Friday, December 14, 2012

Jan's Updates Dec.14, 2012

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates
December 14, 2012
An easier to read copy of the Updates is attached
Please keep the fracking issue in the public eye by writing letters to the editor. Those letters are read and problems associated with fracking are not getting enough coverage. There are good articles to refer to on health, animals, and air/water-many from publications that are not locally distributed. Pick any one of the articles in the updates that you are interested in, you can check the references, and write a brief letter. It is so important and so worth our time.
Also to look for information contained in past Updates, you can go to our blogspot. Jan
* 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:
*** Westmoreland County Commissioners Meeting- 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the county courthouse at 10:00 AM.
***The Marcellus Shale Documentary Project: A public exhibit at Pittsburgh Filmmakers Galleries, until Jan. 6-- more than 50 images telling the stories of Pennsylvanians affected by the Marcellus Shale gas industry (also online at
*** New and Better Frac Mapper new mapping utility for website visitors who want an easy-to-use point and click tool – what we are affectionately calling FracMapper.
***List of the Harmed
The following is an ever-growing list of the individuals and families
that have been harmed by fracking (or shale gas production) in the U.S.
Should you encounter any issues (misinformation, broken links, etc.) or if you are/know someone who should be added to this list, please contact us at (
*** Report – Gas Patch Roulette
How Shale Gas Development Risks Public Health in PA
*** Sky Truth-Sign up for reports on gas activity in your area
Sign up to receive reports on the geographic area you select. You will receive regular updates on permits issues, well spud, and violations in your area.
*** Nurses Rise-Nurses for Safe Water: ( Facebook site) “Nurses, as the most trusted of professionals, call on all health care professionals to join us in raising awareness of the clear and present danger to our water, our source of life and health, threatened by fracking.”
*** 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.
***GASP Releases Citizen Handbook for Commenting on Marcellus Air Permits
<<For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:
See Article #3 for details on proposed legislation
PLEASE CONTACT Senator Gene Yaw - Sen. Dominic Pileggi - Include YOUR PA Senator on the email, here's where to find his/her email:
***Lawsuit Over Open Records To Be Reconsidered"
“A PA appeals court has ruled in favor of two newspapers seeking to unseal court records in a fracking contamination case. Hallowich v. Range Resources is one of the most closely watched cases involving claims of health impacts and property damage against a Marcellus Shale gas driller. But when the case was settled, the Court of Common Pleas sealed all the records. Reporters from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had been barred by court employees from observing a hearing that had been held several days before it was listed on the public docket. The paper’s publisher sued, and was later joined by another daily newspaper, the Observer-Reporter. In a ruling issued Friday, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania says the lower trial court erred in not considering the motion to unseal court records. The trial court had dismissed the newspaper’s motion because it was filed after the case was closed. The Superior Court ordered the Court of Common Pleas to take a look at the newspaper’s requests to unseal the record, and rule based on the merits of the case."
ACTION: Please link below and post a comment in support of unsealing the court records.
Mt Watershed Is Hiring!
The Mountain Watershed Association is currently accepting resumes for a full-time Community Organizer position, available January 15, 2013. This position will focus on the continued implementation of our Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project, a program which provides citizens with tools and knowledge to responsibly monitor Marcellus shale development to aid in community and environmental protection. Funding for this position is expected through December 2014 although employment may continue after this date. For more information and application instructions please visit our website.
Nationwide, concerns about pipeline safety have grown, amid a boom in natural gas drilling in several states and in the wake of a string of serious accidents, including explosions in San Bruno, Calif., and Allentown, Pa., that killed a combined 13 people in 2010 and 2011.
Frack News
1. Charleston, W.Va. Pipeline Explodes
At least five homes went up in flames and a badly burned section of Interstate 77 in West Virginia was closed after a natural gas line exploded in an hour-long inferno.
Gas pipelines are considered by many experts as the best way to transport fuel, safer than railroads or tanker trucks. But serious dangers remain as evidenced by the huge gas-line explosion in Sissonville.
Despite numerous efforts at reform, recent investigations show that many gaps remain in the oversight of the nearly 2.5 million miles of pipelines in the United States.
In a March report the U.S. Government Accountability Office warned that many so-called "gathering" pipelines, which transport gas to processing facilities, escape federal scrutiny altogether.
