“Stream Discharge, Drill Cuttings, Oil, Brine and/or Silt”: Response to Mike Knapp, MDS Energy Development (Or: best not to call me a junkie, Or, even better: A love affair: MDS, Snyder Brothers, and First Class Energy)

In the ongoing exchange between myself and the self-styled natural gas landman-maverick VP of Land and Public Relations, Mike Knapp—Snyder Bros/MDS Energy Services, I have sought to lay out in as thorough and objective a fashion as possible the facts relevant to Mr. Knapp’s/MDS claims that (a) natural gas extraction whether by vertical well drilling or hydraulic fracturing if safe, (b) that it will lead to the nation’s energy independence, and (c) that claims made by the anti-fracking activists are misplaced, if not entirely miscalculated. What I have shown is that Mr. Knapp (and his stalwart company, Tom Shepstone, Nicole Jacobs, Joe Massaro, among a selection of anonymous others posting on the Energy in Depth thread, “Natural Gas Protestors Have Overstayed Their Welcome at the Redwood Inn”) are either just mistaken, willfully ignorant, malicious, and/or actively engaged in mendacity with respect to each of these claims.

You can find the entire hoary thread here: http://eidmarcellus.org/marcellus-shale/natural-gas-protestors-have-overstayed-their-welcome-at-the-redwood-inn/12112/.

And you can find my original Raging Chicken piece here: http://ragingchickenpress.org/2012/08/19/response-to-mike-knapp-best-not-to-call-me-an-elderly-hippy/.

Not content to simply acknowledge the facts established by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concerning multiple and serious environmental and health-endangering infractions at the MDS drill sites between 2008 and 2010, and no doubt keen to defend his employer in the flush of a promotion to Vice President of Land and Public Relations for MDS Energy (formerly Snyder Bros.), Mr. Knapp posts the following—insisting that whatever mistakes may have been made in the past, MDS has become a model player in the Marcellus gas boom:

Mike Knapp:

“Sorry Wendy, all that your post shows is that the DEP is on the job and being very vigilant.

Many of those violations are redundant and much scarier than they sound. Our most “egregious” offense is that during some extremely hard downpours, some muddy water ran off of our access roads into streams already filled with muddy water. Its something that we try very hard to avoid, but it has happened a few times during extreme weather. But its not anything that has endangered the public health or the environment as I mentioned previously.”

“Improperly discharging tophole water? We hit some top hole drinking water quality water and discharged to a field. It hit a dry creek bed and went into a creek, so we got fined for the equivalent of someone leaving their garden hose running and having that water go into a creek. No threat to health.”

“Not maintaining 2′ of freeboard? That means our fresh water ponds accumulated too much rain water and DEP stopped by before we were able to pump them down. Not exactly an environmental threat. Proof that DEP is not letting ANYTHING slide.”

“You’ll also note that your list of violations stops 2 years ago. As we came to understand the new regulations and the way DEP was enforcing them, we’ve adapted, raised our standards, and haven’t had any problem since.”

“As I stated before, I am extremely proud of our environmental record and the guys that work hard to make sure we’re doing things right. Watching you grasp at straws in an attempt to discredit us is really showing everyone just how desperate you are. New York is finally coming to its senses and will soon be allowing hydraulic fracturing. Once NY residents see with their own eyes in their own backyards just how minimal an amount of disruption there is for such a benefit to the community, there will be no going back. So take your shots while you still can. The number of ears that are turning deaf to your nonsense are increasing every day.”

Unfortunately, the facts do not support Mr. Knapp’s support of MDS’ environmental record. Indeed, investigating a little further back to 2004 when MDS was still incorporated as Snyder Bros., what we find is evidence of a pattern of negligence, arrogance, and entitlement that characterizes the MDS drilling enterprise into the present.

From 2008-2010:

1. Mr. Knapp claims that all my post shows is that DEP is “on the job,” effectively conceding that MDS is guilty of the violations with which they are charged. But then Mr. Knapp tries to minimize and/or dismiss the DEP charges and fines in the interest of making MDS appear to be a good corporate citizen. Nothing could be further from the truth, and Mr. Knapp doesn’t get to have it both ways.

2. Mr. Knapp grossly distorts the facts when he insists “some muddy water ran off of our access roads into streams already filled with muddy water.” According to DEP reports, the company was found to have, for example, discharged “drill cuttings, oil, brine and/or silt” “into waters of the Commonwealth,” (“There was a steady flow of sediment laden water exiting the culvert and entering directly into the stream”/ “Discharge of Industrial Waste to the Waters of the Commonwealth”), “discharged pollutional material into the waters of the Commonwealth,” (same language —into stream), “failed to prevent sediment or other pollutant discharge into the waters of the Commonwealth,” failed to “case and cement to prevent migrations into groundwater,” failed to “plug a well upon abandonment,” “failed to minimize accelerated erosion,” and failed to “stabilize a site” towards site restoration. I have no idea which of these violations is the source of Mr. Knapp’s reference—since none of them fit “muddy water run-off.” What is clear is that MDS interests are served when as little of this record sees the public light of day as possible—and that, of course, is Mr. Knapp’s well-paid job.

