Appalachian Basin

Dr. Simona Perry, What Are Your Credentials Again?

Dr. Simona Perry spoke Wednesday night at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, which seems to be making a habit recently of entertaining natural gas opponent “experts.”   Posing as an anthropologist or something, she seemed to be in way over her head and couldn’t hide her anti natural gas development agenda.

Earlier this week we sat in on a talk by Dr. Simona Perry, a research partner at c.a.s.e. Consulting Services.  For those of you not familiar with Perry’s work she has a Ph.D in Wildlife & Fisheries Conservation (Human Dimensions), a M.S. in Marine Affairs and a B.S. in Wildlife Conservation.  Some of her current research projects include multi-sited ethnographies, policy analyses in rural and indigenous communities, and a geographic information system related to public and private investments in water quality across Pennsylvania and New York.  Perry suggests her degrees make her an “applied anthropologist,” whatever that is.  Nonetheless, that would seem to be fine if, during her presentation, she stuck to to this supposed expertise, but when she began to go into water well testing she helped conduct and claimed the industry does not disclose the chemicals used in the natural gas extraction process, a few red flags went up in our heads.

Perry is a founding research partner at c.a.s.e. Consulting services and is currently doing ethnographic research in the Endless Mountains communities of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The ethnographers toolbox has within it a variety of methods for describing and analyzing the everyday lives of human beings that can be used to provide public health practitioners, environmental scientists, and policy makers with information on some of the harder to monitor psychological, socio-cultural, and conflicts in individuals and communities.
The Community and Environmental Health Implications of Shale Gas Development Program Guide

Perry’s presentation revealed a very anti-development agenda when it comes to natural gas and given the clear biases she demonstrates in her remarks and her study, it is apparent she’s on a quest for hard evidence natural gas development has made the lives of people in impacted areas miserable.  Some video of her presentation illustrates:

Nicole already noted some of the problems with the obviously slanted language of her report in her recent post, but we took notice of this remark from her talk at Wilkes:

Concerns about health – Dust, noise, treacherous roads.  Yes, the gas companies repave roads so that they can drive their trucks on them, but what happens when the companies leave the area?  The municipalities must now maintain that road with money they don’t have. (5:34)

According to this theory, gas companies are wrong if they don’t help improve or repair roads, and also wrong if they do.  Apparently, we all should return gifts that require maintenance.  That may make sense if someone just gave your daughter a pony she didn’t have before and you get stuck with the bill, but if you already own the road, can’t afford to maintain it now and a gas company offers to upgrade it – well, that’s a horse of a different color.   Perry’s suggestion that a poor condition road, in a community too poor to maintain it, is somehow better than a free upgraded road with new sources of community income that translate into a broader tax base, doesn’t pass the reality test.

When a gas company comes into an area, they routinely work with local municipalities to ensure the roads are safe for their trucks and are also left in a manner such that local municipalities can manage them after the company leaves the area.  That’s what road use agreements are for, after all, and virtually every municipality in natural gas development areas has such agreements.  A Brooklyn Township Supervisor, for example, tells us that municipality asked Cabot Oil & Gas to return a paved road to its existing condition when finished with development.  That’s how it’s done and all Perry’s theory doesn’t wash.

Perry also went on to talk about water testing conducted during her study of Bradford County (8:47).  She is not a hydrogeologist, but that didn’t stop her from addressing the issue as if she were.  Here’s some of what she said:

There is also uncertainty regarding drilling chemicals and hydraulic fracturing chemicals, the public is unaware of what’s being used. (9:40)

There is no open dialogue on shale gas development that happens between political leaders and neighbors, you just don’t discuss it.  Typically perplexing is the local land owners, whose water quality has changed and are experiencing health symptoms, yet refuse to stop drinking the water, call someone to file a complaint or to get their water tested. (13:40)

We’re sorry to sound like a broken record, but lists the constituents used in any given hydraulic fracturing job, just as the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has for some time now.  Contrary to what Perry said, all this information is readily available to the public, with far more disclosure and explanation than is typically involved with any number of products used daily by consumers, business and industry.

Water quality surrounding development areas  is tested before development starts (“Baseline testing”) and then continuously while development is ongoing and then after it has ended to enure water quality in impacted areas has remained the same.  These are the best management practices used by operators across the state, as the Marcellus Shale Coalition  notes:

Pennsylvania regulations require natural gas producers to sample and test – with the owner’s consent – all water supplies within 2,500 feet of a proposed Marcellus Shale natural gas well. These pre-drill tests, which are conducted by certified laboratories, provide a baseline analysis of water chemistry prior to site preparation and development activities. Many natural gas producers test well beyond the 2,500 feet requirement, and were doing so prior to Pennsylvania enacting these new regulations.

Perry also offers a somewhat bizarre theory for why landowners might continue to drink contaminated water without seeking help:

In a study about what keeps smokers smoking even after they know it could kill them, they have found evidence to suggest that the more aware we are of death that, you know, we flirt with it.  Humans behave in ways that seem to bring them closer to death.  I wonder if this same idea could be working in this case. (14:20)

“People Smoke Because They Like Flirting With Death”

So, Perry believes landowners with bad water continue to drink it because they know it could possibly kill them and like the idea.  How about that?   Pennsylvanians have a death wish!  Who knew?

And, all along we thought it was because many Pennsylvanian’s simply didn’t know they’ve had bad water for decades because the Commonwealth is one of the only states without water well standards.  Penn State Extension says “Pennsylvania is currently one of just a few states that do not have statewide requirements for the construction of private water wells (and) research has shown that about 40 percent of all water wells in the state fail to meet at least one standard for safe drinking water.”  But, Perry says it’s a death wish.

Perry’s reasoning is unusual, to say the least, but it certainly added an element of entertainment to her presentation the other evening.  She seemed to be looking for a way to link natural gas development and tobacco in Josh Fox fashion, but her argument was a gigantic stretch that surely not even the great charlatan himself could take seriously.

Provided below is a video of the question and answer session following the presentation.  It speaks for itself.

Simona Perry, when all things are considered, is simply misinformed.  She has somehow parlayed her wildlife expertise into claims of authority in matters of anthropology and water quality where her theories come off less as science and more as baseless speculation by another NIMBY posing as a scientist.  Seems like we’ve been down this road before.


Post A Comment