A Coalition Takes Shape
Last Tuesday, something remarkable occurred in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania – landowners from multiple counties discussed the potential for working together to fight the misinformation regarding natural gas that is plaguing their communities. Some 35 or so people attended the first meeting and they will be spreading the word to others in their communities. I am certain this is a movement and a group we will be hearing more about in coming months. Read on to hear about the groups’ purpose, the meeting and how you can get involved.
What is this coalition?
This is a cross-county movement of landowners standing together to dispel misinformation in their communities, working with their neighbors and elected officials to help each other ensure local responsible natural gas development continues. The goals of the group are simple, yet will be no easy task for those dedicated to this cause. They are, according to the organizer, as follows:
a) advocating best drilling and development practices that will enhance community benefits while minimizing risks,
b) supporting landowners and communities and advocating for their interests with elected representatives, and
c) ensuring the facts about natural gas development are presented accurately in the media and within their communities.
What occurred at the introductory meeting?
The meeting was moderated by Gary Ide, the leader of Citizens for Cleaner Energy, a coalition out of Lake and Lehman Townships in Luzerne County. Ide brought representatives in from local legislatures, existing coalitions and the natural gas industry to discuss how this group could be beneficial to the communities.
Focus was first placed on how to get started. Large scale coalitions or organizations already exist in New York and even Pennsylvania, so rather than reinvent the wheel, interested attendees heard from those with experience. Dan Fitzsimmons, President of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, a group that has over 70,000 members, spoke on New York’s inaccurate perceptions of Pennsylvania and various areas that the proposed PA group could place its initial focus. Dan also provided some helpful hints on and how to organize a coalition similar to theirs.
Trevor Walczak, Vice President of the National Association of Royalty Owners–Pennsylvania Chapter also presented at the kickoff meeting. He discussed NARO’s efforts in Harrisburg on behalf of natural gas landowners and highlighted some of the positive outcomes they have helped bring about. Clearly, NARO must be a major part of any effective coalition that takes shape given their experience and expertise. Take a look at the following video of Trevor addressing the group.
Such a group will only serve to further the cause of all those dedicated to responsible natural gas development and could work closely with NARO to accomplish shared objectives or perhaps could just provide additional resources so pre-existing groups can focus on items of primary importance. Ultimately the members of both organizations will have to decide what would works best for them given the local situation on the ground anhd their available resources. What is truly important is more voices are about to be heard from the pro-development side. It goes without saying that strength in numbers, grounded in reality and fact, is critically important in this ongoing dialogue.
Also in attendance were local legislators who discussed how a group, such as the one proposed, can have a greater impact on policy than individuals acting on their own behalf. State Senator Gene Yaw (R-23) and Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko were both excited about the potential of this group. They gave helpful insight into the impact of a personal letter over form letters, getting involved in community endeavors and working with legislatures and local officials to ensure the needs of the majority of citizens really are being met.
Industry representative Amy Gilbert, from Talisman Energy, touched base on how a coalition can work together with industry to ensure best practices. Take a look at some of what she had to say in the following video.
Attendees also had the opportunity to discuss issues they would like to see the group focus on. Many of these centered around working together to ensure infrastructure such as pipeline projects move forward. Check out this video.
How can you get involved?
If you are from Bradford, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Wyoming, or Wayne Counties just to name a few and want to get involved with this group, please contact Gary Ide at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will keep you posted on when the next meeting will take place and other key developments so check back often.