Thursday, February 21, 2013

DEP owes complete disclosure to citizens

DEP owes complete disclosure to citizens

*My comment: I agree with Rep. Boyle in his statement regarding the DEP. I would also like to add, that Pennsylvania citizens also deserve better representation from our state and local elected officials, who are just as guity as the DEP for not standing with the people who they were elected to represent.


DEP owes complete disclosure to citizens

Wednesday, February 20,2013
The folks at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection don’t like state Rep. Jesse White. We get it. White has been a frequent critic of the agency, particularly as it pertains to the DEP’s regulation, or lack thereof, of the Marcellus Shale gas-drilling industry.

But the agency came off as spiteful, childish and unresponsive to the public it is paid to serve when it refused to send a representative to Tuesday’s House Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Washington, for no other reason than the fact that White was the organizer of the session.

Had a DEP representative been at the hearing, he or she would have heard from folks who blame the fouling of their drinking water and various physical maladies on fracking that is taking place near their homes. Is gas drilling really the cause of these problems? Perhaps the DEP could have provided some answers, or at least agreed to investigate further.

One issue that has no doubt rubbed DEP officials the wrong way is White’s legislative efforts to force the agency to release all of its water-testing results to affected homeowners, rather than just those DEP deems pertinent and worthwhile.

Asked about that Tuesday in an interview with the Observer-Reporter, the DEP’s Katy Gresh said, “It would be irresponsible for DEP to provide homeowners with raw data that has not been quality-assured and quality-controlled. Raw data is, quite simply, unreliable and not valid in the eyes of any laboratory, public or private.”

We think it would be better to let the homeowner, or a laboratory that homeowner might hire, make the decision on what is reliable and what is not. And what about these terms “quality-assured” and “quality-controlled”? Do they mean “edited” and, pardon the expression, “watered down”? The public has a right to wonder.

The refusal to give up any and all test results raises questions, valid or not, about for whom the DEP is really working. Also, the fact that Gov. Tom Corbett raked in nearly $1.3 million in campaign contributions from the gas industry in his run for the governor’s office in 2010 suggests to some that he’s not especially interested in stringently regulating the Marcellus drillers.

The complaints aired at Tuesday’s hearing might well have been isolated incidents, but they were concerning, nonetheless.

The panel heard from neighbors Kimberly Staub and Chris Lauff, who have worries about future health problems after drilling occurred near their homes on Fort Cherry Road in Mt. Pleasant Township. Lauff brought with him a jar of muddy water produced by his well. He said the drilling company admitted it fouled his water supply, and he is now on a public water line, but that doesn’t resolve his concerns about health issues down the road. Complete DEP air and water testing on his property, with complete disclosure of the results, could either confirm his fears or perhaps give him some peace of mind.

Staub got in touch with DEP last fall after noticing an odor from a nearby drilling impoundment. She has made repeated follow-up calls to DEP regarding tests of the air quality on her farm but has yet to receive any evaluation from the agency. That’s simply unacceptable.

Also testifying before the committee was Judy Armstrong Stiles, who said her family had to move from their home in Bradford County because of health problems they blame on drinking water they believe was contaminated by a gas-drilling operation a few miles away.

“I just want to know where were those agencies that were supposed to protect us?” she asked.

We have editorialized often about the benefits brought to our area by the gas industry, especially the economic boost it provides. But we also believe that the safety of our environment and citizens must be paramount. That’s where the DEP comes in, or should come in.

As committee member Rep. Kevin Boyle of Philadelphia County said Tuesday, “I apologize for DEP. As Pennsylvania citizens, you deserve better.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

My thoughts on the Yoko Ono and Group Gas Tour

Yoko Ono and Group Gas Tour -- 1-17-13
Please let me first say that I applaud and support all efforts to educate and raise awareness about the horrors of gas drilling. As you know, my heart goes out to the Mannings, as it does to every human being that has been, and continues to be sacrificed and abused by this industry everywhere.

That being said, with the widespread release and distribution of documentaries like Gasland, Split Estate, Triple Divide, the commercial release of Promised Land, and the hundreds of videos on Youtube and on social networks, it's hard to imagine that most people are not aware of the damage, devastation, and lives that have been ruined.

What I do not understand is why more is not being done to help these people. Instead, the focus now seems to be on saving NY by allowing the affected families to be used as the "poster children" for what can go wrong. It's important that their heartbreaking stories are heard, but what I think is more important is that something be done to actually help them.

