Monday, April 16, 2012

Jan's Updates for April 16, 2012

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens' Group Updates for April 16th
As many of you know,I lost all of my contacts when my yahoo account was hacked. Please forward this email to others in your area who you know were on our list and have them contact me ( to have their name placed back on our mailing list. thanks, jan

VOTE! April 24th: Please support candidates who are working hard to support the health and environment of our state. Many of these candidates are running to replace incumbants who have recieved money from gas companies. *Their voting record reflects their support of the gas industry. See the facebook link below and read items 1 and 8 below concerning our public officials.

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:
Fracking Quotes
*** “When legislative leaders and the governor’s office negotiated the most sweeping update of the state’s oil and gas law in a quarter century, they stripped $2 million annually that included a statewide health registry to track respiratory problems, skin conditions, stomach ailments and other illnesses potentially related to gas drilling.” (AP) (see item #8 below)
*** “EPA does not regulate chloramine byproducts including nitrosodimethylanime which is toxic in minute concentrations, slow to biodegrade, and a public health concern.” Pure Water Gazette
.*** “We don’t really have a lot of time,” said Saberi, who said she’s talked to about 30 people around Pennsylvania over the past 18 months who blame their ailments on gas drilling.” Dr. Saberi, University of Pennsyvania physician and public health expert. (see item # 4)
*** “The CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, the largest lobbying group for the oil and gas industry, is pleased to see what they refer to as “forward progress by the White House”. (see item#6)
All Township Residents—Call to Action !!
**Lawsuit Filed --Resolutions From Townships Urged—Injunction Attained
Attached to this WMCG Update is a resolution supporting the lawsuit against Act 13. Act 13 precludes the use of local zoning to restrict gas operations in residential areas, restricts doctors in sharing important health data, and limits counties in the use of the impact tax (a partial list).
The communities involved in the suit and other plaintiffs have stopped the law from going into effect before April 15.
TO DO: Please print the resolution and take it to your next township supervisors’ meeting to request their support for this lawsuit. Supervisors should return the signed resolution to Brian Coppola.
We have members of our group from all over Westmoreland County. If each of us takes an hour of our time to attend a supervisors meeting and request they pass the resolution, we can lend real support to those giving so much of their lives to work for the citizens of this state.
Sample Statement: Also attached is my statement to township supervisors. Feel free to use all or parts of the statement.
Good reference: Top Ten Myths about Act 13 by SierraClub
1. Scorecard—How did your Legislators Score on Important Marcellus Votes
Don White, Mike Reese, Eli Evanovich, Kim Ward, Tim Solabay voted for Act 13.
Jim Ferlo, Ted Harhai , and Joseph Markosek , and Deberah Kula, voted against the bill.
View your representatives’ record on either of the sites posted below:
2. Washington County Receives Support for Legal Challenge Of Act 13
Robinson, Washington County has received hundreds of emails, phone calls and letters from governments and individuals supporting its joint legal challenge of Act 13, the state's new Marcellus Shale law. Supervisor Brian Coppola said Monday night that he's been overwhelmed with supportive messages from across Pennsylvania.
"There have been days I've gotten 150 emails," Mr. Coppola said.
Tullytown council wrote that the law "deprives local governments of inherent rights to control land use through zoning, and is a disturbing exercise of state power without precedent in the history of the Commonwealth."
Hanover supervisors wrote, "Act 13 restricts our ability to ensure the equal protection of personal and property rights through zoning."
Pittsburgh council's letter said the law is "unprecedented, misguided, and plain wrong."
Seven towns -including Cecil, Peters, Mount Pleasant Township and Robinson in Washington County, South Fayette in Allegheny County and Yardley and Nockamixon in Bucks County - have joined other plaintiffs in suing the state over zoning restrictions in the new natural gas drilling law.”
(The resolution is attached to provide to township supervisors and ask for their support of the lawsuit against Act 13.)
