Sportsman Danchak Comments at Breathing Is Political


When public figures participate in a public debate  about an issue  whose outcome will impact future generations living in the Delaware River Basin, it’s imperative that the  debate be a reasoned dialogue, not an exchange of demagogic slogans.

Mr. Jack  Danchak is  a well-known local columnist, sportsman and businessman respected for his  acumen.  In a recent opinion piece (“Can We Afford to Ignore Natural Gas?”)  he stated,  “We traveled to Dimick, Pa, [sic] recently, where there are several working natural gas wells and after talking to people from this town, we did not hear a single negative factor.”

Breathing responded to a similar statement by  William Eschenberg (The Town of Delaware’s Highway Superintendent):

In contrast,   after a trip to  Dimock during  this past winter,  Breathing reported, “Throughout  Dimock, signs of poverty are  clearly visible and  the state of  dirt roads traveled by heavy drilling trucks was impossible to ignore.  Ruts were so deep and continuous that   humps as high as 8-9″ threatened  the under carriages of low-riding vehicles and, in part,  may have prompted  the Mayor’s question in Callicoon… about the state of our  local roads.”  (Mayor Tillman’s description of the gas industry’s  economic and environmental impacts on his town of DISH, Texas is available here.)

The  Breathing article  describing what we saw in Dimock also included an interview with Patricia Farnelli who is a Dimock lessor and plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against gas extractor, Cabot Oil. In part,  Ms. Farnelli  told Breathing that,  when her children “drank water from the family well,  they’d get a terrible stomach ache and throw up.  They’d just double over….they’d drink water at the school, and they’d be fine but  whenever they drank our home  water,  they’d get sick.”

Ms. Farnelli is a real person with very real concerns  about the health of her children, her water and her future in Dimock, PA.  In fact, her concerns  have been well-enough substantiated that a Federal Court has agreed to hear  her allegations and those of several of her fellow lessors.  But, if  Mr. Danchak doubts Ms. Farnelli,  he can view  these videos from Dimock, PA.  Additionally, PBS’ interview of  Josh Fox has already aired and the  filmmaker’s  documentary,  “Gasland,”  will be  on HBO soon.  All are  available for viewing by anyone interested in more than the industry’s talking points.

At the most recent Town of Delaware Board meeting, Mr. Noel Van Swol stated, “Hydraulic fracturing  has  been around since the 1940s,”  and quoted  Mr. Danchak  as having said,  “…there have been more than one million  wells fracked in the US and not one  serious instance of  trouble.”  (Mr. Van Swol’s  historic facts   about the current gas extraction technology have   been disputed by  a gas industry publication,  The Permian Basin Petroleum Association Magazine,    “…when Devon Energy Corporation acquired Mitchell Energy in 2002, it drilled down vertically to the Barnett Shale, turned the drill bit, and continued drilling horizontally…. The combination of the water fracs and horizontal drilling revolutionized the unconventional shale gas play.”)

So, although Mr. Van Swol’s correct  that “fracking” has been around since the 1940′s, the  new slick water, high pressure,  horizontal hydraulic fracturing  technology proposed for New York (and used in Dimock)  was pioneered,  according to the gas extraction industry,  a bare eight years ago.  Reports of  accidents and contamination in Dimock, Pa.,   DISH, Tx.,  Pavillion, Wy.,  and other areas,  contradict assertions  by Mr. Danchak and Mr. Van Swol  that  “not one serious instance of trouble”  has been caused by the  technology.

Within the last day or so,  Mr. Danchak wrote  at Breathing (#7   following Breathing’s re-cap of the 4/21/10  Town of Delaware Board meeting), “Sullivan County Government owns almost 2,000 acres of land, our county stands to get millions from responsible gas drilling and it couldn’t come at a more appropriate time! Remember this county land is owned by us taxpayers, the people of Sullivan County would benefit not just individual landowners!  What are we waiting for, “Drill Baby Drill”!

Certainly one of  Breathing’s concerns has been  assertions by  pro-drilling interests that gas drilling  will benefit our local economies and especially, our farmers.

