AC Alert for January 23, 2012 Now Clergy Asks: Where Would Jesus Frack?

Jan 24, 2012 10:24 AM ET

AC Alert for January 23, 2012 Now Clergy Asks: Where Would Jesus Frack?

AC Alert for January 23, 2012
Now Clergy Asks: Where Would Jesus Frack?

Fracking, the hydraulic process that involves injecting liquids into shale deposits deep underground to release oil and natural gas deposits, generates strong emotions among both advocates and opponents. This growing public debate, at both local and national levels, is in part about getting at domestic fossil fuel sources and lessening dependence on imported oil and natural gas. 

It is also about creating new jobs and economic benefits in the regions where shale drilling takes place. On the other side of the issue are those who believe that the process damages the environment and poses a threat to our groundwater system. There are even some who believe it might have been the cause for a recent earthquake in Ohio. 

The spirited dialogue reached a new level last week when a Lutheran Pastor in Central Pennsylvania's Union County, decided to take a biblical stance on the issue:

According to  

"A Lutheran pastor yesterday told environmentalists that there is a scriptural basis for opposing Marcellus Shale drilling and legislation pending in both state houses to regulate it. The Reverend Leah Schade, pastor of the United in Christ Church in Union County, wore a hand-sewn white patch that said WWJF - Where Would Jesus Frack? -- and dropped to her knees to demonstrate the power of prayer. Asked later to answer the question on her blouse, Schade said, "I don't believe Jesus would be fracking anywhere." She cited Genesis 2:15. "God put human beings into the Garden to till it and keep it, not drill and poison it." 

High Level of Emotion
The fact that an ordained pastor would be willing to stake out a public position on this issue demonstrates the extreme level of emotions which fracking evokes. Questions are being raised about the potential impact of fracking on human and animal health, as well as agricultural products such as grape vines and other deep-rooted plant life. 

Oil and gas industry leaders have responded by emphasizing the growing need for domestic oil and gas resources, and trumpeting the jobs that fracking will create or preserve. Energy industry experts point out that done properly, fracking should not affect water tables as the shale levels are deep beneath the ground. 

Meanwhile the public debate on fracking in the USA now involves state regulatory officials, members of congress and other elected officials, public health professionals, environmentalists, academics, civil society organization leaders, industry oil and gas executives…and yes, now even the clergy!  

Several years ago, long before fracking became a daily source of news headlines, your AC editors established a special Hot Topics Section Fracking. Our Hot Topics are focused on emerging issues that we believe will create broad societal effects.

Today, this Hot Topic focus has been expanding as energy companies step up efforts to find new sources on US lands, mindful of potential events such as the cut-off of Middle East or other foreign oil that could put additional pressure on all sides as the nation's leaders in the public and private sectors seek alternative energy sources. Recent excerpts from this section demonstrate the continued war of words and emotions between proponents and opponents:

Fracked: The Debate Over Shale Gas Deepens
(Source: Time) Time Magazine editors point out that the debate over fracking has reached a new level: while water has been the focus of previous fracking wars, the new debate focuses on a hidden aspect of shale gas: its contribution to global warming.

Fracking's Greenhouse Gas Contribution Splits Scientists
(Source: Business Week) Two groups of Cornell University researchers have split over the contribution to global warming by fracking. Dueling papers in the journal "Climatic Change" dispute conclusions published in April that so-called unconventional gas production spews more heat-trapping compounds into the atmosphere than mining and burning coal.

EPA agrees to test well water for gas-drilling contamination
(Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will begin testing well water supplies at 60 homes in Dimock, in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, where residents say Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations have contaminated water supplies with methane and other pollutants.

New York Fracking Advocates Say Local Bans Are 'Kiss of Death'
(Source: Bloomberg) Fracking proponents believe that New York State would lose any chance of reaping the economic benefits of the shale-gas boom if local governments are allowed to ban drilling through zoning laws.

New Quinnipiac poll: Ohioans want hydro-fracking stopped until more study is done; split on 'heartbeat' bill
(Source: A new poll of Ohioans shows that more than seven in 10 want fracking stopped until the issue is studied further. But those polled in the Quinnipiac University survey also said they think the economic benefits of fracking outweigh the risks, a message being pushed by the oil and gas industry in Ohio as shale development efforts increase.

Unlocking the Secrets Behind Hydraulic Fracturing
(Source: New York Times) Starting February 1st, drilling operators in Texas will have to report many of the chemicals used in fracking. Environmentalists and landowners are looking forward to learning what acids, hydroxides and other materials have gone into a given well.

Voices from the Shale - Fracing Contaminates Ground Water –But Drill Anyway, Says Brit at Adam Smith Institute
(Source: Mike Benard) AC's exclusive commentator on fracking, Mike Benard, writes "A Brit writing in Forbes magazine says that fracing does contaminate ground water, but we should drill regardless. Writer Tim Worstall is a Fellow at the Adam Smith Institute, a "libertarian and free market" think tank headquartered in London.  He also writes a column for Forbes.  His premise is that, as long as we understand the risks, we can choose to make a trade off for the benefits – such as an abundant supply of natural gas that is preferable to burning coal.

2011 Flashback
Almost one year ago, in March of 2011, we conveyed the story about NY suburbanites Bob and Judy who found their dream home in upstate New York: A farmhouse on a 200-acre plot where they could raise cattle and horses. A buried natural gas pipeline runs under their farm in the Catskill Mountains near the Delaware River. 

Thousands of feet below the pipeline lies more natural gas trapped inside a massive shale rock formation. Bob and Judy hoped to have six gas wells in their fields, tapping the shale gas, feeding directly into the pipeline and generating thousands of dollars an acre plus royalties in "found money." 

However, last time we checked, those royalties haven't started yet nor has the fracking. Like many other areas, New York State hasn't given the process a total green light. Wonder where Bob and Judy will be next year at this time!

Your AC Editors will continue to collect comments on Fracking from a wide range of sources in our best attempt to help readers access as many views as possible.  The Hot Topics Section "The Truth About Fracking" is your one-stop shop for all the latest information on this rapidly developing and evolving issue. 

We also welcome commentary on fracking, especially from local civic leadership, NGOs, investors, and from oil and gas industry managers.  Send comments to:

This is just a sampling of the information in our Alert. Go here for the full text of this alert, and more information on Sustainability, and other Accountability related topics.