Appalachian Basin

Pumping Iron In Dimock

There are lot of folks trying to demonstrate their public relations muscle in Dimock these days.  The ubiquitous brown juggers, who never let anyone test that water or release any data of their own, continue to muscle their way onto the front pages of newspapers (not that takes a lot of effort given the trial lawyer friendly attitude of the Scranton Times).  Putting yourself between the twin Craigs (Sautner and Stephens) and a television camera pretty much ensures you’ll be trampled in their mad rush to gain the attention of fawning reporters.  It appears they’ve been pumping iron for some time, training for just this sort of thing and now their litigation partner Scott Ely seems to be pumping iron of a different kind – the kind that comes from over pumping your well, which will increase precipitation of mineral deposits such as iron.

The Scranton Times is at it again, of course, treating allegation as fact and giving the Dimock litigants another 15 minutes of fame on top of the opportunities these folks are able to attract because their story fits the template certain members of that media are intent on deploying at every turn, regardless of the facts.  A front page story on November 20 labels Scott Ely, who is suing Cabot Oil and Gas, as a “whistleblower” but his whistles are little more than outrageous catcalls, unsupported by facts, as if that mattered to the Times.  The Times does eventually attach the word “allegations” to Ely’s claims (paragraph 14) but only after first treating them as gospel.  Consider the following statement:

Mr. Ely, a GasSearch Drilling Services employee from spring 2008 until mid-2010, is one of more than a dozen Dimock residents suing the company because of what happened next: his family, including three small children, began to get cramps, rashes and headaches.

Really?  How does the Times know this?  Is there any evidence?  Is there even any sworn testimony to this effect?  No, there’s only Mr. Ely’s word and the Times doesn’t bother to ask any other questions.  It did give Cabot representative George Stark an opportunity to comment, who indicated the company would provide details of a final investigation once it had first shared them with the Department of Environmental Protection, but waiting on facts isn’t the Times‘ style.  It published upon allegation, seemingly to help build up the voices of the litigants into some sort of crescendo on or about November 30 when the Department says Cabot is allowed to stop water deliveries.

We see the same thing happening on several fronts as the Save The Delaware movement, orchestrated by Josh Fox and his rich friends, attempts to make Craig Sautner into a martyr and turn Dimock into a rallying cry for Occupy DRBC of all things.  What in the world are the Sautner’s doing in Trenton, New Jersey opposing the Delaware River Basin Commission, when they live in the Susquehanna River Basin?  The answer is all too obvious and it isn’t endearing.  Moreover, we see the same familiar pattern displayed in this instance as in the Times article.  Sautner alleges he’s been threatened by DEP, it’s accepted as fact and away we go.  All that matters is the party line commitment of the natural gas obstructionists to stick with the story, notwithstanding evidence to the contrary.

Here’s another example from the Times:

On a cold morning last week, he pulled the handle on a spout above his water well and let the water run for half an hour.

Clear and effervescent for more than 20 minutes, the spray of water then turned a milky brown. He caught it in a glass.

“All we want is water,” he said, standing outside his soaring, half-finished home that is waiting for its brick walls.

“We are pleading for help. We are on our last straw.”

Did the Times witness this episode?  We don’t know, because the article doesn’t say, but one presumes the writer stood there, while 200 gallons of water went to waste, waiting for  it to change color as the level in the well dropped and water at the bottom, more likely to include minerals such as iron, began to be pumped to the surface.  Is it any wonder the water changes color under these circumstances, especially when this is a well receiving infrequent use because Cabot has been supplying water and there is no regular purging taking place?

Hardly, but I guess this is the best “proof” available when you aren’t willing to share your water data and haven’t so much as as a scrap of evidence that any drinking water standard has been exceeded.  The Times adds “the quality of the residents’ drinking water was not a factor in that aspect of the agreement,” implying water quality still doesn’t meet standards and DEP is nonetheless allowing Cabot to stop delivering, but offering nothing to substantiate that view.

We do know something about the Ely well, however, because Cabot has tested it and reported the results for all to see.  It shows no primary drinking water standard is exceeded but iron (Fe) levels, which have nothing to do natural gas development, are quite high.  See the following chart from Cabot’s presentation to DEP:

We also know a great deal about Dimock and the folks who live there.  They don’t seem enthralled by the litigant’s actions or convinced the conditions are anything like those portrayed in the Times.  Cabot Oil and Gas and other companies have now developed hundreds of wells in the immediate area. Moreover, the story of the affected area in which Mr. Ely lives is about as well known as it could be, thanks to the work of the twin Craig’s and others.  One would think other neighbors might have similar experiences to cite.  One would expect the community to rise up in anger at Cabot the same way they did when DEP proposed a water line to the area, when 1,500 residents said “Enough, Already.”

Yet, when the litigants engineered a “Walk for Water” in September, with much fanfare, they got a total of six or so Dimock residents to turn out plus a slightly larger group of natural gas obstructionists from New York (25 or so people altogether, several of which were pro-gas and only there to observe).  How can this be?  If this is such a burning issue among Dimock residents and the litigants have been so wronged, why is it they attract so little local support?  Why could the “Enough, Already” group command so much support to force the Commonwealth to back down, but the litigants couldn’t even attract a majority of themselves, let alone the community?  Why, when the litigants wanted to put up a billboard, did they have to go out-of-state for support?  Why did thousands turn out for the Cabot picnic and, yet, there is no one to support the litigants’ contention they lack clean water?

If natural gas development is the monster the Times and litigants want us to believe than why hasn’t the community turned out in overwhelming numbers to support the litigants in their quest?  The community turned out to get behind “Enough, Already” but turned a deaf ear to the litigants.  Pretty telling.

Once again, the answer is self-evidents.  The Times is fixated on the litigants’ and seems to have no time to interview the vast majority of residents who have a quite different view. Also of another view are the other residents of the affected area (also known as the “box”) who not only disagree with the litigants but also have been desperately trying to get their case heard so natural gas development can proceed on their properties.  Why is it the Times doesn’t care about their plight?  Why is their story of injustice denied getting the same attention the twin Craig’s routinely get?  Is it because one set of complaints fits the desired storyline while the other doesn’t?  It would appear so.  It’s time for the Times to tell the full story.  Enough, already with this pumping iron!

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