There’s an old expression that comes close to describing billionaire Bills and Sabres owner Terry Pegula’s business philosophy, and that is, “Don’t make a mess in your own nest.”
The thrills and enjoyment Pegula provides to Western New York sports fans, as his teams go forth to do battle against rival municipalities, is in stark contrast to the misery of the land, air and water pollution his natural gas fracking operations inflict on communities south of the state line, in northwestern Pennsylvania.
In 2015, two public drinking water systems and at least six private water wells were allegedly contaminated by pollution from a natural gas fracking operation run by JKLM Energy LLC in Potter County, Pennsylvania. Terry Pegula is the owner of JKLM. JKLM ended up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and pay for other remedial actions, as documented at the state website PA.gov.
This was the first time anywhere in the nation that not one, but two public water supplies had been impacted by groundwater pollution from fracking operations.
An emergency press conference was held in downtown Coudersport, PA to inform the public that their drinking water was potentially contaminated, and to stop using it for cooking, bathing, etc.
Can you imagine if the Niagara Falls Water Board suddenly announced that our water was no longer safe to use? That’s what many people in Potter County, PA actually endured just a couple of years ago. Not something you heard very much about up here in Bills and Sabres Country.
Prior to JKLM, Pegula owned Pennsylvania-based oil and gas company East Resources, which he sold for $4.7 billion to Royal Dutch Shell in 2010, using the proceeds to purchase the Buffalo sports franchises (see “Billionaire Pegula to Own Buffalo Bills? Fracker’s Fortune has Sordid History” in the 8/12/14 Reporter).
East Resources had an exceedingly poor safety and environmental record, even by the standards of the permissive regulatory framework that exists in Pennsylvania, as evidenced by citations issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “East Resources Inc. was among the first to drill into the Marcellus Shale, a rock layer found to be rich in natural gas… starting in 2008, regulators repeatedly cited it for spills or other environmental infractions, almost two for every shale well it drilled.”
As we reported last week, Pegula and JKLM are in the process of obtaining final government approvals to construct a wastewater treatment plant on the Allegheny River at Coudersport to process their radioactive frackwater, and dump it in the river. Millions of people of metropolises including Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Louisville live downstream of the proposed plant site.
Monday evening over 75 concerned citizens attended a screening of the award-winning documentary “Triple Divide Redacted”, which portrays the ongoing struggle to protect the area’s water resources from fracking, at the Seneca Nation Administration Building down in Salamanca, NY, a film produced by investigative journalists at the Herald Public.
A fascinating aspect of geography, a triple divide is the intersection of three watersheds, or river basins.
The headwaters of three major rivers — the Genesee (which flows up through New York State to Lake Ontario), the Susquehanna (which empties into Chesapeake Bay) and the Allegheny (which extends to the Mississippi River via the Ohio) all begin their descent from a single 2,500-foot hill near Gold, PA in Potter County, epicenter of Pegula’s fracking operations. The potential risk to the water supply of nearly a third of the land area of the continental United States should be obvious.
The proposed site for Pegula’s frackwater toilet is 65 miles upstream from the Seneca Nation’s Allegheny Territory. The Seneca Nation leadership is actively opposing the project.
“Allowing this plan to move forward would permit poisonous contaminants to travel downstream into New York State and onto the sovereign ancestral lands of the Seneca Nation, which sit upon the Ohi:yo (Allegheny River),” Seneca Nation President Todd Gates wrote in a letter to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, urging the agency to reject permit applications for the Coudersport frackwater treatment plant.
We think the real “eco-terrorists” are guys like Pegula. The double life he leads, hiding behind the veneer of executive boxes and elegant sports bars up here in Buffalo, while despoiling the rolling hills and pristine rivers of Pennsylvania down there, is something we will be devoting a great deal of focus on in future issues of the Niagara Reporter.