Thursday, March 1, 2012

Meetings, Updates and Invitation to Supervisors: March 1, 2012

Westmoreland County Commissioner Meetings:
     Please remember to contact Jan Kiefer if you can attend one of the county commissioner meetings in Greensburg on Thursday mornings.  We would like to have at least two people attend each meeting for the next ten meetings.

The next four meetings are: March 8th and 22nd April 12th and 26th at 10:00 AM at the Westmoreland County Court House.  Please see specifics in previous blog entry.

Quote of the week—“They just insult your intelligence. I don’t trust the DEP”  Kim McEvoy commenting on DEP staff after they told her the dramatic changes in her water over the past year including the bad smell was simply from garden slugs in her well which is 300 feet deep. (story below)

Commentary---As the violations of air and water continue, the gas industry and DEP continue to deny contamination. Notice that it is frequently independent agencies that are conducting follow-up testing for families. In this update, the associated press had further testing done on water samples. What does this say about validity of the results and the credibility of the gas industry and the DEP when it becomes necessary for other agencies to assume the testing and invariably find contamination beyond what is  shown in DEP results?

--Visual Assessment Training by Mountain Watershed Assoc.-from Veronica

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              



--Everyone----Please copy and forward this invitation to your township supervisors!!!!  (this is not a meeting for the general public) If supervisors  receive more than one invitation, that is not a problem.


                               WHEN:  MARCH 7, 2012


                                               3735 Seventh Street, New Kensington, PA  15068

                          TIME:  6:30 PM

 Dear Local Officials:

     With the passage of HB 1950 (now Act 13), local communities have been stripped of much of the authority they had to regulate oil and gas drilling through their zoning powers.  With the rush of Marcellus drilling coming to local areas, an important informational meeting is being held by Brian Coppola, a supervisor from Robinson Twp., to explain the new law and what possibly can be done to help local communities in preparation.  Brian and his fellow supervisors are seeing firsthand the drilling in their Washington Co. community and would very much like to share with you their experiences and future plans.

            I urge you to attend and, if possible, due to limited seating, please respond via phone or email to me at the phone number below. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, thank you in advance.


Allen Uhler

Upper Burrell Supervisor

RSVP:  724-335-4918

1.  Not to Worry—It’s Only Slugs

DEP Refused to Do Follow- Up Water Testing for Evans City           Woman

Janet McIntyre of Evans City, says the DEP refused to do further testing after a lab report showed chemicals in her drinking water that could have come from a nearby gas well. Ten other families have complained that recently done drilling contaminated their water.

Although the DEP said McIntyre’s water contained only low levels of toluene, a review of the test results by the Associated Press found 4 other VOCs in her water that are associated with gas drilling. Kevin Sunday of DEP said the low levels are not a health risk and that the contamination came from the agency’s lab or abandoned vehicles on the property. Mr. Sunday had no response as to why the DEP did not do follow- up tests if he thought its own lab was contaminated..

“DEP cannot just simply walk away. You’ve got to pursue the findings” said Dr. Bernard Goldstein, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health

McIntyre and other residents say the water problems started about a year ago, after Rex Energy Corp. of State College, Pa., drilled two wells. But a map provided by Rex  shows there are also gas wells from other companies in the area.

McIntyre’s water showed detectable levels of t-Butyl alcohol, acetone, chloromethane, toluene and 1, 3, 5-trimethylbenzene. The chemicals are often used in the hydraulic fracturing process.

      Another Resident who complained about dramatic changes in her water over the last year said DEP staff suggested the bad smell was simply from garden slugs in their well, which is 300 feet deep.


2.   Drinking Water Contamination in Evans City, PA  Denied-- but    Rex Energy Knew

            At least two gas wells near residents who complained of sudden drinking water pollution had had casing failures during the drilling process. The casing is supposed prevent gas or other fluids from leaking into nearby aquifers.

            Last week Rex Energy and the DEP suggested there was no evidence that recent gas drilling contaminated water wells in the Woodlands community (Evans City), 30 miles north of Pittsburgh. People in at least 10 households have complained of suddenly discolored and smelly water and unexplained illnesses.

            But The Associated Press learned that Rex admitted the problem in a 2010 financial report.  A spokesman for DEP did not respond to a question on whether the agency knew of the structural problems with the wells.

