DOE Hearing – The Locals Rise Up to Speak for Gas In their Own Words
There’s a big meeting tonight in Washington, PA tonight (in case you haven’t heard) and several Northeast landowners are on their way. Much to my pleasant surprise, the indomitable Carol Woodmansee e-mailed to say she would be reporting as she was able to do so from the road. She said we could circulate her comments, so we’ll be posting her updates on our Facebook and here. See below:
10.28 AM, Monday
John and I are beginning our trip to Pittsburgh with the Energy in Depth Organization. We hope to be heard by the Dept of Energy regarding our desire to cut through the red-tape of the DRBC and get gas drilling into the Delaware River Basin. We hope to send a continuing thread of information back to you. Feel free to loop out as much information as possible to the NWPOA and all concerned citizens who want to see our area prosper. Carol Woodmansee 11:03 AM, Monday
We are starting our journey. Here is a photo of Nicole Jacobs, Field Director of Energy in Depth, and our bus driver. We expect to arrive in Pittsburgh at about 4:00. We found out that there are only 50 slots to speak. Antis are staging a protest at 5pm across the street from the meeting place. The Dept of Energy meeting is at 7pm.
Great, Tom! It is so important to let everyone know how this oppression by the DRBC is affecting all our lives. Carol
12:33 PM, Monday
A glimpse of chatter on the bus: Victor Furman from Chenango Forks, NY (photo below) states “We are not a nation of CAN NOTS…we are a nation of CAN DO’s, and natural gas drilling is a can do for America, Pa & NY.” He quotes Robert Kennedy: “The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.” Mr. Furman further states: “The ability to use hydro fracturing to safely obtain trillions of cubic feet of deep shale gas, shale gas that will make this nation energy independent, strengthening our national security at home and abroad.”
12:54 PM, Monday
Kathy Kaminsky, owner and CEO of K&S Farms, Inc. states that she is a land owner, farmer, and quarryman in Susquehanna Twp. She holds a degree in petroleum technology and currently is a practicing nurse. She says that taxation forced her to seek additional income and regulations have made it impossible for the small business owner to operate. She says, “The gas companies have given us a glimmer of hope to boost the economy of our county…we need the jobs, we need the income..as a wife, as a mother, and as a grandmother, I want to help gas companies succeed in NEPA and believe fully it is the future of this country’s energy.” See photo of Kathy, newly crowned “Stone Queen of Jackson Twp”, and Susquehanna Township land owner, below.
1:10 PM, Monday
Bus riders are busy exchanging stories and making posters. Kathy Kaminsky proudly presents her sign.
1:48 PM, Monday
Sign held by Victor Furman and Carol Woodmansee. Sign:” KEEP $600,000/Minute HOME. Drill for gas now.”
5:38 PM, Monday
Hi everyone. This is a photo of Greg Wrightstone. He is a geologist who will be slamming the anti’s for their misinformation and fear mongering. He wrote scientific articles. Debated Liar Fox at Frostberg, Md. He is the President of PA Coalition of Responsible Government.
We have all managed to sign up to speak. Who-hooo!
6:00 PM, Monday
Nicole and I figure the crowd is about 60-40 pro vs. anti-gas special interests. (We hope!)
Update: From Nicole, About 9:30 PM, Monday
The hearing was extended past 9:00 PM but we left at 9:15 PM or so to get dinner (no time until now). When we left there had been 42 pro-gas speakers and 14 anti-gas special interest people who had spoken. The anti’s conducted a demonstration earlier that the media seemed to focus on some but we had more people. The anti’s were also fairly rowdy, but more on that later. We did very well and I am really proud of what our folks did!
Update: AP Dispatch Sums Up Strong Pro-Gas Presence and Quotes Our Susan Dorsey!
(AP) Pa. gas drilling hearing draws backers, opponents
By KEVIN BEGOS
Nearly 400 supporters and opponents of natural gas drilling debated its safety and economic feasibility at a U.S. Department of Energy hearing in western Pennsylvania.
The hearing Monday night by the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, part of an effort to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, was aimed at gathering comments about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that has allowed energy companies to reach previous inaccessible stores of natural gas. It was held at Washington & Jefferson College.
Even before the hearing began, drilling opponents unfurled a large banner that read “Fracking Drilling Spilling Killing” and chanted “No Fracking No Way” and “Save Our Forests _ Ban Fracking Now.” But drilling supporters turned out, too. Geologist Robert Burger of Pittsburgh, who works in a gas-related job, said he was confident that hydrofracking is safe. He said he felt that the current debate was not based on science, but emotions.
