Cedar waxwing in flight; it is one of two migratory bird species that no longer pass through the Deering yard.
Image: Erick Brock
About 5 years ago land men started showing their faces on our mountain. They talked to all the landowners, showing us different contracts for leasing our grounds. Very few of us had any idea what the ramifications of signing that lease would be.
Most of the contracts were for 5 years with an option for renewal. The leases ranged from $5-$50 per acre per year. Most of the hunting camps in the area saw this as a little extra money to help pay property taxes. Some signed and the fun began.
First, seismic testing crews showed up. They carved paths through the woods, drilled holes all over the place, helicopters flew overhead from morning until night, and flags were tied everywhere. It probably would not have been to bad if it was once and done, but we are now on are third time around for testing. Every time it seems to go a different direction: NE-SW, N-S, SE-NW, etc. Each new round of testing wore more paths through the woods. Soon (1st quarter of 2013) they will be starting again.
Truck delivering equipment.
Image: Bob Deering
About 3 ½ years ago the first trucks made a visit. I didn't invite them, the state did. The trucks carried massive construction equipment: graders, track-hoes, bulldozers, tree cutting equipment, tree shredders. Our rural area started to change: our 15 foot gravel road is now like a highway.
To top it all off, the gas companies took over the road repair and traffic control. Now they tell us when it's safe for us to use our own roads, that is when they're not using it for their trucks. When winter comes you never know if you'll be blocked off the roads by a broken down or stuck truck.
|The first well pad site. It has since expanded to include more permanent structures. Image: Bob Deering|
Now for the gas drilling operations. The first several sites were so deep in the State Forest no one knew exactly what was being done. As the sites expanded closer to view, the scope of them was revealed. Each site is approximately 10-15 acres or larger if they have a frack pond. Some of the pad sites are almost adjacent to each other with interconnecting roads and pipelines.
The gas industry schedules their workers day and night. Between the noise, dust, and fumes from the trucks, simple things like enjoying a Saturday cookout on the deck have been ruined.
The drilling companies are now in the process of what they call "adding infrastructure": pipelines, water lines, roads and storage areas. Current laws allow some of these features to be built almost on top of your property. Where we once had darkness we now have stadium lighting. At night it looks as though a shopping center has been added to our neighborhood.
I have been in this area since I was 2 years old. In 2001 my wife and I started to build our retirement home - our dream home really. Well, our dream home is turning into a nightmare. What if conditions deteriorate to the point where we're forced to move?
|The Deerings built this home when Bob retired. Image: Bob Deering|
Our latest change? The local gas drilling company is building an open-pit frack wastewater retention pond. The site is on ground purchased adjacent to our property.
|Demolition of a property adjacent to the Deerings' to prepare for the construction of a frack wastewater pit. Image: Bob Deering|
My wife and I are not "tree huggers," but we do like wildlife and nature. It might be a coincidence, but bird patterns have changed since the industry came. We've kept records of migratory birds passing through our yard for 8 years. For the past 2 years we haven't gotten grosbeaks or cedar-waxwings. These birds usually show up in the fall like clockwork, within a calendar day or two each year. Evidently the birds are smarter than the people: they moved on.
I won't get into much about hunting, there are other variables causing changes as well; DCNR and Game Commission rule changes. All I can say, this is the first year since 1965 that I haven't purchased a hunting license. I would feel guilty shooting any of the few animals we have left.
Some people feel gas drilling is a great thing. Personally, I have reservations. First, the shale gas isn't going anywhere, it has been there for hundreds of years. Why the rush? If technology had time to catch up, I think the drilling could be completed much more efficiently and have less environmental impact.
I hear stories about the lumber and strip mining days of over 100 years ago, stories about the total devastation of the forests. Well, we certainly haven't learned much from our past mistakes.
LONDON, UK (GlobalData), 9 October 2012 - Natural gas production from one the of the US’s fastest growing plays, the Marcellus Shale, will climb ever higher in the face of widespread environmental and safety concerns, predicts industry analysts GlobalData in their new report.
The company’s latest research* says that gross production from the play exploded from 80.2 billion cubic feet equivalent (bcfe) in 2009 to 1,072.3bcfe in 2011, and is set to reach 4,861bcfe in 2015 before finally stabilizing in 2020 at a massive 7,685.1bcfe.
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is a process that has sparked controversy across the world, due to potential risks including ground water contamination and the compromise of air quality, and was the focus of 2010 Oscar nominated documentary, Gasland.
The Marcellus Shale runs through New York and Pennsylvania, amongst other states, and while numerous wells have been drilled across the latter, opposition from the public and some political figures in New York led to the initiation of a drilling moratorium in November 2010 – a freeze on fracking that currently remains in place.
Drilling activity in the Marcellus Shale mainly takes place in Pennsylvania, and as of March 9, 2012, the total number of drilling permits issued in this area stood at 11,772, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Chesapeake is the number one company in the Pennsylvania section of the shale, producing 193 bcfe last year alone. Talisman Energy USA Inc. came second with 155 bcfe, while Cabot Oil & Gas Corp and Range Resources Appalachia LLC were third and fourth, with 138 bcfe and 115 bcfe, respectively.
There’s a lot of industry hype in the news about Marcellus Shale gas development and the hydraulic slickwater fracturing, aka fracking, that’s making it possible. And also a lot about how impaired the local economy is. But that hardly paints a complete picture of the costs of fracking. Do you think about it much? Do you wonder about the logical leap from the observation that we need jobs to the idea of jobs at any cost? Do you wonder what those costs are? Or do you avoid it and tune it all out? Do you find it a source of stress without much hope of resolution? The Frack Awareness Coalition wants to make it easier to talk about and think about without plunging into arguments or despair. To that end, the group will put on a concert, entitled “Songs from the Sacrifice Zone,” on Sunday, September 30, from 4 to 6:30pm, in the Tabernacle at Central Oak Heights in West Milton. Performers will include Hannah Bingman, DePotorLand, Doug McMinn, Earl Pickens and Van Wagner. Than Mitchell will be the master of ceremonies.
Come celebrate the splendors of Central Pennsylvania and sound the call about hazards to the integrity of the place. Come hear some great local musicians turning their talents to pointing out how wonderful this area is and how vulnerable to another round of exploitative resource extraction. Come experience one of the nicest historical/natural/cultural locations in the region. And come consider the threat. This is a way to participate, to help further the cause of increasing understanding and knowledge and to have fun at the same time.
Directions to COHA
From Route 80 — Take route 15 South — immediately after the West Milton Exit, stay in the right lane, you will see a yellow DRIVEWAY sign. Just after the sign you will turn right, up a hill and into the Heights.
From Danville — Take route 642 West through Milton and West Milton — get on route 15 South, but stay in the right lane — you will see a yellow DRIVEWAY sign. Just after the sign you will turn right, up a hill and into the Heights.
From Lewisburg — Take route 15 North — get off at the West Milton exit—turn left at the light and get on route 15 South, but stay in the right lane — you will see a yellow DRIVEWAY sign. Just after the sign you will turn right, up a hill and into the Heights.