What has not been provided by Mr. Danchak and other drilling advocates  is a  review of the potential costs associated with gas extraction and slick water, high-pressure,  horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

Neither have pro-drilling advocates  responded seriously  to claims made by Mayor Calvin Tilman concerning the deleterious economic and health  impacts of the extraction industry on the Mayor’s  small Texas community of DISH.

Nor have they responded  to

What Mr. Van Swol and others have done is cite to protections in their negotiated leases without ever making those leases public.  Unfortunately,  Mr. Van Swol and others have not explained how their alleged lease protections will protect unleased properties or  dairy cattle   poisoned by well pad leakage.   Neither have lessors and their organizations explained how their secret agreements will defend  community  ground water, soil,  aquifers or the deer so many families depend on for food.  (Breathing’s requests to review the leases have been ignored.)

As a successful businessperson, Mr. Danchak knows that  touting the benefits of an investment without a discussion of its potential costs is called a sales pitch.

Serious analyses  of an investment or endeavor  require thorough,  unblinking investigations of the downside of those investments or endeavors.  The analysis cannot rely on   publicity provided by  the salesperson or gas company  trying to sell you a product.

And certainly, our communities deserve more than demagogic slogans such as,  “Drill, Baby, Drill!”

That said, I hope Mr. Danchak will address the issues raised at Breathing with a serious  and well-documented editorial which I will publish in its entirety.

I also hope he will (if he hasn’t yet)  join Breathing and many of  its readers in supporting US Senate bill 1645, the Federal Milk Marketing Improvement Act of 2009. The bill has been endorsed by the Progressive Agriculture Organization, Pennsylvania Farmers Union, The National Family Farm Coalition, National Farmers Organization and their summary of  it can be read here.

Breathing wants to hear from farmers and  farm advocates about  the legislation. Please email   Ljbucar@earthlink.net  or  leave comments below this editorial.

If there are better bills or better suggestions for overcoming  the devastating economic realities confronting our local farmers,  we want to knowWe also want to hear how we can help ensure that   fair, decent and livable price supports are obtained by our local dairy producers.

18 thoughts on “Sportsman Danchak Comments at Breathing Is Political

  1. Callicoonist

    As a small property owner who moved to and is invested in this area precisely because of its environment and small community character, I anxiously await point by point answers to these common sense questions from drilling advocates. Why is the value of my property… the use of it, enjoyment of it, not to mention the monetary value of it, less important than the private property of others who have the ‘opportunity’ of allowing corporations to risk the very water, air and land we all live on for some financial benefit? (And the risks are proven and real, see the links above.) It’s been said before, but seems true… nobody would let a landowner simply open a chemical landfill or factory or junkyard on their property, requiring millions of gallons of water to pollute and hundreds of heavy truck and equipment runs (a day!) on local roads, just because the property owner might make some money from it. What really is different with fracking?

  2. lizbucar Post author

    Dear Callicoonist, Your question goes directly to the heart of the “inverse condemnation/takings” issue so ardently waved by pro-drilling advocates. I heard a figure the other day — I believe in Anthony Ingraffea’s video — that 95% of NY landholders will not be lessors; that 5% of taxpaying landholders will benefit from drilling.

    95% of us and the quality of our water, land, vistas, wildlife, etc. being held hostage by 5% of landowners who would risk it all.

    I wonder what Senator Bonacic and our local officials are thinking. Do they truly believe those of us who oppose drilling don’t vote?

    Also, if anyone has seen the comparative percentages and can provide a link or correct me, please do.

  3. Jim Barth

    It is very important to emphasize, that the process to which all safety comparisons should be made is, “Horizontal or vertical drilling, using high volume, slick water, multi-stage, hydraulic fracturing into tight shale” (primarily, but other formations may be targeted as well).

    The NYS draft sGEIS paints a timeline: In 1996, slick water hydraulic fracturing was first introduced, and in 2002, multi-stage fracturing was first introduced. A vice-president of Chief Oil & Gas informed me personally, that she was present when the first horizontal well was drilled in the Barnett shale, in 2000.

    As the Breathing article notes, any comparison prior to 2002 is false.

