Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates February 14, 2013
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For email address, click on the envelope under the photo
* For information on the state gas legislation and local control: http://pajustpowers.org/aboutthebills.html-
Herminie Station Alert
***Thanks to everyone who responded to the Herminie Compressor Station Alert.
Public hearings for compressor stations should be automatically scheduled since the stations are large sources of harmful pollutants but the DEP makes it necessary for the public to request hearings-- so our calls and emails are important.
Our part of the state is not getting the hearings on compressor stations that NE PA receives. We have been told that residents of the specific site area need to send letters, in addition to the public alerts that our entire group responds to. We will continue to send out alerts on this important issue.
***Thank you to many of you who have offered to post flyers for our March 19 health forum at St Vincent. Here are three things you can do to help out:
1. Copy the flyer I attached and post a few
2. Post the meeting on your face book site about 1-2 weeks before the meeting
3. Send out the notice to people on your email list and ask them to pass it on.
That action is incredibly helpful in getting the word out to people who are not on our list. Jan
Calendar of Events
***Climate Change March This Week
Bus organized by Sierra Club Allegheny Group, Environmental Justice Committee of the TMC and EQAT Pittsburgh:
To all in Western Pennsylvania who are concerned about Climate Change,
In his inauguration speech President Obama made slowing down climate disruption a priority in his second term. We need to show that he has our support for vigorous action, starting with stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Join us at the historic rally and march from the Washington Monument to the White House on Feb. 17
We have filled the first 56-seat bus and already have 12 passengers on a second recently hired bus.
If you intend to join us, please register ASAP.
Registration for the Pittsburgh Bus to the Feb 17 "Forward on Climate Rally"
The fare for a seat on our bus from Pittsburgh is $40, with a student or limited income fare of $25, payable through our PayPal account at http://alleghenysc.org/?p=11121
Once you have paid your fare, please notify me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will fill the seats on a first paid, first served basis, so book your seat ASAP. If you prefer to pay by check, send me an Email.
Passengers aged 17 or younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
The bus will collect passengers promptly at 7:00 am at Edgewood TownCenter (S. Braddock and Parkway East). Probably stop in Breezewood for dinner on the return journey. Arrive back in Pittsburgh about 10 pm.
Please dress for inclement weather in DC, and have appropriate footwear for the march from the Mall to the White House. For convenience, you should probably have a packed lunch with you.
More details once you have registered.
*** Fracking and Your Health, Public Health Perspectives Public Meeting
* What common health problems do residents experience?
* What are the sources of exposure?
* How can you reduce your exposure?
* What public health studies are being done?
Nadia Steinzor - Earthworks
Raina Rippel- Southwest PA Environmental Health Project
Linda Headley –member of a SW PA affected family
Dr. Ralph Miranda- Greensburg Physician, Speaker/Moderator
Where: Fred Rogers Center, Saint Vincent College, Latrobe PA
When: Tuesday, March 19, 7:00-9:00 pm
***Jess White Holds Meeting- REGISTER TO TESTIFY IF YOU HAVE HAD ISSUES WITH THE DEP
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 @ 2:00pm - Washington, Pa county building behind the courthouse on the 1st floor in the room where the county commissioners meet.
` Next week’s House Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Washington on environmental testing will be held without anyone attending from the agency at the focus of the hearing. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has declined to attend. State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, will host the hearing beginning at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the public meeting room of the Washington Courthouse Square building, 100 W. Beau St. DEP Secretary Michael Krancer declined an invitation to attend. In a news release, White noted he was disappointed but not surprised.
Katy Gresh, director of DEP’s communications office, noted Krancer is willing to attend meetings if they are productive and professional. Scheduled to testify are several Pennsylvania residents critical of DEP’s handling of issues on their properties, and a coalition of environmental organizations, including Earthworks and PennFuture. White proposed new legislation, H.B. 268, which would require the DEP to provide full results from any testing. “If DEP is truly doing everything as well as they claim, you would think they would welcome the opportunity to prove it in a public forum; their refusal to do so really says quite a bit about the DEP’s lack of commitment to transparency and public accountability,” White said.
*** Westmoreland County Commissioners’ Meetings- 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the County Courthouse at 10:00
*** Steering Committee Meetings- 2nd Tuesday of every month, 7:30
***Tell DEP to Disclose Water Testing
“You may have heard that the PA (DEP) refuses to disclose all pollution detected during water testing from wells suspected of drilling contamination.
We have a right to know what's in our water!
Mystery, questions and concerns continue to surround water testing policies related to suspected impacts from Marcellus Shale natural gas operations.
We were optimistic that we might finally get answers when Secretary Krancer suggested a meeting with Sierra Club and a coalition of environmental groups to discuss these issues. PA DEP, however, left us in the dark and extremely disappointed when they abruptly cancelled the meeting.
Help us apply pressure to PA DEP by emailing Governor Corbett and Secretary Krancer TODAY!
Tell them they need to reschedule their meeting with us and provide answers to the questions and concerns surrounding their water testing policies.
Thank you for your support.
Sierra Club PA Chapter
P.S. Share this alert with your social networks:
***Email President Obama To Not Appoint Energy Secretary Moniz
“Did you watch the State of the Union last night?
President Obama explained how speeding up new oil and gas drilling permits was part of his "all of the above" energy plan. Obama called natural gas a good source of clean energy, but we know the truth: more natural gas means more fracking, and fracking means more toxic chemicals putting our water and air at risk.
This is bad. We've just gotten word that President Obama is considering Ernest Moniz, a cheerleader for the dangerous process of fracking, as his new Energy Secretary. (See the full details at Reuters.)
We're counting on you to help change Obama's mind before this plan goes any further. Can you tell President Obama to find a better choice for Secretary of Energy? It’s more important than ever that President Obama appoint a
Secretary who will promote truly renewable energy, not a fracking industry cheerleader like Ernest Moniz.”
