Journalism in the Public Interest

Do ‘Environmental Extremists’ Pose Criminal Threat to Gas Drilling?

A state bulletin warns that environmental “extremists” may target public hearings and other events for criminal activity to protest natural gas drilling in rural parts of Pennsylvania, but drilling opponents say the threat is exaggerated. 


The Patterson-UTI Drilling Company LLC horizontal drilling rig in Chartiers Township, Pa., on April 9, 2010. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

As debate over natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale reaches a fever pitch, state and federal authorities are warning Pennsylvania law enforcement that "environmental extremists" pose an increasing threat to security and to the energy sector.

A confidential intelligence bulletin sent from the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security to law enforcement professionals in late August says drilling opponents have been targeting the energy industry with increasing frequency and that the severity of crimes has increased.

It warns of "the use of tactics to try to intimidate companies into making policy decisions deemed appropriate by extremists," and states that the FBI -- the source of some of the language in the Pennsylvania bulletin -- has "medium confidence" in the assessment. A spokesman for the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The advisory, a copy of which was obtained by ProPublica, doesn't cite the specific incidents causing concern. It is also unclear from accounts from state law enforcement officials whether the incidents in Pennsylvania posed a substantial threat, or what effect the advisory might have on public gathering and the debate over drilling in the state.

Pennsylvania State Police said there have been only a few isolated crimes involving drilling facilities.

"We haven't had any incidents of any significance to date where we have identified a problem, or any environmental extremists," said Joseph Elias, a captain with the Pennsylvania State Police Domestic Security Division, which was not involved in issuing the bulletin.

An aide to Gov. Ed Rendell -- speaking on behalf of the state's Homeland Security Office -- said the advisory was based on five recent vandalism incidents at drilling facilities, including two in which a shotgun was reportedly fired at a gas facility.

"All this security bulletin does is raise awareness of local officials. It doesn't accuse anyone of local activity," said the spokesman, Gary Tuma. "Where the professionals detect a pattern that may pose a threat to public safety, they have a responsibility to alert local law enforcement authorities and potential victims."

Anti-drilling activists in the state say that public hearings and other events have been peaceful and that they see no evidence of violent opposition. Given the lack of evidence about "extremist" crimes, they say, the bulletin casts drilling opponents as criminals and threatens to stifle open debate.

"It may very well be designed to chill peoples' very legitimate participation in public decision making," said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, a national group pressing for stronger environmental protections. "If people who have concerns fear that they are going to be treated as a security threat they may very well be afraid to go and express their views."

The advisory lists a series of public hearings on drilling permit issues across the state as potential flash points. It also mentions a Sept. 3 screening of the anti-drilling film "Gasland" in Philadelphia that went off without incident. Language describes "environmental activists and militants" on one side of the debate and "property owners, mining and drilling companies" on the other.

Finally, the bulletin groups the public hearings and film screening with protest rallies for anarchist clubs focused on "evading law enforcement," and with a Muslim advocacy group's rally for the release of suspects in an alleged terror plot at Fort Dix, N.J.

The advisory was sent to state law enforcement and local government groups, as well as businesses with a specific concern addressed in the bulletin. It was not intended to be distributed to the public.

In issuing such an advisory, the government has to walk a fine line between the need to respect the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and the need to keep the public safe, said Nathan Sales, an assistant law professor at George Mason University and a former policy development staffer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"The question is how to accomplish the one with minimal consequences to the other," he said.

A pro-drilling group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, characterized the vandalism in Pennsylvania as "directed at preventing our industry from safely delivering these resources to Pennsylvanians."

The group's president, Kathryn Klaber, said she supported civil debate over drilling, "but to the extent they go in the other direction, and potentially devolve in a manner that undermines our ability to keep our folks safe, then we will have a problem," she said.

“Do ‘Environmental Extremists’ Pose Criminal Threat to Gas Drilling?”

Well I hope so… But I wouldn’t call it “criminal”...

me too. interesting that nowhere in this article does it mention the people’s land and water that has been poisoned and the security and safety risks that are real and happening to humans and non humans.

The only criminal threat posed is the havoc created by the gas industry to the environment for which they have total protection, by the top 1% of this country, criminal to be imposed few fines, and denies contaminating the water, but when it is evident they claim it has washed away, gone! fuera! no existe!  Yep, that to me is criminal but since the GREED is there, the guise and farce of energy independence, in this TRILLION $$$ industry, screw the people protesting, and definitely screw the environment.

