Friday, February 8, 2013

Jan's Updates Feb. 7, 2013

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates February 7, 2013
To receive our news updates, please email jan at
* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
* To view permanent documents, past updates, reports, general information and meeting information
* To contact your state legislator:
For email address, click on the envelope under the photo
* For information on the state gas legislation and local control:
To read former Updates please visit our blogspot listed above.
Calendar of Events
*** 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
*** 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, Moderator
Where: Fred Rogers Center, Saint Vincent College, Latrobe PA
When: Tuesday, March 19, 7:00-9:00 pm
Free admission
***NY Youth Sing about Fracking
***The Latest Marcellus Reality Tour—Wyalusing, PA
Max Chilsons water turned black the same day a gas well was fracked on a neighboring property. He had never had a problem with his water. Chief denies responsibility.
***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:
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.
***List of the Harmed in PA Grows to 805
***The Recorded Ingraffea Englender Debate is now available
*** New and Better Frac Mapper
A new mapping utility for website visitors who want an easy-to-use point and click tool.
*** 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 issued, well spud, and violations in your area.
***GASP Releases Citizen Handbook for Commenting on Marcellus Air Permits
*** Health Report, By David Brown, SW PA Envir. Health Project; Ron Bishop, SUNY; and others
Take Action!!
***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!
Researchers from Penn State along with several other agencies are conducting an online survey of Pennsylvania residents about the state's water resources. The object is to collect opinions from a large number of Pennsylvania residents on the current status of our water and how to prioritize funding and other resources to best protect and manage our water resources. This informal survey is intended as a public engagement project and does not necessarily represent a statistical sampling of opinions.
The five-minute survey can be completed online at:
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:
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.
Frack News
1. First PA Air Pollution Report from Marcellus Industry Not Good
The shale gas industry put tens of thousands of tons of pollution into the air in 2011, in PA, even as most emissions plummeted according to a first-ever inventory by state environmental regulators.
A new report shows drillers and other companies involved in the extraction, processing and transportation of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale accounted for nearly 9 percent of the nitrogen oxides and nearly 14 percent of the volatile organic compounds emitted from all “point” sources of pollution statewide.
The emissions inventory provides the first real snapshot of air pollution caused by drilling rigs, fracking operations, compressor stations and other elements of natural gas production in Pennsylvania’s vast Marcellus Shale formation.
2. Range the Good Neighbor –Haney, Voyles, Kiskadden Court Case
The three families, who live below the drilling site, claim they suffer a multitude of health problems, including nosebleeds, headaches and dizziness, skin rashes, stomach aches, ear infections, nausea, numbness in extremities, loss of sense of smell and bone pain.
Range has argued the plaintiffs have offered no proof their illnesses are linked to the drilling activity.
The plaintiffs claim Range did not provide them full water sampling results, which would have shown an array of contaminants related to their illnesses.
According to Kendra Smith, Range purposely omitted certain findings from the water testing results that showed contamination. She said the drilling company misrepresented the results even though it knew that the property owners were frantically trying to find the cause of their illnesses.
“It was the plaintiffs’ own water; they had the opportunity to have their water sampled,” said Range attorney Bruce Rende, referring to a case wherein a woman sued her husband over a ring he had given her. The case was thrown out by the court after it was determined the woman could have personally had the ring tested to confirm its authenticity, rather than accept her husband’s word.
Rende also contended that certain plaintiffs should not be listed on the lawsuit because there were no direct dealings between them and Range. For example, Rende pointed out Range had direct contact only with Stacey Haney, and not her two minor children, and therefore the children should not be named as plaintiffs. The same was true for John and Ashley Voyles and Grace Kiskadden, he said.
Kendra Smith responded by pointing out that all of those people drank water from the well that Range repeatedly denied contained contaminants.
Rende also argued the property owners were not provided the test results directly from Range but by the DEP, and that Range should, therefore, not be accused of providing fraudulent or misrepresentative information.
However, the plaintiffs contend Range presented DEP only with the results that it wanted to be released and did not provide full findings from Test America.
The plaintiffs argue further that Test America had the duty to report the correct results once it learned that Range allegedly had not reported them all under the Environmental Accreditation Act.
“Test America told the Voyles their water was fine,” argued Kendra Smith. “They allowed Range to report inaccurate results to people who have no idea of what to look for.”
The plaintiffs also claim Range conspired with all of the named contractors to keep the alleged contamination secret, covering up design flaws by engineers and water leakage at the site.
O’Dell Seneca is expected to rule on the preliminary objections within 20 days and to decide if all parties should remain included in the lawsuit.
It was this case that prompted state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, to call upon state and federal enforcement agencies to investigate “alleged misconduct and fraud” following a sworn deposition given in the matter by a DEP Bureau of Laboratories director.
Last week, White introduced legislation that would require DEP to disclose full and complete testing results, including raw data and documentation, of any environmental tests conducted on a landowner’s or leaseholder’s property in Pennsylvania.
