Friday, May 24, 2013

Westmoreland Citizen's Group Updates May 24,2013

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates       May 23, 201
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Calendar of Events

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

***Gasland Part II   Coming to Pittsburgh June 20, 7:00-Organized by Marcellus Protest  (WMCG is a supporter)

               As part of a national ‘preview’ tour, Gasland Part II will be shown free to the public at the Soldiers and Sailors Hall in Oakland. Doors open at 6 pm with live music and the screening begins at 7 pm. Director Josh Fox will be present 

***Grassroots Summit for Fracking Activists- June 21-22 registration is now only $10 with support from our generous funders. We are quickly approaching cut-off for registration. To maintain the desired atmosphere for the Summit, we’re capping registrations at 45 people.

 Mt Watershed See: 


***TELL YOUR SENATOR TO OPPOSE SB 739 That Subsidizes the Gas Industry

               SB 739 represents a lose - lose proposition for the environment. It takes money away from already limited energy efficiency funding while it subsidizes a natural gas industry that is already very profitable.

               The gas industry is trying to expand the markets for natural gas, while having taxpayers fund the construction of gas delivery infrastructure. If they are successful, not only will they be able to sell more gas, but the price of gas will increase, due to increased demand. The natural gas industry doesn't need additional subsidies paid for by the public. 


***Video by Geomicrobiologist Yuri Gorby

15 Minutes

Excellent short video to pass on. Includes Raina Rippel, Carol Moten, Randy Moyer, Rep. Jesse White, Ron Gulla, the Headleys.  Families and workers discuss health problems.

***To sign up for notifications of activity and violations for your area:

***To view companies with the most violations

***List of the Harmed--There are now over 1200 names of residents of Pennsylvania who became sick after fracking began in their area and have placed their name on the list of the harmed. 

*** Gas Drilling Records in Pennsylvania-Video

Squirrel Hill Panel - May 9, 2013 (1:11:05)

Penn State Gas Advocate Terry Engelder, environmental activist Robert Donnan, AP reporter Kevin Begos, Penn Future president George Jugovic and media law attorney Gail Sproul.

 Large screen version:


***Health Problems Forum-Video

Mac Sawyer former gas field truck driver, Joe Giovannini mason and resident of  Cannonsburg, Robert McCaslin who worked as master driller.  Larysa Dyrszka, MD, Board certified pediatrician, former director of pediatrics at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, NJ, attendee at the first US Health Impact Assessment Conference in Washington DC., and affiliate member of Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy and Lauren Williams, Esq, PA attorney specializing in environmental and public law who focuses on land use issues including those that relate to gas drilling. Lauren William’s discussion of the gag order on doctors is a good explanation of the problems surrounding the Act 13 order.

You must click on each speaker in turn to hear all the presentations  

Frack News

1. How Many Cases of Water Contamination in PA?
               In a letter from former DEP Secretary Krancer to Nadia Steinzor of Earthworks dated April 2013, Krancer said:  "DEP, has, however determined Marcellus shale drilling has impacted the water supplies of 25 separate water supply complaintants since 2009."

               But the Times Tribune Says:

               “State environmental regulators determined that oil and gas development damaged the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses between 2008 and the fall of 2012, according to a cache of nearly 1,000 letters and enforcement orders written by DEP officials and obtained by The Sunday Times.”

(See following article)


Important  Review of DEP Drilling Records –Damaged Water Supplies and Poor Record Keeping

Excerpt from the article BY LAURA LEGERE (STAFF WRITER)


State environmental regulators determined that oil and gas development damaged the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses between 2008 and the fall of 2012, according to nearly 1,000 letters and enforcement orders written by DEP officials and obtained by The Sunday Times.

               The determination letters are sent to water supply owners who ask state inspectors to investigate whether drilling activities have negatively affected their wells.

               Inspectors declared the vast majority of complaints - 77 percent of 969 records - unfounded, lacking enough evidence.

               One in six investigations across the roughly five-year period - 17 percent of the records - found that oil and gas activity disrupted water supplies either temporarily or seriously enough to require companies to replace the spoiled source.

               The letters confirming contamination or water loss from drilling provide what is likely the best official count of the industry's impact on individual water supplies in Pennsylvania because the state does not track the disruptions.

               The Sunday Times requested the records in late 2011, and received access to them late last year after a state appeals court ruled that the DEP had to release the documents regardless of whether it was hard for the agency to find them in its files.

