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Know the West

The East is fracked


The interior West has long been a source of raw materials for the rest of the nation. Copper mines gauge the hills of Arizona; long trains run day and night hauling low-sulfur coal from the massive mines of Wyoming's Powder River Basin and Colorado's West Elk Mountains to the East Coast;  gasfields on the Pinedale Anticline and in the Piceance Basin feed a spiderweb of pipelines to the Mid- and Northwest. As a result, we rural Westerners can get worked up over our remaining "pristine" landscapes. After all, why should the places we love be sacrificed to energy and mineral hungry metropoli back east? But with natural gas prices trending up over time and technology advancing by leaps and bounds, it's become pretty clear that just about anywhere, USA, (provided it has a wee bit of retrievable natural gas or oil) is fair game these days.

High Country News hasn't dealt with the new gas plays in the East and Midwest, since they're out of our coverage area (hey, we gotta draw the line somewhere), but some other publications are doing a fantastic job digging (drilling?) into the issue. 

The Christian Science Monitor just ran a great story about how companies are now using hydraulic fracturing to retrieve gas in 19 states. And earlier this summer, the nonprofit Propublica teamed with the public radio station WNYC to produce this excellent investigative piece on the Marcellus shale gas play in Pennsylvania and New York.

Poignant reminders that the resource-heavy West used to be a lot further East. . .after all, the first oil wells were drilled in West Virginia and Pennsylvania in the 19th century. Hopefully the lessons of runaway energy development in our neck of the woods (and of the very distant past) aren't lost on those city slickers over yonder.