3. Mr. Knapp similarly distorts the facts when, with respect to the discharge of top hole water, he insists that “so we got fined for the equivalent of someone leaving their garden hose running and having that water go into a creek. No threat to health.” Flatly false. Top hole water is, in fact, so potentially hazardous that, for example, Minuteman Environmental Services offers a specific “Top Hole Water Service” to insure its proper clean-up in case of spill: “At Minuteman Spill Response, we understand the challenges of operating in the natural gas drilling industry—and we understand your needs. Our team is practiced in top hole water service, emergency spill response, stabilization and containment, soil excavation and treatment, hazardous materials testing, crane recovery and much more” (http://www.minutemanspill.com/top-hole-water-service/). Nonetheless, MDS is cited not once, but twice, for top hole water that “discharged into a stream.” This is manifestly not like leaving your hose running—unless your hose runs from a frack-fluid well or waste pit. In fact, despite Mr. Knapp’s denial (below, comment) that tophole water is not toxic, the evidence makes clear that it not only may be toxic (in addition to drill cuttings), but that the DEP is concerned about this:

(a)  The owner and operator may not cause or allow a discharge of a substance to the waters of this Commonwealth unless the discharge complies with this subchapter and Chapters 91—93, 95 and 102, The Clean Streams Law (35 P. S. § §  691.1—691.1001) and the act.

(b)  The owner and operator may not discharge tophole water or water in a pit as a result of precipitation by land application unless the discharge is in accordance with the following requirements:

(1)  No additives, drilling muds, pollutional materials or drilling fluids other than gases or fresh water have been added to or are contained in the water, unless otherwise approved by the Department.

(2)  The pH is not less than 6 nor greater than 9 standard units, or is characteristic of the natural background quality of the groundwater.

(3)  The specific conductance of the discharge is less than 1,000 µmHos/cm.

(4)  There is no sheen from oil and grease.

(5)  The discharge water shall be spread over an undisturbed, vegetated area capable of absorbing the tophole water and filtering solids in the discharge, and spread in a manner that prevents a direct discharge to surface waters and complies with §  78.53 (relating to erosion and sedimentation control).

(6)  Upon completion, the area complies with §  78.53.

(7)  The area of land application is not within 200 feet of a water supply or within 100 feet of a stream, body of water or a wetland unless approved as part of a waiver granted by the Department under section 205(b) of the act (58 P. S. §  601.205(b)).

(8)  If the water does not meet the requirements of paragraph (2) or (4), the Department may approve treatment prior to discharge to the land surface. (http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/025/chapter78/s78.60.html).

In other words, top hole water may only be released to the surface IF it meets all of these requirements–and this makes clear that it very well may NOT. Indeed, it may be contaminated with “drilling muds, pollutional materials or drilling fluids other than gases or fresh water [that] have been added to or are contained in the water.” Not to mention “sheen from oil and greece.” And, as I have shown, MDS has been cited by DEP for violations pursuant to this code, 78.60–discharge requirements.

4. Not maintaining a freeboard: it apparently rains every time just before DEP comes by given the repetition of this infraction.

Let’s now turn our attention to the history of MDS: An intertwined, money-soaked family affair with Snyder Brothers:

The MDS pattern of  environmental violation is established well before MDS is incorporated as MDS in 2005. Just one example—but one that makes the MDS corporate ethos and values clear: While Snyder Bros. and MDS are legally two separate corporate entities, they are in fact deeply interwoven enterprises both professionally and through the family ties of their principle executives. Celebrating the close personal ties between the two companies, Knapp, for example acknowledges that “MDS Energy was founded in 2005 by owner and president Michael Snyder (son of David Snyder of Snyder Brothers Inc., largest independent gas producer in PA) with the purchase of a deteriorating pipeline system in Indiana County, PA. (http://knappap.blogspot.com/2012/07/proud-to-accept-position-at-mds-energy.html).  Michael D. Snyder is the MDS CEO since the 2011 formation of MDS as MDS LLC, and what’s clear is that the formation of MDS offers Michael Snyder and Mike Knapp–previously of Knapp Aquisitions (a property leasing agent) the opportunity to cash in not merely on land lease to drilling companies, but on the drilling itself. As Knapp puts it “I am honored and proud to announce that I have been offered and accepted the position of Vice President of Land and Public Relations at MDS Energy, the fast growing local natural gas producer based here in Kittanning.” That is to say, Knapp is honored and proud to be affiliated with a company whose effective parent company–both by blood and by corporate alliance– Snyder Bros., appears to have presided over one of the most tragic methane explosion disasters in Pennsylvania history. From Pro Publica:

“The most tragic Pennsylvania methane case began on March 5, 2004, in Jefferson County, about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. According to Baldassare, gas seeped into the home of 64-year-old Charles Harper and his 53-year-old wife, Dorothy, from one of several adjacent wells being drilled by Snyder Brothers. The gas collected until it exploded and, according to court records and news reports at the time, reduced the home to “a pile of rubble.” Debris was found across the road, and insulation hung from trees 30 feet in the air. The bodies of the Harpers and their grandson, Baelee, were found buried in the debris.”

“Executives from Snyder Brothers did not return calls for comment. The company was sued in state court in Jefferson County and reached an undisclosed settlement with the Harper family.”

“State officials traced the methane’s geochemical fingerprint and determined it had come from one of three Snyder wells nearby. The investigation, however, remains open in part because Snyder has yet to comply with state orders to conduct pressure tests on the wells — orders delivered in 2005, according to Baldassare. But that doesn’t mean state officials aren’t sure about what happened.”

According to Baldassare [the state’s “dedicated methane migration investigator”], the Snyder methane caused the explosion.

“In my view,” he said, “there was no uncertainty” (http://www.propublica.org/article/water-problems-from-drilling-are-more-frequent-than-officials-said-731).

