Wayne County Landowner
Member of Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance
The Upper Delaware River Basin Citizens (UDRBC) met with Pennsylvania DEP officials Wednesday to talk about its future and what a DRBC fracking ban would do.
Six members of Upper Delaware River Basin Citizens (UDRBC) made a three hour trip to Harrisburg on March 28 to meet with Pennsylvania DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. The same group had previously spoken with the Secretary following a “Cabinet in Your Community” meeting at Wallenpaupack High School as time was not allotted for their questions to be addressed during the meeting.
Prior to the meeting in Harrisburg, the group was asked to submit the questions they had for the Secretary in advance, which they did. After their questions were reviewed, the UDRBC was told, “The questions you provided are not appropriate for the meeting discussion, as those issues are subject of litigation,” and, “Absent the Secretary responding to the questions you have provided in the scheduled meeting, please let us know if you still would like to meet with him.”
Well, yes, we did. Since the public comment time for the DRBC was still open until March 30 and there had been no vote yet to ban natural gas extraction in the DRB, we did not agree with the position the DEP took regarding our questions. However, we respected their decision and put our concerns in statement rather than question form.
Joined by Representative Jon Fritz and Michael Cortez from Senator Lisa Baker’s office, the members of UDRBC took turns commenting on the issues they brought to the meeting. The main points made in the meeting were:
- The DRBC is not really concerned about the quality of drinking water downstream because they’ve turn a blind eye to the Barnes Landfill in Barryville, NY.
- The DRBC public comment period is a sham because the Governors have already stated how they are going to vote.
- Only 218 people, both pro and con, spoke at the DRBC public comment venues. This certainly does not indicate any great concern by the supposed 15 million people in New York and downriver about the safety of their drinking water. UDRBC had 1,300 signatures on their counter proposal to the ban.
- Banning natural gas extraction in Wayne County is the canary in the coal mine. The DRBC is a rogue agency that will continue to creep into other areas like timber and farming.
- Banning natural gas extraction in Wayne County because of special protection waters is a ruse because there are similar waters in the Susquehanna Basin and the gas companies are able to meet the highest such standards. Special protection waters designation, moreover, simply addresses anti-degradation requirements for treatment and discharge of wastes and does not authorize a ban or any other land use controls.
- The water quality has been tested in the Susquehanna River with “no discernible impact.” In fact, the water quality has improved.
Facts and documentation were provided for all of the above, but my personal goal was to show DEP the face of Wayne County. The face of Wayne County does not look like Debra Winger, Susan Sarandon, Yoko Ono, Noah Hutton, Mark Ruffalo, or Sean Lennon. The face of Wayne County is the lifelong residents who have lived and worked on land that has been in families for generations.
The face of Wayne County is the people who love their land, have worked the land with their hands, and have been good stewards of that land, as evidenced by the exceptional quality of the water. The face of Wayne County is the people who are emotionally invested in the land and it is their love for the land that causes them to see the economic opportunity that harvesting natural gas may bring to the area as a means to not only save the land, but preserve a way of life as well.
To me, Wayne County means community. I gave praise to the Honesdale High School Future Farmers, also in attendance at the Cabinet in Your Community event in Wallenpaupack, who raised $56,000 for a local farm family who lost their barn and herd last winter in a fire. Those students are the face of Wayne County and I hoped to accurately and adequately represent them.
Damascus Township Supervisor Steve Adams added to the human interest aspect of the discussion by sharing the heritage of his own family going back to the Virginia settlement and the Mayflower and noting no group was a bigger or longer stakeholder on this issue than the existing residents of Wayne County. No, the face of Wayne County is not paid protesters or move in movie stars.
Representative Fritz closed the meeting with some recent articles where Governor Wolf went on record praising the economic benefit of shale in western Pennsylvania along with West Virginia and Ohio. Fritz stated that allowing any activity to take place in all counties in the state while singling out Wayne County for refusal is unjust and unheard of with any other type of activity.
Representative Fritz also made it clear that if a ban is enacted in part of the state, the attention of opponents will move to the rest of the state. Those opposed to natural gas extraction will want to extend the ban to the Susquehanna River Basin next. He made it clear the position of the Governor is a political one and one that puts DEP in a very difficult position that opens up a huge Pandora’s box both legally and politically.
Although the room was stacked with attorneys, including DEP’s chief counsel, and all lips were basically sealed, it was a cordial meeting, and I sensed sincerity from Secretary McDonnell and thanked him for it. We entered the meeting knowing the folks in attendance had all been directly or indirectly appointed by the Governor and, right or wrong, were bound to do his bidding. Because they brought their “big guns” to the meeting, we came away feeling they also knew we were not only sincere, but well informed and ready to fight for our rights. We left them with an invitation to join us in a river rubbish roundup we have planned for this summer.