Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates May 30, 2013
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Calendar of Events
***WMCG Steering Committee Meeting June 4, 7:30 pm email/ call Jan for directions
***Gasland Part II Coming to Pittsburgh June 20, 7:00 pm-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 Summer Summit-Mountain Watershed
MWA is proud to announce the Grassroots Summer Summit - June 21st and 22nd 2013 – the first in a series of events MWA plans to hold twice per year for grassroots community and environmental advocates and citizens to come together for organizing and rejuvenation. We aim to nurture a network of support for those in the ‘Good Race’ to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. Featured speakers include Lois Gibbs (of Love Canal), Simona Perry, and Elliot Adams (Veterans for Peace). A tentative schedule is available for download.
Registration is only $10 and includes bunk accommodations (you may also bring a tent if you prefer) and meals. Participation is limited and is filling up quickly! To save your spot, contact Melissa at 724-455-4200 ext. 6# or Melissa@mtwatershed.com.
We’re happy to have Lois Gibbs, best known for organizing her community of Love Canal and founding Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ), and Dr. Simona Perry, founder of the Community Awareness and Solutions for Empowerment (c.a.s.e.) cooperative as featured speakers at our first Grassroots Summit. Lois’s workshop will focus on reaching hard-to-reach community members by shaping the message of our struggles to be relevant to a wider audience. Simona’s workshop will cover strategies and messaging for non-violent communication. Former President of Veterans for Peace, Elliot Adams, will also conduct a workshop about developing a movement action plan.
Workshop & Activity Schedule (may change prior to Summit) The Summit is being divided into two main tracts: Strategy & Stress-Management. Each time slot offers an option for each. Please download the schedule for more information.
The Venue - McKeever & Sandy Creek McKeever Environmental Learning Center is a perfect venue for the Grassroots Summit for many reasons:
Centrally-located within the Marcellus/Utica Shale fields for participants from Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and West Virginia, where most of the community leaders we work with live and organize. See Directions below.
Nestled amidst 205-acres, ten (10) buildings offer a private, natural atmosphere with indoor & outdoor meeting areas.
Beautiful hiking trails along and around McCutcheon Run, which flows through the McKeever property, a tributary of Sandy Creek. Only a ¾ mile hike to Goddard State Park for biking, boating, fishing and hiking, including beautiful Falling Run Trail.
WIFI is free and available in most buildings.
McKeever uses sustainable energy and building practices: renewable energy on-site via wind, solar, and geothermal power sources, recycled building materials, and no VOC paint.
Updated bunk lodges onsite for free overnight stays - included with registration.
***Berks Gas Truth Will Push for Resolution on Fracking at PA State Democratic Committee-Sign Petition
Berks Gas Truth is coordinating an action at the PA State Democratic Committee meeting on June 14th and 15th in Lancaster. The State Committee will be considering a resolution for a moratorium on fracking. At their last meeting, the resolution didn't make it to the floor for a vote. We want to make sure that doesn't happen again. You can find lots more information on our website: http://www.gastruth.org/?p=1328. We hope you'll join us! If you can be there both days, great! If not, we'll be happy to see you either day. The main event is on the 15th, but there's plenty to be done both days!
Please sign and share this petition we'll take with us! http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/tell-pa-dems-stop-fracking?source=c.url&r_by=160982
Any questions? Let me know! You can always reach me at 610-678-7726. If you can't make either call, but would like to be involved, let me know that too!
Karen Feridun Berks Gas Truth
***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.
Campaign Compiling Water Contamination by Shale Gas Drilling
***If Your Water Has Been Affected or DEP Tested Your Water---
The Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water is seeking help from Pennsylvanians whose water supply has been affected by natural gas drilling (or other gas extraction activities). Also of interest is if any tests were done by the DEP. Please tell your story by filling out the form available HERE. http://www.pacleanwatercampaign.org/stories/
Your information will be kept confidential. If you would prefer tell us your story over the phone, please call Steve Hvozdovich at Clean Water Action, 412-765-3053, x210.
