Energy. Environment. Economy.

To clear the air, some Susquehanna County residents leave the fracking debate behind

Neighbors Victoria Switzer and Ron Teel point to a natural gas compressor station on Teel's property in Dimock, Susquehanna County.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Neighbors Victoria Switzer and Ron Teel point to a natural gas compressor station on Teel's property in Dimock, Susquehanna County.

Two years ago, Victoria Switzer and her neighbors had stopped speaking.

Switzer was one of the residents of Dimock who claimed natural gas drilling had ruined their water supplies. The small village in Susquehanna County became synonymous with flaming taps and jugs of muddy brown drinking water.

But the media blitz angered her neighbors, the Teels, who said it ignored the economic benefits of drilling.

The reporters, the activists and the industry haven’t gone away, but things have started to change.

The Teels and Switzer disagreed about what happened to their water in the past, but now they’re part of a new advocacy group that agrees it’s time to curb air pollution. Switzer remembers the first time Ron Teel came to her home for a meeting.

“He brought a loaf of bread that his wife had made and I thought that was pretty significant,” Switzer recalls.

“It got tense around here. You were on one side of the fence or the other,” Teel said. “You didn’t sit on the fence. If you did you got knocked off one way or the other.”

“We all breathe the same air” 

One reason it might be easier for these neighbors to talk is that Switzer no longer speaks about water issues with gas drilling after settling a lawsuit with Cabot Oil and Gas.

Water contamination is still a divisive issue in Susquehanna County. Cabot is still barred from drilling new wells within a nine-square-mile section of Dimock. Anti-drilling activists continue to deliver water to residents who say their wells are contaminated.

Air quality is a more unifying issue, said Rebecca Roter who founded the new advocacy group.

“If my water well went bad, I could choose not to drink that water,” Roter said. “We all breathe the same air, so everybody is equally impacted.”

Rebecca Roter, of Brooklyn, Susquehanna County says she does not want to be labeled an "activist."

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

Rebecca Roter, of Brooklyn, Susquehanna County says she does not want to be labeled an "activist."

Roter’s group, called Breathe Easy Susquehanna County, is targeting emissions released from various stages of natural gas development. They want the gas industry to voluntarily go above and beyond state and federal air quality regulations.

Roter has been setting up meetings with industry representatives and working to establish the group’s credibility.

That means being selective about membership. The group is open only to Susquehanna County residents who can agree on a mission statement that zeros in on air quality and calls for respectful dialog. Roter specifically does not invite people who identify as “activists.”

“I don’t want to be lumped in with stereotypes that would jeopardize my credibility with my community,” she said.

“They left and we were still here”

For Roter, that means distancing herself from the anti-fracking protest movement.

“I started out standing on Route 29 with a sign that said ‘Save Our Water,’” Roter remembers.

“But things kept changing more rapidly and people came and they left and we were still here,” she said. “I realized that we needed to rebuild the community.”

Before joining Roter’s group, Victoria Switzer had become a prominent figure in the anti-fracking movement. She was in the second installment of Josh Fox’s film Gasland and sat next to activist Yoko Ono at the New York City premiere last spring. Now, Switzer has been getting hate mail calling her a traitor.

“I respect the work of people calling for a ban,” she said. “But what good would it do for any one of us here to stand with a ‘ban fracking’ sign next to this compressor station? It would be carried away in the wind.”

Switzer said one person told her that if New York State were to lift the moratorium on drilling, she would be to blame.

“I think that they’re hurting us,” said Wendy Lynne Lee, a staunch anti-drilling activist. “I think that the position that they’ve taken is willfully naïve.”

Activists protest outside an industry conference in Philadelphia in September 2011.

Todd Vachon / WHYY

Activists protest outside an industry conference in Philadelphia in September 2011.

Lee is a philosophy professor at Bloomsburg University in Columbia County, a blogger and a member of the Shale Justice Coalition. To her, the fight to ban fracking is about reducing global dependence on fossil fuels and addressing climate change head on.

Lee believes lobbying the industry is equal to admitting defeat. She questions whether the industry will respond to the group’s concerns.

“Who’s going to be responsible to monitor whether these new technologies or best practices are actually being used? It’s not going to be the gas industry if it costs them money,” said Lee.

“You have to fight for something”

Living with gas drilling already means being in frequent contact with the industry, if only to find out what is happening.

Late one night last December, the compressor station down the road from Rebecca Roter’s home had a valve failure, releasing methane gas for about an hour with a loud sound like a jet engine. Standing in her pajamas, she left a message for the company’s community outreach coordinator.

Since the incident, Roter has developed a good working relationship with Helen Humphreys at Williams, a company that builds and maintains pipelines and compressor stations. Humphreys knows Roter and her group are coming under scrutiny.

“Those aren’t folks we can satisfy,” said Humphreys. “We can only agree that if we sit down, begin a respectful dialog that something positive is going to come from it.”

Group members have also met with Cabot Oil and Gas. Spokesman George Stark said as with other groups Cabot meets with, the company wants to educate people about its operations.

“People realize today that best practices are being implemented,” Stark said.

A Williams compressor station pumps natural gas into the Tennessee Pipeline on Ron and Anne Teel's property.

Katie Colaneri/StateImpact Pennsylvania

A Williams compressor station pumps natural gas into the Tennessee Pipeline on Ron and Anne Teel's property.

Breathe Easy Susquehanna County has started getting endorsements from local lawmakers and prominent scientists, including Dr. Terry Engelder, the Penn State geologist who calculated how much gas is trapped in the Marcellus Shale. Dr. Tony Ingraffea, a Cornell University engineer who frequently speaks out against natural gas drilling, has also endorsed the group.

Rebecca Roter and Victoria Switzer say their new work is helping them channel the anxiety they felt since the tension in Susquehanna County began more than five years ago. Now they are working on what they say feels like achievable goals for their community, not a long-shot crusade.

