***County Commissioners Meeting-2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the county courthouse at 10:00
***PA Supreme Court Hearingon Act 13on Oct. 17 –In July, the PA Supreme
Court ruled unconstitutional and unenforceable that part of Act 13 that restricts municipalities from zoning drilling activities. The Corbett administration immediately appealed that ruling. On October 17 in Pittsburgh the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments pro and con on the appeal. Among the initial plaintiffs were Cecil, Mount Pleasant, Robinson, and South Fayette townships and Dr Khan of Monroeville. At the oral hearing the plaintiffs will be joined in an amicus brief by a group of twenty organizations including Clean Water Action, GASP, Izaak Walton League, LWV, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Marcellus Protest, Thomas Merton Center, Western Marcellus Citizen’s Group, and the Sierra Club. In a separate move, on September 14 Pitsburgh City Council also filed an amicus brief.
When-- People should plan to be in the courtroom by 9 a.m.The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m.
Where-- 8th floor of the City-County bldg., 414 Grant St., Pgh. 15219
Please save the date, even if you can't come for the whole time - try to stop by for a while. We do not have an idea of how long this hearing will last.
Space may be tight, so it's not certain that everyone will be able to be in the courtroom.
(from sierra club and others)
For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:
At the Murrysville Community Center on Monday, October 15th.
Act 13 Environmental Impacts by Steve Hvodzovich, Clean Water Action
Act 13 Municipal Impacts
Act 13 Accountability/Scorecard – Josh McNeil, League of Conservation Voters
Elected officials and candidates will then discuss Act 13
***Carnegie Mellon Puts Shale Data Online
Faced with a scattered body of research and background information about the booming Marcellus and Utica shale industries, officials and students at Carnegie Mellon University have compiled a searchable “bibliography” of more than 1,000 documents online.
While the bibliography has more than 200 documents in the category of “economic impacts,” for example, just two are in the “crime and drugs” category. Those gaps in knowledge can point the association to areas where it can sponsor further research, Knittel said. The database includes sources that have a stated pro- or anti-drilling stance, Strauss said, but the team’s goal was simply to compile as much information as possible, not to weigh the merits of the reports or take sides.
***"Pennsylvania's enforcement of state oil and gas rules is broken," said Earthworks' Senior Staff Attorney Bruce Baizel. He continued, "In Pennsylvania and across the country, public health and safety are at risk because states are failing to uphold the rule of law. (Item #4)
***“This report shows that the industry’s claim that ‘oil and gas development doesn’t threaten public health’ is a fraud,” said Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill.
***“State enforcement data shows more than 85% of active PA wells go uninspected, discovered violations go increasingly unpunished, repeat violators undeterred.”
(see item #4)
1. No Money for Education but Casey Announces$14.9 MillionGrant to TrainShale Workers
Sen. Bob Casey announced that the US Dept. of Labor has awarded a $14.9 million grant to continue and expand a Marcellus Shale workforce development program that was developed by a consortium led by Westmoreland County Community College.
2. BLM Standards Do Not Protect Public Lands
Bureau of Land Management oversees drilling on hundreds of millions of acres of federal land. The BLM Standards do not address many of the risks posed by fracking. Bureau of Land Management would still allow industry to use open pits to store toxic wasteand it continues to lease public lands to drilling companies at fire-sale prices, auctioning them off for an average of just $47 per acre in some parts of the country according to a recent Washington Post investigation. Even national forests that have seen little drilling activity in the past are being targeted byoil and gas companies. (Natural Resources Defense Council)
3. House Passes Unhealthy “Stop the War on Coal Act”-
from Sierra ClubAltmire and Critz Support Bad Bill
(This bill is not about gas,but is about energy. Since there are Nobama signs locally about a war against coal, I think this information is important. Anyone who follows the industry and legislation knows there is no war against coal, just basic health and environmental protection laws.The war has been on our water quality, air, and health.Jan)
Rep. Mike Doyle deserves our thanks.Altmire and Critz our disgust.
In its final act before the November elections, on September 22 the Republican-lead House passed the “Stop the War on Coal Act” (H.R 3409) by a vote of 233-175. This set of bills would roll back critical laws and safeguards that presently ensure that Americans have access to clean air and drinkable water. The only Congressman from Western Pennsylvania who voted AGAINST this attack on the EPA was Rep. Mike Doyle, and he deserves our thanks. Reps. Altmire and Critz joined 17 other Democrats in voting FOR the bill, which the White House has promised to veto.
