Appalachian Basin

Supposedly Irresistible Force Meets Immovable Object

EID Marcellus, together with the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, local officials and citizens of the Deposit, New York area came out in force on Wednesday evening to support XTO Energy’s application for a water withdrawal that would eventually support natural gas development in our region, provided XTO obtains several additional permits.  The DRBC docket on this matter made it clear the application was routine and the conditions to be imposed would ensure protection of the affected stream.  This, of course, didn’t stop the anti-gas special interests from busing in large numbers of metro area residents to raise alarms, but they were met by equally heavy resistance from local folks, who articulately demonstrated the application was routine and deserved approval.  Nicole’s first-hand report provides a good overview.

Having been through many such hearings over the years, I knew what to expect and was not disappointed.  The anti-gas forces reveled in the emotional and focused almost none of their attention on the matter at hand – the water withdrawal.  Instead, they aimed their guns at hydraulic fracturing, revealing their motive, which is, plainly and simply, to delay action on anything that would advance  natural gas development.  They repeatedly used straw man arguments to suggest it was impossible to have both clean water and natural gas, ignoring the history of hydraulic fracturing, which includes not a single example of the process polluting a public water supply.  They acknowledged, several times, that the Deposit area was suffering economically and then proceeded to say water was more important than jobs, as if the two were mutually exclusive, which is anything but true.

Local residents, by contrast, talked about the application, the conditions proposed and the fact this withdrawal would consume only 0.6% of the water flowing through the stream.  They noted the additional permits that would be required before anything could take place and the protections against withdrawing water during periods of low flow, so as to ensure fishing was not affected.  They emphasized the importance of the economic development natural gas drilling would bring to the area and the difference it would make in the lives of people who actually lived in the affected area.  They also noted the hypocrisy of city residents, who have already taken much of the basin’s water for their own use, turning around and complaining when remaining water is put to use for local benefit.  I had an opportunity to talk with two residents of the region after they testified and their words are much more eloquent than mine.  Check out what Sandra Davis and Noel Van Swol had to say:

The XTO hearing was, in my judgment, a great success.  The anti-gas special interests, who would like nothing better than to maintain our region in perpetual “pastoral poverty” as their playground and water source, met with not only strong, but also informed, resistance Wednesday evening.  They ginned up a controversy to create an event they could stage manage for publicity and they got upstaged by determined local residents who spoke out forcefully for science over politics.  My hat is off to the JLCNY, local officials, residents and my colleagues at EID Marcellus.  Together, we made a difference and the anti’s now know what they thought was an irresistible force has encountered an immovable object – the good will, common sense  and determination of residents who recognize what natural gas can do for their community.

Oh, by the way, if you want capture the flavor of the testimony from anti-gas special interests at the hearing, check out this short video:

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