If you tell residents in Dimock Pennsylvania that they are living in an “industrial wasteland”, they are likely to laugh – or get rather impatient with you.
They rightfully regard their home as a beautiful place – undulating, agricultural and forested country with deer in the woods and trout in the streams.
Dimock, Pennsylvania – December 2016
But back in Australia, we are told by anti-gas activists that this place has been destroyed by hydraulic fracturing.
They say the similar things about the Western Downs of Queensland.
It is not true there either – and you would probably get a similarly impatient response from people who lived in the area if you told them they were living in a so-called wasteland.
Movie makers in the USA and Australia were the miscreants who kicked off this totally misleading smear campaign.
New York movie maker Josh Fox was first to create the myth of environmental destruction in his discredited pseudo-documentary ‘Gasland’.
A virtual carbon copy of Gasland was made in Australia, using the very same techniques of extreme claims, misleading information and dramatic misrepresentation. This movie also claimed to be a documentary, but started with the claim that hydraulic fracturing would “destroy the world”. You can read more about Frackman here.
Courtesy of Gasland, Dimock was the first town to be adopted by drive-in activists as a symbol of the campaign to stop natural gas development and particularly hydraulic fracturing (tagged ‘fracking’ for obvious slogan-writing reasons).
Perhaps appropriately, movie celebrities flew in to grab national television attention and to whip the local community into anti-gas action.
Placards were hastily placed in prominent positions in the town and on people’s houses as the campaign rolled. Supporters of the long-term economic benefits for the area fired back with their own placards, and suddenly the town was divided – not by the gas companies, but by the activists.
You see Pennsylvania has a long history of oil extraction. Some of the USA’s first ever oil wells were sunk in Pennsylvania. As a result many local people were in favour of the shale oil and gas development because they were familiar with the benefits it had created in other parts of the State.
Four or five years later, the placards are gone.
The environmental destruction predicted by activists has not occurred.
People’s water wells sometimes contain traces of natural gas, and other elements, as they always have. But this is because of the geology, not the gas company operations.
As regulators confirmed earlier this year, there has been no groundwater contamination in Dimock.
Yes, there could be some environmental impact if proper safeguards were not used, but there was no evidence companies were diverting from the well understood precautions which have been used since the first commercial oil and gas hydraulic fracturing occurred in the USA in 1947.
What residents in Dimock and surrounding areas have now is a functioning industry providing jobs directly and indirectly through other economic applications, in manufacturing and other energy consuming processes. And there has been no interruption to farming activity.
Dimock Pennslyvania – December 2016
A manufacturing plant which employs 3000 people has been set up in the area solely because of the reliable supply of keenly priced natural gas. If gas was not available, this plant would have been using more expensive electricity, derived from burning coal, which would have been worse for the environment.
The roads around Dimock are now better, having been improved by the gas companies. Fencing is also improved. Gas is cheaper than before, meaning home heating is less expensive – and that is important in this part of the country, which has plenty of snow in winter.
You can drive through town and be hard pressed to be able to detect the signs of the gas extraction underway on the other side of the hills.
As with the coal-seam gas operation which has been quietly producing gas at Camden, on Sydney’s outskirts for the past 15 years, unless you know where to look it is out of sight.
The reality of life is that Dimock people have moved on from the fracking argument.
The activists and the celebrity protesters no longer visit the town.
The local chamber of commerce actively seeks out ways to ensure value-added business activities occur locally, to make use of the abundant, low-priced energy.
And they are doing it well, with the result that the area will have decades of benefits from the gas wells to follow on from the construction boom which occurred in the earlier years.
Far from being a ‘wasteland’, Dimock is a thriving example of coexistence of natural gas development with agriculture and manufacturing and other commercial activities.
And that is undeniably visible to any visitor to the area.