Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

March 17, 2014

Wait until research is done before we start fracking

Since the days of Love Canal, thalidomide, lead paint, the ozone hole, and the consequent deaths, disfigurements and cognitive impairments, our ability to research environmental effects has advanced exponentially.

What a relief. Today, we actually have the ability to explore the potential long-term impacts that our actions, including fracking, might have on the places we live, work, and raise our children.

That research is crucial, of course, but so is a science-literate citizenry who understands such research can’t be done overnight or even within a few short years — a miniscule amount of time compared to the millions of years it took for that gas to form in the first place.

That is why Sen. George Edwards’ comments about the work of the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission (“Commission reports may not be finished by Aug. 1 deadline,” March 14 Times-News, Page 1A) alarm me.

According to the article, Edwards noted that fracking is the most studied issue he can remember. Then the senator added, “It’s kind of strange to make it go that long” and “You can study things to death.” The tone is one of impatient complaint.

Instead, he ought to — we all ought to — breathe sighs of relief that the studies are taking a while, that we now actually have available to us teams of scientists trained to figure out whether fracking will result in the kind of fiascos we saw at Love Canal.

Edwards is guilty here, as many of us often are, of temporal solipsism: awareness of nothing but our own time.

Temporal solipsism might matter less in decisions about roof renovations and speed limits.

But it’s dangerous in decisions about messing with what’s been deeply entrenched below the surface for millions of years, the disturbance of which might threaten drinking water, public health, and habitat

Maybe there are safe ways to frack. But we won’t know that until we’ve allowed the scientists to do the work they’re trained to do, which may take longer than we, with our childish, do-it now greed, can sometimes tolerate.

Let’s give them the chance. Let’s insist the government wait until the research is done before we drill. And let’s grow up a bit and stop acting as if our brief time here is the only time that matters.

Barbara Hurd

Frostburg

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