Friday, September 21, 2012

Jan's Updates Sept. 21, 2012

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates Sept 21, 2012
* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
* To view permanent documents, past updates, reports, general information and meeting information
* For information on the state gas legislation and local control:
You may have to Cut and Paste Links-(they work erratically)
Calendar of Events
***County Commissioners Meeting- 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the county courthouse at 10:00
*** Act 13 Hearing---The PA Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on October 17th in Pittsburgh on Governor Corbett’s appeal of the recent Act 13 decision.
***Accountability Program –tentative date- October 15 in Murrysville
A discussion of Act 13 with time for representatives to speak about their positions on the legislation.
For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:
***Help Save Loyalsock State Forest from fracking-from Sierra Club
As you know, some of our most spectacular natural places are threatened by gas drilling. Old Loggers Path and the waters of Rock Run in northern Lycoming County are at risk. These beautiful and mysterious places in the Loyalsock State Forest are the next public recreation areas Pennsylvania could lose. We have a chance right now to keep them safe! 25,000 acres of this beautiful wild area can be protected!
The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has exclusive control of the surface. Oil and gas developers may not conduct surface operations unless they obtain a specific right-of-way from DCNR. Urge DCNR Secretary Richard Allan to protect these public lands!
Backpacker Magazine has named Rock Run as one of the best swimming holes in America. Old Loggers Path showcases some of the state's most scenic areas, with sweeping vistas, cascading streams, rock outcrops.
These unique treasures belong to all of us! We ask you to tell DCNR to take steps to protect these special places. Please, take action now!
Frack Links
***New facts sheets and website on methane gas migration in water
***New Private Well Owners Survey :
*** Gas families Speak on loss of property —1 minute
Fracking Quotes
***It is the first incident that I recall of anonymous advertising being used in the environmental context.” George Jugovic, President of PennFuture said of the green slime billboard campaign.
*** We have plans in the works to look at personal monitors people could wear” to detect harmful levels of natural gas .” Raina Rippel of SW PA Environmental Health Project, explaining that their next big push will be on air quality.
***Colleagues have asked for mandatory tracers in fracking fluid that show themselves if found in private well water supplies.” Dusty Horwitt of Environmental Working Group
Fracking News
1. East Finley, Washington Co. Signs on to Amicus Brief
2. NRDC Files Amicus Brief
Amicus brief filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council on behalf of local municipalities Wednesday, September 19, 2012 3:06 AM
Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris announced that the Pittsburgh City Council will file an Amicus brief in support of upholding the PA Commonwealth Court’s finding that certain portions of Act 13 pre-empting local zoning laws are unconstitutional. The PA Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Governor Corbett’s appeal of the decision on October 17th, in Pittsburgh
The Council is unanimous in this decision to file an Amicus brief,” said Council President Darlene Harris.
4. Earthjustice Files Amicus
Many of our local groups signed onto this Amicus Brief
5. Trout Unlimited Files Amicus
Act 13 Is Unconstitutional Because It Prevents Municipalities From Fulfilling
Their Constitutional Obligations To Protect Public Natural Resources Pursuant
To Article I, Section 27 Of The Pennsylvania Constitution
--Act 13 prevents a township from protecting floodplains and other
components of stream systems.
-- Act 13 prevents a municipality from adopting and implementing the minimal
requirements established in the Pennsylvania Flood Plain Management Act.
--Act 13 prevents a municipality from adopting stronger regulations than the
minimal requirements established by the Pennsylvania Flood Plain Management
---Act 13 Unconstitutionally Delegates To The Pennsylvania Department of
Environmental Protection The Power to Grant Waivers Without Adequate
In 2011, Trout Unlimited provided guidance to Pine Township in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, regarding the impacts of allowing well pads and drilling-related infrastructure to be located in the floodplain. Pine Township is located along Little Pine Creek which flows into Pine Creek, a famed trout fishing destination with high ecological integrity and water quality,
Over the course of several months, Pine Township officials held public meetings and engaged in discussion with community members about whether or not to allow drilling-related infrastructure in the floodplain. Based upon input from the community and organizations such as Trout Unlimited, the town adopted an ordinance that prohibited the placement of well pads, compressor stations, oil or gas staging facilities, or water storage facilities in the 100-year floodplain.3
If the decision of the court below is allowed to stand, then Act 13 would render Pine Township’s local community planning process and the ordinance it adopted to protect natural resources null and void.
6. PA Chapter of American Planning Association Files Amicus
Pa chapter of the Planning Association is a nonprofit organization for the promotion of land use planning and for professional planners and planning official in the Commonwealth.
The PA APA has an interest in this case because Act 13 directly restrict the ability of local authorities whom its members assist on a daily basis to provide coherent comprehensive plans for their communities. Accordingly the pa APA files this amicus curiae.