    Additionally, since the federal exemptions were granted on July 29, 2005, creating “Halliburton loopholes” the size of Texas, such drilling has only ramped up to a level where the density compares to what we will be facing over the Marcellus. There is no science to back industry’s claims of safety, and whatever history there is, after 2005, shows an extreme pattern of accident and contamination. Industy groups portray this history as anecdotal, but it is a first person, experiential narrative that keeps repeating itself across the country in the gas extraction areas.

    Today, Senator Bob Casey came out to say that he is calling upon the EPA to study the situation in Dimock, PA. He said that PADEP, and other state regulatory bodies, do not have the capacity to regulate and prevent such devastation. Frankly, I don’t think anyone can regulate this industry, as it is currently practiced. It is not just that accidents happen, it is that contamination happens. It is inherent to this process.

  4. Stan Scobie

    The industry apologists continue to define hydrofacking (and especially the problems caused) in an extrordinarily narrow and self-serving manner.

    The definitional issue here is well understood by scientists and propogandists. Unfortunately, sometimes those who oppose unsafe drilling fall under the sway of the industry P.R. machine.

    Reasonably and properly understood, hydrofracking starts when the service company frack trucks drive onto the well pad, and ends when they are all done and are driving off. Everything in between can be reasonably attributed to fracking.

    Any narrowere definition can be soundly criticized as engaging in goofy segmentation.

    Stan Scobie, Binghamton, NY.

  5. lizbucar Post author

    Stan, Yes, yes, yes. Does NOT matter if a well is contaminated by a well casing…the well is contaminated by a faulty well casing during the fracking process OR as a result of the fracking process OR incidental to the fracking process OR in conjunction with the fracking process or….

    AND if the aquifers, ground water, well water, soil, flora and fauna are contaminated due to migration of chemicals or other factor AFTER the trucks have driven off, that contamination is due to the act of fracking a previously stable geologic system.

  6. Joe

    Aptly put.

    Maybe Mr. Van Swol and Mr. Danchak will read Mr. Scobie’s remarks.

    If they have any doubts, they should call Senator Robert Casey’s office (D – PA) asking him why the senator has requested the Federal EPA to investigate Cabot Oil and Gas at Dimock, Pennsylvania.

    …joe

  7. JB

    “In CONTRAST*, after a trip to Dimock during this past winter, Breathing reported, “Throughout Dimock, signs of poverty are clearly visible and the state of dirt roads traveled by heavy drilling trucks was impossible to ignore. Ruts were so deep and continuous that humps as high as 8-9″ threatened the under carriages of low-riding vehicles and, in part, may have prompted the Mayor’s question in Callicoon… about the state of our local roads.” (Mayor Tillman’s description of the gas industry’s economic and environmental impacts on his town of DISH, Texas is available here.)”

    I could encounter all that by driving, or trying to, down Broadway in Monticello. Not related to drilling. Surely the signs of poverty aren’t attributable to gas drilling. Or are you asserting a connection with drilling? Those “signs” don’t appear over night…nor did they here. So our local roads are in bad shape already and, considering the county and local(and state) budgets, will not drastically improve anytime soon. Oh phooey, we can’t blame it on drilling companies.

  8. lizbucar Post author

    The road in question in Dimock was the one most traveled by Cabot trucks, as a matter of fact. And I have never seen anything comparable to it in Sullivan County during February…certainly not on a road considered usable for daily traffic.

  9. lizbucar Post author

    Dear Readers,
    The following comment was posted after a different Breathing article but because it’s written by a Dimock resident whom I’ve quoted a number of times in various articles, I thought it would help shed more light on this discussion thread:

    “Hey Liz, wanted to tell you, Calvin Tillman is coming to Dimock Thursday, then to Clarks Summit just south of here. Also a state senator from NY that has been paying close attention to Dimock. Just so you know, the area Cabot is prohibited from drilling is only a small area, not even all of Dimock. We can still hear gas well activity from our house, there is a derrick or rig up right outside right now, putting piping in, ostensibly for plugging the well next to my house. They will be right back to drilling at first opportunity. Victoria and her neighbors have soapy, sharp smelling water all of a sudden, and there are strange fluids coming out of the ground at some of the Teel well sites. There are still gas industry noises coming from all directions, all night. Often loud enough to be heard indoors. So they aren’t stopped in PA yet. They are going full tilt right outside the forbidden zone, and in Springville, Silver Lake, etc.”

