Ceblebrities visit Dimock

Filmmaker Josh Fox, left, is joined by celebrities Yoko Ono, Susan Sarandon and Sean Lennon on a tour of Suisquehanna County gas drilling sites last Thursday.

BY LAURA LEGERE

Times-Shamrock Writer

Dimock Township and other sites across Susquehanna County were visited by celebrities last Thursday when Yoko Ono, Sean Lennon and Susan Sarandon spoke out against fracking.

The three warned about what they view as the danger to air, water and human health.

The celebrity tour of Dimock and other rural area townships was an experience of odd intersections:

*Two Yokos – Yoko Ono and local activist Victoria Sweitzer (whose email address is Yoko) – at an auto repair shop.

*New Yorkers hoping Pennsylvania grief can ward off the same in their state.

*Industry proponents and opponents tussling at the foot of a Mercedes bus.

“Susan Sarandon,” pro-drilling filmmaker Phelim McAleer shouted to the visiting actress in the middle of the roadside scrum. “How does it feel to represent the 1 percent rather than the 99 percent of Dimock?”

The bus was stopped at Ray Kemble’s yard, which is covered with signs and banners protesting the industry. His is one of the 19 Dimock households whose water was found by the state to be tainted with methane tied to faulty gas wells in 2009. Drilling is still on hold in a section of the township because the state is still evaluating whether methane levels are low enough in residential water wells to lift the ban.

Across the road, New Milford Twp. resident Jodi Fiore huddled with her hands in her pockets, irate.

“I had to come see it for myself,” she said. “I thought this was done.”

Her husband was once employed by a railroad in a job that required a three-hour daily commute. He was injured and would have been jobless if he had not found work with the gas industry.

“As long as wells are flowing, he has a job,” she said.

“I want the cameras to show the rest of the town, because where do you see another sign around here protesting this? You don’t. You have one very unhappy man.”

Behind the bus,  Kemble told Sarandon, Ono and her son, musician Sean Lennon, about how he delivers replacement water to his home and neighbors who need it.

“This is a divided town,” he said. “I used to have a repair garage here and I wasn’t getting rich but I made a decent living. Now we got nothing because we’re totally blackballed. Nobody will deal with us.”

“Hey, that happened to me too!” Sarandon cheered and slapped him a high five. “I hear you. I’m used to being canceled.”

Ono nodded and encouraged other activists to write down Kemble’s story so it could be shared.

“Now we heard about it,” she said. “Now it’s our problem too.”

Rachel Colley of Energy in Depth, a pro-gas trade group said, “It’s worth noting there were no regulatory officials or actual experts on the bus.”

She added, “These “celebrities” and celeb-wannabe types are used to living in the make-believe world full of money, homes and cars where they are stripped of any responsibility or care in the real world, unlike the folks from Dimock whose lives have been materially improved as a result of natural gas development.”

“The reality,” Colley said, “is that natural gas is being produced safely and has provided significant benefits to rural economies throughout Pennsylvania.”

Staff writer Robert Baker also contributed to this story.