Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates-July 2, 2012
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Calendar of events
*** Tour de Frack
The ‘Tour de Frack’ promises to be one of the most celebrated local events of this coming summer. Described as ‘activism in motion’, from July 14 to July 28 cyclists may take the whole ride from Butler to Washington DC, or they may enjoy one or two day segments of the journey.
***Anti-Fracking Rally in DC
The first -ever national anti-fracking rally is planned for July 28, in Washington, DC. For quite a while now many have been pushing for taking this to the federal level. Marcellus Protest is considering organizing a charter bus to DC for this rally. http://www.stopthefrackattack.org/
(Sierra Club, Calvin Tillman, Earthworks)
***County Commissioners Hold Evening Meetings Around the Area
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 9 at Westmoreland County Courthouse, Main Street, Greensburg
• July 10 at Washington Township Municipal Building, 289 Pine Run Church Rd.
• 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
Please Like Clean Air Council-Facebook-from Matt Walker
If you have a Facebook account, I’d like to invite everyone on the list to “like” the Clean Air Council on your Facebook page so you can follow our work to protect public health and the environment (the “Like” button is to the right of “Clean Air Council” at the top of the page). We won’t clog your newsfeed with clutter – we usually post about 10 times per week about important Council news and action items. If you don’t have a Facebook account, check out our page regardless and consider signing up for an account in the near future.
Copy and paste this link into your internet browser: http://www.facebook.com/cleanaircouncil
Clean Air Council
*** "Playing political games with the health and well-being of Pennsylvania (residents) is no way for a state agency to act, and I will continue urging DEP to stop hiding behind the Right-to-Know law and release its findings." Rep Jesse White said referring to test results taken at Cornerstone Health Clinic.
*** "The second analysis, which is disturbing on multiple levels, mysteriously reveals the presence of two new chemical compounds, carbon disulfide and methyl tert-butyl ether, neither of which were mentioned in the first DEP summary," Rep Jesse White said referring to test results taken at Cornerstone Health Clinic.
*** "In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted," said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA's underground injection.
*** “The provision is "outrageous. This really smacks of cronyism and self-preservation in order to protect a few elite areas in this state that have more power than others," Delaware Riverkeeper Network Deputy Director Tracy Carluccio on the exemption for Bucks and Montgomery Counties from Act 13.
1.Unbelievably-Bucks and Montgomery County Are Exempt From Act 13 After Reps. Voted for It
(After voting to impose Act 13 on the entire state, legislators form Bucks and Montgomery counties decided to protect their own counties and got themselves exempt from the act—the height of hypocrisy. The vote was 123-74.) Jan
“We are outraged that the counties where the DEP’s chief and the Lt. Governor live are receiving this special treatment,” says Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, the grassroots organization leading a campaign in Berks County to ask municipalities to pass resolutions opposing the law.
“By its vote, the PA legislature made it clear that it understands that gas drilling brings with it risks that should be considered by the state and the municipalities involved before it can commence. Today’s vote is a vote against the draconian restrictions in Act 13. This admission by our state legislators should encourage all municipalities in the state to fight to overturn this dreadful law,” said Feridan.
Democratic state Rep. Jesse White, whose Washington County district includes most of the towns challenging the gas-drilling law approved earlier this year, said the provision was a surprise.
White posted to his Facebook page: "Just found out that they're trying to jam a ban on Marcellus shale drilling ONLY for Bucks and Montgomery Counties into the fiscal code (SB 1263) of the state budget tonight. Aside from being blatantly unconstitutional, it's horrible policy. Drill everywhere or drill nowhere, but don't let this become a political county-by-county football. Unreal." Meanwhile, activists elsewhere have been sending emails declaring "no special treatment."
"They should either exempt all counties from Act 13 and not just try to get special treatment from Sen. McIlhinney's core area, or repeal the law entirely," said David Meiser, chairman of the Bucks County Sierra Club.
Sen. McIlhinney claimed they had new information: "We basically said we didn't know (the South Newark Basin) was there before when we did Act 13. We need to slow this down until we can do a study on it — see what's there, see where it is, see how deep it is, study the impact, get the local supervisor's thoughts on it. We're not even eligible for the impact fee."
Nockamixon solicitor Jordan Yeager said that there was drilling in Nockamixon in the mid-1980s and that authorities have known there was gas underground in the Palisades School District area. He said the only news is that the USGS has attempted to quantify the amount of gas.
