In a sense, Rockingham County is a fitting name and place for Virginia’s first test-case of Big Gas’s ability to “fracture” Virginia’s portion of the Marcellus Shale. This geologically named and Republican dominated (at least as far as the Rockingham Board of Supervisors in Rockingham County is concerned) portion of Virginia was said to be an “ideal place” to construct Virginia’s first natural gas well in the Marcellus Shale not only due to its proximity to other natural gas extraction operations in West Virginia but also because of its Republican leaning Board of Supervisors. Luckily for Virginians, a Republican supervisor, Pablo Cuevas, dug a little deeper into the possible consequences of what drilling would mean for his district of Bergton and he didn’t like what he saw or the answers that he was given.
It’s become a trope, but Pablo Cuevas demonstrates the non-partisan nature of environmental issues like natural gas drilling. Pablo didn’t inherently accept the fact that natural gas drilling’s benefits (“billions of dollars in new revenues” and of course jobs) would outweigh the costs. Pablo didn’t put the interests of Big Gas ahead of the interests of the people he represented. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, it seems that at least one state agency, the Department of Mines, Mineral and Energy was willing to put the interests of Big Gas over those of Rockingham County’s inhabitants. Actually, that’s not much of a surprise, is it?
We know that Big Gas will be back to push its case for an exploratory drilling permit once the price of natural gas begins to rise again. Next time Big Gas will also probably have an army of lobbyists and “non-partisan” or otherwise academic studies showing how beneficial natural gas drilling can be for the local economy and for Virginia’s energy independence in general. Big Gas and other exploiters of this marketing tactic understand that the allure of new revenues and jobs is greater than the ability of most individuals to put forth the effort necessary to uncover the darker side of natural gas drilling, the side that only those who’ve experienced their tap water infiltrated with toxic fracking chemicals can really understand. And “dirty” tap water is just one of the many negative side effects.
For now, however, hats off to Supervisor Pablo Cuevas and every other political figure around the country who has stood up for the best interests of their constituents by digging down to find out what skeletons lie in the closets of these energy interests. As one Apple executive put it, “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems.” One wonders if Big Oil and Big Gas feel the same way about the human and environmental health hazards they cause. “Not our problem!”