Range Resources denied Tuesday it intentionally provided inaccurate water testing results to three Amwell Township families who attribute their health problems to drilling activity near their homes.
3. Compressor Station In Lycoming Emitting 3 X Allowable Pollution
So- Called “Minor” Sources ARE Polluting Our Air-DEP Fails Again
The Barto Compressor Station in Penn Township, Lycoming County is creating pollution concentrations nearly three times the amount allowed under the federal health-based air quality standards. Recent modeling results show that the compressor station, which pressurizes natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale to achieve the desired flow along pipelines, is on its own causing nitrogen dioxide pollution 278 percent over the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). The modeling shows that exceedances can be measured a mile away from the station. Emission of oxides of nitrogen must be reduced by up to 76 percent in order to stay below unhealthful levels.
The Barto Compressor Station, owned and operated by Chief Gathering, LLC, consists of nine compressor engines. Oxides of nitrogen are formed by fuel combustion within the engines. The (EPA) set a new 1-hour nitrogen dioxide NAAQS in January 2010. The standard was established at a level determined to protect the public from adverse health effects associated with short-term exposure to elevated levels of oxides of nitrogen. Health impacts include increased asthma symptoms, difficult controlling asthma, and increases in respiratory illnesses. Furthermore, nitrogen dioxide contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone which can trigger a variety of health problems.

Clean Air Council has repeatedly requested that the PA DEP require modeling for larger compressor stations to ensure that they do not cause pollution that will exceed the federal health-based standard in nearby areas. PA DEP, however, responds that because these sources are classified as “minor sources” of emissions they are not required to perform modeling and that by virtue of being a minor source the facility will not impact the NAAQS. However, while modeling is not required for a minor source, Pennsylvania law gives PA DEP ample authority to request modeling. This recent modeling study makes clear that these “minor sources” are having a major impact on local air quality and PA DEP must address this serious pollution.
PA DEP frequently points to its long-term air monitoring study as sufficient to ensure that Marcellus Shale operations are not having an adverse effect on air quality. However, the only location where PA DEP is monitoring for oxides of nitrogen is at the Houston Processing Plant in Washington County. The decision to monitor at this location is problematic because the Houston Processing Plant is one of the very few natural gas facilities in the state that utilizes electric compressor engines, instead of using engines that are powered by natural gas. Electric compressor engines do not emit oxides of nitrogen because combustion is not occurring.
“I am horrified after reading the results of the…Modeling Report on the Barto Compressor Station, which is located about 1200 feet from our home,” said Alison Rupert, “DEP has the authority – and I hope it will – to prevent my family and my neighbors in Penn Township from becoming a ‘sacrifice zone.’”
“I find [the results of this report] unacceptable and undesirable. The technology to reduce these kinds of emissions exists. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel – it’s already there. These companies have demonstrated that they are not going to employ it because of cost,” said Drake Saxton, resident who lives five miles from the Barto Compressor Station.
“This is just another knock against the environment from an industry that was sold as practically just water and dirt on the ground. From chemicals spilling out of trucks to noxious emissions from compressor stations, it’s proving to be quite an environmental problem. If [Marcellus Shale gas extraction and processing] is done the way it’s supposed to be done, within the limits of environmental laws, I would be OK with it, but here’s another case where it sounds like that’s not going on,” said Jim Finkler, Lycoming County resident.
“The Council is hopeful that this report will persuade PA DEP to protect public health and take serious measures to reduce the harmful oxides of nitrogen pollution from natural gas operations across Pennsylvania,” said Clean Air Council Executive Director, Joseph Otis Minott, Esq
For more information, please visit
Contact: Jay Duffy
215-567-4004 ext. 109
4. Upper Burrell Zoning Board Sets Bad Precedent
Allows Shallow Fracking as a Grandfathered Use Based on A Conventional Drilling Permit
`The Upper Burrell Zoning Hearing Board on Thursday granted Penneco permission to drill two oil wells off Hartge Road, a decision that upset several residents.
Township Zoning Officer Scott Chermak initially denied Delmont-based Penneco's request because the township's most recent ordinance does not permit drilling on R-1 residential properties.
However, Penneco appealed Chermak's decision. It argued in November that the new permits were connected to previous drilling activity on the property dating back to 1991, meaning the new wells should be grandfathered under previous rules.
Also, Penneco argued the township's prohibition on residential drilling was overruled by Act 13, the year-old state law that addresses unconventional drilling.
( Did no one tell Penneco that the zoning portion of Act 13 was overturned? jan)
ImageThe three-member zoning hearing board, on the advice of Solicitor Harlan Stone, disagreed with Penneco's Act 13 argument, but agreed that drilling was a pre-existing, non-conforming use of the Hartge property.
But residents noted the board's decision was a moot point because Penneco had already drilled the wells. It was not immediately known why the company began drilling before its appeal was granted.
No one from Penneco was present for Thursday's decision, and no one from the company could be reached for comment late Thursday.