During the hearing several people spoke of how drilling had helped the local economy. One man drew applause from the audience when he said that hundreds of wells had been drilled around his nearby family farm with no problems. Officials with the US Department of Energy said only 90 people would be allowed to testify, but others could e-mail their comments to the advisory board’s website.
Larry Watkins said he’s worked in the petroleum industry for 29 years. Watkins said he was “personally responsible for drilling thousands of wells” but had never had a complaint from a leaseholder about contaminated well water. David Meieran, a Pittsburgh resident and member of the group Marcellus Shale Protest, said he doubted that the industry could ever provide enough proof that fracking doesn’t threaten drinking water.
On Monday the national group Food & Water Watch called for local and federal bans on fracking. “Municipalities across the country, including Pittsburgh, are moving to ban fracking or call for statewide and national bans, because they realize that this type of drilling can have dire consequences for drinking water, human health and the environment” said Karina Wilkinson, regional organizer for Food & Water Watch, based in Washington, D.C.
At the hearing filmmaker Josh Fox of Brooklyn, N.Y., criticized the advisory board. “Six out of seven members of this panel have a financial conflict of interest,” Fox said, referring to ties that members have to the gas industry. Some audience members rose to cheer his comments, while other booed. Fox’s film is “Gasland.”
John Deutch is the chairman of the advisory board. According to the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit group, Deutch has received more than $1.4 million in fees from natural gas companies since 2006. Deutch is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
New York resident Susan Dorsey attended the hearing with help for travel costs from an industry group. Dorsey said she was motivated to speak out in favor of drilling after New York put a moratorium on drilling. “We desperately need jobs in all of our upstate counties,” Dorsey said. “This has totally consumed me because of the injustice, the fact that we own the resource but aren’t allowed to develop it.”
Political parties have entered the fray, too. On Saturday, the Washington County Republican Party asked local landowners to show up and speak at the meeting. “The opposition groups are already mobilizing people from outside of the region and state to flood this event. We need employees, service companies, landowners, subcontractors and everyone else,” the GOP e-mail read.
The Democratic Party of Pennsylvania responded on Monday with an e-mail that accused Republican officials of “coordinating with the gas industry to `Astroturf'” the meeting. The Marcellus Shale formation, a rock deposit that contains what is believed to be the nation’s largest-known reservoir of natural gas, lies primarily beneath Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio.
Pennsylvania is a center of activity, with more than 3,000 wells drilled in the past three years and thousands more planned in the coming years as thick shale emerges as an affordable, plentiful and profitable source of natural gas. When drilling companies began flocking to Pennsylvania several years ago to exploit the Marcellus Shale formation, they were largely working under laws from the 1980s that never envisioned the combination of horizontal drilling and fracking, a process in which millions of gallons of water, along with sand and toxic chemicals, is blasted deep underground to break up shale rock and release the gas trapped inside it.
So far, the Legislature has done little to change that, other than pass a bill to require faster public disclosure of well-by-well gas production data from Marcellus Shale wells and debate the merits of a tax on gas extraction. Pennsylvania remains the largest gas-drilling state without such a tax. For decades, energy companies have drilled shallow oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. But high-volume fracking involves the use of chemicals and produces millions of gallons of often-toxic wastewater, sparking fresh environmental concerns about the protection of public waterways and wells that provide drinking water to millions of people.
A Department of Energy official said the advisory board is scheduled to issue initial recommendations to improve the safety and environmental impact of gas fracking by Aug. 18, and a final report by Nov. 18.
Update: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Coverage (Excerpts)
Controversy erupted days before the meeting when environmental activists in Washington County complained that an oil industry group offered free meals, hotel rooms and airfare to drilling supporters from 18 counties in northeast Pennsylvania and southern New York who agreed to attend the meeting. Organizers of the Northeast Marcellus Initiative, supported by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said their advocates deserved to be heard.
Those who spoke in favor of drilling outnumbered those against it at the meeting.
Update: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Coverage (Excerpts)
Susan Dorsey joined 10 landowners on the Energy in Depth trip, napping and talking in a bus for seven hours from her home in Binghamton, N.Y. The hydraulic fracturing process has been banned in her state, and Ms. Dorsey traveled to Washington, Pa., to tell others to use the energy “that we in New York cannot use” and wean America’s dependence on foreign oil.
“We’re killing people overseas” for energy, she said.
Update: Washington Observer-Reporter (Excerpts)
Several people told the 5-member panel about being able to return to their home state of Pennsylvania thanks to jobs provided by the natural gas industry.
“Why should Americans fight overseas to guard our oil when a cleaner resource is available here?” asked Aaron Price, director of the film “Gas Odyssey.”