BY STACI WILSON
Self-described election “long-shot” Virginia Cody officially announced her write-in candidacy for the state’s top post Thursday morning.
Cody, 54, of Factoryville, a retired Captain in the U.S. Air Force, kicked off her gubernatorial campaign at a church in Dimock Twp., in the heart of Susquehanna County’s natural gas drilling. About 10 people attended the press conference.
“I want a moratorium on further natural gas extraction,” Cody said.
She said a moratorium would give the state time to study the safety of the hydraulic fracturing process, commonly known as fracking, used in natural gas drilling.
Cody called out Republican candidate Tom Corbett for his stance on the issue.
“Across our state we are hearing of animals and people being sickened. And all we hear are Republican candidates like Mr. Corbett regurgitating the industry spin that there have been no confirmed cases of contamination. Well, we know better,” Cody said.
She also said a moratorium placed on the gas drilling industry would provide time to train prospective, local workers for the industry.
“We all know that out-of-state workers have no stake in preserving and protecting our environment,” said Cody who claims 70 percent of the industry’s workforce is made up of out-of-state employees. “(Local workers) would at least care about how what they did affected the rest of us.”
“It’s pretty clear our legislators are seriously divided about what rate to charge these gas companies,” Cody said regarding a proposed severance tax.
She said a moratorium would provide the legislature time to “figure out how to fairly and equitably divvy up the proceeds.”
In regard to distribution of the tax, Cody said she would like to see some of the proceeds go to homeowners in the form of rebates for water testing.
Cody also said the Department of Environmental Protection should also directly benefit from a severance tax.
“DEP is running on a shoestring. The department has been gutted,” said Cody, noting that the number of DEP inspectors would never be able to keep up with the number of gas wells the companies plan to drill in the next few years.
A moratorium would give local communities time to make necessary infrastructure improvements needed to deal with the natural gas industry, like housing and road issues, according to Cody.
She said there was a need to analyze what individual communities were going to need and rely on the gas companies to pay for those infrastructure improvements.
“As we all know, the moratorium is my main concern,” said Cody but assured the group she is not just a one issue candidate.
She said the state pension fund crisis could also be made solvent with severance tax revenue. And many of the questions she fielded had to do with natural gas drilling issues.
“I think the natural gas industry is wrapped up in every aspect of the state so we need to plan in advance,” Cody said.
Cody’s recognition in the state arose last month when she helped expose the state’s Office of Homeland Security’s monitoring of opponents to Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
“I have the visibility because of the Homeland Security issue,” said Cody. “There is a groundswell of opposition to Marcellus Shale drilling.”
Dimock resident Julie Sautner attended the press conference. “She’s talking about a moratorium. I’m all for that,”she said.
Sautner’s household on Carter Rd. is one of several Dimock residents, who since January 2009 discovered elevated levels of methane in their homes’ water wells.