Appalachian Basin

Stranger by the Day; Natural Gas Opponents Go Off Rails, Start Tipping Cows

RachaelThe opponents of natural gas development seem to be getting stranger in their claims by the day.  It appears they are being brainwashed into thinking everything under the sun occurring anywhere is a direct result of natural gas development.  Want a laugh with your morning coffee?

A recent article came out on the New Yorkers Against Fracking website focusing on what we know from experience to be a typical Vera Scroggins tour.  Scroggins has taken dozens of people around the beautiful and scenic Pennsylvania hillsides.  She often tells them outrageous stories, but this one seems to take the cake.  After Vera successfully lured Yoko Ono up here she apparently felt the need to kick it up a notch, especially when that tour didn’t get quite the coverage she had hoped, she having .

This latest tour must have been another doozy; the write-up by two Food & Water Watch volunteers named  Julie Sullivan and Anne Mayer-Kristiansen displayed a level of gullibility with respect to Vera’s yarn-spinning that can only be compared to the Emperor with New Clothes in Hans Christian Anderson’s famous tale.  Julie and Anne bought the whole story, and put it up on the New Yorkers Against Fracking website, perhaps never knowing both the website and Food & Water Watch are funded by that gigantic NIMBY organization out of Planet Ithaca known as the Park Foundation.  Whether they know or not, it is one of the worst and most inaccurate diatribes we’ve seen and it demonstrates just how far off the rails the natural gas opposition has gone recently.

Paper Shuffling Violations

Let’s look at it piece by piece.

All around the planet human and natural environments co-exist in a fragile, tenuous balance; and once it was that way in Dimock before the tipping point was reached when high volume hydraulic fractured gas wells were drilled. (To date, there are 145 active wells—nearly five per square mile—with 200 violations amassed in this municipality alone.)

It sounds almost convincing until you dig into it.  The author cited the “200 violations” without talking about what they were or addressing whether this was unusual given the number of wells, a typical tactic of the opposition.  What are some of the violations?  Take a look for yourself at these three examples, pulled at random:

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Doesn’t sound bad any more, does it?  Sounds to me like someone forgot their second cup of coffee and left a folder containing their permit on their desk a couple miles away when they got to the well site.


Then there’s this:

This is a mixed economic community where homes range from rundown shacks to attractive new hilltop houses with views of rolling terrain. Most barns are in various stages of disrepair, with only a few completely intact. Here, farms comprise the long-standing economic system typical of many Mid-Atlantic rural communities, with layers of support structures like schools, stores, diners and churches…surrounded by hay and dairy farms. The gas industry, a recent newcomer, pushed into this somewhat stable community, creating upheaval. Since my first tour of Dimock a year ago, the area shows further signs of economic and environmental decline, inextricably linked to the frac invasion.

These two reporters obviously missed the numerous new houses and barns built with money from natural gas.  They are everywhere in Dimock.  Here is an example of a new home going up behind and replacing an older home on a property that was fortunate to land a natural gas well.  The old home is now gone and I’m sure these two volunteers never saw it, but, even so, if this upheaval, let’s have a lot more of it.  If only natural gas had paid for my new home!

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Although this picture surely illustrates pastoral beauty as well as a heart-warming story of a family able to build a new home, we learn Vera, a transplant from Long Island, thinks it’s all been lost and fears for the welfare of such families:

“Vera Scroggins, our tour host, relocated with her family from Uniondale Long Island (a New York suburban but soon-to-be overcrowded community) to pastoral Pennsylvania around 1995, and lives there together with her children and grandchildren. As she said, ‘It was heaven for the first 15 years and Hell ever since.’ This begs the questions: What was it like then for her to be drawn there? And what about the families that happily remained for generations? At this juncture, all I can see is what Dimock has become today, and it’s not pretty. A heavy-handed industry brought in labor and money, enabling it to take over land and uproot people’s lives. The impact to this small, rural community is from drilling over one hundred gas wells, clear-cutting hundred-foot-wide swaths of woods for pipelines, and erecting numerous compressor stations. The ruin we see is just the tip of the iceberg as most of the damage is underground and unseen.”

One would have thought Scroggins’ credibility went out the window with the videos from her Yoko Ono tour of Dimock (check them out here and here) but Food & Water Watch, it appears, never got the word.

Preferring Pastoral Poverty

Cabot Oil and Gas alone has invested $2 billion in Susquehanna County alone.  The authors admit this, saying “industry brought in labor and money” but that’s what upsets them, of course, as they prefer the pastoral poverty.   Read this piece to see the economic benefits natural gas has had in Pennsylvania, compared to what’s happening in neighboring parts of New York; it isn’t even close.

If economics wasn’t their forte, the Park Foundation funded Food & Water Watch duo went completely over the edge in offering this pit of hyperbole:

Families we visited on the tour testified to seeing fewer birds, reptiles, fish, even insects. Other than the sounds of industry, the countryside was very quiet…too quiet (and I’m not referring to the code of silence that pervades the state from the politicians to the clergy to the doctors). One middle-age resident wistfully remarked that the mid-summer night choir of the whistling frogs had disappeared. It is early spring and yet everywhere I noticed a palpable, almost deafening absence of birdsong. The running streams and wetland water had a green tint, resembling antifreeze. Where pond ice hadn’t melted, it was neither snow white nor clear; but a kind of sticky, chalky, pale gray. Where deer herds once roamed, now a few sickly, glassy-eyed stragglers, attracted to the briny flowback water, drink at the holding ponds.

