Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jan's Updates for March 26, 2012

For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us at facebook.
To discuss candidates for the upcoming election:
For information on the state gas legislation and local control
Visual Assessment Training by Mountain Watershed Assoc .
Do you want to help prevent pollution from Marcellus Shale development in your
community? Visual assessment training provides information on
permit tracking, air and water pollution, safety, and filing a complaint with DEP.
When: Thursday, March 29, 2012 from 6pm to 9pm
Where: Cook Township Community Center
1698 State Route 711
Stahlstown, Pa 15687
For more information call Veronica at 724-455-4200 ext. 4# or email
Quotes of the Week
* “Now I know what it feels like to live in Nigeria,” said Doug Shields, “You’re basically a resource colony for multi-national corporations to take your natural resources, take them back to wherever they are at, add value to them, and then sell them back to you.”
* Dr. Helen Podgainy, a pediatrician from Coraopolis, says the new law, not only “hinders preventive measures for our patients, it slows the treatment process by gagging free discussion.”
*We’ve had hundreds of tests done out here and we’ve had so many different scientists say you have bad water here, there’s not a doubt about it. And yet when the state and feds test our water, they say we can drink it. “ Scott Ely of Dimock referring to the EPA’s ok of Dimock residents’ drinking water.
* D and L Energy refutes the need for stricter regs in Ohio due to earthquakes: “There is no reason to rush and accept bad or incomplete science; until the company’s own studies can be reviewed.”
**Joe Evan’s comments provide valuable material in an easy to read format (see our blogspot under testimonies-address listed above).
The GASP site also has very good information you can use (info below). You can pull from these documents to write a letter.
A public hearing will be held regarding the proposed issuance of this minor source installation permit on March 27, 2012 at 6:00pm, Allegheny County Health Department, Clack Health Center, Bldg. 7 Conference Room Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Phone: 412-578-Oral testimony must be scheduled by calling Ms. Adina Savage at 412-578-8115 no later than 4 PM Friday, March 23, 2012. Written copies of comments should be submitted at the time of testimony. Copies of the draft permit, the application and other relevant information are open for public inspection at 301 39th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201-1891 [412-578-8115].
*Written comments may be submitted to the Department at the same address or by e-mail at on or before Tuesday, March 27, 2012. A copy of the proposed Installation Permit and the original notice are also available on the Internet at .
GASP websitefor helpful info on this issue:
1. Westmoreland County Commissioners’ Meeting
Jan Kiefer is coordinating this effort to have representation from the group at each of the next two months of meetings as the discussion of the impact fee evolves. Please email him if you can attend --
The next meeting dates: April 12thand April 26th at 10:00 AM at the Westmoreland County Court House
Environmentalists advocate for the fee being used for remediation of drilling impacts. Health/environmental projects like air and water monitoring or hiring of a staff person responsible for record keeping of that data, for example, should take precedence over non-drilling related projects. See our blogspot under testimonies (address above) for comments made at the March 8 meeting.
March 22 Meeting Notes--At the March 22 meeting, 7 people attended to speak about the use of impact fees. Ed Chute said the money should not be spent until there is further knowledge of the status of Act 13 since a lawsuit is pending. Briget Coyne discussed using funds to educate the public about problems with lease deals. Cynthia Walter recommended money be used for air monitors to record pollution effects from drilling on the county. Mike Atherton asked for an evening meeting so more residents could attend and have input. Another attendee noted the testimony of doctors regarding health concerns for children due to pollution from drilling operations and contradicted a statement in the Tribune Review that the county has no air pollution problems at this time; an incorrect statement as there are already serious problems with ozone and other pollutants.
2. Legal Action To Oppose PA Marcellus Legislation-We Can Help!
Townships joining in the legal suit include Robinson, Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, Peters, South Fayette, Nockamixen. They have the backing of 20 communities in western PA that have passed resolutions supporting the lawsuit or otherwise indicated support. Letters of support challenging Act 13 can still be sent from townships or individual elected officials.
John Smith, the solicitor for both Cecil and Robinson townships, said his work on the suit would be pro bono. Cecil agreed to set aside $2,500 to cover the cost of testimony from expert witnesses.