We need help before a gas company starts to drill near our home. This well be with approx. 1000ft of our property. The gas company has tried to tell me that I don’t live where I live at and also called us stupid because we had our well water tested already to a price tag of 1465.00.  Other landowners were notified but we weren’tThis will be the first well drilled in our area. I need help in trying to put an appeal in against this permit.  HELP our elected official don’t seem to care what is happening to the other parts of our county where people have been become sick and their well water has been poluted.

Patrick Walker

Sep. 9, 2010, 8:19 a.m.

Language is the key tool for influencing human thought and action. Therefore, we must carefully consider its nuances.

I find the DHS’s contrast between “environmental activists and militants” and “property owners, mining and drilling companies” prejudicial and—considering its source—alarming.

An anti-drilling activist myself, I have never previously in my life engaged in “environmental activism.” In fact, my motives now are at least as strongly civil rights as they are environmental ones. The PA government, the gas industry, and signers of leases have made decisions with major guaranteed negative impacts—and even worse potential ones—on my life and PROPERTY without a single thought for my legitimate interests and without ever once seeking my opinion or consent. Lumping people in the “environmental’ category automatically sets them up for the “tree-hugging nut” spin conservative rhetoric has successfully foisted on our public. They haven’t yet contaminated the language of civil rights, so it’s important to stress how much this is a civil rights issue.

Further, I capped “property” above for a reason. The DHS bulletin has failed (for suspect motives, I think) that many in the anti-drilling camp are ourselves “property owners.” In fact, our being property owners relates closely to our civil rights complaint. Why should we have to assume on our properties—and in our common environment—the potentially devastating water and air risks posed by a largely experimental process, based on decisions made by other landowners without our consent? In fact, it’s at least arguable that their lease contracts are illegal and void, because made for an illegal (i.e., unconstitutional) purpose; the PA constitution guarantees PA citizen rights to clean air, pure water, and preservation of our scenic values. If the guarantee involved in a “right” involves a strong degree of assurance, I’d say it’s pretty clear leasing contracts violate our constitutional rights.

And as regards our other property rights, it’s a virtual certainty that (1) our property values will plummet as a result of the drilling and that (2) unless we act within a very narrow time frame, our housing markets will be destroyed (who wants to live in a gasfield?) and our homes will be unsellable. The New York City metro area types who would have gladly snatched up my rural PA home as a retirement or weekend home will now never wish to come here.

Which all brings me back to my point about DHS’s prejudicial language. It sounds very much like DHS has a pro-industry bias here it very much has NO business to have. As Nathan Sales points out above, DHS faces a very delicate balancing act, and its language tells me the balance has dangerously tipped in favor of the drillers. Knowing the vast arrest and retention powers DHS holds, we need to react very proactively to the least suspicion of bias on their part.

A final point in that regard. I can’t help but suspect in any pro-drilling bias by DHS the sinister backroom dealings of former DHS head Tom Ridge, now a highly compensated “strategic adviser” to the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Until Ridge resigns his position, which poses a conflict of interest that amounts to the worst case yet of the nefarious revolving door between government and industry, I for one will never again feel safe in my homeland.

Notice how the people demanding safe drilling are now considered criminals. This is What the Corbit administration will do if elected! People need to WAKE UP GET OUTt and vote in november! (also spread the word to the public!)

Michael Miller

Sep. 9, 2010, 11:38 a.m.

They are worried about crimes against the gas companies’ property? What about the crimes against the people of PA? What about the crimes all across the US by the gas companies when they say “prove that we contaminated your water when we did our fracking “and “it is just a coincidence that you have always had great water until we did our fracking”.

These corporate criminals should be prosecuted for the damage that they have done to property and the health of people.

If legislatures and politicians, loyal only to corporate money, are going to let these criminal cartels run wild in our country, civil disobedience will be the natural response by frustrated victims and citizens disaffected by unresponsive government.

Pennsylvanians will likely see very little benefit from the environmental tragedy resulting from the carcinogens and endocrine disruptors being pumped into their aquifers, and out-of-state investors will sell the gas from beneath their feet oversees.  (LNG)

It appears that as we move forward, anyone who voices concern and doubts about the practices of energy companies can be labeled a “terrorist.” Maybe the DHS should be renamed the Department of Corporate Security.

Re: Alex Burger.  You may laugh but according to reporting in the Guardian Britain’s Metropolitan Police Service has, in fact, taken to providing direct corporate security and, on multiple occasions, forwarded the results of security investigations along with lists of names to power companies. 

