I come from the Wild, Wonderful Hills of West Virginia. Home of the oldest mountains in the world, hollers filled with untamable wild things (including me and most of the people) and the robber barons who plunder prehistoric worlds where dinosaurs once roamed free the dark under land while most of her citizens live hand-to-mouth.
West Virginia has been occupying a bit of my mind and time this week. Seems that I inherited 1/17th (yes, you’re reading that right) of an acre of mineral rights through my patriarchal line and big energy wants to FRACK it. America’s Big Energy Barons, who we’ll refer to hereafter in this post as ABEB have discovered gas, coal, oil and deep, pure water on my distant relatives land and they want it.
I received a phone call from their darling young contract land agent/henchman in Pittsburgh. This is the 2nd call I’ve received like this in 2015. The other was about a similarly tiny inheritance from my matriarchal line.
Both times, it started off sounding like I’d won the lottery! “I’ll bet you didn’t know that you’ve inherited valuable mineral rights, through your relative (insert name here), in West Virginia. I’m happy to tell you that this valuable inheritance can be worth $500 to you because (insert BIG OIL NAME here) wants to lease this property from you! And, because we see here that you’re a WIDOW, we have put you ahead of some of your relatives to receive this money.”
Wow! Me? Little Widowed Me just inherited $500 from a relative I’ve never heard of? Free money! Cool. But when the contracts actually came (via next day mail with a prepaid express mail return envelope) the tiny legalese said my part of the pie was $1. Wow. A Widow’s Mite for the little widowed lady. How generous.
And for that one measly dollar ($1), the 12 page contract said BIG OIL (ABEB) would lease this land in perpetuity, binding any heirs to my estate (lucky them) to said contract for $1.
Additionally, on page 6, paragraph 2 duly noted that when “they” decided to terminate the lease, “they” could just leave the site in whatever condition “they” (ABEB) deemed to be satisfactory and I was agreeing to that in advance. Furthermore, henceforth, whereas because they were only leasing the land, if the state, feds, department of homeland security, IRS, environmental protection agency, whatever, should find anything amiss with the site, full responsibility for any required clean-up would rest with me, the aforementioned 1/17th land owner.
In the meantime “they” (ABEB) have the right to clear land, build access roads, construct towers and pipelines, and generally conduct a rape of said property for $1. Forever.
The last time this happened, I refused to sign so ABEB just found another distant relative to sign the contract. I’m smarter this time around, so I stalled while I developed my own plan.
West Virginia has been robbed blind by the American Big Energy Barons (ABEB) for a long time. This is just the latest in a string of crimes.I used to picket against them in my youth and I remember the muscle they brought in to fight the United Mine Workers Union all too well, rifles and baseball bats on the gun racks in their trucks. They were, interestingly enough, also from Pittsburgh.
When ABEB’s boy wonder didn’t get his contract back, he was deeply concerned about any “questions I might have” so I asked him if this was fracking. “Well…some people might call it that.” Really! And what do you call it? “Well…he guessed maybe fracking was technically the right term.” When I asked if he had any idea what fracking does to the environment and if he’d seen the latest report from the US Geological Service which says that fracking has increased earthquake activity, he (quickly and smoothly) informed me that the American Barons were worried about that, too, so they had checked into that and now had videos on the their website that explained why I didn’t need to worry my little widow’s head about all that. As a widow, I probably had a lot of other things to worry about. Hmm.
Sensing this had put my back up, he quickly added that “none of us really likes the word FRACKING, it sounds scary or something…” which is why he doesn’t use it. But, if it were really harmful to the environment, obviously ABEB wouldn’t do it! “Oh yes,” I said, “Obviously.” To stall out the process I added, “Well, I need to talk with my sister about this.”He snatched the ball from my hand! “Betsy! In Chicago!” Why, he had just spoken to her and was so sorry to hear about her recent divorce. He was trying to help her, too. Darling boy, look how considerate he is.
I’m seeing him as about 5 feet eleven inches of tanned, blond, newly graduated college man, armed with a degree in communications or, Lord forbid, ecology, and possessed of an absolutely dazzling smile. You can actually see his smile over the phone.
And, do you know what the best part of his job is? It’s connecting people to long-lost relatives! Who knew? ABEB meets Focus on the Family. He has the phone numbers and emails for relatives I might not have spoken to in years, heck, maybe not ever! And, being the cooperative type, he sent me the family tree that he’s researched for ABEB. Impressive. Who knew the county courthouse was so cooperative? It’s got all the relatives they’ve offered the lease to so far highlighted in yellow on the first 6 sheets (there are, thus far, 43 of us). The last two sheets of the family tree have all the relatives they haven’t contacted yet. Slick. Very slick, big oil slick…
To do my part to prevent another rape and plunder of my homeland in the West Virginia Hills, I’ve decided to offer my own deal to the relatives on the list: $20 for not helping the frackers at ABEB. Yeah, us little widow women are full of surprises…
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