by Max Brantley
I've said before that I grew up in the Southwest Louisiana oil patch in a refinery town. I know both the prosperity and unpleasant side effects that oil and gas exploration and chemical production can cause. Few people in that part of the world want to get rid of the industry. But if you think you can trust the industry to always be a good citizen and to pay for the damage they cause — as the noisiest members of the Arkansas legislature's Shale Caucus seem to want us to believe — I ask you to think again.
Another anecdote here, about Texaco's neighborliness in operation of a gas pipeline facility. Who can you trust if you can't trust the man with the big Texaco star?
In this story, you'll see that it's local folks — many of them industry employees — who aren't happy about pollution of their land.
The same local roots apply to Sam Lane of Greenbrier, the director of Stop Arkansas Fracking, who wrote a fine op-ed in the Democrat-Gazette the other day. It's behind a pay wall, but I'm going to ask him for a copy of it or similar so I can make it available free. Here's his website in the meanwhile. His bottom line, after reciting some of the many problems already noted:
It is clear that there are problems, and that there is a potential for much larger problems. With hydraulic fracturing ramping up in southern Arkansas for oil production, and test wells being drilled in other parts of the state, Arkansans need to be aware of this process. They need to be aware of where their water and food come from. They need to know they will pay higher taxes because of the damage this industry does while it’s here.
When the gas and jobs are gone, whether that is sooner or later, Arkansas will be left holding the bag, and it won’t be full of money.
Moral: Whatever else you might think about energy sources, it makes NO sense for Arkansas to charge less for withdrawal of non-renewable resources than is charged in Louisiana, which has historically been one of the friendliest sttes to the oil and gas industry. Sheffield Nelson is right. The severance tax must be raised if for no other reason than to pay for road and highway damage by drilling rigs.