The contacts occurred via a police liason group that is not part of the government, and was thus able to collect police data on British subjects and forward it to private companies with no oversight.

The individuals being spied upon and having their private details shared with the private companies were environmental activists or ‘potential terrorists’.

This was defended because the work was being overseen by a spinoff agency which is not technically part of the government but a private group, and that the individuals being spied upon were environmentalists.

re: dhmeiser, While I agree with you that Corbett (an R like former governor Tom Ridge now a major hydrofracking lobbyist) will likely continue down this path the fact remains that the current report and the sketchy dealmaking presently taking place are being handled by Governor Ed Rendell (D and former chair of the Democratic Party), and that Rendell’s hand-chosen heir Dan Onorato (current D candidate for governor in Pennsylvania) seems equally likely to continue this.  It is, after all the current D administration that has made rather hasty and questionable deals to expose our public parks to this kind of operation with little or no warning to the public raising the specter not only of private property that loses its value but state forests that lose their life. 

Realistically neither major party is likely to oppose or even question this and both are likely to seize on any excuse, even a few cases of graffiti, to label opponents as “Terrorists”. 

As Patrick Walker noted this is as much about property and the guarantee of a safe environment as about anything else.

Christina Countryman

Sep. 9, 2010, 4 p.m.

Speaking of criminals, Dick Cheney should be placed under arrest for conspiracy to undermine the public safety, dereliction of duty and conflict of interest while he was serving as an elected official. The devastation which has occurred throught our nation as a result is a travesty. Uphold the EPA!!!!! Uphold the Clean Water Act. Punish the criminals who profitted from ignoring public safety knowingly. If they didn’t know it was harmful they would comply with the safety standards not kill them in secret meetings.

I am an environmentalist. I am also a property owner. The two are not mutually exclusive.

I live in NY, above the Marcellus Shale. After extensive research on this matter, I have come to the conclusion that shale gas drilling presents grave threats to public health, to the environment, and to the personal property of those living in drilling regions.

Despite the fact that my well-being, health, and finances will be threatened by shale gas extraction should it occur near my home, I have not nor will I ever take part in or advocate any sort of violent action directed against the gas industry or anyone else.

After almost three years of involvement in the shale gas extraction issue, I have yet to come across anyone who is anti-drilling and who is inciting or practicing violence. I have attended a number of gatherings at which large numbers of both pro- and anti-drillers were present, and these gatherings remained peaceful and orderly. I sincerely hope that all future gatherings will be peaceful and that no one on either side of this issue will commit any violent acts. I also sincerely hope that government at all levels will take very seriously the potential short- and long-term negative effects of shale gas extraction. People in drilling regions are losing their drinking water, losing the value of their homes, and losing their faith in a government that should be of the people, by the people, and for the people.

A profound disconnect occurs when one person owns the surface of the land but someone else “owns” the rights to extract the resources under that land. It’s no coincidence that a massive conflict is engineered by this legal disconnect. How is this arrangement ever supposed to decently represent the interests of people actually residing on any property in the U.S.? DHS really ought to move those property owners into the “terrorist” category. After all, anyone who opposes the energy industry in it’s efforts at transforming yet another vast tract of land into yet another brown stained reeking industrial sacrifice zone is indeed a “terrorist”. Americans who actually care about their quality of life and are willing to fight against a corporations to protect it are “terrorists”. Thank you for DHS for providing so much clarity and safety for all Americans.

The whole of the Northeast have successfully destroyed ever industry that made America great. All the while destroying the MEN who made this country great. Who are you saving the “earth” for? The none reasoning animals. If you really want to return to the primitive life where people dies mostly because of unsanitary conditions due to the lack of hot water then take responsibility for the millions murdered by your idiot, nonreasoning kind. By the laws of physics to fraq into a formation 4-5k above the natural gas zone. Start using mathematical fact and not emotion in your argument then maybe someone will listen. Oh that’s right you only have feelings not facts.

“Earth first! We’ll drill the other planets later”

It is impossible to fraq a formation 4-5k above the natural gas zone. Understand there is not a big enough pump in the world to fracture a formations over a mike apart. Gasland is just as big a bag of lie filled trash as WMD’s were. America must return to reason not emotion. Let’s do things cleaner, and more efficient. Not destroy our progress to a better life.