It is stunning—though unsurprising that any of the responsible executives at Snyder Bros. refused to be interviewed for the Pro Publica story. Indeed, the refusal is perfectly consistent with the pattern deployed by Mr. Knapp—deny, dismiss, paper-over, ridicule, evade. But this is the salient moral point: “The bodies of the Harpers and their grandson, Baelee, were found buried in the debris.” That is, people died—and Snyder Bros.’ response was to refuse comment despite the fact that the evidence made clear that Snyder was responsible for the explosion. Read in light of the record of reckless and negligent corporate behavior MDS exemplifies between 2008-2010, we can only conclude that MDS has no greater interest in the health—or even the lives—of the residents who live in their communities than does their effective parent company, Snyder Bros., Like Snyder’s MDS’ has a singular interest in insuring the profitability of the company—and the PR necessary to secure that goal.

Mr. Knapp claims that Snyder Bros. and MDS “have nothing to do with each other besides a family relation” (see comments below). But that is false on the evidence:

1. August, 2010″Kittanning, Pennsylvania-based MDS Energy, LTD is an independent natural gas exploration & production company that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MDS Associated Companies. The parent company also owns the drilling and service company First Class Energy, LLC. MDS Energy specializes in developing small acreage for shallow wells in residential and commercial areas, as well as vertical Marcellus wells on larger tracts…The MDS Energy website, accessed in August 2010, indicates that it controls over 10,000 acres in ArmstrongButlerClarionJefferson, and Indiana Counties…A news account in August 2010 stated that MDS Energy had made an open invitation to landowners in its service area to join in a pool of up to 500,000 acres that could be offered for sale to a large bidder. The article mentioned that the company either already owned or else had commitments for 300,000 acres. Knapp Acquisitions & Production, LLC was partnering with MDS Energy on this project. Reportedly, MDS had drilled 11 Marcellus Shale wells, but required support, possibly from a joint venture partner, to further develop its acreage to best advantage.

  • Michael D. Snyder is President of MDS Energy, LTD and First Class Energy, LLC.
  • Shawn Cogley and Jason Knapp are MDS Energy land agents.
  • Mike Knapp, President of Knapp Acquisitions & Production, LLC, is contact on the MDS Energy leasehold sale.” (http://waytogoto.com/wiki/index.php/MDS_Energy,_LTD)

2. From the “Management” page of MDS: “Mr. Snyder is a son of David E. Snyder, the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Snyder Brothers, Inc., the brother of Bryan K. Snyder, a Vice President of Snyder Brothers, Inc., a nephew of Mark A. Snyder, the corporate Secretary of Snyder Brothers, Inc., and a cousin of Benjamin T. Snyder, the Vice President of Marketing of Snyder Brothers, Inc. Mr. Michael Snyder is also an indirect minority shareholder of Snyder Brothers, Inc. Snyder Brothers, Inc. has participated in drilling and currently operates more than 3,000 oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania” (http://www.mdsenergy.net/management.php). That is, Michael Snyder ‘s interests are the interests of Snyder Brothers, and these are simultaneously the interests of MDS where “Mr. Snyder will devote approximately 100% of his professional time.” The fortunes of these two companies are wedded at the hip. But should any reader remain unconvinced:

3. August 2009: “Kittanning-based MDS Energy Ltd has successfully completed their first Marcellus Shale natural gas well in Armstrong County. The well, located in Washington Township, was drilled to a total depth of 6,750 feet by MDS Energy’s sister company First Class Energy…“Based on the results of our first Marcellus Shale well, we feel confident in our ambitious plans to aggressively develop this formation over the coming years,” said Michael Snyder, President of MDS Energy” and First Class Energy, and an “indirect minority shareholder of Snyder Bros.” 

“The temporary well head in Adrian is shown here that is used to accept the sand/water mixture, blown down under the formation under pressure to crack the hard shale formation, allowing the gas to escape” (http://www.kittanningpaper.com/2009/09/03/washington-township-gas-well-now-operational/1714). Pretty, isn’t it?

Mike Knapp chimes in: “People are genuinely excited about all of this once you explain to them just how much of an impact it’s going to have on the region,” land agent Mike Knapp said. “Our operations are very environmentally friendly. They disturb a minimal area for a short period of time, and the economic implications are unimaginable.” Knapp said the area is set for an economic boom for Marcellus Shale gas that is similar to the boom of the 1850’s when the first oil well was drilled here” (http://www.kittanningpaper.com/2009/09/03/washington-township-gas-well-now-operational/1714).

Pictured are (from left to right) MDS Energy Vice-President Randy Morris, Jr, MDS Energy President Michael Snyder, and Snyder Brothers Inc. President David Snyder. Snyder Bros, MDS, First Class Energy–effectively the same corporation.

4. These are all the same folks who, exploiting Governor Tom Corbett’s appeal to the recession to force fracking onto public lands, want to drill on public school properties: “Because of that budget, school board officials are exploring alternative revenue sources – one of those being Marcellus Shale gas drilling…Facilities and Property Services Director William Henley started looking into the Marcellus Shale process five months ago after meeting with two Kittanning drilling companies – Snyder Bros. and MDS Energy…The district currently has a lease agreement with Snyder Bros. for gas deposits, with two wells being drilled on the West Hills school complex property, and asked representatives if they wished to drill for Marcellus Shale or at other school-owned properties” (http://www.kittanningpaper.com/2011/04/18/school-officials-explore-gas-drilling/16100). Note how school officials themselves refer to “Snyder Bros. and MDS as if they were one entity. That’s because they know this is, for all practical purposes, one entity.

