I wrote notes on the meeting as requested by Bob Baker, but do not think they will be in an article this week. I sent him photos as well. He said that the big opportunity to meet with Senator Yaw was in Towanda, and it was a missed opportunity. He was hoping Victoria would go. He would have run an article, absolutely, if Yaw had shown up. I can’t write it myself, since I am a person with a “point of view” on the subject, a lease holder, a plaintiff, etc. Thought maybe you might want to see these notes. Feel free to send me a response, your notes, etc. He might do something with them next paper. I don’t know if he decided at the last minute to run this for this Wednesday’s paper, but he seemed kind of inundated, and was not too keen on a meeting the senator did not attend.
Joyce Stone began the meeting by saying that people from Dimock, particularly Victoria Switzer, have been trying to arrange a meeting with Senator Yaw so that he can be aware of the situation in the area of Carter Road. Although residents have been trying to speak with the senator for more than a year, and for more than nine months prior to the decision of some to file a lawsuit against Cabot, he has declined to speak with them directly.
His assistant/representative, Stacy Bellows, claimed that Yaw has been keeping himself informed on the gas well/water contamination issues, but does not want to take sides or in any way involve himself in the litigation.
Switzer told him that no one has approached him to take sides in the lawsuit, but residents want him to see for himself the complex issues involved in the situation, and to do his part as an elected official. Others in the room noted that the buck keeps getting passed, with all elected officials telling them to talk to a different level of government, because this is not their jurisdiction.
Several had seen a commercial in which the senator seemed to be celebrating the gas industry in Pennsylvania. They felt he has already taken sides and is an industry cheerleader.
Stacy tried to establish a rapport with the group by saying that she lives across the road from a gas well. “My father leased his property for only $5 an acre,” she said. “When we had the pre-drill testing done, we found out we had existing water problems.”
She referred the attendees to Adam Pancake in their Harrisburg office. She said, “The senator hears the concerns of all the residents in his district. For him to meet with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit, puts him in an awkward situation.”
Peggy Maloof from Heart Lake asked, “Is there some kind of law that a senator cannot talk to his constituents if they are involved in a lawsuit?”
Stacy responded, “It has always been a policy that we do not get involved with persons involved in the lawsuit.” Frank Finan from Lathrop Township said, “The Senator needs to understand the magnitude of what this is…it is not local, not national, it is of international magnitude.” He said that he has a relative working in the oil and gas industry in Texas, and that the main office has a large map of Susquehanna County, PA on their wall. Why Susquehanna County? Because there is very little regulation on the industry in PA, and the profit margins are fantastic.”
David Maloof said, ” I’ve been singularly uncomfortable with the apparent unwillingness of elected officials to get their hands around this. I’ve wanted to tell them there are other interests here, other residents who are not interested in leasing their property, who are alarmed by the effects on the water, property, air and soil.” He said, “Direct regulatory influence is only one way to influence outcomes. I am disappointed that Senator Yaw chose not to be here today.”
Mary Ann Warren spoke of her frustration with how little she can do to help. “I go to meetings, and then I am not allowed to look at the permits,” she said. “I’m now president of PA Conservation Districts Association, and I am trying to do what I can.”
Bellows passed out postcards for people to fill out to receive Yaw’s mailings and online newsletter. She said, “Written comments are probably the best way to forward information to our office. I am an information gatherer.”
Some of the attendees were Jule Ann Skinner, representing the League of Women Voters for Susquehanna County; Susquehanna County Commissioner Mary Ann Warren; Bob Shumacher from Jessup Township; Cynthia Hoyt from Montrose; David and Peggy Maloof from Heart Lake; Joyce Stone, from Dimock; Pat Farnelli from Dimock; George Calafut; Frank Finan; Barbara Clifford from Montrose, Julie Sautner, from Dimock.
After the meeting, Bellows said that her husband works
for a gas company contractor, as a plumber, and that he probably would
have been without work this winter otherwise. During the meeting, when several of us
tried to get across the way we have been misrepresented and maligned
by elected officials, the media, and the rumor mills, she said she
understands exactly how we feel, because that is what happens to
Senator Yaw. She
strongly suggested putting concerns and viewpoints on this issue in
writing, and said she would personally see to it that the Senator
reads these messages. His address is: Senator Gene Yaw, Senate Box
203023, The State Capitol, Harrisburg, PA 17120-3023. Her email
address is firstname.lastname@example.org.