               While the records compiled by the newspaper offer a more complete tally of the number of affected properties than was previously available, the count is not exhaustive:


* DEP tracks oil and gas-related disruptions to water supplies based on broad incidents; each incident might affect one or many water supplies, making comparisons between the totals difficult. A case of gas migrating into Dimock Twp. drinking water, for example, is considered one incident by DEP even though the state determined it affected 18 water wells used by 19 families. DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said the agency compiles "some information" on the number of affected water wells and springs, but DEP's statistics on impacted water supplies differ from the numbers documented in the letters and orders released to The Sunday Times. Between 2010 and 2012, DEP counted 103 impacted water supplies - six more than were documented for those years in the records released to the newspaper.


* DEP repeatedly argued in court filings during the open records case that it does not count how many determination letters it issues, track where they are kept in its files or maintain its records in a way that would allow a comprehensive search for the letters, so there is no way to assess the completeness of the released documents.

               *Before a 2011 regulatory update, solutions worked out privately between homeowners and drillers were not required to be reported to the department. The Sunday Times requested the notices of potential water contamination that now have to be passed on to DEP by drilling companies, but the request was denied by DEP and the state's Office of Open Records because the documents are considered part of protected investigations.

* The conclusions described in the determination letters are seldom absolute because substances that are considered signals of drilling contamination are also signs of other man-made or natural influences.

                              The state’s tally suggests the rate of drilling-related contamination incidents increased with the start of the Marcellus boom: Drilling damaged water supplies at a rate of more than 16 cases per year during the past five years. For the 20 years prior to 2008, the incidence rate was fewer than three cases per year.

                              The department's water testing and reporting protocols have come under scrutiny in recent months as environmental activists and homeowners whose drilling-related complaints were dismissed have come to doubt the determinations' accuracy and value.

               DEP recently changed its policy for issuing water contamination notices to require administrators in Harrisburg to approve them before they are sent out from the regional field offices that conduct the investigations. The state's laboratory technical director, deposed when a resident appealed the DEP's conclusion that drilling activities had not polluted his water supply, acknowledged that DEP reviews and reports back to homeowners only those contaminants it considers indicative of drilling-related contamination, not all of the contaminants that might surface in its water tests - a common practice for tailoring laboratory analysis but one that spurred critics to question the thoroughness and transparency of DEP's investigations.

               In January, state Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale announced his office is conducting a performance audit of the DEP's water testing program to "determine the adequacy and effectiveness of DEP's monitoring of water quality as potentially impacted by shale gas development activities" between 2009 and 2012.

               Determination letters released by the state reveal a widespread suspicion among water supply owners - farmers and summer residents, school board members and mini-mart operators, churches and a Wyoming County municipal water authority - that when their water seems soured, gas drilling operations might be to blame.

               According to the state's records, they are sometimes right and for a myriad of reasons.

               More than half of the records of contaminated water supplies confirmed by the state involved gas, loosened by drilling, seeping into drinking water aquifers. Faulty natural gas wells channeled methane into the water supplies for 90 properties, the letters show. Three of those cases were tied to old wells, one of which caused an explosion at a home after gas entered through a floor drain and accumulated in a basement.

               Drilling-related road construction contaminated water at two homes, while construction for a large water-storage pond called an impoundment contaminated another. Pipeline construction twice polluted water supplies with sediment. Stray cement or rock waste displaced by drilling, called cuttings, contaminated seven water supplies.

               The state has never implicated the underground gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in a contamination incident, but inspectors noted that brine contamination suggesting "an infiltration of frac water into the shallow ground water," damaged six fresh-water springs used for drinking water in northwestern Pennsylvania. (This seemingly contradictory statement was explained to me as an example of the DEP using the misleading semantics of the industry. DEP is using the term fracking to refer to one very specific part of the process, not the entire process the term is commonly used to describe . Jan)

               Some of the problems were short-lived: DEP letters describe 20 of the confirmed contamination incidents as temporary.

                              A 2011 Penn State study found that about 40% of water wells it tested prior to gas well drilling failed at least one federal drinking water standard, usually for coliform, turbidity or manganese. Pennsylvania is one of only a few states that does not have private water well construction standards.

               Indicators of drilling-related contamination might be due to past pollution or natural systems changing with weather or seasons, so the contaminants DEP cites as evidence of a drilling impact in one letter can be cited as evidence of background water conditions in another.

               Manganese, iron and a measure of the salts and minerals dissolved in the water known as total dissolved solids (TDS) are among the elevated parameters most frequently noted by DEP inspectors in water wells they determined were not influenced by drilling, but in at least 30 cases where the DEP determined that increases in manganese, iron or TDS were primary or sole indicators of a contamination problem caused by oil/gas drilling. .

               Letters sent to nine McKean County homeowners during an involved investigation of drilling-related contamination captured the difficulty of drawing conclusions based on substances that can indicate both normal conditions and harm: "An elevated level of these compounds is not uncommon in this region and can occur naturally," the investigator in the case wrote, "but it is also recognized that they can become elevated as a result of drilling oil and gas wells."

