Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates October 5, 2012
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Calendar of Events
***County Commissioners Meeting- 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the County Courthouse at 10:00 AM
***PA Supreme Court Hears Act 13 Case [Picture]
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - courtroom doors open at 9:00am Hearings begin at 9:30 a.m.
414 Grant St., 8th floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Our case is FOURTH on the list of hearings/arguments
The hearings/arguments are UN-TIMED – so we can’t predict when ours will be heard. Clerk of the PA Supreme Court says space is limited, seating is first come, first serve. Standing will be allowed. The Clerk said they’re getting calls EVERY DAY on this case & expect many spectators.
***Community Forum on Act 13
At the Murrysville Community Center on Monday, October 15th.
Presentations will include:
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
***For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:
***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.
*** “I am calling for a moratorium on drilling permits statewide. As the number of driller infractions builds and we see the disturbing health impacts of the industry on our residents we need to take a step back and assess where we’ve been and where we are going.” PA State Senator Jim Ferlo
*** “DEP considered each of the (7) compressor stations as a separate “facility.” If DEP had considered the compressor stations to be a single “major” facility, then Ultra would have been required to obtain a more stringent non-attainment new source review permit.” Pennsylvania Future, referring to a court case, is asking that the compressors be considered as one large source of pollution.
1. New York Court Upholds Local Municipal Legal Right to Ban Gas
“Broome County Supreme Court adopted the “well reasoned, [and] well founded” decisions in the Dryden and Middlefield cases as its own. Thus the only three NY state judicial decisions specifically considering the matter (Dryden, Middlefield, and now Binghamton) have unequivocally held New York municipalities wishing to do so have the legal authority to pass local land use laws of general applicability to prohibit gas drilling activities within their municipal borders, such local laws are NOT ‘regulations’ within the meaning of ECL, accordingly such local laws are NOT preempted by or otherwise ‘illegal’ under ECL 23-‐0303(2). “
Community Environmental Defense Council, Inc. PO Box 898, Ithaca, NY 14851, http://www.cedclaw.org/
Tel. 607-‐277-‐5935 email@example.com
2. The Scroll of Senatorial Shame in PA
Unfurled by State Senator Ferlo at the capitol rotunda on October 2, 2012 the banner shows which PA state senators sold out local control of oil and gas regulations, and the right for municipalities to enact protective local zoning ordinances related to gas development.
3.Senator Ferlo and Environmental Orgs Call for Sweeping Changes in Marcellus Shale Law
Senator Jim Ferlo was joined by numerous community and environmental groups today as they expressed outrage over the revocation of local zoning rights under Act 13, and together called on the legislature to enact a drilling moratorium during which a study on the effects of fracking would take place.
Senator Ferlo continued, “I am calling for a moratorium on drilling permits statewide. As the number of driller infractions builds and we see the disturbing health impacts of the industry on our residents we need to take a step back and assess where we’ve been and where we are going. The moratorium will last until January 1, 2018 while a study commission determines the best methods for allowing drilling while protecting our public health and the environment. The study commission will release its report by January 1, 2017; giving the legislature and state agencies a full year to adopt the recommendations and as best possible mitigate the impacts the industry has on our state,” Ferlo explained.
The bill is in draft form, and will be introduced in the near future. Senator Ferlo’s complete remarks from today’s press conference can be found on his website here: http://www.senatorferlo.com/newsroom/in-the-news/senator-ferlo-statement-on-shale-drilling-moratorium
4. Retest of Pavillion, Wyoming Water Found to Be Consistent with the Study that Indicates Fracking Contaminated Water
“A retest of water in Pavillion, Wyoming, found evidence of many of the same gases and compounds the EPA found that linked contamination to hydraulic fracturing-- the first finding of that kind.
A U.S. Geological Survey report on its water testing of one monitoring well -- where some residents complain that gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing contaminated their drinking supplies -- identified levels of methane, ethane, diesel compounds, and phenol, which the EPA had also identified in its report last year.
The latest data are “generally consistent,” with the agency’s finding, said Alisha Johnson, an EPA spokeswoman. The USGS said it didn’t interpret the results, which were given to state officials.
The driller, Encana Corp. (ECA), said it’s not responsible for the pollutants in the water.
The EPA’s draft report in December was the first U.S. government finding to link hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and water contamination.
“At a quick glance, these results appear consistent with the earlier EPA study,” Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University, said. “The stray gas concentrations are very high, not only for methane but especially for ethane and propane. That combination suggests a fossil-fuel source for the gases.
“The recommendation still stands that we don’t cook or drink our water,” John Fenton, a farmer there, said, describing a recent conversation he had with EPA officials. The results “are running pretty much the same as they have in the past.”