Each of us should attend our township meetings to encourage our supervisors to write a letter of support if they have not already done so then send it to Brian Coppola in Robinson Township.
(Act 13 dissolves the zoning rights of municipalities in regard to oil and gas "operations," a broad term that includes everything from well pads and drilling operations to pipelines and compressor stations. The law states municipalities must allow operations in all zoning districts. And they cannot place more stringent restrictions on setbacks, wells, and other zoning issues than those provided in Act 13 unless they apply those restrictions to all industrial activity.)
Gov. Corbett’s office is incorrectly saying out that PA environmental organizations are supporting Act 13.
Sierra Clubs 10 myths handout is a good summary of the legislation.
3. Laurel Vally School, Fairfield Township Closed Due to Spill Leaking Into Gas Line
Water from an XTO gas well got into a gas line feeding the school boiler. XTPO spokesman said the incident occurred during a pipeline procedure when water produced from gas condensation (referred to as produced water in another article) entered a gas line. Boilers in the school could not stay lit to heat the building.
A Johnstown company went to the school to suck the water out of the line. XTO was said to work with local agencies to handle the cleanup.
(So I called the DEP to find out if it was frack water that entered the lines and, if so, did any chemical residue burn off or were there any fumes involved. DEP had no record of the incident, although one representative said he did see a news article about it. I was assured there were no fumes or exposure issues.
I asked why there was no record of the incident? The third person I talked to said the DEP doesn’t investigate if there is a spill without contamination. I asked how they could know there was no contamination if no one went to investigate. I was told it is up to the drilling companies to report problems and the company said this was not a problem since water gets into gas lines frequently He also informed me that the PUC was responsible because the incident involved a gas line. However, I was told in a subsequent phone conversation that it was not the PUC's responsibility. I responded that although this incident involved a gas line, it also apparently involved a spill from a water or frack pipeline and that should be recorded with the DEP. By the fourth call, the DEP rep. had found out that the XTO had inserted their drain line from a tank (still unknown what was in the tank or if it was empty) into the gas line feeding the school's boiler and thus introduced water into the school’s gas line.
Where I once questioned the efficiency and professionalism of the DEP, I now believe for the most part they are incompetent. Parents must be vigilant and persistent, asking the important questions when a gas operation is located near their children’s school.
4. USDA Excludes Rural Home Loans From Environmental Reviews
(By Alan Bjerga , Bloomberg- Mar 20, 2012)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will continue to exempt rural housing loans from environmental reviews so as not to slow the expansion of oil and gas drilling.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he will authorize a notice today affirming that rural housing loans are “categorically excluded” from reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires some transactions to be examined for their affect on soil, air and water.
(Note: Briget Coyne has been testifying on the various aspects of drilling’s effect on housing.)
5. South Fayette School Board Will Not Vote On Drilling
Range had still not provided answers to school board members’ questions and concerns. The board voted 7 to 12 to not bring the issue as an agenda item for discussion or vote—a small victory for the community. Mr. Grant commented that the majority of the board members have the health and safety of children as a top priority on this issue.
(excerpt from report by Joe Grant, member, friends of South Fayette)
6. EPA Now Says Dimock Water is OK BUTResidents Cite Independent Test Results
AlthoughEPA said water samples from 6 of 11 Dimock homes showed sodium, methane, chromium or bacteria, they stated that the levels did not excel drinking water standards. Arsenic was also found at two homes but EPA said the levels did not pose a health hazard. The methane was accompanied by ethane, that often signifies the methane came from deeply buried gas, not from sources near the surface.
What the EPA did not say publicly was that the samples contained dangerous quantities of methane. The tests also showed the wells contained dozens of other contaminants including low levels of chemicals known to cause cancer including some sort of hydrocarbon such as diesel fuel, anthracene, fluoranthene, pyrene and benzopyrene. Heavy metals included chromium, aluminum and lead, that could lead to illness if consumed over a period of time. Chlorides, salts, bromide and strontium were also detected.
