Hodgepodge: Sullivan County Leases, David Jones


IN SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY:    According to an article on the front page of the  March 9, 2010  Sullivan County Democrat, “On March 2, the Sullivan County Clerk’s Office filed four new gas leases in western Sullivan County…  Industry insiders have acknowledged that leasing slowed down while everyone awaits New York State’s finalization of new gas drilling rules.  Those rules are expected to go into effect later this year, and with Sullivan County sitting on what has been identified as a deep and potentially plentiful source of Marcellus Shale natural gas, industry interest has reappeared. ”

According to the article, of the four recently-signed leases,  two  are for mineral rights in the Town of Delaware,  one is in  the Town of Cochecton and one is in the Town of Fremont.

This  Thursday  (March 18, 2010)  the Sullivan County Legislature will meet in  full at  2:00 PM in the Government Center at 100 North Street in Monticello, NY.   In accord with  Breathing’s March 5, 2010 article about Sullivan County’s current efforts to update its  Hazards Mitigation Plan,   the  March 18th  meeting is open to the public and would be one venue in which to ask that the Legislature conduct public meetings  where  residents can hear from and ask questions of  Commissioners of  Public Health, Public Works, Planning and our  emergency responders.  The linked article  contains other suggestions that might be made to the Sullivan County Legislature.

The Delaware Town Board is meeting tomorrow night (Tuesday March 17th) at 7:00 PM  in Hortonville.

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On March 11, 2010,  The River Reporter published  a  letter to the editor from James Barth in which he alleged that David Jones, drilling and hydraulic fracturing proponent and  a member of  Northern Wayne Property Owners’ Association, “… either alone, or with partners, has purchased,  just since the natural gas boom talk started, the following acreage: In June of 2008, Jones Partners LP purchased 185 acres in Berlin Township for $1,000,000. In August of 2008, David C. Jones purchased 68.99 acres in Damascus Township for $438,500. In May of 2009, Ruth M. and David C. Jones purchased two plots of land in Preston Township that totaled 181.75 acres at a cost of $825,000.  Therefore, in the 12-month period between June of 2008 and June of 2009, Mr. Jones and partners seem to have paid $2,263,500 for 435.75 acres of land. During this period, Mr. Jones has been a vocal proponent of high volume, slick water hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling into the Marcellus Shale.”  (Mr. Barth cites to “tax assessment public records.”  By following the link and searching for “Jones” and “Jones Partners,”  you will find the records referenced by Mr. Barth.)

After reading Mr. Barth’s letter,  Breathing phoned  Mr. Jones and  asked  whether or not  he’d made  the 2008-2009 land purchases  and if so,  where he’d gotten  the necessary funding ($2,263,499).

Mr. Jones —  who has been unfailingly civil and generous with his time  in our conversations —  provided answers off-the-record but would not address his real estate purchases  publicly.

He did have opinions concerning news that the Wayne Highlands School District is considering leasing its gas rights to HessNewfield.  “It’s a great idea to lease school property.  The wells have to be far enough from  a school in case of an accident — because you never know — a minimum of 500 feet from any structure.  Our  local and school taxes are too high.”

At the  March 9, 2010  Wayne Highlands Board of Education  meeting, members of the public expressed concerns over siting gas wells on school property.  Some referenced a recent talk in Callicoon by Mayor Tillman in which he vehemently opposed drilling in school yards and also explained why children should not be exposed  to  air and water toxins which  might  result  from such drilling.

On the question of whether or not Pennsylvania should levy a severance  tax on gas extraction  (as has been done in all other extraction states  except New York and Pennsylvania)  Mr. Jones was unequivocal, “No.  We already tax royalties paid to lessors.  There are other ways to raise state revenues.  For one thing, we could lease public lands.”

A February 12, 2010  press release from  PA State Representative John Siptroth roundly criticized expanding gas leases on PA’s  State  lands.  In part,  Siptroth’s press release reads, “‘The local recreation industry would suffer great loss, as would hunting and fishing activities….  The few local jobs created by the gas industry are not worth losing hundreds more jobs that depend on Pike County’s pristine environment.’  Siptroth has co-sponsored House Bill 2235, which would put a five-year moratorium on leasing additional state forest land for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region.  The State Forest Natural Gas Lease Moratorium Act would give the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources sole discretion after the moratorium ends Dec. 31, 2015 to determine if state forests can withstand additional natural gas exploration.”