"The deep shale drilling that's being proposed in Nockamixon is indistinguishable from the deep shale drilling that's being done in other parts of the state,'' said Yeager. "If we recognize that it needs more study here in order to feel comfortable that we're doing it safely, we ought to recognize that it needs more study in the rest of the state, as well."
Delaware Riverkeeper Network Deputy Director Tracy Carluccio called the provision outrageous. "This really smacks of cronyism and self-preservation in order to protect a few elite areas in this state that have more power than others," This is absolutely wrong. This kind of favoritism where a legislator thinks he can protect himself and his turf at the expense of everybody else is what people cannot tolerate and what they complain about in politics today. We should be making decisions about gas drilling based on sound public policy — not based on what some legislator thinks he can slip in in order to save his own neck."
“Apparently Act 13 is so unpopular that some legislators in Bucks County who voted for it, now want their own districts exempted from its draconian provisions," said Myron Arnowitt, the group's state director.
Clean Water Action would welcome a reopening of Act 13 -- as many legislators have proposed -- but it must be done on a statewide basis. The Bucks County exemption to Act 13 divides counties into‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ when it comes to local zoning control over gas drilling. Municipal rights should be based on the public good, not on what party you belong to or how politically connected you are. If this was good legislation, they wouldn’t hide it under a rock until late Friday afternoon the day of the vote
(Laura Olson, late added provision to state budget bills would temporarily prevent drilling in bucks county, 6-29-12; house approves drilling moratorium for Bucks and Montgomery, Christin Kristofic, calkins media; http://www.gastruth.org/?p=534 ; http://shale.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/news/archives/24665-late-added-provision-to-state-budget-bills-would-temporarily-prevent-drilling-in-bucks-county;)
2. Coppola, Milburn, Ball Quoted in Center for Public Integrity Article
“Brian Coppola, one of the lead petitioners trying to overturn the law, acting both individually and as supervisor of Robinson Township, said the industry spent millions of dollars to get Act 13 passed.
“I heard that in court from the industry attorney. It’s their act,” Coppola said.
“The gas industry is very strong,” said Jan Milburn, president of the Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens Group. “It’s all about money. It’s not really about what constituents want.”
David Ball said Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, a favorite of the oil and gas industry, had been “very adamantly behind pushing this bill. They put a lot of pressure on Republican legislators to go with the game plan.”
3. Gas Industry Again Denied Their Request to Participate in Act 13 Challenge
“The Supreme Court on Friday denied representatives from the Marcellus Shale industry the opportunity to participate in an appeal of the injunction against Act 13.
The Public Utilities Commission and the state appealed the Commonwealth Court decision to grant an injunction in the case.
Industry representatives were also denied to be a party to the suit at the level of the proceedings.
Senate President Pro -Tem Scarnati and House Speaker Samuel H. Smith, also moved to intervene on behalf of the Legislature on appeal—as they did at the Commonwealth level. No decision has been made on that matter as of Monday morning.
All parties are still waiting for the Commonwealth Court’s decision regarding the constitutionality of Act 13, which was argued June 6.”
(Robinson Moonpatch, By Amanda Gillooly)
4. First Lawsuit Where Plaintiffs Demand Openness-No Gag Order!
“For what is thought to be the first time, plaintiffs have demanded openness regarding their lawsuit; they are not under a gag order to have all records of the case sealed.
Three Wyalusing (NE PA) families have reached a $1.6 million settlement in the suit over faulty casings polluting their wells.
The DEP fined Chesapeake over $1 million for contaminating the water supplies of 16 families. DEP agreed that faulty cement casings allowed gas and other substances to migrate from deep underground to pollute the water wells. Att. John Roman is representing about 30 other families in the region with similar claims.
Resident Jared McMicken said the agreement provide little comfort since his drinking water was ruined and his family must now move. “
($1.6 Settlement in Gas Drilling Lawsuit, Kevin Begos, AP, latrobe bulletin, 6-24-12)
5) 6 % of Gas Well Casings Leak Immediately
The gas industry's own documents and case studies show that about 6 percent of cement jobs fail immediately upon installation. Recent experience in the Pennsylvania Marcellus shale has borne this out over and over again.
PA DEP has tracked gas leaking from wells and found 6.2 percent of new gas wells were leaking in 2010, 6.2 percent in 2011 and 7.2 percent so far in 2012.
When the cement fails, it opens a pathway for gas and other toxins involved in fracking to migrate into groundwater and to the surface.