Residents also feared the board's decision set a precedent that would undermine the township's ordinance that intended to limit drilling in residential areas.
Pointing out that the township has many existing conventional gas wells, residents questioned why they bothered with the new ordinance if all those properties would be grandfathered under old laws.
Angelcrest Drive resident Ron Slabe said the new oil wells were drilled using more invasive Marcellus shale natural gas-drilling technology, which uses horizontal well shafts and hydraulic fracturing.
Slabe said Penneco's recent operations should not count as a continuance of a previous project due to those differences.
Baxter Drive resident Leon Yurkin also questioned where township officials draw the line at what is part of a pre-existing project and what is new. He noted that if he tried to build onto an existing house, he couldn't say it was part of the original house construction.
Hillview Drive residents, including Victor Barone, Elsie Deem, Rose Dombroski, Frank Wiles and Linda Kephart, said their homes neighbor the Penneco wells.
They complained of around-the-clock noise, light pollution and vibrations from the operations, as well as lack of notification about what was going on.
Barone acknowledged they've likely lost the fight against the current wells. But he wants to know what they can do in the future.”
5. What Is Shallow Well Fracking?
Less Danger from Deep Earth Contaminants-More Danger to Aquifers and Buffers Won’t Apply
Traditional vertical drilling for gas and oil could lessen in favor of state-of-the-art fracturing perhaps as shallow as 1,000 feet underground and not far from drinking water aquifers.
At least one Western Pennsylvania company is fracking rock about 3,000 feet down in Westmoreland County,If the technique catches on — industry experts suggest shallow fracking is inevitable — it could be a boon to smaller drillers. It could reshape state law and increase concern about the safety of drinking water, experts say.
“What we're doing is unique. It is amazing. ,” said Ben Wallace, chief operating officer at Penneco Oil Co. in Delmont. “Traditional well drilling doesn't work under (today's) price structure. It's done.”
Traditional drilling essentially halted in the state because of falling natural gas prices and increased competition. That pushed Penneco to experiment, drilling the state's first horizontal fracked oil well from January to March 2011 under Lower Burrell. It worked so well that the company is spending about half of its $50 million drilling budget this year for nine more wells, Wallace said. Many environmental experts consider the process to be relatively safe, though expanded horizontal drilling heightens risks when it's done closer to aquifers.
One risk involves working near or under abandoned wells at shallow depth. There are more than 180,000 abandoned wells, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, but it knows the locations of only about 8,000.
Working closer to the surface in Pennsylvania means there's less of a geological buffer to keep contaminants and methane from migrating, and it increases the chance of coming across an abandoned well, experts said.
At shallow depths, however, there are fewer harmful naturally occurring elements to come back up from drilling. Fracks shallower than 2,000 feet are less likely to push straight up toward the surface and groundwater, because of the nature of the geology, experts said.
Lawmakers exempted shallow drillers — even those using the same techniques as deep shale drillers — from the distance buffers it passed to protect homes and well water supplies from well sites. But standards for well construction and drill site operations apply to everyone.
“It seems like a bit of a loophole to me,” said Kelvin Gregory, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies microbes in the water that rises from deep drilling. That loophole “should be plugged. We're doing all this in a reactionary way.”
DEP wrote rules in the past two years that apply broadly. With thousands of new large-scale wells, regulators drafted requirements for extra layers of well casing through aquifers, more fluid disclosures and pressure testing, among other updates. Almost all of those rules apply to shallow wells, Sunday said.
Act 13 made a distinction between “conventional” and “unconventional” wells, applying an impact fee and tougher standards on anything defined as unconventional.
The law defines unconventional wells as any shale gas well deeper than the Elk sandstone or equivalent, which is about 3,000 to 6,000 feet underground, according to the DEP. Any oil well such as Penneco's, or any shallow fracked gas well would not pay the impact fee or have to meet tougher provisions regarding distances from water wells, buildings or waterways.
“The law was written, and nobody was really thinking that there'd be fracking in shallower wells,” Gregory said. “Once that comes up, you're going to see some interest in the legislative level.”
(Timothy Puko is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7991 or
6. Industry Working on What May Be Nontoxic Drill Fluids
The oil /gas industry is trying to ease environmental concerns by developing nontoxic fluids for fracking, but it's not clear whether the new product will be widely embraced by drilling companies.
Houston-based energy giant Halliburton Inc. has developed a product called CleanStim. Other companies have developed nontoxic fluids as well.
Environmental groups say they welcome the development but still have questions.
The chemicals in fracking fluids aren't the only environmental concern, said George Jugovic, president of PennFuture. He said there is also concern about the large volumes of naturally occurring but exceptionally salty wastewater and air pollution.
It's premature to say whether it will ever be feasible to have fluids for fracking that are totally nontoxic, said Scott Anderson, a senior adviser for the Environmental Defense Fund.
"But we are encouraged to some extent by recent industry efforts to at least reduce the toxicity," Anderson said.