Among the more insidious parts of the bills, the legislation would:
-Gut the Clean Air Act by repealing life-saving clean air safeguards against deadly soot and smog pollution and eliminate national protections for toxic mercury
-Bar the EPA from issuing safeguards for carbon pollution by redefining the term “air pollutant” to exclude greenhouse gases
-Handcuff the Department of Interior from issuing safeguards to prevent streams from destruction if that protection would then prevent the mining of a single lump of coal
-Allow for the uninhibited dumping of toxic, carcinogenic coal ash while allowing coal companies to avoid fixing unsafe coal ash dumps, cleaning up the sites they have contaminated, or preventing another catastrophic disaster like the Tennessee TVA spill in 2008
-Kill key pieces of the Clean Water Act that allow the EPA to enforce water quality standards and protect waterways from pollution
-Roll back recently finalized vehicle fuel efficiency standards that will save drivers thousands at the pump, reduce our dependence on oil and create jobs in the auto industry.
4. Press Release—New Research Reveals Pennsylvania Does Not Enforce Oil and Gas Regulations
JOINT RELEASE: SEP 25, 2012
Clean Air Council PA * Clean Water Action PA * Delaware Riverkeeper Network * Mountain Watershed Association * PennEnvironment * Sierra Club PA Chapter
State enforcement data shows more than 85% of active PA wells go uninspected, discovered violations go increasingly unpunished, repeat violators undeterred
In association with six Pennsylvania groups, national resource extraction watchdog Earthworks today released an unprecedented study, Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulation revealing that states across the country fail to enforce their oil and gas development regulations. The one-year, in-depth examination of enforcement data and practices -- in Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, New York, New Mexico and Colorado -- also includes interviews with ex-industry and state agency employees.
"Pennsylvania's enforcement of state oil and gas rules is broken," said Earthworks' Senior Staff Attorney Bruce Baizel. He continued, "In Pennsylvania and across the country, public health and safety are at risk because states are failing to uphold the rule of law. Until Pennsylvania can guarantee they are adequately enforcing their own rules on an ongoing basis, the state must not permit new drilling."
As recounted in the separate Pennsylvania-specific analysis, failure to enforce oil and gas regulations means that Pennsylvania is not seeking, documenting, sanctioning, deterring, and cleaning up problems associated with irresponsible oil and gas operations such as chemical spills, equipment failure, accidents, and discharges into drinking water supplies
Among the study’s findings --
*More than 85% of all active oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania go uninspected each year: 66,000 wells.
*Rule violators are rarely punished, even more rarely of late: on average only 20% of violators have been penalized in 2012, down from 24% in 2011.
*Worst violators are getting worse: effective regulatory enforcement would stop repeat violators. In Pennsylvania, repeat violations are increasing.
"Many households here started having problems with their water and air after drilling began, but it's been impossible to get answers from the state DEP about what's gone wrong and what they plan to do about it," says Janet McIntyre of Conoquenessing Township. "It seems like the only time DEP shows up to check on sites is when someone calls with a complaint. DEP is a public agency, but we've been left on our own to deal with the loss of water or drinking water and unexplained health problems."
Drawn from both the data analysis and the stakeholder interviews, the report makes numerous common sense policy and regulatory recommendations to address the enforcement crisis, including --
*Increasing inspection/enforcement resources until they meet a systematically and transparently developed minimum
*Clarifying and updating rules so inspectors, companies, and the public know when operators are in violation, and the consequences;
*Formalizing the public’s role in enforcement, including sharing information with the public and allowing citizen suits.
“This report shows that the industry’s claim that ‘oil and gas development doesn’t threaten public health’ is a fraud,” said Earthworks Executive Director Jennifer Krill. She continued, “Until common sense changes are implemented, states must refuse to issue new drilling permits. ”
Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement (executive summary)
Pennsylvania DEP: Inadequate enforcement means irresponsible oil and gas development (Summary of Pennsylvania-focused results and recommendations)
Breaking All the Rules: The Crisis in Oil & Gas Regulatory Enforcement (full report, 125 pages)
Clean Air Council, Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., 215-567-4004 ext. 116
Clean Water Action - PA, Steve Hvozdovich 412-765-3053 x210
Sierra Club - PA Chapter, Jeff Schmidt, 717-232-0101
5. Oil-Gas Industry -How They Cheat
“Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation ofChevron after discovering that the company detoured pollutants around monitoring equipment at its Richmond refinery for four years and burned them off into the atmosphere, in possible violation of a federal court order, the Chroniclehas learned.
