Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates March 26, 2013

 To receive our news updates, please email jan at
-sorry having trouble with pictures

*  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:  

St Vincent Health Forum Successful

Thank you to those who donated their time to help with the meeting:
Lou Pouchet -for the great video at the beginning of the program
Bob Donnan-for many of the wonderful pictures we used for the video
Harriet Ellenberger, Michelle Keenan, and Elizabeth Nordstrom for publicity
Dr. Cynthia Walter –For making all facility/dinner arrangements with ST Vincent College
Bob Donnan and Josh Pribanic for recording the program and posting on You Tube
Wanda Guthrie-for arranging for the sale of Shale Stories Booklets (you can purchase one for five dollars, let Wanda or Jan know.)
 Melissa Troutman of Mt Watershed (our faithful and most essential co-sponsor) who filled in all the many gaps from running off literature, to coordinating speakers and videotaping, to tech support
 To all of you who helped by posting flyers and emails

And of course a special thanks to our speakers: Nadia Steinzor, Raina Rippel, Linda and David Headley, and Dr. Ralph Miranda
 You can view the program ‘Fracking & Public Health’ on You Tube
 Seminar held at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa

Calendar of Events

***Film----Triple Divide Showing in Butler

Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 12:30 pm
Butler Public Library
218 N. McKean Street
Butler PA 16001
Free and Open to the Public

Public Herald investigative journalists Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman announce the opening of Triple Divide. Triple Divide deconstructs the (DEP) handling of shale gas development.

            Pribanic and Troutman take audiences on a cradle-to-grave journey to uncover how DEP and industry have handled violations within Pennsylvania’s highest classified watersheds, what happened in the 2011 Bradford County Blowout, water contamination complaints, health issues, and the split-estate landowner dispute. 

*** 2nd Community Rights Workshop- Friday evening, March 29, 6pm to 9pm and Saturday, March 30, 9am to 6pm, 2013,

 Friends Meeting House, 4836 Ellsworth Avenue, Pittsburgh
Not to be missed by those who are committed to Community Empowerment for a Sustainable Future
Space is limited to 35 maximum. Sign up early and please forward this to people you know who would find this a really useful workshop. 

Wondering why corporations have more power than those of you living in your community?
Wondering why Harrisburg licenses and permits corporations to harm your community?
Wondering why Harrisburg routinely prevents you from making decisions that are in the best interests of your community?
The Pennsylvania Community Rights Workshop takes an in-depth look at how Pennsylvania's political and legal structures have been set up to protect the interests of an elite minority, at the expense of the majority of Pennsylvanians. We'll look at how Pennsylvania's constitution has continually evolved since the American Revolution to protect wealth and privilege over community self-government; we'll look at how corporations in Pennsylvania have received more rights and protections than those of you living in your community; and we'll look at how Pennsylvanians have pushed back against these oppressive structures to reclaim democracy in their communities.  

We will also explore how to strengthen a Referendum Campaign in Pittsburgh that will place Community Rights on the November ballot.
We will also consider what it would take to create a Pennsylvania constitution that protects the rights of people, communities, and nature by securing our inalienable right to local self-government, free from corporate and state interference. 

TO REGISTER SIMPLY and let us know how you will be paying. 

The total cost of the workshop is $60 per person.

A partial payment of $25 must be paid by March 25 unless a special arrangement is made (call Wanda at 724.327.2767 or 412.596.0066) or email    It is possible to PAY BY CREDIT CARD OR PAYPAL ACCOUNT! Log on to Thomas Merton Center Donate and scroll down to Environmental Justice.  

Checks should be made out to the Thomas Merton Center, with a memo notation “Community Rights” Please send to Thomas Merton Center, 5129 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15224 The balance should be paid in full the evening of March 29 at the workshop. We are keeping our expenses to a minimum to ensure affordability for everyone.  

***County Commissioners Meeting-  2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the county courthouse at 10:00 AM

For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:


Take Action!!

***Gas Company Sues NY Town You can help them keep their fracking ban—

          Mary Ann Sumner is Town Supervisor for the Town of Dryden (population 14,500) in upstate New York. She loves Dryden, and she takes her job very seriously.

            That’s why she is in New York State Supreme Court today, fighting a lawsuit brought against her and Dryden by an oil and gas company trying to force citizens to accept fracking inside the town’s borders.

            Will you stand in solidarity with the people of Dryden on this historic day?

In 2011, Supervisor Sumner and her colleagues on the Dryden Town Board voted to prohibit the use of land within the town for oil and gas development activities, including fracking. Six weeks later they were sued by an oil and gas company owned by a Forbes-ranked billionaire.