Gardiner said Halliburton has developed a chemistry-scoring system for the fluids, with lower scores being better. CleanStim has a zero score, he said, and is "relatively more expensive" than many traditional fracking fluids.
7. Pittsburgh’s Drinking Water Is Radioactive, Thanks To Fracking The Question Is, How Much?
“The drinking water of tens of millions of Pennsylvanians is threatened by natural-gas fracking — including the 2.3 million who live in Pittsburgh.
Residents of Pittsburgh — as well as potentially tens of millions of other everyday citizens in the Northeast corridor who rely on their taps to deliver safe water — are consuming unknown and potentially dangerous amounts of radium in every glass of water. That’s the buried lead in the Sunday New York Times‘ massive exposé on fracking,
But don’t take the Times‘ word for it: The day the exposé appeared in print, John Hanger, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection until June 2010, confirmed on his own blog that the main thrust of the story was dead-on: No one has any idea if the radioactive material in the wastewater from fracking is appearing downstream, in drinking water supplies, in quantities in excess of EPA recommendations, and we’d better find out.”
8. News from the List of the Harmed –Jeannie Moten
Image(Note from Group Member--Keep in mind that the EPA has not tested Jeannie’s water for months, maybe over a year. Why did they wait so long to tell the family not to use their water?)
“I was just on the phone with Jeannie Moten from Rea, PA. I trust you all know her and the injuries and death's suffered by people in her family and her small town. Jeannie received a call from the EPA on Thursday of last week telling her to immediately discontinue the use of her well. (see number 44 and 77 from the List of the Harmed). Now, not only does Jeannie, her sister Carol, and her 91 year old mother have to deal with skin lesions, respiratory problems, neurological disorders, and sick and dying pets, they don't have any water or the funds to pay for a water buffalo or the water to fill it! Thankfully they do have some air filters. But with an oil furnace that draws air from the outside, the quality of air in their home is not great (and that is an understatement).”
(from a group member)
Image9. Fracking's Real-Life Victims
Tammy and Matt Manning were excited to own a house for the first time when they moved to Franklin Forks, Pennsylvania in November 2010. Their two daughters, three grandchildren and Tammy's father also moved in with them. Shortly after the Mannings moved into their home, WPX Energy began drilling for natural gas in their area. One day, their water came out of their faucet grey, not even a year after they became homeowners. Their water tested positive for high, unsafe levels of arsenic, barium, methane and other dangerous chemicals. Tammy and Matt are convinced this is a result of hydrofracking, a controversial process used to extract natural gas from deep in the ground.
The family could no longer drink or cook with the water and showering in it was a very high risk, although they had no other choice. Once a week Matt would drive across the New York State border to his mother's house to fill gallon jugs with her tap water, which the family depended on for safe water. High levels of methane filled the air in the house – so much so that they had to stop using their gas stove for risk of explosion and shower with the window open, even in the winter, so that they wouldn't pass out. They lived like this for months before WPX Energy began delivering water to them once a day. Although they still can't drink the water, it is safe to cook and shower with. WPX still doesn't admit to contaminating their water, but say they are just being good neighbors. Despite the family's situation, most of the community is in favor of fracking, due to the large amount of jobs and money the industry brings to the small community. The town holds public town meetings, where the Mannings are not welcome. They have been verbally harassed in public and tailgated to work by gas workers. The Mannings are currently fighting to end fracking nationwide and to get WPX Energy to take responsibility for the contamination of their water.
-Months after the introduction of fracking to Franklin Forks, Pennsylvania, the creek behind the Mannings' house began to bubble with methane.
10. GAO Releases Pipeline Safety Report
The GAO says data collected by the US Dept of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Admin. doesn’t require operator operators to fill out some time related fields.
In an accident in W Va where a 20 inch line ruptured and triggered a massive fire, destroyed 4 homes and charred a section of Interstate 77, it took Columbia Gas Transmission more than an hour to manually shut off the gas that fueled the fire.”
(GAO releases gas pipeline safety report, AP, Latrobe bulleting 1-24)
11. Marcellus Shale High in Radium 226
“When Shale Reporter earlier asked if the state measured fracking wastewater for radioactivity, the DEP replied: “There is no concerted effort that our Radiation Protection Program is aware of concerning measuring radium concentrations or activities in brine.”
This is one (major) reason why any community slated for production or processing of wastes should be concerned. The above quote is from a great series by reporter Rachel Morgan.” (From Melissa)

A constituent element of fracking wastewater is radium-226 and The Marcellus shale is full of it.
Mark Engle, a U.S. Geological Survey research geologist, said the main reason the Marcellus shale is so high in radium is because the shale contains enriched concentrations of uranium, which has a half-life of 4.5 billion years.
Engle co-authored a USGS report that found that millions of barrels of wastewater from unconventional (fracked) wells in Pennsylvania and vertical wells in New York were 3,609 times more radioactive than the federal limit for drinking water and 300 times more radioactive than a Nuclear Regulatory Commission limit for industrial discharges to water. He also said the Marcellus’ high levels of uranium and radioactivity has to do with the surrounding geology.