5. Perhaps the most damning evidence, however, that MDS and Snyder are effectively the same company–despite Knapp’s virulent denials–come from Mike Knapp. Consider this unedited exchange with Veronica English (3.7.11):

English: “For starte[r]s according to the DEP web site MDS does not have any permits for Marcellus. If you follow any of the feeds you will quickly learn that they are strictly an aquisition co. For the most part MDS seems to run with Snyder Bros, Markham, Knapp, 1st Energy, all of which are in the business of accquiring land offering “leases” which in reality are an option of which if you very carefully read it starts as 5yr with an “automatic 5yr”renewal. They will say they only write for 5yrs, they just forget about the automatic renewal. Please be very weary of these. I’ve been called after the signing wanting to know my thoughts, only to see there is nothing that can be done” (http://gomarcellusshale.com/group/clarion_county_marcellus/forum/topics/mds-energy-ltd?xg_source=activity).

Knapp: “The owner of MDS Energy ( www.mdsenergy.net ) is Michael Snyder.  He also owns a sister company called First Class Energy ( www.firstclassenergy.net) , which runs 2 drill rigs, 2 service rigs, and many dozers and excavators.  Started in 2005 here in Kittanning (our hometown).  MDS is NOT an acquisitions company.   MDS is a production company.  They have drilled over 100 wells, including multiple Marcellus Shale wells.  Please disregard the peanut gallery.   Here is a link to the DEP website that clearly shows that MDS Energy drilled 21 shallow wells and 2 Marcellus wells in 2010.”


“Snyder Brothers is one of the largest drillers/operators in Western Pennsylvania.  They have over 4,000 wells.  They are not an acquisitions company.  Knapp Acquisitions & Production ( www.knappAP.com ) is a land leasing company that secures leases on behalf of MDS Energy. Snyder, MDS, Knapp, and multiple other companies were leasing last year to include properties in a sale of some of our own acreage.  We only did this for about 6 months. We have since stopped pursuing leases to go into that deal and are back to securing leases which we intend to drill ourselves” (http://gomarcellusshale.com/group/clarion_county_marcellus/forum/topics/mds-energy-ltd?xg_source=activity).

In other words, MDS is Michael Snyder’s and Mike Knapp’s venture to cash in on the Snyder family legacy of gas drilling. This is about something far thicker than blood. It’s all about money.

And for those still unconvinced, we can just follow the money trail through identical Snyder Bros and MDS 2010 campaign donations to Jeff Pyle:

Snyder Bros, 5.6.10: $3126.48 (top donor to Pyle’s campaign)

MDS: 11.22.11:$2160. (sixth don0r out of 66)

Snyder Bros. makes no less than 13 donations to Mr. Pyle totaling $10, 426.48–the best influence over, say, decisions to locate gas wells on public elementary school grounds that money can buy (http://new.marcellusmoney.org/candidate/pyle-jeffrey-p).

Lastly, let’s turn to the present. As I have shown, natural gas extraction operations are not “environmentally friendly,” and MDS is a particularly poor steward of their environmental responsibility.

From 2011 into the present:

Mr. Knapp claims that my list of violations “stops 2 years ago.” Indeed, it does. Would MDS violations be able to make the same claim. But, alas, such is not the case.

A report written by Gerald Smith from the Coalition for a Healthy County (Indiana, PA) pretty much lays it out:

“1. From 2008 – 2011, between 50 and 60 percent of all gas drillers in Pennsylvania violated no DEP regulations. MDS is not in this category of drillers.”

“2. For companies with violations, MDS’s ratio of violations per permit is higher than other companies with a similar percentage of Marcellus permits.”

“3. The number of Marcellus permits is increasing, both industry wide and for MDS in particular.”

“4. MDS’s violations are increasing over the last few years, while the violations for the industry is on the decrease.”

“5. Many of MDS’s violations were on vertical Marcellus Shale wells. These involved failure to protect the waters of the Commonwealth, and failing to follow their own Erosion and Sediment Plan. MDS does not have any horizontal Marcellus wells.” (http://coalitionforahealthycounty.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/110905-mds-hearing-part-2-violations.pdf)

Mr. Smith continues:

“For companies with violations, MDS’s ratio of violations per permit is higher than other companies with a similar percentage of Marcellus permits…MDS Energy spokespersons have indicated that this is an environmentally concerned company, and have a very safe record. A review of their record compared to other drillers who have a similar percentage of Marcellus wells shows that MDS is in not a leader in drilling, and is fact behind the curve on safe drilling.”

In fact, for 2011, MDS has one of if not the highest comparative rate of violations for all drilling concerns in the Commonwealth: 60%. Moreover, in 2011, MDS achieved more violations per well permit than any other industry drilling in Pennsylvania (http://coalitionforahealthycounty.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/110905-mds-hearing-part-2-violations.pdf).

Mr. Smith recommends denial of a zoning permit to MDS.

In his comment, Knapp insists that “[a]s far as Gerald Smith, while we disagree on drilling, I think Gerald would tell you that I’m a pretty reasonable and decent guy. Weve stood around for hours debating gas drilling late into the night after pu[b]lic meetings had ended. We received our permit to drill that well and did so without any violations. We worked with the county to implement additional protections for the park. I actually just took out one of his wife’s anthropology students on a well site tour for his college project on gas drilling last week.” I have no idea what Smith think of Knapp personally; and that is entirely irrelevant. Smith recommended denial of the permit on the grounds that MDS’ record is plainly and dangerously poor.

So, there you have it, Mr. Knapp. The evidence clearly convicts MDS of precisely the corporate ethos that endangers the health and welfare of us all. The name of this ethos is “genocidal profiteering.”