3. If There Was Any Question As To Why the Republicans (and some Dems) Pushed Act 13
“A coalition of oil and gas industry companies is challenging the group of municipalities who are suing the state over Act 13, seeking to intervene in the lawsuit.
The petition from the industry groups say that overturning the new state law would negatively impact the industry. Gov. Corbett, a Republican, supports the industry’s objectives in Act 13.” (oil gas industry groups seek to join lawsuit, AP, 4-6-12)
[Act 13 was created to benefit the industry, not residents—period. Jan]
4. Drilling Hurts Health Say Doctors-
“Doctors say they don’t know what to tell patients who suspect their ailments are related to nearby gas industry activity because of a lack of research on whether the drilling of thousands of new wells– many near houses and drinking-water supplies – has made some people sick.
Yet when the governor’s office and legislators created the most sweeping update of the state’s oil and gas law in a quarter century, they stripped $2 million annually that included a statewide health registry to track respiratory problems, skin conditions, stomach ailments and other illnesses potentially related to gas drilling.
Last week, the Department of Health refused to give the Associated Press copies of its responses to people who allege that drilling affected their health. That lack of transparency – justified in the name of protecting private medical information – means the public has no way of knowing even how many complaints there are or how many are valid.
Studies are urgently needed to determine whether drilling has affected human health, said Dr. Poune Saberi, a University of Pennsylvania physician and public health expert. “We don’t really have a lot of time,” said Saberi, who said she’s talked to about 30 people around Pennsylvania over the past 18 months who blame their ailments on gas drilling.
Working behind closed doors, legislative negotiators also inserted a requirement that doctors sign a confidentiality agreement in return for access to proprietary information on chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process.
Doctors and public health advocates say they weren’t consulted and had no idea it was in the bill. State officials say the rule, is meant to give doctors explicit access to drilling firms’ secret chemical cocktails. But Pennsylvania’s leading medical association contends it may have a chilling effect on research and on doctors’ ability to diagnose and treat patients exposed to carcinogens and other toxic substances.”
5. Obama Pleases Gas Industry- Creates New Group To Oversee Gas Production
“The CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, the largest lobbying group for the oil and gas industry, is pleased to see what they refer to as “forward progress by the White House”.A working group is being created to oversee gas production amid industry complaints that excessive regulation can stymie a gas boom that has prices at a 10 year low.
Industry groups welcome the executive order which appears to be timed to counter criticism from some business leaders and Republicans who have called on the White House to rein in uncoordinated activities to avoid unnecessary and overlapping feral regulatory efforts.”
(Obama creates working group on gas drilling, AP, Latrobe bulletin, 4-15-13)
6.Homeowners' Assoc. Says Homeowners Are at Risk
Act 13 puts the interests of the gas industry above those of citizens and homeowners. Homeowners stand to lose home value, health and safety, and quality of life. Act 13 provides a blueprint for legally sanctioned gas industry environmental destruction and this law damages all citizens. The ‘optimal development’ of the gas industry is placed above the constitutional mandate to protect natural resources.
There is no accountability placed upon the gas drilling industry now-or in to the future when possible irreversible disasters will more likely appear- for water table or aquifer contamination, poisoned wells, toxic chemicals, or the dangers and damages from earthquakes caused by drilling and underground detonation of explosives. In instances of apparent contamination, Act 13 places the burden of proof upon state agencies and provides escapes for the gas industry. All industry liability ends one year after a well is capped. PA citizens and homeowners deserve protection and a direct benefit more than the gas industry deserves short- term profits and an escape from responsibility.”
(Pennsylvania homeowners want protection from act 13, edward smith, Latrobe bulletin, 5-3-12)
7. Darell Smitsky’s Water--Hickory, PA
“Darrell Smitsky had 8 healthy goats until gas drilling started. Over a period of several months, one by one, 5 of the goats died, their back legs becoming paralyzed. Fish in the pond also became sick, their scales breaking down and becoming translucent. Water plants turned brown and died. The Smitskys developed browns rashes on their legs identical to other victims who lived 5 miles away in Rea, PA.