The EPA classifies radon, radium and uranium as “naturally occurring radionuclides found in the environment.” But the EPA also classifies both radium and radon as “potent carcinogens.” The agency says that radium, through oral exposure, can cause lung, bone, head and nasal passage tumors. And radon, if inhaled, causes lung cancer.
Resnikoff agrees.
“Radium is of concern because when ingested or inhaled, it concentrates in bone and can give rise to leukemia,” he said.
The World Nuclear Association states “Over time, as potential NORM (naturally occurring radioactive material) hazards have been identified, these industries have increasingly become subject to monitoring and regulation,” the association said. “However, there is as yet little consistency in NORM regulations among industries and countries. This means that material which is considered radioactive waste in one context may not be considered so in another. Also, that which may constitute low-level waste in the nuclear industry might go entirely unregulated in another industry.”
That’s why the nuclear industry is subject to much stricter regulations than the gas industry in terms of regulating potentially radioactive waste, said David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who heads the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists.“NRC’s regulations require that every drop of water and every molecule of air discharged from a plant be monitored for radiation,” Lochbaum said.
Ivan White, a career scientist for the National Council on Radiation Protection, said radiation exposure to humans should be limited.
“The goal is to limit the total radiation dose to large populations because of the increased probability of health effects,” he said. “In the current case, the uncontrolled release of hazardous waste could result in the exposure of millions of people over decades.”
White also authored a report issued by the New York-based Grassroots Environmental Education that says fracking can produce waste much higher in radiation than previously thought.
And environmentalists say that radiation is becoming a serious issue in the disposal or treatment of fracking waste.
“The issue with oil and gas development — and especially fracking, given the large amount of fluids injected — is that the deep drilling and fracking bring these NORMs back up to the surface as drill cuttings and wastewater,” said Adam Kron, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project.
“As fracking has rapidly expanded, we’re seeing much more of this radioactive waste, which is a problem, since traditional landfills and wastewater treatment plants aren’t accustomed to handling it,” he said. “In fact, wastewater treatment plants aren’t able to remove radioactivity, and we’re starting to hear accounts of landfills receiving — and sometimes turning away — radioactive cuttings and sand from across state lines.”
12. Clustered Gas Wells Do Not Preserve Forests and Farms- Dr. Ingraffea

The industry claims fracking reduces impacts on land use.

"First of all how does the industry reduce impact in places where high volume hydraulic fracturing has never been done before?" asks Ingraffea.
In other words how can a 10-year-old shale gas industry boast about minimizing disturbance in the wilds of northern British Columbia, the grasslands of Wyoming or farming communities in Pennsylvania?
The practice of drilling up to 16 wells on one industrial pad was first developed in northern British Columbia. It was not done to minimize the industry's environmental footprint, but to concentrate machines and material in one place in order to reduce costs and accelerate well approvals.
Moreover these industrial fracking pads, from which wells angle out in all directions over two km underground, represent but the early stages of exploration. It doesn't reflect the density of development needed to extract shale gas overtime. A 2012 Alberta study noted that "widespread commercial development... will require significant investment in surface infrastructure facilities and roads" and much greater land disturbance.
Given that only 6500 wells sites have been drilled out of a proposed 150,000 for Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale gas play, Ingraffea says "I don't see any reduction in impact.
By any honest measure the industry is a formidable land disturber. Both EnCana and Chesapeake Energy, two large shale gas players, have assembled separate land bases equal in size to the state of West Virginia for shale gas drilling alone. Both companies are now actively fragmenting these geographies with multi-well pads every two miles by one mile.
Given the intensity of such industrial sites both farming and First Nation communities in northern B.C. have complained bitterly about five-acre single well sites as well as 20-acre multi-well pads due to industrial traffic, property devaluation, air pollution, groundwater contamination and endless noise.
As a consequence the sheer scale of the industry and activity around multi-pad well sites inevitably turns rural communities into "an industrial site," says Ingraffea.
The scientist, who has visited shale gas factory sites across Pennsylvania, adds that the industry has flattened entire mountains and filled whole valleys to accommodate monstrous multi-acre drilling sites.
Land disturbance by the shale industry is highly significant too. A 2012 US study concluded that shale gas development will dramatically change the quality of both private agricultural land and public forests. According to Patrick Drohan, an agricultural researcher at Penn State, "shale-gas development could substantially alter Pennsylvania's landscape."
In addition "the development of new roads to support drilling could affect forest ecosystem integrity via increased fragmentation." The industrialization of northern forests could also place "headwater streams and larger downstream waterways at risk of pollution," according to Drohan.
So the use of multi-well pads and cluster drilling, whose cumulative impact remains unstudied and largely unregulated, does not really reduce impact at all. In fact their very deployment "facilitates and prolongs intense industrialization and leaves a larger and long-term footprint," says Ingraffea.
The health impacts on rural communities are also considerable. They include noise and light pollution; nitrogen oxide emissions; fracture fluid spills; venting; mini-earthquakes and accidental releases of toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide.