In his January 28, 2010 letter  to Governor Rendell,  Representative Siptroth writes, “Today more than one-third of the entire State Forest — over 700,000 acres — is either already under lease or acreage on which the mineral rights are not owned by the state.  At least 100 wells are slated to be drilled in the State Forest in the coming year, and it’s expected that we could have as many as 1,500 well pads with 5,000-6,000 wells drilled over the next decade on the State Forest land that was leased in just the last 18 months.”

David Jones also believes  it would be appropriate for the Town of Damascus to  change its zoning regulations to permit gas extraction in its Rural Residential District.  “It will benefit residents.  It’s what  the majority of people want.”

As to the ability of  Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to regulate and oversee gas extraction,  Mr. Jones stated,  “We need more  DEP  inspectors  but I believe that’s being taken care of.  There’s a new field office in Scranton.”

Mr. Jones is referencing announcements made in January and February by Pennsylvania’s Governor Rendell and DEP Secretary John  Hanger which stated, in part,   “DEP will hire 68 permitting and inspection staff, including 10 for the new Scranton office, in response to expectations that the industry will apply for 5,200 new Marcellus Shale drilling permits in 2010—nearly three times the number of permits issued during 2009.”

According to DEP’s own records, there are significant discrepancies between the numbers of  wells permitted during 2009 (6,240 vs.  2,543)  and the number drilled since 2005  (19, 165 vs. 18,796).  Also according to DEP’s records,  there were 9,848 well inspections during 2009 which revealed  3,361 violations and  resulted in 678 enforcements.  (Numbers are culled from DEP’s 2009 Year End Report and its  2009  Year End Workload Report.  Other numbers are available at the 2010 Permit and Rig Activity Report.   The reports can be found at:  http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deputate/minres/OILGAS/oilgas.htm

Mr. Jones was willing to be quoted also  about protecting  the Delaware River and its environs from  a proposed power line which would traverse three National Parks.  According to The National Park Service (NPS) : “We would like to inform you of a new planning effort at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River and the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.  PPL Electric Utilities Corporation and PSE&G, have proposed to upgrade and expand a power transmission line from Susquehanna (Berwick, Pennsylvania)  to Roseland, New Jersey (the S-R Line)…that currently crosses the three Parks….”   (The National Park Service’s Scoping Newsletter on  PPL-PSEG’s  proposed power line upgrade and expansion is  here.)

Although three plans —  Projects A, B and C — have been debated during the past few years,  the National Park Service gave the nod to Plan B in 2009. (All three of the planned routes are mapped here with brief descriptions of the areas proposed for transection.  Another good breakdown is offered by The Times Tribune with links to NPS  maps.)

However, NPS  has re-opened  discussions recently  on the  three possible routes and that  has Mr. Jones concerned.  “Plan A is the worst of the three,”  he said.  “The Park Service will have to buy land,  clear land and  put a tower on an island that floods.  It’s going to cost.  The environmental impacts will be greater than from Plan B.  We’ve got  an endangered cactus species where  Route A would go.  Not many people know that.   There’s a crystal-clear native trout stream. The line will go over one of my campgrounds.  Nobody will want to camp there.  The Delaware Water Gap is the gateway to  the Delaware River recreational area.  It’s  going to look great  with power lines draped across it,” he said sarcastically.  “New Jersey needs power but it doesn’t want the lines.  It’s a waste of energy to run them so far from where the population need is.”

Mr. Jones suggested  that,  “[The power lines] should go where the people are — where more people will be using the power.  But they’ll fight that.”

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*For more on Chesapeake, please read Breathing’s article,  “Chesapeake Energy and Penn State’s Robert Watson :  Who Are Those Guys?

