Fines, remediation & campaign contributions: all “a cost of doing business”

The state Department of Environmental Protection announced last week it had fined Chesapeake Appalachia LLC “$565,000 for multiple violations” in its Marcellus operations. Chesapeake Appalachia is a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, an Oklahoma City, Okla.-based company which claims to be the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas.

In Potter County, the company was found to have insufficient erosion and sedimentation controls. The deficiency was discovered when heavy rains washed dirt off a road and a nearby well pad, into the Right Branch of Wetmore Run, am environmentally high-quality stream.

“High-quality streams receive some of the highest levels of protection in the state,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said in a prepared statement, “and (natural gas drilling) operators are expected to ensure their work does not negatively affect them.

The sediment carried by the stream also “impacted” Galeton Borough Authority’s water treatment filters, which, to be fair, Chesapeake paid to repair. Continue reading

Thinking green? Leave a memorial among the trees

Chemicals and concrete boxes not required beneath the monuments and grass
My wife occasionally asks me how I want my final send-off to be arranged. Being a country boy with a penchant for history and “a blaze of glory,” I’ve suggested placing the part of me that used to look like me on a large pile of dry wood, crack a couple kegs of Corona and whatever other libation pleases those in attendance, turn up the Jimmy Buffett and set the pyre afire.

That’s illegal, she says.

Anyway, where I live the blaze likely would result in a fire department response, and a visit from a representative of the Department of Environmental Protection. Continue reading …

Pa. residents pay the taxes, should share the profit

A swath cuts through Loyalsock State Forest for a natural gas pipeline

As I begin to write this offering, we await Gov. Tom Corbett’s second State of the State address, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 11:30 a.m. There is some expectation he will remove a moratorium on releasing additional state forest land for Marcellus shale natural gas exploration. Currently, about 700,000 of the state’s more than two million publicly owned acres has been leased to Marcellus shale developers.

Meanwhile, the state House of Representatives has received a Senate report on House Bill 1950 – a bill that has been batted back and forth, in one form or another, for two years and which may, eventually, begin to levy a tax on the billions of dollars in profits gas and oil companies plan to extract from beneath our feet.

Several years ago, my mother owned 50 acres of woodland in Maine. One day, while I was on leave from the Navy, she came home to report seeing a van parked on the road that ran around the property. Would I go check on it, she asked. Continue reading …

Organic and independent farmers feel under assault

An independent organic farmer tends cropsOn a trip to New England last week, my niece treated me to some really good salsa. It was made in Maine, we were in New Hampshire, and I’m now home in Pennsylvania, way south of where I can buy some.

On the other hand, there are several Mexican stores almost within walking distance of home where maybe …

Meanwhile, I was in the local discount grocery store the other night and picked up a container of Marketside Chipotle salsa. It actually has a nice flavor, and adds a pleasant bite to my favorite chips which, the way I eat the stuff, are simply devices for scooping large dollops of salsa the way someone might otherwise use a soup spoon to scoop the favored ice cream.

If fresh salsa is what you seek, though, you probably won’t find it in a container marked “Manufactured for Marketside, a division of Walmart Stores Inc.” Continue reading

Songs you’ll wish you knew, and a few you do

The Willys perform at The Underside: Dan Chase on keyboard, Todd Mudd on bass, Neil Ecker on drums, Bill Serfass on lead guitar and Bill Mitchell on rhythm guitar.If you haven’t heard The Willys, you’ve missed a treat. We caught them one recent evening at The Underside, a restaurant and pub under the Altland House, on Abbottstown Square.

Their music is difficult to define. It’s been called “classic rock and beyond,” which leader Bill Serfass said sums it up about as well as any other description.

To my ear – I only know what I like but I’m not good with labels – it’s a mixture of gentle Rock-and-Roll and ballads. As my wife and I sat enjoying an appetizer of potato chips and sauce (both of which are made in the Underside kitchen) the group started one song I thought could have played in a Jimmy Buffett concert, though it wasn’t a Buffett song. In another number, Continue reading

Adams County farm markets season open

A prospective customer questions a farm market vendor about herb seedlings

Wednesday was opening day for the Adams County Farmers Market Association. Nearly a dozen vendors, representing growers from around the county, set up their tents at the Gettysburg Rec Park.