            When Dryden defeated the billionaire’s company in court, it made history, inspiring other towns across America to enact similar bans. But Dryden’s fight is not over—the US subsidiary of a foreign-owned oil company has now stepped in to challenge the town.

            Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg is representing Dryden in this precedent-setting case. As this message is being sent, she is facing off against oil and gas industry lawyers in Albany, NY.

            The coming weeks will be tense ones in Dryden as the townspeople and their local elected officials await the court’s ruling. Will you sign on to this petition and send them a message of support?

            These messages will be read aloud at upcoming Town Board meetings, letting the leaders of Dryden know that thousands of people have their back in this fight.




The link to take action

Frack Links 

***Dr. David Brown— Video on fracking and health


***The Program “Fracking Hell”  can now be accessed via You Tube and can be downloaded using a free program called iLivid.

Fracking Hell: The Untold Story-A good program to recommend to friends

                An original investigative report by Earth Focus and UK's Ecologist Film Unit looks at the risks of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale. From toxic chemicals in drinking water to unregulated interstate dumping of potentially radioactive waste that experts fear can contaminate water supplies in major population centers including New York City, are the health consequences worth the economic gains?


       1.    DEP Secretary Krancer Resigns

 Quotes from past DEP Secretary Krancer (cited from  Marcellus  Protest):

*The department that I lead oversees the development of natural gas.
*Fracking fluid is comprised of water and sand: the rest are components in common everyday use such as food additives and cosmetics. Many of those chemicals are food grade.
*There has never been an instance where fracking fluids have contaminated groundwater
*At the end of the day, my job is to make sure gas is done.
He misrepresented the industry estimate of job creation as being established fact. He twisted the findings of a Duke U study to claim water contamination from drilling had been conclusively disproved.  He promised the DEP would work day and night to issue permits for gas processing plants in eastern PA.  He disparaged the work of environmental groups and inter-state oversight boards.” 

(There are many diverse opinions on John Hanger’s entry into the gubernatorial race but most environmentalists agree that at least getting the fracking issue into the debate is a positive move. jan)
            “The resignation of Department of Environmental Protection’s Secretary Krancer reveals a crucial state agency in crisis.
                His interim replacement, Chris Abruzzo, has absolutely no environmental background and is completely unqualified for the position. He is currently a deputy chief of staff in the governor’s office and before that he served in the Attorney General’s office supervising the Drug Strike Force section.
                It is telling that there is no one at DEP to take over the agency. Morale at DEP is at devastatingly low levels. Corbett’s DEP has failed to adequately regulate gas drilling and taken combative stances when citizens present the agency with legitimate concerns and problems. The agency has been hostile to renewable energy and has failed to take action to clean up pollution in the Susquehanna River. DEP’s ability to carry out its mission of protecting public health and the environment has been severely compromised by budget cuts to an already spare budget. But Corbett’s ideological opposition to adequate government funding also prevented DEP from moving forward with increases to fees for reviewing permit applications.
                Corbett clings to the old, disproven ideology that we cannot have both a good economy and a good environment. Unless he changes that wrong-headed idea, his DEP will fail to take advantage of ways to both grow the economy and clean up the environment, especially when it comes to growing our wind and solar industries. Pennsylvania’s rising unemployment rate is a glaring example of failure of this ideology – we are only one of seven states with a rising unemployment rate – our rate climbed from 7.6 percent in January 2012 to 8.2 percent in January 2013.
                We wish Secretary Krancer well in his new endeavor, but we do not anticipate a change in DEP’s course as long as Governor Corbett fails to understand that we need a healthy environment to grow a healthy economy.”           

2.    Area Groups Including WMCG Sign onto Breathe Act

Letter of Support

            WMCG signed onto a letter of support for the Breathe Act introduced by Rep. Jared Polis CO and Rep. Matt Cartwright PA and others in the House. The bill would close serious loopholes in the Clean Air Act by providing more adequate regulation of air pollution associated with oil and gas drilling. 

***HR 1175, the Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydrofracking Regulation (FRESHER) Act*** 

***HR 1154, the Bringing Reductions to Energy's Airborne Toxic Health Effect (BREATHE) Act*** 

From Penn Future:

            “U.S. Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) have introduced a pair of bills to ensure that the gas hydrofracking industry follows the same rules that other industries do. Oil and gas operators are now exempt from key federal environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

            Cartwright is the sponsor of HR 1175, the Focused Reduction of Effluence and Stormwater runoff through Hydrofracking Regulation (FRESHER) Act. This bill would eliminate the construction and operations exemption for the oil and gas companies in the Clean Water Act for stormwater runoff permits and require a study to fully understand the effects of these operations on surface water.