16 thoughts on “Hodgepodge: Sullivan County Leases, David Jones

  1. Victoria Lesser

    I just sat down to catch up on my e mails with a really great sandwich. After reading this article I’m about to throw up. Where do these people come from? How do they sleep at night? How is it possible that a few greedy, ill informed (or just not willing to acknowledge the truth) people can promote this at the expense of things that MONEY CANNOT BUY/ OUR HEALTH, OUR WATER & OUR AIR…I’m so grateful for this info, we cannot stop the challenge that these greedy individuals put in front of us. We must make sure they ban the drilling, it has already been proven in places like Dimock Pa. Dish Texas and Colorado that hydraulic Fracking for Gas is not healthy for living beings, plant life, wildlife, water and air. Who is willing to trade all this for the almighty dollar???? Those that are pro drilling and are signing these leasesI have a question…What air will your children breath? Where will they get their drinking water from ? And to Mr. Jones.. Do you have any children playing in the school grounds you so generously offer to the Gas companies??? This is shameful, this is dreadful, this must stop…

  2. Ramona Jan

    Notice how Mr. Jones doesn’t like the idea of electric wires going over his campgrounds but he’s fine with the idea of it being in anyone else’s yard. I wonder how he would feel about a nice fat gas well on his campground? I betcha he’s okay with that well being on someone else
    s territory (like the public school) but not his land. I wonder where he got all that money.

  3. Tanyette Colon

    Bravo Liz! Great article…
    The beauty of this information and technology age we are living in is that the truth eventually reveals itself….

  4. Deemer

    I have been quite vocal about the Jones’ greed and lack of concern for the states of NY and PA, as well as their patrons, employees, and the Delaware River. The fact that the Jones’ love of money trumps common sense is mind blowing to me. Honestly, I’m baffled by this imbecile’s thinking.

    I’m working on ways of getting the word out to Sullivan County residents (where I own a home) to stop using Kittatinny Canoes and, instead, to support other co’s that don’t hold the same political views as Bob Jones and his ilk.

    I’m focusing on Sullivan County residents, but am also soliciting local businesses to support a ban by posting flyers explaining the situation and offering alternatives.

    Who’s with me on this?

  5. James Barth

    After submitting my letter to the editor of The River Reporter, I went through about a five day nightmare, back and forth, two re-writes sent to me by TRR, and finally, a second version (which was published), written by me. The worst part about this sequence was that verification of my assertions regarding the land purchases only involved two questions: the source of my information (which I supplied with my original submission), and the verification as to whether Dave Jones in the January 7, 2010 article in TRR was the David C. Jones named, or associated with, the four land purchases that I discovered as occuring between June, 2008 and June 2009.

    All it would have taken was a simple phone call by an editor at TRR to Mr. Jones, in order to ask him if he was the David C. Jones named. If Mr. Jones refused to comment, then, according to Anne Willard at TRR, there was a re-write they supplied me that they were willing to publish, that took into account this potential uncertainty (Mr. Jones, apparently, confirmed he was the same David C. Jones, and was a part of Jones Partners, LP).

    In place of this simple question being asked (without naming me as the source of the letter), Fritz Mayer, apparently (electronically?) sent my entire, original letter, which TRR never seemed to intend to publish in the first place, to Mr. Jones. Mr. Mayer also, apparently, named me as the source of the letter.

    While this back and forth process was going on between me and the TRR, prior to the publication of any version of my letter to the editor in TRR, an anonymous blogger, self titled “farmer56”, vehemently denounced me in a comment thread at the Wayne Independent, as a mean person, for attempting to undermine the credibility of my opponents. This “farmer56” stated that she had read my “unrevised” letter to TRR, that “attacked” Dave Jones. Therefore, it seemed clear, at that time, that not only had TRR supplied Jones with my original letter (which they didn’t seem to want to publish in that form), but that Jones circulated that, as yet, unpublished letter to his colleagues, permitting them to do whatever they saw fit. I was shocked by, what I consider to be, this utterly inappropriate behavior by the editorial board of The River Reporter. Why would I, or anyone, want to go through that process, in relation to a letter to the editor?

    If this is the standard operating procedure of the editorial board of The River Reporter, the policy makers had better change it. Otherwise, residents will lose trust and confidence in the paper’s professionalism and mission.

  6. Ramona Jan

    In my opinion the letter James B. posted here deserves to appear in the New York Times. What the TRR did is not only shocking, it’s disgraceful journalism and that in itself is newsworthy. Who can we trust, when we can’t trust the TRR. They owe you an apology.

  7. lizbucar Post author

    Dear Deemer, I’ve linked in my latest post to your comment (although, for some reason, it pops back to Mr. Barth’s) because I think it’s always important for local people to support local businesses who, in turn, support the health and wealth of the local economy!

