Appalachian Basin

Loco Ono & Son Descend on Dimock to Fight Natural Gas Heating Their Home

Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, together with a host of other characters, jumped into two Mercedes vehicles to head to Dimock and campaign against natural gas in New York, the same natural gas that heats the home of the Beatles beneficiaries.

Yesterday, Tom and I had an opportunity to travel to Dimock, Pennsylvania for a magical mystery tour with some names and faces from Hollywood .  There was one legitimate star, Susan Sarandon, a couple of lesser known entities (Sean Lennon and Josh Fox) and Yoko Ono, the name made famous by her marriage to John Lennon and, to a much lesser extent, her loco line of clothing.

The tour was an attempt to lend their support to what they imagine to be a trendy cause.  I can’t help suspecting, though, one goal for the stunt might have been to boost results for the release of Sean’s new album.  Regardless, the group was accompanied by well-known local natural gas opponents Vera Scroggins, a/k/a Vera Duerga, and Craig Stevens.  Also joining in the fun were Rebecca Roter from Bucks County, and Wes Wilson, who donned his old EPA jacket for added effect.

It’s worth noting there were no regulatory officials or actual experts on the bus.  There were no geologists,no engineers and no representatives from natural gas companies. There wasn’t even anyone with natural gas wells or infrastructure on their property among the group.  There were only celebrities and local anti-natural gas activists who have achieved minor notoriety fighting with their neighbors.

The whole event had a strong resemblance to a reality TV show; what you might expect if TMZ did a “Whatever Happened to (fill in the name of an attention-starved celebrity).”  I can’t help but imagine Susan Sarandon was mumbling “what was I thinking” to herself, as she toured a Dimock junkyard with this motley crew and ran away from Phelim McAleer (more on that in a moment).

These “celebrities” and celeb-wannabe types are used to living in the make-believe world full of money, homes and cars where they are stripped of any responsibility or care in the real world, unlike the folks from Dimock whose lives have been materially improved as a result of natural gas development.

Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 7.37.01 AMThe stated purpose of this reality show tour was to see the “devastation” supposedly created by natural gas development and send a message to Governor Cuomo to stop natural gas development in New York.   Craig Stevens even sported his “Don’t Frack Your Mother, Don’t Poison Our Water” T-shirt for the occasion (see picture to right).

Unfortunately, if these “celebrities” eyes were open, there was little destruction to see amidst the beautiful, fresh snowfall on a few back country roads.  I’m sure many of them expected to see “industrialization” everywhere they turned, but there was only countryside and evidence of some new prosperity in and around Montrose, all due to natural gas.

Now let’s take a look at the tour through the lyrics of John Lennon.  It’s more than appropriate given Yoko and Sean have essentially made a living off his name alone.

“Come together right now over me”

Coming together starts with being truthful with each other.  So, let’s start by frankly expressing our views about this reality show tour.  It was a publicity stunt.

Ono and Lennon live in the “Dakota” apartment building in Manhattan where apartments sell for millions of dollars. Also, not too surprisingly, their home is heated with natural gas, as we noted earlier.  So these “celebrity” activists seem to be okay with using natural gas, they just don’t want anyone to develop the resource.  As a result, it stands to reason they don’t seem to mind the supposed “devastation” they are causing to our region every time they turn the thermostat up.  Around here we call that “devastation” economic opportunity and saving the family farm.  Then again, after their tour, they can’t say they saw devastation anywhere in Pennsylvania.  It simply doesn’t exist.

The larger point in all of this, that, by attacking the very resource they use to heat their homes, these artist/activists are actively trying to deprive the people of New York their property rights and the opportunity of earning a decent income, as so many Pennsylvanians are now able to do.  That might be fine for Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Susan Sarandon. They don’t have to worry about money, paying the bills and having adequate resources to raise their families.  Those matters are only a concern to others.  Yoko and company are, after all, exactly what FrackNation describes them as – the 1%.