(Josh Fox and Barbara Arindell 6-20-12
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Fracking-is-hardly-leakproof-3646458.php#ixzz1zKtcBCYh)
6. Senator Ferlo Sponsors Legislation on Act 13
from Sen. Ferlo’s Office
“Senator Ferlo plans to introduce legislation that will address the shortcomings which threaten the public’s safety and health, the environment, and local control of zoning and land use under Act 13.
He notes that Act 13 leaves our state poorly protected from the impacts of the natural gas drilling industry. The impact fee will not appropriately compensate the state for the local effects on our roads and social services, or pay for the damage done to our environment. The public safety and environmental protection sections fail on both accounts. The local zoning preemption leaves too little power in the hands of local elected officials and the residents who bear the brunt of well rig activity and endless truck traffic.
Here is a more detailed summary of the legislation:
1. Eliminates the impact fee and replaces it with a fair severance tax of $0.25 per thousand cubic feet of gas. The tax rate will adjust up as the price of gas increases and will be collected by the Department of Revenue.
2. The funding distribution formula will remain the same for the first $200 million. All additional funding will be directed to the General Fund.
3. Require that a driller of an unconventional well provide notice to surrounding property owners and municipal officials that are within 5,000 ft of the well site prior to the well drilling permit application being submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
4. Utilizes the edge of the well pad as the boundary to begin all measurements for required distances for notification instead of the bore hole.
5. Provides that, in a water management plan, potential damage to ecosystems and wildlife must be a consideration in the approval process.
6. Provides set backs from the edge of the well pad of 1,500 feet from buildings, 2,500 feet from drinking water sources, 1,000 feet from exceptional value water sources, and 500 feet from any other body of water and eliminates the Department of Environmental Protection’s ability to waive these requirements. It also prohibits drilling with the boundary of a wetland.
7. Adds proximity to water sources, including trout streams and wetlands, as conditions for the DEP to consider when reviewing a well application and would further allow the Department to deny or condition the permit based on 7 possible impacts.
8. Improves the standards of drinking water by requiring that a driller must obtain to replace lost drinking water due to drilling activity.
9. Amends how trade secrets are handled by the Department in relation to public access.
10. Clarifies that doctors shall have immediate access to any and all information that might be related to a patient’s condition, and that the doctor is free to share that information with the patient, a county or state department of health, or other health agency or association.
13. Requires that first responders may obtain the drilling report information for any well to which they are responding in an emergency, including proprietary information, regarding the fracking solution.
14. Increases bonding requirements.
15. Increases criminal penalties related to violations of the act.
16. Deletes Chapter 33 (Local Ordinances Relating to Oil and Gas Operations) and restores zoning and land use decisions to municipalities.
17. Creates a moratorium on any additional leasing of state forest land for 2 years.”
7. Rep. Jesse White: DEP Denied His Request for Air Quality Data
State Rep. Jesse White, Cecil, said to consider his mind blown.
The DEP denied his request for air data from the investigation of odors at Cornerstone Care—a medical clinic in Burgettstown that has been closed since having been evacuated three times due to the chemical odors. DEP's records officer, stated that the DEP's investigation was exempted from the state’s Right to Know Law. White plans to appeal DEP's decision.
The lawmaker continued: "Playing political games with the health and well-being of Pennsylvania (residents) is no way for a state agency to act, and I will continue urging DEP to stop hiding behind the Right-to-Know law and release its findings."
"The second analysis, which is disturbing on multiple levels, mysteriously reveals the presence of two new chemical compounds, carbon disulfide and methyl tertbutyl ether, neither of which were mentioned in the first DEP summary," he said. "There is simply no way the DEP can justify their conclusions scientifically. Among the many concerns, there is real evidence to suggest DEP did not conduct a thorough walk through prior to testing to identify potential sources; they reported results on acute exposure of one hour instead of a more realistic chronic exposure; they used standards not subject to peer scientific review; and failed to disclose levels of chemicals under the DEP's own reporting standards, which are arbitrary at best."
"At this point, there are only two logical possibilities: Either DEP did a shoddy job in conducting the testing and doesn’t want to be embarrassed, or the data shows something the DEP doesn't want the public to see," White said. "Either way, the DEP has a moral obligation to the people of Pennsylvania to release the raw data and let sunshine be the best disinfectant for whatever is ailing Cornerstone Care."