  8. callicoonist

    It think it makes sense to publish and publicize Mr. Jones’ businesses. If he runs a campground (?!) etc. then that isn’t clear to me from what I’ve read. He is all about his wallet, it appears, so maybe his dealings should be made public so customers can understand who they may end up supporting. He can’t play an ‘environmentalist’ on one hand, and a gung-ho supporter of fracking on the other, and try to make money at both.

  9. lizbucar Post author

    Hi, Callicoonist. Mr. Jones does have a campground and a canoe livery. As he states in the “Hodgepodge” article, “The line will go over one of my campgrounds. Nobody will want to camp there.”

    A few of us were talking yesterday after the Sull. Co. Legislature meeting about developing a personal ethic that informs our decision-making. And further, the importance of a rational process by which we make decisions. Of course, we were all sure WE’RE not the ones who function on the basis of self-delusion, self-aggrandizement or self-indulgence. LOL.

  10. Rachel

    Who every made the statement(Jones’ greed and lack of concern for the states of NY and PA, as well as their patrons, employees, and the Delaware River), has no clue about the Jones family. They have always protected the enviroment. They spends thousands of dollars every year to clean the river. You might said,that’s because the customers of Kittatinny Canoes dump garbage in the river but you would be wrong. The tons of garbage found during the River Clean-up every years consist of washing machines toilet bowls, gas grills. etc. I don’t think their customers bring their house hold garbage up with them. One might only assume that it’s the locals dumping in the River that they clam to want to protect. If it wasn’t for the Jones’the Delaware river would be nothing more than one dirty smelly garbage dump.As for the residents, a large amount of them depend on Kittatinny for employment. The local businesses depend on the customers that come to Kittatinny during the season inorder to stay in business them-selfs.

    PS. If you are against Kittatinny becouse you are against drilling, then you might want to add Rick Landers of Landers River Trips to that list. He also is for the drill and is trying very hard to sign a lease. He just keeps it quite so know one is aware he is for gas drilling.
    I’m focusing on Sullivan County residents, but am

  11. Lisa

    Mr. Jones got all his money the old fashion way, by good honest hard work. Has everyone forgotten the AMERICAN DREAM! Good for you Mr Jones, you achieved the AMERICAN DREAM.

  12. JB

    On your follow up report on R/Reorter publishing your letter, this shows the games played in media across Sullivan County. Whether you agree or not with the position here, its easy to agree on the behind the scenes tactics press are engaged in. I had hoped River Reporter was above that fray – or the exception to the rule. You sadly confirm that too was an illusion. So the problem is, simply, when we have any big issue such as drilling, gaming, development etc, then we have to be careful what we read and believe. Who can you trust…”who ya going to call?” I’d like to think there are still some honest journalists[and editors] here but alas am disappointed.

    The credibility of press and media in Sullivan needs to get out of the toilet…or be flushed out of sight. I thought the idea of press was to buck the powers that be, or at least try to keep them honest. (“its the Arrogance, stupid” – now in media too)

  13. lizbucar Post author

    Dear JB, The primary reason I started Breathing Is Political is because I wanted to provide a forum where sources could be checked instantly and any assumptions I made could be challenged immediately. I obviously have a bias and no matter how carefully I try to control it during factual presentations, it will leak into how I interpret facts and how those facts are arranged. However, because my sources are immediately accessible, readers can call me to task and provide variant interpretations.

    I hope it helps. More than anything in these times, people do need, if not to trust, certainly a way to verify.

  14. Ramona Jan

    Weather you are for or against gas drilling the bottom line is risk. One can say it’s money but the risk is the same no matter the amount of money. So the question becomes, “what is that risk worth?” And the more money someone is offered the more they are going to want to take that risk, but the stakes are high. I’d like to show anyone interested the kind of equipment necessary to purify one’s water and air. I’ve owned and used this equipment since 1988. It’s expensive, time-consuming stuff. But I needed it where I previously lived. I, so far, have not needed it here. In fact, the laboratory where I have been getting water tests since 1988 comments on how great the water is in this area. And this particularly laboratory (Ozark Water Laboratory) analyzes water from around the world. However, in speaking with Ozark there is currently no home water or air purification system for the chemicals used in fracking, and this is what worries me. But never mind the water and air, let’s take a common sense look at the canoe business, public parks and schools: No one will want to put their child in a school upon which exist gas wells nor would they want to picnic in a park or take a canoe down a river corridor that smells. As for the American Dream: Does that dream mean that one person has to step over others? From what I’ve seen so far, the answer is “yes”.

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