Fracking in MoCo? No Way!

An informal poll was posted on Topix and I would like to offer an extended response here.  I am writing here as a concerned resident of Monroe County, West Virginia.
#1. Are you for or against? Vehemently against.

#2. How much independent research have you done? I have been involved with studying, discussing, researching, meeting, thinking, watching, listening and independently exploring the topic in some level of detail for the last 6 months.

#3. Your major reason, for or against?  Simple.  Before:  clean water.  After natural gas and hydraulic fracturing operations?  Contaminated water.  No matter how it is presented by the opposition - this is the documented reality.  It doesn't matter whether the contamination ultimately stems from the fracking process or an overturned truck, or a leak in a containment pond, or a well exploding, or the well casing cracking, or the wastewater being disposed of improperly, or from misting, or a leak anywhere along the path that begins with drilling into the ground and ends when that product is transmitted out of Monroe County via major transmission lines.  The opportunities for an error are immense, and the likelihood of one occurring extremely high.  There are known documented risks with hydraulic fracture (and with standard vertical well drilling) - these risks are considered acceptable collateral damage by the corporations and ultimately, by our government.

Monroe County will become a resource colony much like much of our great nation and state has already become.  Is there no end to this devouring?  Is there a chance we can save our little corner of the planet from this destructive development?  There is very little land like it left.

As a matter of fact - our land is incredibly special:  for caves, sinkholes, vertical seams, and vast, interconnected underground water systems - our land is known worldwide.  This is ground zero for karst.  Our cave systems are vast, stretching for miles!  The Greenbrier River watershed is considered a notable karst area (Wikipedia).

Water here travels miles in ways that may not be apparent, and this has been shown with dye tests.  Liquids from a surface spill could enter a sinkhole and reach a cave or underground waterway and could travel miles underground before emerging in a natural spring, or stream, or drinking water well.  Any slip up of any sort with any serious contaminants (of which the process uses MANY) could poison everyone downline.

Folks, this is serious business and I hope those of you with strong but uneducated opinions supporting natural gas development using current techniques will do your own research on the topic and come back and post after you've let it settle in.  Try googling "hydraulic fracture disaster" or "natural gas contamination" etc.

This is not about one little well.  If the drillers come in here unchecked, we will be part of a massive network of natural gas development - a proposed some 30 thousands wells in Marcellus Shale in the next 20 years.  The risks associated with one well must be considered multiplied by this massive volume - and I think we can all do the math.  There is little chance we will escape unscathed.

And guys - there are no stringent regulations restricting the operations of oil & gas companies - due to special exemptions from the Clean Water Act and other restrictions that apply to all other industries, the government, in an effort to solve our energy crisis has essentially legalized harm.  Get the gas at all costs!  Everyone from Obama, to the EPA, Congress, the DEP, down to our local County Commissioners and Planning Commission have acknowledged that special ordinances are required to protect our people.

The DEP is conducting a comprehensive program review to revise their regulations - it could takes months or longer for it to be complete and the revised policies activated.  The EPA is conducting thorough studies on hydraulic fracturing as more and more evidence that it is connected with water and air contamination emerges - results might be ready in 2012.

Any permits given to drill right now would mean the company has 24 months to operate under current law, which has been admitted to be inadequate by the government and its agencies.  That would make us one of the last guinea pigs that later in history might be considered the "charter members" of the got-fracked club.  Wetzel County and others should be demonstrative enough to convince any thinking man, woman or child that this will change life here irreparably and forever.

And you think its going to bring economic gain to the area?  Ha.  The workers will be primarily from out of state.  Only a few residents will actually benefit from royalty checks.  The businesses that are likely to experience increased sales while the operations are active, or even the new businesses that might emerge?  The situation will be shortlived.  Once they have sucked the County dry of its gas and quite possibly a good bit of its water - they will leave.  And when they do, so will their investment into our economy - and the businesses will slowly die and sales for the businesses that make it will return to their previous levels.  I'm sure most of you knows of a town that once bustled with commerce and now is a ghost town with dilapidated storefronts and empty buildings. 

