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What Kind Of Democracy Is This
Following is an open letter to Representatives Tina Pickett and Sandra Major, State Senator Gene Yaw, and other Pennsylvania State Senators and Representatives.
On this Independence Day, 2010, I write to ask you:
What kind of a democracy do we live in when our state legislators consider insinuating themselves into contract negotiations between Pennsylvania citizens and large national and foreign corporations?
It is shocking that in this, the state where our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, our legislators are contemplating robbing landowners of property rights as a “convenience” to gas companies.
Landowners in Susquehanna and Bradford counties are sitting on some of the thickest Marcellus shale in the state. Currently no-surface-disturbance contracts are being negotiated between landowners and gas companies. As an example, I know of a contract that is about to be signed where the landowner will receive $5,000 per acre and 20% royalties without allowing any surface disturbance or right of way onto his property. Evan a discussion of “forced pooling” among legislators and gas companies (as is currently taking place) jeopardizes such contract negotiations.
Need I remind you that some of these gas companies came into our state like modern-day carpetbaggers and talked many naïve property owners into selling their gas and oil rights for less than $100 per acre, sometimes as little as $10 per acres, at the same time they were paying property owners in Louisiana and Texas as much as $20,000 and even $30,000 per acre? Now they are manipulating legislation so they would no longer have to negotiate with property owners at all. This is an outrageous assault on the rights of land owners.
According to a Times-Tribune article by Laura Legere published on June 29, “a forced pooling statute would require landowners without gas leases to allow a company to drill under their land from a nearby leased property, and it would define the amount of royalties those holdout landowners are owed for their gas.” In other words, it will pay landowners absolutely nothing for subsurface rights and it has the potential to saddle them with the same outrageous 12 1/2% (less transportation and post-production cost) royalties that the earlier “carpetbagger” contracts provided.
Ironically, it seems nothing would prevent gas companies from selling those leases to other gas companies at a later time. Leases in PA have already changed hands among gas companies for almost $12,000 per acre! Ironic, too, is that fact that some of these leases are no longer wholly American owned. Canada, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands and others are already active in our area. So we have the PA legislature considering legislation that would rob PA landowners of their property and income for the benefit of foreign companies. Outrageous!
I urge you to allow our American democratic and economic system to play out without government interference. Undoubtedly, unleased land located in the midst of leased land is desirable to the gas company that holds the surrounding leases. Therefore, let that gas company negotiate a price with the landowner without Soviet-style government interference. If the price goes up to what has already been paid to some Louisiana and Texas landowners, so be it. In fact, that would be great for Pennsylvania, since the property owner will pay income taxes on that money.
Forced pooling would rob these families of deserved income. This radical, undemocratic legislation should not be considered, especially in the state that houses the Liberty Bell.
Little Meadows, PA
So What Else Could Go Wrong?
Relief wells completed by mid-August? The government and BP are once again whistling Dixie; their sense of reality is clouded by undue optimism. In fact, mid-August is a long shot. Sure, sometimes the dark horse wins, but it's a sucker's bet.
Florida State University unveiled a new computer program last year to predict the frequency and path of tropical storms. The program proved to be extraordinarily accurate for the '09 hurricane season. This year it forecasts seven storms with sustained winds of at least 39 mph and ten hurricanes, which have winds in excess of 73 mph - that's double last year's number. And even this dire forecast may fall short.
More than 30,000 square miles of the Gulf are covered with an oil sheen and patches of dark oil (view youtube.com BP oil slick/gusher). Surface oil not only retards the cooling effect of evaporation but dark colors absorb heat. The Gulf's water is already 4 degrees above the seasonal average with temperatures in the mid to high 80s. Heat is the fuel that drives hurricanes; this year the storms will have plenty of fuel.
And there's something else: La Nina.
La Nina is an annual weather pattern extending from June to August. It is associated with higher surface sea temperatures and a greater number and severity of hurricanes.
Let's see: more than the average number of tropical storms, surface slick and dark oil covering large patches of water, and La Nina; it's hard to avoid the metaphor of a perfect storm.
What happens when a storm is in the offing? Ground zero looks like a Walmart parking lot; more than 500 ships will be forced to take a two- to three-day sail to safe harbor. The rigs digging the relief wells will have to disengage from their mile-long riser pipes that are connected to the seabed, and oil recovery will be put on hold.
According to Admiral Thad Allen, this is anticipated to cause a two-week delay in drilling and oil recovery. But high winds can stretch this out. With more than an average of one storm per week predicted for the summer, this can push the scheduled completion date for the relief well into the fall.
What might a major storm, a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, leave in its path?
The Gulf's floor looks like a bowl of spilled spaghetti with 31,000 miles of pipelines strewn every which way. Turbulent waters generated by hurricanes create powerful seafloor currents. These currents can dent, kink, twist, or even tear pipelines apart. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina necessitated 299 repairs and caused an unknown number of oil leaks.
“Oilcanes” - as one meteorologist dubbed them - can also stir up immense pools of oil suspended between 5,000 feet and 3,000 feet underwater. At these depths, the temperature hovers just above 32 degrees freezing the oil solid. But if these tar pools rise to warmer water, they will change to a liquid state. Most troubling, in this less viscous state there will be massive releases of highly poisonous gases in the oil mixing with the toxic fumes from the dispersant.
How poisonous are these vapors?
Kerry Kennedy, President of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, appearing on CNN's Campbell Brown, said that almost all the workers involved in the Exxon Valdez cleanup are dead. The average age at the time of death was 51.
“I went out on a boat into the Gulf,” said Kennedy. “And all of us were wearing respirators and we had burning eyes, and sore throats, and a sense of nausea” (view youtube.com/kerry kennedy gulf spill).
So what else could possibly go wrong? No one knows. But the tragic aspect of this under-the-waves disaster is the way it has time and time again outpaced the worst-case scenarios.
New Milford, PA
TO THE EDITOR POLICY
Thank you, Susquehanna County Transcript
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