Appalachian Basin

Natural Gas Opponent Rebecca Roter Fails to Rock Plymouth

The Plymouth Town Board held its regular monthly meeting this week with a surprise visit from natural gas opponents from Pennsylvania.  They offered no new facts, no minds were changed and when it was over, well, thank goodness it was over. 

There was another meeting regarding natural gas development in Plymouth, Chenango County, New York earlier this week.  Readers will recall we covered the Plymouth natural gas debate in an earlier post.  The town board always opens the floor to the public for 30 minutes in total, allowing each person who wishes to speak five minutes to do so.

This week the entire open floor period was dominated by one resident, Peter Hudiburg, and his invitees, Rebecca Roter and Frank Finan, from Pennsylvania, who drove an hour and a half unaware they’d only get five minutes to speak. One hopes they carpooled in something more fuel efficient vehicle than the family Ferrari when they came to town to preach against fossil fuels, but that’s a story for another day.

The Plymouth Town Board has appointed a natural gas development committee to report at each monthly meeting on local topics relating to natural gas development.  Drew Piaschyk, who sits on the board and the natural gas committee, read a quick report discussing their push to enact a road use hybrid (agreement and law).  He also discussed a few other topics including pipelines.  You can watch his two videos below.

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The first person to speak about natural gas, once the floor was opened to the public, was Peter Hudiburg, the same individual who invited the two other speakers from Pennsylvania to discuss natural gas. He often resorts to theatrical speeches, and while he was pleased to hear there would be a road use hybrid, this meeting was no exception to the Hudiberg rule, as he discussed pipeline explosions.  Mercifully, it ended after a bit and he introduced Rebecca Roter and Frank Finan.

Finan spoke first, fumbling with his computer and projector for what seemed an eternity.  He then spent a few minutes talking about how natural gas is being developed close to his house and suggesting his household has been experiencing health problems as a result.  There were no facts, no figures and no doctor’s notes relating the exploration of natural gas to whatever health problems he claimed to experience.  He never even described his ailments in definitive terms, in fact.  Shouldn’t making a case require more than unconfirmed anecdotal stories?  Where’s the evidence?  Nicole wrote a post discussing how to fact-check these sorts of stories here.

Rebecca Roter Facebook Picture

Rebecca Roter spoke next, while Finan was trying to find all the pictures he raved about on his computer.  She started by offering an unconvincing claim of neutrality with respect to natural gas development.  Roter claims to be from Brooklyn Township, Pennsylvania, but actually comes from two to three hours away in Bucks County, near Philadelphia, as we reported a few months back.  She discussed pipelines and made claims they will not be regulated strictly enough if Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is not involved.  She asserted this without offering any meaningful support for her position, but that’s standard operating procedure on the other side it seems.

She continued with more of the same when she argued the natural gas industry was responsible for drivers speeding down her road.  While there are few rural roads that don’t occasionally become speedways for the free-spirited, natural gas companies implement their own speed limits on their contractors and employees.  They utilize “nanny programs” in vehicles to monitor speeds and other driving habits, and issue punishments for traffic violations and even reports from witnesses regarding reckless driving.  This is standard in the industry and reflects a concern with liability as well as recognition the increased traffic from natural gas development is likely to create community conflicts if not carefully controlled.

Roter also said New York State communities would lose their municipal sovereignty if corporations were allowed to take over the state.  It’s remarkable how many times this anti-corporate line makes it into anti-gas speeches, perhaps conveying the underlying motives of these advocates.  Regardless, DEC regulations based on the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) are what will govern the natural gas industry and we already know New York’s standards will be among the strictest in the nation.  New York State is, of course, a home rule state and Roter would apparently like it if that meant individual municipalities could arbitrarily reject natural gas development in checkerboard fashion, but that sort of policy would mean no development in New York.  Call me cynical, but I suspect that’s exactly what she wants.

Vera, Rebecca & Frank

Astonishingly, Roter went on to claim she would normally have had speeches prepared to hand out to the board, but simply couldn’t think straight for the last few days because there had been such loud flaring of natural gas wells all over the area where she lived.  It was laughable.  Activist and Roter collaborator, Vera Scroggins, also complained about flaring recently, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found no elevated emissions levels or unusual conditions from the activity, as noted in this post.

It just got worse from there as Roter brought in dust (yes, dust) she claims she collected from her pond and dried out. If it was really something so bad, would you skim it off your pond and drive around with it in an enclosed vehicle for an hour and a half, then pull it out in front of an entire room?  You can watch Roter’s entire presentation in the following video.  The whole episode was nothing short of bizarre.

Once Roter had finished speaking, Finan, who finally had his computer up and running, spoke again.  He spoke, showing pictures and explaining a special camera he brought – a FLIR camera.  He made claimed being the only civilian to have such a camera at one point.  That hardly resonated credibility, given how often we’ve seen this technology misused by anti-gas “experts” who weren’t, but then Finan took it further, saying “There was a time a couple years ago when you could drive onto a well site and take pictures. Trespassing was not a big issue back then, uh, it is now.”  Well, that’s a revelation; trespassing on others’ property is illegal.  This isn’t the first time we’ve seen that attitude but, still, hearing it stated without apologies shocks the conscience a bit.  We couldn’t, as they say, make this stuff up, as no one would believe it.

Finan then talked about his FLIR camera.  He told the audience he had spent a lot of money on it and the Department of Environmental Protection did not even have one until after he bought his.  He said he went around and took video of natural gas brine tanks and claimed one could see the emissions coming off of the tanks with the camera.  Our Energy In Depth team wasn’t born yesterday, however, and has previously investigated similar claims where enterprising anti-gas advocates misused these technology.  Check out this post and the following video.

Finan also said he knew of someone who lost three cows, a few dogs and some cats because of natural gas development. It sounded like another anecdote for Michele Bamberger’s collection of tall tales, although even she had the good sense to acknowledge, in the very beginning of her presentation, that there were no causation-correlations between natural gas development and animals dying.

You can watch his entire presentation in the following videos.

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When the storytelling was all over, it was obvious there were no new facts and no minds had been changed.  It was a lot like that scene in the Brad Paisley music video “Celebrity” where William Shatner tells Paisley the best part of the aspiring singer’s song was when it came to the end and stopped.  I know that feeling.  I really do.


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