Air quality officials say Chevron fashioned a pipe inside its refinery that routed hydrocarbon gases around monitoring equipment and allowed them to be burned off without officials knowing about it. Some of the gases escaped into the air, but because the company didn't record them, investigators have no way of being certain of the level of pollution exposure to thousands of people who live downwind from the plant.
"They were routing gas through that pipe to the flare that they were not monitoring," said Jack Broadbent, executive director of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, whose inspectors uncovered what Chevron was doing and ordered the bypass pipe removed.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's criminal enforcement unit opened an investigation in early 2012, more than two years after the local inspectors made their discovery, according to air-quality officials and others familiar with the probe. The investigation is still open, and Chevron employees have been interviewed.”
Chevron Bosses Investigated For Criminally Covering Up Toxic Releases-Ca Osha and Commission On Health And Safety And Workers Compensation MIACriminal investigation at Richmond Chevron refinery
6. Fracking Deteriorates Air Quality –Ozone and Formaldehyde
Much of the fracking debate has focused on if and how carcinogens like benzene and hexane find their way into the air and water supplies. Less attention has been paid to the impact of gas drilling on ozone levels, which is significant. A new study published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association by researcher Eduardo Olaguer of the Houston Advanced Research Center.
When looking at gas processing facilities in the Barnett Shale, he found that routine operations can increase ozone levels by three parts per billion for several miles downwind, with the figure sometimes reaching 10 ppb. That not only significantly increases smog but also makes it more difficult for the region to get out of the EPA's doghouse. Already, nine DFW counties fail to meet the federal ozone standard of 85 ppb.
"Unless significant controls are placed on emissions from increased oil and gas exploration and production.... urban drilling and the associated growth in industry emissions may be sufficient to keep the area (DFW) in nonattainment," Olaguer writes.
Jim Schermbeck, who heads the environmental group Downwinders at Risk, said gas producers were exempted from the provision Clean Air Act governing ozone because operations were so dispersed. That's changed as the drilling boom has brought thousands of drill sites -- and the flares and industrial-sized compressors they bring with them -- close to urban areas. Now they are a bigger contributor to Dallas' ozone levels than cement kilns, coal plants, and car emissions.
Schermbeck doesn't see any state or federal solution on the horizon, so he's hoping the city of Dallas drilling ordinance will ultimately pass an ordinance thatincludes limits on the release of the volatile organic compounds that lead to ozone formation. The technology already exists to easily do so, but it hasn't been widely adopted because no one has mandated it.
"This study should be a wakeup call for all these officials in Dallas/FW who have sort of made a Faustian bargain with the drillers," he said.
The study also found potential high levels of formaldehyde emitted near compressor and flares. Formaldehyde has short-term effects including nosebleed, vomiting and skin irritation and contributes to ozone formation on the long term
"The study calls attention specifically to large compressor engines and flares as potentially problematic from an ozone and hazardous air pollutant (formaldehyde) standpoint," wrote Eduardo Olaguer, author of the study and a senior research scientist at the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), in an email.
The study concludes that there need to be better regulation and recording of emissions from compressors and flares in places with a booming petrochemical industry.
Olaguer recommends that operators take care to reduce emissions during maintenance, startup and shutdown of engines and other equipment.
(Methodology,Dallas Observer. Eric Nicholson, 9-4-12
7. Newly Passed Bill Allows Mining and Drilling near Pa. State-owned Institutions
“Mansfield, Lock Haven, Indiana and California Universities are directly over the shale, and Clarion and Slippery Rock are on the edges of the Marcellus. Governor Corbett was ridiculed by environmentalists when he proposed the leasing arrangement last year, though he called drilling on campuses a "commonsense" move.”
“Recent studies have examined the effects of gas well wastewater or “sludge pits” on cattle that live in close proximity to the drill site. A case study in Shippen Township, PA, reported that a leak in a “double lined” waste water pit caused a 30’ x 40’ die off of surrounding vegetation, in addition to the contamination of a farm pond and spring.
Sixteen cattle, including four heifers and eight calves, that fed from the contaminated pasture and drank from the farm pond contained unusual high levels of strontium, a byproduct of oil and gas operations. A study in 2000 attempted to find possible links between cattle reproduction and oil and gas extraction procedures. It “found an increased risk of stillbirths linked to exposure to flaring of sour gas (gas with high levels of hydrogen sulfide).”
