Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates October 19, 2012
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~~It’s time to start checking the facebook candidate site for information about those candidates who have expressed concerns about environmental and health risks from fracking.~~
SCORECARD Marcellus Voting Records
You 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 AM
*** Vote November 6
*** “The Corbett administration forced his resignation because of "philosophical differences," including his opposition to commercial timbering, mining and Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the parks. ” Quote from John Norbeck, former director of the state's award-winning park system.
*** "I have asked the Republican chair of the committee to schedule a hearing as
soon as possible to probe the troubling and apparently forced resignation of John Norbeck as director of state parks," PA Rep. Bud George.
*** “This is blatant extortion. The municipalities in question have never denied a drilling permit application so any claim that their ordinances are illegal have no basis in fact or law." State Rep Jesse White on the state withholding impact fees from Cecil, S Fayette, Mt. Pleasant, and Robinson townships.
*** "Our only consideration is protecting the health, safety and welfare of our residents and the character of their neighborhoods," said Deron Gabriel, president of South Fayette board of commissioners, describing the decision as "more retribution" for South Fayette's opposition to the state law.
Supreme Court Hearing on Wednesday-Many of us from the Pittsburgh area who have been involved in the fight against Act 13 attended the Supreme Court hearing Wednesday in Pittsburgh. We packed the room. John Smith and the rest of the legal team presented cogent arguments in defense of the lower court’s overturning of the zoning section of Act 13.
The assertions of the other side were at times astounding to hear because they were so blatant in their disregard for the protection of residential areas and the health and welfare of citizens.
To me, the most chilling part of the state’s presentation was when the state’s attorney made it quite clear that they want to move toward the rights of the property owner to do what he/she chooses with his/her property and away from the rights of neighbors and the community. No bones about it. So in other words, you own it, and you can make a bundle by allowing a garbage dump, toxic frack pit, or adult bookstore on your property, more power to you. Health, safety, and protection of others be damned.
The attorney cited the success of the timbering industry to timber in any zoning area (again lobbying by an industry was successful in PA) and emphasized that this too is permitted despite the noise, and nuisance to the neighbors. This is the direction they want to go. According to the state, this will move us more towards the more appropriate interpretation of the Constitution of PA. You know, the constitution that guarantees the people the right the clean air and water.
Our legal team also addressed frack ponds being located on our property via eminent domain and the waivers for water regs. that shall be issued by the DEP. As you may recall, the industry can seek waivers that must be given to them for the asking. There are no standards. This is unprecedented.
This was an incredible hearing on many counts—the admirable professionalism of John Smith and team, the blatant disregard for community rights from the other side, and the realization that this historic hearing may put PA on the path to the destruction of community zoning which has provided us the right to live in peaceful, healthy neighborhoods without the infringement of industrial activity.
May the justices see the light and make a fair decision for the residents of this state, especially our children. (We have been told it could be December before we hear the decision on the case.)
This effort to remove local control and ignore environmental controls was passed by Republicans. There were some republicans and democrats who crossed over, but this was a vote that split down party lines. Check the votes on Scorecard. jan
SCORECARD Marcellus Voting Records
1. DEP Change- Field Offices Cannot Notify Residents of Water Problems
"The state Department of Environmental Protection has a new review policy for water contamination cases related to Marcellus Shale gas well operations that lets department administrators in Harrisburg instead of field offices decide whether residential water users should receive letters notifying them about problems. [...]
Critics are concerned that the policy allows high-level DEP officials in Harrisburg to decide not to issue, or delay issuing, contamination determination letters recommended by a field office. A decision not to make that determination could save drilling companies millions of dollars in groundwater remediation, water treatment or replacement costs, and lengthen the time it takes to fix the problems."
The policy requires those offices to send all positive water contamination reports to Harrisburg as a Major Action Advisory, "prior to issuing any water supply impact determination letter." The MAA designation means the matter goes to top administrators for review.
2. PUC Rejects South Fayette's Drilling Ordinance
South Fayette's local drilling ordinance conflicts with PA law, according to an official opinion published by the PUC. That ruling marks the first official review completed by the commission, which was tasked in Act 13 with determining whether municipal rules overlap with aspects of drilling already regulated by the state.