Food & Water Watch
Scan down the page to the yellow box
President Obama’s speech was very disappointing to all of us volunteers who have been working for a cleaner environment, the health of our families, and the property values of our communities. More drilling is not a solution to our energy problems. Opening more public lands to drilling is not the answer. President Obama is on the wrong page on this issue.
***Penn State Conducting Online Survey About Pennsylvania's Water Resources
“This is your chance to be heard on the value and importance of water resources in Pennsylvania!
The five-minute survey can be completed online at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PaWater
The survey will remain open until February 28, 2013 and a summary of results will be published on the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center website in Spring 2013 at: http://www.pawatercenter.psu.edu/.
This survey is funded by the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center and Sea Grant Pennsylvania in partnership with Penn State Extension and the Pennsylvania American Water Resources Association.
***Winning Music Video: You've Been Fracked
The teacher who has been spearheading New York Youth Against Fracking, Mariah Prentiss, got a call from Yoko Ono last night: Their music video, “You’ve Been Fracked,” has WON the Artists Against Fracking video contest! The prize is having lunch in NYC with Yoko and her son, Sean Lennon! VIDEO IS HERE:
***Airport Fracking Proposal Draws Frustrated, Angry Crowd at Only Public Hearing on Issue
***Marcellus Air Pollution Research…
This is a new publication in Environmental Research Letters, “Estimation of regional air-quality damages from Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania,” by RAND authors A. Litovitz, A. Curtright, S. Abramzon, N. Burger, and C. Samaras. The full publication and video abstract are available, with open access, at: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/1/014017
Highlights: This paper provides an estimate of the conventional air pollutant emissions associated with the extraction of unconventional shale gas in Pennsylvania, as well as the monetary value of the associated regional environmental and health damages.
*** Health Report, By David Brown, SW PA Envir. Health Project; Ron Bishop, SUNY; and others
1. Robinson Township-Where Supervisors Are Informed and Laws Must Be Followed By Everyone-
Even The Gas Industry
Citing insufficient documents by Range, supervisors voted down both permits based on failures to comply with criteria set forth in municipal codes, including improper submission of a site plan, failure to demonstrate operations would comply with noise standards and a lack of answers to board questions.
The board passed separate, unanimous motions to deny each application.
Before the board made their decisions, community members on both sides of the issue used the public comment portion of the meeting to let their stances be known.
Some of the roughly 70 residents packed into the garage of the municipal building, which was used because it had double the capacity of the regular meeting room, believed supervisors were unjustly holding up proceedings.
“I’ve been to every meeting and I keep hearing the same questions,” said Robinson resident John Campbell. “Why is there a hold up here while in Smith Township everything is working?”
During the meeting, supervisors went into executive session to discuss lawsuits filed by Range Resources Jan. 28, alleging Robinson is deliberately refusing to make decisions regarding the two properties.
Supervisors argued, while they want to make a decision, they couldn’t ethically do so without the proper documentation from Range.
“Is it your position that if Range doesn’t answer our questions, we should just approve it anyway?” chairman Brian Coppola asked Campbell. “It’s not the board’s responsibility to do their work for them. How can we vote to pass their permit when we don’t have the proper information?”
Township special legal counsel Jonathan Kamin assured the audience the issue before them was a specific case of a company not providing proper documentation, not a trial of the industry.
“It has nothing to do with if you feel drilling is good or bad,” Kamin said, “but whether it meets the provisions. It’s not a philosophical question, but whether it meets what’s in our ordinance.”
One man suggested some of his fellow residents’ ire was misplaced.
“We’ve had wells before,” said Neil Matchett of Robinson. “Same board members, same rules. All of a sudden, things have changed.”
However, Matchett argued it wasn’t Robinson’s board being obstructionist but rather the energy industry’s reaction to new Pennsylvania legislation.
“The one thing that changed was Act 13. It seems obvious to me that Range is playing a game … They’ve got new lawyers and something changed in their philosophy.”
Sandy Ulrich gave an impassioned plea in defense of Robinson’s supervisors, managers and solicitor.
“How many of you know Mr. Coppola doesn’t take any salary for his position?” Ulrich asked. “The legacy of this board (will be) they did their best for the residents of this township. Don’t let Range tell you any different.”
In an email sent following the board meeting, Range Resources director of corporate communications Matt Pitzarella disagreed.
“We’ve provided all of the necessary information and answered all of the questions posed during the process just as we did two years ago, but it’s been a half of a year and the township continues to delay this process indefinitely,” Pitzarella said. “We’re more than willing to make changes, answer questions or adjust our schedule to best integrate with a community throughout the process, just as we do in hundreds of municipalities across the country.”
(Aaron Kendeall / Observer-Reporter)
2. Groups-Including Us-WMCG- Urge Investigation of EPA Actions in Texas Water Contamination Case
Go here for the letter and full list of signatories:
“A Coalition asks the Inspector General to determine whether political meddling led agency to drop probe of gas drilling company.
A coalition of more than 80 organizations from 12 states and New York state senator Tony Avella today called on the inspector general of the U.S. EPA to investigate a decision to drop legal action against a drilling company despite evidence that it had polluted residents’ well water near Fort Worth, Texas.
The organizations sent a letter to EPA Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., asking him to broaden an ongoing investigation of a case that made national news last year when the EPA dropped an enforcement action against Range Resources Ltd. after earlier invoking rare emergency authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Elkins began investigating the case after six U.S. senators asked him last June to determine whether EPA had followed proper procedures.
Associated Press and other news outlets have recently brought new information to light that raises additional questions about EPA’s commitment to protecting the public.
The case began in 2010 when EPA found that Range’s natural gas drilling near Forth Worth had “caused or contributed” to pollution of residents’ well water with benzene and dangerous levels of methane. The agency issued an emergency order requiring Range to provide drinking water to two families and to install meters in their homes to monitor explosion risks, among other actions.