Drill Master speaks the truth-
  Fracking should be a non issue.Forty-one years ago this Friday in Rulison CO, a gas well was fractured with a 40 kiloton atomic bomb, twice the power unleashed on Nagasaki on 8/9/1945. Since the detonation of this device, various federal agencies have been responsible for continual monitoring of the ground water near the site. NEVER, ...has there been any indications of the radiation from this explosion reaching the water table. If a nuke detonated several thousand feet below an aquifer cannot be proven to have reached a supply of drinking water, or the Colorado river just a few miles away, there is less chance that the chemicals from fracking could move into the groundwater. Those of us concerned with the responsible extraction of this resource would better served if we focused on the real issues-spills,water use, frack water disposal and gas migration. The scientific data doesn’t currently hold the weight to stop fracking and it makes us look like fools to not focus on the real issues.

Reading the source document, it doesn’t appear that anti-drilling activists are singled out.  The document also references Cambodian American groups that fear US immigration and customs authorities, as well as groups intending to protest PNC Bank for its support of mountain top removal coal mining.

I’m not sure how a confidential intelligence document- acknowledging a growing group of environmental activists - stifles debate. 

It is my understanding that the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security is doing precisely what it is charged to do – identifying potential security threats before actual violence takes place.  The source document makes no prescription for law enforcement to take action against anti-drilling activists.

Judging by the vitriol expressed by many drilling opponents, it would seem imprudent for law enforcement not to take notice.  Or – is Lustgarten suggesting that security will not be necessary at next week’s EPA meetings in Binghamton?

re: A Driller,  While I am not familiar with the events that you mention a glance at the first of the DOE’s 2009 well-monitoring reports shows that 39.9 pCi/L of Potassium-40, a radioactive isotope was found in a test well 1 mille it seems from the blast site.

I would also point out that Rulison was a single subsurface explosion in a relatively isolated area.  This area is now surrounded by a 40 acre buffer zone, which required at least 20 years of cleanup according to Wikipedia, in which no drilling for water or gas is permitted surrounding the initial “ground zero”. 

Hydraulic fracturing, by contrast, is an ongoing process taking place in close proximity to populated areas and, in many cases, near regularly used aquifers.  Moreover existing scientific studies, many of them discussed on this site, have found known fracturing chemicals in existing water supplies.  While some of that can be explained by spillage not all of it has been and as is noted further work is needed.

I agree that hyperbole is not warranted.  In this case sound science backs caution and sound studies should take place.  Long-range analogies and sophism do not help.

Patrick Walker

Sep. 9, 2010, 10:41 p.m.

I would like to respond, as calmly and reasonably as I can, to the drilling supporters here.

There’s an overall context—and a specific one—in which I find the DHS bulletin alarming.

As to the overall context, there has been a neglect of many stakeholders’ rights from the very beginning in PA—a neglect, by the way, long anticipated by the drilling industry. Anyone who doubts this should read the document Certus Strategies presented at the PA Gas Summit 2009, which is titled “Managing Stakeholder and Community Resistance to the Marcellus Shale Extraction Project.” This endlessly fascinating document discusses “outrage management planning,” of which it states the goal is to “protect the majority from becoming outraged.”

Now, if gas drilling is so clearly good, why should the industry be worried about “community resistance” and protecting (an amazingly Orwellian word here) the MAJORITY from becoming outraged?
Obviously, it can’t just be bad PR, as the industry can (and does) spend vastly more on PR than grassroots activists could ever dream of. Instead, there must be real reasons for objecting, many of which the document itself enumerates. Most interesting to me are the ones that indicate neglect, by both industry and government, of citizens’ rights to consultation and informed consent. Thus, the document lists as reasons for “outrage and conflict” the following: “People feel rolled over,”  “Little opportunity for consultation and input,” “Lack of access to apppropriate information, and “The project is controlled by others and they are seen as unresponsive or untrustworthy.” Most activists I know feel all of these things about the gas industry, and where such feelings are widespread, it’s pretty clear that the democratic principle of consent by informed citzens is being treated with contempt. When we add to that the huge role political corruption, vast industry campaign and lobbying expenditures, and a revolving door with the O&G industry played in developing PA energy policy—with concern for neither objective science nor citizen input—it’s pretty clear why most of feel our rights as citizens mean nothing where the gas industry is concerned.

So obviously, since our input was utterly neglected, we have some reason to feel “vitriolic” and paranoid about our rights. With industry now lobbying hard for forced pooling and state preemption of local zoning rights, PA citizens begin to fear we have no rights in the face of this industry.