    Comment by Pat Farnelli — April 27, 2010 @ 10:29 pm

  10. un-naturalgas.org

    Mr Danchak is quoted as saying: “Our county stands to get millions from responsible gas drilling and it couldn’t come at a more appropriate time! Remember this county land is owned by us taxpayers, the people of Sullivan County would benefit not just individual landowners!”

    Let’s examine that. No, the county stands to get millions from any kind of gas drilling, responsible or not, and since as far as many of us can tell there is no such thing as low-impact gas drilling, no matter how “responsible,” the people of Sullivan County will be paying for the cleanup long after the short-term tax benefits are gone. And they will start paying now in loss of property values and in many other right-here, right-now, right-in-your-wallet costs, as has already been eloquently expressed here and demonstrated in Bradford County, PA, where, due to the influx of out-of-state gas workers, rents have tripled and homelessness is up. In any case, while certainly local governments could use an economic stimulus now, it makes no sense to take that which is not free money but really amounts to a loan, now, in hopes of better times in which to pay it back – given long-term economic trends, it is doubtful that there will be any good time for the drilling bill to come due.

    In business, we understand that it’s not what you gross, it’s what you net. If the county winds up paying out, in various damages, adjustments, and remediation costs over time, more than it takes in, well, that hardly seems like a benefit to the people of Sullivan County. The landowners, of course, are likely to have taken their lucre and high-tailed it outta here to find the tranquility they sold away here. The money they extracted at the expense of their neighbors, they will be spending wherever it is that they moved, far away from Sullivan County.

    In the West, local governments have found themselves in a fiscal predicament even as the drilling starts, because, for example, they’ve had to borrow money to upgrade bridges to allow drilling equipment to pass over them. There’s a very significant lag time between when drilling starts and tax revenues from drilling start to come in. During that time – about 2 years, if memory serves – counties and taxpayers are paying interest on the loans.

    Mr Danchak should print up the reports at HeadwatersEconomics.org before he decides that the good outweighs the bad.

  11. Jack Danchak

    Liz,
    Thank you for the invitation to write an editorial addressing the gas drilling issues raised at Breathing. I am scheduled to met next week with Cabot’s Oil & Gas Director of External Affairs, George Stark. I will get answers to the problems that supposedly have occurred at Dimock, Pa.
    A recent interesting press release on Cabot’s website states that methane was present in some water wells in Pa. long before Cabot began operations in Susquehanna County. Also stated the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Agency’s website has contained information about migration of natural gas into water supplies for many years.
    Liz, I will get back to you right after my meeting with Cabot Oil & Gas.

    Jack Danchak

  12. lizbucar Post author

    Jack, Thank you for taking my invitation seriously and in response, I received this additional invite from Julie and Craig Sautner, Dimock residents:

    “You may give them [Mr. Danchak] our Name and Number..plz! 570-278-5053, for answers to the problems that DID occur at Dimock, Pa. Thank you Julie and Craig Sautner.”

    This document(63.134.196.109/documents/10mar25_RisksofFracturingtoCommunities.doc ) and this link
    ( http://www.propublica.org/feature/pa-residents-sue-gas-driller-for-contamination-health-concerns-1120 )may may be useful as you formulate your questions for Cabot’s representatives.

    Ms. Sautner is a named-plaintiff in the suit against Cabot.

  13. Callicoonist

    Some thoughts/Questions for Jack Danchak for Cabot:

    1) If Cabot is claiming “that methane was present in some water wells in Pa. long before Cabot began operations in Susquehanna County” then are they claiming the problems under investigation had nothing to do with their drilling? That it is just coincidence?

    2) If Cabot’s drilling DID cause or INCREASE the problems, and “methane was present in some water wells” why didn’t Cabot know how to PREDICT or CONTROL the problem in advance? Isn’t that a fundamental part of their responsibility? (Isn’t that what the drillers CLAIM they can do?)

    3)If Cabot could not predict or control the problems in Dimock, what does that mean for every other well in every other area? How do we know the same problems will not happen in MANY other places? How are we to trust Gas company expertise if it leads to mass failure even in a closely watched ‘test’ case?