The drilling industry and other critics charged that EPA’s decision to drop the case was proof that it had “rushed to judgment” and that Range had not polluted the families’ water. EPA did not explain its decision, issuing only a two-sentence statement describing its withdrawal as an opportunity to work with Range to make drilling safer. The EPA also withdrew the requirement that Range provide the families with drinking water.
Last month (January 2013), the Associated Press reported that the EPA made its decision even though a 2011 report it commissioned from an independent scientist had strongly suggested that one of Range’s natural gas wells was the source of the water contamination. EPA did not mention that report when it announced its reversal.
The organizations' letter calls on the inspector general to investigate why the EPA did not mention the scientist’s analysis, whether the EPA had a scientific basis for dropping the case against Range and whether the EPA had responded to political pressure, including recently-disclosed communications from Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
“We fear that the EPA has failed in its duty to protect people’s health,” said Paul Gallay, President of New York-based Riverkeeper. “As a critical decision about fracking looms in New York state, we are left wondering what science and data have been kept secret from our experts and decision makers. All eyes are on Governor Cuomo to protect New Yorkers, and we urge him to take a step back and see what other information is hidden that could prevent an informed decision.”
“Range Resources went behind-closed-doors and solicited special favors rather than be a good neighbor to homeowners whose drinking water was polluted by Range’s drilling,” said Earthworks Energy Program Director Bruce Baizel. He continued, “The fact they were successful, calls into question all public oversight of oil and gas development.”
“EPA’s inexplicable decision to drop the case adds to a growing concern that drilling regulation is woefully inadequate even as drillers push into more populated areas from New York to California,” said EWG Senior Counsel Dusty Horwitt. “The public must have confidence that the EPA is acting to protect our health and drinking water, not corporate profits.”
Associated Press reported that Steven Lipsky, whose family EPA identified as having been affected by the contamination, can light his well water on fire and now pays $1,000 a month to have water delivered.”
CONTACT: Don Carr at Environmental Working Group, 202-667-6982, email@example.com, Alan Septoff at Earthworks, 202-887-1872 x105, firstname.lastname@example.org or John Armstrong at Frack Action, 607-220-4632, email@example.com
See item #3 for the full story of Range-EPA-Rendell ---
3. Former Pa. Gov. Rendell Involved in EPA – Range-Lipsky Pollution Case Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter
(This is lengthy but full of important details and explains much about recent non- enforcement actions of the EPA. jan)
An EPA attorney wrote that Rendell, acting as a "spokesman for Range," met with Jackson in 2011 and "proposed certain terms to the administrator." But the case didn't settle for more than a year after that.
When EPA and Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C., dropped the case, Range did not agree to do testing sought by the Texas-based EPA officials. They had wanted Range to test whether natural gas might be seeping into homes from the soil, but that was not part of the agreement.
"Range should ensure that it is not making an explosion hazard at the homes," Al Armendariz, the Dallas-based EPA regional administrator who brought the case, wrote during negotiations with Range.
The messages were included in more than 1,000 pages of emails obtained by EnergyWire in a Freedom of Information Act request from EPA Region 6.
They offer behind-the-scenes insights in a case that has come to be seen as a major retreat by the agency amid aggressive industry push-back and support for natural gas drilling by President Obama.
The emails, redacted in significant places, do not give any answer as to why settlement discussions began in the first place. But they deliver a counterpoint, never publicly offered by the agency itself, to the theory that EPA caved in because it had a weak case.
For example, EPA officials grumbled privately in emails the day the case was withdrawn because state oil and gas officials at the Texas Railroad Commission claimed victory over EPA. Commissioner David Porter issued a news release on the withdrawal that accused Armendariz of having engaged in "fear-mongering," among other things.
"Hang in there Al. This [is] just a rant from someone with a myopic view," wrote Deputy Assistant Administrator Steven Chester, who had played a key role in the negotiations.
"Al, this is shameful," wrote EPA Senior Policy Counsel Bob Sussman. "I'm sorry you must endure this."
But things went from bad to worse for Armendariz. Less than a month later, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), an outspoken supporter of the oil and gas industry and a critic of Armendariz, released a two-year-old video of Armendariz comparing his enforcement strategy to Romans who would "crucify" random villagers in retaliation for resistance. Armendariz resigned within days. He now works for the Sierra Club in Texas.
First hints of settlement
Armendariz brought the high-profile case in December 2010 as the Dallas-based director for EPA's Region 6, which includes Texas and surrounding states.
His emergency order charged that Range's shale gas wells were leaking methane gas into two homes in the Silverado subdivision in Parker County, just west of Fort Worth. It also accused the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas but not trains, of failing to protect the homeowners in the neighborhood.
Range denied the accusations then and denies them now. On Monday, Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella stressed that EPA headquarters officials didn't just settle the case, they abandoned it.
"We're pleased that once EPA headquarters became engaged and they reviewed the facts and science they decided to not settle the case, but to fully withdraw their order," Pitzarella said. "This is consistent with state regulators who also determined Range to not cause or contribute to a long-standing, well-documented matter of naturally occurring methane."
The Railroad Commission exonerated Range after a January 2011 hearing that EPA and the homeowners declined to attend.
The first hints of settlement came about two months later, apparently arising out of a discussion between Rendell and EPA's Jackson. But there had been some confusion. A Justice Department lawyer assigned to the Range case had originally said the politician involved was Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).
But Scott McDonald, chief of the Water Enforcement Branch in EPA's Office of Regional Counsel, told Armendariz that Rendell had "proposed certain terms to the Administrator" and said he was acting as "a spokesman for Range."
Pitzarella wouldn't confirm any relationship with Rendell and said he was definitely never hired by the company.
"I don't know the extent of the governor's involvement in energy-related matters, but he never functioned as a spokesperson of Range," Pitzarella said.