But to make matters worse, in an atmosphere where a revolving door between government and industry already badly corrupts government, we’re faced with the worst case of all: Tom Ridge, former head of DHS, is now a highly paid “strategic consultant” for the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Given the vast and sinister powers of DHS—powers many citizens already regard as unconstitutional—Ridge’s conflict of interest seems a dangerous threat to industry dissenters’ civil liberties. So we have to be proactive and carefully scrutinize every pronouncement from DHS; we can’t be too paranoid. I will not feel safe until Ridge resigns—a demand I intend to press loudly and hard in every quarter.

That’s the general context for activists’ fears for our rights. As for the specific context, the Philadelphia City paper has now reported an e-mail from Jim Power, the director of PA DHS, where he talks about “supporting natural gas industry stakeholders” and keeping information from those among whom it might “foment dissent” against the industry. That sound like frank bias to me—a bias DHS has no business having and which gives us every reason to fear for our civil rights.

I think under these circumstances we’re justifiably paranoid about the role of DHS strangling deabte—something the vastly greater media budget and access of industry and the corruption of our so-called “reps” are already doing quite effectively.

PA Energy Policy = more polluted waters and
                    destruction of our farmland and
                    wildlife! No regard for humanlife!

No Regulations = Children dying from drinking
                  carcinogenic water!

Fight back people, “Say no to Fracking”

I’ve been into environmental activism for 20 years, but I’ve never heard of an environementalist firing a shotgun like that.  Sounds like just a regular upset Pennsylvanian.

Also, one commentator’s remark about the “Dept of Corporate Security” hit right on the mark.  People think “eco-terrorism” means “ecological terrorism,” as environmentalists as terrorists.  No, it means “economic terrorism,” in other words, trying to change things by threatening financial harm.  Yes, organizing a boycott is also eco-terrorism.

Children dying? Wildlife killed?
Someone likes hyperbole! Maybe you can work for the next neocon Republican administration to convince us war is needed. You are so under educated on this subject (and I expect most others) you can’t be reasoned with. Go figure a women that can’t use reason, logic, and facts.

I have to agree with Patrick Walker. I too have been researching this in depth and it is very upsetting! The supposed shotgun senerio, right? What a joke, just something cooked up by the driller extremeists!! They hire people to just sit at the computer to make negative comments about the environmentalists and our plight to save the drinking water and air quality of Pa residents!! If this was such a good thing(drilling)would sooo many people be against it? And most people are not even fully informed or told the truth about what is actually going on!

This I the primary reason women didn’t have the right to vote. Do you even realize the devastation you would cause we stopped using oil and NG? I suspect you want higher taxes for the rich, more regulation in all parts of industry, more race equality, and are willing to use Government to do your bidding. Even when the preponderants of evidence showed Government has the opposite affect.

When reason is sacrificed. Man’s survival is in danger!

Lots of people were against ending slavery. Does any mass of peoples opinion make them right?

re:Drill Master,
I agree whole-heartedly with your comments.  Bravo!  This article lines out specific examples of where acts of violence have been commited.  When some of the enviro-nuts can’t get their point accross, they choose violence and vandalism to get their points accross.  Case in point, The Oregon Timber industry.  In order to stop the harvesting of trees, groups like ELF would spike trees with steel shanks.  This would cause the logger’s chainsaw to break, resulting in serious injuries or even death to the workers.  These attacks have not stopped the harvesting of trees.  The only result, is an opposition to their tactics and their cause.

There is no rational thought behind any industry destroying the entire planet.  If the land, water, animals, and the trees were all destroyed, we would all become extinct.  This emotional outcry is laughable.  If this is all about money, why would the industry destroy it’s income source?  The Gov’t needs the income from the industry.  How else can they provide welfare, food stamps, and housing for the parasites of this country.  They don’t want to work, they just want a free ride off our backs.  Go “99ers”!  We work so you don’t have to!

I’m encouraged by the contribution of at least some well researched and thoughtful comments. On the topic of violence, I think we need some clarity. If someone fires a shotgun at an industrial facility, that’s violence. Everybody with me on that? If that same industrial facility contaminates an aquifer, that’s also violence. How many are with me now?

Charlie Fox you are right on about the violence. Any industry or corporation that destroys the very environment that it lives in just to turn a profit is insane. Doesn’t matter what “ism” you’re talking about, communism, socialism or capitalism, when it gets out of balance, it becomes destructive. Nobody wants to be regulated but humans are fallible, greedy, shortsighted, ignorant, arrogant, self-righteous, self-serving, entitled and somehow that should be counterbalanced so we don’t destroy the only place we know of compatable with life as we know it. The rest is not important.