7. 15 Senate Democrats File Amicus
Senator Jim Ferlo has enlisted the support of 15 of his Senate Democratic colleagues in signing on to an amicus brief affirming the efforts of the seven municipalities which sued the Commonwealth to overturn the zoning and setback provisions in Act 13 (The Oil and Gas Act). The amicus brief specifically requests that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirm the well-reasoned decision of Judge Pelligrini and the Commonwealth Court’s majority ruling which found that these sections of Act 13 are unconstitutional. The municipalities challenged the zoning and setback provisions because they precipitate improper use of the police powers of the State, and the improper delegation of policy making powers of the Legislature to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
8. Amicus Curiae was filed by the PA House of Representatives, Democratic Caucus.
9. Rep. White Joins 43 Other Lawmakers in Act 13 Appeal
State Rep. Jesse White has joined 43 other House Democrats in filing a legal brief before the state Supreme Court supporting those who believe state Act 13 is unconstitutional by eliminating local zoning ordinances regulating the booming Marcellus Shale natural gas industry.
By Scott Beveridge
10. Groups Show Support for Communities Challenging State's Marcellus Shale Law
Several groups filed briefs in support of the group of communities, medical doctor and nonprofit that have challenged Act 13.
A group of environmental and community planning organizations, as well as government entities, filed a series of Amicus Briefs with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today in support of communities’ rights to making zoning decisions about Marcellus Shale play within their borders.
The groups—including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, the Pittsburgh City Council, Mountain Watershed Association, and Earthjustice—filed in support of a Commonwealth Court decision that found portions of Act 13 unconstitutional.
The groups filing today join a broad spectrum of entities from throughout the state that have also filed so-called “friends of the court” briefs prior to the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments Oct. 17 about the state's appeal of the Commonwealth's decision.
-In their brief, the Natural Resources Defense Council is representing the townships of Wilkins (Allegheny County), East Finley (Washington County) and Tinicum (Bucks County); the municipalities of Murrysville (Westmoreland County) and Monroeville (Allegheny County); the Borough of Bell Acres (Allegheny County); and the City of Bethlehem (Northampton and Lehigh Counties).
“The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association is concerned about the precedent that Act 13 would set for future zoning activities by limiting local municipal control. We believe that municipalities are best suited to handle local land use planning by utilizing comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances without State preemption," said Kyle Guie, state APA Legislative Committee chair. "In order to preserve a high quality of life for all Pennsylvania residents, it is critical that municipalities maintain their ability to plan land use in accordance with a municipality’s individual needs and constraints."
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, representing 1,455 townships in the commonwealth, also filed a brief in support of the Commonwealth Court’s decision declaring portions of Act 13 as unconstitutional.
Also filing in support is the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.
Represented by Earthjustice, 20 nonprofit environmental organizations and citizens groups also filed as amici in support of the Commonwealth Court ruling that struck down portions of Act 13 as unconstitutional.
Mountain Watershed Association, a nonprofit organization centered in the Indian Creek Watershed in Westmoreland and Fayette counties and Youghiogheny River in southwestern Pennsylvania, filed locally, Cranberry Township’s board of supervisors adopted a resolution Aug. 30 supporting the efforts of municipalities to retain local control over Marcellus Shale regulations.
Those that challenged Act 13 include a cluster of communities—including Cecil and Peters townships—as well as a medical doctor and non-profit group.
- By Amanda Gillooly September 18, 2012
11. Green Slime Billboard Debate
Billboards on the turnpike describe critics of gas drilling as green slime. The billboards and a related website don’t disclose who funded them and several companies involved in the design process at first refused to identify their client. But after AP made inquires, PIOGA took credit.
It was my idea, said President Louis d’Amico who added that PIOGA got some great responses and plans to expand the campaign.
George Jugovic, President of PennFuture said, “It is the first incident that I recall of anonymous advertising being used in the environmental context.
Penneco, owner of the billboard, at first declined to say who the customer was. PennDot says they have no regulatory authority over the content of the billboards.
(turnpike billboards slam gas drilling critics, Kevin begos, AP, latrobe bulletin, sept 13)
(If you recall, I wrote a response to Lou D’Amico about the green slime campaign a few months ago. His letter and my response were both published in the Citizens Voice. jan)
12. The Responsible Drilling Alliance Files a Complaint Against Penn State
The Responsible Drilling Alliance, a nonprofit 501 (c) (3) organization in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, has filed a complaint against Pennsylvania State University. We are asking the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to consider this complaint in the context of the accreditation review of Penn State currently underway. Like the issue that caused Middle States to begin its current investigation of Penn State, this complaint centers on unethical practices and an abuse of public trust by the university.
