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Opinion | This Land Was Your Land



“The only acid test is,” she said, “‘Is it good for cattle?’”

You might also end up talking with Leslie Hagenstein, a nurse practitioner who grew up in Pinedale, Wyo., in the Upper Green River Valley, and who practiced there for close to 40 years. I sat in her living room in the house she was raised in on a September evening, looking out the window at a fracking well a half-mile away that was drilled in the final months of the Obama administration.

The drill bit thumped and pounded for close to a year. Her house shook. The noise, the tremors and glaring klieg lights left her sleepless. She complained. She says the company and the B.L.M. ignored her.

The well sits on an area called the Mesa Breaks, public land. When she was a young woman in Pinedale, the B.L.M. designated the Mesa Breaks a critical wildlife corridor for wintering mule deer and pronghorn, and barred all energy exploration there.

“It’s rape and pillage now,” she told me.

Now? Liberals pathologically allegiant to the Democratic Party want to blame Donald Trump for it all, as if history began in 2017. Don’t be fooled. Gas drilling in the Upper Green River Valley began under Bill Clinton, accelerated under George W. Bush, continued under Barack Obama and has accelerated again under President Trump.

The Upper Green River Valley once had some of the cleanest air in the country. The energy industry brought its armadas of diesel trucks, drilled with abandon, laid its pipelines and dumped the fracked wastewater in toxic evaporation pits where once there had been sagebrush that was habitat for endangered sage grouse.

The air filled with volatile organic compounds, the contaminants associated with fracking and with nitrogen oxides from diesel engines. Now the ozone pollution cooked out of that brew by the Wyoming sun forms a veil of smog.

It’s your land put to productive use, made hideous with drill pads, warehouses, parking lots, cranes, bulldozers, storage tanks, emission stacks and roads that lead always to more artifacts of industry.

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