Sound like a good argument for communism. Pleople need to be controlled? When did we start favoring control by a nameless, faceless, entity known as Government over Liberty?

Dear Drill Master,

Are you content to allow those friendly corporations to lawfully destroy your water supply? You’re going to get really thirsty. You seem to regard government as the only real threat to your liberty. But corporations should be recognized for their inherently anti-democratic behaviors. Unless you’re a stockholder you’re likely to be paying those “externalized costs” that corps are so good at excluding from their own liabilities. We’re all paying the true costs of oil and gas production. Nigerians are paying much worse. It’s amazing how effective a couple of hundred thousand corporate “we’re your friends and we care” television ads can corrupt basic human sensibilities. I almost believe them myself, they’re so smooth and palatable.

If you want to fix business violations here is the solution. Repeal the laws that allows for incorporation. That protection should be reserved for electricity, railroad, internet, and a select few other industries. This would make the owners of companies personally responsible and would thus encourage business to not grow so massive. All violations should be handled be the justice system. People would impose much harsher penalties on industry then a bureaucrat ever would. Bureaucrats get bribes in the form of campaign contributions. If they passed laws that really held business accountable they would be hurting themselves. Again the free market serves up justice where government won’t!

Again government has brainwashed people into believing its the only entity large enough to control the monster it created. How can anyone not see the that less government equals more justice for the common man. If you let companies just pay fines and not throw people in jail (or at least take their personal property) you will always have this problem.

The 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case “Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker” seems exceptionally relevant here. The Supreme Court reduced the original $5 billion penalty against Exxon for the 1989 spill by 90% to $500 million. Had the Supreme Court not let Exxon off so lightly I think BP would have been far more vigilant in regard to the safety of the environment it was operating in. The US Supreme Court essentially endorsed massive risk taking on the part of oil operators. Don’t you think campaign contributions had a lot to do with that? Talk about R.O.I., the return on investment from campaign contributions leading to this kind USC is golden indeed.

Do ‘Environmental Extremists’ Pose Criminal Threat to Gas Drilling?

How about this title for another article:

“Does Gas Drilling Pose a Criminal Threat to Environment?”

Does the environment have any rights?

The Supreme Court overstepped it’s jurisdiction like it always does! The people of Alaska and Canada should be paid for private property damage, same goes for the fishermen. The Supreme Court was never designed to be a round table of 9 kings as it is today. Virginia for the longest time when cases were brought against it told the court it had no jurisdiction over it’s citizens in certain matters. They were correct!

No! The environment does not have rights. Only individuals can have right. This is the nature or liberty and rights.

I would gladly kill and species, clear any forrest, drill any swamp to save ONE human baby. Any other line of thought is murderous.

Drill Master’s position is that Humans have rights but the environment does not. There’s your disconnect and all the absurdity the follows. It sounds like the environment is a sort of modern day Dread Scott with no rights that anyone is bound to respect. None of us could exist without critical environmental services such as air and water. So do humans have a right to environmental health? Does anyone have a right to environmental services?

I think we should try to decide whether or not corporations have the right to kill people through overt or insidious environmental damage. I don’t see that our society has come to an answer on that.

And people wonder why things just keep getting worse. If a none reasoning entity can have rights how does it speak, breath, experience emotion, make decisions for it’s own interests? I guess you will be the decision maker for it. Thus making you and your kind a ruler over us because free men’s actions hurt the imaginary thing called the environment.

You want someone too argue on behalf of business ie murderers. The facts are you have no facts to your argument. This means you loose!

Hyperbole, innuendo, speculation, half truths are not facts and are not based on reason!

I’ve been a geologist for 23 years and have worked as a professional in that capacity in the petroleum, environmental and groundwater industries. I can tell you that while the petroleum industry is not perfect, it is one of the most sophisticated and technologically advanced industries on earth. I know first hand that the companies operating in the Marcellus are highly sensitive to “environmental issues”, because I work with them as well as the regulatory officials. Do the petroleum companies earn huge revenues? The well managed one’s do, and they should, because they take huge risks. The northeast is privileged to have a natural resource like the Marcellus, as exploitation of it’s rich gas resources will put people to work, provide a tremendous source of tax revenue to the region, and the product that will result (natural gas) is clean burning and has the potential to allow our country to keep billions of dollars at home where it belongs.

It is critically important for everyone to understand that shale gas drilling is not just an environmental issue. It is also a health and safety issue and it is a property rights issue.