Preliminary reports indicate that Kanawha County explosion occurred on a 20-inch-diameter transmission line near Columbia Gas Transmission's Lanham Compressor Station at Rocky Fork. That would put the pipe involved on the smaller end of the spectrum for gas transmission lines
Gas companies use "gathering" lines to transport natural gas from well sites to compressor and other processing facilities. From there, transmission lines -- usually ranging from 20 to 42 inches in diameter -- carry gas across long distances from producing regions to local distribution companies.
From those companies, natural gas is piped through distribution lines or "mains" -- which range from 2 inches to more than 24 inches in diameter -- to homes and businesses.
2. NY and 6 Other States Sue EPA Over Methane Pollution
“The states say the EPA is violating the Clean Air Act by failing to address methane emissions from oil and gas drilling.
NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said “the coalition of states can’t continue to ignore the evidence of climate change or the threat greenhouse gas pollution poses to our families, our communities and our economy” Experts note that addressing the problem makes financial sense for the industry since the end up with more product to sell by reducing leaks.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and the oil/gas industry is the largest source of emissions in US- responsible for 37%. Landfills are responsible for 16% and livestock, 21%. Natural gas leaks occur not just at wells but also from distribution networks in cities.
PA, WVA, and Ohio, all states with intensive drilling, did not join the campaign.
Other major greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and ozone. “
(NY 6 other states suing EPA over drilling methane, AP, 12-12-12)
3. Legislation Proposed to Expand the Use of Gas in PA
Posted: December 5, 2012
From: Senator Gene Yaw and Sen. Dominic Pileggi
To: All Senate members
Subject: Pennsylvania Natural Gas Expansion and Development Initiative
In the near future, we plan to introduce legislation that will facilitate the expansion, distribution and use of low-cost, energy efficient, Pennsylvania-produced natural gas. Being able to fully utilize this commodity will reduce costs and be environmentally beneficial across the Commonwealth. This legislation is designed to assist state and local governments, similar institutions, and un-served and under-served businesses and homeowners across our state in making this conversion.
The legislation will:
* Encourage the conversion of government office buildings to low-cost, energy efficient, Pennsylvania-produced natural gas
* Offer incentives to school districts, institutions of higher education, correctional institutions, and hospitals to convert to low-cost, energy efficient, Pennsylvania-produced natural gas
* Encourage the use of natural gas to assure that natural gas energy is accessible to Pennsylvanians
* Establish funding alternatives for gathering and distribution extensions to un-served and under-served areas
* Require the Public Utility Commission to develop rules to produce an orderly system for reviewing current levels of natural gas service and to allow for the orderly expansion of natural gas service to areas not currently served
* Allow municipalities to establish their own pipeline infrastructure
* Ease the regulatory hurdles required for becoming a public utility
* Include a system of pipeline tap infrastructure for rural access; and
* Provide rate incentives to state utilities that are aggressively acquiring and building new utility franchises in rural areas
We have an abundant natural resource beneath us, which can be used to
help consumers lower their energy heating costs. There is also widespread interest in seeing locally produced natural gas used locally to benefit every Pennsylvanian.
4. Health and Fracking in PA —Jenny Lisak Featured
Residents say they've suffered from headaches, nosebleeds and other health effects since drilling began in their communities. Meanwhile, state agencies refuse to release the results of air and water pollution tests.
Thirty years ago, Jenny and Tom Lisak moved into a historic farmhouse in Jefferson County. The couple raised three children there and established a certified organic farm -- LadyBug Farm.
"When living in the country, your time is marked by nature and each season comes with its own smells, sounds and colors," Jenny Lisak recently told environmental researchers. "But those colors have faded and our wellbeing, livelihood and dreams are now threatened."
The trouble started when the oil and gas boom hit Jefferson County and rolled into the Lisak's neighborhood. First came the trucks carrying equipment and supplies in a stream of constant traffic; then oil and gas wells were drilled near LadyBug farm.
The Lisaks say they experienced frequent headaches, fatigue sore throats and eye and nose irritation. After the state issued a permit for an open-air impound pit to store drilling waste next to LadyBug Farm, the family has had trouble sleeping and experienced stress and anxiety.
PA lawmakers recently stripped $2 million in funding that had been earmarked for researching and tracking drilling-related health problems from landmark oil and gas legislation. The DEP recently has come under fire from residents and a state lawmaker who say the agency is hiding air quality monitoring data from the public and failing to provide complete lab results to residents who fear that fracking has contaminated their drinking water.