5. Citizen’s Suit Challenges DEP’s Decision To Not Regulate Compressor Stations Emissions as a Group
“On Tuesday, in Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future v. Ultra Resources, Inc., No. 4:11-CV-1360 (M.D.PA. Sept. 24, 2012) — a case watched closely by gas stakeholders in Pennsylvania — Judge Mariani of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania refused to dismiss a citizen suit brought by an environmental group challenging the validity of state air permits issued to the operator of a series of natural gas compressor stations, potentially opening the door for similar Federal court challenges to air permits previously issued by state regulators in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Approximately three years ago, the DEP issued separate authorizations for Ultra Resources, Inc. to construct seven compressor stations pursuant to a state general permit generally known as “GP-5.” In issuing these authorizations, DEP considered each of the compressor stations as a separate “facility.” If DEP had considered the compressor stations to be a single “major” facility, then Ultra would have been required to obtain a more stringent non-attainment new source review (“NNSR”) permit before commencing construction. “ Read more ...
6. ALEC Tries to Cripple Local Zoning Laws and Pushes for a Weak EPA
“Beyond the effort to thwart full disclosure of fracking fluid, other “model” ALEC bills have been crafted to push forward the expansion of fracking. An ALEC bill titled "An Act Granting the Authority of Rural Counties to Transition to Decentralized Land Use Regulation," was passed by ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force at its Annual Meeting in August 2010 in San Diego. This model legislation would repeal all land use planning and zoning for "rural" counties by both county and state governments, taking away the local democratic process for communities to set local zoning rules. Legislation similar to this bill has been pushed in states including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Idaho, Colorado, and Texas. On July 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court struck down Pennsylvania’s version of this law stating that it ". . .violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications.”
ALEC has also taken up the promotion of fracking in its April 2012 document called "The Economy Derailed: State-By-State Impacts of the EPA Regulatory Train Wreck." In it, ALEC attempts to discredit Josh Fox's Academy award-nominated film "Gasland," and the report claims that citizens do not need to worry about air or water contamination. It calls EPA efforts towards heightening federal regulations “duplicative and unnecessary” and that “the states themselves are best poised to ensure environmental protection from fracking.”
The relationship between ALEC and the oil and gas industry has proven to be mutually beneficial, advancing the corporate agenda on fracking at the expense of protections for ordinary Americans. Although 40 corporations, four non-profits, and 70 legislators have left ALEC, there is no indication that the big oil and gas companies that have helped bankroll ALEC are planning to leave any time soon.”
7. New York State Won’t Drill Without a Public Health Review
“After four years of study by the state, the Cuomo administration now says its decision on whether to allow fracturing in New York will have to wait until it conducts a review of the potential public health effects of the process.
Joseph Martens, commissioner of the State Department of Environmental Conservation, announced that he had asked the health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, to assess his department’s analysis of the health effects closely.
Mr. Martens said he was responding to widespread concerns that the state had not adequately addressed potential health consequences in its environmental assessments as it moved toward a decision.
“Last month, major environmental groups met with Mr. Martens to press for an independent review by medical experts before any regulations are made final and drilling is allowed to start. However, Mr. Martens rejected the idea of commissioning an outside study, calling it “an inappropriate delegation of a governmental responsibility.”
Kate Sinding, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said her organization would have preferred an independent study. “This is not exactly what we were asking for,” she said. “But if they really solicit the input of truly independent experts as well as hear the concerns of the public, this could provide real value.”
8. SWPA EHP Provides Water Testing Standards
The Southwest PA Environmental Health Project provides recommendations for water testing both for a baseline and after drilling begins. Baseline testing should be done before drilling starts within 3 miles of your home. Baseline testing should include ethane, conductivity, and chloride in addition to the DEP recommended testing of bacteria, nitrates, TDS and pH. Other chemicals are recommended to be tested every six months during extraction activity
SWPA EHP also provides a plan of action based on the number of contaminants present in the water, e.g. drink bottled water, limit bathing and cooking with well water, and ventilate all water use areas are all potential recommendations based on the level of contamination found.
For a copy of the guidelines:
9. Approaches to Leasing Property Pushed Ethical/Legal Limits
(This story is reminiscent of the information found in the Landman’s Handbook containing all the tricks of the landmen’s trade. It was said to have been found in a woman’s driveway Bob)
“Land brokers, land owners and lawyers say approaches to leasing property pushed ethical and legal limits. Chesapeake has unilaterally altered or backed out of leases. And in Texas and at least three other states, it has exploited little-known laws to force owners to hand over drilling rights and sometimes forfeit profits. Some of the company’s own contractors have considered the tactics dubious.