***Video by Geomicrobiologist Yuri Gorby
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. http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/
*** 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.
1. Sunoco’s Pipeline in North Huntingdon Questioned
By Timothy Puko (Exceprt)
“I don’t want no parts of it,” said Barry Highberger, 61, of the plans to build another pipeline through his 120 acre farm. “I look over there and see what’s left of the last one and I don’t want to do it again.” Highberger stands for a portrait with some of the 80 cows he raises on his farm in Sewickley Township. 'My parents bought the farm in 1941 or '42… It's home, that's all I can say.'
“A Sunoco Logistics pipeline project to connect Washington County gas with a Philadelphia export terminal is facing renewed protests in Westmoreland County, despite the company's attempt to move it away from suburban opposition.
More than a dozen landowners have contacted state Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, about stopping Sunoco Logistics Partners LP from buying rights of way on their land or using eminent domain to take them, his office manager Mary Jo Smith said.
The residents cite frustration from other pipeline projects that are still scarring their land, concerns over private property rights and value, and safety risks.
At stake is part of a $600 million plan Sunoco Logistics has to ship Marcellus propane and ethane to Canada and Europe. It s supported by Gov. Tom Corbett and Sen. Pat Toomey but ran into opposition from homeowners along the project's first path through dense parts of North Huntingdon. Sunoco Logistics responded this year by pushing the path farther east, along two pipelines that already exist.
“I wasn't happy about two lines. Three lines is unacceptable. This is where I draw the line because if I don't, it's going to be four,” said Barbara Frieze, 61, of Sewickley. “If one of those babies blow, they're going to find bits of us blown all over Herminie.”
Company officials are still pushing to acquire land and start the project by this fall, spokesman Joe McGinn said, adding that pipelines are the safest way to transport fuel.
Officials plan to do regular inspections to detect any defects and corrosion, McGinn said. Before the line goes into service in mid-2014, Sunoco Logistics will lead training sessions with emergency responders.
The company has had 187 accidents causing about $34.5 million in property damage nationwide since 2006, according to federal records. An incident occurred in Murrysville in 2008, when a plug blew out during maintenance, sending a gusher of gasoline into the air. More than 12,000 gallons leaked out, killing aquatic life in 3 miles of Turtle Creek and causing several businesses and homes to be evacuated.
Investigators at the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration blamed the company. Sunoco Logistics paid $232,900 to PHMSA and $99,000 to the state Fish and Boat Commission.
The Friezes and neighbor Barry Highberger are suspicious of the industry. Both are still upset with Dominion Resources Inc. for the condition of their land after the company dug out for an interstate shale gas pipeline a little more than a year ago.
The right of way is rocky and partly bare as it runs between their rolling countryside properties. On Highberger's dairy farm, the path creates a clear divide in his crops.
Highberger is upset at Sunoco Logistics for repeatedly telling him and other landowners it will use eminent domain to take land its owners won't sell. And he's angry, too, that in the end, the project's goal is to ship fuel abroad. If he can avoid it, he doesn't plan to sell a right of way, no matter how much the company's offer is, he said.
“I don't want no parts of it,” Highberger, 61, said, standing among the crops he's growing to feed his 80 cows. “I look over there and see what's left of the last one, and I don't want to do it again.”
By Timothy Puko
Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/4076937-74/pipeline-logistics-sunoco#ixzz2UdbeHrkF
2. Industry Has Database On Water But Won’t Share Info
Sherry Vargson, of Granville Summit, leased the mineral rights under a portion of her farm to Chesapeake Energy. She illustrates her assertion that methane has leached into her well water by lighting the water on fire. Scientists want more access to "pre-drill" or baseline test results from private wells to better understand whether these issues are caused naturally or by drilling.
More than two years ago the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a gas industry trade group, began building an electronic database to house information about the water quality in thousands of private wells across Pennsylvania.
It’s made up of “pre-drill” or baseline data– critical information that helps establish whether drilling operations may have caused water contamination issues.
