Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates July 16, 2012
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Please Cut and Paste All Links-(they work erratically)
***Moratorium for the Entire State
The backroom deal for a moratorium will temporarily protect just four counties—Bucks, Montgomery, Northampton, and Lehigh—leaving 80 percent of Pennsylvanians vulnerable to the environmental and health impacts of gas drilling.
We shouldn't treat any Pennsylvanians like second- class citizens. It’s time for our legislators to enact a real moratorium that protects EVERYONE’s drinking water and health from gas drilling. Sign our petition calling for a moratorium on gas drilling today.
Calendar of Events
*** Westmoreland County Commissioners will conduct public meetings to solicit comments on how to spend Marcellus shale impact fees.
The meetings will begin at 6 p.m. on:
• July 23 at Mt. Pleasant Township Municipal Building, 208 Poker Road
• July 26 at Rostraver Township Municipal Building, 201 Municipal Drive
• Aug. 13 at Derry Township Municipal Building, 5321 Route 982
YOU MUST REGISTER TO SPEAK
SEE ATTACHMENT(on emailed updates)--To facilitate us in providing input, Cynthia Walter has written an overview of points to consider when making comments to the commissioners. I have also included Mike Atherton’s statement.
SURVEY ON LINE If you cannot attend, you can fill out a survey at this link.
*** DC Rally July 28!!
People from around the country will rally in Washington on July 28 for the first national protest against the use of hydraulic fracturing. Marcellus Protest has done a fine job in reserving a bus that will leave Lawrenceville PROMPTLY at 8:00 am and return at 10:30 pm. SPACE IS LIMITED, so buy your ticket NOW. Discount price $25 till July 15. After July 16 price is $35. Some scholarships may be available. See Rally schedule below. Good news: the Sierra Club and an individual have pledged funds to help pay for the bus from Pittsburgh to the Stop the Frack Attack in Washington DC on July 28. These funds will be used to pay for 'scholarships' for those who cannot afford the $25 bus fee.
If you would go on the bus to the protest (or if you know of people who would go) but are short on funds, you may get a seat of the Marcellus Protest bus paid for by the pledged funds.
There are about 13 seats left on the Marcellus Protest bus. Email firstname.lastname@example.org now, as these seats may go fast.
This is the big day; we are organizing to get as many people as possible! We have people coming from Texas, West Virginia, New York, Vermont, and even Australia. There will be at least three busloads from Pennsylvania.
Location: The West Lawn of the Capitol
3:30 pm March
Location: The Streets of DC
After getting pumped up by our awesome speakers, it’s time to hit the streets. We will make a special delivery to the American Petroleum Institute and American Natural Gas Association. They say fracking is good for our water, we say nay and have the water to prove it!
Buy your ticket here: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=nreqd8cab&oeidk=a07e63chn2ha1f2a9f5
Among the sponsors of this, the largest anti-fracking event ever, are Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthworks, NRDC, and the national Sierra Club. Activists from Western Pennsylvania will be interested to know that the rally in DC will be the concluding event for the ‘Tour de Frack’ cyclists who will have ridden from Butler PA.
From the Jewish Community on the DC Rally -Rabbi Waskow
From Thursday, July 26, through Saturday, July 28, thousands of people will gather in Washington DC, for various aspects of “Stop the Frack Attack.”
After many local, state, and regional actions against fracking, this will be the first national action. The Shalom Center is one of many co-sponsors.
Highlights: Thursday, Lobbying; Friday: Training in various forms of effective social action, followed by a strategy discussion and “town meeting”; Saturday, at US Capitol: multireligious service followed by rally and then march to Big Gas corporate Headquarters. The multireligious service organized by The Shalom Center and Interfaith Moral Action on Climate will be held at the Capitol at 1:30 Saturday afternoon
Among religious leaders taking part in the service will be Rev. Bob Edgar, former head of the National Council of Churches, now head of Common Cause; Rev. Richard Cizik, co-founder of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. Others have been invited from the Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, and Buddhist communities.