Darrell eventually learned that Range Resources had erred and his water well was within 1000 feet of a Marcellus well Range drilled on a farm across the road. Since the distance was never revealed, Smitsky’s water well never received the required baseline testing before and after drilling. Therefore presumption of guilt, which occurs when a water well is contaminated within 1000 feet and 6 months, was void. Acrylonitrile was found at alarming rates in a subsequent water test, being 130 times higher than levels permitted in PA streams.
DEP only tests for 14 chemicals; VOCs and acrylonitrile are not included but other contaminants did show up in the Smitsky’s water tests.
During the fracking of one of the gas wells near Smitsky’s home, a neighbor reported foam coming out of the ground. In addition, an abandoned well not far away started spewing fluids. The old well had never been properly plugged which is the case with thousands of other wells in PA. This allows underground pathways for frack fluids and methane to rise up to ground water.
Some of the early gas wells were drilled near Smitsky’s home in 2006 and 2007. Five years later, there are 17 Marcellus well in the 1 square mile surrounding his home. For more than four decades prior to drilling they had well water famous for its excellent quality and taste.”
8. Politics Trumps Health and Environment in Corbett Administration
Act 13 guts local governments rights of zoning and long term planning, forbids municipalities to appeal state decisions about well permits, provides subsidies to the gas industry, and payments for out of state workers to get housing. , ties the hands of physicians in being able to share the health effects of gas operations on residents, does not requires companies to clean up pollution of contaminated water supplies, or even to track transportation and deposit of contaminated waste water.
Thus the gas industry is given rights unlike any other industry in the state. $2 million was initially included in the legislation to fund the Dept. of Health to collect and disseminate information, conduct health care provider outreach and education and investigate health related complaints associated with gas production. . It was strongly supported by the PA medical society and numerous public and environmental groups ---and was deleted, probably with Corbett’s encouragement.
“Pennsylvania is “handing out permits almost like popcorn in a theater,” says Diane Siegmund, psychologist from Towanda. From 2005 to 2012, only 36 requests were denied; 10,232 wells were permitted.
The PA impact fee is about 2.6 %; Corbett proposed 1%. Arkansas’ tax is 3.4 % and West Virginia’s is 6.1 %. This is believed to be payback for campaign contributions.
The industry gave about $7.2 million to Pa candidates and PACs between 2000 and 2010-- $860,825 to republicans and much less, $129,100, to democrats. In addition, the industry gave $1.6 million to Corbett’s campaigns during the past 10 years.
Brain Ellis –R-Butler- sponsor of the House bill received $23,300.
Scarnati- R-Warren- sponsor of the Senate bill received $293, 334
Of the 20 legislators who received the most money, 16 are Republicans according to Common Cause. William DeWeese-D received $58,750, the most of the 4 democrats.
Corbett named Alan Walker to head the Dept of Community and Economic Development. Walker is identified by the Pa Progressive as an “ardent anti -environmentalist and someone who hates regulation of his industry”
After taking office, Corbett repealed environmental assessment of gas wells in state parks. The result could be as many as 2200 well pads on almost 90% of all public lands according to the Nature Conservancy.
In March 2011, at his first budget address, Corbett declared he wanted to make PA the “hub of the drilling boom.”
When the history of natural gas exploration in Pa is finally written, the story will be that is was a cheaper energy source that briefly stimulated the economy. But history will probably also record that politicians accepted campaign funds to allow almost unregulated development, that the people wanting immediate financial gratification accepted fracking because of the economic lure and the certain industrial practices led to long term problem with health and the environment. “
(Fracking: politics overrides health and environmental issues, Walter brasch, 3-27-12, latrobe bulletin.)
9. On Pipelines and The Environment
“Not unlike the Once-ler (from the Lorax) the natural gas companies have descended upon a pristine landscape of large and unbroken forestlands that store carbon, harbor wildlife, clean the air and filter water contributing to cool clear streams popular for their healthy trout populations and important to drinking water for millions of Pennsylvanians. This region also boasts healthy soil worked by generations by farmers who form the backbone of the state’s traditional agricultural economy.