    4) Is a problem ‘solved’ if ground water is rendered undrinkable/unusable and a corporation has to truck in water to replace natural well water? Or is this a problem that can never really be ‘rectified’… the water will forever be polluted from now on?

  14. Don

    I am happy to see so many like thinking people here together. I have enjoyed Callicoon and the river since I was a young boy of 8. I saved many years to buy a small property so that my 4 children can enjoy nature and the river. It took me 25 years to save that money and now if this drilling occurrs, all that the area gave, pristine water, clean air, sounds of nature, a safe clean river to swim and boat on are being taken from my family by people that feel it is their right to sell minerals in a totally unsafe (for us and the environment) way. They have every right to sell what ever they want, but it cannot and should not impact others. Gas drilling impacts others and in my mind that gives them no right. I thank them for taking that away from my children and theirs.

    Anyway, I am writing to say that Pocono Environmental Laboratories, LLC. will be in the area of Damascus on May 17, 2010. A group can split the cost of the technician if done at the same time. This way Cabot cannot tell you methane was there already. I hope it doesn’t come to that however.

  15. Jack Danchak

    Liz,
    I’m sorry I took so long to get back to you about my meeting with George Stark, representative of Cabot Gas & Oil Co. Mr. Stark could not talk about the problems in Dimock, Pa because of pending lawsuits. But stated Cabot was very busy setting up potential well sites and signing gas leases in the state of Pennsylvania.
    He answered many of my questions regarding the process of drilling and fracking for natural gas and I came away from this meeting more convinced than ever that natural gas drilling can be done responsibly and safely.
    As President of our Sportsmen’s Federation of Sullivan County, NY which consist of 107 hunting and fishing clubs and represents 12,000 sportsmen who are environmentalists and are concerned about gas drilling on their properties, I am convinced that gas drilling will be a big plus for them. Some of our member clubs own large parcels of land consisting of thousands of acres and many clubs with smaller parcels will also be getting a piece of the pie. They will all benefit financially from gas drilling monies.
    I personally own a 100-acre lake in Sullivan County and if it becomes polluted from gas drilling, I would have more to lose than most people who only have land. I am willing to to take a chance on what they tell me, they can with modern technology drill responsibly and safely.
    When I asked how much 1,000,000 gallons of water would deplete my 100-acre lake, the experts told me, about 2-inches of surface water from a 100-acre lake would be taken and the next substantial rainfall would replenish it. This 1,000,000 gallons of water could then be recycled to another potential well-site, thus eliminating the use of excessive water that otherwise would be used and wasted.
    Some Sullivan County hunting and fishing clubs are already planning what they will do with their gas monies: new club houses will be built, trap and skeet shooting ranges will be installed, most will create food plots for wildlife (which requires machinery and money for maintenance), stocking fish in their streams and ponds and stocking pheasants on their private properties.
    I look at this potential of natural gas drilling in our county as a benefit to all who live here whether you own property or not. It will stimulate our economy and create jobs that were not here before. Our county desperately needs financial help and gas drilling will give us that boost we need. Our county (Sullivan County Government) owns almost 2,000 acres of land that would bring millions of dollars from gas drilling and who knows, maybe our taxes may be reduced.
    We are assured our (roads, bridges and landscape) will be the same after drilling. Contracts must be signed to this effect before a drilling permit is issued.
    If you believe in God, they say he created this world and everything has a purpose. I’m sure he didn’t put natural gas in Sullivan County, NY to just be stored indefinitely.
    Let’s take advantage of this miracle God has created in our county, let’s do it responsibly and safely and let’s do it now. Sarah Palin’s famous words were never so true and meaningful, “What are we waiting for, drill baby drill”.

    Jack Danchak

  16. Callicoonist

    Mr. Danchak… I suppose I should thank you for taking the time to write in to this excellent blog and voice your opinions. But I can only express my disappointment after reading your reply. To think that someone in your position can block out so many facts, minimize so many issues, risk so much that so many people depend on…

    So you give your blessing to gas drilling.

