Dan Hust | Democrat
BARBARA ARRINDEL, LEFT, and Pat Carullo of the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS), which is resolutely opposed to gas drilling in our area.
Damascus Citizens group leading effort to stop gas drilling
By Dan Hust
Editor’s Note: The following article is the latest installment of a series of gas drilling question-and-answer interviews spanning most of the past year. We have presented all of these Q&As not as endorsements of particular philosophies and approaches but as unfiltered insights into the key local groups involved in efforts to oppose, promote or regulate gas drilling.
DAMASCUS, PA You don’t even have to ask: Barbara Arrindell will make sure you have near-instantaneous access to all the information she’s spent a year collecting.
Indeed, few in the area have spent more time studying gas drilling than this Damascus, PA resident.
Her conclusions and that of the group she helped found, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) that gas drilling threatens to irreparably destroy the environment have generated passionate debate, but it cannot be argued that she’s done a lot of homework.
One look at DCS’ extensive website, www.damascuscitizens.org, proves that point and also paints a disturbing and frightening picture of the gas drilling industry and the harm it’s brought to communities across the country.
As a result of such research and members’ deep affection for the local landscape, DCS has become the leading group in the opposition movement, mounting a highly visible and pointed campaign to ultimately halt gas drilling’s march toward this area.
That effort has encompassed Sullivan County, and membership now spans the Delaware River in both New York and Pennsylvania.
Arrindell and fellow co-founder Pat Carullo of Lackawaxen, Pa. spent some time with the Democrat recently sharing their thoughts on DCS and gas drilling.
Q: How large is DCS?
BA: The organization has close to 4,000 members. There are… committees working on different things, and we have a pretty decent structure for an organization that’s so young.
Q: How did it begin?
BA: There was a meeting January 8, 2008 [about gas drilling and leasing in the area, prior to DCS’ founding]. I had heard little bits about the gas drilling, and I knew in my heart of hearts that “OK, this is going to change my life once I jump into this.”
It was at that meeting that I realized that I just can’t wait.
I have a background in science. I have a degree from Columbia University School of Engineering in bioengineering a bachelor’s, and I did additional studies, and I worked in an advanced lab there for a couple years besides.
In addition to that training, I have a lifelong interest in both alternative fuels “alternative” meaning away from gas and oil and also a lifelong interest in the effects of human habitation on this earth, how humans themselves have changed the way that the earth is.
Going way back to Roman times and the Chinese… there’s been effects of essentially industrial pollution, and this is a biggie, the effect of fossil fuels.
Also I have a very deep love of the earth. I feel a deep connection to our place here. Humans are not separate. We have to have food to eat, water to drink, air to breathe, or we don’t live.
So from that meeting on January 8, I knew that I had to deal with this, because Marian Schweighofer [a Tyler Hill, Pa. farmer who co-founded the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance in an effort to obtain better terms on gas leases] said, “They’re coming in. It’s a done deal. You have no choice.”
We have to have a choice.
Q: How did you both come to this area?
BA: I moved here a little less than eight, ten years ago. My husband had lived here for 35 years.
We have a farm, a huge garden. ... We raise some of the nicest, wonderful vegetables you could imagine.
Plus, we’re both artists. I work in glass, and he’s a sculptor. The connection is here, very deep.
I lived in Warwick, NY, for 25 years or so, then I lived in Port Jervis, and I had my studio in Matamoras for about six years.
... I love it up here. I think it’s wonderful. There’s no reason to wreck it.
PC: I was born in Staten Island before the Verrazano Bridge, so Staten Island looked like this.
After 9/11, my wife and I decided it was time to really “run to the hills.” ... Like Dr. Theo Colburn, our technical expert here who we speak with really on a weekly basis, we really wanted in a sense to make some hard choices, make some sacrifices, live simply and live with nature.
I, too, am an artist. I do a lot of video work. I think here in our group we have a really great mix insofar as we have several working and very talented artists. They think outside the box.
We have people who bring other skills to our grassroots effort. But I think the point of view of the artist and as you know, there are hundreds of artists here is an interesting point of view, a point of view that I think even the Cheney secret think-tank meetings could not quite anticipate.
... I’m always in the river. I’d like to be in the river as often as possible, but this work here has really demanded a lot.
Q: How did you, Pat, become involved in the group?
PC: I founded the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition. I was the organizer, I was the first president, and I was also active with the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, on staff for four years. I really met Barbara through our interaction there.
Barbara called me in January ... and I had just finished with the [NYRI] powerline effort, which is now, as you know, a total victory. We stopped it in the river; it’s not coming in the river.
It cost us some $125,000 to stop it in the river, negotiating with the Public Service Commission [PSC] over a three-year period, and now we understand that further the PSC has instructed NYRI to use the [existing] Marcy South line and are even now moving toward a “smart grid,” burying it along the NYS Thruway. So that was a total success.
... Because victory likes victory, success likes success, it points to how a grassroots effort, playing its role within the community, can indeed have a significant impact.
... It was an important dress rehearsal for what is required for this effort.
... Much of the knowledge that I gained in the community, lots of the contacts, our lawyer Richard Lippes, the Love Canal lawyer I met through the effort with the powerline issue, so these things are synergizing, and it’s a matter of bringing the community together.
Q: How has DCS grown since its founding?
BA: Just basically by word of mouth, and a series of emails ... and we did a series of meetings.
PC: The May 3 meeting was significant, because in the room were staff people from our political leaders, elected officials. They were there to get information.
It was really early on. ... At that time, people were sort of in the dark. Everyone who had signed and we subsequently found out that it was well over 1,500 leases that had been signed they may have all been really deceived into the fact that it’s “only” water and sand [in the fluid used to fracture rock in gas drilling]. Well, now we know that there are several hundred chemicals along with the water and sand “small” detail.
But [at] that May 3 meeting ... we proved our worth. We had almost 400 people, and we delivered. Speaking to several people afterwards, they said, “Wow, this was a ton of information, we really appreciate it!”
... So that for us was, in a sense, our coming out, showing the community that we are very deep in our knowledge and very hardworking.