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Sonia Owchariw | Democrat

A full house packed the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon last Saturday to hear Mayor Calvin Tillman of Texas talk about his town’s experiences with gas drilling. Former Callicoon Supervisor Linda Babicz, visible at right at the podium, was the moderator. Audience members could be seen wearing shirts emblazoned with “Drilling Isn’t Safe” signs.

Pitfalls can come
with drilling promises

By Sonia Owchariw
CALLICOON — February 26, 2010 — To drill or not to drill, that is the probing question. More importantly, “drill responsibly before it’s too late,” is the advice that Mayor Calvin Tillman of Dish, Texas, conveyed to a room full of concerned Sullivan county residents.
Last Saturday’s panel on drilling in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale drew more than 150 residents to the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon. Tillman has been visiting parts of New York and Pennsylvania, sharing his own Texas experiences from drilling and its impact when guidelines are not installed.
Tillman commented, “We didn’t do it right from the beginning, and the noise and odors got worse. There are no trees left near the site. What I’m saying is, learn from us and drill smarter.”
The mayor favors “Green Technology,” which is more environmentally sound to the surrounding communities and its residents. According to his presentation, agreements should be in place prior to drilling and include: no flaring; no pit for drilling waste; vapor recovery on condensation tanks and other emission sources; zero emission dehydrators, pneumatic valves and boiling out .
In Texas, Tillman witnessed drilling closer and closer to homes, similar to what has happened in Dimock, PA. He said that wells need to be set back from homes at least 1,000 feet.
In addition, Pennsylvania and New York are two states that Tillman said had no severance tax, which, according to Tillman, could help rebuild infrastructure of a community after drilling has ceased.
“Fixing your roads, that comes from a severance tax. Local control and ordinances need to come back before drilling is in place,” Tillman added.
In 2008, energy companies started contacting property owners about signing leases. The Marcellus Shale is one of the leading potential deposits of natural gas, but to extract it, companies need to use a process called hydrofracking to break up the deep rocks under great pressure.
Opponents of drilling have charged that the process, which uses chemicals mixed with water, is harmful to the environment and will have a negative impact.
Present at Saturday’s forum was Noel van Swol, president of Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association, representing 70,000 acres on the Marcellus Shale. He is in favor of gas drilling, because it will economically revitalize the region.
“It’s just environmental hysteria in regards to the hazards of contaminated water supply and health effects,” van Swol commented.
Van Swol’s partner, Callicoon dairy farmer Bill Graby, added, “Dairy farmers are closing up shop in this county. Kids are leaving after graduating from Sullivan West [High School]. Gas drilling would create jobs for the area.”
Graby said the opponents’ actions are “just scare tactics about the health concerns.”
Pat Carullo of Damascus Citizens for Safe Energy retorted that Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City said, “It would be catastrophic to drill here!”
The NYC Department of Environmental Protection is on record as opposing drilling in the city’s watershed area, part of which lies in Sullivan County and is also within the Marcellus Shale region.
Nockamixon Township Supervisor Nancy Janyszeski, from Bucks County, PA, was also on the panel, which was moderated by former Town of Callicoon Supervisor Linda Babicz.
Janyszeski noted that there are benefits of drilling, but it should be done responsibly. She said drilling needs to be done in designated areas and away from schools. Staying informed is key, according to the supervisor.
“Be proactive about putting in place ordinances about drilling, because our air, water supply and roads are too important for our survival as human beings living in these towns,” she said.
Notes – Sometimes the mayor’s town is spelled DISH. This is due to a 10-year agreement the municipality signed with the DISH satellite TV provider to adopt the name in exchange for free TV service to town residents.

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