I have been following the arguments in the newspaper about the possibility of hydraulic fracturing in San Miguel County. Having recently moved here from an area of Texas where there is fracking aplenty, I thought I would share what I know first-hand about the effects of fracking and all that comes with it.
First of all each oil or gas well that is fracked takes an average of 4.5 million gallons of water, water that cannot be reused for drinking. San Miguel County does not have enough water to even consider inviting exploration companies to this area. In the town we moved from, the oil and gas companies are buying water from the municipal supply.
Residents were informed of this decision in a letter included with their monthly water bill.
As far as the jobs that the oil and gas industry brings when it begins exploration in an area, a lot of the companies bring their own employees with them. The town we left has an official population of 6,700. Before the boom, there were two RV parks in the city. Now there are dozens, thrown up on every vacant square of land, most of them obviously temporary, with no amenities, muddy roads and little in the way of regulation. These RV parks are filled with the migrant drilling and pipeline crews who go where their companies send them. Yes, there are lots of new restaurants, and hotels, as well as new bars that fill to brimming nightly. There are also trucks coming and going, many with new, unseasoned drivers. A policeman there told me they had gone from writing 75 tickets a month to writing over 400. On average, there is one accident involving an oil-and-gas truck per week.
There are also a lot of new millionaires with fancy new gates on their land, and paved driveways. Those people are no doubt thrilled with the new status quo. Everyone else has to put up with the continuous truck traffic, the new pipelines running through the countryside, the new plants with their smoky flares. The drilling companies leave their mark, and it’s more than just the possibility of the water running out or being contaminated or any of the other objections people raise in letters to your newspaper. It affects everyday life and permanently changes the landscape. The old adage certainly applies: Be careful what you wish for.