Showcasing this detachment from how most folks live was the chariot they rode into town. That’s right, not content to travel in just any bus, these Hollywood activists drove to Pennsylvania in a Mercedes Setra Coach luxury tour bus.  Following the bus was a stunning, $195,000 Mercedes v12 BiTurbo car which turned out to be Yoko’s vehicle for the trip home.  It’s worth noting this car costs $148,000 more than what the average Susquehanna County family makes during an entire year.

It almost seemed as if they drove these vehicles to Pennsylvania and over its back roads so as to flaunt them, sending out a succinct message to people who, without natural gas, would struggle buying any new car.  They were oblivious to the role of natural gas in the success and growth of the local economy.

Oh, in case you were wondering, the Mercedes v12 BiTurbo gets approximately 11-17 miles per gallon.  The bus gets about 7-9 mpg.  Given that New York City is approximately 163 miles away from Montrose (one way) that means these activists drove two vehicles 326 miles each burning approximately 20 gallons of fossil fuel in their car and 36 gallons of fossil fuel in their. This is a conservative  estimate that assumes they drove a straight line with no stops or detours. Their commitment to principle was underwhelming, to say the least, as they motored their way to Pennsylvania in luxury vehicles spewing emissions out of their tailpipes the entire way.

“You say you’ve got a real solution, Well, you know, We’d all love to see the plan”

Once in Pennsylvania, they journeyed from Price Chopper north to Franklin Forks.  The first stop was at a quiet dirt road near a completed well site.  The site was clean, unobtrusive and producing natural gas without incident, although natural gas opponents have tried to suggest otherwise.

The worst things they could say about this well site consisted of what they heard on the site and via the rumor mill.  Sean demonstrated how little he knew when he talked about the site and suggested  New York could have 100,000 wells spaced a quarter-mile apart.   The size of this well site and today’s one-square mile unit sizes make that argument laughable, but, of course, he was as deadly serious just as he was when he said “I generally find political art to be pretentious and stupid” and then proceeded to engage in it.

The other sound they heard was the well equipment, which, upon reaching certain pressures, releases water into the tank.  You can hear some of the local opponents describe this process in various nefarious terms (e.g. “terrifying”) that have no connection with reality.  Moreover, no methane was being released, contrary to what some of the non-experts on-ste suggested.  Natural gas is the solution for the rural economies of not only Pennsylvania, but also New York and there is a plan to do it safely.  It’s called the SGEIS in New York.

The reality is that natural gas is being produced safely and has provided significant benefits to rural economies throughout Pennsylvania.

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“Imagine all the people living life in peace” 

While the group began the tour at this completed well site, their Mercedes v12 BiTurbo and Mercedes bus blocked the road, preventing local residents from accessing their homes.  Watch what Vera had to say about that.  So thoughtful of others!  Imagine.

The folks living up this small rural road had to wait for everyone on the bus to finish taking pictures while the bus blocked the road because, in Vera’s words, “they were destroying the country” and then a few minutes she was worrying about how close they were to the pipeline that might, according to her, blow up any second.  What?

Here are a few videos of the bus holding up traffic at a couple different spots.

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The next stop, after doing a drive-by of a new compressor station where dozens of people were gainfully employed on what will be a pretty innocuous facility, was back in the hamlet of Franklin Forks where the convoy pulled over at the Manning home.  They talked there for a while, next to this sign.


While they were finishing up, we asked Vera why she didn’t take the group to Heavenly Angels.  She told us the owners wouldn’t allow her on their property.  Vera, despite concerns expressed by her and Craig about property rights and trespass, has had some issues of that sort herself.

Afterwards, we were off to Craig Stevens home, driving by Salt Springs State Park and the DePue farm from Truthland along the way.  The bus paused briefly at the DePue driveway but, curiously, never slowed at the park where naturally occurring methane has been seeping from a spring, and being lit on fire, for centuries.   It seemed to pick up a little speed, in fact.   The crowd spoke with some reporters there and hung out inside the Stevens home for close to an hour as this man of many words apparently entertained.