The first indication of active work on a settlement in the Region 6 emails came in October 2011, with the case heading toward its one-year anniversary. Armendariz sent an email to Region 6 Enforcement Director John Blevins.
"Since Range has approached the agency with a thought for improved relationship, you should re-examine our order," Armendariz wrote. He asked Blevins to look at which provisions Range had complied with, which ones it hadn't and which ones EPA should stand firm on and not negotiate.
The discussions picked up rapidly as the Christmas holidays approached.
Cynthia Giles, the assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, was prodding the negotiations forward.
On Dec. 20, 2011, Andrew Stewart, chief of the litigation and audit policy branch in Washington, said Range had been calling Giles' office to ask about the status of settlement discussions. He said Giles wanted the agency "to explore settlement with the company over the next few weeks," and he had been asked to develop proposed settlement terms.
As officials in Dallas hashed out their response, Blevins pushed for soil-gas sampling near the well to see if gas was rising into homes from the soil. If high levels of methane were found inside homes, Range would have to pay to have the homes properly vented.
The focus on soil-gas testing also relates to another frequent criticism of Armendariz -- that he fretted publicly about the possibility of the landowners' houses exploding, even though they had stopped using the water wells in question. If methane was coming up from the soil into the homes, it could accumulate and cause an explosion.
Blevins also wanted Range to pay to extend a public water system to the homes in the subdivision. Homeowners would pay the monthly water bill but would not need to use a well.
Armendariz wanted Range to deliver water to the residents for another six months while more data was collected. In suggestions to regional staffers negotiating with Washington EPA officials, he said the threat of a penalty should remain on the table if testing showed that Range did contaminate the aquifer.
Armendariz also said Range's test results should be posted publicly on the Internet. They weren't. EnergyWire got them several months after filing a FOIA request (EnergyWire, Jan. 15).
On Dec. 27, 2011, Armendariz outlined a position to take to Washington officials. His "least preferable" option included settling without requiring Range to provide water. But EPA would reserve the right to go after Range again with penalties if testing showed the company had contaminated the aquifer.
To the public, the case was dormant. The Texas Railroad Commission had weighed in nearly a year before, but EPA was still pursuing the case in federal court. Elements of the case were also in federal appeals court.
But discussions continued
On March 15, 2012, Armendariz was traveling but took a call from Jackson's office to discuss the Range case.
On March 21, 2012, the Supreme Court took a broad swipe at EPA's enforcement authority in a Clean Water Act matter commonly known as the Sackett case. Some have attributed EPA's decision to bail out of the Range case to its loss in Sackett.
Days after that, and a week before the case was dropped, Armendariz urged the EPA attorneys in Washington to make Range dial back its aggressive tactics in related state court fights. It appears to be a reference to Range's decision to subpoena Sharon Wilson, an Earthworks activist and blogger who posted items about the case.
"I would suggest continuing to bring up this issue during upcoming conversations with Range, highlighting the need for them to make this happen," Armendariz wrote.
But seven weeks after EPA dropped the case, Range sued one of the landowners, Steve Lipsky, in connection with a video posted on YouTube of flames shooting from a hose connected to his well (EnergyWire, May 21, 2012).
EPA announced its decision to drop the case on a Friday, March 30, 2012. In statements, EPA and the Justice Department said they wanted to shift away from litigation to a "joint effort" involving more testing. Concurrently, Range agreed to do groundwater testing, although it was not made a condition of dismissing the case.
In the weeks before the case was withdrawn, EPA had also agreed to retest groundwater in Pavillion, Wyo., that it had deemed contaminated with hydraulic fracturing fluid and announced that its high-profile intervention in Dimock, Pa., had yielded benign results. The three-pronged retreat was a dramatic turn away from what had been an assertive posture in shale drilling cases.
But the case didn't end there. Almost a month later, Inhofe circulated the "crucify" video. At the same time, the senator sent a six-page letter to Jackson, demanding details about the case. Region 6 was assigned the task of answering. With an air of finality, Armendariz told his top staffers to get to work answering the questions.
"There is no higher priority right now than getting started on this letter,"
Armendariz wrote. "Thanks for all your work. Sorry for the mess."
Three days later, on April 29, he resigned.
“Yet, as the Associated Press reported last month, EPA commissioned a report by an independent scientist in 2011 that strongly suggests that one of Range’s natural gas wells was the source of the water contamination. And Tuesday, EnergyWire reported that, on Range Resources’ behalf, former Pennsylvania Governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Ed Rendell had pressured EPA to withdraw its action, which the agency did, despite pleas from regional staff.
“Based on strong scientific evidence, multiple EPA staff called for immediate action to protect homeowners from Range Resources drilling pollution,” said Earthworks’ Energy Director Bruce Baizel. “To discover that EPA retreated from protecting the health and safety of homeowners because of political lobbying calls into question all public oversight of oil and gas development. If the federal government can’t withstand political pressure from the oil and gas industry, how can we expect state and local officials to do the job?”
“EPA told me Range Resources polluted our well with their drilling,” said Steven Lipsky, one of the affected landowners. “I was shocked when they withdrew. That’s the kind of behavior I expect from the Texas Railroad Commission, not the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
“If industry is so powerful that it can dictate to the EPA, then who is left to protect the people?” asked Alyssa Burgin of the Texas Drought Project. She continued, “The protection of our water supply should be at the fore of the agency’s responsibilities, without outside influence, industry interference or regulatory capture
4. More on Steve Lipsky—Where the Texas Debacle Started
“Parker County homeowner Steve Lipsky, accused of conspiring against a powerful gas exploration company, is speaking out. A judge ruled last year that Lipsky misled the public by trying to fool the public into believing his well water could catch on fire. Now that homeowner wants the public to hear his story and witness his nightmare for themselves. It all started with a video clip posted on YouTube. Grainy images from a home video recorder showed Lipsky holding a garden hose, hooked up to his water well, proving a point.