            Polis is the sponsor of HR 1154, the Bringing Reductions to Energy's Airborne Toxic Health Effect (BREATHE) Act. This bill would close the oil and gas industry loophole in the Clean Air Act's provisions regarding the aggregation of small sources of air pollution.

            Any organization that wishes to endorse Rep. Cartwright's FRESHER Act should contact Joy Bergey, PennFuture's federal policy director.”

            The following organizations have already endorsed this legislation and are actively working to garner support within Congress and throughout the country: Clean Water Action, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Trout Unlimited, Greenpeace, American Rivers, NRDC, National Audubon Society, Wilderness Workshop, National Parks Conservation Association, Penn Environment, Earthworks, Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community, Los Padres Forest Watch, Center for Effective Government, Earthjustice, Environment America, Ecoflight, People’s Oil & Gas Collaborative, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), Blancett Ranches, San Juan Citizens Alliance. 

3. First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown, Ohio Anti-Fracking

“Members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Youngstown (UUYO) helped canvass Youngstown neighborhoods to gather signatures for the Community Bill of Rights petition which will be on the May 7, 2013 primary ballot. This Bill of Rights asserts that we have inalienable rights to clean air, water, land and local control over industries that put those rights at risk. UUYO is a member of Faith Communities Together for Frac Awareness (FaCT), a coalition of more than 40 Catholic, Jewish and Protestant Faith Communities from 16 counties in Ohio, 3 in West Virginia as well as locations in Pennsylvania ( "Faith Communities"). Three Northeast Ohio Unitarians, Ron Prosek, Dr. Ted Voneida and Susie Beiersdorfer will be presenting a workshop entitled "Fracking, An Assault on the Web of Life" during the District Assembly Meeting in Niagra Falls, NY, April 26 and 27, 2013. They will present a similar workshop at the General Assembly in June.”


4. Judge O’Dell- Seneca Says PA Lawsuit Is An Open Public Record

            “A western Pennsylvania judge says the public has the right to see a sealed settlement between gas drilling companies and a family that claimed that drilling operations damaged their health.

            Judge Debbie O'Dell-Seneca ruled Wednesday that openness in the court system is more important than the interests of the companies.

            Stephanie and Chris Hallowich initiated a case against Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners in 2010. The dispute was settled in July, 2011 but the companies asked that the records be sealed, and another judge agreed.

            The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington Observer-Reporter challenged that decision, and O'Dell-Seneca ruled in their favor.”


            Judge O'Dell-Seneca found that businesses do not have the same right to privacy as individuals.
            "Whether a right of privacy for businesses exists within the penumbral rights of Pennsylvania's constitution is a matter of first impression," the judge wrote. "It does not."
             The defendants [all businesses] claimed they had the right to privacy to protect the record from being unsealed.
             Judge O'Dell-Seneca wrote that Article I of the state Constitution, which reads, "All men are born equally free and independent," cannot apply to them.
            "There are no men or women defendants in the instant case; they are various business entities. ... These are all legal fictions, existing not by natural birth by operations of state statutes. ... Such business entities cannot have been 'born equally free and independent,' because they were not born at all."

5. Different Perspectives  ---Environmentalists and drillers become 'unusual bedfellows' to agree on standards

            “To get certified, drillers won't be able to use open-air ground pits to store wastewater or be able to vent gas during initial production. They would even have to tighten emissions from the trucks their contractors use on the road, which could be one of the toughest standards to meet, members said.

            “It's the question citizens will now ask (their local drillers): ‘Are you certified?' ” Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund said at the public introduction of the program at the Heinz Endowments headquarters, Downtown. “That, I think, is what's so important about this effort. It gives the general public an option to hold these (drillers) accountable to the rhetoric they espouse.”

Press Release from the Heinz Endowments website

 “PITTSBURGH, Pa., March 20, 2013 – A group of leading environmental organizations, philanthropic foundations, and energy companies have collaborated to form a unique center to provide producers with certification of performance standards for shale development. The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) has established 15 initial performance standards designed to ensure safe and environmentally responsible development of the Appalachian Basin’s abundant shale gas resources. These standards will form the foundation of the CSSD’s independent, third-party certification process.           

CSSD’s founding participants are:
• Chevron
• Clean Air Task Force
• CONSOL Energy
• Environmental Defense Fund
• EQT Corporation
• Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP)
• The Heinz Endowments
• Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture)
• Pennsylvania Environmental Council
• Shell
• William Penn Foundation

Technical support has been provided by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, ICF International, and the law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott.”