After Chesapeake identifies acreage that might hold significant gas or oil, it deploys armies of land men – some Chesapeake employees, others contractors such as Mc-Guire and his employees. They knock on the doors of landowners to solicit leases. Few regulations govern what they can say or what language can be included in leases. Chesapeake has, until recently, employed more than 4,000 land men. Often, they are ordered not to disclose that Chesapeake is their client, according to internal emails and interviews with land owners and land men.”
(This is an in-depth report from Reuters: http://link.reuters.com/pak92t
10. Dr. Viola Resigns –Drillers Get Closed Door Meetings-More Evidence of How Gov. Corbett Has Broken PA
“Dr. Paulette Viola, Professor of Park Resource Management at Slippery Rock University, has served for 19 years through both Republican and Democratic administrations as an official advisor to Pennsylvania’s environmental regulatory and natural resource management agencies. Yesterday she resigned from her advisory position at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR) Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council (CNRAC) out of her frustration over the current administration’s hostility to public input.
Dr. Viola listed seven reasons for what she called the “degradation of council” in her resignation letter:
1) loss of councils independence as an advisory body,
2) removal of the executive director’s position,
3) reassignment of council’s secretary,
4) extremely disproportionate budget reduction,
5) low response time for requested information,
6) quality of information that is eventually shared and
7) displayed hostile atmosphere created by the administration for public input during a council meeting
All past DCNR secretaries – John Oliver, Michael DiBerardinis and John Quigley - and their senior staffs encouraged the active engagement of CNRAC members and others in the department’s decision-making processes. They freely shared information and forged strong partnerships with citizens and organizations in the effort to manage and conserve the Commonwealth’s state parks and state forestland. The department enlisted its partners to advocate for DCNR’s mission and for adequate funding for the agency.
That has now all changed. According to other CNRAC members and people who have long and deep relationships with the agency, key staff are no longer able to freely meet with private conservation stakeholders and have been warned against associating with members of former administrations. Morale at the agency has reportedly hit rock bottom.
DCNR is now wrestling with its biggest management challenge since its formation in 1995, gas drilling on more than 700,000 acres of public forestland. As it considers crucial issues such as whether or not to allow gas drillers to disturb ecologically sensitive areas like the Rock Run watershed in the Loyalsock State Forest, it should be seeking public input and sharing the information they are considering as they work toward a decision. But they are not. Instead, negotiations with the driller are being conducted behind closed doors despite formal requests from citizens for public hearings and mapping information.
Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, DCNR is charged with managing our natural resources so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. It cannot do that if it bunkers down and ignores public input.”
Posted by Jan Jarrett at 6:57 AM
11. PA Losing Good People
“We are growers five miles south of Dimock PA with a two and a half year old daughter.
This (fracking) is a great injustice and after all of the concerned growers and consumers go to Vermont to escape the experiment what will that leave PA and NY? There is a list of subtle rights a human has, that are being taken away, not to mention the major rights such as clean air water, soil and health in general or at least the pursuit of it. But when you chose to farm for other compelling factors, such as peace, and birdsong, and sight of stars, and all of those are taken from you daily, this in combination with all that Greg has mentioned can make a person confused with anger or guilt when you have a small child, or all of these emotions one may not normally be acquainted with. And the threat to our vegetables’ integrity is very real, as we know of growers losing customers already. This is our second year here and we will not even recover most of our investment if we leave. But how can you stay in a place, when you walk out of your door and smell the chemicals, see the flaring in the sky at night, and hear constant industrial noise? With a compressor station headed for the hill next door, and a pipeline through our neighbor’s field, not to mention wells springing up around us in all directions, we are in the thick of it, and we will not be part of this industrial experiment on human beings.”
Adron and Mary Dell’Osa Little Willow Farm
(Adron and his family have since moved to North Carolina)
from Sierra Club
The falls at Ohiopyle. Photo courtesy of <aref="http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/parks/ohiopyle.aspx">PA DCNR</a>.
Tell your state Senator to VOTE NO on HB 2224.
Some of our public lands are being jeopardized by an ill-considered bill. HB 2224 was introduced to help municipalities dispose of abandoned, blighted, unused and unusable properties. However, as it is presently drafted, HB 2224 puts our public land at risk of being sold for development. A vote in the PA Senate on HB 2224 could take place as early as the week of October 1. Urge your Senator to VOTE NO and ask for a hearing where the full ramifications of the legislation can be examined.
In addition to putting our parks and green spaces at risk, HB 2224:
Violates the trust and good faith of landowners who donated property for a dollar or sold property to the government at a bargain price with assurances that the land would be used for a public purpose.
- Forces generous people to second guess whether to sell their land at a bargain price for a good cause — a new park — because it shows that government is not to be trusted with such gifts.
- Discards the fair and balanced process local governments have used since 1959 to determine whether public land can be sold.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org