A recent, in-depth survey by Earthworks found that contaminants are present in the communities near fracking operations, and many residents have developed health problems they did not have before. The most commonly reported symptoms include tremors, dizziness and irritation of the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. These symptoms correlate to chemicals used in fracking, like benzene and volatile organic compounds, and suggest a "strong possibility" that oil and gas drilling is causing health problems, according the report.
Residents living closer to drilling operations reported health symptoms at higher rates. The survey found that 56 percent of children living within 1,500 feet of facilities reported nosebleeds. On average, children surveyed reported an average of 19 health symptoms that are not normally found in healthy kids.
In addition, 80 percent of respondents said they "sometimes" or "frequently" smelled bad odors.
The DEP investigated odors at the Cornerstone care clinic and determined that the fumes could not be linked to oil and gas drilling; but the agency has refused to hand over 400 pages of raw testing and quality control data to Rep Jess White.
State Rep. White, a Washington County Democrat, requested the records to share with independent scientists and researchers after the clinic shut down, but the state DEP denied his request.
"To date, the DEP has still refused to release the 400 pages of raw data, which is troubling for a variety of reasons," White wrote in a letter to DEP Secretary Michael Krancer. "Unless and until you release this data, I will continue to have serious concerns about DEP's commitment to transparency and openness in its operations."
White also wants to know why the DEP has withheld certain sets of test results from residents who believe their drinking water is contaminated by fracking.
Last year, samples from a Pennsylvania resident's drinking water were taken to a state lab to determine if the water had been contaminated by nearby fracking activity. The lab tested the water for 24 contaminants as required by federal standards, but the results for only eight of them were reported to the resident and the DEP's oil and gas division.
Kendra Smith, an attorney representing the resident in a lawsuit against the DEP, sent a letter to Krancer alleging that his agency uses a "deliberate procedure" to withhold critical water test results from the public.
5. DEP Withdraws Proposed Water Standards Due to Business Opposition - Leaves out Dioxane, Chlorides, Sulfates, Molybdenum
“The DEP Water Resources Advisory Committee voted to advance the DEPs final Chapter 93 Water Quality Standards to the Environmental Quality Board for its consideration, but without the proposed standards for molybdenum, sulfates, chlorides, and 1-4 dioxane that raised the concern of the business community.
As the rulemaking was being considered, Pennsylvania Chamber members joined with other statewide business trade associations to advocate for the removal of the four proposed standards because they said they were not rooted in clear scientific evidence and failed to take the economic impact of the regulated community into account.
Some of the Pennsylvania industries that could have been economically impacted by the standards included electric generation, oil and gas, coal, steel, pharmaceuticals and metallurgy.
From DEPs Water Resources Advisory Committee
6. Fracking for Foreigners 
US appear to be preparing to significantly increase exports of LNG.
A long-anticipated federal study released Wednesday for public comment concluded that the economic benefits of significant natural gas exports outweighed the potential for higher energy prices for consumers. The Obama administration has repeatedly said the study would be central to its decision on whether or not to approve expanded exports.
Do U.S. consumers really want the United States to get into the business of fracking for foreigners?
Dow Chemical and Sierra Club Slam Flawed Report
Dow Chemical said the report failed to take into account the increased reliance of American manufacturers on natural gas, and environmentalists also cried foul.
"It is baffling that this report omits the serious threats increased fracking and gas production pose to our water, our air, and the health of our families," Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, told the Wall Street Journal.
Apparently, the impact of increased fracking and exports on the warming planet was not factored into the study either. Climate change activists have concluded that in order to keep the planet from warming above the globally agreed upon redline of 2 degrees Celsius, energy companies will have to keep 80 percent of its already proven reserves underground.
Remember this Prescient Article? :
NERA, Creator of the “War on Coal” Myth, Is to Publish the Study on Gas Exports
Reuters has revealed the identity of the mysterious third party contractor tasked to publish the economic impact study on LNG (liquefied natural gas) exports on behalf of the Department of Energy (DOE). Its name: NERA Economic Consulting.
"NERA" is shorthand for National Economic Research Associates, an economic consulting firm SourceWatchidentified as the entity that published a June 2011 report on behalf of coal industry front group,American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). ACCCE's report concluded, "clean-air rules proposed by the Obama administration would cost utilities $17.8 billion annually and raise electricity rates 11.5 percent on average in 2016."