And the Response:  

New Fracking Standards Are Not Supported by Environmental Organizations-

“Kutztown, PA – Environmental organizations across Pennsylvania are objecting to a misleading announcement coming from the oil and gas industry that says they have “made peace” with environmentalists by agreeing to voluntary fracking standards. According to the announcement made, the oil/gas industry believes the new standards “could ease or avert some of the ferocious battles over fracking that have been waged in statehouses and city halls.” They’re wrong. In fact, the anti-fracking movement is large and getting larger as evidence mounts that fracking cannot be done safely, contributes to climate change, endangers the human and animal health and safety, tears apart communities, and pollutes our air and water.

            “The cynical intentions of the drillers are stated clearly in the announcement. They say they want to ‘hasten the expansion of fracking’. They say they want to ‘bypass the often turbulent legislative process altogether’. They say they want to make ‘drilling more acceptable to states and communities that fear the environmental consequences’.  Making drilling more acceptable and making drilling safer is not the same thing. These statements reveal the industry’s self-serving attitude known all too well to those whose lives have been impacted by drilling,” said Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth.

            The voluntary standards are listed on the oxymoronically-named website The so-called “tough new standards” don’t appear to be substantially different from the corresponding regulations the industry has been blatantly disregarding for years. In addition, they fail to address many issues including radioactivity, methane migration, drill cuttings, community disruption, forest fragmentation, LNG, and compressor stations, to name but a few.

            "The overwhelming harm of gas development on communities being drilled and our natural environment demands real action, not limp attempts at ‘management’ that just rearrange the deck chairs on a sinking ship. First, we need a nationwide moratorium on drilling, then we need to let science and health professionals fully examine and expose the truth about the inherently polluting fracking process, while we work as a nation to replace these deadly resource extraction industries with energy efficiency and clean, truly sustainable energy sources," said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

            "The only way for the fracking industry to self-regulate itself in a fashion that protects the people of Pennsylvania is to kindly end its operations in Pennsylvania and exit our state," said Sam Bernhardt, Pennsylvania Organizer at Food & Water Watch. "Pennsylvania needs a ban on fracking, and it needs it now."

            This may be the most cynical aspect of all - a newly-created Center for Sustainable Shale Development would be comprised of a 12-member board tasked with overseeing the voluntary standards program. “The center’s proposed 2013 budget is $800,000, with the two sides expected to contribute equal amounts,” says the program’s interim leader. It would appear that the obscenely wealthy oil and gas companies are only putting up half of the money and that the rest would come from those who would otherwise be funding efforts to fight on behalf of the environment and communities.

“Experience has shown that large, industry-oriented environmental groups do not necessarily  represent the interests of grassroots, community-based organizations,” said Melissa Troutman, Outreach Coordinator of Mountain Watershed Association. “If you read the book Managing Activism:  PR Advice for Neutralizing Democracy, author Denise Deegan advises that this sort of ‘dialogue’ is industry’s most effective method for managing activists. In our experience, this is true.”

            The anti-fracking movement extends far beyond the environmental community to include religious groups, sportsmen’s associations, health organizations, social justice organizations, renewable energy organizations, political groups, farming associations, and others. The groups the industry worked with on this project are not generally considered to be among the hundreds of groups in the movement in Pennsylvania, as they have maintained an industry-friendly stance on drilling.

            Jay Sweeney, Chair of the Green Party of Pennsylvania said, “I was flabbergasted to read the article saying the oil & gas industry had made peace with environmentalists. I read the article looking to find out exactly what environmentalists had been consulted and found none. The Green Party of Pennsylvania stands by our position that fracking must be banned!”

“This brilliant propaganda on the part of the gas industry and national groups that are not so much environmental organizations as they are greenwashing collaborators only serves to underscore the collective fear they have of how organized, how effective, how nimble, and how truly threatening the grassroots coalition against fracking has become to the interests of the corporate profit agenda of the fossil fuel barons,” said Julie Edgar, Organizer of Lehigh Valley Gas Truth. “We stand united-- we will not be co-opted-- we will not be mollified by what amounts to no more than a crock of radioactive fracking sludge.”


Karen Feridun, Berks Gas Truth, 610-678-7726

Tracy Carluccio, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, 215-692-2329

Jay Sweeney, Green Party of Pennsylvania, 570-587-3603

Melissa Troutman, Mountain Watershed Association, 724-455-4200


6. Recent Spills Listed—from Marcellus Outreach Butler

            There have been a number of high profile and high volume spills and accidents in recent weeks.  We thought that we would highlight a few to give you a sense of the destruction that fracking leaves in its path.   This is by no means a full list. 

