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In Theory: Should churches take a position on fracking?

April 03, 2014
  • LOST HILLS, CA - MARCH 24: The sun rises over an oil field over the Monterey Shale formation where gas and oil extraction using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is on the verge of a boom on March 24, 2014 near Lost Hills, California. Critics of fracking in California cite concerns over water usage and possible chemical pollution of ground water sources as California farmers are forced to leave unprecedented expanses of fields fallow in one of the worst droughts in California history. Concerns also include the possibility of earthquakes triggered by the fracking process which injects water, sand and various chemicals under high pressure into the ground to break the rock to release oil and gas for extraction though a well. The 800-mile-long San Andreas Fault runs north and south on the western side of the Monterey Formation in the Central Valley and is thought to be the most dangerous fault in the nation. Proponents of the fracking boom saying that the expansion of petroleum extraction is good for the economy and security by developing more domestic energy sources and increasing gas and oil exports.
LOST HILLS, CA - MARCH 24: The sun rises over an oil field… (David McNew / Getty…)

Having recently made legal claims to historical gas and mineral rights under vast tracts of British land, the Church of England has taken a position against those who oppose hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — the process of breaking up rock formations underground in order to extract natural gas.

A spokesman for the church says the issue is an economic one and compares opponents of the process to anti-vaccine activists, claiming that the poor “suffer most when resources are scarce.”

In contrast, Pope Francis, who chose the papal name of the patron saint of animals and the ecology, appeared in public after meeting with Argentine environmentalists and held up two T-shirts signifying opposition to the procedure, one of which linked fracking to the issue of water pollution and its effect on the poor.

Q: Is fracking an ecological concern connected to poverty? What position should churches take, if any, on environmental issues like fracking?

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Psalm 24 opens with these words: “The Earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.” So yes, churches should be concerned about the environment, and especially in a situation such as this one. I believe fracking can be connected to poverty — maybe not in every single situation, but certainly here.

It seems to me that the Church of England is letting dollar signs (OK, pound signs!) cloud its vision of just what is at stake with fracking. The Church owns some property and maybe is forgetting that a church's first mission is to people, and after people, to the good care of God's green Earth.

As I understand fracking, it's a terrible process! Water is forced into the ground to break up rocks, and the water that's left is contaminated, never mind the sludge that the water produces. Would church officials like living next door to a refinery or a mine? No, because the smells would be awful and maybe even toxic. The same goes for living next to a fracking operation. In my opinion, the church should say to hell with the whole fracking situation!

The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge

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