There are, of course, no ponds holding flowback water.  Every company in the area uses closed-loop processes where flowback and produced water are stored in tanks and ponds are simply not used for anything but fresh water.  This is a completely false statement – a blatant lie probably passed along by someone on the bus and accepted as fact by these unsuspecting volunteers.  Moreover, there’s no evidence whatsoever even suggesting the bird, reptile, fish or insect population has decreased, let alone decreased because of natural gas development. There is proof to the contrary, the deer population having increased, with the most recent 2012-13 harvest up 8% over the previous year.

And, what’s this about running streams resembling antifreeze?  Well, as anyone who lives in a country setting, even in New York (where there is no horizontal hydraulic fracturing occurring) can explain, lakes, streams, and rivers often get a green tint and it has nothing to do with antifreeze or natural gas development.  It’s the algae, which is living, not dead.  What does it look like?  Well, here is an example:


It may look ugly for a time, but it’s evidence of nature at work, not natural gas activity.  Moreover, water quality data for the Meshoppen Creek, which drains the Dimock area, has been monitored by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and not one foot of it has been declared impaired.

Just Who Are the Malcontents?

The next claim is similarly fallacious:

There’s malcontent in the community.  It’s a war of words for now, and it’s over water, air, noise pollution and quality of life.  The shale gas industry has traded one natural resource for those essential to life.

Malcontent?  I guess that’s why 6,000 residents attend the annual Cabot Picnic and they formed Dimock Proud to combat exactly this sort of nonsense.  The only malcontents are Vera Scroggins, a serial protestor, and a small band of litigants who hoped to cash in on Cabot’s lack of baseline water testing to assert their water had been damaged by natural gas development but, ironically, the EPA they brought in to help make their case sounded the death knell to that effort.

Dead Cow Syndrome

The natural gas opposition thrives on dead cows, it seems.  Every time we turn around someone claims to know of dead cows – a dead cow here, a dead cow there, dead cows everywhere.  There are even dead cow experts on buses of Long Island folks who make trips to farm country.  Who would thought such expertise could be found in Nassau or Suffolk Counties, where there are no dairy cows?

“From our fully air conditioned, spacious bus with every amenity, someone exclaimed, “Oh God, there’s a dead cow in the ditch!” To everyone’s horror, a cow lay motionless next to a rundown barn. Vera remarked, “This is a precedent setting tour; in fact every tour seems to set a new precedent as time goes on.” It was bittersweet knowing that in a few hours we’d be back home to end the day with a glass of fresh tap water, and thank our stars that there’s a moratorium on fracking in New York.”

I suppose they are under the impression cows live or should live forever in Dimock.  Let’s keep in mind there is a huge chance the cow was laying down, not dead at all.  Even if the cow was dead, though, there are any number of causes, including milk fever, shipping disease, pneumonia, Salmonella and a whole bunch of other things.  I could drive around upstate New York today and probably find a deceased cow with little effort and it would have nothing to do with natural gas development.  A pregnant cow, by the way, can die from merely falling in a ditch on its back and not being able to get back up, suffocating in the process.

I’m sorry to be so morbid, but if our friends are obsessed with dead cows we have to go there.  Outrageous claims like this just prove there is no credibility to be had with these folks.  Read back to when Dr. Michelle Bamberger (anti) admitted there is no evidence pointing to a causation/correlation relationship between natural gas and livestock deaths.  New Yorkers Against Fracking, it seems, are simply spreading stuff frequently associated with cows.


Dead or alive?  Can you tell?

Speaking of Spreading Stuff

The touring authors from Long Island ended with the following:

But I went to bed that night with a new queasiness about what’s going on in Pennsylvania. It’s a spreading cancer already showing up throughout our state — as evidenced by Pennsylvania’s drilled radioactive shale cuttings coming to our private landfills, and by New York roads being spread with frac flowback brine. The Susquehanna River, into which Pennsylvania’s fracked wastewater is dumped, runs north through Binghamton, NY. And, the new Constitution (Orwellian isn’t it) Pipeline will carry gas from tens of thousands of Pennsylvania wells to Metro New York and beyond. So much for borders.

As Vera left the bus one rider queried, “What can we do to help you?” Her reply, “The world is watching New York. Stop fracking in New York! Once that’s accomplished, come back and save us from the gas industry…”

Here’s a thought that mirrors Vera’s plea: Since we receive Pennsylvania’s water, air and food; even with a two year moratorium or a ban here, in order to protect New York we’ll need to reenergize, redirect and refocus our efforts to help our neighbors to the South. So with no time to rest and no end in sight, all New Yorkers should go see what we may become, and continue supporting the work of Food & Water Watch.

There is no spreading of flowback on local roads – another lie – but the more important fact is this; cancer rates in Texas have decreased in areas where natural gas is being developed, proven by a study.  Natural gas generates economic development and wealth (as the authors acknowledged) which is the single most important factor in good health. By denying natural gas development in New York these people are denying people the money to obtain good health care and continue on to live healthy lives.  Once again, here are the facts:


What about that radioactive material?  Well, the cuttings are tested at the well site to determine where the companies are permitted to dispose of the material.  If they are radioactive they must be treated at certain plants and, if not, they are treated much like other wastes.  This is general practice and done every single time.  Drill cuttings, moreover, “have radionuclide levels that do not pose any environmental health problem even if they are deposited in areas accessible by the general public.  Therefore, they are certainly acceptable for landfill disposal.

When All Else Fails, Follow the Money

Finally, as we noted above, there is a reason the authors mention Food and Water Watch and beg for money.  Food and Water Watch is an organization with a hard-core anti-gas agenda, funded by the Park Foundation, along with a multitude of other like-minded organizations.  It’s all right there on their website.


So, take articles for what they are; just so much more of that stuff those cows produce.  No wonder the natural gas opposition is so obsessed with dead ones.

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