The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) held a public comment hearing Wednesday to listen to arguments from concerned citizens regarding permit applications submitted by the natural gas company, Stone Energy Corporation.


The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) held a public comment hearing Wednesday to listen to arguments from concerned citizens regarding permit applications submitted by the natural gas company, Stone Energy Corporation. The company requests permission to drain 0.7 million gallons of water a day out of the West Branch of the Lackawaxen River in Mount Pleasant Township for hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale natural gas deposits, and to operate a natural gas well in Clinton Township.
Both the pro-drilling and anti-drilling communities supplied arguments on behalf of their respective causes to the DRBC and a crowd of an estimated 150 with mixed views at the Best Western Inn, in Matamoras, Pa.  Deputy Director Robert Tudor represented the DRBC at the four hour hearing.
The testimony was at times highly emotional, and applause frequently followed, despite an effort to curtail it. About an hour into the meeting, Monica Hunken stood and sang to the tune of “I Will Survive,” lyrics about why drilling should not be allowed. This was met with considerable applause. There was no song prepared from the pro-drilling side.
Anti-drillers
Many of the anti-drilling speakers spoke about the dangers that the flow-back water can have on the drinking water.
“It would be an act of gross negligence to allow fracturing to occur,” said James Barth, a member of the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, an anti-drilling group.  He compared gas companies and how they talk about gas drilling to the way tobacco companies said cigarettes were not harmful in the past.
Theresa Kehagias, who had no affiliation with any groups present, cited a statement by the National Council of Churches  that the decision not to drill is a moral imperative because of the present, inadequate technology. She also said that drilling could be a human rights violation if water was purposely being contaminated, but added that no one is trying to contaminate the water.
Josh Fox, whose film documentary film about natural gas drilling, called “Gasland,” has received awards at film festivals across the country.  He said he has seen what the process does and said the affects are “devastating.”
“It absolutely devastates the region,” Fox said. It turns the drilling areas into “toxic industrial zones overnight.”
“This is not an economic solution for the region,” he said, “And the health consequences are extreme.”
Pro-drillers
Pro-drillers were also on hand to testify about the benefits of gas drilling, with one speaker saying the tax revenue generated by the industry will trickle down and spread throughout the economy in Pennsylvania.
Louis Matoushek, owner of land in Clinton Township where Stone Energy is seeking approval to operate the gas well, said the drilling is vital to his way of life. “It affects me by taking food off my table and the clothes off my back,” he said.
“Let’s not forget about private property rights,” said David Jones, a pro-drilling landowner from Wayne County. “It will help our area, and it’s our water,” he said. 
“He may own the property, but a person cannot infringe on the rights of his neighbor and call it property rights,” said Donald John, who has a “middle of the road” opinion on the issue.
Send written comments
The DRBC will be accepting written arguments, from those who could not attend the hearing, until 5 p.m. March 12th. They can be emailed to: Paula.schmit@drbc.net or mailed to P.O. Box 7360, West Trenton, NJ. 08628-0360.

[EdItor's Note: This is an updated version of the story that was previously published, but contained a statement by Theresa Kehagias that needed to be put back into context as it is presented above.]