Crazy in Dimrock: Fracking Resistance Gets to “Occupy the Pipeline”

Cross Posted from Citizens Voice

People opposed to fracking for natural gas protested Monday against the infrastructure used to bring the gas to market.

About two dozen people from as far away as Ithaca, N.Y., and Bloomsburg gathered in front of PVR Partners’ natural gas dehydration station on Route 309 across from the former Beaumont Inn. Rebecca Roter of Brooklyn Township, Susquehanna County, organized the rally as part of national “Occupy the Pipeline” day.

“This is basically a general protest,” said Joanne Fiorito of Tunkhannock. She sported a skull mask with “Dimock, Leroy, Lenox” – three sites allegedly contaminated by natural gas drilling – written on it.

PVR spokesman Stephen R. Milbourne said the protestors have the right to assemble and speak their minds, as long as they don’t trespass.

“People have the right to express their opinions,” he said. “We ask that they confine it to public property and not trespass on our property or our neighbors’ property.”

The protesters did, sticking to the roadside in front of the dehydration station, which removes liquids from natural gas and adds odorant to it before the gas continues to Dallas Township and into a connection with the Transco interstate pipeline.

Pipelines, compressor stations and natural gas dehydration stations have nothing to do directly with well-drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” which involves blasting millions of gallons of chemical-treated water deep underground to open cracks in the shale and release the gas.

The protesters are aware of it, but they wanted to point out that natural gas support equipment is part of the overall picture, and that it can pollute the environment.

“Even though they’re not drilling, we still have this stuff,” Hunlock Creek resident Michele Thomas said, pointing at the dehydration station. “Everyone is affected by it (drilling). No one is exempt.”

Protesters chose the site because, on the morning of Sept. 30, a loud noise from the station scared neighbors and animals.

“There was something that depressurized that made a lot of noise, from what I understand,” he said.

The safety equipment had something along the lines of a loose wire, Milbourne said. There was no safety issue, but because the equipment couldn’t verify everything was safe, it shut the system down, he said.

“It’s engineered purposely that way to ensure there’s not a problem,” Milbourne said.

He said PVR is working on the system.

Protester Jo Anne Cipolla-Dennis of Dryden, N.Y. said she came to help her friends because there’s a pipeline – the Constitution – in the works to bring gas from Susquehanna County through upstate New York.

“They call one of these lines the Constitution Pipeline,” she said. “That’s a slap in the face to every American who knows what these pipelines are doing to our country.”

Hilary Acton of Ithaca, N.Y., said she comes to the region to educate herself on the full spectrum of natural gas infrastructure, and how it impacts the environment, including air and watersheds.

“Water and air do not abide by state boundary lines,” she said. “They flow, they travel.”

Dr. Al Rodriguez of Dallas Township, president of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, stopped by despite being on call. He said the goal is to try to mitigate a little of the exploitative nature of the industry.

“I can’t understand how an area that got ravaged with coal would let it happen again,” he said.

Rodriguez’s concern is the “impact on us and the health of our children,” such as coal mining had. There are no long-term studies, he said.

Bloomsburg University professor Wendy Lee, who writes about natural gas issues for media site Raging Chicken Press said she came because, among other reasons, Columbia County is just beginning to significant natural gas activity.

Ray Kemble of Dimock Township knows firsthand about what natural gas drilling can do, and has test results on his water well to prove it. His drinking water contains an assortment of chemicals from arsenic to four grades of uranium, according to the tests. But the state won’t acknowledge there’s a problem, he said.

“We’re just crazy now in Dimock,” Kemble said. “We’re just nuts.”

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