by Robert W. Shaffer
Berea, Kentucky Lexington Energy intends to begin hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Red Lick Valley of Estill and Madison Counties when the way is clear. This is one of the most picturesque places in Kentucky. According to a recent report, Lexington Energy has submitted 18 leases to the Madison County Clerk’s office, covering an estimated 1,900 acres.
Before this happens, the citizens of these counties and the state of Kentucky need to know three basic facts about fracking: 1) Fracking increases the amount of Radon gas in the atmosphere. 2) Radon gas, produced by the radioactive decay of uranium, is poisonous and causes lung cancer. 3) Radon gas is second only to smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer in the world. According to the National Cancer Institute it causes 15,000-22,000 deaths from lung cancer each year in the United States. Confirmation of these facts can be found by an online computer search for “hydraulic fracturing and radon gas.”
The people of Kentucky can prevent fracking in Red Lick Valley and elsewhere. Consider what happened in Estill County in 1996-97. In May of 1996 Ashland Oil and Waste Management announced a plan to dispose of 90,000 tons of radioactive soil from their Ashland operations in Waste Management’s Blue Ridge Landfill in Irvine, Kentucky. Dorothy Gregory and another Estill County woman determined to prevent this from happening. They decided to organize the Action Committee for the Citizens of Estill County. They did not consider the enormous odds against winning, a battle of two major multi-million dollar corporations. They asked me to become their spokesman.
At that time, I was chairman of the board of Estill County’s 21st Century Inc., an economic development corporation, now Estill Development Alliance. At that time, my wife and I lived on a farm in Red Lick Valley. Committed to non-violence, we held rallies, picketed the landfill, met with newspaper editors, state and local officials, and religious leaders. We successfully urged the Estill County Fiscal Court, and the Irvine and Ravenna Town Councils to adopt resolutions opposing the disposal plan.
In June 1996, I presented an Action Committee resolution to Transylvania Presbytery calling on the governor to disapprove the dumping plan. The Presbytery consisted of lay and minister representatives from 99 Presbyterian Churches in central and eastern Kentucky. The resolution was adopted. In mid-July 1997, the people WON. Waste Management and Ashland Oil withdrew the plan. It was another case of David defeating Goliath.
The Citizen’s Voice and Times played an important part in this victory by providing fair and accurate news stories and well-reasoned editorials. If two women in a small eastern Kentucky county can form a citizen’s organization that ends up convincing two major corporations to abandon their harmful plans, it can happen again to prevent fracking in Red Lick Valley.