Rain Or Shine, The Show Goes On
Another week, another New York Department of Environmental Conservation Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement hearing down. I know that’s a mouthful, but after Marcellus Drilling News’ Jim Willis overheard a few anti’s asking what the “DEC” and “SGEIS” stands for at the New York City hearing on Wednesday, I figured maybe some of our readers might need it spelled out again. But I’ll let one of our other team members elaborate more on that hearing later, while I discuss the events of Tuesday’s Loch Sheldrake (Sullivan County) hearing. Read on to find out all about the events that took place in and outside of the hearing auditorium.
Braving the Cold and Rain
While it wasn’t too cold in the morning, after standing in the rain getting drenched for hours, temperatures seemingly dropped by afternoon, and yet 300-400 people still came out to make their opinions known to the DEC and Governor Cuomo.
While there was nowhere to provide a hospitality center inside of the Sullivan County Community College, ANGA and API’s Energy Citizens still went above and beyond to offer food, shelter and a little warmth for attendees by way of buses, tents and even an RV. It was a nice reprieve from the dreary weather and all of the landowners and Marcellus supporters seemed to be incredibly grateful for the kind gesture.
Case-E Makes His Debut
Chesapeake Energy was present all day to educate any and all comers with their new 1,500 pound, 7 layer model of a steel and cement well-casing. Anti and supporter of natural gas alike stopped in to have their questions answered about the model and other natural gas related issues like hydraulic fracturing and chemical disclosure. Take a look at the following video explanation of the casing.
One woman who was for the most part against the process, even had her two young children stop to ask questions. The Chesapeake representatives and I agreed that those two little girls asked better questions than we have probably heard for nearly an hour. It was very refreshing to see folks take the time to listen and educate themselves so thoroughly. We definitely dispelled some misinformation they had heard previously.
Tensions Rise to a Breaking Point
Natural gas development is a hot button topic that can cause tempers to flare as those involved have strong beliefs whether it be for landowner rights or the anti’s unwarranted fears associated with development. We’ve heard angry shouting in the past at hearings and other events, but yesterday we saw tensions reach a tipping point with a physical altercation.
The young man, a student at Sullivan County Community College, seemed to enter the hearing area on a mission–an angry one. He began his tirade by stopping his car in front of the landowner hospitality tent and upon realization those present were supporters of natural gas, proceeded to yell profanities. He ended his charade by calling us “water contaminating freaks” and burning the rubber of his petroleum-based tires as he sped off through the parking lot (burning even more petroleum). This was the first time state police present were warned he might cause problems.
An hour or so later, the young man returned, while the above mentioned mother and children were asking questions of Chesapeake, and again began dropping profanities that would have made even the saltiest sailor blush. The argument that ensued quickly heated up, as landowners tried to get him to leave, or at the very least, take his ranting away from the young ears present. That is when things turned violent. Bryant La Tourette, a New York Landowner who ended up in the path of his blows, gives a much better account and analysis of the event and why he thinks the young man had such a reaction.
Again, the state police did not make the young man leave and he was allowed to enter the hearing. Inside, he became increasingly disruptive and threatening and was finally escorted off of the premises. I can only hope that as the DEC moves forward, the DRBC approves its regulations and infrastructure is approved in Pennsylvania, we do not see repeats of incidents like this. No matter how you feel about developing natural gas, violence is no way to push an agenda.
Jobs, Jobs, and More Jobs
My job yesterday–no pun intended–was to set up a job resource center in the ANGA RV. There I met with several folks from CPR in Monticello, New York (Sullivan County) where the job outlook has gone beyond bleak. Here, we provided materials to help nearly 1,500 people make a decent living. Unfortunately, at the current moment they will have to travel hours away to Pennsylvania to do so. It was disheartening to listen to their stories, but thankfully there are some real opportunities for them across the border and yesterday we started the process of providing them the information they need to turn their lives around by finding work that pays well above the standard wage. Below are descriptions of just some of the folks who stopped by looking for the opportunities that natural gas development provides.
One gentlemen is a Desert Storm veteran and firefighter with welding and engineering experience who unfortunately can’t find a job in his community. This situation forces this returning war vet, arguably a hero, to now leave his family for weeks at a time to help pay the bills, put food on the table and make ends meet. This man has a resume that most spend a lifetime to develop and yet New York State has absolutely nothing to offer this hero other than minimum wage employment.
It sickened me to think that someone who served our country–risked his life for the people fighting against change in his state–can barely make it from month to month, but that’s the reality of many communities in New York.
Long story short, I sent his resume to Chesapeake because they have a program to assist veterans in finding careers and were just awarded for their commitment to our nation’s veterans. The Chesapeake representative was so impressed he immediately forwarded the gentleman’s resume to human resources. Hopefully, this returning hero will have an early Christmas present in the form of a good-paying job that will help him support his family. Anti’s quibble over how many jobs have been created in Pennsylvania, but when it comes down to it, natural gas is creating job opportunities and this individual couldn’t be more grateful no matter how far he has to travel to get it.
I also spoke with a woman who now has all of her children grown and is finally able to leave the area without uprooting her family to help provide for them. She has a background in accounting, food service and home health care and can’t find a job paying a livable wage. After talking with some industry representatives, she now has some solid leads, and will hopefully have a job before 2012–although it will probably be in Susquehanna or Bradford counties, hours away from her family.
Her 19-year-old son is following the trend of today’s New York youth and gearing up to move to Pennsylvania where his JobCorp security training could finally pay off and, if so, he can begin to gain valuable experience as he starts his career, making a wage unheard of in his community. His hope is that when the DEC finally makes their decision, his training will allow him to transfer back closer to home.
There are countless other stories echoed across the state. Hopefully, the DEC ends this continued process of delay and comes to a decision because it is clear the people of New York don’t have much time left to wait.
Inside the Hearing
The hearing itself was pretty typical. This venue was much smaller than the previous ones and only around 250 could enter, so many waited outside for a chance to hear the proceedings or watched them on television sets in the building. Typical of anti behavior, when anyone supporting the industry spoke, they tried to shout over them, and several times the DEC had to stop the clock for speakers to remind the crowd that disruptions would not be tolerated. A few who could not seem to grasp these concepts of basic civility were asked to leave the proceedings.
One interesting voice missing from the anti gang inside was that of actor Mark Ruffalo, a Sullivan County resident. While he did speak at the New York City hearing, it leaves a lot of people curious as to why he chose that venue as opposed to showing support in his own community. Perhaps the New York elite were more to his liking than the struggling residents of his hometown where he might have had to face the dire reality of their plights, but that’s just a guess.
For more information on this or the previous SGEIS hearings, check out our live feeds and those of others in attendance on Twitter under hashtags #SullivanSGEIS, #SteubenSGEIS, #BroomeSGEIS, and #NYCSGEIS.