Drilling and fracking and building a pipeline do not go hand in hand with a landscape covered in forests, streams, and farmland. Picture roads and pumping stations instead of tress. Imagine the sound of trucks and drilling activities instead of crickets and birds. It becomes more difficult to picture rich healthy soil suitable for growing food. A state funded study which will establish a baseline on the prevalence of acute and chronic medical conditions among residents living in counties hosting natural gas production is being planned. The study sponsored by Northeast Regional Cancer Institute will survey 500 resident from 10 counties affected by drilling operations.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will likely find that the benefits of a pipeline that crosses streams, displaces farmland, and fragments forests outweighs its environmental impact. The proposed 200 mile, $1 billion pipeline would deliver gas from facilities in NE PA to customers in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington.”
From: (Is drilling and pipelines something we tneed, sara kaplaniak, Latrobe bulletin, 4-10-120
10. Steph Hallowich and Newspapers Fight Gag Order
Two newspapers are litigating to unseal court records in the Hallowich case. Stephanie Hallowich is also litigating to free herself from the gag order placed on her. An amicus brief will soon be filed on behalf of health care professionals and in support of newspapers, arguing that the industry should not be permitted to conceal information needed to protect public health.
11. What Does the Move From Chlorine to Chloramine in Drinking Water Mean?
“In order to meet federal standards that limit carcinogenic disinfection byproducts in water, chloramine will replace chlorine in some drinking water supplies. Pennsylvania American Water Co will soon switch customers in Washington and southern Allegheny Counties. This is because bromides produced by power plants, coal mines, and gas drilling wastewater, react with the chlorine to produce trihalomethanes. Chloramine does not produce as much of the byproduct.
(It would seem obvious to require the reduction of bromides in water, but instead, chloramine will now increasingly be used by water systems. Jan)
There has been a strong reaction to the change. The Chloramine Information Center in Harrisburg says studies revealing adverse health and envionrmental impacts have been overlooked. “We are being sold a bill of goods by the EPA”, according to Susan Pickford, executive director. Also chloramine results in pipe erosion that can increase lead levels and deteriorate rubber based washers and fixtures in homes.
EPA does not regulate chloramine byproducts including nitrosodimethylanime which is toxic in minute concentrations, slow to biodegrade, and a public health concern according to the Pure Water Gazette.
Fish kills from water main breaks that sent chloraminated water into ponds and streams have been reported.
There have also been reports of skin, breathing, and digestive problems.
Heidi Redmond a registered nurse form Irwin developed burning and itching red rashes in October and soon linked her rashes and those of her 9- month- old son to chloramine in the water.”
From: (water company plans to change disinfectant used in some systems, david
templeton and don hopey, pitts post gazette,)
12. Some Pipelines Are Not Inspected- Rural Areas Lack Protection
Government auditors say the federal government should track safety hazards tied to unregulated pipelines tapping oil and gas released through fracking. The GAO said most of those 240,000 miles of pipeline nationwide are not regulated by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety administration, which means they are not regularly inspected for leaks or corrosion.
In some state, officials don’t know where the lines are.
In Pa many local residents have no idea the pipelines near their homes are not overseen by federal regulators. Gathering lines that run in the NE part of the state where there are fewer than 10 homes per mile receive no federal oversight.
Nationwide there are about 200,000 miles of gas gathering lines and up to 40,000 miles of hazardous liquid gathering lines. Only about 24,000 of those miles are regulated.
(Audit: gas lines tied to fracking lack oversight, AP, Latrobe bulletin, 3-23-12)
group on gas drilling, AP, Latrobe bulletin, 4-15-13)
13. Spill Near Dunkard Creek
About 500 gallons of drilling mud spilled in a tributary of Dunkard Creek. Equitrans Co. was drilling under the creek for a pipeline.
(This received very little publicity and I have seen no follow up on DEP water testing. Drilling mud can be contaminated with heavy metals. Jan)
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.