To Frack Or Not To Frack

Posted by Matt Nelson.ti

“If possible and profitable every tree, bush and leaf, with the soil they are growing on, and the whole solid uplift of the mountains would be cut, blasted, scraped, shoveled and shipped away to any market home or foreign.  Everything without exception, even to souls and geography, would be sold for money could a market be found for such articles.”
— John Muir

international_paper_logoWith forty million dollars pledged for the first phase of a proposed pipeline project and a further thirty million on deck for phase two, IP (International Paper) intends to see its Ticonderoga facility powered by natural gas supplied by Vermont utility provider Vermont Gas.  The pipeline would originate in Vermont, bringing natural gas service to rural border towns on its way to IP’s newly retrofitted mill (courtesy, in part, of a 1.5 million dollar North Country Regional Economic Development Council grant) on the opposite side of Lake Champlain.  For the last, and most importantly the most profitable, leg of its run, Vermont Gas intends to route the pipeline under the lake.

vermont_gas_logoVermont was the first state to flat-out ban hydrofracking within its borders and the plan doesn’t call for the issuing of any permits to drill here in New York, which are currently prohibited by a statewide moratorium pending further review, so one can justifiably question any call for serious alarm.  Using the argument of public benefit, Vermont Gas can seek land easements under eminent domain to route the pipeline.  This has understandably irked landowners but the utility is well within its right in trying to see this through.  Besides, who wants to be seen on the opposing side of an infrastructure project that could possibly increase local tax revenues and lower utility expenses/bills for homeowners and businesses alike?  And of course there are the jobs to be had on both sides of the lake.  Laying the pipeline itself will put people to work and the energy savings realized by its beneficiaries (IP in particular, which will receive/consume 70% of the lines volume) may induce additional hiring.

This all makes for great press, as well as political capital, for both its proponents and its detractors but I believe it serves best to illustrate the central impediment to environmental conservation: economics invariably trumps ethics.  And so it is that the preservation of our planet is palatable provided only that it is profitable.  A sense of ecological obligation is admirable, if not absolutely necessary, but it simply doesn’t put food on the table and is therefore not worthy of serious consideration outside of election cycles.

I hope against hope for a happy ending here, but I’m a realist.  With so much money already on the table the pipelines completion is a foregone conclusion.  This is, after all, only business.

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