Fracking Is Not The Issue

            A recent Newark Advocate article (Ohio’s Top Geologist Demoted Following Shale Map Concerns by Russ Zimmer June 13, 2012) flies neatly under the radar like the latest stealth aircraft. Ostensibly, its connection with the controversies surrounding the shale energy gold rush in eastern Ohio is what made it newsworthy. Careful reading indicates it quietly tells the tale of a public employee within shouting distance of 30 years of public service being chastised for not getting it right when it comes to serving the public (even though his job “appraisals mostly were unblemished”). What did he not get right? After nearly 30 years of service (with good performance appraisals), it couldn’t have been the “serving” part. It must have been the “public” part. “Public” must have changed since Reagan’s first term, when this fellow’s employment began, and what is the worldview today.

            Re-reading the article within light of the state’s (and county’s and city’s) current management emphasis on public private joint ventures and the hurried introjections of private business “consultants” on boards of public regulation and policy, it is no wonder the poor fellow didn’t get it right. Just the minor side reporting on the state’s joint venture with Cargill and Morton resulting in a law suit over price collusion on the sale of salt back to the state from whence it originated in the first place is as confusing as the Nixon years (just think of the possibilities with the energy produced by Ohio shale!). Who is the “public” identified by public service? The recent Supreme Court Citizens United ruling joins a new voice to any karaoke selection of Woody Guthrie’s great sing-along, “This land is your land. This land is my land.” And that voice comes from “an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of the law.” (Chief Justice Marshall’s identifying definition of a corporation, Dartmouth vs Woodward 1819). How could it not sound hip, with it, so totally today?

            And what is private, private enterprise or business? The fracking brouhaha that placed this “private” human interest story in the news originally (making it “public” news) is all about water, public water, and whether private entities “existing only in contemplation of the law” are entitled to the same public access as, well, the public. How many public employees are demoted, promoted, placed on leave, laid off or fired every week without the notice that even newly acquired Realtor membership receives? The Advocate of late has been all full of reporting regarding the new gold rush, jobs to be created, the energy independence, the wealth lying deep below the ground, the disgruntled tree huggers, canoeists, bird watchers, and whether or not the MWCD and cities along rivers are within their jurisdiction to deal in water with “artificial being[s], invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of the law.” A curious insight is that there has been no reporting on the various private sand and gravel mining operations located throughout the Muskingum watershed. There are a lot, both active and defunct. Both contain enormous quantities of “privately” owned water which they are free to sell (and do). Then again, with the state’s (and county’s and city’s) emphasis on public private joint ventures, if the eastern part of Ohio were blessed with a sandy coastline, these quarries wouldn’t benefit from the sale of sand to private energy companies either.

            The Citizens United ruling redefines all of the previous identifying definitions of public, such as public hunting areas, public fishing areas, public recreation, public health, public transportation, public airwaves, public roads, public waterways, etc. It gives access to and entitles “artificial being[s], invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of the law” all the rights previously reserved for flesh and blood, mortal entities. The esteemed authors of “We, the people” would have embarrassed themselves if they had bothered with an identifying definition since it would have involved flesh and blood entities, of gender, color, origin and background- tangible, visible, real beings existing in time at the time (and, in too many cases, owned as private property). No, fracking is definitely not the issue. 

 

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