13. Gov. Corbett Says We Need to Be Constantly Drilling
Gov. Tom Corbett once more assured the oil and natural gas industry that he backs tax incentives for gas firms and consistent permitting procedures. During the Marcellus Midstream conference, Corbett said the development of the state's gas resources benefits engineers, farmers, manufacturers and organized labor. "We need to constantly be drilling -- not just for the minerals but for new ideas," he said. American City Business Journals/Pittsburgh (1/30)
14. DEP Looks the Other Way as the Susquehanna River Suffers

The (DEP) this week denied the joint request of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC), PennFuture, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, American Rivers, and the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited to list the Susquehanna River as impaired under the Clean Water Act. Despite lots of evidence, DEP did not include the Susquehanna on its release of the state's 2012 impaired water list.
Our world-class smallmouth bass population, on a 98-mile stretch of the lower Susquehanna, has collapsed. We don't know why, but all signs point to environmental causes. Listing the Susquehanna as impaired would stimulate further research, spur cleanup efforts, and galvanize the public.
And the people in charge ignore the need for answers
Despite requests by a coalition of organizations, including PennFuture, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) has never performed a comprehensive study on the impact of water withdrawals and other gas development activities in the basin. Without a basin-wide study, the commission is not gathering comprehensive, scientific information.
In 2011, American Rivers named the Susquehanna the nation's most endangered river because of the risks posed by unconventional gas development. Refusing to study the problem is likely to make it worse. The commission meets this month in Harrisburg.
15. Woodstock, NY Wants to Make Fracking A Class C Felony
Woodstock, the iconic counter-culture capital of the world, has become the first municipality to call for legislation to make fracking a Class C felony.
Woodstock’s action is just one small town’s response to a rapidly escalating global war over fracking. To both sides in this war—environmentalists and citizens who oppose fracking on the one side and the gas industry and its supporters on the other—the upcoming ruling to allow or ban fracking in New York is being viewed as (you should pardon the expression) a watershed event.
Decisions made in Albany and in towns like Woodstock will likely determine whether fracking goes full steam ahead everywhere, or whether its momentum can be slowed or even stopped. New York, after all, has a rich history of environmental activism and democratic movements, and anti-fracking activism has spread like wildfire over the last couple of years. New York is also home to abundant supplies of clean freshwater, an essential resource that is in crisis globally and that could be endangered by the practice.
On January 15, the Woodstock Town Board unanimously passed a resolution to petition New York State to introduce New York Public Law #1—which would impose stiff penalties for fracking and related activities. Before taking this step, the Woodstock Town Board took two others: banning fracking within its borders and outlawing the use of frack waste fluid, some of which is known as “brine” (because of its heavy salt content), on its roads. This material is used as a de-icing agent in the winter and for dust control on dirt roads in the summer. Despite the fact that brine from oil and gas wells (whether fracked or not) is laden with heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and radioactivity, since 2008 the Department of Environmental Conservation has granted approval for it to be spread on roads in the western part of the state.
New York Public Law #1 was conceived and drafted in May 2011 by the Sovereign People’s Action Network (SPAN) and FrackBusters NY—two citizen anti-fracking groups spearheaded by the late Richard Grossman, a legal historian, democracy activist, and founder of a movement to ban corporate personhood and strip corporations of their special legal privileges.
If Cuomo does approve fracking in New York, thousands have pledged to continue the resistance with acts of civil disobedience. Can ordinary citizens prevail, Occupy Style, when the money piles are high, and the stakes even higher? Stay tuned.
16. A Message To Bob
…So today she calls me. We briefly caught up with one another over the last 14 years. She said she was living in a rustic cabin they rented in a pretty rural area. I told her we were in WV now for early retirement and that things had not turned out as well as we hoped because of this new Marcellus shale drilling all around us.
She says “yeah. I hear a little bit about drilling on the news and we’ve had a lot of truck traffic using the roads just north of us.”
Then she goes on to tell me ......... “In fact, I was at a heritage craft show the other day at one of the booths buying maple syrup from a local farm. And the woman next to me was another customer. I started chatting with her and she asks me where I’m from. I tell her I moved up here from Baltimore. And she says to me....why on earth would you have come all the way up here from Baltimore.....most people around here are trying to get out of this area. Then she pulls up her sweater sleeve and shows me a bunch of scars from rashes and lesions on her arms and tells me she and her daughter had gotten really sick from exposure to whatever chemicals they were using when they drilled next door to them.”
I kid you not ... my friend of 14 years ago tells me this out of the blue not knowing at all a thing about what we “fracktivists” know, but just having heard that kind of story from another person who crossed paths with her. So I asked my friend what county she and her fiancé were living in up there in northeast PA. She said “Bradford County, PA.” I kid you not. Small world when it comes to fracking, I guess.
