At my local farmer's market right now, I can, if I choose, buy lovely fresh blackberries. A half pint container costs around three or four dollars, depending which vendor you get them from. They are incredible, but a luxury.
While I was in western PA last week for my uncle's funeral, one of my relatives made fresh blackberry cobbler. She was also freezing blackberries, and making blackberry jam. She and several other relatives had been out picking blackberries in an abundant wild patch, and would return several times more. The berries were sweet and juicy and some were as big as your thumb. The bushes gave more than they could pick; there were plenty for the humans and for the wild critters who fed on them as well. While picking, they chanced to see a wild turkey and her brood toddling along off in the distance.
The berry bushes are on a scrap of land that's been more or less neglected up until now. Not of much interest. No one's wanted to build on it, so it sits there in its semi-wild glory, a haven to all sorts of critters, and its rambly berry bush patch yielding sweet fruit every August for those willing to do the work of harvest.
The person who owns the land is a business person who didn't pay a whole lot of money for the land when it was purchased. Times are tough for all business people, and credit is tight, and people have to make a living. Sadly for the berry bushes, and the turkey mama and her brood, they all have the misfortune to dwell above the Marcellus Shale. The business person has been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars for the drilling rights to the little scrap of land. In order to drill, the land will need to be cleared devastated. They will spray the bushes and rip things out and put in roads and that will be the end of berry picking, spotting baby turkeys off in the distance, and sharing fresh blackberry cobbler with your grieving relatives.
No final decision has been made yet but it is hard to see how anyone can hold out, in a depressed economic climate, when offered that kind of cash for a small piece of land. One might argue that blackberries and baby wild turkeys are priceless but you can't make your business payroll out of warm happy feelings about environmental preservation. Individuals cannot be expected to be the guardians of our state's environmental treasures and the safety of our groundwater and streams and rivers.
Here's what the PA Department of Environmental Protection says (on its crappy website):
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not involved in regulating lease agreements between mineral property owners and producers, except that minimum royalty payment is prescribed by law. Lease agreements are contractual matters between private parties. DEP does not audit payments, read or calibrate meters or tanks, or otherwise get involved in lease matters.
Of course not. We can't interfere with private enterprise. Out of the way, turkeys! Begone, blackberries! We've got poisonous wastewater to produce! Let the fracking begin.