The woman standing at the podium may seem small and unassuming but don’t be fooled she’s a powerhouse and has a warning to share with the world. Vera Scroggins is a mother, a grandmother, resident of Susquehanna County, PA and a member of Citizens for Clean Water, a citizen-watch group of volunteers who keep an eye on the gas-drilling process by videotaping and keeping tabs on any problems or concerns. But today Vera’s in New York City at Saint John the Divine for the Global Frackdown and her message is loud and clear. “Don’t let them in.”
Ms. Scroggina was born in Germany but her family fled in order to escape the Nazi’s and she speaks out against the horrors of hydrofracking so we can’t, like the Germans, make the excuse, we didn’t know. She’s here to make sure we don’t make the same mistake and allow hydrofracking in New York.
Yes, there’s something rotten in Susquehanna County and it’s called hydrofracking. What the heck is hydrofracking anyway? In a nutshell–it’s a highly toxic method of extracting natural gas from the shale by drilling down through aquifers, then horizontally through the shale and pumping millions of gallons of clean drinking water full of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals and sand. They then shoot the toxic water into the shale using extreme pressure, which causes small earthquakes, fracturing the shale and releasing the gas.
Former VP and Halliburton Exec, Dick Cheney’s made sure the gas companies don’t have to divulge any of these toxic chemicals by implementing an energy policy, which conveniently exempted hydrofracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Superfund Act, now referred to as the Halliburton Loophole. So all this hydrofracking is completely unregulated.
Fracking is currently occurring in 34 states and they plan on selling most of the natural gas overseas where they can get a lot more money for it. And as luck would have it the Marcellus shale reserves are mainly located in Pennsylvania and upstate New York and now they want to frack New York.
“You’re next! After several years of devastating many Western states, gas-drilling companies are now descending on the East—especially West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. They have already leased large areas including the Susquehanna and Delaware River Basins, and are poised to contaminate the water supplies of 41 million people from the states of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. These drilling companies have already ripped through western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, leaving these areas in ruins.
Once the water and earth are poisoned, there is no going back. The chemicals used in fracking do not biodegrade. Worse, there is no known technology to treat or filter the fluid waste. The small percentage of waste extracted usually ends up re-injected somewhere else, or worse, dumped. These toxins will be in our soil, water and air, for thousands of years – and all for a short-term energy plan.” United for Action
This is where Vera comes in. Ms. Scroggins and her family moved to Susquehanna County about 20 years ago to the “little farm of her dreams” where she could breath clean air and drink clean, fresh well water. She was perfectly content living her life until one day a friend, who lives in nearby Dimock, called and asked her to come take a look at what was going on because the gas companies wanted to drill.
Ms. Scroggins elaborates, “Four years ago a gas company drilled in Pennsylvania and they’ve had nothing but violations and problems. The company said there would be one well but thus far there are 150 and counting within 30 square miles.”
She insists the gas companies lied to the residents telling them they’d be in and out very quickly and just do a little drilling here and there and you’d hardly notice as there’d only be one well with a small pole sticking out above ground that would look sort of like a Christmas tree or a cross.
The gas companies also promised jobs to the locals but it turns out only 10% of these jobs go to the local residents. The people, with stars in their eyes, in the hopes of jobs and money, believed and signed. She acknowledges, “10% of the large landowners will make some money.”
The gas companies also forgot to mention they use fine sand from Wisconsin and people breath this into their lungs.” She informs us, “This is where your food comes from. Cows now have rashes and farmers are still milking and selling their products because there are no regulations.”
Her talk is accompanied by slides of these monstrosities encircled by tall-wired fences bearing ominous “Keep Out” signs as a caution to others.
She goes on, “Four years later there are 150 wells. One of the companies, Cabot Oil and Gas, has been fined again and again and found guilty of contaminating 18 wells. They’re been banned from 9 square miles where they’re not allowed to drill or frack. Cabot was ordered, since the effected families are no longer able to drink their now contaminated water, to bring clean water in on a daily basis. So the gas company brought in water buffalos, a 1,100 gallon white plastic tank filled with highly chlorinated water. They also bring in cases of clean water for drinking.
I did some drilling of my own and found this report: Drillers cited for 3,300 violations in four years.
I also found a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection with a “Notice of Violation” to Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, which sited them for:
1. Unpermitted discharge of polluting substances.
2. Failure to prevent gas from entering fresh ground water.
3. Failure to submit well record and completion reports.
4. Failure to submit plugging certificate among other things.
And if all this isn’t bad enough, the cement casings used to keep the toxic water in place leak and this poisonous water travels and seeps into other waterways and into people’s wells. Vera assures us, “Not everyone has this issue but your water starts to change–it turns gray. Then the water from the faucet spurts as gas comes out of the tap.”
