An Economic Iron Curtain Seals Off Wayne County
There is an economic iron curtain dividing the Susquehanna River watershed from the Delaware River watershed. Pennsylvanians in the western and central part of the state are enjoying economic prosperity, with businesses booming thanks in part to natural gas development. Just look at Williamsport, the newly proclaimed energy capital of Pennsylvania. Recently, Senator Robert Casey made a point of visiting this 7th fastest growing city in the nation. The Mayor of Williamsport, Gabe Campana, drives a CNG car and is able to fill the car’s tank right at his home. Throughout the state, UGI Gas customers are paying 30 percent less on their utility bills and some will likely see even greater savings, thanks to a pipeline providing residents of Bradford and Tioga counties with gas produced directly from the Marcellus Shale. Then, there is Wayne County, which presents a stark contrast, as it waits on continued delays by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) in adopting regulations for natural gas development.
As Wayne County residents wait on the DRBC to find out if they are sitting atop gas that is commercial, 45-50 % of their school students are on free or reduced lunch. Many Wayne County residents have worked their land to harvest crops such as hay and timber. Many now want to know when they will be able to harvest their underground crops as well, or even find out if there is enough to harvest? Will Northeastern Pennsylvanians ever be able to enjoy the same economic gain as their neighbors? Not as long as they are held hostage by the Delaware River Basin Commission. So, instead of having infrastructure in place, natural gas flowing, and lower heating bills, Wayne County residents see their leases sitting in force majeure as a result of this regulatory agency’s stalemate and repeated postponements.
Bowing to the maniacal ploys of the pseudo environmentalist obstructionists, the DRBC has taken four years to accomplish nothing. Yet, the people who favor natural gas development far outnumber those who oppose it. Yes, believe it or not, there are those do not support the safe and responsible development of natural gas that is reviving communities across the Commonwealth. For this group, it really isn’t a question of safety. They would oppose it if it were 200% safe. They instead espouse, with religious fervor, a new ideology aimed against anything fossil. Simplistically, these folks look at any fossil fuel development as an addiction that should be conquered “cold turkey.”
Most of these individuals own very little land and think (mistakenly, as UGI demonstrates) that they have nothing to gain economically from natural gas exploration and production. They are, typically, second home residents or individuals who have moved to the area after having made their money elsewhere. They don’t want their peace and serenity, not to mention their viewscape, tampered with.
However well funded, well organized and vocal they may be, they do not speak for the majority. Property owners in favor of responsible drilling for natural gas own over 100,000 acres of land in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Those opposed to exploration and production of natural gas in this area cry that it is not about acreage, but rather “one man – one vote.” They seem to have missed the landslide victories of pro gas candidates in local elections, which demonstrated the majority of the people favor moving forward with the exploration and subsequent production of natural gas.
The people who protested at all the “Occupy” events, including the one at the DRBC, made a lot of noise and got a lot of media coverage, but they are not the ones who elected the likes of Tom Corbett and Chris Christie. Supposedly, there were 800 plus protestors at the Trenton War Memorial, site of the DRBC meeting, on November 21, 2011. Given the good weather and close proximity to the metropolitan areas of Trenton, Philadelphia and New York City, such a turnout was arguably low, especially considering all that promotion and all those buses arranged by Food & Water Watch (no doubt using some of that big chunk of Park Foundation money they received). Apparently the millions supposedly against hydraulic fracturing had better things to do that day.
That isn’t the only place where turnout didn’t match the hype. The same thing happened in Dimock recently when Josh Fox and Mark Ruffalo delivered water to litigants there, which the Environmental Hearing Board declared was unnecessary. What drama there was! The hype was great for publicity, and on the evening news the media repeatedlyshowed the movie actor exiting the mini bus. Blinded by the lights of Hollywood, the media missed the most newsworthy part of that clip – the size of the two buses and the lack of occupants! The two busloads coming in from NYC were more like vans. Again, the millions were a no show. You can compare “crowds” in the video below. Dimock residents who support natural gas development are on the left.
Most residents of Wayne County are not schooled in protesting. They did not make their fortunes elsewhere so they could retire in the country, they are not backed by Hollywood and they are not darlings of the media. They just work the ground they live on and want to share in the economic recovery that their neighbors to the west are realizing. They’ve been waiting patiently for almost four years for this to happen. Isn’t it time for Pennsylvania to be united with one set of rules for all? Thanks to the DEP, Pennsylvania is leading the way. Archaic and discriminatory in comparison, the DRBC needs to defer to the states, lift their moratorium, and allow the permitting process to move forward.