Only difference is property values will have plummeted, and of course don't forget the existing leases will expire and those checks will stop coming.  The few who have profited from the endeavor are likely to be living in their second homes, and we will be left to pick up the pieces, likely dealing with the after-effects of the disturbances to animal and human life for years to come.  This may all sound very post-apocalyptic.  It isn't - it is very real and could happen in our lifetimes.

If we do not act now to stop this from coming to MoCo, we'll be just another glorious community ravaged by industry and transformed into a resource colony.  It will be with great displeasure a few years down the road to say, "I told you so."

Wake up.  It's our only chance.

Find out more at SavetheWaterTable.org.


RTTT - One for the Books

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have made it through the first round of fights, going the distance and winning my bout with a unanimous decision.

Hooray!  I have accomplished all that I dreamed to do as part of the Road to the Toughman.  I signed up.  I got in the gym.  I trained.  I followed through, showed up on fight night - was cleared to fight and did so - emerging with a victory.

I am wholly and wonderfully appreciative of all the support I had there - seeing familiar faces in the crowd and hearing cheers and chants from the stands is an overwhelming and wonderful experience - and I thank all of you that participated, including those of you who couldn't make it but offered thoughts via Facebook, etc.

The loop has been completed.  I set out to do something, and I did it - I feel great about it, and those who care seem to feel good about it too.

Alas, now I find myself in a conundrum of sorts.  I advance to tonight's fights, where the winner will need to win 3 or maybe even 4 fights TONIGHT to win the event.

Testament to my opponent (Clint Caruthers, great fight buddy) I've awoken today with a variety of ailments, including a jaw that feels wired on a little loose and a head that just won't stop banging - but none of my ailments are serious.  Which considering the circumstances, is surprising.

This is not a situation that will continue - fighting the winners from last night in a multi-fight format will not be pretty.

My cardio was wholly insufficient for one 3-round fight, and those who were there know that I got a couple unintentional rests when my headgear came off (three different times).  I could not speak for 10 minutes after the fight - my fitness is right on the edge of the envelope of barely acceptable for one fight - and it is irresponsible and potentially dangerous to consider a multi-match endeavor in the same night.

Inherent in my personality is pride, and for those of you ringside last night know that after a slip and taking some damage in the first round, I began to panic slightly.  The moment of truth during the break before the second round produced the realization that I could not let this guy beat me no matter what - which led to more aggression and resolve in the second and third rounds.

So if/when I start taking damage tonight, I'm not going to roll over, I'm going to push, I'm going to try and stand, and I'm going to take just as much damage as possible.

There is a difference between stubborn and stupid - and endeavoring to fight tonight, I'm afraid, would be stupid.  There is no chance of victory for me.  For those of you that think this is a fantasy world, and want to say you can do anything - you can do it!  You can win! - guys, to win the Toughman, you need skill, experience, and stamina.  I have a little, they have a lot - and I would have to make it through 3 or 4 fights against increasingly powerful opponents to get the win.  Ladies and gents, it is not feasible, not currently.

Guys, this may be hard for some of you to understand, but for this reason and others, I am forfeiting my spot in tonight's fights.

I was never in it for the money, and was never in it to win it.  The fight doctor cleared me to fight (I view this alone a success), and I'm undefeated in my semi-pro career, 1-0.  A young lady asked to take a picture with me while I was leaving the building - my first fan photo! 

And most importantly, I've got a membership to the gym that I use and have lost nearly 60 pounds since setting out on this journey.

I do not need to prove anything else to myself, and you my friends and family, I hope I have nothing more to prove to you.

There is an outside possibility that in 12 months, having continued my workout regime, I will re-consider my candidacy for the Toughman and give it another shot.

