Trailer Talk's Frack Talk: What Happens When Gas Drillers Ruin Your Home and Water? You Fight Back.
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When they poison your water, destroy your community and call you liars, you fight back.
Julie and Craig Sautner just got back from the Rally for a Statewide Gas Drilling Ban in New York at the Capitol in Albany on Monday May 2nd and have been traveling to numerous anti-fracking events, forums and fund-raisers since they have been living with the consequences of gas drilling for three years. I think of them as messengers and American heroes, Julie and Craig Sautner of Dimock, Pennsylvania who live on Carter Road and are among one of 14 families there that have lost their water.
Let me repeat, they have lost their water because of natural gas drilling in their neighborhood. Their community has become divided and what was once a bucolic town is now a fractured industrialized region. For almost three years Julie and Craig Sautner have had no drinkable well water. This all started once drilling began and they have been fighting back ever since. A lawsuit is pending and they have become the example of what happens when you loose your water, your family undergoes the stress of being in the middle of a contentious battle with the natural gas company and you loose your "home," home as a place of sanctuary and pride, a place of joy and security, of history and belonging.
When I first traveled to Dimock, PA in the winter of 2009 I was shocked to see white Halliburton company trucks of all sizes speeding along the back roads of town, to see and hear the helicopters overhead charting seismic activity and well sites, to see the fluorescent pink and orange tape marking the side of the roads and the industry signs on fence posts and gates and to experience the chaos in what was once a sleepy community not unlike mine in the Sullivan County Catskills of New York. What was invisible to me as a visitor was the poisoned water, the daily struggles, the asthma attacks and skin rashes, the broken promises, the threats, the fumes and the poor air quality. But what we do see and what is being reported in this sacrifice zone of PA is alarming.
On April 20th this year (last April 20th it was the BP Spill in the Gulf of Mexico) there was a spill of drilling fracking fluids at a Chesapeake Energy site in Canton in Bradford County, PA (sixty miles West of Dimock). A well "blew out" and thousands of gallons of fluid (chemicals) spilled onto farmland and into Towanda creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. Seven families were evacuated and the long-term impacts to the community are unknown. ( Here is the entire Notice of Violation to Chesapeake Energy from the Pennsylvania DEP.) The EPA has also stepped in to investigate and once again industry is being asked, this time by the EPA for a list of fracking chemicals. Chesapeake officials have until May 9th to provide details of the incident.
Where are the Sautner's and the people's rights when they have lost their water, their rural community and much more at hands of the oil and gas companies that are fracking for natural gas in Susquehanna County and throughout PA? Dimock, PA is the ground zero of gas drilling and all that can go wrong. Because Dimock has become the disturbing example of all that can and does go wrong in the natural gas drilling industry, the town is one of the communities being considered for study by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to learn more about hydraulic fracturing and decide on regulations for the industry.