Today, the Lennon farm and hundreds, if not thousands of acres around it on the northern tip of Delaware County in New York state appear threatened by an effort from fracking companies to permeate their lands with drilling rigs and wells required to release trapped stores of natural gas from beneath the ground.
Various pockets of the US are home to American landowners who allege fracking contamination. You Tube is awash with images of people turning on their kitchen taps and lighting the water on fire with a blowtorch, or Bic lighter. Gasland, a documentary nominated for an Academy Award two years ago, was born from a particularly keen offer from a corporation to allow fracking on the director's land. Rather than accept the offer, Joshua Fox looked into the issue and—disturbed by his findings—decided to make a film.
There are even allegations that EPA hydraulic fracking—the official position of the Environmental Protection Agency on the issue—is somewhat suspect, according to at least one EPA employee who appeared in the Gasland documentary and shared personal concerns that appeared to be at odds with official EPA pronouncements.
Even as various hydraulic fracturing contamination lawsuits continue to percolate, Lennon has entered the fray. Writing in the New York Times (8/27/12), Lennon noted that an invitation to attend a Town Hall hosted by hydrofracking proponents who didn't appear to care much what the townsfolk and homeowners thought, left him with questions that spurred him to conduct his own research into the issue. To wit, what he wanted to find for himself was the answer to the question, 'what is fracking?'
What Lennon found was upsetting to him. He wrote that industry studies, which he didn't identify, claimed that five percent of fracking wells could leak immediately, with 60 percent having the potential to leak methane gas and toxic chemicals over 30 years.
Lennon referenced more than 600 toxic chemicals used in the hydraulic fracking process that could leach into drinking water, causing contamination. Dr. Theo Colborn, a noted doctor and environmentalist interviewed for the Gasland documentary, had identified 596 hydraulic fracturing chemicals not put off limits by proprietary protections, in 900 chemical products historically used in the hydrofracking process.
Various lawsuits brought by plaintiffs alleging well and water contamination from water fracking, also allege grievous health issues. But Lennon, whose land appears threatened by the potential for hydraulic fracturing and the apparent willingness by city, state and federal authorities to allow fracking if done safely (critics say it can't be done safely), paints a wider swath of concern…
"The well water on my family's farm comes from the same watersheds that supply all the reservoirs in New York State," Lennon writes. "That means if our tap water gets dirty, so does New York City's."
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At the end of the day, however, is the difference between the value and potential profits promised from hydraulic fracking, v. the cost of settlements. One news report referenced a settlement between Chesapeake Energy and a group of landowners in Pennsylvania who claimed their drinking water was contaminated. The settlement was worth a reported $1.6 million. However Chesapeake Energy admitted no wrongdoing.
In early August, Chesapeake Energy admitted it was the target of an investigation by the US Department of Justice for possible violations of antitrust laws.