“You’re Not Welcome Here” – This Is Transparency?
Those opposed to natural gas development continually make the argument that the natural gas industry needs to be more transparent in its operations. Indeed, they advance a rabid narrative that the industry opposes transparency at every turn. This of course, like so many of their arguments, flies in the face of actual fact. Through educational meetings, site tours, and voluntary disclosures on sites like fracfocus.org, the industry continues to be increasingly transparent in all of its activities. Yesterday, I got to witness firsthand a rare pot calling the kettle black moment when a group of anti-gas advocates met myself, the EID team and other respected community members with a door to the face, literally!
What could have caused this rude response?
Well, various groups known for being outspoken against the natural gas industry in PA, called a meeting to discuss possible ways to recover “damages” from the industry. The event was held in Montrose, Pa, and featured out-of-state lawyers who have brought countless nuisance lawsuits against other industries. For those not familiar, nuisance lawsuits are generally brought whenever there is an unreasonable interference with the health, safety, peace, or comfort of the general public. Groups like the Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA) and the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC), among others, continually say that natural gas development has been a nuisance to local communities but economic prosperity, low unemployment, infrastructure improvements and community outreach says otherwise.
Getting back to the literal door in the face, my colleague Nicole Jacobs and I decided to check this meeting out and see what kind of nuisance complaints individuals had against the industry. Upon entering the meeting, we were met with unwelcoming stares by 15 or so individuals sitting in a semi-circle around the “out of state lawyer.” Immediately cries of industry representatives rang out from the attendees who then proceeded to ask us to leave.
Not realizing what we had done -other then being advocates of industry- we interjected with references to advertisements of this meeting being “open to all interested parties.”
Don’t believe me, check out the screen shot below of the RDA’s website were it clearly states multiple times the public is invited to participate. Contradicting numerous advertisements, meeting organizers informed us this meeting is only for negatively impacted individuals and literally closed a door in our faces- at a church no less.
Below is a short audio recording of what transpired also. Sorry, there is no real video because were pushed out of the door in record time; 31 seconds!
Can you believe these comments?
“This is for people who are negatively impacted by the industry – you’re positively impacted”
“You’re not welcome here”
All laughing and door slamming aside, the issue at hand from this meeting is that anti-gas group’s intention to use frivolous litigation to slow down, or stop, the industry will ultimately impact innocent individuals and local communities. These lawsuits, which are often based on anecdotal evidence, really represent nothing more than a glorified witch hunt by ambulance chasing attorneys looking to make a quick buck- yet another economic benefit provided by the industry.
Need a good example? How about Todd O’Malley from the firm O’Malley & Langan. Last year he represented Crystal Stroud who claimed barium poisoning resulted in her home from natural gas development in her area. She was part of O’Malley’s farcical “Faces of Fracking” effort. I wish I could make this stuff up but it’s real, very real and highly entertaining. Of course, EID Marcellus debunked this issue with a little help from the Department of Environmental Protection who determined:
High levels of barium and the other substances in Ms. Stroud’s well have been naturally present in the ground water in this area for quite some time. In fact, this conclusion mirrored the conclusions of a study published by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in 1998, long before any Marcellus drilling in the area. (http://bit.ly/qiKl46)
This was a fact also confirmed by the United States Geologic Survey dating back to the late 1980s, long before natural gas development came to this area. Needless to say we have not seen Mr. O’Malley standing next to Mrs. Stroud in a while. We’re sure he’s looking for others to help support his cause whose cases have yet to be debunked.
Before I end, here is one final thought; Montrose, Pennsylvania is not interested in nuisance lawsuits and/or banning natural gas. Contrary to what the RDA and GDAC say, the majority of people are very happy with Marcellus development. This is evident by the six thousand people who attended Cabot’s 2nd annual picnic last year or by the one hundred people who showed against Binghamton’s Mayor Matt Ryan’s water delivers in Dimock. But I leave that for you to decided next time you find yourself there. I would stop at the Montrose Inn for dinner and see for yourself!