Sunday, 6 November 2011

Issue: Energy Companies Destroying Archaeology

“It’s a beautiful example of totally screwed up priorities,” says Katherine Faull, a professor at Bucknell University, “there’s nobody, it seems, who can say anything or stop the energy companies.”

In the eighteenth-century a village utopia was founded by a Moravian missionary on the North Branch of Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River. The village is called Friedenshuetten, which means “tents of peace.” Excavations of the site began in 1972 and revealed that the village was where expats of what is now the eastern Czech Republic and Native Americans of the Eastern Delaware Nation coexisted in log cabins and wigwams from 1763 to 1772.

The archaeological site is now being threatened by the growing natural gas industry surrounding it. New developments allow companies to extract greater quantities of methane trapped within the rock. This has caused a boom in Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry. The resulting gas rush could encroach on Pennsylvania’s archaeological sites thanks to minimal regulatory oversight from the state capital, Harrisburg.
This particular site brings up issues with archaeological ethics. Should the preservation of archaeological sites be jeopardized just for the sake of expanded energy companies’ resources? The article that deals with this particular issue is titled “Does the Natural Gas Boom Endanger Archaeology?” and discusses some of the legal aspects of the situation.

Two energy industry-friendly provisions are currently very dangerous to the lives of archaeological sites. The first provision being the “10-acre rule,” which states that if a company applies to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection for a permit on a project that will take up 10 or fewer acres of land, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC) is not required to review the proposal to ensure the protection of archaeological sites, nor does it have to be notified.

I find this to be extremely unethical in regards to preserving archaeological sites. Not only is the energy company automatically granted passage to use the land however they choose, but they are not required to notify historical or archaeological authorities whatsoever. This means that several archaeological sites may be damaged without anyone knowing, meaning that that history and information is lost forever. Several sites can also be threatened during the process of excavation. The energy company’s site may encroach on an excavation and make the archaeologists work faster, perhaps resulting in a poorly recorded site and the loss of some artifacts that were unable to be uncovered.

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