The project is already up and running, but there are no plans to make it public.
Instead, it’s available to gas companies, the state DEP which can access portions of the database, and one researcher at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who has signed a confidentiality agreement.
“I’m disappointed to hear the Marcellus Shale Coalition is not planning to release their data publicly,” says Dr. Susan Brantley, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University.
For the article: http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2013/05/28/gas-industry-building-database-of-water-test-results-but-wont-make-it-public/
3. Erie, CO--Ethylbenzene found in blood of those near fracking
Carbondale, CO-- Residents get blood tested to establish a baseline
by Nelson Harvey, Special to the Aspen Daily News (Excerpt)
“A doctor who recently tested the blood of several Carbondale residents for toxic compounds associated with oil/gas drilling said his results could be the start of a baseline data.
Dr. John Hughes of Aspen Integrative Health tested the blood of 10 Carbondale residents for a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with gas drilling, including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. He found low levels of xylene in some subjects, but found no VOCs in concentrations above federal health thresholds.
“The original thought was that we would re-test some of these individuals later, and see what happens if drilling takes place in the Thompson Divide,” Hughes said.
SG Interests and Ursa Resources say they intend to develop 18 gas leases in the area. The Thompson Divide Coalition, a Carbondale advocacy group, is negotiating with the companies to purchase and retire those leases.
While there has already been baseline water quality sampling done in parts of the Thompson Divide, Sheahan said, much less is known about how drilling will affect the health of Carbondale residents.
“We now have baselines here from the human standpoint,” Sheahan said. “My family is part of the baseline test group for this blood testing, and we intend to go to the mat with the oil and gas community if they follow through with drilling in this area.”
Because the blood of the Carbondale residents was relatively clean, Hughes also decided to compare it with blood samples from 10 residents of the Front Range city of Erie, CO where some 17,000 natural gas wells have already been drilled.
He found high levels of the carcinogen ethyl benzene in the blood of nine of the 11 Erie subjects, while none of the Carbondale subjects showed high levels of ethyl benzene.
“The EPA standard for benzene is 5 parts per billion (ppb), and the highest levels that I found in the Erie patients’ blood was 118.5 ppb,” Hughes said.
The Erie patients all lived between 300 and 1,800 feet from gas wells, and the level of ethyl benzene that Hughes detected was highest in those living closest to wells.
Hughes readily acknowledged that his small study has many limitations, and shouldn’t be construed as conclusive.
“ To really do a good study, you need at least 500 people, I think.”
Hughes also said that before publishing the study in a scientific journal he would compare the Erie patients to a more pristine control group than the Carbondale cohort, since some Carbondale residents had trace levels of VOCs in their blood which might have come from gas drilling in nearby Rifle, coal rich soils in Carbondale or from a range of non gas related sources.
“If there is a follow up to this, I’d like to get a control group from somewhere where there is absolutely no fracking going on,” he said.
Another step in testing the link between gas drilling and VOC blood concentrations would be to look at the chemical footprint, or isotope, of the chemicals present in the blood of Erie residents, and see whether it matches the footprint of chemicals being emitted from nearby wells.
“If there is a high concentration of one isotope in the blood and there are high concentrations of the same coming out of the wells, we could draw an association between those two,” Hughes said.
The fact that the study was privately funded highlights a paucity of state-funded research on the long-term health effects of gas drilling. Colorado State University is currently conducting a three-year study on the effect of gas drilling on air quality in Garfield County, but the study stops short of taking blood or tissue samples from residents.
“The state has no incentives to do this type of research,” said Hughes. “They get tons of tax revenue from the industry.”
4. Gas Industry Overturns Colorado Fracking Ban
“Fort Collins city council decided to overturn a ban on hydraulic fracturing that had been in place for only a few short months. The decision to overturn the ban was based solely on the threat of a lawsuit from the oil and gas industry.