That report went so far to say that (EPA) regulations of the coal-generated electricity sector would amount to some 1.5 million lost jobs over the next four years.
NERA was founded by Irwin Stelzer, senior fellow and director of the right-wing Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy. In Oct. 2004, The Guardiandescribed Stelzer as the "right-hand man of Rupert Murdoch," the CEO of News Corp., which owns Fox News. 
With a track record like this, it's best to view whatever report the Obama Administration's DOE (aka NERA) produces on the economic impact of LNG exports, set to come out by the end of the year, with extreme skepticism if not downright hostility.
7. Britain Approves Fracking
Britain has given approval to resume fracking which was suspended last year after several tremors occurred near an exploration site. The energy and climate change secretary said that new controls will be put in place to reduce the risk of seismic activity. Environmental activist oppose the move.”
(Latrobe Bulletin, AP 12-13-12)
8. EPA Allows Pollution of Aquifers for Waste Injection
Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water.
In many cases, the EPA has granted these aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.
EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.
"You are sacrificing these aquifers," said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado and a member of a National Science Foundation team studying the effects of energy development on the environment. "By definition, you are putting pollution into them. ... If you are looking 50 to 100 years down the road, this is not a good way to go."
As part of an investigation into the threat to water supplies from underground injection of waste, ProPublica set out to identify which aquifers have been polluted.
We found the EPA has not even kept track of exactly how many exemptions it has issued, where they are, or whom they might affect.
Records the agency was able to supply under the Freedom of Information Act show that exemptions are often issued in apparent conflict with the EPA's mandate to protect waters that may be used for drinking.
Though hundreds of exemptions are for lower-quality water of questionable use, many allow grantees to contaminate water so pure it would barely need filtration, or that is treatable using modern technology.
The EPA is only supposed to issue exemptions if aquifers are too remote, too dirty, or too deep to supply affordable drinking water. Applicants must persuade the government that the water is not being used as drinking water and that it never will be.
Sometimes, however, the agency has issued permits for portions of reservoirs that are in use, assuming contaminants will stay within the finite area exempted.
What they don't often consider is whether that waste will flow outside that zone of influence over time, and there is no doubt that it will," said Mike Wireman, a senior hydrologist with the EPA who has worked with the World Bank on global water supply issues. "Over decades, that water could discharge into a stream. It could seep into a well. If you are a rancher out there and you want to put a well in, it's difficult to find out if there is an exempted aquifer underneath your property."
Aquifer exemptions are a little-known aspect of the government's Underground Injection Control program, which is designed to protect water supplies from the underground disposal of waste.
Once an exemption is issued, it's all but permanent; none have ever been reversed. Permits dictate how much material companies can inject and where, but impose little or no obligations to protect the surrounding water if it has been exempted.
"Unless someone can build a clear case that this water cannot be used — we need to keep our groundwater clean," said Al Armendariz, a former regional administrator for the EPA's South Central region who now works with the Sierra Club. "We shouldn't be exempting aquifers unless we have no other choice. We should only exempt the aquifer if we are sure we are never going to use the water again."
Skeptics say fewer exemptions are unlikely, despite rising concern about them within the EPA, as the demand for space underground continues to grow. Long-term plans to slow climate change and clean up coal by sequestering carbon dioxide underground, for example, could further endanger aquifers, causing chemical reactions that lead to water contamination.
9. U. Texas -- Fracking Study Bias
The head of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin resigned after an investigation that found conflicts of interest in a study on the risks of gas drilling. Raymond Orbach resigned as director of the institute last month, the university said in a statement released Thursday. The study's lead investigator, Charles Groat, 72, also retired from his faculty position, according to the statement.
And from NPR..
The fracking study is now a black eye to the University of Texas after an independent review of national experts found it scientifically unsound and tainted by conflicts of interest. The author of the study, Dr. Charles Groat, retired in the wake of the scathing review, and the university announced that Dr. Raymond Orbach, head of the university's Energy Institute that released the study, has resigned his position.
The original fracking study concluded that hydraulic fracturing was safe, the danger of water contamination low and suggestions to the contrary mostly media bias. But then it was reported this summer that Professor Groat sat on the board of a natural gas drilling company and received more than a million and a half dollars in compensation. That information was not disclosed in Groat's report.
