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  • Writer's pictureBrian Keeler

Roll Over Thoreau-(more) On The Saga of the of the LNG-

Updated: Mar 10, 2019

An essay on history and Corporate Greed in Bradford County, PA by Brian Keeler

The following commentary was penned as letter to the editor to the Rocket-Courier- the weekly newspaper in Wyalusing, PA.

A sunrise view of the Susquehanna by Brian Keeler- a large 22" x 44" oil depicting the river at Sugar Run, PA directly opposite of the site for the possible LNG plant. Imagine this beautiful river, marred by a huge industrial complex on the distant shore shown here in this painting. Better yet, visualize the river maintained in its natural splendor and kept safe for future generations.

First I would like to thank you for pointing out some factual errors in my previous letter about the proposed LNG plant. For example you clarified that the plant would be only 40 acres of the 265 total acres. Still, the point I was making remains, this is a huge intrusion by any criteria and we can only assume the other 225 acres would be filled with, garages, parking lots, warehouses and various other infrastructure that would be a source of noise, light pollution and just a god-awful eyesore along our beautiful river- not to mention a potential environmental catastrophe.

This unfolding LNG project in the local news of late is on the minds of many of us. I would like to respond to your commentary and those of others in the online and print version of the Rocket-Courier. I might point out to your readers to study Margaret Wood’s many good points in response to this in the on-line version of the paper.

Before that however, your recent article on the front page of the Rocket-Courier, requires some further clarification and elaboration. I must take exception to the way New Fortress Energy is presenting their mission and your headline conveying their wish to fuel a “green revolution” as an established fact. I suppose it is somewhat reassuring that the spokesman for New Fortress Energy regards it as a feather in his cap to be aligned with a green revolution- that in itself is a nod to a more earth-friendly energy source and acknowledging carbon foot prints and by extension perhaps even appreciating aspects of climate change. This entire plant construction and the myriad tentacles of the fracking industry is presented as just a transitionary phase before we go to more sustainable and sensible energy sources like solar. Well said, but why not just eliminate this monstrous intermediary stage and go direct to the more beneficial and less destructive source? The reported $800 million that would go toward this LNG could be directed and used in much more beneficial direction.

The headline stating that the fracking industry and this proposed LNG plant to be environmentally salubrious is way off mark. Fracking is hardly a green energy even though their press releases and corporate spin attempt to portray the industry this way. Yes, most reports show that natural gas energy is much better than say coal or nuclear in some respects, however there is the methane aspect to using natural gas that renders it not as clean as often thought. The main aspect of the fracking industry that is contrary to any wish to be eco-friendly is abundantly clear and observable to anyone who lives in the northern tier of Pennsylvania or anywhere else where these areas have been turned into gas colonies. That of course is the hugely intrusive nature of the infrastructure and the consequent actual and potential damages to land, water and air. A number of these such as chemical spills and compromised water sources have been reported in the Rocket-Courier. We see thousands upon thousands of diesel belching water trucks, which previously often had large lettering on the back stating “Fresh Water Only.” This label we can assume is meant to assure us that these millions of gallons of our river water are somehow not to be abused and that we should feel better that clean water is used. Most of us know that this water is quickly polluted with all kinds of chemicals, silica sand and who knows what else to be forced deep into the earth. Then worse yet, it comes back out laden with other pollutants and even radioactivity to eventually be put in these huge football field-size holding ponds all over our counties. The list of environmental aggressions and un-green aspects of fracking is long and damning. It is no wonder that people just scoff at the preposterousness of this claim of fracking being green. The network of pipelines, wells, train loads of sand, and well pads only compounds the total effect of the extraction process and further underscores the fact that fracking is a non-green energy production.

There is an aspect of fracking that has been brought out by Sandra Steingraber, the acclaimed author, poet, activist, biologist and Cornell University Faculty member. She debunks this myth of fracking being green and goes further to show with facts and research how the process of shale gas extraction endangers us all. She offers even more to widen our understanding from her research with a perspective to show a sensitivity to the earth as a living entity that can suggest a spiritual aspect of our lands. This last point of the spirit nature of our land seems especially pertinent to the proposed Browntown LNG as its native American history and Moravian history have spirituality inherent in their connections to this location.

A winter view from the hill above Sugar Run, PA by Brian Keeler. The proposed LNG plant would tower above this beautiful 19th century town- a behemoth of steel, lights and noise.

Here is what Sandra observes about fracking that the people of Wyalusing who are supporting this corporate land grab would do well to understand.

“This shale full of hydrocarbon bubbles is not just a prehistoric graveyard, it is also a living ecosystem that is inhabited by bacteria and Archaea, an ancient domain of life. These deep-life extremophiles form complex colonies that feed on the carbon in the shale. Some run on radioactive decay. They can send complex nanowires out into the surrounding rock as part of their electron transport system.

In short, the dark heart of our planet is metabolically alive, and the deep-life organisms who live at these depths alter their habitat to suit themselves, as do living organisms here at the sunlight surface.

Our shale bedrock is a like a subterranean coral reef. It’s alive.