“If something happens to reduce any of the pollution, that’s a huge win for everybody,” Switzer said. “You have to fight for something. We’re not just going to roll over and let them have it all.”

Clearing the air in Susquehanna County would be enough.


  • mememine

    The Reefer Madness of Climate Blame
    When oil execs, most politicians, lab coat consultants and lazy copy and paste news editors all agree on anything, be suspect not obedient. Climate blame was a lab coat consultant’s and lazy copy and paste news editor’s dream come true and decades of needless CO2 panic and threats to billions of innocent children is a pure war crime for the history books.

    If thirty years of science only agreeing on nothing beyond just; “COULD be a crisis” is good enough to tell your own kids it WILL be a crisis for them you are no planet lover, you just hate humanity itself. “MAYBE” isn’t good enough for the ultimate disaster of climate chaos. STOP telling our children they are doomed when science has NOT and ask your scientists to at least end this debate by giving us a real warning for a real crisis. REAL planet lovers are glad not disappointed at the prospect of any crisis really happening as being grossly
    And get up to date:
    *Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bankster-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by trustworthy politicians.*

  • ink_stained_wretch

    I’m appalled by this Switzer woman’s attitudes, as expressed in this reporting. She was apparently an “activist” long enough to force the drilling company to come to terms with her and settle some money on her, then fell silent on water issues. Now she joins another woman who professes distain for “activists” and doesn’t want to be one, just wants everyone to talk politely about clean air.
    I can’t for the life of me understand how “activism” became such a bad word and standing up for and demanding your rights to clean water — and air — became so distasteful to a whole generation of younger people. So these ladies want to stay “ladies” and not be lumped in with “stereotypes” and perhaps even be yelled at. Fine. It takes all kinds. But I agree with the woman who said they’re “willfully naïve.” Their health, and their neighbors’ health, is at stake. They should be pressing for a ban on fracking, nothing less.

    • Victoria Switzer

      I no longer speak of water issues here in the Dimock gasfield but when offered an opportunity to work on air pollution-I said yes. I personally do not think activism IS a bad word-same for environmentalist. As a teacher for 32 years, my former students could tell you, and their parents, that I introduced my students to an environmental project every year, from save the whale to protect the wetlands. I never dreamed I would be living in an active gas field. I support the effort to ban the industry in areas that do not want it, state and federal parks/forests, endangered species habitat, wetlands, communities that say no etc. For me, I spent years saying no and then when the dozens of wells went in anyway and multiple compressors were build and thousands of miles of pipeline laid, I started say “hit the pause-there is no rewind, just a fast forward into a disastrous future”. I said it to anyone who would listen. There is no pause for us here. Knowing that, and knowing that doing nothing is not an option for me, the environmentalist since I was 3, I accepted the invitation of BESC. As a member of BESC, while participating in its agenda I subscribe to its mission and strategy. I pray we will make a difference, encourage industry to do the right thing and ultimately keep a level of air quality that is good. The industry has the capability of using pollution controls right now and are not doing so. I like to say to folks, “you have pollution controls on your car? You can’t drive it without them, Why not the compressor stations?” I expect the gas industry to use some of their massive profit from THEIR use of Pennsylvania’s resources to protect the quality of life of the citizens of OUR state. How this work, that I do daily, just ask my patient husband,
      family and friends, appalls or angers other citizens of the Commonwealth perplexes me but will not deter me from my efforts. I am proud to be a member of BESC and very thankful there are folks like Rebecca Roter who could move away but does not.

      • Not an Environmentalist

        Ms. Switzer,
        Please explain. Why do you no longer speak of the water issues in the Dimock gasfield? If the problem has been rectified, why not explain how Cabot corrected the problem. Or was there never any water contamination in the first place? Perhaps a pre-existing condition was in place and Cabot is indeed blameless? Whatever the reason, why is discussion of water issues no longer a topic of interest to you?
        When corporations can buy the silence of the citizens, we have lost much more than our water, air, and land. We have lost the right to be called citizens. We are now nothing more than production units and consumer targets.

        • Pragmatism Wins

          Thankfully your right to bloviating is still appears quite intact. I don’t suppose you use any fossil fuels, do you? or do your extreme words not translate into extreme actions?

          • Not an Environmentalist

            WTF? Defensiveness, not pragmatism, apparently wins.

          • Pragmatism Wins

            Given the amount of time and energy Ms. Switzer has put towards this issue, the personal sacrifices her and her family have endured.. all of the attention she has brought to drilling… it’s nauseatingly appalling that people on her own side of the issue are turning on her like a pack of wild dogs because she *GASP* dared to actually sit down with the gas drillers and ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING. How dare she? Everyone knows a fractivist’s worth is judged by how clever the slogan is on the homemade sign they’re waving.

            It’s just amazing to me that these people are willing to take the hard line on Victoria Switzer, because SO MUCH is at stake…but merrily engage in the society that is built of and powered by things that are mined out of the ground. The rhetoric never matches the record with these hard line fractivists. Makes you wonder what their motives really are, and where their indignation really comes from. If drilling really is poisoning everyone, how can these enlightened people stand to look at themselves in the reflection of their SUV windows while they’re pumping gallon after gallon of gasoline into their tank?

            Something doesn’t add up here.

          • Mary Sweeney

            My husband and I have been extremely conscious of our energy consumption for the last 30 years. Neither one of us has ever owned or driven an SUV. We drive as little as possible and when we do drive, it’s in small cars that get 40 miles to the gallon. We have flown exactly twice in the last 30 years. We heat our home very sparingly, run our hot water heater for only a couple of hours per day, grow a lot of our own food, eat almost no meat, have furnished our home almost entirely with used items instead of buying new, etc. etc. (And I really could keep going, but I hope by now you get the idea.)

            We were planning to add a solar panel to our house but canceled those plans when this gas rush started because we were not sure how much longer we wanted to stay in shale gas territory. We are currently planning to move away in about a year, and intend to put a solar panel on our next house.

