Marino listens to Dimock residents

Susquehanna County residents, including several from Carter Road where the water supply has been contaminated for the past 20 months, meet with Republican congressional candidate Tom Marino. STAFF PHOTO/MIKE RUDOLF

The Republican candidate for the 10th Congressional District was practically in his opponent’s backyard Monday evening for a discussion about natural gas issues.

Tom Marino met with about a dozen residents from around Susquehanna County who have been adversely affected by natural gas drilling.

“I’m not here for political reasons. I’m here because I was asked to be here,” Marino told the group as they gathered around tables at the Dimock Baptist Church – just a few hundred yards from Rep. Chris Carney’s home.

For more than an hour and a half, Marino listened to the residents describe what has happened to their lives since natural gas companies moved into the Marcellus shale region.

Afterwards, Craig Sautner, who helped organize the session, said he was impressed that Marino would take the time to hear them.

Noting that Marino has received a lot of input from the gas companies, Sautner said, “He wanted to get to the bottom of the whole thing. He wanted to hear our side of the story.”

Marino said his main purpose at the meeting was to get information. He said that if he is elected to Congress, he wants to make sure he has the information to act accordingly.

Even at the end of the session, Marino admitted that he has a lot to learn.

“I understand more now than I’ve ever understood,” he said. “Something’s got to be done now, but I don’t know what it is.”

Marino opened the discussion by acknowledging there are economic benefits to the gas industry which he favors.

“I want to make it clear that I do support the industry. However, there are caveats along with that,” he said.

He added that protection of water and other natural resources must take priority.

“We have a resource here we need to protect at all costs,” he said.

For the most part, the gathering consisted of residents telling Marino their personal histories of dealing with gas companies. They related how their water has been contaminated, how their lives have been torn apart and how they feel deceived.

Ron and Jean Carter told how they have lived in their home along Carter Road for 45 years, and never had any water problems until Cabot Oil & Gas drilled a well about 300 feet away. They explained to Marino how within weeks their water was contaminated.

“I don’t even want to live where I live now. We’re full of pipelines and gas wells all around us,” Jean Carter said.

Other residents joined in, describing how for nearly two years they have had their water supplied in large portable containers referred to as ‘water buffaloes.’

At one point, Hop Bottom resident Frank Finan noticed Marino’s expression.

“I can see by your face you didn’t know this,” Finan said. Marino shook his head slowly.

The residents stated that the problems started almost immediately after the drilling began is proof that Cabot is responsible for the contamination.

Marino, a former prosecutor, equated that to circumstantial evidence in a criminal case. He said that even though no one saw the suspect commit the crime, you know he did it.

Marino also learned how some of the residents believe they were misled when the gas company approached them to sign a lease.

Craig Stevens of Forest Lake told him that the potential hazards of drilling were never explained to anyone.

“If that was said, nobody would have signed a lease,” Stevens said.

Marino asked what the residents would like him to do if he is elected.

“Start with a moratorium,” Finan said.

Marino agreed that stricter controls on the gas companies is probably the first step to get a handle on the problem.

“I don’t like a lot of government regulation, but there’s got to be regulation,” he said.

Asked about his opposition to legislation that would place a severance tax on gas production, Marino said it was the way Gov. Ed Rendell structured the plan. He said the governor wanted the money to go into the state’s general fund.

“I said no, 75 percent needs to go back into the district where it came from,” Marino said.

When Stevens cited accusations that candidates for other offices, such as governor, have taken campaign contributions from gas companies, Marino emphatically stated his opposition.

“I’ve taken no contributions. I’m not a guy who can be bought,” he said.

People at the meeting also complained that public officials were not heeding their concerns.

A few commented that Carney is their own neighbor and even he doesn’t respond to them.

Marino did not respond directly to those comments. But he did state that he will keep this issue in the forefront.

“I promise you this is something I will not drop,” he said. “I need to study more about this. I need to hear more.”

Carney spokesperson Josh Drobnyk responded to the allegations of the residents, stating that the congressman has always been receptive to their concerns.

”Congressman Carney has met with dozens of families affected by the natural gas drilling throughout the region and prides himself on being open and accessible on the topic. His door is always open to families, including in Dimock, where residents stop by with regularity to discuss a variety of issues,” Drobnyk said.

He noted that Carter Road residents were invited to meet with Congressman Carney at his Clarks Summit office.

Drobnyk added, “Congressman Carney believes that the Marcellus Shale has presented our region with unique economic opportunities and challenges and that if we are to err, we should err on the side of clean water.”

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