She goes on to explain, “The gas companies have been fined for defective casings and spills. The fracking wells aren’t safe and contaminate the water and land, and pollute the air when flaring occurs. Flaring is the fire that burns gas at the end of fracking. It sounds like JFK airport 24/7. Three hundred trucks a day coming and going. This also emits voc’s and formaldehyde.
“Don’t let them in,” she implores us.
“Look at what is happening to us. It goes on for a year or more. They do 1-5 wells on each site. They frack it. Flare it and it sounds like a jet plane. 300 ft. from homes. Noise, lights, smells, dust, traffic, emissions. Once they’re done they have to fill in the pipelines. Dig up 100 ft. swatches through the valleys, creek beds and wells, Pipelines. Then they need compressor stations to compress the gas, dehydrate it and push it through quickly. It’s only 21 miles to New York. We asked how many will you need (compressor stations)? None. Now there are 4 of them. Noise 24/7 and emissions. Tons of emissions are allowed each year, benzenes, all the gasses, sulfa, formaldide, etc. They are building one every 2-4 miles.
The gas companies claim they do everything within the law. Maybe these regulations are not adequate. We need to relook at these regulations. They put wells on school properties. Do you want this near your children and your schools? Constant machinery hum and . . .
I’ve come to warn you,” she continues. “Come look at it.” Vera gives regular tours of the sites to show media and officials from all over the country, state and world what is happening to her state and our country and she invites us all to a tour she’s holding on October 20th and advises us to bring Governor Cuomo along so he can see what’s going on as well.
Susquehanna County has become just another sacrifice zone for the fossil fuel industry. Fracking is a short-term solution for a long-term problem based on huge profits for the fossil fuel industry. These fossil fuel companies have no conscience, no morals and care about nothing but their profits and now they want to frack in New York and Governor Cuomo is ready to allow this.
The New York City water shed has the largest unfiltered drinking water supply in the world and serves 16 million people. There could be 50,000 wells in the New York water basin alone. The only energy independence is renewal energy. We have the technology to transition into clean energy. So why don’t we? Our legislators are too busy being bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry and fracking is another big give away for the fossil fuel industry at the expense of our clean drinking water, our natural environment and our health.
Vera beseeches us, “Stand fast. No state in the union has resisted this long. The gas companies are exempt from all laws for clean water and clean air. Four years you’ve kept them out. I’m impressed. No other state has done this. Continue to do this. Because once you let them in you can’t get them out.”
We’ve been warned.
Will we allow New York to become just another sacrifice zone so the fossil fuel industry can pollute our water, contaminate our land and frack billions in profits?
It’s up to us to ban fracking. It can be done. It’s been banned in France and Vermont. Not much but it’s a start.
We must keep the pressure on.
Here’s what we can do.
According to United for Action. (www.unitedforaction.org)
Contact your legislators.
Call the White House (202) 456-1111
Contact your Senators: (www.senate.gov)
Contact your members of Congress: (www.house.gov)
1. Close the “Halliburton Loophole”
2. Stop subsidizing the very profitable gas industry and oppose bills which call for switching trucks and cars to natural gas and
3. Stop fooling with fossil fuels and start investing in sustainable and renewable energy to create green jobs. CLEAN ENERGY NOW!
Call Governor Cuomo (518) 474-8390
Contact your NY State Senator (www.nysenate.gov)
Contact your NY State Assembly person (www.assembly.state.ny.us)
1. Ban hydrofracking
2. Start investing in sustainable and renewable energy to create green jobs now.
Get more involved.
United for Action (www.unitedforaction.org)
NYC Friends of Clearwater (www.nycfriendsofclearwater.org) 212.307.7447
The Mothers Project (www.MothersforSustainableEnergy.com)
Sane Energy Project (wwwSaneEnergyProject.org) firstname.lastname@example.org
Environment New York (www.EnvironmentNewYork.org)
Get more informed.
Watch the Oscar nominated documentary, “GasLand,” by Josh Fox available on Netflix or learn more about the film.
Watch the interview with Josh Fox on PBS.
Watch “The Sky is Pink” by Josh Fox and the GasLand team.
Go here for a great diagram featuring Hydraulic Fracturing and how it works.
Here’s a more detailed explanation on hydrofracking from the Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation.
Vera Scroggins videos are available on youtube.com under “veraduerga.”
Vera gives a talk on hydrofracking.
Jill Dalton is a recovering army brat/writer/performer who has appeared in film and television as well as performing her solo plays in New York and around the country. Most recently she can be seen in and consulted for William Hurt on the HBO film, “Too Big To Fail.” Her articles have been published on: Dandelion Salad, RSN, OpEdNews & Progressive Activists Voice. She is currently writing a screenplay. Read Ms. Dalton’s new ebook, Is It Fascism Yet?