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31 Comments on “Stream Discharge, Drill Cuttings, Oil, Brine and/or Silt”: Response to Mike Knapp, MDS Energy Development (Or: best not to call me a junkie, Or, even better: A love affair: MDS, Snyder Brothers, and First Class Energy)

  1. I certainly hope that you require better research skills from your students than you do yourself. The reason Michael Snyder didn’t comment on that case is because:

    A. In 2004, Michael Snyder was a 19 year old college freshman.

    B. Snyder Brothers is NOT MDS Energy. Snyder Brothers is Snyder Brothers. Snyder Brothers did not turn into MDS. They are very much still around. The two companies have nothing to do with each other besides a family relation. Where are you dreaming this stuff up?

    As far as Gerald Smith, while we disagree on drilling, I think Gerald would tell you that I’m a pretty reasonable and decent guy. Weve stood around for hours debating gas drilling late into the night after pulic meetings had ended. We received our permit to drill that well and did so without any violations. We worked with the county to implement additional protections for the park. I actually just took out one of his wife’s anthropology students on a well site tour for his college project on gas drilling last week.

    Seriously Wendy, this is shoddy stuff. You’re really grasping at straws. You don’t even know which company we are!!!

  2. Almost forgot, top hole water is not toxic! It the same water that water wells are drilled into. They’re at the TOP of the hole. Hence the name.

    Since it is the DEP that is using he term, why not look at how DEP defines top hole water?

    Tophole water–Water that is brought to the surface while drilling through the strata containing fresh groundwater and water that is fresh groundwater or water that is from a body of surface water. Tophole water may contain drill cuttings typical of the formation being penetrated but may not be polluted or contaminated by additives, brine, oil or [man induced conditions] OTHER POLLUTIONAL SUBSTANCES.

    There it is Wendy. Black and white. It SPECIFICALLY SAYS that tophole water is indeed fresh water, and by definition has no pollutants in it.

    Try and try Wendy, but we’re not evil. Were not heartless. We’re not liars. We’re good people that probably have a lot more in common with you than you might think. I know that generalizing us as some evil scary monster makes it much easier for you to do what you do I’m sure, but your not being honest with ourself or your followers. As a philosopher, you should know that history shows us that blind hatred never accomplishes anything good for anyone.

  3. “…but we’re not evil. Were not heartless. We’re not liars. We’re good people that probably have a lot more in common with you than you might think.”


    A few weeks ago Chris Hedges offered a dead-on description of exactly what they are…

    “These systems managers believe nothing. They have no loyalty. They are rootless. They do not think beyond their tiny, insignificant roles. They are blind and deaf. They are, at least regarding the great ideas and patterns of human civilization and history, utterly illiterate. And we churn them out of universities. Lawyers. Technocrats. Business majors. Financial managers. IT specialists. Consultants. Petroleum engineers. “Positive psychologists.” Communications majors. Cadets. Sales representatives. Computer programmers. Men and women who know no history, know no ideas. They live and think in an intellectual vacuum, a world of stultifying minutia. They are T.S. Eliot’s ‘the hollow men,’ ‘the stuffed men.’ ‘Shape without form, shade without colour,’ the poet wrote. ‘Paralysed force, gesture without motion.'”

    “These armies of bureaucrats serve a corporate system that will quite literally kill us. They are as cold and disconnected as Mengele. They carry out minute tasks. They are docile. Compliant. They obey. They find their self-worth in the prestige and power of the corporation, in the status of their positions and in their career promotions. They assure themselves of their own goodness through their private acts as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. They sit on school boards. They go to Rotary. They attend church. It is moral schizophrenia. They erect walls to create an isolated consciousness. They make the lethal goals of ExxonMobil or Goldman Sachs or Raytheon or insurance companies possible. They destroy the ecosystem, the economy and the body politic and turn workingmen and -women into impoverished serfs. They feel nothing. Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.”

    The Careerists by Chris Hedges…

    They are not at all like us. “Moral Schizophrenia”…”Metaphysical Naivete”
    This often crosses the line into sociopathy and and even psychopathy.
    A true understanding of this is essential. The best response to their fecal activities came from Bill Hicks a long time ago…

    Wendy…Thanks & please keep swing’n away

  4. Thank you FrackFighter! I would disagree with Chris on just one thing–I think these folks are actually bonded to one another by blood, marriage, family ties. They are not rootless inasmuch as they seem to think themselves entitled to the construction of something like a dynasty–maybe more like the mafia. They’re not just members of their communities–they act like they own them. The great irony is that maintaining their public persona requires they seem rootless–that they seem to be representatives of these entirely independent agencies called “corporations.” But they’re clearly not independent at all–and indeed the fortunes of MDS rely deeply on those of Snyder Brothers–and vice versa. This has the effect of creating a kind of paranoia–and hence all the work Knapp goes to to deny the blood and money soaked ties.

  5. Hmmm…..Mr. Knapp no longer tries to defend himself other than that sort of bleating “I’m really enjoying this, and am quite flattered. Please, keep it coming!” But even this is dishonest….after all, EID isn’t even posting the links to this material. Just too hot. Too unflattering. Too TRUE. But I understand–Mr. Knapp very likely just doesn’t have much to say at this point…

    • What is there left to say? You keep confusing which company we are, you think that top hole water (which comes from the same formations that water wells are drilled into) is toxic. The rest is just personal attacks.