17. Game Commission OKs Gas Lease in Washington Co., Amends Lease in Greene
The state Game Commission approved an oil and gas agreement with Chesapeake Appalachia for 1,200 acres of land comprising State Game Land 232 in Donegal and Independence townships in Washington County. The commission also announced an amended lease agreement with Chevron for state game lands in Greene County.
In addition to receiving a 23.25 percent royalty on the value of oil, gas and condensate produced and sold from the Washington County site, the commission will receive a one-time bonus payment of $3,003,325 that will be deposited into the Game Fund or an interest-bearing escrow account for the future purchase of wildlife habitats and land or other uses incidental to hunting, fur taking and wildlife resource management. The commission said the other bidder on the project was Range Resources, which offered a 20 percent royalty bid.
18. "Congressmen Supporting LNG Exports Received $11.5 Million From Big Oil, Electric Utilities"
Note from Steve of De SmogBlog--- 110 politicians signed a letter on Jan. 25 in support of fracked gas exports - 108 of them from states in which fracking is taking place took $11.5 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil and the electric utilities industry before the 2012 election.
On Jan. 25, 110 members of the U.S. House of Representatives - 94 Republicans and 16 Democrats - signed a letter urging Energy Secretary Steven Chu to approve expanded exports of liquified natural gas (LNG).
19. Many Fracking Problems Not Insured by Homeowners Policies
Professional Insurance Agents of New York State Inc. published in September a consumer’s guide to the basics of fracking. The association observed that oil and gas companies often try to obtain underground mineral rights from homeowners and landowners. But if the drilling operation ends up causing bodily injury, or property or environmental damage, the landowner could become partly liable. The homeowner’s own property might also suffer physical damage. Further, the home’s value could fall because of the industrial activities. Local media have already been reporting on declining home values in some towns that are marked as potential drilling sites.
Could homeowner’s policies cover any such liabilities? In most cases, no, PIANY says. The association points out there would be no liability coverage for the homeowner under a typical homeowners policy. That’s because a homeowner’s policy typically excludes most business-related activities. The homeowner’s policy also would not cover home property damages caused by ground movement or erosion, or pollution. PIANY recommends that homeowners and landowners “weigh the risks against the rewards” and get oil companies to agree to take on full liability for potential damages before signing any contract.
20. EPA Shut Down Weatherford, TX Water Contamination Study—Range the Good Neighbor Rears Its Head Again
A report, by geologist Geoffrey Thyne, according to the AP, would have explicitly linked methane migration to "fracking" in Weatherford, a city with 25,000+ citizens located in the heart of the Barnett Shale geologic formation 30 minutes from Dallas.
This isn't the first time Thyne's scientific research has been shoved aside. Formerly on the faculty of Colorado School of Mines and University of Wyoming, Thyne wrote two landmark studies on groundwater contamination in Garfield County, CO, the first showing that it existed, the second confirming that the contamination was directly linked to fracking in the area.
It's the second study that got him in trouble.
"Thyne says he was told to cease his research by higher-ups. He didn’t," The Checks and Balances Project explained. "And when it came to renew his contract, Thyne was cut loose."
Weatherford--From Smoking Gun to Censorship: Range Resources Notorious for Intimidating Neighbors
The EPA’s Weatherford, TX study origins date back to a case of water contamination in 2010. The victim: Steve Lipsky.
"At first, the EPA believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order in late 2010 that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane," the AP wrote.
Lipsky had "reported his family's drinking water had begun 'bubbling' like champagne" and that his "well...contains so much methane that the...water [is] pouring out of a garden hose [that] can be ignited."
The driller in this case was a corporation notorious for intimidating local communities and governmental officials at all levels of governance: Range Resources. Range, in this case, set up shop for shale gas production in a "wooded area about a mile from Lipsky's home," according to the AP.
As DeSmogBlog revealed in November 2011, Range Resources utilizes psychological warfare techniques as part of its overarching public relations strategy.
Due to the grave health concerns associated with the presence of methane and benzene in drinking water, the EPA "ordered take steps to clean their water wells and provide affected homeowners with safe water," wrote the AP.
Range's response? It "threatened not to cooperate" with the EPA's study on fracking's link to water contamination. The non-cooperation lead to the EPA suing Range Resources.
Believing the case was headed for a lengthy legal battle, the EPA asked an independent scientist named Geoffrey Thyne to analyze water samples taken from 32 water wells. In the report obtained by the AP, Thyne concluded from chemical testing that the gas in the drinking water could have originated from Range Resources' nearby drilling operation.
Despite this smoking gun, everything was soon shut down, with the EPA reversing its emergency order, terminating the court battle and censoring Thyne's report. The AP explained that the EPA has "refused to answer questions about the decision."
"I just can't believe that an agency that knows the truth about something like that, or has evidence like this, wouldn't use it," Lipsky, who now pays $1,000 a month to have water hauled to his family's house, told the AP.
"Duke Study" Co-Author Confirms Veracity of Thyne's Study
Robert Jackson, a Professor of Global Environmental Change at Duke University and co-author of the "Duke Study" linking fracking to groundwater contamination did an independent peer review of Thyne's censored findings. He found that it is probable that the methane in Lipsky's well water likely ended up there thanks to the fracking process.