The mere threat of a lawsuit from – Prospect Energy – was enough to send the city council cowering in submission, placing the entire town at risk of the negative health impacts associated with fracking.
The gas industry was aided by Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who warned Fort Collins that if the ban were to remain in place, they could face legal intervention from the state .
Hickenlooper’s announcement is less than surprising. He has received more than $45,000 from the energy industry during his campaigns, along with another $104,000 from the real estate industry (a sector that stands to gain a lot with the leasing of property to fracking.)
Prospect Energy was aided in their efforts by the industry front group Energy in Depth.
The ban would have eventually been overturned by the court system in Colorado. At least two challenges to fracking bans have been brought before the Colorado Supreme Court, and in both instances, the Court sided with the dirty energy industry. This set the precedent for future challenges to be handled swiftly and soundly in the lower courts.
But this raises another important issue, and that is the importance of the American judiciary, the forgotten branch of government. While a few states actually elect their judges, most states (and the federal government) rely on appointments from governors and presidents. If a governor, like Hickenlooper, has received tens of thousands of dollars from the energy industry, it is fairly safe to assume that he’s going to appoint judges who the industry approves, regardless of their party affiliation. As the politician goes, so goes the court.
The town of Fort Collins needs to lawyer up themselves. The second that any toxic fracking fluids leak into their water supply, they need to file suit.
Unfortunately, given the reactionary nature of our country, we only address problems after they occur, but having a team of skilled environmental attorneys on hand will be a necessity for Fort Collins once the fracking begins.”
5. Radioactive Drilling Waste Sets Off More Radioactivity Alarms
“Fracking industry truck drivers have been blowing the whistle for some time, saying that radioactivity alarms are going off “all the time.” Workers report that the radioactivity levels are sky-high, even in empty trucks that have already dumped their load of drill cuttings at landfills. Now the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Associated Press, StateImpact PA, Shale Reporter and other news outlets are revealing some of the numbers supporting an increased urgency to stop dumping radioactive waste all over Pennsylvania.
The AP story includes alarming numbers followed by empty reassurances from DEP with no data and no information to back up the myth that everything is just fine. No physicians, impacted residents, radioactivity experts or workers are interviewed — just the PA DEP spokesman, Kevin Sunday, whose job is to stifle public outrage. Here is the Shale Reporter version of the AP story:
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Gas drilling waste is setting off more radiation alarms at Pennsylvania landfills.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the alarms went off 1,325 times in 2012, with more than 1,000 of those from oil and gas waste, according to Department of Environmental Protection data.
DEP says past research has shown problems are unlikely. DEP started a review in January to examine radioactivity in drilling waste and on all the equipment that handles it.
One wonders what this “past research is” that indicates that “problems are unlikely.” To the contrary, past research, in fact, has shown flowback returning from Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania with Radium 226 levels thousands of times the safe limit for drinking water. It is well known that fracking waste pits all over PA (like the one in Lycoming County where the plastic liner was found full of over 100 holes) leak toxic radioactive waste into our soil and groundwater every day. Flowback spills are a daily occurrence at frack pads, so routinely so that workers endure 18-hour shifts doing nothing but vacuuming up spills. And Mac Sawyer, a former fracking truck driver and environmental cleanup worker in the Marcellus Shale industry in Pennsylvania, has stated that sometimes “they just disable the alarm” rather than treating flowback or drill cuttings waste with the special care required of radioactive waste. Uranium is mobilized by fracking, along with radium 226.
Radium 226 causes bone, liver, and breast cancer, according to the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). Radium 226 has a half-life of 1,500 years. Radium has also been shown to impact the blood, eyes, teeth, and more.
Former PA Governor Ed Rendell, who now invests in and profits from Marcellus Shale industries, looked the other way while three of his former staffers approved the policy allowing trucks to carry toxic radioactive fracking waste while labeling it “residual waste” and not carrying a manifest, or placard, saying where the waste came from, what’s in it, how much there is of it, and where it’s going. Rendell’s former staffers jumped ship to work for the industry, and Rendell himself has become an industry cheerleader.