This increased political power makes it even harder to get Congress and state legislatures to focus on the need for sustainable non-fossil-fuel sources of energy, like wind and solar power.
All three of these results of fracking violate the Holy Unity that is the Interbreathing of all life.
*** Sponsored a potluck for tour de frack at Cross Creek Park
*** We are investigating data on air and/or water monitoring for informational purposes at the county level
*** We are designing a billboard about local votes on Act 13
*** Jan responded to DEPs question about better regulation for the Welling
Compressor Station (regarding statement previously made for the group and information provided by GASP)
Compressor Station (regarding statement previously made for the group and information provided by GASP)
*** Several members continue to speak at county commissioners meetings
*** Jan got letter published, as president of the group, in the Citizens Voice News-- a response to Lou D’Amigo of PIOGA ‘s (PA Oil and Gas) letter about green slime (his name for environmentalists.)
*** “Pennsylvania politicians sold gas companies the right to pollute Pennsylvania’s land, air, and water for bargain basement prices,” said Josh McNeil, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of PA
*** “Duke University researchers found evidence that brine contaminated shallow aquifers in NE Pennsylvania after rising from the mile-deep rock layer.” (see item #2)
*** “We obviously have methane going out very far underground," Dr. Payne, environmental scientist at Gas Safety Inc, speaking of methane contamination in Bradford, PA.
1. Research Study----Brine from the Deep Can Migrate into Aquifers
“Duke University researchers found evidence that brine contaminated shallow aquifers in NE Pennsylvania after rising from the mile-deep rock layer. It probably followed natural pathways, but if such seepage travels quickly, it could mean the billions of gallons of chemically treated water that drillers use to tap shale for gas could one day reach shallow groundwater, researchers said. “We don’t have a good sense of what the actual timing is,” said Nathaniel R. Warner, the study’s lead author. The study “is showing, importantly, that these pathways do exist. It becomes more important if we’re talking about a short time frame.”
Though the fluids were natural and not the byproduct of fracking, the finding suggests that drilling waste and chemicals could migrate in ways previously thought to be impossible. (In other words, fracking fluids may travel too. jan)
Drilling companies have claimed their threat to groundwater is minimized with thousands of feet of rock trapping any dangerous chemicals below. But gas companies can no longer argue the fracking poses no risk at all to drinking water
The Duke study, which the National Academy of Sciences will publish, is the second one recently to suggest that the geology surrounding the Marcellus shale can allow fluids to migrate upward from deep shale layers much more freely than expected. Natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus, made worse by drillers, could allow chemical migration to the surface within 10 years, hydrologist Tom Myers said in a work published in April in the journal “Ground Water.”
(Tim Puko, http://triblive.com/state/marcellusshale/2176408-74/marcellus-drilling-shale-duke-fluid-academy-according-contaminated-deep-engelder?printerfriendly=true; Propublica, lustgarten, 7-9-12, new study fluids from Marcellus shale likely seeping into pa drinking water; Salon, by sarah laskow, confirmed;fracking can pollute, 7-9-12)
2. DEP Ignores Citizens Complaints
Clean Air Council Seeks Federal Intervention Incident-at Bradford
“The Clean Air Council says residents who have contacted the state DEP about gas drilling related air pollution incidents are frustrated by the lack of response. The Council sent a letter to EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin, asking the EPA to assist the DEP. The letter from Clean Air Council executive director Joseph Minott details complaints from 13 residents who experienced odors, or witnessed “opaque” emissions.
“The Council discovered that in some cases, complaints made to DEP were never fully investigated and in other cases, residents lost faith in DEP and stopped reporting pollution complaints to them.”
Minott says the Clean Air Council has since created their own system to log drilling related complaints. The online form includes reporting on health issues the residents think might be associated with the odor, or visible emission incidents. Of those who have filled out the Clean Air Council survey, 75 % listed health impacts during the visible emissions, including headaches, dizziness and vertigo. More than 60 % experienced headaches soon after an odor event.