Penn State published three papers commissioned and paid for by the shale gas industry as independent research reports. They contained a host of highly exaggerated predictions on jobs, economic development, and tax revenues. These papers profoundly influenced the legislative debate in Pennsylvania in favor of the gas industry and to the detriment of the commonwealth.
contact person:Jon Bogle, 201 East Third Street,Williamsport, PA, 17701 570-772-0151
13. State Impact Fee Nets over $200 Million
Most of the $200 million will be distributed to counties and towns to fix roads, restore water supplies, and pay other expenses borne by local governments.
The state will take about $25 million off the top.
Westmoreland County is expected to receive about $1.8 million to $2 million. About $1.3 million is earmarked as discretionary since commissioners can spend the money on 13 categories specified in the act. $500,000 to $600,000 is allocated to roads and bridges and conservation related issues.
At the county commissioners meeting, Paul Ament, Derry, who has a well 200 feet from his backyard said his well has been affected by methane migration. He wanted to see money dedicated to roads and also a loan available to residents who have a water demand and need to tap into it quickly
(states drilling impact fee nets over $200 million , Michael Rubinkam, AP, Latrobe bulletin, 9-11-12) and (Commissioners listen to residents, dan scifo, 8-14-12, Latrobe bulletin)
(Damages should be paid for by the drillers up front. The impact fee should be used for health monitoring, air monitoring, water assessmen,t and other impacts on our quality of life. Jan)
14. Agencies Ready to Study Health Effects –Funding Needed
Geisinger Health and Guthrie Health are in the planning stages of examining how people might be affected by gas drilling. Geisinger has received $100,000 from a local charity and is seeking other grants.
Raina Rippel of SW PA Envir. Health Project said their next big push will be on air quality. “We have plans in the works to look at personal monitors people could wear” to detect harmful levels of natural gas. She said, ”There have been dozens of complaints in the community they serve, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh and some patterns are emerging. But they have not conclusively linked the complaints to nearby drilling
PA public health officials had expected to get about $180 million from revenue generated from drilling but Corbett and the state Senate cut the health appropriation to zero. Now the state dept of health is left with a new workload but no funding to examine drilling impacts on health.
(Studies on impact of drilling seek funds, Kevin begos, AP 9-4-12, Latrobe bull)
15. Plum Boro Reports Water Monitor Spikes
Plum Boro Municipal Authority alerted police, county health apartment and drilling companies after flow monitors spiked twice in May and biological bacteria was compromised at the sewage treatment plant in Holiday Park.
Authority manager Howard Theis said they suspected that 6000 to 8000 gallons of chemical or wastewater from drilling had been dumped into the system at an unknown location.
Allegeny Dept Health and DEP said there is no evidence frack water infiltrated the system.
Frack water is sometime radioactive because when it returns to the surface it comes into contact with naturally radioactive material underground.
Theis said although they have no definitive evidence their suspicions were reinforced a few weeks ago after they noticed the flow spike. ‘We haul out our sludge, and we got a call from the waste hauler asking if we accepted frack water because there were alarms when they took the containers into the facility. Theis said
DEP said “Treatment facilities monitor for radioactivity as well as medical barium and iodine. The March and April Alarms which sounded 5 times were because of medical iodine said DEP.
(jodi, no evidence of frack water at Alle-Kiski plant , Trib, 9-2-12)
16. Woodlands Residents Still Have Bad Water
Water from their wells run brown or black with floating pieces of solid material in it and it smells awful. When they showered, they got rashes. When they drank, they threw up. Russ Kelly’s farm rabbits stopped drinking the water.
Water buffalos started sprouting up like mushrooms across the neighborhood, said Ms McEvoys finance. But when test came back, people were told there was nothing wrong
When Rex Energy came to remove the water tanks in February, residents and protestors watched the truck haul the water buffalos away. The same month AP reported that Rex Energy had casing problems on at least two nearby gas wells—violations that were not reported by the company or the DEP.
Wells in the Woodlands are drilled to various depths ranging from 125 feet to 600 feet. “Two neighbors living next to each other could be drawing water from 2 different sources and one is affected and one isn’t.
Residents are frustrated with both Rex and DEP test results which absolved the drillers but didn’t test for the same list of elements. There is no standard list of parameters for which the companies must test.
Dusty Horwitt said colleagues have asked for mandatory tracers in fracking fluid that show themselves if found in private well water supplies. Others call for gas fingerprinting that would test whether gas found in water supplies was coming from shallow formations or deep underground rock like shale.
(Pittsburgh Post Gazette, fouled waters, erich schwartzel, 9-19-12)
Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens GroupMission 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
To receive our news updates, please email jan at