In a state that still allows fracking flowback to be dumped on roads legally for “dust suppression” and “de-icing” purposes, where spraying fracking waste on land is reported to continue, and where trucks with toxic radioactive waste are allowed to be labeled “residual,” we’d like to hear some outrage, instead of outrage management, from policymakers, opinion-makers and legislators.
Two-Thirds of Pennsylvanians Support a Gas Drilling Moratorium Now
On the good news side, PA Senator Leanna Washington has joined the list of co-sponsors for PA State Senator Ferlo’s gas drilling moratorium bill. The two-thirds majority in Pennsylvania who support a gas drilling moratorium are starting to wake up and speak up. Radioactive fracking waste is one more reason to step up the support for a moratorium now.
For the Article By Iris Bloom
6. Americans Against Fracking March At Conference of Democratic Governors
Only 33% of Democrats Favor Increased Fracking
A coalition led by Americans Against Fracking, 350.org, Democracy for America and Food & Water Watch, among others marched at the Spring Policy Conference of the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) calling for a ban on fracking and demanding that the organization “Stop Taking Dirty Money,” citing the more than $3.5 million the DGA has taken from companies in the oil/ gas industry since 2008. (Food Water Watch Study)
New research released by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press that shows that nationally, only 33 % of Democrats polled favor the increased use of fracking.
The march is the beginning of a summer-long effort with planned actions at other DGA meetings in Colorado and possibly other cities to pressure five governors in particular— Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, California Gov. Jerry Brown, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn—who are currently facing stark opposition to efforts to frack for oil and gas in their states.
“While it’s not surprising that the oil and gas industry is supporting a political organization, what is surprising is how much their support of the DGA has increased in the past five years—contributions are up more than 140 percent between 2008 and 2012,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “We need to expose their support of this organization, many of whom are presently the key decision makers on whether or not fracking goes forward in their states.”
Maryland Gov. O’Malley, the host of the DGA’s Spring Policy Conference, has attracted criticism from activists for his failure to use science to guide his decision on opening up the state to fracking. The O’Malley-appointed Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission issued a draft report warning that fracking could have significant negative impacts in Maryland. Still, O’Malley and other Maryland leaders are pushing forward with drilling as if it is inevitable.
Opponents of fracking believe that through O’Malley’s alliance with the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), an industry group led by representatives from CONSOL Energy, Shell, Chevron, EQT Corporation and the Environmental Defense Fund, the governor is promoting the idea of industry-sponsored self-regulation. This week, Americans Against Fracking, Democracy for America and MoveOn.org will deliver to O’Malley more than 3,000 petitions urging him to ban fracking.
By Steve Reilly
7. Laura Legere Won Battle for DEP Water Records
DEP’s Record-Keeping Blocks Transparency
“A simple request that could shine light on at least how many cases of water contamination the DEP determined were due to gas drilling operations, turned into a legal battle. In an open records case settled last year between DEP and the Scranton Times-Tribune, the Commonwealth Court criticized the DEP for poor record keeping.
But the DEP remains unapologetic about their unsuccessful argument to the court that providing copies of their water investigation determination letters would be “burdensome.”
Sunday said it would be “inaccurate” to describe the agency’s record keeping as incomplete and disorganized. This despite several affidavits from DEP staff describing the enormous difficulty of providing these letters, which are sent to each resident who makes a complaint that gas drilling has impacted their water supply.
Commonwealth Court Judge Anne E. Covey wrote in the three-panel decision against the DEP, and in favor of Times-Tribune reporter Laura Legere:
“In fact, the burden on DEP comes not from some vast array of documents requested by Legere, but from the DEP’s method of tracking its records,” wrote Judge Covey. …A requester cannot control how an agency catalogues or organizes such files. As such, an agency’s failure to maintain the files in a way necessary to meet its obligations under the RTKL should not be held against the requestor. To so hold would permit an agency to avoid its obligations under the RTKL simply by failing to orderly maintain its records.”
