Two weeks ago, Tom and I were offered $2,500 an acre to lease our natural gas rights up in Wellsboro. The whole of northern Pennsylvania is singing the Hallelujah Chorus because there is gas under our land and it is now economically feasible to drill …. Tom Hamel has the unfortunate luck of being married to the only one who regards this windfall as a curse. Frank, it is very easy for me to criticize unrestrained fossil fuel consumption, but it is much more challenging to put my money where my mouth is when a large sum of my money is at stake.
So begins this fascinating account of author Stephanie Hamel’s struggle with temptation. After receiving an offer to lease the farmland of her idyllic childhood summers for natural gas exploration, she saw her hitherto strong convictions rattled by dreams of royalties and signing bonuses. With a PhD in environmental health sciences, she could not ignore the possible ill effects of gas drilling and fracturing (“fracking”) of the shale beneath the surface. Her decision was complicated further by Pennsylvania’s Law of Capture, which would allow energy companies to collect gas from her property via the neighbor’s well without paying her a dime.
Stephanie’s search for answers turns into an in-depth examination of her responsibility to the earth, her spouse, her neighbors and her children. As she consults friends, colleagues, officials, and online sources and recalls stories from childhood vacations, she faces hard truths about the inconsistencies of her beliefs. She also tests the patience of her husband, who has no qualms about signing the lease.
A poetic, heartfelt, honest yet lighthearted memoir, Gas Drilling and the Fracking of a Marriage will strike a vein for anyone who has played weekend farmer or agonized over their role as steward to the earth’s resources. How much sacrifice is required of us? What if our sacrifice means little in the general scheme of things? Hamel may not have the answers, but she poses the right questions.