Artists Against Fracking has the financial power, and the celebrity clout to do that, at least to some measurable degree, but it seems narrowly focused on delivering these stories to Gov. Cuomo with the hope of saving NY. It seems that many Pennsylvanians who are living in the 'sacrifice zones' have given up on PA themselves and are also directing their energy to save NY. That's something I do not, and will never understand. Don't we all live downstream?

Dimock and Susquehanna County have been called "ground zero" for the fracking nightmare. That is largely because of Gasland. I get that, that's okay, and it's not a bad thing. But it's just as important for people to realize that there are people in other parts of NEPA, Central PA, SWPA, and in 34 states in the US that have been, and continue to be affected equally as much.

As pointed out in this video , PA is only 25% into this industrialization. That means that there is still 75% that has not, and in my mind, that is worth saving just as much as NY is and deserves the same amount of commitment.

I don't see NYer's flocking to Harrisburg, or standing with us in our fight to protect our land, our environment, and our way of life. Yet I see many Pennsylvanians standing with NYer's in Albany. The same Pennsylvanians who don't show up in Harrisburg to try to protect PA. It's as if some Pennsylvanians have already written off this state, and by doing that, they've written off the people in PA as well. That boggles my mind.

I have to say this, and maybe you're aware of this, or maybe you're not, but a lot of the people on the "List of the Harmed", and who have been the subjects of youtube videos, and organization presentations have candidly admitted they're beginning to feel somewhat used by some of the 501c3 grassroots organizations to boost their fund raising and by some independent film makers.

Cuomo, like Corbett, is going to do what is in their interest politically and financially. All the horror stories in the world are not going to inspire them to have a change of heart. If we haven't figured it out yet, they simply could not care less about the people living in harms way, or the environment. They care about what flows their way from the bottomless deep pockets of their industry handlers.

If we are going to save anyone, or any place from this industry, it's going to take huge numbers of people, crossing county lines, state lines, and cultural lines to take to the street in non-violent civil disobedience, slowing the industry down and costing them money. That will get the attention of the main stream media, and political powers that be. It would do more to raise public awareness and inspire others to stand up than all the 'celebrity tours' that get mentioned as a footnote on the local TV news, followed by the obligatory mentioning of the 'positive economic benefits, local jobs, and "clean burning" energy independence'

I have traveled to Dimock, Clearfield, Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, Bradford County, Tioga County, Lycoming County, Luzerne County, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, NY, Ohio, Maryland, and DC to support the efforts of others and stand with those who have been abused, even when there were no cameras turned on. I have met with, and spoken to the French, the Australians, the British, the Irish, the Canadians, and the Germans. My motivation for doing any of that was not only to educate, but to gain support for the people in need.

Now, I'm wondering... at what point are we going to rise up and do something to help ourselves? If Artists Against Fracking really wants to help the people in PA, then maybe they should consider doing something real and immediate like a concert tour in the areas across PA that have been affected to raise money for those people to get water, medical attention, paes, or to provide shelter for those who really need to leave their homes now.

Something along the lines of Farm Aid. That would get massive media attention, inspire public outcry, and might actually humiliate our elected officials into doing something proactive to slow down, or perhaps even stop the wholesale destruction of rural America long enough to hurt the industry financially and make it economically impractical for them

With all due respect, this celebrity tour of Gasland-Susquehanna, although I'm sure it was done with the best intentions, does nothing for the people in PA. It may help the people in NY, but I doubt it.
The reality is, New York has not started to drill yet for economic reasons.
1- The supply greatly outweighs the demand 
2 - The pipeline infrastructure is not fully in place to move the gas to market
3 - There aren't sufficient storage facilities to store the gas
4 - The price is too low -for all the above reasons- it doesn't justify more drilling
In the meantime, Gov Cuomo is posturing to the environmental groups. He will cave, and claim 'he tried'.
Once all things are in place and the industry creates an increased demand, it's game over for NY. The oil and gas industry does not recognize state lines. They see only shale plays, and if they weren't completely sure that in time they will 'get it all', they won't do it.
The best way to save NY is to stop this industry in PA, OH, and W.VA. The industrial powers that be are not going to 'go around' NY.
As for the news coverage, it got mentioned, and was immediately 'balanced' by the industry's tired talking points about the "positive economic benifits, local jobs, clean energy, and energy independence". This dangerous and destructive practice of HVSW hydraulic fracturing has to be stopped nationwide, not just in NY. It is just as important to save what is left of Pennsylvania, W. Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Colorado because to the people who live there, that's all they have.

It seemed that AAF came to PA only to learn on how they might save NY, without offering [at least not publicly] what they intend to do to try and help the people in PA. I'm a bit offended by that, and so are a lot of others.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I hope you take them in a constructive light.