In a statement, the University of Texas said it accepted the findings of the independent review. This is the third time in three months that fracking research by energy-friendly university industry consortiums has been discredited. The Shale Resources Institute at the State University of New York at Buffalo was closed after questions were raised about the quality and independence of its work. And an industry canceled their fracking study after professors at Penn State University refused to participate.
10. Despite Gas Boom, Pennsylvania's Unemployment Rate Increases Sharply From 5 -11 To 9-12
By John Hanger
The data is astonishing. But it is official according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers in the state and regional unemployment section. In terms of unemployment rate trends, Pennsylvania is among the three worst performing states in the nation since May 2011.
Unemployment has jumped in the Commonwealth from 7.4% to 8.2% from May 2011 to September 2012. During that period, only New York and New Hampshire saw their unemployment rates go up more, and New Hampshire's 5.7% unemployment rate is still below the national unemployment rate.
Pennsylvania is fast becoming a lesson in how state policymakers can fail to maximize the advantages offered by a globally significant energy bonanza and make other policy and budget mistakes that more than offset the twin advantages of the gas boom and declining national unemployment.
While Pennsylvania's unemployment rate jumps up from 7.4% to 8.2%, the national unemployment rate fell from 9.0% in May 2011 to 7.8% in September, 2012.
While Pennsylvania's unemployment rate jumps up from May 2011 to September 2012, the unemployment rate falls in 43 other states.
11. New England Journal Report Cites Fracking as Violation of Patient- Physician Relationship
A report in The New England Journal of Medicine cites ‘fracking’ as one of four prime examples of an increasing trend whereby legislators, in cooperation with industry, “inappropriately infringe on clinical practice and patient-physician relationships.”
The article, titled “Legislative Interference with the Patient-Physician Relationship,” states the following:
“Four states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, and Texas) have passed legislation relating to disclosure of information about exposure to chemicals used in the process of hydraulic fracturing. Fracking involves injecting into the ground toxic chemicals such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene to extract oil and natural gas. Low levels of exposure to those chemicals can trigger headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness; higher levels of exposure can cause cancer. In Pennsylvania, physicians can obtain information about chemicals used in the fracking process that may be relevant to a patient’s care, but only after requesting the information in writing and executing a nonstandardized confidentiality and nondisclosure agreement drafted by the drilling companies.”
The new report goes on to say:” Physicians must have the ability and freedom to speak to their patients freely and confidentially, to provide patients with factual information relevant to their health, to fully answer their patients’ questions, and to advise them on the course of best care without the fear of penalty.”
In addition to fracking, firearms was cited as another example of ‘gagging’ doctors, specifically the 2011 Florida Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, which “substantially impaired physicians’ ability to deliver gun-safety messages to patients.”
The authors of the article — five medical doctors who occupy the executive staff leadership of the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and the American College of Surgeons, conclude:
“We find this trend alarming and believe that legislators should abide by principles that put patients’ best interests first.”
12. Ohio Homeowner Claims Damage Due to Fracking Vibration
A homeowner says cracking walls and crumbling mortar are being caused by a nearby well. Beckie Dean blames the "enormous" damage to her 11-year-old house on the drilling operation just across the street, about 1,000 feet away.
She says the cracks began to appear in September, soon after the well went online.
"We've had two contractors, two structural engineers come in, and they both said it is definitely vibration cracks and they ruled out every other source of vibration except for the drilling rig," Dean told WKYC.
Dean has noted every crack and writes the time and date it appeared next to it, on her walls and ceiling. She pointed to her fireplace which has loose mortar and had two decorative rocks fall off of it. "After that, water began to leak through the chimney into the house," she recalled. "You could feel the mortar as wet as the day they built it."
She said she had an impossible time getting the required hours of rest before work, because of the constant drone and thud of the drilling equipment. "It was like a helicopter," is how Dean described it. "It's like the helicopter is on the ground, or there is a diesel semi truck outside your bedroom window 24/7."
She hopes her experience will be a warning to anyone thinking of leasing their land. "They see the dollar signs, they see the large number and they see the dollar sign. They don't' see what's coming to their community," she warns. "They don't see that the big trucks are coming in. They don't see that their children's lives are over."
Beckie Dean says her homeowner's insurance will not cover repairing the damage to her walls and ceilings. The drilling company has not admitted responsibility and she admits it may be hard to prove.
