Whitesburg KY
Mostly clear
Mostly clear


With a bill that would permit natural gas drilling in state parks now appearing dead for this “short session” of the Kentucky General Assembly, lawmakers already should be asking themselves questions about the proposal in anticipation it will come up again in 2010.

Let’s assume for a moment that we are a state representative and ask ourselves some simple questions about Senate Bill 138, the bill introduced by Sen. Tom Jensen (R-London) which would open parks and other state lands to natural gas wells and the pipelines that go with them.

Question one: Like most of my fellow lawmakers, including the state senators who voted 39-0 in favor of Jensen’s bill, I have never even seen a natural gas drilling operation in progress, but am being asked to open our treasured state parks and nature preserves to drillers and pipeline layers. Shouldn’t I at least take a few hours out of my busy schedule to watch a well being drilled so I can get some kind of feel for the property damage that will occur on the lands I took an oath to protect? Perhaps a responsible drilling company would let me watch one of their operations.

Questions two through five: Come to think of it, I don’t know how a gas well even works, and I’ll bet most of the 99 other members of the House have no idea , either. So wh at does h appens after a gas well is drilled? Don’t they have to dig deep trenches to bury pipes to take the gas from a well, say in a state park, to a market in one of big cities like Philadelphia? Is what I’ve heard true — that the gas company will be given a 50-foot right of way at the very least for its pipeline with no trees or shrubs permitted? Won’t those barren strips of land look funny in a state park that normally has a lot of trees, like Natural Bridge? What will visitors to Red River Gorge think when they see all those trees missing?

Questions six through 11: Lately I’ve been hearing the term “fracking.” I first thought it was a slang word for sex, but then a friend told me it was a term used to describe a process that involves the hydraulic fracturing of rock formations deep underground to make a drilled well actually produce gas. Who does this fracking and what does the process involve?

When I was visiting eastern Kentucky the other day I was met by a convoy of at least 15 big heavy trucks with tanks on them that were painted with the words “Halliburton” and “liquid nitrogen.” My friend who was traveling with me said these are the trucks which carry the liquids used in fracking. Are the 100,000 gallons of fracking fluids used to fracture each well safe? Is it true those fluids contain hazardous chemicals such as diesel fuel, acids, metals, and ethylene? What effect will that have on the water quality in our state parks? Now

that I think about it, I remember seeing an article in Newsweek

magazine last August that said now-former Vice President Cheney was able to get fracking fluids exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2005. Do I trust Dick Cheney and his former employer, Halliburton, to be truthful about the chemical makeup of fluids whose ingredients they don’t have to disclose because of proprietary trade laws? Who will pay to fix the roads and other property damaged by these large truck convoys which would invade our parks to service the gas wells?

Question 12 through 14: Who would determine a fair price for royalties from gas wells drilled on property where the state also owns the mineral rights? Who would decide what a fair price would be on other properties where the state may own the surface but not the minerals? What price should the gas companies pay for the surface damages caused by their pipelines?

Question 15: Now that I have become aware of some of the problems associated with the extraction of natural gas, I am beginning to feel the pain of some of our citizens who are being forced to let gas companies drill wells on their property simply because their mineral rights were surrendered years ago under broadform deeds. Shouldn’t I begin to do my duty and introduce legislation that would help protect the health and safety of all of Kentucky’s citizens who are being affected by the current boom in shale-gas drilling?

Legislators are scheduled to return to Frankfort on March 26 for the final two days of the current short session.

So many questions. So little time.

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