      I’m sorry for calling you an elderly hippie. That was out of line. If it was someone in MY family that was facing such comments, I would not be pleased. I’m an emotional guy and I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve. I suspect that’s something you can identify with as well. The internet tends to give us all the feeling that we can tread carelessly past the line of good taste. When people attack the people that I work with every day, and their families, and make sadly off base assumptions, I take it personally. I get defensive. These people ARE my family. And despite your assertions and generalizations, we’re not evil. We’re far from it. Some of the most gentle, honest, and caring people I know work in the industry. That’s why I fire back the way that I do. But I stand by our record as a good, responsible, conscientious operator that does right by the folks that we work with.

      The ironic thing is that I took a look at your blog and the positions that you take, and we’d be in firm agreement on about 90% of them. Obviously, gas drilling is not one of them, but there is enough common ground that maybe, just maybe, we could drop the hyperbole and act decent to each other.

      So, in the interest of civility, you won’t see any more snide comments or name calling from me. It’s not productive. It’s not the way that reasonable adults communicate. If you’re posting something that I believe to be inaccurate, I’ll respectfully disagree and offer my thoughts. I wish you well in your endeavors, and I hope that somewhere there is room for us to peacefully coexist and work towards the common good.


      • Dear Mr. Knapp,

        We both know that I am in no way confused about which company you are. I have laid that out thoroughly. I have shown that the DEP clearly regards tophole water as potentially toxic. And the rest is a litany not of personal attack (in fact none of it is personal), but a laying out of the flat facts about the MDS environmental record and business partners. There’s just no way around it.

        Moreover, I have not endeavored to spell out your company environmental record because you called me a name, but because your company injures people, nonhuman animals, property, and the environment more broadly. I appreciate the apology, but you also don’t seem to quite get that you betray yourself in it. When you say “these people ARE my family,” I gather you’re referring to your family/business connections to Snyder..and indeed, you are correct–and so are each of my claims about those connections. No confusion here.

        A good responsible conscientious operator does not think that putting down a drill rig next to an elementary school is a morally acceptable thing to do. A good responsible conscientious operator does not work to override the will of a county that does not want it because its DEP violation record is higher than the entire rest of the industry’s in that region. A good responsible conscientious operator does not engage in contracts that include automatic five year options to renew smothered in the fine print.

        I have not acted indecently to you, Mr. Knapp. I have objectively evaluated your business on the evidence. Hence I can only regard it as a manipulative ploy that you extend an olive branch that demands that I apologize for things I’ve not done.

        I would be delighted to peacefully co-exist, and shall certainly be willing to do so once companies like yours no longer threaten the air and water and soil that my own family requires to live.

        • We’re not one and the same company. We occasionally joint venture on a well, and we do a lot of drilling work for Snyder Bros, but we’re 100% separate companies. Not that I think it’s really a point worth arguing, so I won’t any further.

          When I say that “these people are my family” I mean my co-workers, and the people that we deal with on a day to day basis to conduct our work. We all work very hard, we work long hours. We sacrifice of ourselves, for what you believe to be an unjust cause. That’s fine. I respect that. But people need energy. Natural gas is magnitudes cleaner than what we’re using now. The processes we put in place do a very good job of minimizing environmental and public safety impacts. I’m from Western Pennsylvania. I see every day what can happen when industry is allowed to operate without sufficient regulation, enforcement, and planning for a sustainable future. That really is the last thing that anyone in this industry wants to be a part of.

          But every form of energy is contentious. Solar, Wind, Hydro, Nuclear, all have their trade offs. There are folks as irate, concerned, and working as hard as you do to try to stop these energy forms as well. Natural gas has many positives, but it’s not perfect, and the people who extract it are not perfect, as you rightly point out. You are right to be concerned. I am concerned. People in the industry are concerned. You are welcome to not believe that, and not believe me telling it to you, but I see it with my own eyes every day, which makes it EXCEPTIONALLY frustrating when I see folks casually dismissing it as a figment of my imagination.

          We did not work to override the will of a county. We worked to abide by that county’s laws, we took the extra steps requested of us, and we received our permit and we drilled a well. We had the chemical engineers who developed the actual frac chemicals for one of the largest frac companies in the world come to testify, under oath, to anyone that had questions for them. We ABSOLUTELY did not have to do that. We did it because we wanted to show that we are committed to transparency. We do not get leases signed with the automatic right to renew. We actually had one land agent that did that of his own accord, and he was fired and we went back and signed new leases with those folks, and gave them the option to get out of the old lease if they wanted to. None did. All respected us for doing the right thing and signed back up with us. When we did the acreage sale, the leases we took in were either straight ten year terms or they had the right to renew for 5 more years, spelled out very plainly in its own paragraph, for an additional sum, which our land agents fully disclosed. I’d be happy to show you any of a number of those leases so you can confirm for yourself.

          You can regard this as a manipulative ploy if you want, but I’m tired of these contentious, venomous exchanges. I’m not demanding that you apologize for anything. I offered mine with no strings attached, outside of the hopes of a more respectful, constructive dialogue.

          • Just for clarification,

            1. I never claimed you were one and the same company. I have made this plainly clear. But you are interwoven so throughly, that you may as well be. I laid out all only a few of the ways in which this was true, but it is indisputable.

            2. natural gas is absolutely not cleaner…fewer Co2’s but far greater emission of methane–a far worse greenhouse gas, and none of that takes into account all of the other sources of greenhouse emissions–idling trucks, for example. Natural gas production has been shown to contribute in an even more damaging fashion to climate change than coal burning power plants when you factor in all of the sources of pollution.

            3. We do need energy, but there is a world of difference between renewable and nonrenewable. And we also MUST begin to move towards far greater conservation–a discussion few want to have in your industry because that’s not a money-maker.

            4. Several people that I sited above seem clearly to believe that you are less than transparent and less than forthcoming about your corporate activities and contracts.