(W. Pa. wells had casing failures in complaint area,

Associated Press, AP, 2-27-12)

3. Eminent Domain Used -the Words Most Feared by Landowners

Central New York Oil and Gas assured federal regulators it would minimize the use of eminent domain against private landowners if they were given approval to lay the 39 mile MARC pipeline in northern PA’s pristine Endless Mountains. Despite this promise, in actuality, the company was already preparing condemnation papers against dozens of landowners  for the MARC1 pipeline. And within 2 days of winning approval, the company went to court to condemn nearly half the properties along the pipeline’s route.

Residents are arguing that the company offered them less than a third of the money they got from another pipeline company that installed lines on their land and that there is no negotiation of placement of pipes. The EPA has expressed concerns about damage to the forest ecosystem, noting the pipeline will cross dozens of pristine waterways in an area popular with hikers, hunters and fishermen.

Bob Schwartz was told that the company plans to cut a 50 foot wide 400 foot long gash through and ancient stand of trees across the front of his property. Swartz proposed an alternate route that the company would no consider.

            A judge has recently halted work on the pipeline.

4.    4,000 gallons of Condensate Spills in Robinson Township

(Chevron assessing damage of Washington Co. well leak, February 28, 2012

By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

            A  pipe carrying oily condensate from a fracking operation in Robinson, Washington County,  leaked as much as 4,000 gallons of  wet gas. The DEP does not know if any condensate got into Bigger Run Creek. Sampling is being done to determine the extent of soil and water contamination. Chevron is to contact concerned neighbors to test their water wells.  

            The leak from a faulty weld in a pipe joint , which was buried 4 feet under the well pad, was discovered by the Chevron and reported to DEP in December.  Chevron thought it had spilled about 100 gallons, telling the DEP it was a controlled, minor incident.

            The pipe leaked when fracking began Nov. 8, but was not discovered until 42 days later.

            No notice of violations has been issued.

5. Corbett Fights for Cracker Plant in SW, PA

            One more aspect of the horrendous Marcellus gas legislation that passed this month, is that money from the fee is dedicated to bringing a cracker plant to SW PA.  “5% of the revenue from drilling fees would go to infrastructure projects related to the natural gas industry, such as the establishment of a petrochemical plant.”   (Petrochemical refineries are known for their toxic air pollution. Jan)
 A video is  located at the following site:   “Aliquippa in Running for Cracker refinery 

by Scott Detrow

6.     Colorado-Bureau of Land Management Forced by Lawsuit to     Consider Clean Air

            WildEarth Guardians  has forced the BLM to prohibit drilling on several oil and gas leases and to address the impacts of  fracking on air in Eastern Colorado

which is not in compliance with federal limits on ozone pollution Ozone triggers asthma attacks and damages the lungs. Drilling is a major contributor to the region’s smog. Fracking and production cause more ozone- forming compounds than vehicles in the area.     

The BLM will complete a comprehensive inventory of air emissions from oil and gas operations which encompasses all of eastern Colorado. BLM has agreed to prepare a full air quality analysis before allowing any drilling on the 12 leases that were sued over.

7. Air Pollution Linked to Heart, Lungs, and Cognitive Decline

Air pollution is increasingly being linked to more than lung damage. New studies, three published in the past week indicate that even levels of air pollution deemed to be safe by agencies such as WHO, can contribute to higher rates of cognitive decline, stroke and heart attack . 19,409 women were studied for a decade and those women with higher levels of long- term exposure to air pollution had “significantly faster declines in cognition”.

            Stroke risk peaked between 12 and 14 hours after levels of air particulates went up.  Even on moderate air pollution days, the risk of stroke was 35% higher. If air pollution was reduced by 20%, some 6000 of 184,000 hospital admissions for stroke would have been prevented in 2007.

            Pollution from road traffic, construction, and industry was found to adversely affect both short and long term health. The Lancet showed air pollution to be an important trigger of myocardial infarction of an equal magnitude to physical exertion alcohol, and coffee.

Coarse as well as fine particles, can enter the body possibly through the nasal passage and into the brain.

(This obviously raises concerns about the impact of gas operations on our health, since all facets of the process significantly pollute the air.  An unregulated industry  provides more profits for the industry, but are increased profits more important than raising healthier children and protecting  our hearts and brains?  Governor Corbett has answered. jan )

            (New studies cast dark cloud over air pollution,  Sharmila Devi