Giant Evilcorp to Townspeople Who Require Water in Order to, You Know, Live

Giant Evilcorp to Townspeople Who Require Water in Order to, You Know, Live August 19, 2013

“Frack you.”

Basic rule of Catholic social teaching and elementary common sense: human beings are creatures made in the image and likeness of God. Mammon is an idol that you cannot serve if you want to serve God. Any civilization worth its salt will address this obvious and gross evil in such a way as to put the needs of the people first. “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” No excuses, EvilCorp. Your profits do not outrank humans.

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  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    I did not know what to think about fracking, till I saw the way fracking companies behaved. By their fruits ye shall know them. People who try to slap lifelong bans on free speech on small children and who ignore the right to live of the people they work amongst cannot be doing good work.

  • Elmwood

    And just think, most if not all of the GOP supports more government deregulation, especially in the oil and gas sector while simultaneously rejecting the theory of anthropocentric global warming with all the scientific evidence and the 1,000s of peer reviewed scientific papers that pretty much prove it’s occurring.

    How can anyone take these jerks seriously at this point? Texans are literally trading their water for oil…


    • Vicq Ruiz

      Actually, I don’t reject the theory of anthropocentric global warming. But what it suggests to me is that we should replace as much oil and coal as we can with more natural gas, more hydropower (dams) and more nuclear.

      And by the way, anyone is welcome to trade their water, provided that they own the water rights, for oil, Tex-Mex chili, Arbuckle’s boiled coffee, iPods, or Beanie Babies as far as I am concerned.

  • ivan_the_mad

    “At the very time when the development of economic life could mitigate social inequalities (provided that it be guided and coordinated in a reasonable and human way), it is often made to embitter them; or, in some places, it even results in a decline of the social status of the underprivileged and in contempt for the poor.” — Gaudium et Spes 63

  • Andy

    Why is anyone shocked – an interesting article about the energy industry –

    Money trumps all in this country – not people, because people are fungible, not honor, because there is honor among thieves –

  • AnsonEddy

    It would be interesting to see an application of Catholic social teaching applied to water rights policy, especially in those parts of the country lying east of the Rocky Mountains and west of the 100th Meridian which John Wesley Powell identified as needing special consideration due to the arid nature of the environment. Now we’ve had over a century of water rights policies. The folks in the arid west realized that the old policy of riparian water rights wherein you could utilize any streamflow provided you didn’t diminish flow for downstream users wouldn’t work in a country where streamflows were so paltry that any use would necessarily diminish downstream availability, so they came up with prior appropriation rights aka Colorado Doctrine wherein water rights were appropriated in time where the first person to put the water source to “beneficial use” had primary right to it. Now we argue about what constitutes beneficial, but we haven’t really created a hierarchy of beneficial uses. Obviously one would expect in a just society that drinking water trumps industrial use, but even then you are going to end p with sticky situations. Someone had the brilliant idea to build a gambling mecca in the middle of the Nevada desert. It takes millions of gallons of water to keep the showers and drinking fountains going in Las Vegas, and in times of drought we expect that the family rancher will kill his dehydrated livestock to keep the potable water flowing to Mandalay Bay Casino, but where is the justice there when the thirsty chose to make their home in the desert? Anyway, it would be an interesting topic to read about.

    • It would be interesting to see an application of Catholic social teaching applied to water rights policy

      I would, too. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to get both the right and the left in this country to make a few metaphysical concessions that they seem congenitally unable to make.

  • The Deuce

    OTOH, getting water to people isn’t free because it requires resources – particularly oil. I would like a more complete accounting of the details of this particular case before I make up my mind about it.

    • Andy

      Moving water to people requires energy, not necessarily oil or natural gas. By the way most of what we are “fracking from the ground” is being sent overseas to make money for the energy concerns involved in fracking.