The Clean Air Council also says it’s difficult to even reach DEP to report a complaint.
“Residents reported that the DEP complaint telephone number has not been working on several occasions in the past 8 months. Residents and Council staff have called during normal business hours and found that no one answered.”
And to make matters worse, those who did reach DEP, according to Minott, often described interactions with rude and dismissive field agents.”
(see update #3 below)
by Susan Phillips
3. Update on Leroy Twp. Methane Problem
High levels of methane may have infiltrated water wells and streams through small spaces in a gas well. DEP says Chesapeake has patched the holes by squeezing cement into the perforations and that the repairs have proven to be successful.
The DEP’s investigation covers 1½ square miles, two streams, a wetland and four potentially affected water wells, all of which have been given treatment systems or alternate water supplies. “The situation is and at all times was under control by the DEP said Krancer, DEP secretary. The department has not yet determined the cause of the methane migrations.”
Clean Air Council commissioned a study last month in Leroy Twp. where the gas was found bubbling in streams and water wells.
Clean Air Council continues to seek information on the fault line plumes and their possible health and environmental impacts which found average ground-level methane concentrations in a roughly two-square-mile area at nearly twice normal background levels for the region's air. In one area, the methane concentration in the air was more than 10 times background levels
"We obviously have methane going out very far underground," Dr. Payne, environmental scientist at testing company, Gas Safety Inc, said. "They are not adequately addressing that issue by itself. And they are not willing to provide any information to indicate why it is that they are concluding that everything is getting better and better."
(By laura legere, times tribune, dep sec: methane may have leaked, 7-13-12)
4. Nationwide Won’t Cover Fracking Damages
“Nationwide says risks involved in fracking were too great to ignore.
A memo, not written for public perusal, read, “After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance )coverage.”
It said “prohibited risks” apply to landowners who lease land for shale gas drilling and contactors involved in fracking operations, including those who haul water to and from drill sites: pipe and lumber haulers; and operators of bulldozers, dump trucks and other vehicles used in drill site preparation.
The president of the general contractors group of NY State responded that Nationwide is not on job creation’s side.”
(US insurer won’t cover gas drill fracking exposure, AP, latrobe bulletin, 7-13-12)
5. Sky Alerts for Gas Activity/Problems in Your Area
You can sign up to receive notifications and alerts. This is one of the best sites I have used because it is easy and the alerts are sent for the area you choose.
6. $$ Gas Industry Has Spent More Than $23 Million to Influence PA Elected Officials
Top recipients of industry money given between 2000 and April 2012 were Gov. Tom Corbett (R) with $1,813,205.59, Senate President Joseph Scarnati (R-25) with $359,145.72, Rep. Dave Reed (R-62) with $137,532.33, House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai (R-28) with $98,600, and Sen. Don White (R-41) with $94,150.
Total contributions from natural gas interests between 2000 and 2012: $8 million. Total lobbying expenditures by gas interests between 2007 and 2012: $15.7 million
Yet Gov Corbett, Lt. Gov Cawley, and their corrupt political cronies want us to believe that a severance tax, or tighter regulation will 'price PA out of the market'. [Seriously?] This is obscene!
This is NOT how democracy is supposed to work.
After reaching an all-time annual high of $1.6 million in 2010, the new study found that contributions declined to $560,800 in 2011. Lobbying expenditures surged during this same period, however, with $5 million being spent in 2011, an increase of $1 million from 2010. An additional $1.8 million was spent in the first three months of 2012, bringing the total since 2007 to $15.7 million.
“The industry has largely had its way in Pennsylvania and has spent millions to put their friends in the state legislature and the Governor’s mansion,” said James Browning, Regional Director of State Operations for Common Cause. “The industry’s focus now is on protecting these investments and maintaining access to key elected officials.”
“Pennsylvania politicians sold gas companies the right to pollute Pennsylvania’s land, air, and water for bargain basement prices,” said Josh McNeil, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of PA. “For their $23 million political investment, gas companies avoided hundreds of millions in taxes that could have paid for thousands of teachers, roads and desperately needed environmental protections.”