By Amanda Gillooly
8. Significant fault line methane leaks in Leroy PA- by Clean Air Council
“A water-methane geyser, bubbling water, and mud volcanoes scared Leroy Twp resident. The dramatic methane emissions reported on May 19, 2012, suggest there may have been loss of control of gas from gas wells in the area. The DEP detected methane in residents’ water wells about one- half mile from a Chesapeake well pad.
[The well water at five homes in the study area are now "supersaturated" with methane, meaning the amount of gas is so high in the water that it begins to escape to the atmosphere. The highest concentration of gas nearest to the points where it is escaping from the ground could potentially pose an explosion risk.] (the times tribune 6-27-12)
DEP monitored the area but has not yet released the data. Area residents demanded independent testing. In response, Clean Air Council, commissioned Gas Safety Inc. to monitor for methane leakages associated with the gas bubbling.
“We’re concerned about the possibility that fracking is causing increased methane leakage from that natural fault lines that previously emitted methane in much smaller amounts,” Clean Air Council Executive Director Joseph Otis Minott said.
The data and observations suggest natural gas has spread through an extensive underground area beyond where the plumes were found.”
“The International Energy Agency recently recommended in that drilling companies need to carefully survey the geology of the region to avoid fault lines,” said Payne. “With the already-fractured geology of Pennsylvania and New York, our methane measurements demonstrate that this may prove impossible to do. There are some places that you just shouldn’t drill.”
“Area residents and the Council are concerned about the health impacts from ground-level ozone, created when large quantities of methane mix in the air with other pollutants. Methane is also 21 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
The Gas Safety report stated that the methane levels found in residents’ water were high enough to pose asphyxiation hazards if the water was used for showering or other high water uses in close quarters. Residents reported experiencing symptoms
associated with asphyxiation.
The Council shared the sampling data with the north-central regional offices of DEP, as well as DEP Secretary Michael Krancer, the EPA, Region 3, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Region 3.”
Gas Safety used a portable instrument called a Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometry for sampling methane. The device generates a high quantity of highly reliable methane measurements on a continuous basis.
The Clean Air Council is a member- supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air. The Council is headquartered in Philadelphia and works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit www.cleanair.org.
9. Injection Wells: The Poison Beneath Us
“There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking. "In 10 to 100 years we are going to find out that most of our groundwater is polluted," said Mario Salazar, an engineer who worked for 25 years as a technical expert with the EPA's underground injection program. "A lot of people are going to get sick, and a lot of people may die."
"There is no certainty at all in any of this, and whoever tells you the opposite is not telling you the truth," said Stefan Finsterle, a leading hydrogeologist who specializes in understanding the properties of rock layers and modeling how fluid flows through them. "You have changed the system with pressure and temperature and fracturing, so you don't know how it will behave." More than 220,000 well inspections found that structural failures inside injection wells are routine. From late 2007 to late 2010, one well integrity violation was issued for every six deep injection wells examined — more than 17,000 violations nationally.”
For the article:
10. The Fight to Keep Injection Well Out of Rare Swamp
Lyon Energy applied for a permit to put frack brine, which could contain chemicals, down into old gas wells in a rock formation in Warren County called the Medina Whirlpool Sands. His gas fields are not far form tamarack Natural National Landmark Swamp.
The aquifer feeds the Tamarack Swamp, one of the state’s rare, intact, white-pine glacial swamps, full of rare and endangered orchids, birds, and dragonflies, according to James Bissell a botanist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History who has done extensive studies of the swamp which provides the headwaters for the Allegheny River.
“We found plants there that haven’t been seen since 1897,” said Bissell.
He says when he learned of the proposed injection well, he was horrified.
“I can’t think of a more inappropriate place to put one,”said Bissell.
‘The area was drilled 25 to 35 years ago and those casings are compromised. Due to their age, wastewater could leak out into the aquifer that feeds the swamp. Old abandoned wells in the area can serve as a conduit through which the wastewater could come back up.
Bill Peiffer and his friend Tom Stroup who live in the area say they found out about the plan by accident. Stroup said that no one, no farmers or no residents living near the proposed sites, knew anything about the planned injection well.
To compound the confusion the EPA scheduled a public meeting in the wrong township, 20 miles away”
For the article:
11. The Song of a Thrush
Patrick McShea’s article is of consternation to those of us who thrill to hear the thrushes in the morning and evening. I have always considered the song of thrushes to be one of the nicest gifts of the Ligonier Valley, Jan
“Gas development threatens to dramatically reduce the populations of hermit thrushes and many other species because of forest fragmentation which results from the building of access roads to and through remote sites and the cutting and long- term maintenance of hundreds of miles of broad corridors for gas gathering and transmission pipeline, in addition to the clearing of land for well pads.