            In this society it is virtually impossible to use 0 fossil fuels, but we are doing our best to reduce our use and hope and plan to do more. So please do not assume that we are “merrily” engaged in a society that relies on fossil fuels. We are trying to keep our use of fossil fuels as low as we can and are always looking for ways to make further reductions. This is something we are all going to have to do sooner rather than later if we want to keep this planet livable on both the local and global levels.

          • Pragmatism Wins


            I congratulate you on your efforts. Many of which you mention we also engage in. But the gap between using fossil fuels sparingly and not using them at all is VERY significant. You are right, it is virtually impossible to use zero fossil fuels. To make the decision to live completely without gas/oil products would be a massive, massive sacrifice. Herein lies the problem though:

            Those who wish to ban all drilling tomorrow essentially want to make that decision, and they want to make it for EVERYONE. You sound very dedicated to reducing your fossil fuel use. I totally respect that. But I have yet to meet a person who is against oil and gas who has stepped up and made that decision for THEMSELVES and lived a life completely devoid of fossil fuels.

            Take a step back and think…really think…. about what would happen if tomorrow President Obama came out and banned all fossil fuel extraction and consumption. Who would be affected? How would they be affected?

          • Mary Sweeney

            Here’s the unvarnished truth: the lifestyle that people in the industrialized nations have become accustomed to over the last few generations cannot continue. Notice that I did not say it should not continue–I said it cannot continue. This is true both because fossil fuels are becoming more and more difficult to extract, requiring more and more extreme and damaging techniques (and more and more energy), and also because we cannot continue dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and expect to have a livable planet. So this means that unless we would like to descend into a very unpleasant state of worldwide calamity (increased drought, flooding, damaging storms, loss of a significant portion of stable agricultural production, loss of coastline, warfare over resources, and so on) we need to rapidly come up with a plan to move away from fossil fuel and then institute that plan ASAP. The longer we wait, the more difficult our task will become.

            Fracking for shale gas, rather than being a bridge to a sustainable future, is acting like a dam that is bottling up any sort of real change. It is using up money that would be better invested in long-term solutions, it is providing false reassurance to many about the continuing availability of fossil fuel, it is diverting the time and talent of many people who would be working on conservation and renewable energy efforts if they did not have to make a tremendous effort to try to protect their families and communities from fracking, and it is creating expensive and lasting damage to the environment and to human health. It is, in short, a very bad idea that has come along at a time in history when the very last thing we need are very bad ideas.

            I think there are very few people who think that all drilling (including conventional drilling) should immediately stop tomorrow morning. Instead, I think what most of us who are against fracking are saying is that the societal and personal changes needed to move away from fossil fuel should start immediately and that the most damaging forms of fossil fuel extraction should stop immediately, while the other, more conventional forms of fossil-fuel extraction are phased out as quickly as possible. Acting as if we all want all drilling to stop immediately and then arguing against that is just setting up a straw man and knocking it down–it isn’t addressing what people are actually saying.

            Will the task of revamping the way we live be easy? Of course not. It will probably be the most difficult task our society has faced to date. But if we don’t face it, we are going to be in for an even more difficult future. Attempting to maintain the status quo is the very least pragmatic thing we could do.

          • Tom Frost

            “the most damaging forms of fossil fuel extraction should stop immediately, while the other, more conventional forms of fossil-fuel extraction are phased out as quickly as possible.”

            TF: The “fracking” that needs to stop immediately is not the kind that happens down in the shale. It is the kind in which your so-better-than-BESC’s-or-mine certainty about what forms of extraction are and are not the “most damaging” is fracturing the fractivist community into probable irrelevance for a few more Pa. governor terms until the issue becomes the extraction of the next fossil-fuel play AFTER the Marcellus, for gas with which to run the coolers for the few relegated-to-zoos polar bears that are left.

          • Mary Sweeney

            I agree that fractivists should support one another. But BESC has been very careful to make it very clear that it is not part of the fractivist community. According to BESC’s Facebook page, their members are “bipartisan” and the organization itself is “non-partisan.” And Rebecca Roter has made it very clear that she does not wish to be considered an “activist” of any type and does not even invite people who identify as “activists” to be members of BESC. This isn’t just about semantics–the fact is that BESC is not an anti-fracking organization and it practices a type of exclusivity that marginalizes those who are unequivocally anti-fracking.

            As I stated previously, given that BESC members have varied positions on fracking, I wonder why it is that the media attention given to BESC has focused on Roter and Switzer whose former activities could reasonably be considered anti-fracking. Where are the BESC members who are on the fence about fracking or who still are pro-fracking but have come to realize that shale gas development is causing air pollution? Why aren’t they being interviewed by the media and asked about their concerns about air quality on the gas fields?

          • Tom Frost

            “Not inviting activists” is a tool that I too have used, more often than not. It’s how I’ve had my best successes. I just haven’t gotten to the point of needing to use it EXPLICITLY yet like BESC has. Another thing that I’ve never explicitly done is identify myself with “anti-fracking”, which has the political glide angle of a brick in Susquehanna County and which, if I had started out identifying myself with it from the time the term became sexy, SWN would by now have this hill near Lenoxville ten times more thoroughly “fracked” than it does.

            Perhaps in order to understand these things, one needs to have a complete and deliberate lack of any intention of ever budging from their Susquehanna County homes, judging by the pattern that I’m noticing in which the people who most dogmatically accusing BESC of being the ones abandoning the fractivist community instead of the other way around, are the ones who either aren’t from Susquehanna County or are, in your case apparently, running away.

          • Mary Sweeney

            Tom, If this entire matter were about Susquehanna County and were staying in Susquehanna County, then your remarks about my not being in Susquehanna County would make more sense. But this matter is not staying in Susquehanna County–it is a national news story, and it is a national news story in which the focus is always on people who were previously critical of fracking and who now have apparently decided that they just have to accept fracking and work with the gas industry to try to somehow control some of the damage that accompanies fracking. In short, it’s good national and international PR for the gas industry. Knowingly or unknowingly, BESC is helping the industry out.