Nov. 1 to Jan. 31— likely more than 250,000 gallons of drilling wastewater and oil illegally dumped into a Mahoning River tributary in Ohio

Feb 4—Approx. 840 gallon of waste water were spilled at the Rex/ McElhinney well in Forward Township, Butler County, Pa

Feb 11—84,000 gallons of green oil-laden fracking fluid gushed from an oil well near Fort Collins, Co for nearly 30 hours

Feb 12—Over 12,000 gallons of “re-use” water was spilled at a Range Resources site in Cross Creek County Park, Washington County, PA

Feb 13—A blowout at a Chesapeake well sent fluid gushing into a stream in Bradford County, Pa

Feb 22—PA based Noble Energy spills over 95,000 gallons from a frack pond into a local tributary of Big Wheeling Creek in WV [video]

Feb 26—One man was killed and another was injured in a drilling accident in eastern Ohio.

March 9—Two children were killed when a water truck rolled over and crushed a car on in Clarksburg, WV.

Match 9—A Spectra Energy compressor station in Clearville, PA spewed methane and other hydrocarbons over a period of three hours.  Local homeowners complained yet Spectra and the DEP denied the release for 6 six days.

March 14—Frack fluid spewed at a rate of 800 gl/min. in Wyoming County, Pa [video]

March 15—An explosion of a gas well with 30 ft. flames forced people from their homes in Chippewa Township, Wayne County, OH.  It was felt 3 miles away.

March 17—An oil tank on a pad in Columbiana County, OH exploded throwing its lid 400-500 feet into the yard of a nearby residence.

March 19—A compressor station caught fire in Bradford County, PA sending one worker to the hospital with burns.”


7. Thousands of Gallons of Pollution from Gas and/or Oil Spill in Colorado

            “Cleanup continues at the site of an underground spill of thousands of gallons of pollution related to the oil and gas industry in the heart of Colorado's fracking country.

            The underground leak is located near the town of Parachute and has threatened to contaminate Parachute Creek, which flows into the Colorado River. State officials continue to report that buffers have kept the creek safe, so far.

Colorado regulators reported that nearly 6,000 gallons of "hydrocarbons" had been recovered from the site. At least 102,564 gallons of contaminated water have been recovered, as well.

The spill site is near a natural gas plant operated by Williams Energy, and another company, WPX Energy, operates underground oil and gas pipelines in the area. Both companies are working to contain the spill but neither company has taken responsibility, publicly revealed the source of the pollution or identified the type of hydrocarbons contaminating the area.

            Williams Energy workers first identified the spill on March 8, but the company did not alert the nearby town of Parachute until five days later, which frustrated local officials who visited the site this week. It's unclear how long the underground plume of pollution was growing before Williams discovered the contamination in an area adjacent to its gas plant.

A local cattleman told The Denver Post that such spills are common in the area and often remain secret, and state records show that the oil and gas industry is responsible for hundreds of spills each year, the newspaper reports.

            "This is one more strong argument for keeping oil and gas wells and related infrastructure a safe distance from waterways,'' said Suzanne O'Neill, the organization's executive director. "Regulators pledged to form a stakeholders' group to develop standards for riparian setbacks a while ago. We're still waiting."

In 2008, Colorado regulators failed to include protections and buffer zones for waterways as they overhauled regulations for the oil and gas industry, the group noted.”

Spokespeople for Williams did not respond to several inquiries from Truthout.


8. Corbett and Wife Took Over $15,000 in Gifts from Law Firm Representing Oil and Gas Industry

            During his time as State Attorney General and Governor, Tom Corbett and his wife took thousands of dollars in gifts from an influential Philadelphia law firm whose clients include oil, gas, and chemical companies fighting state and federal environmental regulators.



According to a StateImpact analysis of the couple’s ethics filings, the law firm Blank Rome LLP has given them $15,447 in gifts since 2007. The gifts include tickets to Phillies games, dinner at the swanky Pennsylvania Society gathering in Manhattan, and an annual gala benefiting the Philadelphia Orchestra —where their tickets cost $2,500 apiece.


 Key political contributions from 2009-2010 that got us where we are today:


9. New Secretary of Energy Moniz Has Strong Ties to Large Energy Companies

            MIT physicist Ernest Moniz is an academic who has also served on boards or advisory councils of large energy companies, including BP.

Drilling Deeper: The Wealth of Business Connections for Obama’s Energy Pick

--He was on BP’s Technology Advisory Council between 2005 and 2011, a position for which he received a stipend

--He's on the board of ICF International, a Fairfax, Virginia-based company which does energy and environmental consulting. It has received Energy Department contracts as part of what one executive called a “longstanding relationship with the Department of Energy.” As a board member, Moniz got $158,000 in cash and stock

--He is a trustee of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), a Saudi Aramco-backed nonprofit organization. The organization did not respond to requests for information.