About a year and a half ago, Scranton Times-Tribune reporter Laura Legere began her quest by filing a right-to-know request with the DEP.
“I was trying to answer the question of how many water supplies the state has determined had been impacted by drilling,” said Legere.
Legere says she thought of her request as fairly easy to fulfill.
“They really didn’t have a sense of how many of these documents they had or how best to find them,” said Legere. “But they were willing to give us something.”
That something turned out to be — not much.
So Legere first sought help from the Office of Open Records, a neutral agency that reviews cases where a citizen wants to challenge the state’s right-to-know response. The open records office sided with the paper, telling DEP to turn over all the letters. But DEP appealed to the Commonwealth Court, saying Legere’s request was too broad and too burdensome.
The Commonwealth Court ruled against the DEP. It said the agency’s poor record keeping was not an excuse to withhold the records.
So Legere ended up getting 969 records, and spent more than six months poring over them. She found that in the majority of cases, in fact, about three-quarters of those letters, reported that water contamination was not connected to gas drilling. In 161 cases, the DEP did determine that gas drilling was the cause. She describes these letters sent to property owners as formulaic.
“DEP says: These are not simple documents; these are not form letters,” said Legere. “But actually very many of them are almost entirely the same.”
Sometimes, Legere says, the state did warn residents of high levels of contaminants such as manganese or methane. But, in cases when DEP exonerated drillers, only rarely did the agency offer a theory as to what else caused the pollution.
“There was never any sign of what the state went through in its investigation,” said Legere. “Regardless of whether or not it found a drilling impact. Usually it was just simply here is your water test, and here are the things we found in it. They are not the most revealing documents.”
In fact, sometimes the industry provides more answers than the state. Legere points to a case in Franklin Forks, where the DEP determined gas drilling was not the cause of resident’s water problems. But the DEP issued more information about their investigation in a press release, than in the letter to residents. And while the gas drilling company, WPX Energy, published their investigation, the DEP would not.
Gayle Sproul is a media lawyer and legal director with the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition.
“And this is why I congratulate her for pursuing that case,” said Sproul. “So that case is very important because it takes [DEP] by the shirt collar and says look, look at stuff, go look at it, find the people who will go into the dusty places, put it somewhere where its more easily accessible. Find it.”
“Although I wrote the initial request, not a lawyer,” says Legere. “I don’t have any confidence that I would be able to successfully argue the way the attorneys did. So that to me is a problem.”
Legere says scientists, researchers and the public all have a legitimate interest in DEP’s drilling and fracking records.”
Fro the article: http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2013/05/24/deps-fracking-record-keeping-blocks-transparency/
BY SUSAN PHILLIPS STATEIMPACT
8. Wastewater Plants Fined by EPA
The EPA is fining three western PA wastewater plants for discharging gas drilling wastewater into the Allegheny River or tributaries that feed it.
The fines are contained in a consent agreement with Hart Resources Technology Inc. and Pennsylvania Brine Treatment Inc., which ran the plants in Indiana and Venango counties when the discharges happened between February 2007 and August 2011.
The companies have since merged to form Fluid Recovery Services of Canonsburg, where officials didn’t answer the phone Friday and didn’t respond to a request for comment by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which first reported the story. http://www.stargazette.com/viewart/20130524/NEWS10/305240012/Pa-water-plants-fined-by-EPA-drilling-wastefines.
9. Cecil Election As Proxy War
“How long do you have to live somewhere to be considered a local? In the recent Cecil Township supervisors’ race, some strange and sometimes angry fault lines emerged. Intertwining interests of culture, longevity and economics intersected in this little country township to create anger and hard feelings over diverging views of what Cecil will be in the future, and who will run it.
My wife and I built our house nine years ago. Our daughter was born here. Our pets lived and died here. This is our home. In the years since we moved in, we’ve made almost $150,000 in mortgage and tax payments, not to mention physical improvements to our home. We have invested heavily in our life in Cecil Township, and so have our neighbors.