Meanwhile, we got to take a picture of his upside down flag.  It’s not readily apparent what message is being sent with that flag but perhaps it resonated with some of characters riding the bus.

The bus left the Stevens home to journey up Route 167, west to Route 267 and then back east past a hydraulic fracturing site that was as clean and orderly as it might be to reconnect with Route 167.  It was a strange route, but, then again, everything about this reality show tour was strange.


The most interesting part of the day came next.  We proceeded to Dimock, expecting to visit Carter Road where some of the same characters previously rallied on behalf of the Sautners.  That battle ended of course when the EPA declared last year that the water in that town was safe. So, they moved down the state road a bit to visit a junkyard owned by one of the last remaining litigants in Dimock.

A junkyard in Pennsylvania is defined as any outdoor establishment, place of business, or activity which is maintained, used or operated for storing, keeping, buying or selling junk; for the maintenance or operation of a garbage dump, sanitary landfill or scrap metal processor, or for the storage of ten or more junked vehicles.”  See the aerial photo below and you can count all of the abandoned cars:

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We thought this a bit strange as well, given the fact auto salvage yards are a frequent source of groundwater contamination, but, hey, if that’s all they’ve got, so be it. What made this stop interesting was the man who showed up for it; Phelim McAleer, the producer of FrackNation.  We heard from a friendly landowner that he might be joining the tour and we wanted to be there.

Once the bus stopped in Dimock and everyone unloaded, the anti’s were actually yelling at the FrackNation film maker for being on their property.  So, apparently it’s fine for the activists to trespass enough to have restraining orders placed against them, but heaven forbid someone takes one step into their driveway (2:05).  Then Vera tells him to go away and announces he has no idea what he is talking about (2:29).   Sorry, but I don’t think McAleer is the one in denial.

Watch the video as the tour group tries shoving Phelim off the property (he was well within the highway right-of-way by the way).  Not to be deterred, Phelim peppered a fleeing Sarandon with questions while Josh Fox intones that he didn’t want to speak with Phelim.  Wonder why?  Well, you’ll have to watch FrackNation on January 22 for the answer.  Also, be sure to listen for the local landowner taking some video of his own and pointing out he wouldn’t have a job but for natural gas.  No reaction from the gang on the bus regarding that statement.

As the day came to an end, the tour bus left rural Pennsylvania and headed back to the Big Apple.  Worried about industrialization, contamination and pollution, they headed back to the city, which apparently, in their strange world, seemed to be the best place to go to get away from pollution and contamination.

The whole point of the trip, of course, was to send a message to Governor Cuomo.  Well, good luck to them in that regard, because the pictures they took show an industry creating thousands of jobs for Pennsylvanians with almost no footprint on the land compared to the city from which they came.

Let’s stop listening to natural gas celebrity opponents such as like Lady Gaga, Mark Ruffalo, Sean Lennon, and Yoko Ono who are simply looking for more publicity. Let’s start listening to science.  Let’s start listening to reason.  And, just one more thing…

“Imagine there’s no countries, It isn’t hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for”

Aren’t those the words of John Lennon himself?  Gaining energy independence will help save Americans from going overseas and fighting wars where access to foreign oil is a strategic imperative.  That little factor didn’t seem to enter the minds of anyone on the tour.

Something else seemed to be missing as well.  Do these folks have any clue how absurd they look?  Yoko Ono was born into power and wealth.  She’s worth an estimated $500 million.  There are only 2,700 people in a world of roughly 5.8 billion people over 18 years of age who are worth $500 million.  That puts her in the top 0.00005%.  Yet, she came to a junkyard in northeastern Pennsylvania to protest a process that produces the natural gas heating her palatial apartment in the city and which just happens to offer the people of our region their own chance at wealth for the first time in a long time.  Yoko, apparently, doesn’t care about others’ wealth, only her own.  Fittingly, when the day was over, her driver escorted her to the back seat of the v12 Biturbo and away they all went in their two Mercedes, burning fossil fuels all the way back home to Penny Lane. May they never return.


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