--He is on the strategic advisory council of NGP Energy Technology Partners, a private equity firm that invests in both alternative energy and fossil fuel companies.-

--From 2002 to 2004, Moniz sat on the strategic advisory council of USEC, a public company that provides enriched uranium to nuclear power plants.

--Since 2006, Moniz has been on the board of General Electric’s “ecomagination” advisory board. No response on requests for information on compensation.

by Justin Elliott

ProPublica, March 20, 2013, 9:53 a.m.


10. New Study Says Marcellus Drilling Will Raise Water Pollution Levels of Chloride and TSS

            Shale gas development can adversely affect surface water quality by increasing the downstream concentrations of two pollutants, chloride and total suspended solids, according to a study by scholars at Resources for the Future. The results were published online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

            Sheila Olmstead, Lucija Muehlenbachs, Jhih-Shyang Shih, Ziyan Chu, and Alan Krupnick relied upon more than 20,000 surface water quality observations taken over 11 years in Pennsylvania to estimate the effects of shale gas development on downstream water quality through 2011. The results indicate statistically significant water quality impacts from wastewater sent to treatment plants and runoff from well pad development. The study found no systematic statistical evidence of spills or leaks of flowback and produced water from shale gas wells into waterways.” (Bob Donnan and I both had to comment on this last statement. We agree they could not have looked very hard at the data if they lacked evidence of spills or leaks into waterways. Jan)

 full text of the study:


11. “Wave” of Bills at W VA Legislature Would Weaken Water Quality

            “Water quality advocates and environmentalists are concerned about a wave of proposals the legislature is considering that would weaken state clean water protections. Don Garvin, legislative coordinator, West Virginia Environmental Council, pointed to bills to allow more selenium, aluminum and beryllium in West Virginia's water, and said there are separate proposals to loosen the rules on treating run-off, especially from abandoned surface mines and mountaintop removal sites.



            Allies of the mining industry won a lot of seats in the last election, Garvin noted. "The legislature this session is a different legislature," he said. "There's a lot more pressure being put on, by the coal industry in particular, because they have the votes." State selenium limits helped force Patriot Coal to give up mountaintop removal last fall, Garvin said, so it is no coincidence some lawmakers now want to loosen those regulations. The state Department of Environmental Protection is also asking to change aluminum and beryllium limits without going through the normal rulemaking process. Garvin said it's a fake emergency. "The only emergency in the DEP's proposed emergency rule appears to be that our water is too clean," he charged.”


12. Concerns Raised About Ramifications of Ag Bill

            “Could a new bill making its way through the Pa House make it a criminal offence to share photographs of fracking activities online?  Some think so.  The bill, co-sponsored by Butler, Beaver, and Lawrence County Representative Jaret Gibbons makes “Interfering with agricultural operations” a criminal offence.  § 3309.1 defines interfering as anyone who takes a photo or sound recording or “uploads, downloads, transfers or otherwise sends recorded images of, or sound from, the agricultural operations over the Internet in any medium” without the owner’s consent.

FOX News 56 calls the bill’s wording “confusing and in the worst case misleading.”


13. Problems with Blowdowns Continue- Clearville, PA-from Bob

(Blowdown definition-When well pressure exceeds the ability of the wellhead valves to control it. Oil and gas "blow wild" at the surface. Jan)

            “Problems with blowdowns continue at Steckman Ridge near Clearville, Pa. (Bedford County). This is also an area with large underground gas storage, and you may remember my earlier stories about Wayne & Angel Smith’s ‘reversing pond’ where the water level rises and lowers as gas is pumped into and out of the underground reservoir. The Smith farm is also home to a double-billed goose, and Angel sends an ongoing assortment of ‘foam photos’ (she suspects MBAS) from the small stream near their home. Several years ago the Smiths had to install a $5,000 to $10,000 water treatment system in the basement of their farmhouse.”

Steckman Ridge facililty—one blowdown sprayed a fine mist of an oily substance over the surrounding countryside.  photo by Bob Donnan



14. Less Dependence on Middle East Oil, More Dependence On Chinese Gas?

 Chinese firm puts millions into U.S. natural gas stations

            “ENN Group Co Ltd, one of China's largest private companies, is quietly rolling out plans to establish a network of natural gas fueling stations for trucks along U.S. highways. With plans to build 50 stations this year alone, ENN joins a small but formidable group of players -- including Clean Energy Fuels Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc -- in an aggressive push to develop an infrastructure for heavy-duty trucks fueled by cheap and abundant natural gas. Clean Energy is backed by T. Boone Pickens and Chesapeake Energy Corp.