Contaminated cattle may enter the consumer market as contaminated meat, milk and dairy products. Leaking sludge pits are a concern to crop farms located near gas drilling sites because heavy metals present in the soil may be taken up by plant tissue and subsequently accumulated in consumer crops.”
(Frack Attack: How Hydraulic Fracturing For Natural Gas
Threatens Human Health
Emma Garrison, Lee Ann L. Hill, Noah Mark
Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences
Ithaca College http://urpasheville.org/proceedings/ncur2011/papers/NP52000.pdf)
10. Interview with Wanda Guthrie of the Thomas Merton Center’s Committee on Environmental Justice
by Lauren Daley, City Paper
(As most of you know, Wanda is also a part of our group and several other groups working for community rights and environmental justice, Jan)
“Activists like Wanda Guthrie are trying to push communities to get involved with the policies that shape the environment around them. Guthrie, a long-time member and activist with the Thomas Merton Center, recently became the chair of the center's newest committee, on Environmental Justice, working toward a more sustainable society. The committee will determine much of its focus at a Sept. 23 meeting, but Guthrie spoke to City Paper now about the new committee and its charge.
When there's so much resistance from the oil and gas industry and state politicians, why fight for municipalities to have local control?
It's really the grass roots of democracy. If you have no way to really treasure the freedom that you [have and] care for exactly where you are, then you haven't got much. The Industrial Revolution — we screwed up. We started commodifying the earth just as we commodified people — we call people resources now.
How does the Environmental Justice committee fit into that plan? What specifically will you be doing?
We want to look at all institutions and get out of this whole industrial-growth mode. We want to look at corporations and how much influence they've had. [We want] a separation of corporation and state here in Pennsylvania, the U.S and the world. Right now, what we want to do is to find out from the public [which] two or three issues they would like to work on, and start a campaign.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will hear a case on whether the Commonwealth Court's ruling that parts of Act 13, stripping local entities of their zoning authority, were unconstitutional. How important is the outcome of that case to fully obtaining local control?
Even if they give rights back to the municipalities, we're still stuck with the Oil and Gas Act. It's kind of like we're going to have a fracking problem, anyway. From the beginning I've said, we don't have a drilling problem, we have a democracy problem. This is, for the Merton Center, a very big issue. The other part is how do we enhance each other's work and still keep dreaming of change? It's a tall order.
11. Mother Accuses Industry of Worker Neglect
“Nancy Bevins lost her 23-year-old son, Charles E. Bevins III, to a drilling accident in New York.
In her own words, “In the 17 months following the loss of my son, our eyes have been opened to the substantial amount of injuries and deaths caused by this dangerous industry. We read more and more articles about rig workers injured or killed by electrocutions, explosions, and traffic accidents. Our research also unveiled the unregulated inhumane hours they are forced to work and the unsafe environment they are subjected to. After speaking with his co-workers it became apparent that all the regulations in the world would never make drilling safe. This is an industry known for cutting corners, racing against public opinion, and ignoring scientific evidence. Their blatant disregard of these things will continue to leave environments, communities and especially its workers at risk.”
Nancy started a small blog that includes the rest of her story, and she would like to start adding other people's stories about losing a loved one. She says there are actually a lot, she just needs to seek them out.”
“Thanks in part to legislative measures dating back to the late 1970s, material from oil/ gas drilling is defined as nonhazardous, no matter what it contains.”
State and federal regulators often do little to confirm what pollutants go into drilling waste injection wells. They rely heavily on an honor system in which companies are supposed to report what they are pumping into the earth, whether their wells are structurally sound, and whether they have violated any rules.
More than 1,000 times in the three-year period examined, operators pumped waste into Class 2 wells at pressure levels they knew could fracture rock and lead to leaks.In at least 140 cases, companies injected waste illegally or without a permit. In several instances, records show, operators did not meet requirements to identify old or abandoned wells near injection sites until waste flooded back up to the surface, or found ways to cheat on tests meant to make sure wells aren’t leaking.”
Spot testingwas done by the West Virginia DEP on wastewater being disposed of near Wheeling. The key to color is at the bottom of the chart. Notice the right column; wastewater from Range’s #6H & #8H wells in Cross Creek Park, PA:
Crash Spills Fluid from Gas Drilling into Creek
Posted on: 5:38 pm, September 26, 2012, by Jim Hamill, updated on: 06:03pm, September 26, 2012