Fayette’s ordinance was challenged by resident and school board member William Sray, who has leased land to Chesapeake.
Mr. Sray argued that the town's ordinance improperly sets reporting requirements for water withdrawals and hazardous waste disposal, mandates an environmental impact statement from operators, regulates certain types of air emissions and imposes standards for post-drilling restoration.
In the PUC's decision letter, the commission deemed that each of those provisions in South Fayette's ordinance conflicts with sections of the drilling law that have remained in effect since the Commonwealth Court overturned part of the statute in July.
Those local requirements already are regulated in state law, and therefore "present an obstacle to the underlying legislative purpose of the Act requiring only one set of state level" requirements, according to the letter.
Municipalities with drilling rules deemed unacceptable are ineligible for the annual impact fees that drillers pay on each of their gas wells.
Deron Gabriel, president of South Fayette's board of commissioners, said the township intends to stand by its ordinance.
"Our only consideration is protecting the health, safety and welfare of our residents and the character of their neighborhoods," Mr. Gabriel said, describing the decision as "more retribution" for South Fayette's opposition to the state law.
The township is among a group of municipalities challenging the new drilling law, which set statewide zoning guidelines. The group won on the key parts of their challenge at Commonwealth Court, but the state appealed to the state Supreme Court, which heard arguments Wednesday.
3. Corbett Administration Punishes Townships Challenging Act 13
“Gov. Corbett announced that Act 13 has generated more than $204.2 million through the new impact fee. Most of this money will be distributed directly to local communities across the state—except for in the case of Cecil Township, Mount Pleasant, Robinson and South Fayette.
Those communities will have their share of the local impact fee withheld until their ordinances governing drilling have been reviewed by the state and deemed in compliance with Act 13. In all four instances, residents lobbied the PUC to review those ordinances. In addition, Range Resources also filed a request for South Fayette's ordinance to be reviewed.
Cecil Township Manager Don Genusso said, "The board is certainly concerned."
State Rep. Jesse White, who represents Cecil, South Fayette, Mount Pleasant and Robinson, said, "This is blatant extortion and it is beyond outrageous."
"There are two critical points that people need to understand. First, not one word of the Act 13 challenge dealt with the impact fee in any way," the lawmaker continued. "They are totally unconnected."
White continued: "Second, the municipalities in question have never denied a drilling permit application so any claim that their ordinances are illegal have no basis in fact or law."
White noted that the four municipalities whose ordinances are under review are also ones involved in the challenge to the zoning portions of Act 13—and the news comes just two days before oral arguments are set to be heard before the state Supreme Court regarding the state's appeal to portions of the state law that were struck down in Commonwealth Court.
"Let's call this what it is: This is Range Resources and a handful of their leaseholders holding the people of this municipality hostage for their own short-sighted and selfish agenda," White said. "This money belongs to the taxpayers and it should be used for roads, police and fire departments and parks, and by using it as a tool to divide our communities, it becomes plain to see they are not the good neighbors they claim to be."
3. PA Charities Give Money for Drilling Research
“Foundations from PA have provided more than $19 million for gas drilling related grants since 2009 for environmental and public health studies, films, radio programs, websites, and support for trout fishing group. Grants have gone to Cornell University researchers and environmental groups in the region and in Washington DC. That has led to expressions of gratitude from those who say state and federal governments are not doing enough. The industry of course has protested.”
(Latrobe Bulletin Oct 8, 2012, AP)
4. DE Pasquale Promises to Audit States Water Protection Program
“If elected, state auditor general candidate Eugene DePasquale promises to audit the state's water protection programs to ensure Marcellus Shale drilling is not polluting drinking water.
"Right now, we have no independent assessment of that," Mr. DePasquale, a Democrat, said during a meeting with the Times-Tribune editorial board.
Citing a recent Harrisburg Patriot-News story that showed a lack of regular shale gas well inspections, Mr. DePasquale, a state representative who lives in York County, acknowledged the auditor general's office lacks the technical expertise to judge pollution, but its audits can ensure a proper inspection system is in place.