               DEP does not rely only on water test results to determine whether a water supply was affected by drilling, Mr. Sunday said. "We employ a very complex analysis in these investigations." Inspectors "consider things like local water well and gas well integrity, a geochemical evaluation of the water supply, and the local rock formations and how water flows through them," he said.

               In many cases, the failure that led to contamination is left as opaque as turbid water.


DEP blamed a Marcellus Shale driller in Susquehanna County for water contamination in 2010 after the salt, barium, strontium and gas concentrations in the Rush Twp. home's water supply spiked after the company drilled and fracked a well 600 feet away.

               The post-drilling barium levels reached 47 milligrams per liter - more than 23 times the safe level of the toxic metal in drinking water - while the TDS, chloride and sodium levels peaked at more than 10,800, 5,800 and 3,800 milligrams per liter, respectively - more than 20 times the guidance levels set for aesthetic reasons like taste and appearance.

               The determination letter and the subsequent order requiring the driller, Stone Energy, to replace the water well do not describe the mechanism for the pollution--the company was presumed responsible for the contamination based on the timing of the impact and the distance from the gas well. The company did not rebut the state's finding.

                              High TDS, chlorides, sodium, barium and strontium - all potential signatures of contamination from Marcellus development wastewaters - "also occur in brackish or saline groundwater which have been documented at relatively shallow depths in this part of the state," Mr. Sunday said. Although the concentrations of those elements surged to levels between 46 and 142 times the pre-drill concentration measured on the property, the post-drilling samples were taken from a different, deeper water well and so could have been affected by the shallow brine.

               Critics of natural gas drilling say the ambiguity left by DEP investigations means the state needs more robust tools and a stronger will to pursue clues about contamination to its source.

               Anthony Ingraffea, Ph.D., an engineering professor at Cornell University and a vocal critic of the oil and gas industry he once worked for, said that when DEP says it cannot find a connection between water well contamination and nearby gas activity it does not mean there is no link.

               "If DEP sent me a letter that said, 'We can find no connection,' my natural question as a scientist would be, 'How did you look?'" he said.

He was concerned by DEP's practice of counting cases without counting individually impacted water supplies, which he said "makes their statistics look better."

               "It doesn't help answer the question, which is how many individual families' private drinking water wells have been contaminated by oil and gas activities," he said. "No one knows the answer. Who should know the answer? DEP."

Contact the writer:


2. Senator Vitali-D Proposes to Clarify Doctor “Gag Rule


“Dr. Amy Pare, a Washington County plastic surgeon, says she worries the requirement for healthcare providers to sign non-disclosure agreements will harm patient care.

               State Rep. Greg Vitali, (D-Delaware County), says he’ll be introducing a bill to amend Act 13 public health provisions. One of the most controversial provisions of the state’s new drilling law requires doctors to sign non-disclosure forms in order to get information on chemical exposures to treat patients. The language of the law is vague, and has created confusion and fear among doctors and other health professionals.

               Dr. Amy Pare, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon from Washington County, has spoken out against the provision.

“As I understand it,” Pare told StateImpact, “it’s legally binding, so if 20 years from now I hiccup that someone was exposed to zippity doo dah, I’m legally liable for that.”

               Pare says it could also have larger implications regarding public health data.

               Vitali says his bill would allow health workers to share that “trade secret” information with other health professionals and regulatory agencies for healthcare purposes.

               Vitali circulated a memo about the proposal to other House members on Wednesday, seeking co-sponsorship.

 (For a good explanation of the problems and confusion surrounding the gag rule on physicians imposed by Act 13 see the short video listed under Frack Links (above) by Larysa Dyrszka, MD, Board certified pediatrician. Jan)


3. In Kansas and Oklahoma They Are Spreading Frack Waste on Farmland

“So I just got off the phone with the top Kansas Class II guy and he said they are now beginning to permit on a case-by-case basis surface spreading of drill cuttings, drilling muds and frac sands, and oilfield fluids directly on farmlands. All they ask is that clay content of soils is >3-4% depending on clay type. This stuff is actually being spread on croplands and they are using what Alan said is "Loose and free adaptation [of Oklahoma Class II/Fracking waste regulations] to the state of Kansas geology and soils; fined tuned it for the situations we have here in the state". They have 2300 Active Class IIs but farmers are apparently tripping over themselves to put this stuff on their fields based on the apparent success of crops in Oklahoma

Ted Auch, PhD, FracTracker, Ohio Program Coordinator

Cleveland State University, Adjunct Faculty,,


4. Obama Admin. Approves ALEC Bill for Frack Chemical Non- Disclosure on Public Lands

               The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (under the Dept of the Interior) revealed it will adopt the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil for fracking chemical fluid only partial disclosure on U.S. public lands.