The aquifer beneath his house was so polluted with methane, he could light emissions from the well on fire. The video went viral. EPA tests have shown that Lipsky's well is contaminated with not only dangerous levels of methane, but also other cancer-causing toxins such as benzene and toluene. Lipsky sued Range Resources, but a local judge tossed out the case, calling the video "deceptive."
5. Cabot Battle Continues
“A state Environmental Hearing Board judge has denied Cabot’s motion to throw out a recently reinstated appeal by two Dimock Twp. families who object to the state's remedy for their methane-tainted water supplies.
Judge Bernard A. Labuskes Jr. rejected Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.'s argument that the families had forfeited their right to appeal by accepting payments that the company had put into escrow accounts for them. The money had been set aside as part of a DEP order that required the company to restore or replace 18 damaged water supplies.
The families have argued that the remedy outlined in the order - payments tied to the value of their homes and a now-expired offer to install treatment systems - is not sufficient to permanently replace their water wells and would not remove contaminants other than methane. Cabot denies that its operations affected the water supplies.
The two families, the Elys and Huberts, are the last of 12 that initially appealed the state's order with Cabot. The others withdrew their hearing board appeals after they settled a separate lawsuit they brought against the company in federal court.
The Ely and Hubert appeals were briefly withdrawn by their former attorneys without their consent in an "unauthorized, inaccurate, ineffective, and void" action Judge Labuskes said was made by "attorneys who no longer had [the families'] interests at heart."
In his ruling on Friday, Judge Labuskes said "So long as a party is aggrieved by a Departmental action, it may pursue an appeal, even if its receipt of some benefits make it less aggrieved than it otherwise might have been," he wrote.
He also pointed out that Cabot had committed "very clearly" to the board in the past that it would not take the position that the families waived their rights or any claims against the company, including their right to continue with the appeal, if they accepted the escrow funds.
"Somewhat remarkably," he wrote, Cabot "has now taken that very position."
In a separate motion filed last week, Cabot offered to install effective treatment systems at the homes if the board agreed to stay or dismiss the appeal and the families agreed to certain conditions, including not having access to the systems without a Cabot representative present and signing a confidentiality agreement that bars them from photographing the system, discussing it with the press or disclosing water sampling results until after the testing phase of the installation is over.
The families' attorneys have until Tuesday to file their response to Cabot's motion.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Why Were Results of Health Review Not Revealed in New York?
“Three outside experts assisting New York with a health review of hydraulic fracking say their work was completed more than a month ago, but the state Health Department didn’t reveal that during lengthy testimony before lawmakers last week.
UCLA professor Richard Jackson said his review was completed two months ago and has been in the hands of the state Department of Health since then,
Lynn Goldman, dean of George Washington University’s School of Public Health, submitted her last comments on the review about six weeks ago. The third reviewer, John Adgate of the Colorado School of Public Health, said all three consultants finished their work at the same time. Jackson, UCLA professor, went on to offer significant criticism of the hydrofracking process, urging the physicians’ group to focus its nationwide efforts on the issue.
“Many of the stories I hear, especially from Pennsylvania and Colorado, are appalling,” Jackson wrote of large-scale fracking. “The enormous waste of natural gas through flaring, for example in Texas and the Dakotas, puts a lie to the assertion that this is natural gas extraction -- in many places fracking is done for the ‘distillate’ and the natural gas is turned immediately into CO2 pollution and dumped into the atmosphere.”
7. PA Senator Greenleaf Backs Funding for Health Study
“Dr. Amy Pare says she has treated workers and residents who think gas drilling has made them sick. She supports funding for a statewide Marcellus Shale health impact study.
Suburban Philadelphia Republican State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf is working on a bill that would allocate $2 million from the state’s impact fee fund to study the public health impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling.
Greenleaf has circulated a memo about the bill, which would amend Act 13, the state’s new drilling law. Despite attempts by the state’s public health community, Act 13 passed without funds for a health registry. A similar bill sponsored by Sen. John Yudichak, a Democrat from Luzerne County, failed to gain any traction in the last legislative session.
Greenleaf says knowing any potential health impacts related to drilling is crucial.
“I don’t think we should be afraid of finding out if there’s a negative impact here,” Greenleaf told StateImpact. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to shut down drilling, not at all.”
Act 13 places an impact fee on every natural gas well in the Marcellus Shale formation. The levy will change from year to year, based on natural gas prices and the Consumer Price Index. In 2012, the state brought in more than $200 million.
Private health systems, including Geisinger Health Systems, Guthrie Health, and Susquehanna Health have already begun to research public health impacts of natural gas drilling. Greenleaf says funds from the impact fee could enhance their efforts.” By Susan Phillips
What You Can Do:
TAKE ACTION!! Money for Health Study- Contact your State Senator (Link to find addresses are listed at the top of the newsletter)
8. Condensate Is Lethal
Sgt. Larry Kish said the man was unloading condensate — a natural gas liquid — from the tank of his truck into a holding tank when something went wrong.
He was found near a spillover of condensate.
. The man was working for Enterprise Products, which contracted with Burlington Resources, a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips.
“Hazmat crews from Conoco Phillips were working on cleaning and containing the hazardous fumes Thursday evening. “
9. EPA Back off Hexavalent Chromium Regs At Request of Chemical Industry
EPA Advisory Panels Stacked With Industry Reps
“The compound, hexavalent chromium, gained infamy in the Oscar-winning film Erin Brockovich, about the legal duel with Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
More than 70 million Americans drink traces of chromium every day, according to the Environmental Working Group.
And now, more than a decade after the film, EPA scientists cite “clear evidence” that the chemical compound, chromium (VI), can cause cancer. The federal agency was poised to announce its findings in 2011, a step almost certain to trigger stricter drinking-water standards to prevent new cancers and deaths.