            As for my “running away,” yes, I suppose you could call it that. But from my point of view, what I am doing is protecting my health and my husband’s health–and I say this as someone who grew up in coal country and knows very well just how much control a powerful industry can have. I also say it as someone who understands that there are no technological solutions to many of the health issues posed by shale gas development, which means that even if industry could, by some miracle, be persuaded to reliably follow so-called best practices there would still be dangers involved that simply do not belong in residential or agricultural areas–dangers like an ongoing water pollution issue due to the fact that the cement in the well bores will fail over time, or dangers like the inevitable accidents that will occur when hundreds or thousands of shale gas wells are drilled in a single county. The bottom line is that this is a heavy industrial activity that probably does not belong anywhere and certainly does not belong in areas where people are living and/or producing food. If people want to stay on the gas field and fight and risk their own health doing so, that is certainly their business and it is arguably an admirable choice–unless in order to support that choice they have to undercut those of us who believe that fracking has to stop and who do not think anyone anywhere should be forced to live on a shale gas field. Sadly, that is what BESC is doing–they are sending the message to the world that we all just have to adapt to the shale gas industry.

            It was BESC’s decision to distance itself from the large and growing movement to stop fracking. No one forced BESC to create this particular fracture. BESC doesn’t want to be part of the anti-fracking movement. That is entirely up to the members of BESC, but what they cannot do is have it both ways–they cannot be gas-industry-friendly when it suits them and then be anti-fracking whenever that seems more expedient.

          • RHytonen

            I think we should find out.
            So – we agree? Good.
            Then STFU.

          • RHytonen

            We walk.
            WE shop once a month on a bus the senior center runs.
            It saves a lot of wear and tear and gas for a group to do it that way.
            And btw, to those who try to argue FF use –
            there are LOTS of ways to get energy.
            This one has only been used since 2003, and it’s only “NEEDED” for EXPORT, which we should not even be allowing. It only profits a few, and NONCONSENTUALLY costs everyone else.

          • RHytonen

            You needn’t have bothered.
            Your level of mathematical acumen was already apparent.

          • RHytonen

            That argument is factually and logically irrelevant.
            or, to your level, apples/oranges.
            WHat did we do for energy before 2003?
            What will they do when ALL the oil and gas are gone?
            And at the rate we EXPORT it for maximum profit
            (the WHOLE point of the “fracking” rush,)
            which costs you about 75% of what you pay at the pump (more, when you add the subsidies that come out of your taxes, but NOT those of the oil companies which are btw a net ZERO or even a profit,)
            - it will be MUCH SOONER than it would have been without the current “Unconventional” methods we abbreviate as “Fracking” (Horizontal driillng and High Volume, High Pressure, Slick “Water” Fracturing, used only since 2003.)
            And the price you and your grandchildren will pay, long after they;ve left wit theri profits
            – a slow, suffering death, with no infrastructure, water or breathable air;
            is even much greater than that.
            If you insist on being ignorant of that, just don’t flaunt that ignorance to us. We know better. You only embarrass yourself further to others who didn’t quite get it yet.

        • RHytonen

          You cannot “rectify” the water issue.
          It is inevitable once created.
          Hundreds of millions of gallons PER FRACK, of EACH WELL
          (not just “per pad,” each of which can have a dozen wells, with a dozen 2-mile laterals EACH,)
          And 90% of it stays underground at an initial nominal 10-20 THOUSAND psi, which takes a year to dissipate.
          After that, if they haven’t found the aquifer already, through a natural or created vertical or oblique fault (or an 1800 foot fracked crack,), those aggregate trillions of gallons total, of (btw) lost and poisoned water, have eternity in which to find a way to the aquifer up through millions of these and much older deteriorated wells
          -ALL of which go through the aquifer, and ALL casings fail eventually- 6% immediately, 50% by 30 years.
          It;s not “if” – it’s WHEN.
          Abandon this issue and you abandon the longevity of all life on earth. Is that not worth risking YOUR life in protest?

      • JimBarth

        As a vocal, anti-frac’ing resident of the Delaware River Basin, PA portion, who, with his wife owns 25 acres and did not/would not lease, I stand with Wendy Lynne Lee, as far as I know her ban position, fully. I also recognize Victoria Switzer’s points, although I can’t stand with Rebecca Roter’s seemingly, and unfortunately, muddled progression over the past years.

        Having said that, as far as attempting to achieve goals, I am not threatened by the positions of BESC, and, like Dr. Ingraffea, I support their existence, and goal. They don’t interfere with my ability to pursue mine, and, although I might prefer to quote Dorothy Parker’s version, I’ll quote the original source of her variation, “You can lead a horse to water, but, you can’t
        make him drink”. I’ll keep my efforts focused on the Federal and State governments, and the oil and gas extraction industry those governments wholeheartedly allow to operate at full market throttle, under pathetically weak regulation, and oversight.

        My goals are still more extensive than BESC. I too live in a community where our home and land are connected to an area where approximately 69% of the surface land was leased to Chesapeake, StatOil, Hess, Newfield. I’ve been a clear public voice in my community for longer than the BESC members mentioned
        in this article. Mercifully, except for less than 10 “test wells”, which we successfully sued, and pressured the DRBC to stop, no
        production occurred, and now, virtually all the leases have been either abandoned, or have expired (for now).

        Correct me, if I am wrong, but virtually all, if not all, of the Dimock litigants, including Victoria, had leased their land for extraction. If Victoria did, then that certainly undermines both her self description as an environmentalist, and activist, and it also helps explain her slipping into her current role. Was Ms. Roter a lessor too?

