Susan Dorsey, a prime mover in the Joint landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY) shares with us her reactions to the trip to Washington, Pa. to participate in the Department of Energy hearing on hydraulic fracturing.
Washington County looked like the promised land to me from the bus window as we were approaching. Rolling green hills, forests and pastures, farms and businesses peacefully coexisting. We saw many signs of gas development, but really had to have a trained eye to spot them. That green tank at the edge of the field? Hey, there’s a wellhead!
The glimpse of metal through the trees running parallel to the railroad tracks? If you look closely it is a pipeline being welded, laid out on the surface. In a few months the trench will be dug and it will be buried and grown over with blackberries. The businesses were service and support operations for the gas play. The farms looked well kept and idyllic. Among the billboards for restaurants and tourist attractions, we spotted a few from IOGA & Range etc. welcoming us to the Marcellus hub of Washington County!
Nicole did a fabulous job of keeping us on schedule, despite the fact that us old folks sometimes slow down mid-afternoon! We arrived in time to line up for speaking slots at the DOE hearing. Josh Fox somehow spoke before us although he entered behind us, but we all 11 of us got our 2 minutes to comment.
Outside, I expected the usual tension would arise while standing in line with the opposition. It did. What surprised me however, was that the rude, loud, unruly provocative behavior was allowed to continue inside the venue. The NIMBYs must be feeling desperate; they send out their agitators to disrupt civil discourse. We were allowed to enter the auditorium a little while before the scheduled start to take seats, but, it felt like an eternity before 7 PM, because all hell broke loose!
Obstructionists on the stage, banners and signs were allowed in and were wielded with impunity. Although there were 9-10 uniformed security guards there, they did nothing, even after being asked to control the crowd. The NIMBY hypocrites chanted and shouted us down. They danced and chortled!
They cavorted in the aisles and on the podium. They swarmed the microphone for seats nearby in order to heckle the speakers who were not of their peer group.
Finally the official panel took their seats and the meeting was brought to order. Well, not to order, but it started.
I heard many citizens of Washington County offer supportive and illustrative stories about what a benefit the Marcellus play has been to them personally, to their families and quality of life. I heard a couple dozen hypocrites rail against the use of fossil fuels, the capitalist system which our democracy has voted to have in place, and the injustice of the fact that they weren’t ‘given’ a better lot in life. We heard as well the usual fabrications of earthquakes and transgender babies, and a young woman who couldn’t blame a “wardrobe malfunction” for the exposure her plunging v neckline gave to her reportedly artificial cleavage while she demanded sympathy for having lost her real breasts to cancer.
You can’t make this stuff up!
Every pro-gas speaker was heckled and derided loudly, interrupted intentionally in an effort to prevent the truth from prevailing. A provocateur who had almost started a fist fight outside positioned himself behind the microphone and waved a fistful of dollars behind anyone who spoke about the positive impact gas development has had. One speaker finally said in his closing remarks that he had not been paid by anyone to attend the hearing, but obviously the ‘gentleman’ behind him waving his new found wealth had!
The DOE panel was accused of knowing their business – only that apparently is a sin in the eyes of the unwashed masses of protesters who might prefer basket weavers and pet sitters decide energy policy.
My impression of the situation in western PA is this: There you have basically 2 sides, the losers who can’t even find a legitimate problem in this world to apply their efforts to, and the rest of us who have facts and solutions instead of gripes and demands.
In western PA however, there is no great unleased landowner presence to keep things from escalating.
Here in NY and in the Delaware River Basin, there is a large, active contingent of us. Our presence at meetings rallies and hearings actually tends to diffuse some of the vitriol, if only for the mere fact that we are neighbors, long time neighbors and good neighbors. Most of those who have been persuaded to fear gas development have not quite been convinced that they need to be militant or rude to the people they may meet tomorrow morning at the grocery store. Their ringleaders may advocate civil disobedience, but it is hard for people around here to bring themselves to that frenzied level of demonstrative action, I think, because many of them are seriously good people who placed their trust in false gods.
In Washington PA Monday night, there was no element of moderation from landowners. And I figured out why. All of the landowners and locals who came to speak were in one way or another tied to the industry; either as a direct employee of a gas company, a charity who had seen donations proliferate, a guy who could not find work after getting a good education until he started a title search company…. everyone in the area has benefitted from the industry. And because of that they are derided and reviled by the group of NIMBY obstructionist hypocrites who want all of the comforts and none of the costs of living in the real world.
Get a life!