever flag is flown by a multinational like Exxon-Mobil, Halliburton, Shell, or BP--not to mention the proliferating cornucopia of smaller associated companies--is a day for realizing that a country's flag is simply an exploitation of patriotism for profiteering. BP is no more interested in actually being an America-friendly corporation than they are interested in being beyond petroleum.

We also recognize more and more clearly with each truck accident, each spill, each explosion, each injustice that it's the same people--regardless of geographical location or culture--who are likely to bear the brunt of extreme extraction. Whether it's fracking, mountain top removal, or tar sands extraction, the indigenous, the economically vulnerable, women, the elderly, and children that bear the expense of generating a profit margin at the end of fossil fuels.

And make no mistake about it, we are at the end of fossil fuels. The fracking-gambit is nothing more than the last desperate effort to get the drop of energy out of the shale before there either is no more or, as is even more likely, we find ourselves at war over access to water.

The great irony will be this: We may find ourselves at war over access to precisely that resource--water--that we have destroyed in our rush to get to the gas. And we may prosecute this war with machines fueled by that gas. it's truly hard to imagine anything more ridiculous or absurd.

Especially since we do have real alternatives: solar, wind, geothermal, bio-fuels. We don't lack either the technology or the ingenuity. What we lack is the political will to pursue the alternatives--and, crucially, the will to do more with less.

No energy program can be successful in the 21st century that does not take as its point of departure conservation. We have two choices for our future: we can either take an aggressive, collective and proactive stance and work towards alternatives and community wide conservation--or we can bury our heads in the sand and hope that the fossil fuel train does not derail. Hence, we have really only one choice--aggressive, collective, and proactive. The latter is not a choice at all; it is simply a prescription for ecocide.

Dora Seres, Frack Free Romania

We must say NO to extreme extraction. We cannot frack our way to any future, and with the prospect of climate change clearly upon us we owe it to our children and our grandchildren to make what is revolutionary change in the interest not merely of their prosperities--but in the interest of their very lives.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dear EarthWorks: You Ain't Makin' Me Breath Easy (Response to

Dear Earthworks, here are the facts:

Here in Pennsylvania, the gas industry does its level--and VERY successful best--to use not "best practices" but "best-for-us-gassers practices." These include legislation to GUT the state endangered species act, make forced pooling much easier, gag physicians with respect to informing their patients about toxic emission exposure, tether road repair to fracking in state forests, use frack waste as road-de-icer, allow gas companies to make royalty holders pay for gas company expenses, and transfer legitimate municipality powers to the state--all with the cheery support of the very agencies invested with the power to monitor the gas industry--DEP, DCNR, etc.

So when you run a story about new technologies gas companies could use to lower toxic compressor station emissions, implying that the industry might just sign on, the response you should expect to get is, well, incredulity. And then your readers should just be PISSED.

In fact, even if they DID use this technology, the reduction is relevant to only one slice of the fracking pie--AND it gives a green light to MORE fracking by saying to the industry "Hey, gas industry, if you could just reduce a wee bit of your polluting over here, you can go ahead and keep on a'frackin'. THAT's your end of the deal. And just cuz the polluting goes WAY beyond compressor station emissions and flarings, not to mention pipeline leaks, well, that's for another day."

Plus, Earthworks, you've ignored the plain fact that the number of companies that will be willing to employ this technology--and monitor it to make sure it works--is miniscule--all the while, again, you're giving the green light to an industry to go build more compressor stations EVERYWHERE FOLKS DON'T HAVE THE POWER AND THE MONEY TO DEMAND "BEST PRACTICES." AND THAT'S ALMOST EVERYWHERE.

Here, Earthworks is your new, Earth-Destroying message: "Go ahead and drill, baby, drill! If you need more compressors--and we KNOW you will, pretty please just use these "best practices." That is, we think a little cancer, a little leukemia, a little endocrine disruption, a little, neurological damage, a little asthma, is OK--so long as it's not us and we don't have to know who it is! Or, well, until we aren't looking, or until it costs you more than using folks who are suckered by your bull shit are worth."