 "We are stuck. We are stuck. We're absolutely stuck," she said. "There are 14 wells going in across the road. It'll be ten years before they're done."
Commentary by WMCG Member:
If there's nothing to be concerned with regarding fracking, why is Range Resources so anxious to keep all the details secret? The above photo of the Hallowich property could be any of the current or proposed fracking sites in Westmoreland County.
(See Take action at the beginning of this update)
13. Oil/Gas Spills are Contaminating Groundwater-Colorado
Oil and gas have contaminated groundwater in 17 percent of the 2,078 spills and slow releases that companies reported to state regulators over the past five years, state data show.
The damage is worse in Weld County, where 40 percent of spills reach groundwater, the data show. Most of the spills are happening less than 30 feet underground — not in the deep well bores that carry drilling fluids into rock.
State regulators say crews typically are working on storage tanks or pipelines when they discover that petroleum material, which can contain cancer-causing benzene, has seeped into soil and reached groundwater. Companies respond with vacuum trucks or by excavating tainted soil.
Contamination of groundwater — along with air emissions, truck traffic and changed landscapes — has spurred public concerns about drilling along Colorado's Front Range. There are 49,236 active wells statewide, up 31 percent since 2008, with 17,844 in Weld County.
Starting Monday, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulators struggling to maintain a consistent set of state rules governing the industry will begin grappling with the groundwater issue.
The COGCC is weighing proposed changes to state rules that would require companies to conduct before-and-after testing of groundwater around wells to provide baseline data that could be used to hold companies accountable for pollution.
Current proposals for baseline testing of groundwater give companies too much freedom to cherry-pick wells they would use to draw samples, said Gary Wockner, director of Clean Water Action, which is pushing for new local rules in several locations.
"The groundwater sampling would need to be scientifically designed to confirm whether there's been damage to groundwater — whether deep in the aquifers or at the surface,"
Wockner said. "The state needs to clamp down ... and protect the public from cancer-causing fracking chemicals."
Western Resources Advocates attorney Mike Chiropolos pointed out that horizontal drilling — a mile or more away from central vertical production wells — creates new possibilities for groundwater contamination for which baseline data should be available to help measure harm.
14. Pittsburgh Inspires Longmont, Colorado
In a suburban Colorado town this fall, Michael Bellmont has been using the city of Pittsburgh as an inspiration and rallying cry. The insurance agent-turned-activist struck out on the warpath against fracking, that was coming closer to his hometown of Longmont and one he had come to view as unregulated and risk laden.
He had read about the drilling ban approved 1,500 miles away in Pittsburgh in 2010. It left such an impression that he gave the Pennsylvania city a shout-out in the guitar tune he wrote about making sure "we'll have no frickin' frackin' in this town."
"I thought, by golly, if Pittsburgh can do it, we can do it too," Mr. Bellmont said in an interview last week.
He was right.
In last month's balloting, the initiative he worked on to prohibit hydraulic fracturing sailed to victory with support from about 60 percent of Longmont's voters.
Their approval turned a recently beefed-up set of local oil and gas drilling regulations -- which already had prompted a lawsuit from state environmental officials -- into an outright ban similar to Pittsburgh's.
Supporters cheered the result as providing residents with protections from potential air and water risks that they believed state and local government had failed to guarantee. Some nearby communities, including Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, in turn have begun overhauling their own rules for energy companies.
But state and industry officials prefer to keep drilling oversight powers mostly centralized, with both saying they're attempting to reach out to local towns that harbor concerns about the latest drilling technology.
15. Ruling on Act 13-Industry May Keep Pushing
Experts predict months more legal maneuvering and maybe more industry pressure on lawmakers after the court rules on Act 13, a decision that could occur any day. Legal fights could result, experts say, whether or not the court rules for the municipalities fighting the state.
In the spring, South Fayette, Cecil, Peters and Mt. Pleasant and Robinson in Washington County led a group that sued to strike down parts of the law.
If they side with the local governments, there likely will be a flurry of activity from drilling industry lobbyists and lawyers. The industry likely will pressure lawmakers to try again to streamline rules that can differ across the more than 2,000 municipalities.
Drilling companies and their supporters in state government wanted to limit local control and standardize rules. State and industry leaders saw the limits as a key part of the package.
