An Open Letter to the Residents of Colorado

An open letter to the residents of Colorado from a member of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance sharing the pain of dealing with the natural gas opposition and  obstructionists who seem to be in control of so much of U.S. energy policy these days.

Hello. My name is Michele Stahl. I am writing in regards to the New York Times article on the Longmont, Colorado ban on natural gas development involving hydraulic fracturing.

Let me start by saying, I understand your pain. I am an Executive Committee member of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, NWPOA, in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Our alliance represents over 1,500 families and some 60,000 plus acres of land leased with the Hess Corp. and Newfield Exploration. We worked with a Philadelphia law firm to create our own lease. We marketed our lease to many natural gas companies and we were very pleased to have our lease accepted by two strong energy companies. We did everything we could do to protect our neighbors, our land and the environment.

Our land is located near the edge of the Marcellus Shale in Northeastern Pennsylvania, bordering New York. The energy companies, due to a provision in our lease, had the right to develop some test wells and determine what was marketable gas and what was not. They developed some vertical wells to assess potential and then intended to construct horizontal wells. Our county, unfortunately, falls under the jurisdiction of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).

Our neighbors live in a different watershed controlled by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC). Neither commission initially had regulations in place to issue water withdrawal permits that would allow for high volume hydraulic fracturing. SRBC worked quickly to get regulations in place, but the DRBC did not.

No water withdrawal permits, in fact, have ever been issued by DRBC for hydraulic fracturing so far as I know. They have used every stall tactic possible. It’s been almost five years that we’ve been fighting this battle. Wayne County Pennsylvania has been held hostage by the DRBC. The New York Times article references the word “taking.”  Yep, we know all about a “taking.

Even worse for us is the Hollywood “wanna be” Josh Fox and his movie Gasland. He claims to have grown up in Milanville, Pa. which, of course, happens to be in Wayne County. We have gone up against him many times and debunked his so called “flaming faucet” on numerous occasions.  He says he was offered a lease worth $100,000. Not true!  The lease copy in his movie is a page from a draft NWPOA lease we didn’t use and he doesn’t even own any land in our county.

Some of our New York neighbors are forced to live under the same DRBC rules (or, should I say lack of rules). They, too, have been held hostage. They have an even larger landowner coalition, the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York (JLCNY).

We’ve been through it all. We’ve written letters, met with our politicians, had member gatherings, wrote more letters, had more meetings with state, local and federal politicians. Yet we are still stuck in a moratorium. We are all friends with folks from Energy in Depth, Marcellus Shale Coalition and ANGA.  They, too, have put together strong efforts.

If we can help support you in any way, please feel free to contact me. We all feel the more folks we have as a united front the better the chances in winning the war. We are tired of fighting this battle. We have seen the economic possibilities in Susquehanna, Pa. and other nearby counties. Folks there are finally able to maintain their farms, fix up there homes and have some money in the bank. We are tired of being the playground for the rich and famous.

My heart goes out to the folks in Colorado. It’s nice to see the mayors’ sticking together. It’s not an easy battle and it will tear apart the community if you allow these bans to happen without a fight. I’ve seen it on the Main Street of Honesdale, Pa. The gas companies have moved away from Wayne County because they can develop assets in friendlier areas. I hope the same doesn’t happen to you.

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