MANY OF THE COMPOUNDS DETECTED HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED FOR EXPOSURE RISK BY FEDERAL SCIENTISTS -- THERE IS NOT A SAFE EXPOSURE LIMIT FOR THESE CHEMICALS. {in other words there is no scientific basis for assuming a safe level of exposure. The science to support those claims does not exist.)
Ron Bishop, chemist at State U. of NY College at Oneonta. Any suggestion that water from these wells is sate for domestic use would be preliminary or inappropriate.”
Resident Scott Ely disputed the EPA interpretation of results, which he said, showed a range of contaminants including sodium and arsenic and lithium which can cause kidney and thyroid disorders at unsafe levels. “We’ve had hundreds of tests done out here and we’ve had so many different scientists say you have bad water here, there’s not a doubt about it. And yet when the state and feds test our water, they say we can drink it.”
Cabot Gas said it is pleased by the EPA test results.
(EPA Water quality ok in gas drilling town, 3-6-12, Latrobe bulletin) and
(So is dimocks water really safe to drink, abrahm lustgarten, propublica, 3-20-12)
7. Physicians Gagged by New PA. Marcellus Legislation
The new legislation, Act 13, not only forbids doctors from warning the community or water and air pollution that may be caused by fracking but also forbids them from telling their own patients what the physician believes may have led to their health problems.
Dr. Helen Podgainy, a pediatrician from Coraopolis, says the new law, not only“hinders preventive measures for our patients, it slows the treatment process by gagging free discussion”
Dr. Jerome Paulson, director of the Mid Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment calls the law ‘detrimental to the delivery of personal health care and contradictory to the ethical principles of medicine and public health.” He called for a moratorium on all drilling .
“The confidentiality agreements are worrisome,” says Peter Scheer, a journalist/lawyer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. If professionals request specific information of chemicals used, they are bound by a non-disclosure agreement. But if Physicians sign agreement to obtain the potentially critical information and then disclose the possible risks to protect the community, they can be sued for breech of contract and the companies can seek both injunctions and damages.
(Fracking: Pennsylvania gags physicians, walter brasch, 3-13-12, Latrobe bulletin)
8. Ohio Toughens Regs After Earth Quakes
Drillers must now submit more comprehensive geological data and the chemical makeup of all drilling wastewater must be tracked electronically since earthquakes are now certainly thought to have been induced by the injection of drilling wastewater
D and L Energy responded, “there is no reason to rush and accept bad or incomplete science; until the company’s own studies can be reviewed.
Earthquakes were clustered around the well bore and a fault has since been identified in the rock layer where the wastewater was injected.
( After quakes, ohio plans tough gas drilling rules, julie smyth, AP,Latrobe bulletin, 3-10-12)
9. Drilling Leaks Cause Twice the Methane and More Benzene In Air Than Previously Thought-
Maybe Because the Original Data Came From the Industry
NOAA found that in addition to twice as much methane being released as thought, there is are also surprisingly high emissions of benzene. The study is the first to take actual atmospheric measurements of emissions from gas drilling. Estimates currently being used are based primarily on isolated sampling and data provided by drilling companies.
In Weld County Colorado, emissions produced by gas wells are equal to the carbon emissions of 1-3 million cars.
(Gas drilling may be leaking twice as much gas as previously thought study finds, Nicholas kusnetz, insideclimate news, 2-9-12)
10. PA Act 13 May Be the Nations Worst Corporate Giveaway
The new law gives gas companies the right to drill anywhere, overturn local zoning laws, seize private property for any part of a drilling operation, and muzzle physicians.
Now I know what it feels like to live in Nigeria,” said Doug Shields, “You’re basically a resource colony for multi-national corporations to take your natural resources, take them back to wherever they are at, add value to them, and then sell them back to you.”
Range Resources described the financial stakes in PA as enormous. The return on investment on some Marcellus wells was 73 to 99% senior managers boaster; the profit margins are among the largest of any major American industry.
