By Steve Milloy
November 14, 2010, Times-Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA)
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection chief John Hanger is planning to give Alaska’s infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” a run for its money.
Hanger wants to spend $11.8 million on a water pipeline that would serve four families in Susquehanna County’s Dimock Township who claim that their water has been polluted with methane by local natural gas drilling.
While spending so much money to bring water to so few people is absurd on its face, it gets worse.
Those four families don’t really need the pipeline since they could, as 14 neighboring families already have, allow driller Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. to install methane treatment systems that eliminate the problem.
But wait, it gets worse. It turns out that the available evidence indicates that Cabot’s drilling isn’t responsible for the contamination. Area residents have signed affidavits attesting to having had methane in their water for more than 30 years while Cabot didn’t start drilling in the area until 2006. It doesn’t end there.
Hanger’s pipeline might actually jeopardize the water supply of the nearby community of Montrose. Not only would the pipeline draw from the limited waters of Lake Montrose but, by law, any new development also would be entitled to connect to the 5.5 mile-long water main and 7 mile-long distribution pipeline.
Hanger has threatened to build the pipeline and then to sue Cabot to recover the cost. Although the legal authority under which Hanger would do any of this is unclear, for now he apparently plans on bullying Cabot. “(W)e’re not going to wait and go through what could be long legal proceedings with Cabot in order to get this work going. We’re going to get it going as soon as humanly possible,” Hanger told the news media when he announced his plan on Sept. 30.
There is an apparent explanation for Hanger’s rogue behavior – and it lies closer to money and politics than it does to good government and the public welfare. Prior to his appointment as head of DEP, Hanger was president of PennFuture, an environmental activist group.
It’s no secret that radical environmental activists and renewable energy interests have long collaborated to promote global warming alarmism. For the activists, greenhouse gas regulation is the means to their much-desired goal of government control over energy use and, ultimately, the economy.
For the renewables industry, such regulation holds out the promise of government-guaranteed riches from forced switching out of coal for electricity generation into technologies such as wind, solar and biomass.
Natural gas, with its reduced greenhouse gas emissions, used to be part of the activists’ publicly expressed vision of the future of electricity generation – at least back when gas was prohibitively expensive and heavily subsidized renewables could be made more competitive with gas.
But all that changed with the production of unconventional natural gas from shale formations, such as the Marcellus formation. Between all the new gas production causing a glut in the market and the ongoing recession, the price of gas has fallen by more than half since 2008.
Now, if utilities are going to swap out of coal and into another form of electricity generation, that form will likely be gas, since there is so much of it and it is so cheap. Since that spells bad news for the plans of the activists and renewables industry, shale gas must be stopped by any means necessary.
Thus, Dimock is a major battlefield, drawing the attention of well-funded national environmental activist groups and Hanger’s renewables industry-funded PennFuture.
So while he is still in office and green-friendly Democrats control Pennsylvania’s executive branch, Hanger apparently plans to do what he can to turn Dimock into a junk science-fueled cause celebre – like the green activists did more than 30 years ago at places such as Love Canal and Three Mile Island.
The Marcellus Shale formation means jobs and tax revenues for the commonwealth, as its gas can be extracted safely and cleanly. Pennsylvanians should choose those benefits over ridiculous activist antics like Hanger’s “Pipeline to Nowhere.”
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them.”
Note: Versions of this op-ed also ran in the Philadelphia Bulletin (Nov. 6, 2010), Bucks County Courier Times (Nov. 6, 2010) and Westfield, PA Free Press Courier (Nov. 10, 2006)