French Dressing Comes to Dimock
This past weekend, a group of folks from Quebec came to Pennsylvania to see what the development of natural gas from shale really looks like here. Quebec, of course, has an enormous amount of untapped natural gas in the Utica Shale, primarily in the St. Lawrence River Valley, so residents there are obviously interested in learning about the who, what and how of shale development. And what better place to get the facts than in the heart of the Marcellus Shale.
The activists who came down here, however, were clearly not interested in the facts, and the Quebec press gave them a megaphone to tell half-truths and falsehoods about what natural gas has meant to our community.
Radio Canada, for example, wrote that the Quebec activists “had their fears confirmed” after the trip. They claimed widespread “pollution of drinking water” and “gas leaks” in homes throughout the area. One intrepid visitor to our community said Pennsylvanians “are in the process of being poisoned” due to natural gas development in Dimock (which would certainly be news to Dimock landowner Loren Salsman), while others suffer from reduced property values (a claim that has been debunked here). The headline in Le Nouvelliste reads “It has destroyed our lives.” La Tribune leads with the quote, “It’s worse than we thought.”
These claims are nothing new, of course, and they are no more accurate than when anti-shale activists in the United States routinely make them. They do not give proper (or any) attention, for example, to folks like Esther Rayias, a Dimock resident who supports natural gas development and has taken her message directly to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection secretary Michael Krancer. And they are eerily similar to the claims made in a Herald Scotland column from last month, of which EID had no trouble quickly dispatching one by one.
In fact, the consistency of the talking points between anti-shale activists in the U.S. and those who visited from Quebec suggests maybe these visitors weren’t actually interested in learning from their experience here at all. Perhaps they visited simply as a token gesture so they could return with an air of credibility before reciting their pre-approved talking points to an eager, credulous Quebec press.
A few weeks ago, a journalist for L’Oeil Regional in Quebec wrote a story about the then-upcoming trip in which the person organizing the tour declared that residents’ wells are “poisoned” and suggested the same would happen in Quebec. This claim, of course, was made before he even stepped foot in Pennsylvania, which tells you exactly how much of a “fact-finding” mission this really was. Upon reading that story (with the help of Google Translate!), I submitted a letter to the editor to L’Oeil Regional (full text below) to give their readers the facts about our community. Unfortunately, that letter was never published.
To my friends in Quebec: Please, if you want to get the facts about Dimock, from people who actually live here and care about their community, please take a few minutes to read through these stories. But leave the talking points at the door. Merci?
LETTER SUBMITTED TO L’OEIL REGIONAL, SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
I am a resident of Dimock, Pennsylvania, and I have heard that Quebec citizens will be coming to see the state of development of the gas industry in our region. You’ve probably heard of Dimock and horror stories about the development of natural gas, but the fact is, we have benefited greatly from the presence of the gas industry and our community has not lost its scenic beauty.
Following the release of the movie Gasland, there was a lot of talk about methane contamination of water wells in our region. However, you probably didn’t know that methane is found naturally in large quantities in the soil of Dimock, and residents here have known about this since the 1800s, well before the gas companies ever arrived.
You might also be interested to know that most families in Dimock are satisfied with how the natural gas industry has taken root in our community. Much has been said of the few families who accused gas companies of polluting their drinking water, but those families have refused to provide any data or water analysis to support their allegations. However, tests conducted by government agencies show that the water wells in Dimock are free of contaminants, except for the naturally occurring methane that we’ve known about for centuries.
Dimock’s economy has seen measurable economic improvements since gas production began here, and we hope that the gas industry is here to stay. We would be more than happy to meet with the citizens of the Province of Quebec when they visit so they can return with a complete picture of Dimock, not just what could be seen in a film.
John P. Kameen
Susquehanna Economic Development Board