"Regardless of whether you're pro-drilling or anti-drilling, I'm not convinced we have enough people (at DEP) on the ground to make sure the system is working the way it's supposed to," he said.
The auditor general's mission is auditing any government entities that receive state money.”
Auditor general candidate DePasquale promise drilling pollution-related audits
5. More Industrialization of Our Area-
This is the effect on an area when people lease—the region becomes industrialized. jan
“The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp has announced that Wendell Stone Co has purchased 28 acres of land in the I- 70 Industrial Park in South Huntingdon Township. where they plan to build multiple industrial facilities to cater to the gas industry.
According to Jason Rigone, director of WCIDC, the land was purchased for $552,000.”
(Latrobe Bulletin, Project Slated for I-70 Industrial Park, Oct. 12, Sean Meyers, Bulletin Staff)
There were no details about the facilities. The concern is that more highly polluting operations will be constructed in a county that doesn’t have a department of heath, or an air-monitoring program, in addition to a state DEP that has minimal standards for the gas industry. jan
6. Norbeck’s Philosphical Differences Include Drilling
"John Norbeck, head of the state's award-winning park system, said the Corbett administration forced his resignation last week because of "philosophical differences," including his opposition to commercial timbering, mining and Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the parks." Another involved a proposal by Amerikohl Mining Inc. to mine limestone under the 13,625-acre Laurel Ridge State Park in Somerset County. That proposal, which has not been publicly reported, was denied twice by the parks bureau, but Amerikohl has a meeting scheduled with DCNR officials in the coming weeks to ask again, Mr. Norbeck said.”
7. Parks and Drilling-Ohiopyle from Penn Future
“The first warning came in September, when Dr. Paulette Viola resigned from the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council. Dr. Viola is a distinguished and highly regarded professor of Park Resource Management at Slippery Rock University.
Last week, the other shoe dropped, when John Norbeck — the director of state parks, whose leadership earned our parks the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management — was given the choice of resigning, or being fired. In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Norbeck said the Corbett administration forced his resignation because of "'philosophical differences,' including his opposition to commercial timbering, mining and Marcellus Shale gas drilling in the parks." Norbeck also told the reporter of back door meetings with commercial timbering and mining companies who wanted to move operations into state parks. Norbeck said state park rules clearly prohibit mining on parkland.
We are not alone in seeing bad news ahead for the protection of our state parks. Fox News this week reported on the nation's 10 most endangered state parks, and on the list was one of Pennsylvania's most beautiful and popular — Ohiopyle State Park, with its waterfalls, trails, white water rafting, and more, all of which attract 1 million visitors (and their money) each year. And the reason Fox News cited for Ohiopyle being endangered? The specter of drilling — and the impact of other activities such as increased truck traffic through the park, air and noise pollution, and alterations to the land and water that give this special place life.”
8. PA Rep. Bud George Calls for Hearing on Norbeck’s Resignation
“State Rep. Camille "Bud" George, the Democratic chair of the
House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, has called for a hearing
into the resignation of John Norbeck as director of the Bureau of State
Parks within the state DCNR.
"I have asked the Republican chair of the committee to schedule a hearing as
soon as possible to probe the troubling and apparently forced resignation of John Norbeck as director of state parks," said George, D of Clearfield
County. "The state parks and forests belong to the people of Pennsylvania, and the
committee has a duty to oversee and protect those lands."
George said. "As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mr. Norbeck attributes his opposition to timbering, mining and gas drilling in our parks for his dismissal."
9. Methane in Two Cabot Water Wells has a Chemical fingerprint that links it to gas produced by fracturing,
Evidence that fracking can pollute drinking water.
“The data, collected by the EPA, are significant because the composition
of the gas --its isotopic signature -- falls into a range Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG) had identified as that of the Marcellus Shale, which it tapped through fracking.
“The EPA data falls squarely in the Marcellus space” established by Cabot’s scientists, said Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University. That evidence backs up his findings linking gas drilling and water problems in the town of Dimock, applying the very methodology that Cabot established to try to de bunk it, he said.
