The weather has turned the day after the public meeting to discuss the Antero Frack Waste Disposal project.  It has been hot and dry for weeks, but now there is a front moving through. The wind has picked up, plucking leaves from the trees and blowing them overhead, ridge to ridge. It’s still hot, but the air is moving, and there’s a breath of fall at last.

dsc_6309As I hike with my dog, the sky is moody: alternately white and grey. Though the light is indirect, the asters blooming along the trail, and some early golden leaves, give the illusion that it’s sundappled. The birds are quiet, while the sussurration of the leaves comes in waves, like the sound of the ocean.

The meeting about Antero’s Frack Waste Disposal project: I’m glad we had one, and yet…

After arriving, we were warned that this was not a night for any decisions to be made. This was to offer an opportunity to get our questions answered. In other words: any pleas we made at the meeting would not count in the scheme of things. We were there to listen to Antero’s narrative, and they would “answer” some questions, after.

We were there to listen to their landsplaining.

Accordingly, Antero gave a long presentation, wherein they discussed issues that had surprisingly little to do with our concerns.  They touted their innovations and their brand. The photocopied handouts they provided were disturbingly full of transparent self-promotion. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is quoted as commending the project.

I wonder if he’s ever spoken to anyone affected.

A quick look at who his top donors are shows me that—aside from the “uncoded” money without traceable origins that makes up the lion’s share, aside from “noncontributions” and donations he made to his own campaign—his top broad sector contributions are from energy and natural resources. Within that broad sector, when broken down into general industry, oil and gas comes after mining and before electric utilities. In fact, oil and gas donated over $200 K to him. Among the donors were the President and CFO of Antero, Glen Warren Jr; and several other Antero board members including Paul Rady (Chairman and CEO); his wife Katy; the Senior Vice President Steven Woodward, and on and on… 

I’ll let you make your own conclusions about the value of Tomblin’s assessment, and what it might be motivated by, but seeing that he’s not come to any of the meetings to speak with regular people, I doubt he’s being motivated by public service.

Throughout Antero’s presentation, the presumption that their proposed frack waste disposal facility is a done deal is painfully entitled and narcissistic… it’s corporate affluenza. They talk about the many benefits the facility will provide—to themselves—but utterly fail to demonstrate whether our community will see an overall benefit.

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Nearly 500 acres of hollers will be filled in

Yes, there will be 21 jobs. But even that tiny number exacts a huge economic opportunity cost from this region. Opportunity costs are different from accounting costs.  We get 21 jobs in exchange for five miles of creeks–89 in total–packed with frack waste, 600 trucks a day, and the privilege of being in a new industrial zone. And we pay in lost opportunities for tourism and other industries.

Is that exchange worth it? Maybe to the people who are making all the money. Not to the people living here, who’ll be paying the costs. Antero simply just tells us over and over what they plan to take from us, and how it will benefit them.

It’s one of the most tone-deaf presentations I’ve ever experienced.

They’re concentrating the frack pollution into a smaller and smaller footprint, they emphasized, because they are committed to the environment. Of course, as a general rule, a small footprint is something to strive for. But they’re talking to the people who are going to be beneath that foot when it comes down.

“We’re only destroying a few of you,” is not comforting.

It’s even less comforting that they react with mild surprise when we point that out to them, as if it’d never occurred to them before. They seem nonplussed that we’re not grateful for all the hard work they’ve done to concentrate their pollution and destruction on top of us.

The water will be processed and run through a series of pipelines and is located within the zone of concern for the Hughes River Water Board. The radioactive sludge will be trucked out west, possibly to Texas, Utah, or Idaho. The salts, with some small amount of residual moisture that may or may not be radioactive, will be packed into a landfill that will only be large enough for 25 years.

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Nearly 500 acres of hollers will be filled in

Then, I presume, they’ll want to fill in more of our hollers… or they’ll be gone entirely, leaving us to deal with what they’ve left behind.

They talk confidently about the “robust chain of custody” for the radioactive sludge they’ll be producing, but fall awkwardly silent and nod noncommittally when I point out that we know their waste material got illegally dumped in Kentucky, so how robust could their chain of custody be?

They discuss the steps they’re taking to avoid contaminating our streams with invasive species and largemouth bass disease from the Ohio River, but they don’t share what the risk factor is, even over the 25 year period. And  it doesn’t seem to occur to them that there would be with zero risk if they simply didn’t discharge water from the river here in the first place.