The chemical industry’s trade association and chief lobbyist, the American Chemistry Council, urged the EPA to wait for more research, a common practice to delay action on toxic chemicals. However, Vincent Cogliano, the soft-spoken head of EPA’s chemical-assessment program, rebuffed the powerful group, writing in an April 2011 letter that “strong” new research was already available.
Ten months later, the EPA reversed itself, quietly posting a notice on the Internet that it was pushing back the release of its findings for at least four more years. Environmentalists were stunned at the reason: The agency would wait for the results of new studies costing $4 million and paid for by the American Chemistry Council. The EPA decided to wait at the urging of a panel of scientists chosen to give an unbiased review of the chromium findings. But the EPA doesn’t vet these scientists directly, instead handing the task over to outside contractors. An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that several of the panelists had worked on behalf of PG&E to defend the company in the Brockovich lawsuits.
The story of chromium (VI), full of twists and turns, offers a case study in how the Obama administration has failed to shield science at the EPA from industry influence.
Ever since the brassy Brockovich knocked on doors in Hinkley to organize a class-action lawsuit, scientists paid by industry have tried to convince the courts and regulators that chromium (VI) poses no health risk. Some of those scientists ended up on the panel chosen to review the EPA’s chromium findings, the Center for Public Integrity found. One of those scientists was retained by PG&E in the company’s ongoing chromium cleanup in Hinkley at the same time he was serving on the EPA panel.
Another scientist who urged the EPA to wait for the American Chemistry Council studies served as a consultant on those studies.
The issue of scientists with industry ties serving on special EPA peer review panels goes beyond chromium. One out of every six scientists appointed to such panels since Obama took office had been a primary author of research articles funded by the American Chemistry Council over the past dozen years.
Law professor Rena Steinzor, an expert at corporate interference in government science, said industry hogties scientists at the EPA with a flood of last-minute research as a way of escaping new regulation. When told that industry-funded scientists were reviewing the EPA’s findings on hexavalent chromium, she said, “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that this is corrupt and unacceptable.”
Three of the five panelists who urged delay had worked on industry's behalf in the Hinkley court cases.”
10. PA Legal Bills Exceed $550,000 in Shale Drilling Court Case
“With a state Supreme Court ruling still pending regarding the legality of the Marcellus Shale gas drilling law passed last year, billing documents show that the case already has cost the commonwealth more than $550,000.
Those costs stem from hiring an outside legal firm, Philadelphia-based Conrad O'Brien, to represent the state DEP and the PUC in the lawsuit brought by a group of Western Pennsylvania towns.
The two agencies have split the cost of those attorney fees, which already have surpassed the $150,000 that the PUC had allocated for legal services out of its $1 million share of last year's shale impact fees.
The state's costs dwarf those reported by the municipalities involved, which have not been charged by the attorneys representing them in the appellate courtrooms.
Local officials from seven municipalities, along with a Monroeville doctor and members of the Delaware Riverkeepers Network, sued the state in March over the shale drilling law, which they argued hinders their abilities to protect residents through the law's restrictions on how they craft local zoning rules.”
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/marcellusshale/pa-legal-bills-exceed-550000-in-dispute-over-shale-drilling-law-674267/#ixzz2Kkbl5O9Z
11. Northern PA Counties Top State List of Marcellus Air Pollution
Gas Operations are Now Big Sources of Pollution in Rural Areas
“Bradford and Susquehanna counties led the state in the volume of air pollution released by companies producing and processing gas from the Marcellus Shale in 2011, according to data published this week by the DEP. The Northern Tier counties ranked first and second in nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides and total shale-related air pollution tallied in the first-ever statewide inventory of the industry's emissions. They ranked second and third after Washington County for emissions of volatile organic compounds. Allen L. Robinson, Ph.D., a professor in Carnegie Mellon University's mechanical engineering department said drilling-related pollution is significant in aggregate and in rural pockets without established air pollution sources. "For rural counties that don't have a few big coal-fired power plants, this is going to be the big source" of some pollutants, he said.
The data also show that Marcellus Shale operations are now significant emitters in rural counties with few other so-called point sources of air pollution. The 2,600 tons of shale-related nitrogen oxides emitted in Bradford County in 2011 dwarfed the 235 tons of NOx pollution emitted from all other facilities in the county that year, according to DEP data. And without the 2,440 tons of shale-related NOx emissions in Susquehanna County, DEP's facility emissions report for the county includes just one source: a compressor station on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline that emitted 17 tons of NOx in 2011. The combined shale-related nitrogen oxide emissions in Bradford and Susquehanna counties - 5,000 tons - are nearly a third of the statewide shale-related NOx of 16,500 tons. Both together and separately, they surpass the single-largest industrial source of NOx pollution in the 11-county northeast region, GenOn Energy's Portland Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant in Northampton County that emitted 2,000 tons of NOx in 2011, according to DEP facility reports.”
12. Open Letter From Reporter Amanda Gillooly
Why Did an Energy- In- Depth Staffer Post a Blog for a Cecil Resident? (Energy in depth is funded by the industry, jan)
Letter Written by Journalist Amanda Gillooly
Dear Energy In Depth,
I'll just put my cards out on the table here: I don't know what kind of unit you're running over there.
First off, and by way of background for those unfamiliar with your operations: I understand that my website and yours are different. Mine is journalism-based. And as a reporter who has worked for a laundry list of newspapers over the years, I can tell you that accuracy, objectivity and fairness are cornerstones of every one of those organizations.
Second: While yours might be a site that is funded by the Marcellus Shale industry, your "about us" section indicates that you folks have some high standards.
Let me quote, if I may:
"Launched in April 2011, the Northeast Marcellus Initiative is a natural gas industry funded organization that serves as the eyes and ears (as well as arms, legs and heart) of the EID coalition in the region—and the catalyst for a campaign that seeks to engage, educate and mobilize supporters of responsible resource development throughout northeastern Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York."