Pennsylvania continues to be one of just 11 states that fail to limit campaign contributions, and the state’s failure to require electronic filing of campaign finance reports has resulted in delays by the Pennsylvania Department of State in making these reports available on its website. According to Common Cause, less than half of the reports due to be filed by all candidates at the end of last March were available on the DOS website as of April 20, just four days before the April 24 primary.
MarcellusMoney.org is a collaboration of Common Cause PA and the Conservation Voters of PA
Regional Director of State Operations
7. Roadside Bomb?-- from tour de frack
Toluene 1.0 µg/m3
Chloromethane 1.3 µg/m3
2-Butanone (MEK) 1.3 µg/m3
Triclorofluoromethane (CFC 11) 1.6 µg/m3
Acetone 8.0 µg/m3
These are not the ingredients for a road-side bomb but given the result they might as well be. They are air results taken from a home 1,200 feet downwind from a massive frack pond. When I visited the home last week, Norma, the owner, took me to the edge of her property. There were two tractors bailing hay from the land that grows produce for Soergel’s Orchard between us and a colossal black water hole. It was lunchtime and it looked like the two men in baseball caps were about to finish on the field that was directly downwind and downhill from the pit. Months earlier, bulldozers had carved out a Paul Bunyan-sized grave. The L-shaped scar measures three football fields long and 1.5 wide.
After a few moments I could sense the change in the air. The wind was blowing right over the contaminated water dump and heading towards us like a bullet on its way to pierce the chest of a passer-by. Norma isn’t a passerby. Two generations ago, her husband's family owned all of this land.
It wasn’t the smell of the air that stuck to my skin but the weight. It seemed heavy and thick. Previously, when passing by drilling rigs and processing plants, I’ve experienced numb lips and a metallic taste. Often my tongue goes off line and seems to swells in my mouth like after a dental visit but this was different. It was as if the pressure of Norma’s worries combined with the metals and hydrocarbons in the air were squeezing my skull much in the same way Norma is being squeezed out of her home...[more to come]
A decision by PA lawmakers to block gas drilling in two counties is a blow to the state's prospects, an industry official said. Lawmakers backed a ban on fracking in Bucks and Montgomery counties until the state's DCNR can complete a five-year study of the region.
Lou D'Amico, director of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, was quoted by the Platts news service as saying the decision set a bad example.
"If I were an oil company and saw that kind of legislative activity, I would think long and hard before making any kind of investment in any kind of property in southeastern Pennsylvania," he said.
“About 40 civil suits have been filed in the U.S., alleging personal injury, nuisance and toxic torts involving land, air and water. Some landowners who entered into leases with drilling companies are suing over the terms of the lease; some landowners who don’t own the oil or gas rights under their property are suing for nuisance; some are suing for physical injuries such as headaches, nosebleeds, nausea and open skin sores; and some claim diminution in the value of their property as a result of damaged water and air.
“[Insurance] agents are trying to make themselves as aware as possible of the situation, because obviously if someone’s signing a contract with one of the energy companies to permit a drill site on their property, then there’s going to have to be a response from an insurance standpoint as far as trying to find the coverage if the current carrier is not willing to provide it,” according to the insurance education organization Sparks Club.
Insurance agents and brokers should tell their clients to “take a close look” at the indemnification agreement with a lawyer, according to Claire Pantaloni, industry affairs director for Insurance Agents & Brokers (IA&B).”
10. MarkWest Sues Cecil Twp. --Complains they will suffer “Irreparable harm due to unrecoverable economic loss”
(Cecil Twp. has been sued twice in a couple of weeks. Anyone still think these companies are our good neighbors? jan)
MarkWest Liberty is suing Cecil Twp., claiming irreparable financial damage by not being able to build a gas compression station.
The company also petitioned Commonwealth Court for a preliminary injunction to pave the way for the construction of the station.