I am an environmentalist and proud of it. But I also object to shale gas drilling as a property owner.
My husband and I are homeowners and landowners. We worked hard for our home and our land. But now, because of gas drilling, we fear we will lose control of our property. Let me explain why. Here, in NY:

1) Drilling can occur in areas zoned residential without public hearings or variances. The NY DEC is not even required to notify a landowner whose whose property is adjacent to a proposed well pad.
2) Compulsory integration can be used to force unwilling individuals to sell their gas. As long as the drilling company leases 60% of the acreage needed for a spacing unit, all additional necessary acreage can be forced in via the compulsory integration law. Note that the law requires 60% of the ACREAGE to be leased; it does not require the agreement of 60% of the landowners in the proposed unit. One or two large landowners (including speculators who do not even live on the land) can force their neighbors into a drilling unit. 
3) In NY, the gas well setbacks from homes (100 ft), waterways (50 ft.), and public buildings (150 ft.) are dangerously small.
4) Many pipelines will be required to move the gas to market. There is a good chance that at least some of the pipeline companies will be able to use eminent domain to run pipelines across the land of unwilling parties.
5) Shale gas drilling should not be confused with conventional natural gas drilling: the horizontal well pads are huge, vast amounts of fracturing fluid are used to break apart the shale, fleets of trucks are needed just to fracture one well, and multiple wells are located on one well pad. These shale gas well pads and their related infrastructure (access roads, pipelines, compressor stations, etc.) are truly industrial sites and they are going to be allowed in residential areas.
6) Shale gas wells deplete rapidly, so in order to keep the gas flowing they have to drill and drill and drill. Many, many tens of thousands of shale gas wells will be needed in order to yield anything like the large amounts of shale gas predicted by the industry. Most people do not want to live in a huge, ever-growing gas factory, but that is exactly what much of the Northeast will become if the gas industry has its way. And there are a LOT of people living in the Northeast.

Patrick Walker

Sep. 11, 2010, 9:48 a.m.

Contrary to Drill Master’s misogynistic assertions, I find Mary Sweeney’s post above an excellent example of sound reasoning by a women, and a more detailed corroboration of my case that drilling is both a civil rights and property rights menace, in addition to an environmental one.

As to the science side of things, I don’t think anyone on this forum has a right to claim total command of the science. From what I, a professed layman, see, there are credentialed experts on both sides of the debate, which leads me to ProPublica’s conclusion: there’s a lot we just don’t know. But I tend to trust the experts who are not in the pay of industry; I know enough about the scientific method to know that any influence but the objective pursuit of truth is considered a suspect potential corruption of the process. And with both the tobacco industry and the falsely named global warming “debate,” we have clear instances that that danger isn’t just hypothetical. A clear example from another field is supply-side economics, which, despite its hype in the press and influence on politics, was never taken seriously by credentialed economists.

Lastly, for now, I the gas-drilling debate, especially at the government level, shows the type of impoverished thinking you get when plutocracy rules. People act as if we face a tradeoff between having beauty and conservation and having jobs and energy. This is a FALSE DILEMMA! With the political will, the same human ingenuity that figured out how to extract gas from deep shale would solve the problem of having both. Aristotle found the money motive unworthy of a gentleman. While that’s a bit extreme (and Aristotle’s own economic problem was conveniently solved by slavery), he’s clearly onto something: money is far from the chief motivation of the “best and the brightest.” Anyone who knows the history of the arts and sciences will vouch for this. So I basically don’t see why stunted human beings with no poetry in their soul—who see awe-inspiring landscapes and irreplaceable ecosystems only as profit opportunites—should be allowed to dictate our energy and jobs policies. With plutocracy—as opposed to robust democracy—that’s the sort of impoverished tunnel vision you get. And that, BTW, is why we need to increase taxes on the very rich.

Learn to swim!

