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Jeanne Sager | Democrat

Alice Zinnes of Milanville, PA, mans a booth with information about gas drilling in Sullivan and Wayne counties.

‘Star wattage’ raises heat on gas drilling

By Jeanne Sager
CALLICOON — September 10, 2010 — It’s not gas land.
Not yet.
But it is the land of the dozen or so children who climbed onto the stage set up at the Delaware Youth Center on Saturday night to lend their voices to the cause that’s split the river valley in two.
On one side are the residents signing leases with natural gas companies and setting up signs in their yards proclaiming themselves “friends” of the natural gas industry.
On the other are the people who say they fear for the future of the very children singing along with Liberty High School grads Justin Sutherland and Erin Slaver as they played out the tune of Woody Guthrie’s famous ode to the earth.
Sutherland and his mother Justine had borrowed Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” for Saturday night’s free screening of the documentary “Gasland,” adding lyrics that spoke directly to the people of Callicoon.
“This land is our land; it’s not gas land,” their song went. “Think of our future, it’s all in our hands.
“From the Delaware River to the Catskill forest, we need our land to be drill free.”
It was the theme both of the film that kept a packed crowd on the Youth Center lawn even as temperatures dropped to create a decidedly fall-like night and of the guest speakers who have become folk heroes to the fervent foes of drilling:
Josh Fox, the part-time resident of nearby Milanville, PA, and New York City filmmaker whose receipt of an offer of nearly $100,000 from the gas companies sent him on an exploratory mission that ended in the production of “Gasland.”
Trish Adlesic, another part-time Callicoon resident and location manager for “Law and Order: SVU” who produced Fox’s film.
State Senator Tom Duane, a part-time resident of Callicoon who has worked both in the Senate and his native New York City to fight drilling.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey, one of the sponsors of the FRACK Act making its way through Congress which would require gas drilling companies to share the details of the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process of natural gas removal.
Sullivan County Legislator David Sager, a Sullivan County native who is running for the State Senate on a platform that includes forcing a drilling moratorium remain in place until it can be proven safe for the local environment.
Mark Ruffalo, the part-time Callicoon resident who has lent his Hollywood star power to the issue of gas drilling to get it needed attention.
They’re heroes to people like Julie Sautner, who drove with her husband and daughter an hour and a half from Dimock, PA, to show off jugs of her water contaminated by the fracking process in her town to the people wandering the grounds of the Youth Center Saturday night.
On her fourth trip to Callicoon, Sautner said she feels at peace in the town. She can wear her anti-drilling pin without fear of retribution. And she can talk frankly about what’s happened to the area she settled in 13 years ago expecting to find a forever home.
“You feel like these people are your friends,” Sautner said of the people at Saturday’s screening. “If we can just raise awareness and stop this from happening to these people. . .
“We thought we were living in a residential area; now it’s an industrial area,” she continued. “They’re ruining our environment.”
And that includes pushing a dividing line into Sullivan and Wayne counties, one Duane called for an end to Saturday night.
Calling out the names of diverse groups, Duane encouraged the crowd to respond with the word “together,” creating a volley of progress:
“Farms and second home owners,” he yelled.
“Together,” answered the crowd.
“New Yorkers,” Duane offered.
“Together,” came the answer.
“Pennsylvania and New York?” he asked.
“Together,” they responded.
He might well have added generations past and generations to come.
Justin Sutherland grew up fishing the Delaware as a child at his family’s cabin by the Delaware.
Today he’s a graduate of both Liberty High School and Northeastern University, and he looks forward to the day he will have kids to bring to that same cabin.
“I want to see my kids grow up and be able to take them out on the boat and go fishing . . . not to have to say, don’t eat those fish because they’re poison,” he said.
“It’s really about the kids, the kids are the biggest impact,” Sutherland continued. “I don’t want to be cliche, but they ARE our future.”
And so he let them sing out his words on Saturday night.
“Think of our future. It’s all in our hands.”

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