Is fracking better?
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About a month ago I read in the Post-Gazette that environmental coalitions in Western Maryland were meeting to oppose fracking. I know Western Maryland. I went there in 1975 as a geologist to investigate the potential collapse of newly constructed buildings into the Pittsburgh Coal mine located below Frostburg State College. Those mines were later backfilled at great expense to state taxpayers.
Coal mining in Maryland's Georges Creek Basin began around 1750 and the county at one time led the nation in coal production. The mine workers union began in that valley.
When I first arrived, the creeks ran red with iron and yellow with sulfur. The water was highly acidic. Nothing in those waters lived. Some of the hillsides were on fire. My co-worker and I got sick from the water.
I returned to Western Maryland in 2006. The creeks were the same. I didn't notice burning coal in the hillsides along the interstate. I feel it could be another span of 250 years or more before the creeks support life and perhaps another thousand before the threat of mine subsidence disappears.
I'm not suggesting environmental organizations embrace fracking but consider it a better alternative to our fossil fuel needs. Coal mining by comparison has left serious environmental impacts to former mining areas that will continue to last scores of generations and has spawned monuments to the hundreds who have died working underground.
First Published February 3, 2013 12:00 am