In this week’s election, Cindy Fisher, a relatively recent arrival who, like my family, lives in a newer subdivision, ran against Frank Egizio, a 51-year resident of Muse. Fisher’s effort to become the first supervisor from one of the new residential neighborhoods created tensions that I’d not witnessed in the decade since I moved here. She, and by extension all of the newer residents, were denigrated as “plastic house people.” At a meet-the-candidate event in a local park, another resident confronted us over a plate of cookies that she claimed was not allowed. Pictures were taken of our group, I suppose, as evidence of the transgression. The police had to intervene. In a separate incident, a local man was arrested for threatening Fisher with physical harm in a voicemail message.
We live in Mayberry. This is ridiculous.
Intersecting economic and cultural issues caused friction. Zoning to protect residential areas, particularly with respect to the gas industry, has come into conflict with longtime landowners who are understandably seeking the economic benefits of the gas boom. Unfortunately, with agitation from a few individuals, the race became a proxy war between longtime residents and new ones for the future direction of Cecil Township, and it got pretty ugly. From there it seemed to become an argument about control over township institutions and whether or not the newcomers are welcome to the decision-making process that guides life in Cecil.
After living in Cecil for the better part of a decade, I would have thought that my family and my neighbors would have been accepted into the fabric of township life. To some extent we have – Fisher won her race, but it was disheartening to find such animosity in the community. Whether it was control, or fear, or economic self-interest that drove the debate, I was disappointed to learn that there are still people who think of us, the newer residents, as outsiders. We’re not. We live here and we’re staying here, and over time, as development continues, we’ll have more say in township affairs, not less. We’re not here to deprive existing residents of anything, but we do expect our significant investment in Cecil Township to be protected. That’s not too much to ask.
10. Jesse White Introduces Bill to Protect Leasers
State Rep. Jesse White this week introduced a trio of House bills to protect landowners who lease property to natural gas and oil drillers in Pennsylvania, and help others obtain mineral rights that may exist under their property but are deemed abandoned.
White, D-Washington/Allegheny/Beaver, said Pennsylvania currently has no reporting requirements or standards for royalty payments, and that his bills promote simple best practices designed to increase transparency and accountability to benefit residents who have signed or are looking to sign leases to develop oil and gas resources.
House Bill 1442 would require companies to clearly show on royalty check stubs, payment forms, or other remittance, details of the well’s productivity and any deductions taken by the company, including the total amount of severance, production taxes or other deductions permitted under the lease.
The legislation is similar to S.B. 259, which unanimously passed the state Senate.
House Bill 1443 would mandate a “Pugh Clause” in gas and oil contracts to define what happens to the portion of acreage leased that either does not contain a well or is not included within a producing pool or unit, allowing landowners to remove this land from contract.
Without Pugh Clause language, landowners may have limited or no options to sell or re-lease their property, as it could be held indefinitely in limbo while yielding no income.
House Bill 1444 would provide a judicial process by which a property owner could petition the courts to have mineral rights rejoined with surface rights in instances when those mineral rights are deemed abandoned after a period of 10 years of non-use.
The bill, which is similar to legislation White introduced in previous sessions, would not take away mineral rights from any legitimate owner. Instead, it is designed for situations in which the owner cannot be determined after a lengthy title search and proper notification to all parties who may have a legal interest in the mineral rights.
“Signing a gas lease is undoubtedly one of the biggest decisions a family will make in their lifetime regarding their property,” White said. “Anyone who signs a lease deserves at the very least some basic and commonsense protections under the law.
“To be clear, this legislative package would not cost leaseholders any money, but instead would guarantee that every penny they deserve is accounted for, while promoting natural gas development to provide opportunities for landowners, business and the local workforce alike.”
Originally posted at: http://www.pahouse.com/White/PAHouseNews.asp?doc=29540
Day Unit Near Trinity South Elementary School, Washington PA
Photo by Bob Donnan