I got caught up on the word "educate," guys.
And here's why: I received a blog entry titled, "Washington County Resident Speaks up in Support of Natural Gas."
Because I, too, want to educate my readers on issues of importance (and we all know that Marcellus Shale drilling in this area has been polarizing), I ran the blog on the subject—especially since the name of the woman reportedly writing the story, Janice Gibbs, is a known name in Cecil Township.
I thought people would be able to hear first-hand why a woman in our area would support the natural gas industry.
But upon looking further, the user name associated with the blog was not Ms. Gibbs—it was from Joseph Massaro, who is a field director for Energy In Depth's Northeast Marcellus Initiative.
And the person who posted the blog was apparently not even a Washington County, or Pennsylvania resident.
Mr. Massaro actually is from New York, according to his bio located here.
I would think that an organization that seeks to educate the public would do so in a more transparent manner.
And I wanted you to know personally that was the reason why the blog was removed—because I don't want to pass off what could be the writing of an industry-paid field director as something that was composed by a local concerned resident.
I'd like to add that various comments on my stories from Tom Shepstone, your campaign director, had been removed because the gentleman would post links to his own stories in the comments section—despite the fact that they were often off subject.
Mr. Shepstone: In MY industry, that would be the same as me posting a link to my stories under those written by the Observer-Reporter or Almanac on their sites. It just doesn't happen.
That all said, I would like to ask why a staffer for your organization is posting as or for a Washington County resident, yet using his Energy In Depth email.
You may comment directly on this story so we are all on the same page—because I don't understand why, if Ms. Gibbs wrote the story, she was not the one to post it.
Also: I have included screen shots to show what happened. Take a look at the attached files.
Amanda Gillooly, editor of the Canon-McMillan Patch
PS - This question goes out to Mr. Massaro personally: You commented on a story that appeared on my website last week that Energy In Depth just put two people "on the ground" in our area. What exactly are their responsibilities?”
13. Investors Push Back on Environmental Effects of Fracking
“An investor network representing $11 trillion of assets under management announced today that is has filed shareholder resolutions with nine leading oil and gas companies seeking greater transparency on how they manage the environmental risks of their fracking operations. Among the filers are New York City and New York state. The move signals a growing movement among investors to use their equity stakes to influence extractive companies' environmental impact. This mirrors similar tightening in legislation, and some companies will be better equipped to respond to this shifting landscape than others.
Sunshine is the best disinfectant
The problem is, we really don't know much about how companies are managing fracking's environmental risks. They're not really talking.
Investors in Ceres' Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) are trying hard to change this situation. They're pushing oil and gas companies to report on environmental risks and limit methane emissions from fracking operations. The investors' concerns relate to companies' water management, toxic chemical disclosure, greenhouse gas emissions, and other community impacts. The INCR wants the nine targeted companies to disclose critical information about how they manage and measure these risks.
The shareholders have filed resolutions with Cabot Oil & Gas, Chevron, ExxonMobil, EOG Resources, ONEOK, Pioneer Natural Resources, Spectra Energy (NYSE: SE ) , Range Resources, and Ultra Petroleum (NYSE: UPL ) , challenging these companies to quantifiably measure and reduce environmental and societal impacts.
"Now is the time for companies to measure up – literally," said Leslie Samuelrich, senior vice president of Green Century Capital Management, which filed with EOG Resources and Ultra Petroleum and coordinates a shareholder campaign on fracking with The Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN). "Transparency is the first step, but oil and gas companies must now implement quantifiable plans to reduce the impact of their operations on the environment.
Apache uses a multiwall drilling method that allows it to minimize surface environmental impact at its sites, and often replaces non-biodegradable biocides with less harmful chemicals. Southwestern has a strong approach to ensuring well integrity, and has substantially reduced methane emissions since 2006. Talisman has a water management strategy that defines best practices for water withdrawal, reuse, disposal, and conservation, and has a better-defined stakeholder consultation strategy for new drilling sites than many of its peers.
The majority of the shareholder resolutions "focus on quantitative risk reporting, urging companies to issue reports including specific data such as the number or percentage of 'green completions' and other low-cost emission reduction measures; quantifying the sources and amount of water used for shale energy operations by region; systems to track and manage naturally occurring radioactive materials; the extent to which closed-loop systems for management of drilling residuals are used; and the numbers of community complaints or grievances and portion open or closed."
"Given the high short-term climate impact of methane emissions, it is now an open question whether natural gas can serve as a bridge fuel to a more sustainable energy future," said Natasha Lamb, vice president of shareholder advocacy and corporate engagement at Trillium Asset Management, which filed the methane resolutions. "Companies can and should reduce their emissions using new technologies with positive return on investment."
With every passing year, shareholder resolutions related to climate change are winning increasing support. Couple that trend with public opposition to fracking and increasing regulatory involvement in companies' environmental risk management, and you have major pressure building on the oil and gas sector. I've included some of the best and worst performers in this article. Investors can also use the factors outlined in the "Extracting the Facts" report as a guideline. My bet is that companies that get ahead of these issues will benefit in the long run.”
14. The Surprising Connection Between Food and Fracking
“In a recent Nation piece, the wonderful Elizabeth Royte teased out the direct links between fracking, and the food supply. In short, extracting natural gas from rock formations by bombarding them with chemical-spiked fluid leaves behind fouled water—and that fouled water can make it into the crops and animals we eat.
The original Nation article: Fracking our Food Supply
15. PA Jobs Numbers Poor Despite Drilling-
John Hangar Changes His Tune
By Deborah Rogers
“A run for public office is just the sort of theatrical venue that is not only entertaining but also enlightening because all sorts of facts and figures begin to emerge which blatantly contradict prior statements and positions of the candidates. Self-interest can be a wonderful segue to the truth.