An application for a special exception was turned down in 2011, with the township zoning hearing board citing potential impact on neighboring properties and disagreeing with MarkWest’s claim of providing an “essential service.” Washington County Court of Common Pleas is hearing the company’s appeal of that decision. MarkWest also claims that the township’s ordinance violates the act by not permitting compressor stations in industrial zones.
MarkWest contends it should be permitted to build the compressor station because it meets requirements set forth in Act 13, regarding distance from existing buildings and property lines, and anticipated noise levels.
Cecil is among the municipalities that are mounting a legal challenge against Act 13.
Unless the company is granted relief, MarkWest stands to suffer “irreparable harm due to unrecoverable economic loss,” according to the application for preliminary injunction.”
(By Harry Funk http://canon-mcmillan.patch.com/articles/gas-company-sues-cecil-township-837bb20d)
11. Dawson Sues Cecil Over Seismic Testing
“Dawson Geophysical filed a civil suit against Cecil Township over its seismic testing ordinance and the company’s ability to conduct that testing on municipal roads.
“Dawson seeks to bar Cecil Township from enforcing (its ordinance) to prohibit the use of vibration trucks on township roads,” adding that the regulations in place fail to conform with the state constitution and other laws.
Approved by Cecil supervisors in 2010, the seismic testing ordinance calls for applicants such as Dawson that seek to use township roads to go through a public hearing process—and if approved, give notice of its activities to the municipality, as well as affected residents.
Reached for comment on the suit Monday, Cecil solicitor John Smith said that he was unsure why Dawson sued the municipality a day after it made application to the township to use its roads for such testing, adding that supervisors would have taken action on the application.
He added that the Act 13 injunction leaves in place all local ordinances—including those relating to seismic testing.
Smith, who was in court Monday regarding the issue, said, “They basically said, ‘We need to be on the roads tomorrow.’ And that’s just not the way it works.”
He added: “They have to let the process run its course.”
By Amanda Gooly
12. Labor Fatalities Increase in Fracking Industry
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2003-2008 there was a 62-percent increase in the number of workers employed in the oil and gas industries in the US. During this same period, the number of fatalities in the industries grew by 41 percent.
Despite the increase in fracking sites, the number of inspections (I believe this refers to work safety inspections-jan) of areas being drilled has decreased. According to an analysis of more than 50,000 inspection reports by The New York Times, the number of drilling rigs rose by more than 22 percent in 2011 from the prior year, but the number of inspections at such worksites fell by 12 percent.
In a letter, the AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers Union and the United Mine Workers complain that (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) are not doing enough to regulate the potential hazards that harm fracking workers.
In order to reduce the number of oil and natural gas workers killed on the job, organized labor wants OSHA and NIOSH to issue a “joint hazard” alert identifying all the hazards and identify a way to deal with them. In addition, the unions want MSHA to identify increased hazards associated mining silica sand. Finally, they want the Obama administration to immediately implement the delayed rule limiting workers' exposure to silica dust.
13. No Bar B Ques Allowed --
“A few weeks ago I visited with a friend who lives near the huge MarkWest plant in Houston, Pa. He spotted an article in the newspaper about consideration of a ban on outdoor grilling. He looked at me and laughed, “What a joke, they should live where I do.” Flare-offs from that MarkWest plant close to his house, like the photo taken from his backyard below, are not uncommon in his township of Chartiers. So this latest newspaper article begs the question, “Will frackers be allowed to flare Marcellus wells in this township?” (from Bob)
14. Natural Gas Drilling Impacting Affordable Housing
“Before the gas boom, homelessness was unimaginable in rural Pennsylvania, where quiet streets had an excess of housing. Today, housing is not just expensive. For many, it is unaffordable.
Judy Smith is the soft-spoken volunteer coordinator of Grace Connection, a charity begun by a group of Towanda-area churches. For many years, the charity operated a clothing and food bank, and helped people in crisis who needed vouchers for gas, food, or even to maintain utility services. With the advent of Marcellus Shale exploration, the social problems have gotten more severe, Ms. Smith said.”