Friday, February 24, 2012

Jan's Updates for week of Feb. 20, 2012

TAKE ACTION for a PA Moratorium- from Penn Environment

As many of you already know, the PA legislature passed the insidious HB 1950, a piece of legislation that all of us fought against and which garnered nearly 12,000 signatures in Petition Against HB 1950 & SB 1100.

This new PA law strips local communities of their right to regulate gas drilling through local zoning ordinances, allowing drilling with its compression stations, frack pits, flaring, and seismic testing even in residential area. It also provides for totally inadequate environmental protections and the lowest tax on drilling in the entire country.

Though we may be frustrated, WE ARE NOT ABOUT TO GIVE UP THE FIGHT!!!! If anything, most of us want to fight harder. PennEnvironment, is asking Pennsylvanians to demand that our elected officials put our health and the environment first. To do this, we need to get 20,000 Pennsylvanians to speak out by the end of February.

One of our first new goals is to again promote a moratorium with the intent of putting gas drilling on hold until it can be proven safe for the environment and Pennsylvanians in general. Our friends at PennEnvironment have started a new petition which attempts to do just that. Please click on the following link to sign their petition for establishing a moratorium for PA.

Take Action ***     PennEnvironment petition


Leading Public Health Official Says Drilling Impact Fee Law Violates Medical Ethics

"Public health professionals say the law signed by Governor Corbett this week could hurt the delivery of health services to injured workers or residents living near gas drilling sites. The legislation allows drillers to withhold information on fracking chemicals if the company says they are a trade secret.

Health providers can access the information in order to treat a patient, but they must sign a confidentiality agreement that allows them to use the information only to treat the individual patient. Dr. Jerome Paulson, Professor of Pediatrics& Public Health at George Washington University, says the law runs counter to medical ethics.

“All of the oaths (of the medical profession) require us to work for the good of the public in addition to the individual patients,” said Paulson in a phone interview.“So blocking our ability to collect and share information, or make the collection and sharing of information more cumbersome, means we won't be able to fulfill our responsibilities.”"

(So, if there are clusters of certain ailments near drilling operations, the ability of medical professionals to collate that data is prohibited by the bill. Residents will not be aware, for example, that ten other people in their area are experiencing the same health problems that might be linked to the gas industry.)


Robinson Votes to Take Action on Marcellus Law (excerpted from Observer)

The Robinson Township Board of Supervisors voted to have its solicitor take action to protect the township's zoning rights related to House Bill 1950. (They gave Atty. John Smith the authority to challenge the law. jan)

The bill pre-empts local zoning ordinances that determine where the activity can take place. Under the new law, gas drilling would be permitted in residential areas and setbacks would be less than what many local municipalities now allow.

Township Attorney John Smith, of Smith-Butz of Canonsburg, said the township is concerned about its mandate to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. One major provision for that has been local zoning, he said. "So the question becomes, can they still fulfill their statutorial obligations?" he asked. He plans to research the state's Municipality Planning Code in relation to Pennsylvania's Oil and Gas Act.

"The focus has always been in defeating the bill and now that the bill passed, each municipality is now focusing on what they are going to do," Smith said.

In December, Robinson Township hosted a meeting to explain the proposed legislation and what it would mean for local townships, boroughs and cities. Attending were representatives of 44 municipalities, most of whom oppose the bill.

Brian Coppola, Robinson's board chairman, indicated other municipalities may want to challenge the new law.

(If any township would like to explore legal action, please contact attorney John Smith at 724-745-5121.)


Fracking Nonsense: The Job Myth of Gas Drilling (by Helene Jorgensen, 1-12)

In the study paid for by America’s Natural Gas Alliance, it was projected that fracking will create 1.1 million jobs in the US by 2020. However, the study reveals that the analysis also projects that fracking will actually lead to widespread job losses in other sectors of the economy and will result in slightly lower overall employment levels that following 10 years.

-Most of the jobs go to workers from out of state. A survey of gas companies conducted by the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center showed that 70 to 80% of workers were out of state, including the truck drivers. Essentially, fracking became a job program for people from Texas and Oklahoma.

-Land leasing may not be such a good deal. Gas drilling lowers property values. The underground rights have been leased off and landowners have lost full control of land use above ground. Active gas wells devalue the land and lower the quality of life of residents and their neighbors. If something goes wrong, such as contamination of underground water due to faulty well casing, the property may not be sellable at any price.


Study: Colorado Oil-Gas Pollution Tops Expectations (by Mead Gruver, Associated Press, Aspen, Colorado)

Ozone is up to twice the amount government regulators have calculated should exist in Colorado. Gas development is pinpointed as the main source.

Ozone in Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin last winter exceeded some of the worst days in big cities, causing some to complain of itchy eyes and nosebleeds. Wyoming regulators urged children and the elderly to stay indoors.

Similar research is being conducted in Utah where gas operations emissions are thought to have been underestimated.

Starting in 2007, scientists measured elevated levels of methane and hydrocarbons in Denver. The Boulder Atmospheric Observatory tower was picking up unusually high levels of substances such as propane, butane, and pentane-- tracers of natural gas. They did not expect gas activity to be such a large source. Gabrielle Petron of Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences said “We didn’t expect to see so much fugitive emissions.”

These studies are significant for exceeding the amounts researchers determined would be predicted by emission inventories. Environmentalist Linda Baker with Upper Green River Basin Alliance said inaccurate emissions inventories could explain why high ozone occurred in the basin last winter even as Wyoming regulators said emissions had decreased.


SOS Butler County: Black Water + Purple Water=A Fracking Nightmare (by Iris Bloom, Protecting our water, 2-11-12) a summary:

By February 29th , Rex Energy will cut off water to Kim McEvoy and Janet McIntyre of Connoquenessing Township, Butler County where the company has been drilling and fracking for over 2 years. 51 of McEvoy’s and McIntyre’s neighbors have also had their water go bad —discolored, foaming, smelly. Families report health symptoms including rashes, severe nosebleeds, vomiting, and headaches . Two leukemia cases have been reported.

Kim’s neighbor Mr. Dennis Peterson, 49, reported last September that he had rashes all over his body. He was diagnosed with leukemia by December. Leukemia is associated with VOCs, in particular, benzene and volatile organic chemicals that abound in gas drilling. It is difficult to know whether Mr. Peterson’s rashes, failing health and death were caused by gas drilling.

The water results of Janet McInctyre, who is surrounded by gas wells, showed toluene, acetone, high methane levels and other contaminants. One contaminant which DEP said was due to problems with the test tube, showed 1,3,5 trimethyl benzene.

The DEP said the water problems are just aesthetic and that the water is safe to drink. One DEP regulator told Jane McIntyre, ‘You should be grateful for the fracking because they’re injecting lots of water underground raising the level of the aquifer.”

Some neighbors are now running out of water. . Denny Fair reported his water was gone as of last November.