Don’t Tread On Our Rights!

Note:  Following piece adapted from remarks made at Town of Bethel, Sullivan County, New York meeting on August 27.

I feel badly for the Bethel Town Board members, you are confronted with a mess.  Environmental zealots, natural gas advocates, second home owners, farmers, the unemployed and others are all tugging at you to take a position.  Some tell you natural gas development will destroy the environment, and others tell you it is safe.  What do you do?  Do you count the votes to see which side will reelect you and go with that group, or do you weigh what is best for the entire town, county, state and nation?

There is no doubt you have a fiduciary responsibility to the Town and you are required to follow local, state and federal laws.  If you knowingly act above these laws you can be held personally liable.  Bethel is financially strapped. Where will the money come from to repair the roads? Where are the jobs the residents so desperately need? Will it come from those opposing natural gas development or will it come from the gas companies?

White Lake rocks on weekends from June through September, but the rest of the county is dying.  Seventy-one percent of the jobs associated with natural gas development in Pennsylvania are held by local people.  Would this not benefit Bethel?

Do not act hastily to ban natural gas development.  See how litigation is going elsewhere and how it proceeds in the future. Prudence will save the Town a great deal of money, while showing fiduciary responsibility.  You are receiving frightening information from those staunchly opposed to natural gas.  You are also getting legal advice from groups who oppose it.  Seek independent sources.  How is it that when New York State DEC Commissioner Martens clearly states drilling is safe if overseen properly, the environmentalists do not accept his word?  When he was President of The Open Space Institute and helped form The Catskill Mountainkeeper his word was gospel.

Look at the national picture.  Environmental groups have fought to ban windmills in Maine, gas drilling in New York, oil drilling in Montana, desalinization plants in San Diego and turbines off the coast of Florida, and that is just a very small snapshot of their activities. Millions of jobs have been sacrificed and billions of dollars in tax monies denied our states and federal government.

Are these anti-American activities? Is any money being funneled to these groups from outside of the U.S.?  There are environmental groups all across our nation fighting to protect the environment, or is there something more serious going on?  How long can our nation continue when environmental zealots continually ban the recovery of our natural resources?

Wake up America! There needs to be a balance between saving the environment and seeing to it that our people have jobs and can save their homes as well as their dignity.  I strongly believe we can protect the environment and secure our natural resources.   We can do it for Bethel.  We can do it for our country.

Local environmental groups are well staffed and well paid. They spread fear with partial truths.  They know full well that the water faucets in Dimock, Pennsylvania and elsewhere were being lit on fire twenty five years ago but paint it as if it was caused by recent natural gas exploration.  They claimed the discharge of millions of gallons of pollution into a Pennsylvania river was caused by natural gas activities when it was proven to be a coal mining incident. Methane gas has been leaching out of the ground in the Dimock area for centuries, yet water wells there are supposedly suddenly contaminated because of drilling.

Environmental groups and their staffs (big time money) have been making real money from natural gas, as every piece of fright e-mail they send has a plea for donations. “Hats off to them” – they have scared the tar out of people. That’s their job! Where will they work when natural gas development becomes a reality?

If a ban is instituted in Bethel lawsuits will follow.  The Rural Bethel Coalition won’t be the one doing it as we do solicit for donations to maintain our staff – we’re volunteers.  No, the lawsuits will come from groups we have been in contact with who have fought this fight before.  There is a better than average chance Bethel will lose.  The Town says it has access to “free” legal advice from the Community Environmental Defense Council, but even if these Park Foundation funded attorneys work “pro bono” it may well cost the Town and its board members a staggering amount of money.  This is what I mean by fiduciary responsibility.

A great deal of time will be spent on litigation forcing more local people to lose their homes. It will benefit second home and large land buyers such as the Open Space Institute who will scoff-up cheap properties and development rights with no thought to the heartbreak related to their purchase. With no children in these homes, it will result in further decline in enrollments at our area schools. People just cannot remain in Bethel without employment and the environmental groups know that. Is this part of the game?

The Bethel Board is on notice that a ban is illegal and the wheels will be turning.  I just do not understand why we cannot solve this situation in a manner that is as reasonable as possible for all concerned.  There will never be natural gas exploration in Smallwood, Chapin Estates, around White Lake, Bethel Woods or on anyone’s property who does not want it.  Sixty-five percent of the properties are required in a 640 acre drilling unit, for exploration to be permitted. Why can’t the rest of the Bethel residents decide what they want to do with their land?  I say to those who oppose natural gas “fine, don’t do it on your land, but don’t tread on our rights!”

Comments

  1. stan scobie says:

    Mr. Larson,

    You say:

    “Local environmental groups are well staffed and well paid. They spread fear with partial truths. They know full well that the water faucets in Dimock, Pennsylvania and elsewhere were being lit on fire twenty five years ago but paint it as if it was caused by recent natural gas exploration. They claimed the discharge of millions of gallons of pollution into a Pennsylvania river was caused by natural gas activities when it was proven to be a coal mining incident. Methane gas has been leaching out of the ground in the Dimock area for centuries, yet water wells there are supposedly suddenly contaminated because of drilling.”