            The move is yet another example of China's ambition to grab a piece of the U.S. shale gas boom. Just last month, Sinopec Group said it would pay $1 billion for some of Chesapeake's oil and gas properties in the Mississippi Lime shale. The Chinese firm reached out to a small Utah company, CH4 Energy Corp, which had opened a single LNG and CNG fueling station in Salt Lake City with the help of federal stimulus funds. The deal created Transfuels LLC, which operates as Blu LNG. ENN has a majority stake in the joint venture and controls its board of directors, according to sources familiar with the deal.”


15. DEP Investigating Spill at Cross Creek County Park

From bob

 Mar 15, 2013 - The PA DEP has issued a notice of violation to Range Resources Corp. in connection with a water spill last month at Cross Creek County Park, a DEP spokesman said Friday. John Poister, DEP spokesman in Pittsburgh, said workers on the Marcellus Shale  gas drilling site noticed what is known as “re-use” water entering a secondary containment area.This was just recycled water,” Poister said in an email. “No frack additives were in this water.” (So now they can remove frac chemicals, since when?? bob)

            “It appears open-top storage tanks were overflowing. Water flowing into these tanks was not being monitored. Range reported the spill to DEP, which sent inspectors. “We consider this a significant spill, and we will evaluate the entire incident, response and cleanup before we make any decisions on a civil penalty,” or fine. Pizzarilla: “In this instance, some recycled water left our secondary containment, but our engineering practices and approach allowed for the immediate cleanup and remediation of the water, which contains a small fraction of the salt than what is used on roads nearby Cross Creek for de-icing. This is not to suggest that we don’t take the spill seriously, regardless of the impact, but context is important.”

Recent video of a new Range well pad inside the park:

Range was fined $23,500 for a May 2009 spill and fish kill inside the park, when they were pumping flowback through a 3.5 mile long temporary pipeline to the Lowry Impoundment. Pizzarilla blamed ‘vandals’ for loosening 2 pipe connectors.

16. Loyalsock State Forest -- Penn Future Files Legal Appeals

From Penn Future

Our right to know is your right to know-- 
PennFuture filed legal appeals of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' (DCNR) denial of two Right to Know Law requests regarding proposed natural gas development in an extraordinary section of Loyalsock State Forest in Lycoming County. We requested the proposed development plans and maps submitted to DCNR by Anadarko Petroleum. DCNR gave us the cover page of the plan and redacted everything else. The appeals were filed with the Office of Open Records, a special administrative court that hears Right to Know Law appeals.

            An unusual deed gives DCNR the ability to restrict or block Anadarko's access to the surface of the tract, and thereby permanently protect most of this land.

Even though DCNR is charged with managing our state forests for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians including generations yet to come, the agency has refused to conduct public hearings and allow for public input into this matter or provide information on the environmental impacts or the alternatives that are being considered. Anadarko seems to have the only other seat at the table with DCNR. We think you, the citizens of the Commonwealth, have a right to know what Anadarko and DCNR are proposing to do with this special part of Penn's Woods and to better understand the potential consequences of these far-reaching decisions.


17. Neighbors Want Answers After Natural Gas Drill Malfunction-Washington Township

  “   Carizzo gas workers were back on the gas well pad on Keiserville Road in Wyoming County. They were cleaning up and removing any leftover fracking fluids that spilled when the well head outside Tunkhannock malfunctioned.

The DEP says officials are investigating how a bolt on the well head failed on Wednesday night, causing thousands and thousands of gallons of fracking fluids to shoot out.”

 Video & story:


Photo by bob donnan

18. Yeager Compound-See Above Photo

“Contaminated water wells in the vicinity of this impoundment are at the core of an evolving high-profile lawsuit involving the Voyles, Haneys and Kiskaddens, as well as the Pa DEP suite code issue (that turned up during legal depositions), who knew what when, and if water buffaloes were provided as early as they should have been to affected residents. The Voyles live directly across the road from Mr. Garrett’s house and you can see their house in the upper right corner of the photo below.” For more details, read Beth Voyles’ story by Eric Belcastro here:

Mr. Garrett’s house is circled.


19. Colorado Lawmakers Aim to Tighten Oil/ Gas Regs

SUMMIT COUNTY — “With many Colorado residents feeling that Gov. Hickenlooper has tilted the playing field in favor of fossil fuel development, the Colorado General Assembly will begin to explore new laws that could help balance fossil fuel extraction with public health and safety and concerns about impacts to the environment.

            House Bill 13-1267 would increase the maximum daily fine for serious accidents from $1,000 to $15,000 per day and set a minimum fine of $5,000 per violation per day for violations that have a significant adverse impact on public health, safety, or welfare, including the environment. It would also repeal the cap on the maximum total fine.

