Appalachian Basin

SRBC Overcome by Occupy Hysteria

For those of you that have been following our videos, you know that last week’s Susquehanna River Basin Commission meeting ended in organized chaos, headed by a small group of individuals out of the Lancaster area and a ringleader out of Milford (neither of which, ironically, have any marketable Marcellus Shale gas). The antic’s of those seeking to block natural gas development made this one of the worst meetings I have attended.  Unfortunately, if the cries of “You will never have another polite meeting in our state!” and other accounts are correct, it is only a preview of the desperate acts a minority of Pennsylvania residents and their New York counterparts are likely to unveil in the near future.

The Basics

Last Thursday, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission met for their quarterly meeting to take action on twenty-six applications for water withdrawals in the basin, among other items  on the agenda.  As part of this meeting, and with the knowledge that most in attendance were there to discuss natural gas related withdrawals, the commissioners had a staff member prepare background information on definitions and scientific explanations for how the Commission reaches a decision. You can view those details in the following presentation, which was a very informative description of how the SRBC deliberates.

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As part of the previous presentation, audience members began asking  seemingly informed questions regarding the consumption of water from the basin. Of course, as we have so often seen, these anti-development folks are never satisfied with an answer that doesn’t fit their agenda.  Even when that answer is based on hundreds of years of hydrological science.  Want to see what I am referring to? In the below clip, pay attention around minute five when the staff member puts the consumptive use of water by the natural gas industry into perspective for the audience. These activists wouldn’t listen to the fact that the natural gas industry has used a  total of 5.6 billion gallons of water from 2008 until now which is pretty much statistically insignificant when compared to the 20 billion gallons per day daily average  flow of the Susquehanna River. For those wondering, the amount of water the natural gas industry has consumed since the beginning of Marcellus development accounts for .02% of the water in the basin.  Keep in mind this is before accounting for water returned to the hydro-geologic system over time through precipitation and other events.

John Hanger, the former Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, also tackled the water use issue on his blog to help provide reasonable Pennsylvanians an understanding of the water footprint of the natural gas industry.  In this post Hanger identified natural gas development as the smallest major water user in Pennsylvania, ranking 9th out of 9 top users. Hanger noted that among other users livestock ranks 7th on this list consuming 61.8 million gallons per day. That bests natural gas daily usage by about 60 million gallons per day.  According to the activists logic this would constitute an even greater “moral emergency”.  However we are fairly certain these activists wont be launching a go vegetarian campaign across the Commonwealth to safeguard the Susquehanna River from the cumulative impact of this source of withdrawal, or the 6 other uses that precede it.


The Public Comment Period

Roughly 30 people, out of 120 present, spoke during the public comment period. Two of these testimonies were not related to natural gas development. The rest came from “fractivists,” predominantly from Lancaster, PA, Luzerne County, New York State and the Delaware River Basin.  Only a handful were from counties within the Susquehanna River Basin where natural gas development is occurring. Their testimonies were overwhelmingly emotional  with repeated pleas to ignore science and and not approve another drop of water for the natural gas industry. At one point they even made up water use projections based on nothing other than the musings of their own mind.  Most of these impassioned pleas were designed to protect ecosystems that aren’t being threatened due to natural gas withdrawals, or any other withdrawals for that matter, due to SRBC’s strict pass-by requirements which shuts down all withdrawals during low-flow conditions that could have a negative impact on aquatic ecosystems.

One speaker from Lancaster, who would later lead some organized chants, appeared to be at the hearing for the sole purpose of stirring up the audience to the point of disrespectful and disruptive behavior.  His actions were so belligerent the Commissioners asked him to end his speech prior to the end of time allotted to each speaker.  It was obvious he was only there to push an agenda on behalf of a small minority of Pennsylvania citizens as noticed in poll after poll which show strong support for natural gas development throughout the Commonwealth.


Along with Jack, the individuals in the following videos also stood out as leaders in the events that played out at the end of the hearing. During the break between testimony and the presentation above, they handed out a flyer with words for a group chant.

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There were also some bizarre moments.  One of these moments occurred when ShaleShock’s Bill Huston led the crowd in seemingly Buddhist breathing exercises. There is a time and place for everything and doing that at a public hearing was nothing but an attention-seeking entertainment stunt.  It contradicted everything Bill usually preaches about tolerance and, instead, was an intentionally disruptive activity that added nothing substantive to the dialogue taking place.  It certainly did not compel the Commissioners to throw out reason and make decision against the scientific conclusions of their staff members. You can view this in the following video.


There was even a man who said that natural gas is not about natural gas and called industry workers “psychopaths.”


Kim Michaels from the Binghamton SGEIS hearing also spoke as well as Scott Cannon from the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition and Dean Marshall from Benton. You can view their videos below.

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The Meeting Turns Ugly

Some of the attendees, as discussed above, came with an agenda to make a statement about natural gas development using this meeting as a platform. These efforts were organized, at least in part, by Alex Lotorto of the Energy Justice Network and Powershift.

A little background on Lotorto is needed.  He is a Milford (Pike County) resident in the Delaware River Basin region of Pennsylvania. Lotorto, who has a history of promoting non-violence with tongue in cheek, is attempting to take the Occupy Wall Street movement to the properties of private landowners in Pennsylvania with his plans to “Occupy Well Street.”    Lotorto’s goal is to advance the opinions of a minority of citizens against  the overwhelming majority in the state who support natural gas development.  This is the face of arrogance, intolerance and self-indulgence. While no violent acts have occurred as of yet, his declarations that “You will want to remember my name” and endorsement of the Molly Maguires in his testimony to the SRBC Commissioners leaves one wondering how far he will go to force his agenda on others.


Now back to the meeting. As SRBC staff gave recommendations on each of the water withdrawal applications things started to heat up (around 3 minutes in video below).  At this point attendees were led in chants with “fractivists” shouting and continuing to be disruptive which eventually led the commissioners to consider the applications in a separate room.


The Commissioners eventually accepted all recommendations including some denials,  several modifications and a couple of approvals.  Following this these “fractivists” again forced the Commissioners out of the room. They ended the event yelling, “You will never again have a polite meeting in our state”, shouting numerous obscenities and at one point even mentioned taking up arms.


Personally, I was  appalled at the activity and the rejoicing and praise that occurred among the “fractivists” afterwards. Furthermore, their claim that the “people” have spoken  when polls continually show otherwise  is just another means of spreading misinformation. Temper tantrums, acting out disruptively and making threats are no way to conduct civil discourse on a topic shaping our economy and the lives and economic freedom of people living in natural gas development areas.

It appears the mission of these obstructionists is something more akin to anarchy than anti-gas activism.  All in the name of blocking opportunity for their neighbors and communities based on their own beliefs.

I want to end this on a positive, though, by thanking the SRBC for doing an exemplary job in overseeing the consumptive use of water in the basin I call home. It does not approve every application, it makes modifications when necessary, visits every application location and even halts withdrawals  when water flows are too low due to drought and other conditions.

For those who appreciate facts and serious discussion, SRBC should be commended for taking their role seriously and putting forward an exemplary program, if not a model for the nation, well within the confines of their charter and responsibilities.  The SRBC’s ability to work with the Department of Environmental Protection, rather than duplicating its efforts, is a lesson its counterpart, the DRBC, would do well to emulate.

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