        Perhaps, as in the DRB, if Ms. Switzer and Ms. Roter had formed their own version of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, and had formed alliances with other local, and larger regional environmental groups, attended SRBC public meetings and pressured and sued the SRBC, as DCS has the DRBC and the gas extraction
        companies, instead of leasing their land to Cabot, things might have turned out differently in Dimock, and Susquehanna. We’ll never know. I do remember the SRBC meeting in September of 2008, when the SRBC opened the floodgates that allowed massive water withdrawals to the extraction companies in the SRB. Where was their opposition? DCS was making presentations to the DRBC beginning in July of 2008, and the land in Wayne County had not even been leased yet.

        The Dimock litigants were not “activists”, or “environmentalists”. They were lessors whose land became contaminated by Cabot, who who then were brought to the Courts by the hard work of a variety of people from our area, and NYS.

        After three years of their suffering, they reached whatever level of settlement they have achieved, except for a few brave souls who are still holding out. I don’t hold anything against them, and am happy they are making their lives as livable as possible, in their communities. Perhaps they will be able to make a contribution to the “best practices” of gas extraction and distribution, as they relate to air pollution.

        Whatever they do, I don’t see them interfering with my goals. One thing I have learned is that one should not negotiate from a position of weakness. I believe this is something they never learned, and continue to ignore. This doesn’t mean one has to be unreasonable, or contemptuous. Some of us are well educated, and well rounded. We advocates of a ban can be quite “pragmatic”, just not in the same way as those who hide behind pen names such as “Pragmatism Wins”. We all make contributions to the reality of the world we want to live in, even if some of us just sit in front of a large screen TV and eat ham sandwiches on Wonder Bread, with ketchup.

        People who support bans, and sue, are the ones who have been “negotiating” from a position of strength. Change was neither
        brought about by those in front of the TV, nor, by “pragmatic” lessors who have worked with the industry for “change”, thus far.

        There is still a lot of work to be done. We’ll see.

        • JimBarth

          As an anecdote, and correct me if I am wrong, I would imagine that Ms. Switzer is “gagged” by her settlement with Cabot, as it relates to water contamination, ban, and making anti-frac’ing statements.

          That, while being “gagged”, she is still trying to make an impact on the industry and her community, is very positive of her. If Ms. Roter falls into this same category, that’s great too.

          I would also imagine the settlement “gag” comes into play in relation to BESC’s avoidance of “activist” members.

          • Victoria Switzer

            Jim, I am trying to do the best I can in the circumstances I live in. There is a lot I wish I could tell you about. I guess when I call myself an “environmentalist” I mean I have always tried to learn about our environment and encourage my students, family and friends to care about protecting air, water, soil and wildlife. My heroes are Rachel Carson, John Muir, John Quigley, Teddy Roosevelt and Lois Gibbs, Erin Brockavich. We did lease early in 2006 and there is not a day in my life that I do not think of it. Done is done and I can only pay penance by working to protect the air. I worked years on other issues and failed miserably in protecting my own community/home but believe it helped others elsewhere? I have read many of your posts over the years and respect your contribution and hard work. I too worked tirelessly, traveling to speak to folks, meeting with elected officials, hearings, folks from other communities, countries. I was sad to see your comments about me but I walk this road, not for credit or for approval but simply to try to make a difference. At the end of the day, I have only Jesus and my family to be accountable to. I have often said that I know where Jesus would have a cup of coffee if he came to Dimock-Jean Carter’s-one of the “litigants”. Of course he might have to bring his own! We have the technology to reduce much of the air pollution from the dehydrators and the compressors, eliminate flaring and more. We can educate people and encourage the movement to protect our air. I support efforts to ban “fracking” . I support anyone and everyone who is doing something to move us away from fossil fuels to renewables. However, I live in a community that supports the industry, welcomes it. 200,000 acres or more of this county is leased. Some say I should just move. I prefer to stay and try to reduce the negative impacts. If we fail then I will face a choice of staying in a valley with unbreathable air etc. or leaving my home. Keep up the good fight. I can’t change the past but I can continue to look forward and encourage folks to do something about air quality.

          • Victoria Switzer

            oh my! I cannot believe I did not list my super hero! Tony Ingraffea! I also applaud Josh Fox for awakening the world!

          • JimBarth


            Victoria, this is Tony’s latest presentation at Butler Community College in Butler, PA (I would imagine). Excellent as always.

            Also, I saw Yoko’s post in response to Mike Knapp on the Cabot purchase of the Mike Ely property posted on Tom Wilbur’s blog. Thanks.

          • Frank Chernega

            Josh Fox has one motive only: keeping a drill pad away from his father’s summer home in Milanville, PA and driving out as many farmers as he can who are unable to pay their taxes or make a decent living by farming. He is a deplorable example of “me first”. BTW the house he claims is his in Milanville is in fact his father’s as I previously mentioned. Why the lie?

          • JimBarth

            Nice to read your post, Victoria, and please forgive me for sounding overly critical. I can barely imagine what you and the others have been through, and as I wrote, I recognize the more than three years of stress and grief all of you went through in the battles within your community, with PADEP, and the politicians, after the lawsuit was announced on Ron and Jean Carter’s front yard that November 2009 day (I came up to offer my physical presence as support to those of you who brought the lawsuit, and to Michael).

            I tried to modify my initial thoughts in my second post. Let me clearly say that I applaud your efforts, and that I very much wish you well.

    • Frank Chernega

      “Activism” has become a blight and cancer on the democratic principles the country was founded on. Special interest groups have now become the tail that wags the dog. We may as well stop voting and electing people to do the bidding of citizens as these “activists” seem to think they know what is best for us. Disgusting…….

