Thursday, October 16, 2014

Get Ready

Imagine flying over the Diablo Plateau just past the Huecos from El Paso and seeing this. Get ready.

Fracking is known for its contamination of wells and groundwater. For instance, Californians have recently learned that frackers are dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste into their groundwater. No wonder that people in Denton, Texas are fighting fracking in their community. Yet the damage to underground resources and subsequent health dangers to those above is not the only havoc reeked by the fracking industry. Social costs and damage to the surface ecosystems need to be weighed as well.

Food and Water Watch recently published a study on the social costs of fracking. (There are good summaries HERE and HERE.) Environment America has also issued a study. The social costs include impact on health, infrastructure, increased crime and sexual disease, negative impact on property values, on and on. 

But the environmental impact is not just deep underground. It is what happens to the surface: chemical spills, heavy trucks and other machinery destroying surface soil and cutting new roads from fracking pad to fracking pad. Indeed it is this surface damage that may be the highest cost of fracking especially in the desert.

The desert surface is so valuable and so vulnerable. The soil teems with life and that life is essential for the plants and animals of the region. Lichens, mosses, liverworts, cyanobacteria all bind the surface and aid in water retention critical to the desert ecosystem. "The survival, growth, and reproduction of living things depends considerably on soil characteristics," according to Sonoran Desert expert, Joseph R. McAuliffe.  

Science Daily quotes American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America Member Mandy Williams: "These crusts kind of act like a living mulch across a desert, by protecting the surface from erosion. Once you disturb the soil surface, you're more likely to lose what little resources are available there."

[See good pictures of the life in the desert crusts HERE.] 

Thus, it is disheartening to learn that Torchlight Energy has acquired 172,000 acres on the Diablo Plateau southwest of Cornudas, Texas which is just a hop from El Paso. Consider the damage to the ecosystem of that plateau. Consider the social costs to Dell City and, yes, to El Paso. Get ready.

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