A decision against the state could lead to a showdown. Republican leaders received some of the biggest campaign donations from drillers. But with three state Senate seats lost in the November election, Republicans probably don’t have the votes to pass anything similar, said David E. Hess, a former DEP secretary who works for a Harrisburg lobbying firm.
It’s going to be that much more difficult, especially considering the outcry after that law passed,” Hess said. “I think it is going to cause a lot of friction because the local ordinances position was something that the industry felt was a must-have. Now with the numbers changed in the Senate, I think they’re going to rethink the way they’re going to go out and address that issue.”
The PUC could get more work after the ruling, as well, experts said. The state empowered it to determine whether local ordinances meet state law, but the appellate court put such determinations on hold until the Supreme Court addresses larger issues.
16. House GOP Criticizes CDCs Concerns about Health Risks from Fracking
The Obama administration is getting more push-back from House Republicans about research aimed at assessing the health risks associated with the gas industry.
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, GOP leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee accused officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring "preconceived notions" about the possible health effects of fracking.
"Despite the significant growth of natural gas development," the members wrote, "we are greatly concerned that the scientific objectivity of the Department of Health and Human Services is being subverted and countless jobs could be in jeopardy."
The letter called into question public statements made by Christopher Portier, director of the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Portier on multiple occasions in the past year has asserted the CDC's role in examining the health implications of expanded gas drilling. At a conference sponsored by the Institute of Medicine, he talked about the CDC's "boots on the ground" and its determination to partner with U.S. EPA and others in examining the process of deep horizontal drilling and fracking.
The GOP Congressmen pulled a Portier quote from the online publication ProPublica: "In some communities it has been a disaster," Portier told the publication in a September article about lagging public health data around gas fields, where open-air pits and industrial equipment can emit dangerous substances into the air and water. "We do not have enough information on hand to be able to draw good solid conclusions about whether this is a public health risk as a whole."
The letter from GOP members also pointed to CDC studies of private-well contamination data from Chesapeake Energy. "Naturally-occurring substances in groundwater have been considered as 'contaminants' in these evaluations," the lawmakers said. And scientists at the top public health agency had "not adequately evaluated the historical groundwater quality data," they added.
Further, they said the CDC had not done enough sampling at sites in Pennsylvania.
House Republicans have resisted a federal role in studying the health effects of rapidly expanding unconventional gas development, The CDC is part of an interagency working group created by President Obama through an executive order. It's designed to guide the federal government's examination of health and safety issues associated with hydraulic fracturing.
They said Portier's public record "calls into question whether a study under his leadership can be objectively and validly conducted."
Joel Kirkland, E&E reporter
EnergyWire:  Tuesday, December 4, 2012
17. Glycol Ethers and Cleft Palates
A study of pregnant women in France found that on-the-job exposure to chemical solvents during pregnancy increased the risk of certain types of birth defects. Mothers with more exposure were 4 to 12 times more likely to have babies with oral clefts than mothers with less exposure. Metabolites of two large classes of organic solvents -- glycol ethers and chlorinated solvents -- were linked to occupational use of cleaners and cosmetics in jobs such as hairdressers, chemists and nurses.
And remember this report on Pavilion?
“…the EPA report has exposed ten different compounds found in the Pavillion water supply, all of which are known to be used in fracking fluid. The report states that "glycol ethers and the assortment of other organic components (found in the water) are explained as the result of direct mixing of hydraulic fracturing fluids with ground water in the Pavillion gas field.
Back in 2008, the EPA took water samples from around Pavillion after residents complained about water contamination. The agency found hydrocarbons and other contaminants that appeared to have come from nearby gas wells, but that could not be definitively linked. But in 2010, the EPA took more water samples which, in that case, confirmed that the chemicals found were linked to the drilling.”
18. Pollution Control in Texas-Debatable Effects
Evidence that gas drilling air pollution can be managed — but that more work may still need to be done — comes from north Texas, where the shale gas boom began around Fort Worth about 10 years ago.
Mike Honeycutt, director of toxicology for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said that in the early years of the boom, people complained about excessive pollution. Regulators started using special hand-held cameras to pinpoint pollution sources and found some sites with high levels of benzene and other volatile organic compounds.
"It was a maintenance issue. They were in such a hurry, and they were drilling so fast, they were not being as vigilant as they should have been," Honeycutt said. "So we passed new rules that made them take more notice."