  • wendylynnelee

    Whatever the intentions, the sterling characters, the stalwart acts of resistance of the members of BESC–the consequences of its “engagement” with the gas industry WILL lead to more fracking, more pipeline, more compressors, more climate change, more suffering. That is not mere opinion; it is opinion well informed by the facts about an industry whose capacity for mendacity, corruption, mercenary decision-making, manipulation, and extortion is as plain as day. To engage THIS industry, knowing THIS mountain of FACT cannot be called anything but concession. And to call it out is neither contemptuous nor without compassion. It is simply the TRUTH. Not wanting to hear the truth–finding the truth abrasive and undesirable–does not make it any less the truth. The climate change deniers come to mind here–they look to discredit, ridicule, assault FRACKING CONTINUES.” THAT is the truth.

    Here in Pennsylvania, the gas industry does its level–and VERY successful best–to use not “best practices” but “best-for-us-gassers practices.” These include legislation to GUT the state endangered species act, make forced pooling much easier, gag physicians with respect to informing their patients about toxic emission exposure, tether road repair to fracking in state forests, use frack waste as road-de-icer, allow gas companies to make royalty holders pay for gas company expenses, and transfer legitimate municipality powers to the state–all with the cheery support of the very agencies invested with the power to monitor the gas industry–DEP, DCNR, etc.

    Plus, the number of companies that will be willing to employ this technology–and monitor it to make sure it works–is miniscule–all the while, again, you’re giving the green light to an industry to go build more compressor stations everywhere folks don’t have the power and the money to demand “best practices.”


    Here is the Breathe Easy message: “Go ahead and drill, baby, drill! If you need more compressors–and we KNOW you will, pretty please just use these “best practices.” That is, we think a little cancer, a little leukemia, a little endocrine disruption, a little, neurological damage, a little asthma, is OK–so long as it’s not us and we don’t have to know who it is! Or, well, until we aren’t looking, or until it costs you more than using folks who are suckered by your bull shit are worth.”

    That Switzer doesn’t talk about water issues anymore doesn’t mean that there are no water issues–it means that her settlement with Cabot included a nondisclosure clause, and she agreed to it. Well and good–but what we ALL know is either that Cabot is responsible for the water pollution OR Switzer told Josh Fox of Gasland a whopper. And I’ll bet the latter’s not the truth.

    ““If my water well went bad, I could choose not to drink that water,” Roter said. “We all breathe the same air, so everybody is equally impacted.””

    Pretty easy-peasy for folks who can afford to buy plastic-bottled water–or move. but that’s not the plight of folks who don’t have that kind of luxury– and there’s far more of those. “Roter specifically does not invite people who identify as “activists.””

    And that pretty much says it all.

    Some argue that BESC falls along a “spectrum” of differing anti-fracking positions. But that is clearly NOT how Roter sees it. But if BESC does not want to be part of a global movement whose primary mission is not merely their own narrow parochial concerns, but rather the health and welfare of the future and its children, that’s fine. We should respond then to BESC just as we respond to other industry groups–by calling them out for endorsing an extraction process that could generate the conditions for a war fought with the weapons fueled by the natural gas we destroyed the water to get.

    But even Susquehanna County will not be protected from THAT catastrophe.

    Wendy Lynne Lee
    Shale Justice

    • Pragmatism Wins

      Victoria’s actions aren’t keeping the drills running Wendy. It’s you continuing to pump gallon after gallon of gasoline into your car. Continuing to warm your home in the winter. Continuing to buy things made of plastic. Continuing to eat foods grown with fertilizer.

      Gas companies should fly giant flags on their rigs with the words “Hypocrisy Enabler” written on them, in honor of folks like you. When you stop by Starbucks for cup of coffee, do you lecture the barista on how much energy it takes to ship those coffee beans up from Columbia while you’re enjoying it?

  • KeepTapWaterSafe

    I’m a proud Delaware River Watershed activist, and I favor a ban in the basin. These days, there are those who think a statewide moratorium is entirely unrealistic. They seem to think people who want one are idealistic and absolutists, whereas they are willing to “work with” industry and government to somehow make this large scale industrialization better. I respect all three women, yet I tend to agree with Wendy Lee. It seems idealistic to me to think that Range Resources, Cabot, Chesapeake or Williams will pay anything more than lip-service when it comes to best practices vs. the bottom line.

    And, btw, we still don’t know what “proprietary chemicals” they have released into our air, or our water.

    • RHytonen

      Stand ten feet downwind of a fracker’s cancer pond for half an hour, as some of us have done, and you will realize it doesn’t matter what kind of poison kills you.

      You will also realize, from the scale shown in the aerial shots of the proliferation, that there is nothing to do but STOP IT ALL NOW.

      Not even your life is more important, because to tem and your government, it’s been judged and rendered collateral damage.

      Why is it only the Mi’kmaq of Moncton NB seem to realize it?

      SHAME! Your neighbors are only greedy and short-sighted, and need to be educated. You will eventually see them out there with you trying to stop it but it will be too late.

      Find your local version of WV Host Farms, or a landowner who’s sold (you) out; and get access to try the sniff test. Just be sure to tell your boss you’ll be out sick for a day or two afterward.
      - Or maybe more

      • Frank Chernega

        You are ill informed. The NY SGEIS does NOT allow for open flow back water pits. All flowback water must be contained in tanks approved by the DEC. Instead of watching another episode of Gasland, you should visit the DEC website for the facts.

    • Frank Chernega

      How about doing something about the Indian Point Nuke Plant 38 miles north of NYC on the Hudson? Josh Fox claims 15 million people will die if fracking is allowed in NY, yet is as quiet as a church mouse on that aging nuke plant. Seems like there is a hidden agenda somewhere on this whole drilling thing. Could it be the huge upstate summer homes of the super rich (Yoko Ono, Mark Ruffalo, Debra Winger, etc) from NYC and the Catskills are involved in this political fiasco?