Range predictably dismissed Thyne and Jackson as "anti-industry."
Desmogblog (
Americans Against Fracking: An "Unconscionable" Decision
Americans Against Fracking summed up the situation best in a scathing press release:
It is unconscionable that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is tasked with safeguarding our nation’s vital natural resources, would fold under pressure to the oil and gas industry...It is again abundantly clear that the deep pocketed oil and gas industry will stop at nothing to protect its own interests, even when mounting scientific evidence shows that drilling and fracking pose a direct threat to vital drinking water supplies.
There's also a tragic human side to this tale.
"This has been total hell," Lipsky told the AP. "It's been taking a huge toll on my family and on our life."
Desmogblog (
21. DEP Cancels Meeting
A war of words has broken out between environmentalists and the DEP over the cancellation of a meeting on the state’s testing of water from water wells near natural-gas drilling sites. A meeting of 25 environmentally themed groups, the department’s oil and gas division and the state Department of Health’s Bureau of Laboratories had been set for Jan. 24 after the disclosure last November last year that department scientists had omitted data on some toxic metals found in water taken from a site in southwestern Pennsylvania.
A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, Kevin Sunday, said the agency put off the meeting because it objected to a statement issued by one of the environmental groups, Marcellus Shale Protest, that it planned a “takedown” of Michael Krancer, the department’s secretary, at a public meeting in Harrisburg, Pa. “That language and that reference is unacceptable in the forum of civil public discourse and dialogue,” Mr. Sunday wrote in an e-mail. “We are working with the remainder of the invitees to reschedule the meeting.” Mr. Sunday said that Mr. Krancer had been “very transparent” on the subject of water testing and oil and gas investigations in recent months.
Letter to the Editor by
Associate Professor Candy DeBerry
In the letter “Natural gas provides a better life,” which appeared in the Jan. 23 edition of the Observer-Reporter, Steve Duran implies that objections to shale gas extraction are superficial, selfish and baseless. According to Duran, people object because they don’t like noise, their truck is going to get dusty or they don’t like the bright lights or the big trucks on the road.
If Duran would do as he himself urged and look at the facts, he’d see that drilling and slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing for shale gas is not “pretty safe” and that every item on his list contributes to the damage.
High noise levels cause an increase in stress hormones, which leads to high blood pressure and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It also suppresses the immune system. Studies have shown effects on learning in school children. Noise impacts wildlife as well, interfering with animal-to-animal communication, predator and prey detection, and navigation and migration.
Dust associated with fracking may come from dried flowback fluids that in many places are sprayed as de-icing brine on roads. In addition to high levels of sodium and calcium, frack flowback fluids can also contain cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and dozens of other chemicals which can harm eyes, skin, liver, kidneys, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system, and the central nervous system. Particularly insidious are the endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which at extremely low levels can alter development, reproduction, metabolism, and behavior in humans and wildlife.
Other frack-related dust comes from the enormous amounts of silica sand that is used to hold open cracks in the fracked shale. Inhalation of silica dust can lead to inflammation and scarring of the lungs, which makes the sufferer more susceptible to lung infections by bacteria and fungi. This silicosis is irreversible and has no cure.
Light pollution disrupts the circadian day/night rhythms of humans and other mammals as well as birds, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. In humans, excessive light at night can contribute to sleep disorders, depression, and increased risk for breast cancer. Light pollution alters plant development as well, affecting a variety of events including root growth, shoot growth, and bud break and flowering. Light pollution even contributes to air pollution by preventing the buildup of chemicals that help to neutralize nitrogen oxides that contribute to smog.
Big diesel trucks can make as many as 1,000 trips per well during the drilling and fracking process. The exhaust from these trucks is a major health hazard. Particulate matter irritates eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, and contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Nitrogen oxides promote ground-level ozone, linked to headache, asthma and other lung diseases. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons contribute to lung cancer.
Duran didn’t even mention the more-familiar hazards; contamination of millions of gallons of freshwater each time a well is fracked; spills and leaks which pollute water, soil, and air; evaporation of toxic chemicals from flowback holding ponds; deliberate dumping of frack flowback water into streams and rivers; escape of methane from wells, which contributes to global warming; destruction of farmland and forests and the resulting increase in invasive species, including agricultural pests. None of this is only for a short period of time.
Since the 1970s, U.S. farm policy has been heavily influenced by the chemical and fossil fuel industries. The result has favored get-big-or-get-out industrialized agriculture, leading to the demise of millions of family farms. If Duran takes a closer look, he’ll see that the fossil fuel industry, which he has embraced as the answer to a life of hard work with little to show for it, has not only played a major role in making family farming much less profitable than it used to be, but also is damaging the soil, water and air upon which his livelihood depends.
Candy DeBerry
DeBerry is an associate professor in the biology department at Washington & Jefferson College.
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.
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