      • The Deuce

        It requires energy, and in order to be affordable to get it to lots of people, the energy itself must be affordable. Oil and natural gas are affordable, and fracking helps to make energy in general more affordable by increasing the supply of it, regardless of where the demand is. Quite a few people elsewhere would be going without food and water if we all of a sudden decided there will be no more fracking. Again, I want to hear more than this one-sided presentation of what’s
        going on in this particular town before I make up my mind about it.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Just a minute! I thought that a lot of rural areas had wells on most properties. How much energy is required to pull water out of wells? It used to be done for nearly 1900 years. And I am sure the wells that charities are helping digging in Africa do not require that much energy. This story is about drying up underground water resources altogether. When the oil companies have used up all the water, they can just move elsewhere, leaving deserts behind this. Is it rabid environmentalism to object to this?

          • jroberts548

            Pumps don’t run on good intentions.

            • Marthe Lépine

              Neither do a rope with a bucket at the end of it. Or an axle with a handle. And, by the way, I have seen many pumps that do run without any power other than the arm that moves the handle. I have seen them even in old kitchens portrayed in reliable museums… But if there is no water left in the well, there is no way to fix it!

              • jroberts548

                Do you think the arm that moves the handle doesn’t require energy?

          • Rebecca Fuentes

            Whether they have a well depends on whether they are over part of of an aquifer, whether that aquifer is accessible and what the level of the water table is. Some places here have started using more modern windmills for their pumps, but if we have a week of utter calm (very rare) or winds so high the windmill can’t be run due to risk of damage (much more common), there needs to be a back-up. Solar panels are too expensive and apparently don’t produce enough to be the most reliable back-up.

  • Will

    It is like reading the novel, The Octopus, by Norris. Perhaps there was a reason for the progressivism at the beginning of the 20th Century.

  • Merkn

    I did not see in the story where the unnamed fracking companies were getting their water, except for Mr. Baxter. How come the title isn’t “evil Mr. Baxter”. Its his water. He could give it away free to his neighbors but he is choosing to sell it. Of course maybe the oil companies aren’t getting all their water from mean old Mr. Baxter. Gee maybe it would be uncharitable, or dare I say ignorant, to pronounce Mr. Baxter evil without knowing the full story. I also did not see any evidence water used for fracking was the cause of the absence of water from the locals’ taps, although one of the locals “feared it was so”. What if the frackers are getting it somewhere else? What if these fracking jobs put unemployed poor Texans to work? Why is using water for fracking worse than using it for cattle? Those factory farms are pretty grim affairs. Instead of regulations, why doesn’t the state government just fill up some trucks with water and drive out to west Texas. Who knew there was a desert out there. This must be the first drought ever. Imagine that, oil companies at work in the Permian basin; turned that Western Eden into a dust bowl nightmare. And as the commenters point out all that oil just goes “overseas” – – maybe even to Saudi Arabia. Yeah, this article and title pretty much presents a fair picture of what is going on.

    • Marthe Lépine

      I would challenge that underground water running under – or crossing under – a farmer’s farm is entirely his property. It seems to me is the mutual property of all the farmers who have farms above it. If one of them cuts the supply to all the downstream others, I don’t think it is legitimate.If he sells all the water and the source dries up, it seems to be the same thing as cutting the supply to others.

      • There are multiple theories about how such water should be treated with major breaks between how it is treated east and west of the Mississippi in the US. Other countries have different traditions even within the common law grouping. There is no consensus here. Nobody seems to have figured out a really good system to beat the other contenders yet.

    • Boethius

      I agree, the “evilcorp” as Mark called them was not the one with the water, Mr Baxter had it and was selling it until the county stopped him. The Fracking corp may be “evil” as Mark implies, but that is not explained in this video…..

  • Jacob

    This issue is more common than you’d think. Agricultural irrigation often causes the same problem – corn is very thirsty. Where I used to live in central Illinois, the aquifer levels are dropping in order to achieve super high density farming. Water usage rules are in dire need of reform in many places.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      And the high density farming often require large amounts of petroleum-based chemicals in the form of fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, increasing the demand for oil.