Mary has done her homework. She is correct about many things. I am an Oklahoman and proud of it. Oil and gas built this state and continues to provide revenue essential to funding our state and local economies, schools, farming, ranching, provide employment and generate products that modern society cannot live without - such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, fuel, etc. I encourage people to read and become educated about matters like Mary, as my own observations suggest that people don’t read much anymore. I may not agree with all that Mary has to say, her opinion and statements at least have a basis. With respect to property rights and drilling in neighborhoods, I recommend that mineral owners/property owners perhaps pool their resources and retain an attorney (preferably an oil and gas attorney) to assist them with understanding the terms and conditions outlined in any oil and gas lease. The petroelum companies use standard lease forms which are tailored to their benefit. However, every lessor (person that owns the mineral rights) has the right to modify the lease. Just understand that it’s not the petroleum company’s job to educate the lessor - it’s the lessor’s job to educate himself/herself. With respect to drilling inside of “city limits”, many municipal governments have “boards of adjustment”. These municipal government bodies generally have established stringent rules that govern the terms and conditions under which drilling can (or cannot) occur within a city’s corporate limits. In many cases, municipalities have banned drilling within their corporate boundaries, because as Mary points out - its a health and safety issue. The point being, drilling inside city limits, and in particular neighborhoods, is likely not something that can, or does occur on an “at will” basis by oil and gas operators. If it is, then I recommend you contact your city councilman.  As for the philosophical musings of Mr. Walker, lets just say we can agree to disagree. Everyone has a right to be wrong. Thank you for allowing me to express my views.

The commenter “Jim,” from Oklahoma, pointed out that:

“In many cases, municipalities have banned drilling within their corporate boundaries, because as Mary points out - its a health and safety issue. The point being, drilling inside city limits, and in particular neighborhoods, is likely not something that can, or does occur on an ‘at will’ basis by oil and gas operators. If it is, then I recommend you contact your city councilman.”

Unfortunately, the situation here in NY is a little different than the one that Jim is evidently accustomed to. Article 23 of NY’s Environmental Conservation Law gives NY state (not local governments) control over all but a few very limited areas of gas drilling. It is my understanding that local govt’s can control road use and property taxes related to drilling and that’s about it. Under ECL 23, a village or town or city government does not have the power to ban drilling within municipal limits or even to ban drilling in heavily populated areas that are zoned solely for residential use.

I have heard some legal experts express the opinion that ECL 23 may be open to challenge, but I think that any municipality in NY that did want to set limits on gas drilling within its boundaries would be in for a legal battle. Such a battle may be lengthy and expensive and well beyond the means of a village or small city.

As I said in my earlier post, the rights of the property owners who bought homes in areas zoned residential with the reasonable expectation that their neighborhoods would not be turned into industrial zones without their consent are simply being ignored.

It is my understanding that the NY DEC is not even required to inform homeowners if/when a gas company files a permit to drill in their neighborhood. They are only required to inform those landowners whose surface will actually be disturbed by the construction of the well pad and/or related infrastructure. About a year ago or so I contacted the NY DEC about notification of adjacent landowners and I was told that I would not be notified and that if I wanted to know about permit applications in my area I would have to keep checking the DEC’s online database. (I’m not sure what the people who don’t own computers with internet connections are supposed to do.) I then asked if the database was kept up to date, and I was told that would depend on staffing levels.

So the upshot of all of this is that in NY you can own a home in an area zoned residential, and not find out that a huge multi-acre gas well pad will be going in right down the street until you wake up one fine day and see the trucks rolling in. This can happen in neighborhoods where a coffee shop or book store could not be built without public hearings and zoning variances. Until this gas drilling nightmare descended on my area I would not have believed that such a thing could happen in the U.S.—I guess that just shows how naive I was.

Jim’s comments brought something else to mind: I think that people who live in areas with a long history of gas and/or oil drilling are more likely to be aware of the pitfalls and dangers and therefore are less likely to fall victim to those pitfalls and dangers. However, in a lot of the Marcellus Shale regions that are being drilled or are under consideration for drilling, most people are not that well informed about the pitfalls and dangers and I think the gas industry is taking advantage of this lack of knowledge.

Some of the Northeast’s gas wells are being drilled in very questionable sites. For example, I know of one school district in PA where a gas well was drilled in proximity to an elementary school building and playground.

It seems that common sense is not always used in the siting of gas wells and pipelines. Many of us are extremely worried that sooner or later there will be a loss of life here that is even greater than that which has occurred in the horrible pipeline explosion in CA.

The Northeast is heavily populated. A lot of the areas being drilled or under consideration for drilling in the Northeast are not out in the middle of nowhere: even many of this area’s “rural” regions are dotted with small (i.e 100-200 acres) family farms with accompanying farmhouses as well as with suburban housing, schools, busy roadways, businesses, etc. 

I wish that those who are concerned about security risks from supposed “environmental extremists” would start directing at least some of their energy to addressing the lack of safety and common sense in the regulations governing the siting of gas wells and related infrastructure.

Everyone wants hot water and electricity. No one wants a well near them. Hypocracy at it’s finest!

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Fracking: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

The Story So Far

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas.

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