Much has been claimed by the oil and gas industry with regard to job creation from shale development. It has been stated repeatedly that as many as 600,000 jobs will be generated by shale production. But these numbers are based on economic models which, when assessed, were found to include jobs such as strippers and prostitutes in the mix. Arguably this is job creation, just not the sort that most Americans would prefer to acknowledge. Or indeed create.
In September 2008, Mr. Hanger stated during House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Testimony:
“Developing [Marcellus] resources not only will build on our continuing efforts to develop more homegrown energy resources that are cleaner and better for the environment, but also could lead to billions of dollars in new economic investment for Pennsylvania’s communities, as well as tens of thousands of new jobs.”
Four years later, in July 2012, Mr. Hanger was still publicly proclaiming the job creation benefits of shale. He stated in a blog post which was subsequently promoted by industry:
“Low natural gas prices and the gas boom are creating desperately needed jobs directly and indirectly.”
In December 2012, Mr. Hanger gave another glowing endorsement of yet another shale gas report commissioned and paid for by the oil and gas industry. Mr. Hanger stated:
“IHS Global Insight finds that shale gas development has created 103,000 jobs in Pennsylvania…The Commonwealth ranks second in shale gas jobs, behind Texas, according to the IHS new report that was funded in part by the oil and gas industry.”
And then Mr. Hanger, the candidate, emerged. Suddenly, it was admitted:
“Pennsylvania needs more than 6 million jobs to be at full employment, and so, if the IHS report is near the mark, the gas industry is providing less than 2% of the jobs Pennsylvania needs.”
And a few more lines down, Mr. Hanger admits:
“Since January 2011, Pennsylvania has the worse job performance of any state with a major oil and gas boom.”
Humorously, by January, 2013, Mr. Hanger the candidate had found his scapegoat:
“[Governor Corbett's] failure is also rooted in a mistaken belief that gas drilling and gas production alone can bring Pennsylvania a broad prosperity. .. Pennsylvania requires approximately 6.5 million jobs to be at full employment. Counting direct and indirect jobs created by gas drilling, gas drilling provides less than 2% of the jobs needed.”
Imagine that! You gotta love politics!
Hyperbole about jobs creation has become all too familiar in the shale gas debate. It provides, of course, much (appreciated) political cover for elected officials. It sounds good to constituents too…until they find out about the strippers et al. But more careful consideration should be paid to such statements for the following reason. Taking Mr. Hanger’s position as an example, a position which has spanned a number of years, one can now see the obvious admissions and faulty reckoning upon which policy has been based:
Admission 1: When it was convenient, Mr. Hanger relied on job reports commissioned and paid for by the oil and gas industry which possessed an inherent bias. Industry stood to gain monetarily, therefore numbers were almost certainly inflated.
Admission 2: Mr. Hanger chose to rely upon a priori arguments from industry based on spurious economic models. What is truly interesting about this, however, is that in these models all direct and indirect jobs claimed, in spite of probable exaggeration, only account for less than 2% of the needed jobs for the State of Pennsylvania. Ergo, gas drilling was never going to make much of a difference in Pennsylvania’s employment rate.
Admission 3: Unemployment is growing in Pennsylvania in spite of its self-proclaimed “booming” Marcellus shale production. Ah, now we get to the a posteriori argument based on fact rather than theory.
Admission 4: “Pennsylvania has the worse job performance of any state with a major oil and gas boom”.
If only for this reason, politics is useful. Self-interest finally reveals the real jobs numbers after all these years. Too bad that so much poor policy has been put into place in the meantime. I wonder if we can count on Mr. Hanger to reverse such policy if he gets in office.
founder Energy Policy Forum
"I have never seen an investment more hyped than shale gas," says Deborah Rogers, who brings both financial & business experience to her shale gas industry analysis.
She has worked as a consultant for major Wall Street firms including Merrill Lynch & Smith Barney.
Ms. Rogers was appointed as a primary member to the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (USEITI) for the Department of Interior in 2013.
Letter to the Editor by Bob Schmetzer
Fracking for natural gas is sold to the public as the cornerstone of our ongoing efforts for green energy. However, that industry is responsible for poisoning the environment and the people who are depending on that environment for their health, safety, and welfare.
Fracking is not only not green, but also unethical. The potential for water, air and land pollution is a phenomenon that is being widely documented. In 2012, Pennsylvania state government passed Act 13. Basically, it defies intelligence and the law. Example: Toxic industrial zones are not open to build housing, restaurants, or farming due to the toxic nature of that land. Yet, Act 13 allows a toxic industrial industry to move into these protected zones.
No studies have been taken to monitor public safety until damage is done. Then when the courts settle the damages, the results are hidden from public review. Industry pays off victims and moves on. The change needed is to be proactive and aware.
This is what drilling brings to SW PA communities-
Mark West Cyrogenic Plant, Houston PA (from Bob)
-Mark West Plant in Houston Plant
Excerpt from Pa. DEP Plan Approval dated October 4, 2012:
This is a major Title V facility for CO and greenhouse gas emissions and as such, actual emissions may equal or exceed the following in any consecutive 12-month period:
100.0 tons of CO (CARBON MONOXIDE)
100,000 tons of CO2e (CARBON DIOXIDE EQUIVALENT)
100.0 tons of CO2 (CARBON DIOXIDE)
100.0 tons of CH4 (METHANE)
This is a natural minor facility with respect to all remaining pollutants and as such, actual emissions cannot equal or exceed the following in any consecutive 12-month period:
100.0 tons of NOx (NITROGEN OXIDES)
100.0 tons of SOx (SULFUR OXIDES)
100.0 tons of PM-10 (PARTICULATE MATTER < 10 MICRONS)
50.0 tons of VOC (VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS)
10.0 tons of a SINGLE HAP (HAZARDOUS AIR POLLUTANT)
25.0 tons of ALL HAP COMBINED