McShea explains how fragmentation can lower chances of some of the birds reproducing successfully when they nest near more open areas.”
(Shale Gas vs. the Hermit Thrush ,Patrick McShea, Post Gazette, 6-3-12)
12. Beaver County Lawsuit Alleging Fraud Moves to Federal Court
“A lawsuit by 17 households, mostly in Beaver County, against Chesapeake went to federal court. The families allege fraudulent misrepresentation, unfair trade practices and breach of contract, and want compensation.
It mirrors other complaints that claim that the families were approached from 2003 to 2007 by O&G Investment Holdings, of Ohio, which offered leases, and said "that if the Leases were not signed [drillers] would drill on adjacent lands and extract Plaintiffs' minerals without paying any compensation."
13. Silica Exposure Potential Hazard to Frack Workers
“NIOSH collected 116 air samples at 11 fracking sites in five states – Arkansas, Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas – to determine the levels of worker exposure to silica at various frack jobs.
47 percent showed silica exposures greater than the calculated OSHA Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL), while 79 percent showed silica exposures greater than the NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL). Some 31 percent of all samples showed silica exposures 10 or more times the REL, with one sample more than 100 times the REL.”
14. House Approves Bill To Drill at State Colleges
The state House approved a measure (131-68) that could expand drilling for gas and oil on state-owned lands, including on the campuses of state colleges.
The state already has about 600,000 acres of forestland available for gas drilling, but has considered leasing other property, such as land surrounding state prisons. The proposal from Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, awaits a final vote in the Senate.
15. Potter Township Overlooked On Shell Tax
TheCorbett administration failed to ask the local government to approve the tax exemption for the proposed shell plant. "We weren't part of the process," said Rebecca Matsco, one of Potter’s three township supervisors.“We have seen no paperwork, no language. We have not had transparency.”
As a result, Potter Township, a small town in Beaver County, may lose out on funding for services such as fire protection and a bigger police force that are necessary because of the plant.
The company is only required to employ 400 workers to get the tax breaks and Shell wont’ likely be held to hiring only people from PA.
Potter Township: The forgotten player in bringing Shell Oil to PA, by Leah Samuel, PublicSource
June 27, 2012
16. Pennsylvania's Cracker Plant Will Take a Toll on Health
Letter to Editor Ann Whitner Pinca
“In Harrisburg, legislators debate whether an ethane cracker plant merits tax credits of astronomical dollar proportions. But beyond discussions of dollars and jobs, there seems to be little mention of the other cost — the human cost — that the reindustrialization of Pennsylvania will inevitably incur.
The first days of summer 2012 sweltered in with soaring temperatures, humidity and Code Orange air-action quality days. Ground-level ozone was at concentration levels that are unhealthy for sensitive groups, according to the Pennsylvania DEP. Vulnerable groups include young children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis. Although sparsely populated, the formerly pristine Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin area of Wyoming with extensive natural gas drilling has ozone levels worse than smoggy LosAngeles. This causes nosebleeds and shortness of breath for some who live there.
Citizens are encouraged to do their part to reduce smog on Code Orange days through simple conservation practices such as carpooling, washing only full loads of dishes and laundry
Most of us try to do our small part, but compared to the thousands of tons of pollution that the natural gas industry would add to Pennsylvania’s air through new gas wells, compressor stations and at least one cracker plant, these small measures seem like rather futile efforts to keep our air safe.
Pennsylvania’s proposed cracker plant would be built with the best available technology, but even so, comparisons to similar plants indicate that emissions could be hefty. A June 2006 assessment report for a Shell cracker plant in Singapore lists expected yearly emissions of 2000 tons of nitrogen oxides and 2,250 tons of sulfur dioxide. Flaring, used to control upsets (when gas needs to be released quickly from the plant), can add large amounts of pollutants above usual levels.
With other industries expected to grow around the cracker plant, what would this mean for people breathing Pennsylvania’s air? Growing numbers of compressor stations needed to move gas through pipelines contribute to poor air quality, too. Unlike a major pollution source such as a cracker plant, most new compressor stations in Pennsylvania are issued permits as minor pollution sources, which limit each station’s annual allowed emissions of smog-forming pollutants.
But regulations allow compressor stations and well pads to be considered individually for emissions, rather than combined or aggregated, even though their pollutants enter the same air space.”