Oil and Gas Issues Surround ‘Fractures’

Decisions that characters must make in the novel, “Fractures,” resonate with area residents who face similar dilemmas related to oil and gas exploration, scientist Mary Ellen Cassidy indicated.

The Wheeling resident reviewed Lamar Herrin’s novel for Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling Tuesday, June 10. In “Fractures,” family members try to deal with the discovery of Marcellus Shale under their land.

“The story itself is not that remarkable, but I like the way it’s told,” Cassidy said. Referring to the impact of oil and gas drilling and extraction, she said, “It will impact all of us, regionally, locally and globally.”

The novel’s main character, Frank, has despair, depression and suicide running in his family. His free-spirited daughter, Jen, and her young son live with him. Frank also worries about his two sons, Mickey and Gerald. “The family has many small fracks in it – nothing explosive, but small hurts,” the reviewer remarked.

She said the book calls attention to the impacts of fracking: road repair woes, radioactive chemicals in fracking fluid and constant noise from drilling pads. In the novel, she said, Mickey’s county bears the brunt of damage to its roads while adjacent counties reap huge benefits from leasing drilling rights.

At its heart, the book explores “the family’s sense of place and community,” Cassidy said. It examines the conservation and preservation of older buildings and natural resources. In one passage, Frank, an architect, comments, “We abandon our own buildings at our own peril – they carry away so much of what we are.”

Near the end of the novel, “Frank is really being pressured,” she said, adding that after decisions are made, “if you’re like me, doubt sets in.” Referring to decisions made by individuals, companies and governmental entities, she said, “There are debts we’ll all have to pay upon what we negotiate now.”

The reviewer said, “The book doesn’t give you any clear conclusions.”

Noting a culture of multi-national corporations, she said, “In my opinion, we the people should be making the decisions. We have to be together on this.” She suggested that “we need to put as many resources as would put into a war” to deal with conservation and development of efficient and renewable energy sources.

Cassidy joined FracTracker Alliance last November. As community outreach coordinator, she develops, coordinates and promotes FracTracker’s national outreach and education initiatives.

FracTracker Alliance is a nonprofit organization that collects resources, maps and data on the global oil and gas industry. The group is “working toward a more positive energy future,” she said. The alliance started as a mapping organization but has evolved into developing resources and a role as a community action group, she said.

Approximately 1.1 million oil and gas wells exist in the United States, Cassidy said, but there are “limited resources to monitor” the industry. Regarding compliance history, she said, “The information is tough to get and sometimes it’s expensive to get.”