As the questions go on, they look blankly at the people who are sharing how this has changed their lives for the worse, how their children will be leaving here after six generations, how they can’t hear each other speak on the porch, how with the drop in property values for homes directly affected, it will be impossible to even sell and leave.

That blank look they have: it’s an engineer’s response, perhaps. They want to be discussing technical details of the problems they’ve solved, not the details of the problems their “solutions” will cause. For Antero, concentrating the risks and pollution associated with frackwaste disposal onto our small community is the solution. But for us, it’s the problem.

My guess is that they have likely prepared to answer technical questions about tenorms and salt processing, but are dismayed to find that their potential victims are more interested in talking about the destruction of their quality of life, and the risks we’ll all be facing because of they’ve decided our area is a great place—read: we own your politicians—to bury their waste, like a 5 mile swath of litterbox containing turds with a half-life of 1000 years.

For Antero, concentrating the risks and the pollution associated with frackwaste disposal onto our small community is the solution.

But for us, it’s the problem.

How very inconsiderate of us to be worried about that. Silly us, thinking about the future when they could make lots of money NOW.

They slip out before the gathering is concluded.

We’re asking them the wrong questions, as far as they’re concerned. I could see the confusion in their eyes. It’s as if they would have preferred us to discuss what type of gun we’d like to be shot with, rather than acknowledge that we’d rather not be shot at all, thanks.

There is an underlying frustration aimed at us, a community of “dumb hillbillies.” That attitude prevents them from hearing what we’re saying, and must help them rationalize the industrial aggression. We’re just hillbillies to them. If we knew what was best for us, we would jump at this chance. The way they see it, our peace and quiet can be monetized, transformed into wads of money (for them), so why shouldn’t it be?

Stupid animals. A pack of hyenas. It’s a done deal, so they should stop whining and just accept it. Don’t we see how patiently they’re landsplaining to us? Have they not shown us great forbearance in deigning to come here and tell us yet again how profitable this project will be for them?

If the meeting did nothing else, it crystallized for me what to call that dread I’ve talked about before, that overwhelming sense here in Frackistan that “something wicked this way comes” and that impending doom is hanging by a thread above us.

Yeah, I know what to call it, now… that thing that’s hanging over our heads.

The Jackboot of Damocles

It’s a small footprint, is it? Well, if your community is underneath that industrial jackboot when it comes down, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a “small” footprint or not.

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If your community is under that industrial jackboot when it comes down, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s a “small” footprint or not.

And when that “small footprint” falls upon some poor innocent souls here–pardon me, from their perspective, when it falls on idiot hillbillies who don’t know their places–and crushes them under heel with health problems, stress, risks of contaminated water, and radioactive dust and salts, then it’s all for the good. Because poor white people are morally bereft and deserve to die, according to the conservative elite.

But that said, seriously dude, some politicians and Gas Barons will be be making out like bandits!

That’s why Appalachia is a “sacrifice zone.” It’s okay to sacrifice us, because our communities deserve to be wiped out of existence, anyway.

As the joke goes…

  • Step 1: Don the jackboot
  • Step 2: ????
  • Step 3: PROFIT!

I’m here to remind you about what Step 2 is in this scenario. We want to concentrate on this step. We’re still out here.

hildy-eating-from-hands
Yup. Still here. We’re just not rich and powerful.

At the meeting was a rep from a group called “Downstream Strategies.” A few years ago, 2010, they did a study to examine the cost-benefit of coal, taking into account the hidden subsidies implicit in production: wear on roads, health impacts, impacts on our streams, increased flooding due to sedimentation, reclamation and so on. They found that coal costs this state about $100 million more per year that it provides in revenues.ale_duo

Why? Chiefly because of that proverbial extraction jackboot: we’re the ones getting trod upon. We’re so many grapes they’re trying to stomp the wine out of.

Why haven’t we seen a study showing that this project will even add revenue, when taking the hidden subsidies and impacts into account? Shouldn’t that be where we start?

They’re socializing the costs, and privatizing the profits.

We pay for the infrastructure; they use it up.

But we shouldn’t worry. It’s a small footprint, Antero says.


“This,” cried the Mayor, “is your town’s darkest hour!
The time for all Whos who have blood that is red
To come to the aid of their country!” he said.
We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!
So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!”