Marcellus Shale

Casey Strikes Out as NWPOA Member Hurls One Over the Plate

Bob Rutledge
Chairman, Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance


Not so long ago, a friend of mine received a letter from, Bob Casey, Jr., our U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania that was anything but helpful on when natural gas development would come to our area. Wayne County is the only area in Pennsylvania where natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is present in economic quantities but where development continues to be on hold.  This is attributable to the Delaware River Basin Commission’s failure to produce reasonable regulations.

The summary of Senator Casey’s response to my friend was to dismiss her concerns as irrelevant and rely upon several politically correct lines about the need to protect the drinking water of downstream users, as if we didn’t care about clean water or couldn’t possibly understand the bigger picture.  Our needs didn’t matter.  I responded with the following letter:

NWPOA Chairman’s Personal Letter to Senator Robert Casey, Jr.

U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr.
393 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Casey:

I am a 46-year-old, lifelong resident of northern Wayne County. My family has lived and worked on the same farm since the 1840s. I am a building contractor by day, and I manage a herd of beef cattle in my spare time. I must say I was deeply dismayed by a response you sent to a friend of mine concerning natural gas drilling or, in our case, I should I say a lack of natural gas drilling.

As I am sure you are aware, we have been with a gas-drilling moratorium imposed on us by the Delaware River Basin Commission for well over a year and a half. The DRBC has written regulations, published them and received public comment, and yet they refuse to act. So what’s the rush you might ask? Well, in case you didn’t realize this, our country is in a state of recession. Wayne County is in a state of recession when times are good elsewhere. There are people sitting atop of what could be millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas that they own and want to produce but cannot. Meanwhile, they can’t afford to heat their homes or send their kids to college. The real kicker is, if we drive 30 miles to the west, we can see landowners and farmers actually prospering from their land, rather than just paying taxes on it.

As a builder I can tell you that in Damascus Township last year, the aggregate value of new construction projects was only about 25 percent of the ten-year average. I feel it personally. I was never out of work my entire life. In fact I was usually booked a couple years out. Recently, I’m lucky to be working half the time. And as a side note, the last three houses I built were financed by bonus money people had received from their gas leases.

Now, about a few of the comments you made in your response to my friend. It seems to me you must be a graduate of the Josh Fox School of Science Fiction. I assume when you refer to the 15-million people who get drinking water from the Delaware that you’re including New York City and Philadelphia. When I was 18 and working a summer construction job, I was told the ”golden rule” of plumbing by a much older and wiser gentleman. It goes like this: “Sh*t runs downhill and payday is on Friday.” This rule also applies to water — at least as far as running downhill goes. So how is it that when New York City gets its water from Catskill reservoirs that are headwaters to tributaries of the Delaware, that their water comes out of the Delaware itself? The fact is not one drop of the city’s water comes from the Delaware River. As far as Philadelphia goes, more than 40 percent of their water comes from the Schuylkill River. Moreover, after flowing past New Jersey, the water Philadelphians get from the Delaware is anything but pristine.

You also commented that fracking occurs very close to underground drinking water sources. This may be true in Colorado, but in Wayne County the Marcellus Shale is 7,000 to 8,000 feet down, while the average water well goes down about 250 feet. That leaves about a mile and a half of solid rock in between, which is a long, hard way to squeeze frack fluid from one to the other. And, that doesn’t even take into account the fact that gravity and extreme heat also keep the water from rising. So please leave the dramatization to the actors.

I’m sure you hear a lot from so-called “environmentalists” trying to stopdevelopment. Let me give you a few facts from my local township to ponder. Most of the people around here who oppose development have one or two acres right on the river. They have a house, an eroding driveway and a septic system all within a stone’s throw of the water’s edge. Josh Fox, the hero of the anti-natural gas movement, had on his property for years a posted warning from the Damascus Township zoning officer, ordering him to clean up trash on his property. He had a dilapidated house trailer, tires, and other junk lying around. After a renewed warning and a little public attention, the trailer and all the junk mysteriously caught fire and burnt up just feet from Josh’s treasured Calkins Creek. After the DEP was notified, Fox claimed it was arson. Another active anti-development stakeholder used waste motor oil to treat the siding on his house.

On the other hand, I maintain and pay taxes on my family’s 500-acre farm. I gave up my agricultural and building rights to 24.3 acres of my land that borders stream banks to plant riparian buffers. We planted approximately 4,200 trees and shrubs on those acres, and the land is being allowed to go back to nature. Many other landowners do similar projects to better their land. So I ask you, who are the true environmentalist? I vote for the large landowners who maintain their land, which in turn filters the water to give us our pristine waterways.

As my Senator, I feel you should represent the needs of all Pennsylvanians, not New York City. The constitutional rights of the landowners of Wayne County are being violated by the DRBC’s inaction. You should do everything within your power to end the moratorium now. The regulation of the gas industry should be left up to the individual states. The DRBC does not regulate any other industry, so why should it regulate the gas industry? The regulations of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection should continually evolve to best protect the people and environment of our state, and the DRBC should regulate water withdrawals.

I have just one more question. My daughter is graduating from high school this year in the top two percent of her class and is planning to attend college this fall. How should I pay for it? After  170 years, should I sell some land, or go deeper in debt by borrowing more against my house? Or should I fight to get my rights as a United States citizen returned to me, so I can exploit the natural resources I own?

Thank you for your attention.


Bob Rutledge


P.S. This is a personal letter from me. But as chairman of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance I would like to share your response with the 1500-plus families of the NWPOA. I eagerly await your response.

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