There is nothing tastier than fresh stuff on the dinner table. Place two dishes of lettuce on the table, one from the grocery store plastic bag produce section and one from the farm market, then chomp into a sample from each. Continue reading

Books, birdlings and blind satellites

Faded white paint and a bent tin roof offer a welcoming home for a family of sparrows.
A friend of mine died this week. I’d never met him, and I think I’m poorer for it, but another friend I’ve actually howdied with a couple times introduced me to Joe Bageant when she wrote of his departure from this plane. Then another friend (keep your shoes on; there aren’t that many more to count) said Joe was a great writer and would I like to read one of his books, the one called “Deer Hunting with Jesus,” if he could find his copy. Continue reading

Leaves a-Fall-ing

A lone oak leaf at the very end of the branch

There was ice in the bird bath this morning. a blanket of frost coated the lawn, and the thermometer in back of the house showed about 28 degrees. A lone oak leaf clung to the farthest end of the skinniest branch on the tree in our front yard.

I guess it’s time to stock up on ice melt and windshield de-icer, and maybe buy that snow thrower we’ve been thinking about. Or we could wait. Continue reading

Off the interstate, into history …

Ivy covers the gray stone walls of Gray Towers, Gifford Pinchot's childhood summer home.
At about the mid-point of a 450-plus mile journey home, we crossed the Delaware River westbound from Port Jervis, N.Y., to Matamoros, Pa. ate at the Perkins, and decided to see whether there might be less expensive gasoline if we followed U.S. 6 for a bit. We found the less expensive gas, but the real treasure was on the way uphill from the center of Milford back to the interstate. Continue reading

Castle Craig

Castle Craig pokes like a chess rook from a hill overlooking Meriden, C T

From Interstate 691, while enroute from home in Gettysburg to a nearly year-old great-niece I had not yet hugged, I spied poking out of the trees near the top of a granite mountain at the outskirts of Meriden, Conn., a  structure with the appearance of a super-sized rook from a giant chess set.

“What the heck is a castle doing out here,” I wondered aloud to my travel partner.

Continue reading

Recycling can be a bother, but …

Two people's reusable recycleable plastic and glass trash in Gettysburg Adams County South Central Pennsylvania
We had a compost pile when I was young. Newspapers had a variety of uses, from wrapping other waste to starting fires to rolling tightly and burning as logs.

We had a town dump where I was raised. It was a great place for weekly social gathering. It’s amazing how much business is decided — personal, commercial and governmental — at such meet-ups. Continue reading

Brother-in-Law Effect

Sign tells drivers there are no painted stripes on the road

When I was in the Navy, there was a commonly held belief that many requirements, especially if they required spending money to replace something with which the only thing wrong was it wasn’t the new thing, were caused by the “Brother-in-Law Effect.” Continue reading

Visit to a multi-market

A handful of blue plastic backpack clips
My wife and I visited Morningstar Marketplace Saturday.
We hadn’t been since at least last year, but I have a back pack that lost a clip on its waist strap, and I remembered there was a display at that particular market that probably would have it. So off we went. Continue reading

A herd of turtles

more than 30 turtles wait at the edge of a pond to be fed.
I’ve often heard the phrase, “We’re off like a herd of turtles.” The idea, I guess, is that we’re not going to be in a big hurry — another version of my mother’s special sarcasm, as in we’re about to be late for church and us kids are just coming downstairs to the car and Mom says, “ Can you kids move any slower.”

But I’d never actually seen a herd of turtles — until one day on Hatteras, one of the barrier islands protecting the coast of North Carolina. Continue reading

Hatteras: more than a line on a map

Black and white spiraling stripes mark Hatteras Light in the setting sun
For the weeks leading up to the trip, I would tell people I was going to Hatteras. When I got there, I wasn’t even near it.

The islands don’t look like much on a map, and in many places, they’re not — barely wider than the two-lane road known as Route 12. Continue reading