by Lynn Senick - 10/14/2010
The gas companies came here with the white trucks and figuratively wearing the white hats of the good guys. They love our community and they want the best for us. They want to make money and they want us to prosper. Gas is good for all of us. And then they made sure every arrangement protected their interests and reduced their costs of doing business. They have passed the costs of their industry onto our community. This is standard good business practice, right? Everyone looks for a bargain. Doesn’t every business proposition that ever existed operate this way? You would be a fool not to.
Let’s stop fooling ourselves. We are going to have to be tough and protect ourselves, something that so many did not do when blindly signing on the dotted line with a completely trusting, or if not trusting, completely unquestioning attitude. You can decide if this was a measure of our communal honesty and integrity or our stupidity.
I read and hear the assertion that the water in Susquehanna County always had contamination problems. Why does the community bear the brunt for testing and proving that we have no pre-existing water problem when we all lived here without any water buffaloes and vent pipes popping up in our yards?
I have been told it is our responsibility to prove we have good water before drilling starts. I have purchased properties in Susquehanna County and no one suggested that I should have my water tested as a condition of sale. I have municipal water now, and it is inferior in quality to the spring water I had on my small farm. I did get my water tested when I lived there. Not the extensive cradle to grave tests that are now required to prove and prepare in case of a future lawsuit, but the regular tests for nitrates, colliform bacteria, heavy metals...the usual suspect things in a region like ours. My water was always good. I have not heard of widespread problems with water in our county before this time of drilling. In fact, the water was known for its abundance and purity; it was our greatest natural resource before gas drilling, and I assert, our most valuable, far more valuable than shale gas.
I find it disturbing, saddening and maddening that the people in the affected area in Dimock, who like mostly everyone else signed a lease without a thought of a need to defend against the industry, are now being blamed and accused for their bad fortune.
The water in Dimock was affected during the vertical drilling, before gas production had started, and yet I hear rumors that the Dimock residents are suing because their royalties have dropped off. How is it known who gets royalties and who does not? And how much they receive?
I hear rumors that the folks who are suing are all from “other” areas and were not born here. Yes, some were and some were not. Susquehanna County has had an influx from other regions for many years; this is now the test for truthfulness?
I hear rumors that the residents blew up their own well or poisoned their own wells, that they only want the money. Why does anyone sign a lease if not for money? You don’t expect to get rich by falsifying your water quality, do you? Are these accusations credible considering all the residents have been through and the fact that the gas companies are well financed to fight a lawsuit that may drag through the courts for years? If a gas company will not abide by the DEP findings, then who will regulate their activity? Who will protect us if gas companies disregard the PA DEP?
Why do the Dimock residents stand as the accused in the court of public opinion? Why are they expected to publicly explain themselves and defend themselves from suspicion when the gas companies have planned everything to escape liability?
I have countered these and other accusations many times by extending the offer to introduce the accusing person to an affected Dimock resident. Let them come and ask the questions and see the situation and make a decision about the truth of this matter. No accuser has ever taken me up on the offer.
I say to the folks who happen to be lucky enough so far to have experienced no problems with drilling, “Congratulations and I hope it never happens to you.” But if you do develop a problem, do not expect my support if you have cast unproven, reckless aspersions on your more unfortunate neighbors.
This is just what the gas industry loves, pitting us against each other. In the words of Mayor Calvin Tillman of Dish, TX, “United We Bargain; Divided We Beg.”