When we frack, we use fresh drinking water as a club to shatter the shale to capture the hydrocarbon bubbles inside. Water forced into the shale under high pressure creates cracks that gas and oil and flow through. But water alone can’t get the fracking job done.

Because the drill tunnels sideways through the shale layer for up to miles, the weight of earth will press down on the cracks created during the fracking process and, once the pressure is released, close them back up. So, silica sand is added to the water and shot into the fractures.”

I have heard Sandra speak and she is a highly motivated and passionate advocate for truth. Furthermore she was instrumental in the New York legislature being convinced that there were many health issues and environmental concerns that caused New York to ban fracking.

This brings up the main aspect of the Rocket-Courier article, which was to report about the meeting organized by the Greater Wyalusing Chamber of Commerce. The way the meeting was promoted was circumspect from the start with the GWCC wishing the meeting (not) to be a “town hall type” of meeting. This in itself was bad enough. Instead of organizing a dialogue, a conversation or an exchange of ideas from the people of the town and region- the GWCC organized a pep rally, a booster club if you will for corporate interests. In short there has been no forum or opportunity for public input and this industrial abomination is being foisted on the community.

An illustration of the original Friedenshutten village, a pastel by Brian Keeler. This historic settlement predated the current village of Wyalusing and was likely near the original native American village. This image appears on the monument at the site and the original is in the Wyalusing Valley Musuem.

The other aspect of this proposed LNG issue is historical desecration, which was also brought into high relief by other front page article in the same issue of the Rocket-Courier about Jane and Harry Schulze and their historic house in Browntown. The juxtaposition of the two articles had a certain amount of irony if not extreme contrast. On the one hand we are honoring a beautiful life of a lovely couple, high school classmates and chums of my parents, and on the other touting the very corporate entity that will bull doze their historic house. The intrusion of this massive plant will cover the entire river plane around the Schulze house and obliterate any remnants of the Moravian Mission. I have heard that the New Fortress Energy has contacted the Wyalusing Valley Museum to see how they might “fix up” the monument! What this means is anybody’s guess, but we can only imagine the brave spire of the Moravian Mission monument surrounded by the gargantuan LNG complex.

Speaking of history and destroyed monuments, I suspect that some of the same people who are gung ho about this LNG are the same voices that were screaming about having the statues of Confederate Civil War generals toppled. That is a story for another time. Suffice it to say that when it is local history at risk, they are oddly mum- which is to say, this would seem to be the time for some righteous indignation instead of obsequiousness.

I mentioned nuclear energy earlier, and it is worth noting that this month marks the 40th anniversary of the Three Mile Island (TMI) debacle near Harrisburg. I mention this, as there is a connection and parallel to nuclear energy and fracking invasion for our region of the Susquehanna valley. Back around 1976 when I was writing for this newspaper there was a nuclear plant that was planned for the river plane across the Susquehanna from Meshoppen in Scottsville. I interviewed merchants and residents of Meshoppen and was astounded by the fact that some were willing to allow this dangerous energy source simply to have a few pennies shaved off their electric bill. The TMI incident and oddly coincident movie “The China Syndrome” along with other catastrophes in recent years like the Japanese incident at Fukishama all served to awaken many to the drawbacks and dangers of nuclear energy. I would argue that there are many similar alarm bells, as to the safety and efficacy of fracking, although maybe not as dramatic as those of the nuclear industry or with big oil spills.

So I see the parallel between the nuclear plant of Wyoming County and this current plan here in Bradford County, as money is being used as the only yardstick for justification. We can see this in the corporate spin of New Fortress’s propagandist on their web site. In a word, the money is the only benefit they brag about. And for good reason, as there is really nothing else to crow about.

In conclusion, I would underscore that this LNG plant is a big deal in many ways. I am somewhat surprised that there has been little involvement of various local, regional and state wide organizations that would have a vested interest in the history and safety of the river valley.

I am also disappointed that my fellow Pennsylvanians have not been as passionate or as organized as those people in the Finger Lakes Area of New York who are inspired by Sandra Steingraber, Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson or Bill McKibben. Well, if this effort is a committee of one, so be it.

Brian Keeler painting a plein air oil above Sugar Run, PA- The behemoth LNG plant- if built, would be on the shore line and fields above the Susquehanna River, shown in this painting.

Brian Keeler - shown here in front of the monument to the former Moravian Mission site in Browntown, PA. Keeler's illustration of the original village is on the historical marker shown here. If the LNG plant goes through, this monument would be surrounded by towering industrial infrastructure. In addition, at least one historic home, the Schulze house (located just behind the monument) would likely be destroyed.

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1 Comment

Oct 18, 2019


This is important work you are doing and I'm cheering you on.

The Indiana Dunes became protected land (National Lakeshore) largely due to the work of one artist, Frank Dudley. His paintings brought attention to the land and people rallied around to preserve it. Just last year, decades later, the land went from a National Lakeshore to a National Park.

So one artist CAN make a difference.

Now I'll go to my calendar and see if I can get away for the event Nov. 9. For now I wanted publicly to thank you for this blog, your letter to the editor, and your work for protection of the environment.


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