    Quick question: Have you actually been to Dimock or other areas where drilling is taking place? Spoken with any one impacted negatively to check out their claims? Any personal research at all or is your recommendation as President representing thousands of ‘environmentalists’ all based on a chat with one man at Cabot?

    As President of the Sportsmen’s Federation of Sullivan County do you consider your job well done just to take the gas company’s word for it (which they can’t fully discuss because of pending law suits!)?

    Here’s a hint: LOOK INTO SOME OF THE LAWSUITS YOURSELF.

    What good is a nice new hunting club house if the land has been broken up by thousands of five acre industrial sites, if hundreds of trucks a day per well are plowing up the rural roads, if millions of gallons of water are being pumped and shipped and recycled and stored, etc. etc.? What good is revenue to Sullivan County if most of it must be spent to mitigate the problems caused by the drilling in the first place? Are you serious?

    Also, not to be crass, but since you bring it up yourself… how much do you stand to make personally from leasing your land? Isn’t that a bit of a conflict? Nice to hear you are “willing to to take a chance on what they tell me… (that)… they can with modern technology drill responsibly and safely.”

    Seems to me, if you are wrong about the wonders of gas drilling, everyone suffers, and suffer very big. Lots of evidence out there (if you look into it) suggests you may very well be WRONG.

    In the end, you must face the fact that you are willing to risk everything about this beautiful, unique rural area for financial gain. Yet where is the solid evidence that the financial benefits of gas drilling clearly compensate a community (let alone socially or environmentally) for the widespread damage?

    Please discuss. Please think about. Please?

    And as to your faith in Halliburton style technology… You might want to pay a bit of attention to a little incident going on in the Gulf of Mexico these days. Something about modern technology not doing what it is supposed to. Corporate assurances not being accurate. Safety procedures being routinely not followed. Costs being cut. Failed regulations. An environmental catastrophe that is still in the making, still out of control.

    “Drill Baby Drill” is a sick joke to any sincere person paying attention and contemplating the situation in the Gulf but, amazingly, even on May 30, 2010 you still feel good about quoting Sarah Palin?

    You, Mr. Danchak, are not an environmentalist. An environmentalist is someone who cares about the natural environment and cares about preserving it for current and future generations. You are an energy industry advocate, a gambler, I’m not sure what else but you do not seem to be someone taking the full costs and risks of gas drilling in the marcellus shale seriously.

    I cannot quote scripture and unlike some would never claim to know what God wants ‘us’ to do but I think P.T. Barnum had an appropriate phrase that comes to mind… something about suckers being born every minute…

    God help us all.

  17. Don

    I am asking everyone to put aside their greed and please look at the facts.
    Fracing absolutely mixes everything together…..thats what it is designed to do. Unfortunately you mix chemicals, with gasses, into my water. One cannot frac only under their own land. That is why it is impossible to claim mineral rights under your land unless you go with a shovel and dig them out. Everything is intermingled in the ground water and shale. Fracing cracks the shale and allows the gasses to pass through the shale not only under the well but well beyond. You do not have the right to mess with everyones minerals and water. This does not even mention what happens to the produced (polluted water)water that is dumped into streams and fields for later generations to deal with.

    Drilling near the river is even more of a no brainer, unless you are so greedy as to ignore all the dangers. What about the fact that each evening as the air cools and presses down on the valley, all the naturally occuring gasses that come out of the process and the condensers will be pressed down on your homes and barns.

    I am so ashamed at the greed of the town supervisors for having met with a private corporation to hammer out agreements against the wishes of many in the township. Find a way to help the farmers produce and market quality products……..thats what farms are for. Destroying the most important quality of this area……its pristine natural resources is a sin.

  18. Don

    I believe that Mr. Danchak will benefit personally from this fracing. How many acres near your lake are leased? Once someone is recieving many thousands of dollars from the gas industry I beleive they cannot speak without prejudice. Money should not be the only factor here sir. We all need cash, especially in this economy, but lets not make that the only consideration sir. There is too much at stake to make a new club house more important than the air others breath and the water they drink……the roads destroyed and the dust of those roads put into our air to breath. We have air inversions here similar to Denver that caused thousands to be sick……….can’t wait to have those volatile gasses that are vented pressed down each evening as the valley cools.

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