      • moseynon

        Pesticides and herbicides, to be sure, but fertilizer is typically nitrogen based and by far the most common fertilizer in the corn belt is anhydrous ammonia. Petroleum isn’t needed for its production.

        • Rebecca Fuentes

          Yes, you’re right.

          Water rights and water quality are subject to a lot of discussion here, since we’re a mostly agricultural community just east of the Rockies. If we get a good snowpack, the reservoirs fill up and there’s enough water for local crops/livestock and to send downstream throughout the summer. If not . . . well, we have a year, or years, like 2012, where there was nearly no snowpack, many farmers could not even start crops, and nearly 100,000 acres of our county burned.
          Who gets the water and how we keep it clean is naturally connected to our food system, which is connected to our energy system.

  • Mark

    Hey Mark, you are again on to something you know nothing about and condeming… It’s a statewide problem no necessarily linked to fracking, but you know, oil companies are easy targets.

  • B.E. Ward

    From a recent National Geographic article:

    “In 2008 Chesapeake Energy began drilling on her family’s 197-acre dairy farm in Granville Summit, in northeastern Pennsylvania. In June 2010, after a crew had been working on the well, Vargson turned on her kitchen tap to find it backed up with what she thought was air. “It was like drawing a glass of Alka-Seltzer, very sizzly and bubbly,” she recalls. Testing showed the water contained more than twice the methane that’s considered an explosion threat. Chesapeake has been supplying her with bottled water ever since, while arguing that the contamination is natural.”

    There’s a picture of the tap water *on fire* as it comes out of the faucet.

    • MM

      You do realize that the “burning tap water” myth has been debunked, right? Fracking takes place underneath several thousand feet of impermeable rock – far away from aquifers near the surface. Many of the towns where this has been documented have naturally occurring methane in their water supply and have been able to set their water on fire long before the drilling companies showed up. There are at least two towns in the US named “Burning Springs” because of this very effect. It should also be mentioned that many of the “anti-fracking” documentaries were funded by OPEC member nations who might have a vested interest in reducing domestic US energy production.

  • Vicq Ruiz

    Cherrypicking two (possibly) abusive actions (in this post and in the earlier post about the gag order) says no more about the practice of fracking in general than, say, cherrypicking two cases of child abuse says about the Catholic Church.

  • These people are not without water. They are without cheap water, their local supply having dried up. This is not unknown in the history of Texas or a number of other states which makes this an economic problem of a very different type. So far as I know, the Catholic Church does not fight against curing the tragedy of the commons.

    It is perfectly possible from an engineering perspective to simply pipe up water into this part of Texas. The last time I ran the numbers a few years ago it was somewhere around $800 per acre foot to go from Baja up to the Vegas area. For those unfamiliar, that is the quantity of water needed to cover one acre of land with 1 foot of water. I suspect that the economics aren’t much different in Texas.

    So this is not a technical problem other than the poor foresight of the political establishment locally that counted on abundant rains to bail them out without calculating what the extra water draw of both fracking and increased populations was doing to their old calculations. They’ve been caught short and so they are getting their water trucked in until better arrangements can be made. This is sad, perhaps a tragedy, and certainly an inconvenience. It didn’t have to be this way. The only thing is rational economic calculation would have avoided this fate. Instead, they priced water too low and now it’s gone until the aquifers refill. That’s not a problem of worshipping Mammon. This is more “bad luck” in the Heinlein sense.

    No matter what economic system is adopted, a decision has to be made for all those communities. Is the product made by the water that can be shipped in going to be worth it or should some or all of them join the illustrious list of US ghost towns?

    There is an appropriate Catholic theology to apply to this mess but it’s not blindly railing about Mammon or Evilcorp. It’s about appropriate stewardship and arranging for new supplies of vital resources like water before you run out. These people haven’t so now it’s scramble and pray until they fix it.

    • Vicq Ruiz

      Great post, says it all.

      For those readers who are not familiar with “bad luck in the Heinlein sense”, here ya go:

      Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man.

      Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people.

      Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

      This is known as “bad luck.”

      -Robert A. Heinlein