"Glycol dehydrators are a major source of benzene emissions within the oil and gas industry. Fatalities from human exposure to high concentrations of benzene have been documented since the early 1900s, and studies have shown correlations between workplace exposure to benzene and the onset of certain forms of leukemia."

That's from your report:


You ain't makin' me breath easy, EarthWorks, and by suckering up to an industry whose contribution to climate change is poised to be massive, you're makin' me choke.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


My name is Wendy Lynne Lee, and I’m a member of the Shale Justice Coalition. I’m an academic and a writer by profession, and a committed activist on behalf of social justice, animal welfare, and environmental integrity.
I also take a lot of pictures, and I have made it my project to document in words and photographs the drill pads, sand cans, compressors, open pits, the army of toxic waste tankers, the loss of habitat, the forest fragmentation, the creek and stream pollution, the substandard pipeline welds, the road destruction, the systematic decimation of plant, bird, mammal and aquatic wildlife, the spills, accidents, illnesses, and deaths caused directly or indirectly by industrialized fossil fuel extraction.

I am directly acquainted with the efforts of paid industry shills to silence and demonize public outcry, and I understand that for some, worn down by the ad hominems, the ridicule, and the industry lies, magnificent ecologies like Rock Run, the Clarence Moore Lands, Old Logger’s Path, and Devil’s Elbow Natural Area perhaps represent just one more ugly casualty in the quest for obscene profits.

But Loyalsock is more than just another casualty. Here’s why:

If we allow fracking and its polluting infrastructure here, there is nowhere left to call sacred.

And when there’s nothing left to conceive as sacred, there’s nothing left.

This is not because some places are more sacred than others; it’s not because we are prone, as the industry would have it, to some emotion that deters our capacity for reason and fact. It’s not even because “sacred” need have meaning beyond the tangible world.

It’s because if we allow for the industrialized extraction of one of the last truly wild places, we effectively concede any morally defensible claim we can ever make to care about an earth not wholly despoiled by human greed.

If we allow fracking here, we have literally no ground upon which to take a stand anywhere.

And anywhere matters.

Anywhere includes the farms, the forests, the game lands, the parks, the communities, and our homes everywhere. Just as there is no negotiating with a psychopath, there is no negotiating with an industry who routinely resorts to bribery, economic coersion, extortion, manipulation, and green-washing to insure the smooth transition of verdant ecosystem to off-shore back account.

What I have seen over the last three years, what I have tried to document, read, research, and report makes clear to me—and to anyone who gives a tinker’s damn—is that the prospect of fracking in the Loyalsock, its neighboring lands, its far-flung regions, and the earth it forests is not merely immoral; it is absurd.

Industrialized extraction violates the very spirit of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Even more appalling, it undermines our wherewithal to act as responsible global citizens in the effort to mitigate climate change.

“Trust us” is the constant refrain we hear from the industry. “Clean, natural, abundant, and American!”

But we all know better.

In fact, we all know that this hearing is a charade and a farce—at least unless we the citizens demand that the Loyalsock’s DCNR marionettes, its elected representative puppets, and their corporate string-pullers listen—and then that they act on behalf of the Commonwealth.

What is even more absurd it that industrialized extraction is so wholly needless. We have alternatives. We are capable of significant conservation.

What we lack is the political will and the courage to see the world liberated from the tyranny of Big Energy and the money-slimed collusion of government.

We must put an end to our resigned cynicism.

I am not here to ask nicely that my hiking trails not be obliterated.

I am here to demand an end to industrialized extraction.

No, Andarko. No, Inergy, No, CNYOG. You may not destroy the conditions of my and my children’s lives for the sake of your obscene profits.

You may not have the Loyalsock on my watch without resistance.

I, for one, will fight.

Wendy Lynne Lee