Eric Roof, Compliance Program Director, SRBC
Thank you taking the time, and coming to Sullivan County, and presenting at the Energy Task Force Meeting.
Before I continue, please allow me to qualify myself. I am not what most people would consider a rabid environmentalist, a tree hugger, or a NIMBY, although those seem to be the labels the industry, and pro-industry proponents like to use to describe anyone that publicly disagrees with them. So, be it. I am simply a human being who does not recognize the right of the gas industry, or any other industry or entity, to pollute, contaminate, deplete, or poison my water supply, and will not tacitly accept it.
I am college educated, a teacher, musician, writer, father, and grandfather. I was raised in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood, I traveled for sixteen years, and lived in New Jersey before settling in Sullivan County, PA in 2002. In other words, I've got 'street smarts' as well as 'book smarts', and I've seen a good portion of the world. I also pride myself in having a healthy supply of common sense.
Of the major concerns of many citizens, including myself, is the industry's obvious disregard for PA laws, and regulations for properly disposing the toxic and radioactive waste that is part of the drilling process.
In conversations I've personally had with drillers, pipeline workers, and industry reps who have been staying in town here, it seems the industry would prefer to pay whatever fines are levied against them when/if they're caught violating the law then to take the time to do things right.
As one gas industry employee stated: "It's easier and cheaper to beg forgiveness than it is to ask permission. The gas companies know that, and the fines are already figured into their operating costs. That's just the way this industry works. Making money for their shareholders is the top priority."
This sentiment has been echoed by other industry workers I've spoken with as well. Furthermore, when you look at the number of violations, accidental spills, and leaks from waste trucks, flow-back ponds, etc., it falls in line with that sentiment.
The gas industry talks about 'transparency' and being our 'good neighbors', but they don't practice what the preach and more people are becoming painfully aware of that everyday.
When the SRBC, the DRBC, the DEP, or the PA Oil and Gas Commission put forth misleading statistics (ie: the industries water consumption compared to other industries), it not only breeds mistrust, but it insults our intelligence.
*Yes, I'm the guy who pointed out that the gas industry, while it draws less water than some other industries and activities, it doesn't return 80% to 90% of what it uses back into the water cycle. Other industries: agriculture, industrial (gas and oil industry excepted), recreational, nuclear, and human and animal consumption return 99.9% back to the water cycle.
I would also like to point out, that (and I'm sure you must be aware) that there is no more, or less, water on the earth today than there was the day the planet formed. Out of all the water on the planet, only 3% is fresh water. 2% of that water is trapped in the polar regions. That leaves a mere 1% available for human, animal, industrial, and agricultural use. Notice, I said use, not consumption and, there is a distinct difference.
In conclusion, I must say, that it is impossible to believe that the SRBC can, or is ever going to, protect our water supply. The SRBC, and the DRBC, are the faucets, and the gas industry is turning Pennsylvania into it's toilet. This is NOT an industry that can be trusted or controlled, and I must question the judgment (or the integrity) of any agency, or agency representative that wants the people of Pennsylvania to believe otherwise.
If the SRBC is going to be trusted and taken seriously, these consumptive and contamination issues must be publicly addressed. When the SRBC, or the DRBC, uses the same narrowly focused tactics that the gas industry uses, it diminishes it's own credibility.
Mr. Roof, as a representative of the SRBC, you owe it to the people you address to present the truth, sans any convenient omission of the facts. Half-truths are not the truth, any more than slightly contaminated fresh water is still 'safe' drinking water. The SRBC must honestly consider, and openly address the 'cumulative effect' of gas drilling and water use and consumption that goes with it.