            House Bill 12-1269 would make it clear that the primary mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is to make sure that public health and safety and natural resources are adequately protected during the course of fossil fuel development. It also addresses the inherent conflict of interest that currently exists on the commission by prohibiting future commissioners from being employees, officers, or directors of oil and gas companies. Read more of this post

By Bob Berwyn


20. Fracking Wastewater Can Be Highly Radioactive

Updated 1 week ago | By Rachel Morgan

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a four-part series on radiation in fracking wastewater.

“PORTAGE, Pa. — Randy Moyer said he hasn’t been able to work in 14 months.

He said he’s seen more than 40 doctors, has 10 prescriptions to his name and no less than eight inhalers stationed around his apartment.

                Moyer said he began transporting brine, the wastewater from gas wells that have been hydraulically fractured, for a small hauling company in August 2011.

He trucked brine from wells to treatment plants and back to wells, and sometimes cleaned out the storage tanks used to hold wastewater on drilling sites.

                By November 2011, the 49-year-old trucker said he was too ill to work, suffering from dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, difficulty breathing, swollen lips and appendages, and a fiery red rash that covered about 50 percent of his body.

                “They called it a rash,” he said of the doctors who treated him during his 11 trips to the emergency room. “A rash doesn’t set you on fire.”

                Moyer said he spent most of last year in his apartment in Portage, which is located near Altoona in Cambria County.

                Moyer said he would lay on the floor by the open screen door because his skin burned so badly, while doctors scrambled to reach a diagnosis. He said the only thing that has helped ease his symptoms is a homeopathic tea recommended by others in the community who have similar symptoms.

                Today, he has a box brimming with doctors’ bills but still no diagnosis. Moyer believes he’s sick from the chemicals in fracking fluid and the ensuing wastewater — and from radiation exposure.

And he may be right.

            Studies from the U.S. Geological Survey, Penn State University and environmental groups all found that waste from fracking can be radioactive — and in some cases, highly radioactive.

            A geological survey report found that millions of barrels of wastewater from unconventional wells in Pennsylvania and conventional 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 nuclear plant discharges.


And Mark Engle, the USGS research geologist who co-authored the report, said that fracking flowback from the Marcellus shale contains higher radiation levels than similar shale formations.

            “There (isn’t) a lot of data but in general, the Marcellus appears to be anomalously high,” Engle said. He said the USGS had agreements with a handful of oil and gas companies to sample the flowback from their wells for this particular report. These companies, he said, did not wish to be identified.

            Engle also says that both the Marcellus shale itself and the wastewater generated from fracking are both radioactive, but he doesn’t know just how much radium the shale contains. He said it “may be fairly small, since radium is so soluble.” But he also said this solubility would make it easier for the radium to dissolve into the brine itself — and come to the surface.

            The USGS is still studying the issue. They are currently sampling — or testing — produced waters from all types of oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, North Dakota and Montana, including those from the Marcellus shale. A few more reports are in the works, Engle said. Another report, issued by the New York-based Grassroots Environmental Education by Ivan White, a career scientist for the National Council on Radiation Protection, came to a similar conclusion as the USGS and Penn State reports, maintaining that fracking can produce waste much higher in radiation than previously thought. A recent study by an undergraduate student and two professors in Penn State’s Department of Geosciences also found that fracking wastewater contains high levels of radium — and barium.

            The study, written by Penn State alum Lara Haluszczak, professor emeritus Arthur Rose, and professor and head of the Department of Geosciences Lee Kump, describes the radium and barium found in fracking flowback as originating from ancient brines instead of the fracking fluid used by the industry to frack wells. The report, which focused on flowback within 90 days of fracking in primarily Pennsylvania wells, has been approved for publication in the International Association of Geochemistry’s journal Applied Geochemistry.

Environmentalists say these treatment plants simply aren’t equipped to deal with radioactive wastewater.

            “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,” said Adam Kron, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project. “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.” “Even if it’s (radioactive materials) diluted quite a bit, it’s still going to be above the drinking water limits,” Rose told Penn State Live, the university’s official news source. “There’s been very little into this.”

             DEP does not measure radium concentrations in fracking wastewater. Instead, they encourage water treatment facilities that accept the brine to test for high levels of radium. Another common way of disposing of fracking wastewater is by sending the water out of state to injection wells, usually to Ohio. However, neither Pennsylvania nor Ohio measures levels of radiation in fracking wastewater when it’s extracted from a well or disposed of in an injection well.”





Westmoreland Marcellus Citizen’s 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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