Honeycutt said the cameras, which cost about $100,000 each, have revolutionized the way inspectors monitor sites. Texas has also installed nine 24-hour air-monitoring stations in the drilling region around Fort Worth, and more are on the way. Now, he said, even as drilling has increased, summer ozone levels have declined.
In 1997 there were only a few hundred shale gas wells in the Fort Worth area and the summertime ozone level hit 104 parts per billion, far above the national standard then of 85. By 2012 the number of wells had risen to about 16,000, but preliminary results show the ozone level was 87 last summer.
There's stillroom for improvement, Honeycutt said, but the trend is clear, since the monitoring is no longer showing worrisome levels of benzene, either.
The EPA isn't completely convinced. This year the federal agency cited Wise County in north Texas, a heavy gas drilling area, for violating ozone standards. Industry groups and the state have argued that the finding was based on faulty science.
Prasad Kasibhatla, a professor of environmental chemistry at Duke University, said that controlling gas-drilling pollution is "technically solvable" but requires close attention by regulators.
"One has to demonstrate that it is solved, and monitored," he said.
Read more:
19. Marcellus Outreach Butler’s (MOB) Questionnaire for Southwest PA Environmental Health Project
MOB sent a questionnaire to the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWPA-EHP). SWPA-EHP is a nonprofit environmental health organization created to assist and support Washington County residents and others in southwest Pennsylvania who believe their health has been, or could be, impacted by natural gas drilling activities. It is their hope that this information with not only educates the public on how to protect themselves but also alert them to the potential risks. MOB notes that we must all remain vigilant.
*Skin rashes happened in over half the cases, and were the most prevalent complaint of our client population to date. Around 55% of our client population reported breathing problems or cough, and/or nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain. Nosebleeds were reported in about 15% of our clients.
*We are finding spikes of air quality impacts related to diesel emissions, which would likely peak with truck traffic, flaring, and well pad completion, and eventually subside. However, compressor stations are a long-lived source of potential toxic contamination within the vicinity of homes and workplaces, as are pipelines, which can and do leak.
*The list of potential exposures is unfortunately quite long, and encompasses obvious sources like diesel emissions, as well as less obvious concerns related to proppants (used to prop open the fractures underground), deep well bacteria and naturally occurring radioactive substances (NORMs) such as radon, and radium which come to the surface in flowback water, and may result in toxic exposures during spills or accidental releases.
*At this time, there is a lack of research specific to unconventional natural gas drilling, but we can use established science on known chemicals present in this process to infer what types of health problems might be occurring. We know for instance that the petroleum related compounds benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, commonly referred to as BTEX, are all toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). BTEX compounds, which accompany methane to the surface, are emitted not only during the processing of produced methane, but also from the numerous trucks, generators and other equipment employed in the drilling process.
Breathing BTEX compounds can cause central nervous system effects – dizziness, headaches, confusion, drowsiness, and loss of consciousness. Ingestion can also cause vomiting, and irritation of the stomach. Benzene is toxic to bone marrow and is a recognized carcinogen. Long-term exposure to even low levels may lead to anemia, excessive bleeding, and leukemia.
We are also concerned about polyacrylamide, aldehydes, and methylene chloride. Polyacrylamide slicks the water to minimize friction. It can affect the nervous system, with symptoms including muscle weakness, numbness in hands and feet, and unsteadiness.
Aldehydes serve as biocides. Low-level exposure can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and at higher levels can cause “burns” to eyes and skin. These can cause asthma-like symptoms, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Methylene chloride is being used to clean equipment on-site, and is highly volatile. Breathing in large amounts of methylene chloride may cause unsteadiness, dizziness, nausea and a tingling or numbness of your finger and toes. A person breathing smaller amounts of methylene chloride may become less attentive and less accurate in tasks requiring hand-eye coordination. Skin contact with methylene chloride causes burning and redness of the skin. Methylene chloride interferes with delivery of oxygen to tissues, and impairs functions of the central nervous system. Methylene chloride is considered a probable carcinogen.
We can unfortunately predict that long-term exposure to these chemicals could cause cancer, and in the short-term, will lead to some of the symptoms we have documented in our client population. Diesel exhaust itself is now classified as a carcinogenic source comparable to second-hand smoke. The levels of diesel exposure in and around gas drilling activities, particularly in formerly non-industrialized rural areas, would point to probable human health concerns including increased asthma, cardiovascular incidents, and general respiratory impacts.
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