November 20, 2011

A Program for All Pennsylvanians

This American LifeDrilling for natural gas by means of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale formation has been a controversial issue for some time in Pennsylvania. Gas drilling could create jobs in the commonwealth and make many landowners wealthy. It could— because of Republican control of the state government it probably won’t—solve Pennsylvania’s budget problems. Unfortunately, gas drilling will cause pollution, damage roads, and, in a variety of ways, negatively affect the quality of life of residents living near gas facilities. Natural gas may be a clean fuel to burn, but extracting it from the ground can be anything but clean.

I don’t claim to be an expert on hydraulic fracturing, and I am too busy doing other things to become a citizen advocate for dealing sensibly with Pennsylvania’s natural gas resources. I have seen the documentary Gasland, however, and it has me alarmed. I understand politics enough to know that the interests of the many are likely to be sacrificed for the benefit of gas companies and a small number of landowners in Pennsylvania.

In July, PRI’s This American Life devoted an entire radio program to issues around gas drilling in our state.What caught my attention when I first heard the program was the outrageous behavior of Range Resources, a major corporate player in the growing Pennsylvania natural gas drilling industry. At the time, Range Resources was running an aggressive TV advertising campaign portraying itself as a kind of savior of rural Pennsylvania. The campaign featured Pennsylvania landowners extolling the virtues of Range Resources, which was paying them buckets of money for the gas right to their land.

“Game Changer,” a 1-hour radio program from This American Life, offers a very different view of Range Resources from that portrayed in the TV ads. Every Pennsylvanian should listen to this program. Only the second half of the program deals with Range Resources, but the first 30 minutes, also about gas drilling in Pennsylvania, are equally fascinating. You can find both the radio program and a transcript of it here.

WARNING: This program will make you angry. (Republicans can ignore this warning.)

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