            But enough. I have made my arguments. EID has, apparently, banned me, or at least determined that I can no longer post on the Redwood Inn thread. So be it. This is their failure to respect democratic exchange, not mine.

  6. I think the gas companies in particular have created an industry that fosters “rootless” people. It doesn’t take a social scientist to conclude that working 2 weeks ztraight/12 hour shifts, for example, doesn’t lead to stable family lives. Gas is not a “family friendly” business.
    I say this after living in the heart of Ground Zero, Canton, Bradford County, PA, since the boom (now bust) of four years ago. I’ve heard of families booted out of low-rent homes in favor of gas workers. I even knew a guy who this happened to.
    Add to that the lure of high wages, way out of line with what’s considered normal in this area. I’ve talked to high school teachers who tell me students are either dropping out or taking on gas jobs (driving truck!) right after school. They’re foregoing further education in search of the almighty dollar. That doesn’t bode well for their future once the bust spreads further west.

    I think Mike Knapp probably represents the sort of folks who are attracted to such an industry. A dark past. A loyalty that’s bought and insured by high wages. A trail of destruction left behind in his own personal life as well as by his beloved industry. In a sense, Mike and gas are a perfect fit. And when you’re rootless, the complaints of ordinary citizens end up falling on deaf ears because, as far as you’re concerned, life is here today, gone tomorrow. So enjoy it while you can.

    • Hi Lynne,

      Yes, I see what you’re saying about “rootless.” You bet. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that an industry that, at least for some companies like MDS/Snyder/First Class Energy the business connections ARE the family roots…Knapp can advertise himself as “one of you” because he DOES live there–at least until he figures out that the threat to his own kids is precisely what we have said it is all along–and then he’ll be faced with a terrible choice–the health of his kids or his corporate “one of us” reputation. Nick DeBenedictis (the longer piece I am working on now) clearly gets the risk–and seeks to have his cake and eat it too….be a party to the water withdrawals for fracking in OTHER counties, but insure that his–Bucks–is under moratorium. And he CAN accomplish this because he has the money that the “rootless” workers you mention don’t. These are the folks I know from Riverdale. Rootless because they can be evicted from their homes, rootless because they are treated by an industry Knapp insists is not heartless as disposable.

      High wages–and the opportunity to live in a man camp. That THIS has become some surreal version of the American dream speaks volumes about diminished expectations of regular folk–and the power that folks like Knapp et. al, can wield over others. Knapp talks a good game about good people–but is willing to see drill rigs on elementary public school grounds. I don’t know what good could mean in this context.

      Thing is, he and MDS are relatively small players compared to Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake, but his aspirations are apparently quite grand. And I think Knapp really believes that what he is doing is safe. That, I think, is what distinguishes him from Aubrey McClendon–who knows that fracking is dangerous to health and life, but is willing to take this risk with other people’s lives in order to gain an interest in their lands. For him, it’s just a property flip Ponzi scheme. I don’t know who is scarier, the true-believer or the cynical charlatan, but both are willing to trade truth and the welfare of others for the expediency of profit.

      • Kevin,

        I appreciate your response. Just some food for thought:

        Except for a few weeks out of the year, the guys that work on our rigs, pipeline crews, dirt moving crews, etc. are all able to go home to their families every night. That’s something that we pride ourselves on, and when we do have to ask them to stay out of town on a job they are compensated generously for making that sacrifice. And we DO realize that it is a sacrifice. Its one of the reasons that we have a very low employee turnover. We have solid, consistent work, and we (for the most part) only operate here in our own backyard. I realize that in many places this is not the norm, but it’s how WE do it.

        There are also accountants, Environmental Health and Safety coordinators, engineers, GIS mapping technicians, land agents, that work directly for us, as well as a whole slew of folks such as title attorneys, courthouse abstractors, surveyors, vendors, etc. that benefit from our operations. They are all local. Almost all of the money that we invest stays in our local communities.


        • I’ve been following this exchange since the beginning and “lurked” long enough. I guess we could all blame Halliburton for the fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into today. Neighbors and family, once good friends, strangers that wouldn’t give each other a notice on the street, political parties……….all now pitted against each other over NG and all because the world is sadly hooked on cheap abundant fossil fuels. Technology has opened up Pandora’s Box and on one side, we have BIG OIL & GAS and their followers….and on the other side we have concerned folks who have researched and studied the process called High Volume Hydraulic Fracturing or HVHF for short and it really is an emerging industry, as “slick water” @ super high pressure and massive quantities is NEW and most important, untested by TIME. I hope Mr. Mike Knapp holds that unknown in the back of his mind and like Wendy points out, doesn’t come back to wreak havoc on his “family” as he will have to bear a great responsibility in inflicting pain and suffering on a good part of the PA population. I couldn’t live with myself if this all comes to fruition. But, like many business men and women, there is a risk factor that they weigh in on to justify what they do and it should not be any surprise that Mike and his like, buy the propaganda and the so called “science” behind the process of HVHF. They have to, really, in order to look their children in the face. This is human nature. We all make excuses for our actions if those actions are questionable and we want to sleep at night.

          Yes……..thanks to Halliburton, a new way to extract NG from once non profitable shale deposits has now become a boom for the faltering industry and with it, proponents and detractors. Mike Knapp is just an opportunist, similar to the gold rush days and the reality is, the shale gas boom will make a lot of money for guys like him, but like the old gold rush, will burn out rather quickly, leaving towns devastated by the exodus, financially. The glaring difference in this boom will be the pollution that has the potential of laying waste to huge swaths of land and water. Can Mr. Knapp assure us all that in 10, 20, 100 years from now, it won’t happen? He cannot and I hope he realizes that THIS might be his legacy that his children and grandchildren inherit from him and how he will be remembered.