    I attended the press conference at Dimock, given by then Secretary of the PADEP, John Hanger. He was very clear: the driller, Cabot twice signed consent orders, agreeing that they had contaminated the waters of Pennsylvania. They admitted causing pollution. In an attempt to mitigate that pollution Cabot shut down several of its wells there. This didnt happen because the pollution had always been there.

    Please do not distort things the way you did here. It gives everyone good reason to mistrust much of what is written and reported.

    Stanley R Scobie, Ph.D., Binghamton, NY

    • Tom says:

      Again, I suggest you read this piece written by Tarek Saba, PhD.

    • Chris says:

      Stan: pretty crafty as always with your choice of words in characterizing the history on Dimock. Truth be told, there’s still a good bit that’s unknown with respect to the how and what of the situation (pending court case should clear some of that up) — but at least two things are now pretty well established.

      The first is that the fracturing of wells in Dimock had nothing to do with any of the issues you reference. According to DEP: “A lot of folks relate the situation in Dimock to a fracking problem. I just want to make sure everyone’s clear on this – that it isn’t. What happened in Dimock was that a company was drilling in the Marcellus, and they encountered a shallow gas producing formation … which is common in this area of Pennsylvania. … It wasn’t a fracking problem.” (link: http://marcelluscoalition.org/2010/05/scott-perry-misericordia)

      The second thing, Stan, and something that’s briefly alluded to in the quote above, is that methane has been in water wells in this part of the world for an awful long time. You see, I’m actually from northeast PA — raised there too — and have firsthand experience with the highs and lows of relying on a completely unregulated, privately dug well for your water supply. One the biggest cons is variability. Some days we had a good flow of water, other days we didn’t. Some days it was turbid, some days clear as crystal. Some days it came out brown — those weren’t good days. And some days — most days — you could light your water on fire. At least that’s what we thought we were doing as kids. Took us ’til middle school to figure out that the water wasn’t actually catching fire — that it was the methane from the well coming through the faucet. Not a single horizontal Marcellus well had been drilled in the state at the point, incidentally. And no vertical oil or gas wells either, at least in my county.

      But that’s the trick, isn’t it? You have no evidence that any of the constituents used or even tangentially involved in the drilling and/or well completion process ever entered anyone’s water supply in Dimock, or anywhere else. John Hanger, whom you cite above, confirmed as much to Reuters last year (http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/10/04/us-pennsylvania-natgas-hanger-idUSTRE6903VG20101004).

      So in absence of that, your only play in trying to convince folks that well water was “contaminated” or “polluted” is to hang your hat on of methane in wells. But you have a Ph.D., Stan, so certainly you must know that methane in water doesn’t constitute either pollution or contamination, according to EPA — else the agency would have established an MCL. You also must know that good well construction — whether that well is producing oil, gas, water or geothermal — is the key to this entire thing. But you and your crew don’t have much to say about well integrity, do you? You want to ban hydraulic fracturing. It’s bait and switch in its most classic form. Luckily, not everyone has taken the bait.

  2. landrefugee says:

    Well Stanley R Scobie !!! you seem to put a lot of BS up to distract readers without answering to the rebuttals… perhaps you should spend more time reading the rebuttals and trying to
    prove them wrong instead of constantly repeating yourself like a parrot in one article to another.

  3. Jennifer Young says:

    do you have similar answers to explain the rest of the thousands of cases of contamination, even those that through chemical fingerprinting have been traced directly to the fracking fluids?

    • Nicole says:

      Jennifer, there have been no cases–in the country–of hydraulic fracturing fluid contaminating groundwater. Any “contamination” has been a surface spill that is usually diluted to the point of showing little to no changes in private wells (as was the case in my own situation) or a case of methane migration which has nothing to do with the hydraulic fracturing process. Many of the cries of “the gas company contaminated my water” have actually been found to be pre-existing. Take a look at this interview I did with DEP to learn about pre-existing barium and arsenic in private water wells in the Northern Tier http://eidmarcellus.org/2011/07/25/barium-did-you-know/

      • Jennifer Young says:

        Nicole, You are absolutely right, I cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that little green men from Mars did not come down and contaminate the water.Despite the overwhemlming evidendce many thousands of cases of water contamination, the epa is best case woefully inept and underfunded or worst a tool of the industry,but my scientific mind tends towards the most likely scenario…Have you heard follow the money to see whos telling the truth…who do you work for Niclole, or what are you hoping to gain, I have nothing to gain only to lose, curious to hear your angle, what helps you sleep at night, I admire your optimism you go girl!!

  4. Jennifer Young says:

    Not too much action on this thread, eh? Anyone care to comment on the recent EPA study in Pavillion, Wyoming, clearly documenting aquifer contamination as a result of fracking?!?! Anyone?

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