  • Not an Environmentalist

    Let’s see if I understand this correctly – a heavy industry moves into the area and proceeds to foul your air, water, and convert your region into a 24/7 industrial zone.
    They do not seek your permission, nor the permission of your community, but instead
    coerce some of your neighbors to sell off Grandma’s farm with a handful of gold
    coins. And you object to the anger that “activists” display? And you want “respectful” discourse? This is nothing more than acquiescence and accommodation in the face of an invasion force. The historical record is full of these people. They are the reason Tecumseh failed to keep European expansionism east of the Alleghenies . When people stand firm and united against an injustice, it will fall.

    • wendylynnelee

      Thanks “NAE,” and you’re right. When an invading army forces its way into your home, and then destroys your land and water, and THEN you sit down with him to “work out your differences,” that can be called nothing but collaboration. Especially when you’ve sold out your neighbors to his greed. To then cry fowl when the folks who have defended YOU and your right to clean water and air wonder aloud why you’d sit down with the force that raped your land and water is the stuff of hypocrisy. Why? because it betrays what must have been your objectives all along–and these were not the health and welfare of human beings or environmental integrity in general–but just makin’ sure you got yours. So, BESC folks, you may be breathin’ easy, but at some point you’ll not likely be sleepin’ sound–not if you have a conscience.

  • nathansooy

    I find that I am increasingly disturbed by the infighting within the environmental movement. When I see the Breathe Easy campaign, I see people who are seeking to solve a very real and concrete problem. I do not see traitors.

    In the fight about Fracking there are two fronts: 1) Stopping or preventing it from happening where it is not; and 2) Fighting government to eliminate the worst aspects of industrial pollution to water, air, and land where Fracking currently exists. Nationally, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Environment America, and a few other national groups recognize the existence of the two fronts. Some groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and PennFuture, only fight the regulatory fight. And then others, such as Food and Water Watch & the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, only fight the on the Banning front. The Ban-ers attack the Regulators. The Regulators poo poo the Ban-ers. And neither side really trusts the groups in between that are trying to fight on both fronts at the same time.

    I know that a lot of time and energy is wasted on attacking others in our movement.
    It is all nonsense.

    • wendylynnelee

      Hi Nathan–just to be very clear– “traitor” is not a term I have ever used here. However, the BESC folks are NOT trying to SOLVE a problem–they are investing trust in a source that is profoundly untrustworthy to solve a problem for them. And they certainly know this source–the gas companies that caused the problem–and many others–will not do more than offer them superficial placation–while they continue to pollute.

      As to 1) BESC can certainly put an end to this by re-joining the anti-fracking movement. But this article makes clearer than clear that they have left the movement. Roter does NOT want to be “labeled an activist,” and BESC’s criteria of membership explicitly excludes folks who take a position on fracking. (2) Fighting government to eliminate the worst aspects of natural gas production is NOT consistent with the direction of this movement. The direction–and this has been true for awhile–is a BAN. Regulation is nothing other than control of the rate of damage–not the amount, not who is harmed, not how severely. And it prevents not one iota of climate change. The “bann-ers” have not attacked the regulators. No. What we HAVE done is make pointedly clear that REGULATION IS AN INVITATION TO MORE FRACKING. Folks on the regulation front actively undermine the struggle for a ban. These are NOT two fronts in the same movement, Nathan. These are two opposed movement–and they are becoming more so by the day.

      • REbecca Roter

        BESC has members who are personally antidrilling and prodrilling. We agree to disagree as we need each other.
        We are working together as we need each other in our rural community to try to save our air quality and our health. Activist in a conservative economically depressed rural community used to resource extraction is a red flag word.

    • Mary Sweeney

      Let’s be clear: the infighting has occurred because of BESC’s actions. That was the catalyst. The criticism that has occurred is a reaction to BESC. As I stated earlier, I respect Roter and Switzer’s earlier work on the fracking issue, but I cannot, in good conscience, support BESC. So what am I supposed to do? Just keep my concerns to myself or else be accused of creating “infighting”? Isn’t keeping concerns to oneself a recipe for allowing things like…well, like fracking?

  • Pragmitism Wins

    Congratulations to people like Victoria Switzer for taking a realistic and pragmatic approach and working to effectuate actual, positive change by working with stakeholders instead of the tactics used by Wendy Lee of screeching inflated hyperbole into the wind and utterly demonizing anyone who does not take her hard-line position.

    Ms. Lee’s position reminds me a lot of a religion. Do not question anything. Immediately dismiss anything that challenges your view. Anyone that doesn’t agree with us it the enemy and is evil. Emotion superseding logic.

    • JimBarth

      Ms. Lee teaches at a university level, and, she does not teach “religion”. Does she not teach philosophy, and perhaps, even logic? She can answer that.

      To accuse her of the above is absurd on its face, which I’m afraid, is all Pragmatism Wins is capable of. My apologies, I could not bring myself to spell pragmatism, “pragmitism”.

      Perhaps, the spelling is to sophisticated for me to understand.

  • Tom Frost

    As one who has also detested being called an “activist”, I’ve just looked up the term and failed to find any significant difference between it and its less-nose-ring-generation-conjuring cousins such as “advocate”. If anything, “activist” is MORE respectable because it implies at least some action as opposed to just words. I think BESC needs to get a thicker skin about it by accepting (or at least looking the other way about) the “activist” label and only rejecting (as I reject whenever I get a chance) the “anti-fracking” preface that it typically receives.

    Rebecca Roter and Victoria Switzer did not stop being activists. Rather, Ron Teel STARTED being one (or more precisely: one on “our” “side”).

  • Brian Oram

    We have always supported fact based discussions and as part of the Citizen Database reviewed the pre- and post drilling data we have been provided by citizens and the citizens should be proud of their efforts that has resulted in more disclosure. There is a need for a national energy policy and a community discussion on our future, plus the need to develop surfaceowners rights.

  • blackbart

    BESC is steering a big ship, turn the wheel and eventually the ship changes
    course. Just as pressuring the government (another name for the
    industry) to give us moratorium/ban takes time, effort and patience, it
    will also take time, effort and patience to persuade the industry
    directly to stop poisoning us. BESC has already succeeded in having the
    industry admit that they are ruining our air, which is more than the
    PADEP, EPA or any other government agency has admitted.