This was all done in the backroom-and it was written by the oil and gas industry” said Doug Shields, former Pittsburgh City Council President who led the fight for the drilling ban. “Where the hell does physician confidentially come from There isn’t a legislator up there that would ever have thought of that. But a good corporate lawyer will figure that out because they don’t want that to affect them in lawsuits. They know we will be coming because they know we will have spills and accidents and people are going to get hurt.”
Doug explained, “Restrictions on physicians makes it extremely difficult to bring a civil suit if the information is locked away behind confidentiality agreements. A physician can’t release information during discover. They can’t even tell another patient that they are dealing with the same things. They can’t go to a public health official and disclose it-this lady has benzene in her blood or methyl-whatever. He can’t do it
(fracking democracy; why Pennsylvania Act 13 may be the nations worst corporate giveaway, steven rosenfeld, alternet, 3-7-12)
11. Pittsburgh "Wins" Major Refinery
The ethane cracker plant, to be sited near Monaca, will convert ethane from gas into more profitable chemicals such as ethylene which is then used to produce everything from plastics to tires and antifreeze.
George Jugovic, president of Penn Future, said the group is still researching the possible impacts of a cracker plant. Several other companies are reportedly considering building similar petrochemical plants in the region.
12. Demonstrators Disrupt Susquehanna River Basin Commission Meeting
Demonstrators protested the approval of more water use by drilling companies. The Commission members approved 50 applications. Drilling is the fourth largest water user in the basin behind public water systems, power plants and recreational use as golf courses and snow- making. Drilling companies use about 11 million gallons daily now only one- third of their projected use when the industry is fully engaged. (state river commission oks more drilling water use, AP, 3-16-12 latrobe bulletin)
13. Fracking Industry Buys Congress
In Pavillion Wyoming, benzene was found at 50 times safe levels along with toxic metals, diesel fuel and other hazardous chemicals. Nationwide, residents living near fracked wells have filed more than 1000 complaints of tainted water, severe illnesses, livestock deaths, and fish kills. Streams can be contaminated by spills, surface wastewater pits, and by millions of tons of chemically-ladened dirt remove during drilling.
EPA notes that some of the chemicals, “cause kidney, liver, heart, blood and brain damage through prolonged or repeated exposure” and that fracking fluid migrates over unpredictable distances through different rock layers.
So journalist Sharon Guynup asks why the industry goes virtually unregulated. And the answer is money.
The industry attacked the EPA Pavillion study. They have reaped billions in profits from fracking and since 19990 they have pumped $238 million into gubernatorial and congressional campaigns to squelch oversight. They have been effective.
Gov Corbett is a top recipient as are Tim Murphy (R-PA) number 10 on the Common Cause list, Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and James Inhofe (R-OK)—all who claim the EPA study was not based on sound science and Pat Toomey (R-PA) who is number 28 on the list.
The industry is still exempt from 7 major federal regulations including Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (hazardous waste regs) and Superfund laws.
(the fracking industry buys congress, Sharon Guynup,2-9-12, latrobe bulletin)
DONATIONS REQUESTED: At our steering committee meeting, we decided that we need to ask for donations to support our work. Thanks to those who have done so in the past. At this time, we would use the funding to initiate a post card mailing to educate county residents about the recent vote on Marcellus drilling- that it represented a vote against the public interest and how Westmoreland legislators voted on the bill. The voting record of legislators and the effects of the bill on local zoning has received little press coverage.
To donate to the Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens Group onlinego to the Donations page at the Thomas Merton Center:
and scroll down to Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens Group and fill out the form for Pay Pal.
To send a donation check:
Make check out to the Thomas Merton Center and write "Westmoreland Marcellus" on the memo line. Then send your check to:
Thomas Merton Center
5129 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens Group—Mission Statement
To raise the public’s general awareness and understanding of the impacts of Marcellus drilling on the natural environment, health, and long-term economies of local communities.
Officers: President-Jan Milburn
Treasurer-Wanda Guthrie
Secretary-Ron Nordstrom
Facebook Coordinator-Elizabeth Nordstrom
Blogsite –April Jackman
Science Subcommittee-Dr. Cynthia Walter
Mt. Watershed Representative-Veronica Coptis
All it takes for the gas industry to triumph is for good men to do nothing.