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Life and Death at the Polls

Political Commentary by John Buffington is another installment in a series.  His opinions are entirely his own.

If you plan to die within three years, have no descendants living hereabouts, and don’t care about anybody else either, perhaps you needn’t bother to vote in the governor’s race on November 4th.  I plan to do everything that I can to live more than another three years, so I am going to vote and do all that I can to get others to vote too.  Because:

Governor Corbett is engaged in a well-publicized project to turn Pennsylvania into the Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas.  And it is working.  Pennsylvania is now second only to Texas in natural gas production.  However:

Texas imposes a hefty extraction tax, so that the citizenry gets some payback.  Like three other states that are among the top five producers.  Only Pennsylvania lets the plutocrats keep the proceeds, except for a modest charge to cover some of the short term local damage.  So:

In this Commonwealth our patrimony has been sold for a pittance.  We are being robbed with the collusion of people supposedly elected to protect our interests.

Tom Wolfe proposes an extraction tax, which makes him preferable to the current industry puppet.  It would be nice if he also showed some concern about the health issues.  Such as:

The sudden surge in natural gas production is produced by fracking, which includes injecting highly toxic chemicals into a bore-hole to bust up shale way underground, so that gas will gush to the surface to be collected, transported, and consumed to generate electricity or heat.

Some of the deadly fracking junk gets burped back up along with the gas, collected, and transported for disposal.  Sometimes disposal means injection into another bore hole in Ohio, so that it becomes a problem for the people in Ohio, not us.  Other parts of the poisonous crud gets delivered to local sewage treatment plants, where it kills some of the bugs that are essential to treating normal sewage and becomes a problem for whoever is downstream.  But wait, there’s more:

Some of the contaminated goo escapes collection and makes its way into fractures in the underground stone.  It eats ever bigger passages down there, gradually contaminating an ever expanding portion of the water table.  And:

The water table is the reservoir from which people draw water, by means of household or municipal wells.  Then real people use water contaminated by toxic sludge for drinking and cooking.  And real people get sick.  Today.  Real people are being poisoned today by Governor Corbett and his natural gas industry allies.  It gets worse:

Complaints about poisoning are investigated by staff members in the Health Department.  The usual investigators have been instructed to kick complaints upstairs, to political appointees.  The Department denies that anybody has been poisoned.  Moreover:

The toxic fracking chemicals are a trade secret.  Doctors who treat poisoning victims are allowed to know what the junk is that is making their individual patients sick, but they are prohibited from telling anybody else, which puts another cork in the effort to develop a public health approach to a public health problem.  Not just willful indifference; this is going to become mass poisoning.  And it’s not just poisoned water:

Once the gas is produced it has to be transported by pipeline to points of use or export–a city like Philadelphia being a prime destination.  Natural gas is natural poison.  Pipelines leak.  Watch for lots of respiratory problems coming to your hometown soon.

Philadelphia area legislators couldn’t stop this atrocity, so they—Democrats mostly, but also some conscientious Republicans–cut the best deal that they could: there’s a temporary moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River watershed.  That’s why we can’t taste it in Philadelphia yet.  However:

When ruthless politicians and greedy plutocrats conspire to get more powerful and richer, it is going to escalate and hurt an ever larger portion of the public until we get to the polls and throw the rascals out.  Don’t bet your grandchildren’s health that the conspiracy won’t get to the point where our water is undrinkable too, and they will get richer and more powerful while our air becomes poisonous.  By the time we are tasting and smelling poison in Philadelphia, this may be the State of Saudi–Plutocrat Gas Production.

Polls have been showing Governor Corbett losing to candidate Wolfe.  But the gap tends to close at the end.  If this particular rascal is thrown out, he will be the first incumbent governor ever defeated here.  We need to be absolutely sure that that happens.  Moreover:

It isn’t good enough just to defeat Governor Corbett.  We need to deliver a crushing, humiliating, record-breaking repudiation.  We need to make every legislator understand that we reject being robbed and poisoned.

We are not hapless peasants in Saudi Arabia.  We do not have to resign ourselves to abuse.  People fought and died in the American Revolution so that we can turn out on November 4th and speak up.  Women raised hell in the 1890s and 1910s so that women today would get to vote on November 4th for their own health and the future of their children.  African Americans raised hell in the 1950’s and ‘60’s so that African Americans today can go to the polls and say no to yet another abuse.

Please, let us all join hands and change the future of our Commonwealth.

John Buffington

About the author:

John Buffington has no connection with the Tom Wolfe campaign, the Democratic party of Pennsylvania, or the Democratic party of Philadelphia, other than voter registration.  He was registered Republican until recently.

Mr. Buffington was an enforcement attorney in the newly created Environmental Protection Agency under Republican President Richard Nixon.  Then he served as the first Regional Counsel in Region III in Philadelphia of the US Department of Energy.  He was then Chief Counsel for the Governor’s Energy Council, under Republican Governor Dick Thornburgh.  Then he was a Visiting Professor at the University of Delaware, studying “Ethics and Energy Policy” under grants from the Exxon Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

He has worked as a volunteer in 14 political campaigns, 12 for Republicans, one for a Green Party candidate, and one for a Democrat.

In a recent article in this space he endorsed Republican Matt Wolfe for City Council.