               ALEC is a 98-percent corporate-funded bill mill and "dating service" that brings predominantly Republican state legislators and corporate lobbyists together at meetings to craft and vote on "model bills" behind closed doors. Many of these bills end up snaking their way into statehouses and become law in what Bill Moyers referred to as "The United States of ALEC."

               BLM will use's voluntary online chemical disclosure database that only reveals some ingredients in frack fluid.”

(See next article)


 5. FracFocus Is a Front For the Industry

          2 of 5 Chemicals Not Listed in 8 Energy States

               "Trade-secret exemptions block information on more than five ingredients for every well in Texas, undermining the statute’s purpose of informing people about chemicals that are hauled through their communities and injected thousands of feet beneath their homes and farms."

               "Energy companies failed to list more than two out of every five fracked wells in eight U.S. states from April 11, 2011, when FracFocus began operating, through the end of last year," wrote Bloomberg. "The gaps reveal shortcomings in the voluntary approach to transparency on the site, which has received funding from oil and gas trade groups and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy."

               This moved U.S. Rep. Diane DeGette, author of the FRAC Act - which would mandate actual fracking chemical disclosure, although it's never garnered more than a handful of co-sponsors - to say FracFocus offers nothing more than the mirage of transparency.

"FracFocus is just a fig leaf for the industry to be able to say they’re doing something in terms of disclosure," she said. "Fig leaf" is a generous way of putting it. After all, FracFocus is merely a PR front for the oil and gas industry.”


6. Obama Admin. "Huddled" with Industry

          Sierra Club Decries Obama Policy

               “EnergyWire's Mike Soraghan revealed that the Obama Admin. "huddled" with Big Oil before releasing BLM's final rules, watering them down to suit the industry's taste.

               Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change, "met more than 20 times in 2012 with industry groups and company executives lobbying on the proposed rule," according to Soraghan's review of White House visitor records. "Among them were the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), along with BP America Inc., Devon Energy Corp. and Exxon Mobil Corp."

               "The rule really reflects who has had the most access and who is being listened to," Fran Hunt of the Sierra Club's "Beyond Gas" campaign told EnergyWire. "They've been following the road signs put up by industry."

Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, echoed these concerns.

               "After reviewing the draft rules, we believe the administration is putting the American public’s health and well-being at risk, while continuing to give polluters a free ride," Brune stated of BLM's new fracking rules. “This proposal does not require drillers to disclose all chemicals being used for fracking and continues to allow trade-secret exemptions for the oil and gas industry."


  7. DOE Approves 2nd Gas LNG Export Terminal

               The  Department of Energy (DOE) announced a conditional approval of the second-ever LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminal.

               LNG is the super-chilled final product of gas obtained via "fracking."  Fracked gas is shipped from the multitude of domestic shale basins in pipelines to various coastal LNG terminals, and then sent on LNG tankers to the global market.

The name of the terminal: Freeport LNG.

               Freeport LNG is 50-percent owned by ConocoPhillips and located in Freeport, Texas. The export facility is the second one approved by the Obama DOE, with the first one - the Sabine Pass terminal, owned by Cheniere and located in Sabine Pass, Louisiana - approved in May 2011.

               DOE gave its rubber stamp of approval to Freeport LNG to export up to 1.4 billion cubic feet of LNG per day from its terminal.

               Moniz's DOE is Dept. of LNG Exports

               The announcement comes in the aftermath of an April DeSmogBlog investigation revealing that recently confirmed Energy Department Secretary Ernest Moniz - a former member of the Board of Directors of ICF International - has a binder full of conflicts-of-interest in any decision the DOE makes to export the U.S. shale gas bounty.

As we explained in that investigation, a Feb. 2013 "study" published by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and conducted on its behalf by ICF International concluded exporting shale gas was on the economically sound up-and-up.

ICF is a consulting firm that teams up with oil and gas industry corporations and was one of three firms that did the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on behalf of the U.S. State Department for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. The SEIS was published in March 2013.


 8. Utica Gas Going to Japan 

Last week the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP), which runs through the Marcellus/Utica region, signed a 20-year agreement with Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan to ship natural gas to the Gulf Coast (Louisiana) where it will be liquefied, turned into LNG, and exported to Japan.

                This is the second such agreement to export Marcellus and Utica Shale gas to Asia. A little over one month ago Dominion announced a 20-year deal to export 100% of the output from their planned Cove Point, MD LNG plant. The gas from Cove Point will go to both India and Japan.



Photos: The price of sand. The sand is then used for fracking.  




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.
Officers: President-Jan Milburn
                 Treasurer-Wanda Guthrie
                 Secretary-Ron Nordstrom
                 Facebook Coordinator-Elizabeth Nordstrom
                 Blogsite –April Jackman
                 Science Subcommittee-Dr. Cynthia Walter
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