          There is some “food for thought” Mike.

          • Please note, I use Halliburton as a jumping off point as they are responsible for hydraulic fracturing (early 1940’s) which did not involve high pressure and massive amounts of chemicals and water, a small detail gas proponents hate to acknowledge.

  7. Update:

    In response to my posting a link on the relevant EID page: http://eidmarcellus.org/marcellus-shale/natural-gas-protestors-have-overstayed-their-welcome-at-the-redwood-inn/12112/.

    And the link I posted–a critique of Tom Shepstone: http://articles.philly.com/2012-08-21/news/33303506_1_marcellus-gas-marcellus-shale-marcellus-development

    Tom Shepstone (of EID) responded by posting the link for a website called Rated My Professor:http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/

    I responded with the following:

    Ah, of course, Rate My Professors…now here is an opportunity to really see see just how much the EID folks think of science. ANYONE can post on RMP. ANYONE.

    So let me just break this down right now:

    First, I AM socialist. I think the Swedes are doing rather well in their Democratically elected essentially socialist government, and having recently spent some time with several of my Swedish colleagues in, no kidding, Nicosia, Cyprus, am reassured that they’re quite happy with their social services. They, of course, spend a lot less on bombs and a lot more on education and healthcare…but they consistently reelect socialist representatives to make policy, etc. I have written and published works with title like : On Marx. I am more than happy to claim this label–and it would be AWESOME if the folks who used this language got a damn clue as to its meaning.

    Second, I have a lively and active political life in my town–Bloomsburg, PA, where I have gone to bat for 20 years for some VERY unpopular causes: GAY RIGHTS, Animal welfare, reproductive freedom…I have fought HARD against the folks who’d ban the works of, say Toni Morrison, from high school libraries, I fought to prevent the unnecessary arming of my campus police; I fought to keep my local land fill from taking an even heavier load of toxic waste (now they’re taking frack cake). And I am a stalwart union member (APSCUF).

    A number of deeply conservative locals have hammered away at me for YEARS in a newspaper feature called 30 Seconds–a call in line that will print pretty much anything. These same folks have tried to get me fired from my post at BU, and they call my department chair.

    They also post at Rate My Professor.

    My response: BITE ME.

    Wanna know what my STUDENTS think of me? Let me know–I will release 20 years of my student evaluations to anyone who asks for them.



    HERE I have NOTHING to fear at all. As for EID, that they’d resort to what they surely know is nothing other than an anything goes love’em/hate’em website for fodder to trash me speaks volumes about Tom Shepstone–but it says precisely nothing about me other than that I have the GUTS to agitate for civil liberties, animal welfare, women’s control over our own bodies, and against the manifest absurdity of WAR…War that comes in many forms–not the least of which is the one decent people stand up to fight against genocidal profiteering.

    Note too, that I have posted your reference to RMP in all of the places I am posting my research into Mr. Knapp’s MDA and Snyder Brothers…and a yet clearer demonstration of the lengths you will go to try to discredit your opponents, and as evidence of the real caliber of EID.

    You did not help yourself–not even with folks who’d otherwise support you–with this one.

    And, come to think of it, how about you jut read ALL of the comments on Rate My Professor, Mr. Shepstone:













    Then after that read:


    Arthur Sterngold shows that your argument about all those gas jobs is “illogical.”

    I have now shown that in your cherry-picking of already highly respondent-biased material posted with precisely NO safeguards with respect to whether or not the respondents are members of the target audience (students, in this case), you are fully committed to saying ANYTHING that will advance your agenda–and pad your wallet. What describes you, Mr. Shepstone, is “mercenary” and “conscienceless.”

    • Shepstone has shown time and time again, that he is without a moral conscience, when it comes to promoting an industry. He is the ultimate paid apologist, the boy the NG industry relies on to “run interference” for them and to overhype the good and marginalize the bad to a point of absurdness that only money can buy. Even the industry itself knows what it is doing as far as damage to the environment and they also have NO CLUE as to what the long term implications might be, they hold no valid crystal ball. So they pay guys like Shepstone to be the “spokesperson” and pay his staff of young, vibrant, wholesome “kids next door”, to mount a PR campaign draped in pseudo-science and patriotism, two compelling subjects. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. Time has a way of catching up with reality and I hope that the EID website will be around when it does and Shepstone has a legitimate email address, so we can “talk”.

        • Oh…..old Tommy is an easy read.

          Wendy…….the same “patriotism” has been infused throughout society today with regards to the military complex. That industry needs the population behind it to keep the profits flowing, so they…..with the Gov’s help …….invented al-Qaida, the perfect enemy, so to speak, that has no army that can never be defeated, a perpetual foe, that assures the complex a continuous reason for funding. The gas industry has taken that vulnerability in society, to seize upon the emotional state many are in and use it as a selling point. The “dumbing down” of the population has been a smashing success. The less educated with more of an opinion…….what a combo for profiteering!

  8. I didn’t see violations from the Fish and Boat Commission.. Snyder Bros were fined for the illegal spreading of frack brine on dirt roads via their contract with townships for dust suppression.

  9. The snyder brothers are liars and crooks. The only thing important to them is the dollar and nothing else. Their environmental record is dismal and you do not want them operating anywhere near your property. If you must have lease your property lease it to someone who will treat it right. The snyders are not the liars and jerks you want to do do business with!

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