Thank you again all of you, you are appreciated.  And finally, a big thank you to Jerry Thomas and the Toughman producers for putting on a first-class show.


Road to the Toughman - Fight Night

Ladies and gents, for those of you whom have followed the Road to the Toughman even if only slightly and from afar, I owe you this brief discussion on the topic.

Tomorrow night is fight night, and I'm excited and have butterflies and want to get it over with - and have all kinds of complex feelings about it.

On one hand, I'm taking the whole thing very simply and quite lightly - it's a bucket list item, and will be exciting (even if a little painful).

On the other hand, I was once an athlete and a competitor - and I am from the "play to win" camp - not to be confused with the "everyone's a winner" camp.

What is important? - I'm doing the Toughman because it was the thing that motivated me to get a gym membership and start going.  This fight tomorrow is the logical end of the Road to the Toughman, and a ultimately a necessary evil to complete the loop.  The Road to the Toughman wouldn't be interesting if it never reached its destination.

So - the fight is on, and I am psyched.  And I am thrilled that some of you will come and join me in support!

Since I do not take your support lightly, I want to clarify an important point - contrary to ruminations you may or may not have heard - I am not the favorite and I am not going to win the Toughman.

That has never been my intention or expectation, so my hopes are that you too will not even consider the thought.

I'm a lover not a fighter after all.  There will be real fighters that actually DO this in the competition.  And finally, let's be very clear about my condition - I've shaved 50-some pounds and have been hitting the gym - but I am still over 380, more than 120 pounds heavier than the next heaviest heavyweight - and no one has ever been in boxing shape at 380.  I have worked on cardio hard, but it is still way too weak to excel in the Toughman format - I WILL get tired.

And I will lose, eventually - even if I win a round or a match - and may even lose embarrassingly.  Please all of you be prepared for that, and feel free to point and laugh and take pictures when it happens.

That being said, I am amped to get in the ring and for the experience and promise to throw a punch or nine.   

Thank all of you that have offered thoughts and words of support throughout the process - it is significant and I appreciate it.

I can tell you that while the Toughman may end for me this weekend, my commitment to eating better and getting to the gym and having a healthier, more active lifestyle will live on.  All the best to each of you - and hope to see many of you tomorrow night.


An Additional Perspective on Suicide

This is tragic, and my heart goes out to the families and friends of the recent suicide victims.

I would like to offer an additional perspective - teasing/bullying has been around since bigger neanderthals picked on smaller ones, and while we have become more intelligent, our teasing has only become more brutal and organized - and it is unfortunately a part of growing up in the world as we know it.

I wouldn't spend a lot of time hoping or thinking that this is something that will change. It's like hoping that thieves will stop stealing or the concept of war would evaporate.

Our focus needs to be on boosting the personal strength of the individual - building characters that can cope with adversity at school, or in the workplace, etc. A strong, well-developed sense of self, even if lacking complete confidence - will not turn to suicide as a response to torment.

Rise up people - BE STRONG! Be who you are and move past the idiots who don't like it. It is your right to have this life as much (or more, some might say) as the morons who are teasing you - your one obligation is to keep moving forward, and under no circumstances, check out of the journey.

Princeton.edu says a victim is "an unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance" - but suicide "victims" self-impose their victimhood.

Suicide is SELFISH. Suicides leave children without parents and parents without children, wives without husbands, etc.

Finally, if it seems as if there is no other option, it may be that you are seeing it from the wrong angle - and you need to reach out for help (friends, family, professional).

If that help doesn't arrive, then guess what? - you march on anyway and figure out a way to grow from it - because the alternative is unacceptable.

This is your life to live. Live it.


No Peace Without Hope

...how hard it must be to live only with what one knows and what one remembers, cut off from what one hopes for! There can be no peace without hope.

~ Albert Camus


Knowing & Being Opposites

It is absolutely impossible for a subject to see or have insight into something while leaving itself out of the picture, so impossible that knowing and being are the most opposite of all spheres.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche