Shalefield Tour [March 14, 2015]
As we left camp, there is a major gathering pipeline right of way that is clear-cut going east to west connecting well pads that host multiple wells per pad. The pipeline is buried underground, which requires trenching through sensitive wetlands and streams. The right of way is also 100 feet wide, but pipeline right of ways can be up to 150 feet wide, which requires a lot of tree clearing.
Here in Wyoming County, the zoning requires that no occupied structure be built within 100 feet of a pipeline right of way. That means that, for the typical right of way, every 150 feet of pipe eliminates one acre of build-able land. When transmission pipelines are built with eminent domain authority, the companies can seize the land across a property, taking any route they choose. For most landowners, their largest asset is their property value, so pipelines have a major economic impact on middle to low income landowners when they eliminate uses of the land.
We can see a drilling rig sticking up above the trees just before we reach Route 6. On our way to Dimock, we can see numerous well pad entrances and pipeline crossings.
People’s History Reference: This part of US Route 6 is the route of Sullivan’s March, ordered by Gen. George Washington in 1779. Washington’s orders to General John Sullivan were to march 4,000 men from Easton PA to the Finger Lakes in New York to commit what is today defined by the United Nations as genocide against the Iroquois nations in upstate New York:
“Orders of George Washington to General John Sullivan, at Head-Quarters May 31, 1779
The Expedition you are appointed to command is to be directed against the hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians, with their associates and adherents. The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their settlements, and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible. It will be essential to ruin their crops now in the ground and prevent their planting more.
I would recommend, that some post in the center of the Indian Country, should be occupied with all expedition, with a sufficient quantity of provisions whence parties should be detached to lay waste all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner, that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed.
But you will not by any means listen to any overture of peace before the total ruinment of their settlements is effected. Our future security will be in their inability to injure us and in the terror with which the severity of the chastisement they receive will inspire them.”
Wyoming County Nuclear Breeder: In 1967, Pennsylvania Electric Co. announced it was acquiring land near Meshoppen, PA on the Susquehanna River to build a power plant which would incorporate a fast breeder nuclear reactor.
A breeder reactor “breeds” more nuclear fuel than it consumes over a period of time. It is this capability that made breeders attractive at a time when consumption of electricity was expanding, air pollution laws were coming into place, and known uranium deposits were dwindling.
The 500 megawatt plant was intended to demonstrate the feasibility of large-scale fast breeders – a type of reactor never built on that scale in the United States. Local residents studied the proposal and gradually began to get worried.
Joan Daniels, a self-described housewife from Tunkhannock, formed a group, Citizens Committee for Environmental Concern, and began to fight hard against the plant. CCEC felt they were considered expendable as a new nuclear technology was experimented near their homes and schools.
The CCEC organized a panel discussion featuring Dr. John Gofman, an Atomic Energy Commission scientist, who said “To be honored to be chosen as the first community for a fast breeder reactor is to be one of a species to go out of existence.”
He objected to using plutonium as a fuel and producing it by bombarding uranium 238 with neutrons. Plutonium, with a half-life of 24,000 years, is considered by some to be the most lethal substance man has ever made.
“One millionth of a gram is the order of amount required to produce lung cancer, Golfman told a state Senate committee hearing. “Release of any plutonium upon the surface of the earth irreversibly increases lung cancer hazards for periods measured in hundreds of thousands of years.”
In 1971, Pennsylvania’s first Jewish governor, Democrat Milton Shapp publicly opposed a nuclear breeder facility anywhere in Pennsylvania. In 1972, after three years of CCEC organizing, Pennelec announced it no longer planned to build the breeder plant.
After seeing the Teel Compressor Station, we went over to Carter Rd, the location where Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found 18 water supplies contaminated by Cabot Oil & Gas due to drilling activity in the vicinity in 2009. We made a short video with a statement from a Dimock resident showing our support for their plight to restore water and justice to their community.
Located in Montrose is Cabot Oil & Gas’ new headquarters that opened in 2014.
People’s History Reference: The last issue that split Dimock residents was slavery. On April 15, 1837, Albert Post, a founder of the Susquehanna County Anti-Slavery Society, presented a resolution to the members of the Bridgewater Baptist Church. “The merchandise of human flesh as it is now practiced in the United States is a sin,” his resolution began. “It ought to be abolished and it is the duty and privilege of every Christian and Church to bear testimony against slavery, publicly and privately.” The resolution passed, but it created a schism within the church. Some members believed the church “did not have a duty to take measures against slavery” and declared their intention “to separate” from those who felt otherwise. Led by Elder Davis Dimock, the so-called “anti-abolitionists” totaled forty-six congregants who formed their own church on August 27, 1839.
Montrose, PA: The courthouse in Montrose is where the county government and courts are. A lot of local activism takes place in those halls at county commissioners meetings, court dates for Vera Scroggins, mapping, and planning commission meetings. Lake Montrose is the lake and reservoir where Dimock impacted residents want to have their water piped from.
Endless Mountains Health Systems, an entire wing of the local hospital is called the Cabot Wing. Cabot paid a lot of money to build the hospital to fool residents into thinking they are good neighbors.
People’s History Reference: Of the eighty-two individuals ever identified as Underground Railroad agents, twenty-one came from Susquehanna County. Of those, all but one, David Nelson, were white and held membership in the Susquehanna Anti-Slavery Society. Fifteen of the twenty lived in Montrose.
Harford, PA and New Milford, PA: Here we visited North Harford Maple, a small family owned business based out of the Holleran family’s home. We saw how maple sap is boiled down to make syrup and tasted some homemade cookies dipped in pure maple syrup.
People’s History Reference: Maple sugaring is one of Pennsylvania’s many rural heritage industries that are literally being displaced by shale gas infrastructure. Hardwood timber, agriculture, tourism, real estate, camps, and recreation have sustained this area for over 200 years. Those industries can’t compete for attention from our policy makers while the gas companies are occupying the land, with plans to scale development up to 100,000 wells (we are at 9,000 wells currently).
The Hollerans’ are a generations owned landowners and maple syrup producers who are facing eminent domain from the Constitution Pipeline. The deadline for tree cutting is March 31 according to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Endangered Species Act. If they miss it, there is a good chance the pipeline might get delayed for another year.
Many of these trees on the property are used by the Holleran family to produce maple syrup, but they weren’t tapped this year because everyone thought the trees would be cut by now.
We passed by Native American stone piles that were placed there in ancient times. Archaeologists have not yet determined their significance, but many believe they are burial sites. The pink flagging on the trees is left from the initial archaeological survey for the Constitution Pipeline, a project of Cabot Oil and Williams Pipeline. The Constitution pipeline is proposed to go through this site. Surveys were never completed because the landowner refused any more access to the company.
The proposed Tennessee Pipeline Northeast Energy Direct project is also proposed to share the same right of way and that company, Kinder Morgan, is having open houses for the public in April. They plan to build a large compressor station somewhere in New Milford.
After visiting the Hollerans we stopped to see an active waste pit and a temporary, above ground pit that has not been fully disassembled. The volume of water these pits are used to store is 15 million gallons per well and they service half a dozen wells in the surrounding area. Many companies are now using closed containment, known as “tank farms” to store water and waste, but these still remain in place.