Cabot maintains that its operations haven’t contaminated homeowners’ wells.
“Dimock is so important because it’s so high profile,” said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York. “It’s been a poster child for what can happen with fracking.”
In a 2010 consent order, the DEP found that 18 drinking-water wells in the area were “affected” by Cabot’s drilling. The company disagreed, and applauded when the EPA cleared the water in Dimock as safe this July. State regulators ruled last month that Cabot could begin fracking seven wells in the affected area of Dimock, ending a moratorium imposed in 2010.
The latest data, which the EPA began to collect early this year, were posted on the agency’s website in response to Freedom of Information Act requests from Jackson, Cabot and others. The EPA submitted the results to its researchers conducting a broader nationwide study about the effects of fracking on drinking water, agency spokesman David Bloomgren said.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-02/cabot-s-methodology-links-tainted-water-wells-to-gas-fracking.html
10. Number of Shale Permits Slowed in Ohio, but Not PA
“The number of wells waiting to be fracked outnumbered the number of permits issued by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources during September. There are 57 Utica shale wells in Ohio waiting to be fracked, according to the most current ...”
11. What GAO Found- Inherent Environmental and Public Health Risks
Oil and gas development, whether conventional or shale oil and gas, pose inherent environmental and public health risks, but the extent of these risks is unknown, in part, because the studies GAO reviewed do not generally take into account the potential long-term, cumulative effects. For example, according to a number of studies and publications GAO reviewed, shale oil and gas development poses risks to air quality, generally as the result of
(1) engine exhaust from increased truck traffic, (2) emissions from diesel-powered pumps used to power equipment, (3) gas that is flared (burned) or vented (released directly into the atmosphere) for operational reasons, and (4) unintentional emissions of pollutants from faulty equipment or impoundments--temporary storage areas.
Similarly, a number of studies and publications GAO reviewed indicate that shale oil and gas development poses risks to water quality from contamination of surface water and groundwater as a result of erosion from ground disturbances, spills and releases of chemicals and other fluids, or underground migration of gases and chemicals. For example, tanks storing toxic chemicals or hoses and pipes used to convey wastes to the tanks could leak, or impoundments containing wastes could overflow as a result of extensive rainfall. According to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's 2011 Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement, spilled, leaked, or released chemicals or wastes could flow to a surface water body or infiltrate the ground, reaching and contaminating subsurface soils and aquifers.
In addition, shale oil and gas development poses a risk to land resources and wildlife habitat as a result of constructing, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to develop oil and gas; using toxic chemicals; and injecting fluids underground. However, the extent of these risks is unknown. Further, the extent and severity of environmental and public health risks identified in the studies and publications GAO reviewed may vary significantly across shale basins and also within basins because of location- and process-specific factors, including the location and rate of development; geological characteristics, such as permeability, thickness, and porosity of the formations; climatic conditions; business practices; and regulatory and enforcement activities.
GAO is not making any recommendations in this report.
For more information, contact Frank Rusco at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Government accountability office http://gao.gov/products/GAO-12-732
12. Photos of fracking
We know these places and people—Janet McIntyre, Emily Collins, Matt Walker, Donegal, PA
Members of the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project have been quietly canvassing the Pennsylvania countryside to document the people and places caught up in the state’s gas boom. Brian Cohen, the project’s director, said he liked to think of the group as something like a modern-day Farm Security Administration. Together, the six photographers have been able to do what no one of them could do alone: crisscross the state, photograph dozens of drill rigs that have popped up along highways and in backyards, and talk to farmers, homeowners, drillers, environmental advocates and lawyers, all of whom have a profound stake in the invisible substance buried more than a mile below ground. Ultimately, their aim is to create a visual record of the “great shale rush,” and chronicle the changes that Americans can expect to see as we drill our way into the future.
Westmoreland Marcellus Citizen’s 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.
Officers: President-Jan Milburn
Facebook Coordinator-Elizabeth Nordstrom
Blogsite –April Jackman
Science Subcommittee-Dr. Cynthia Walter
To receive our news updates, please email Jan at email@example.com