Last summer a county commissioner from Bradford County, Pennsylvania, which sits on top of the richest part of the Marcellus Shale, contacted me because he and his colleagues were planning a shale drilling “fact finding” trip to Wise County, Texas, the birthplace of shale drilling. Mark, I think was his name, found my blog, and with the certainty of unconventional drilling in their future, this conscientious county commissioner craved information he could use to keep his constituents safe. We had at least one, maybe two, phone calls discussing drilling issues and his upcoming trip. I promised to take off work and meet him anytime and he promised to meet with me and “call me later.”
The “fact finding” trip was planned for the latter part of the summer right when THIS was lurking only a mile from my house. I lined up local people willing to speak with the Bradford Commissioners about how they have been affected by shale drilling.
He never called me.
I’ve often wondered what happened to that determined, conscientious man setting out on a “fact finding” mission. Then I happened across the Bradford County website and the newsletter, Bradford County Group returns from Wise County, Texas.
The newsletter has a picture of a drilling rig that looks nothing like THIS or the other rigs near where I live. It also has a picture of the Bradford County Commissioners—smiling, wearing their complimentary hard hats—standing alongside a whole batch of industry folks.
The newsletter states:
The trips purpose was” to educate those involved about the impacts that natural gas drilling has on the many aspects of our communities such as”
• Law Enforcement
The best part of the trip had to be the awesome tour of our amazing courthouse hopefully given by the bailiff who knows the most entertaining and scandalous trivia. The courthouse tour is one of my favorite memories of life in Wise County.
The Bradford Commissioners then heard
presentations propaganda given by the following unbiased, er… balanced, ah-um…industry insiders:
Devon Energy Specialist, Gilbert Horton – who is passionate about the environment (except when it costs his company money)
Ritchie Oilfield Construction, Mike Ritchie
XTO Energy, Ken Howerton – Man! I have a video coming that you just have to see!
Targa Pipeline, Ken Manning
Barnett Shale Education Commission, Ed Ireland – Shill for the Shale
Texas Department of Transportation
Texas Railroad Commission which
regulates protects the gas and oil industry in Texas
Then they all went out to dinner and had, “informal discussion.”
This was your “fact finding” trip?
I’d like to know how much your constituents paid for that trip because I’m pretty sure they didn’t get their money’s worth!
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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It’s a small world! So many surprising connections pop up when you least expect them. I knew about this “fact-finding” trip by the Bradford County Commissioners, but I did not know this part of the story. I am glad to know it. Thanks! And keep on keeping on with your good work!
Yep–they know how to “Buy them OFF”! Make BBO’s out of the locals from outside of TX. Bet this fact finding fiasco was orchestrated by the RRC? Check me out!
These commissioners go on a “fact finding mission” and end up on a propaganda tour. So what has the County received in return for this propaganda tour? Millions of dollars in road damage, an arrogant attitude from the O/G Co. that they are exempt from any gov’t regulations and a blantant disregard to resident and property owners issues and concerms.
I planned to show your commissioners the horrendous road dammage. When they were here, there was one area where the road dammage was really bad (it’s bad all over) and the stop sign where you intersect with FM 730 was run down and crushed. I thought that stop sign was a perfect metaphor for the way Big Oil treats the citizens–collateral damage.
our commissioners are guilty of negligence and wasteful spending of taxpayer funds! they could have just stayed home and listened to all the landman bullcrap! why did they need to travel all the way to texas to hear the same old story? it would have been nice had they learned some of the problems associated with drilling so they could have taken proactive steps to protect us.
Heavenly Horizons Photography says
Hi! My name is Sue Ellen Howard and I am a resident of Bradford County PA. I am also the founder of the Bradford County Drilling Awareness Team. I wasn't aware of the fact finding trip and would LOVE to know the name of this Mark person so that I could interview him for my upcoming documentary that will include many of the social issues as well as the environmental issues surrounding natural gas drilling in Bradford County, PA. I have been doing MUCH research, have been to Harrisburg protests, have video taped, video taped, and video taped. I am also working diligently on a music video that I hope will stir at least some curiosity in the hearts of my fellow community members who are TOTALLY CLUELESS about drilling practices and this crazy surreal environmental sci fi experiment that we have become a part of. Bradford County is a 'pro drilling' county as the politicians, the gas folks, and many who are in charge have kept things light and beautiful. Many folks here think that I, too, am a knucklehead as they honestly believe that those in authority actually have their best interests at heart..because of this, I can't even get interviews with people who have bad wells because the local lawyers that they have hired to represent them (with the 'help' of our area representative) request that they don't speak to media, etc… this 'Mark' that you were referring to…is he a politician? Or what? Please get back to me and you can check out the Bradford County Drilling Awareness Site at http://www.bcdrillingawarenessteam.webs.com . I hope that in the future I can travel to more places in order to film many of the atrocities that are taking place in the name of economic stimulation. I am a non trad grad student who has anything BUT economically stimulated by gas companies or local politicians. Thanks for your blog, I'm sorry about your experience, but I'm glad that I was directed to it. Sincerely, Sue Ellen
On top of everything else, the gas companies are blatantly ignoring any responsibility they have in the fundamental leases. They have been blatantly using last minute pooling to lock in leases (prima facie indicator of bad faith), ignore any implied covenents upheld by both US Federal Courts and the PA Supreme Court, payment terms and conditions in leases,…. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a single reputable lawyer in the Commonwealth who is willing and able to help out, and Governental sources simply ignore it. Anybody in TX know a good lawyer who is willing to take cases on contingency? No carpet baggers, people here can't pay retainers for BS advice.
Mark is one of the county commissioners in Bradford County.
Mark Smith, Chairman Bradford County Commissioners. Here's his blog.
Heavenly Horizons Photography says
Thanks! Read his blog, didn't see anything much about his trip to TX though. I just put in a request on his facebook for him to contact me for an interview…wonder how that'll work out? In any case, I'll ask him about his trip…keep ya posted!