Bo Diermann: Common sense and fracking

January 19, 2013 9:05:51 PM



People with little knowledge of the petroleum industry or the technology used are expressing their views and opinions as if they were proven facts. If you watch a biased movie or prejudiced documentary, you are now a bona-fide expert in the field of oil and gas drilling and completion techniques. Besides being of profound knowledge, you pass judgment and condemn the business and the industry for generating profits for their shareholders, creating jobs thus reducing unemployment. 


Caledonia is a small town which I have been a part of for the past 27 years as a resident and business owner, not to mention the 42 years working on the oil and gas wells in Lowndes and surrounding counties in Northeast Mississippi and Alabama.  


There appears to always be opposition to change and new technologies. When the gas storage field was developed just outside the town limits there was opposition by some of the same people who are now against "fracking." Most of the wells which were drilled, completed, produced and finally abandoned in the Caledonia area were fracked. Some of the wells are still in production and their longevity has been achieved because of the frack performed when the wells were drilled and completed in the late 1970s and the 1980s. The town and the county still reap benefits from the activities of the petroleum industry.  


Lowndes County receives an annual ad valorem tax on the inventory of the natural gas stored thousands of feet below the surface. In a depleted gas field the town of Caledonia receives an annual payment for 10 years for doing absolutely nothing. This windfall terminates in the year 2017, but it has had negative impact on the thought process of some of the town's elected officials. With the added income received from the storage field, who needs the pittance of sales tax monies generated by an establishment for 40-plus years whose license was not allowed to be transferred to a new perspective owner? Yes, that darn old petroleum industry had caused havoc again when it supplied the funds for the materials to blacktop the entire length of Martin Road as atonement for damages to local roads which may have been caused during construction of one of its facilities. 


Let's review the effect of the petroleum industry on the surrounding area of Caledonia: 


-- We have more funds in our coffers than ever before so we can argue at town meetings how to spend our wealth. 


-- We have better roads in our area which has seen an increase in DUI and alcohol related citations since the local beer store was not allowed to reopen. 


-- And since safety is a big issue, let it be known our roads are in safer condition than most counties to transport out-of-town people for hunting and fishing.  


I fault the industry for not educating the general public on what is about to take place in their communities and the surrounding areas. Of course this industry always demanded a special breed of people possessing an essential requirement -- common sense. This academic course is not taught in any school. It is a gift acquired over a period of time from seeing, doing, participating. It begins in childhood. Common sense is not acquired by sitting behind a desk beating on a computer all day and using information that was submitted to write an article without ever checking the data. Somewhere common sense should have kicked in.  


How can a drilling rig be erected on a parcel of land that is only 50 ft. wide x 65 ft. long? Do you know what? It can't. A drilling rig's footprint is larger than the land mass I am writing about.  


How about the statement the board of alderman of the town is allowing hydraulic fracturing? Well, a little research would have showed that the board signed to lease the mineral rights under the 3,200 sq. ft. parcel owned by the town not to take part in the decision how to drill and complete the well or stimulate it. This is the role of the state oil & gas board, the geologist, engineers and people financing the well.  


Hopefully this group of people has a little common sense and would not allow an unsafe practice to take place near the metropolis of Caledonia, which could possibly ruin the hunting and fishing for the out-of-town good old boys. 


Yes, the industry should have taken notes how things were portrayed up north with the liberal activists and tried to educate the local population before drilling, but who would have ever thought this much attention would be brought up in an area where the practice has been used for 30 years with no negative environmental results.  


Just as a note to the industry: You have to educate the people with the facts. They have lost all means of making decisions. They have no common sense and believe what they read in the media, see on TV and in the movies. You must educate, educate and educate them more. The American Petroleum Institute should hire an advertising and marketing firm to educate the unfortunates that rely on the biased, no-common-sense media for their education. 


I could go on and on, but my blood pressure will not allow me to. The last of my comments are, if you like driving your vehicles, heating and cooling your homes, flying and all the other daily activities we take for granted, you should be thankful for the industry you think so ill of. Start teaching your children how to think and make rational common-sense evaluations and do not believe all that is reported in the media -- it could be biased. God bless the oil and gas industry workers. They are a hell of a good bunch of people with common sense. 


Bo Diermann