    I also find it odd that the two different courses of action
    appear to be competitive rather than complementary. Just as a football
    team is made up of two individual specialized teams; offense and
    defense, they cooperate. The the defensive team does not mock the
    quarterback for not tackling and the tight end is not expected to
    through a pass.

    The actions at the Riverdale trailer park was a great example
    of cooperation, an immediate response to an immediate problem. Although
    the core of the problem was fracking, saving the homes was first and
    foremost. We could not keep these folks from being evicted by asking
    for a fracking ban, although everyone there wanted one. The goal was
    “save our homes”! Another immediate problem is air. Why is BESC being
    attacked for saying “save our air”? People in NEPA, SWPA and other
    areas are being evicted from their homes, not because of a water
    withdrawal (Riverdale) but by air pollution. BESC is not asking for
    help, just understanding.

    EHS ’67

    • Mary Sweeney

      It isn’t as if BESC is focusing its efforts on air pollution but is also in support of efforts to establish bans and moratoria or clean up water polluted by gas drilling, or address noise issues, and so on. If that were the case–if BESC were publicly supportive of all of these other efforts–then I doubt very much that BESC would be getting much (if any) criticism from those of us who are concerned about the damage done by shale gas development.

      Instead, BESC, in an effort to get cooperation from pro-drilling members of the community and from the gas industry, has very carefully and very publicly represented itself as being agnostic on bans, moratoria, water issues, noise issues or anything else related to gas drilling other than air pollution. BESC is not even admitting that controlling the air pollution is likely to get more and more expensive and less and less likely as more and more and more wells are drilled. Also, some members of BESC have made public statements that may help to undercut efforts to get bans or moratoria in place. Add all of that up, and BESC seems more pro-drilling than anti-drilling. As far as I’m concerned, despite its efforts at neutrality, BESC HAS chosen a side, and it’s not the one I’m on.

      Believe me, I would very much LIKE to support efforts to clean up the air in Susquehanna County, but I cannot, in good conscience, support BESC’s approach.

  • Mary Sweeney

    I live in the Southern Tier of NY, I am a PA native who grew up in the mess left behind by anthracite mining, and I support a ban on fracking. My support for a ban is based on a great deal of research, thought, and discussion.

    I respect much of the work that Victoria Switzer and Rebecca Roter have done over the years. However, I think with BESC they have taken a wrong turn.

    I have no objections to efforts to clean up the air around existing gas wells and infrastructure, UNLESS those efforts send the message that it’s okay to keep on drilling and/or that there’s no sense attempting to get a moratorium or a ban because these approaches are somehow impractical. Just about every really worthwhile human endeavor has been judged impractical at some point. Besides, there are few things in this world that are more “impractical” than our continued dependence on fossil fuel, which is becoming increasingly damaging at both the local and global level.

    If BESC were coupling its efforts to clean up the region’s air with support for cleaning up the water and for a moratorium and/or a ban on drilling, then I could support BESC wholeheartedly. But when BESC sacrifices worthwhile goals like cleaning up the water or pushing for a ban in order to promote unity with those who want to continue making money from shale gas, I cannot in good conscience support BESC.

  • Mary Sweeney

    I’ve read a number of articles on BESC, and it seems they always focus on Rebecca Roter and Victoria Switzer, both of whom have been critical of fracking in the past. Yet there are evidently pro-fracking members in the BESC group. Fracking supporters in the BESC group must be concerned about air quality, or they wouldn’t be in the group, so why aren’t reporters asking fracking supporters about the air quality problems they’ve experienced on the gas field? Why is this situation always framed as one in which those who were critical of fracking have now decided to compromise and not as one in which fracking supporters are admitting that fracking causes air quality problems?

    • JimBarth

      Mary’s point about how the articles focus on Victoria Switzer and Rebecca Roter is important, from my point of view. Living in Wayne County, I don’t know much, or care much, about BESC, mainly because I don’t believe BESC efforts will contribute anything worthwhile in relation to controlling the air pollution impacts caused by the heavy industrial practices that we in the ban movement have been pointing out for years, and that industry simply can’t deny anymore. The air pollution issue has been getting a heck of a lot of attention for a couple of years, and changes will be made, but not because of BESC, or, V & R.

      It seems to me, that V & R, whether knowingly or not, are allowing themselves to be used by the media, and the industry, to be portrayed as former anti-frac’ers who have now “come to their senses”. This angle inherently marginalizes those who support a ban, or moratorium, or, take a much stronger position in general.

      Is BESC only about Rebecca Roter and Victoria Switzer, and the post lawsuit Dimock community, or, does it serve a meaningful purpose in relation to defeating the ills of the rampaging beast known as high volume, slick water, multi-stage, hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling into shale, that has terrible impacts throughout Pennsylvania, New York, the United States, Europe, Australia, Africa, the World?

  • RHytonen

    I don’t think a moratorium- or indeed outlawing fracking- is unrealistic.
    The claims about emergy idependence are completely obliterated by the fact it’s for EXPORT – like ALL energy resources, it’s priced on an international market.

    If you took half an hour, as I have, to stand ten feet downwind of one of the ridiculously prolific, enormous cancer ponds that have TAKEN OVER West Virginia, you would realize it is not unreasonable to be willing to die to help stop it.

    It’s going to kill you either way, seniors and children first.
    It;s even irrelevant who will pay for cleaning it up, because THESE quantities
    We’re allowing them to kill us, or our grandchildren, for profit.
    You better rethink this illogical and cowardly capitulation.
    We need instead to get a LOT tougher and realize the life and death war we’re nonconsentually in.The law is irrelevant because it’s sided against not only the citizens who created government, but the human race, and indeed all life – starting with those like WV and TX, who have been selected as The Sacrificed.
    And again, for short term profit.

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