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Calendar of Events
***County Commissioners’ Meeting- 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the county courthouse at 10:00
***WMCG Steering Committee Meetings 2nd Tuesday of every month at 7:30
***Election Day May 21
***Gasland II June 20
For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:
***Sign Petition for DEP Secretary who Cares About the Environment
Tell Governor Corbett: Appoint an environmental expert without fracking industry ties as Department of Environmental Protection Secretary,
As Pennsylvania 's top environmental regulator, Michael Krancer shilled for the fracking industry. That's why it's exciting that he resigned from public service last month and returned to his old job: lawyering for the oil and gas industry. His departure is an opportunity to appoint an environmental regulator who will crack down on the fracking industry's reckless disregard for Pennsylvanians' health and safety.
Tell Governor Corbett: Appoint an environmental expert without fracking industry ties as Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, not another shill for the industry. Click here to sign the petition:
*** Gas Drilling Records in Pennsylvania
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
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 related to gas drilling. Lauren Williams discussion of the gag order on doctors is a good explanation of the problems surrounding the gag order.
You must click on each speaker in turn to hear all the presentations
1. All Politics Are More Local Now Than Ever
by State Representative Jesse White, D-Cecil
“With natural gas drilling of the Marcellus Shale and the infrastructure that comes with it, such as pipelines and processing plants, local government is more important now than ever,' state Rep. Jesse White rights.
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously declared that “all politics is local.” You can take such a statement in a variety of ways, but there are some profound truths hidden in there.
The 2013 Municipal Primary Election is on Tuesday, May 21, and voter turnout is expected to be extremely low. If not for the sea of campaign signs littering landscapes everywhere, most people may not even know which offices are up for election.
All federal offices, such as president, senate and members of Congress run in even-numbered years, along with statewide offices such as governor and the state Legislature. In the odd-numbered years, local offices such as borough council, township supervisor, school board director, along with county-wide row officers and judges are elected.
Most people don’t seem to care a whole lot about local elections unless they personally know the candidate. That isn’t just my opinion—the voter turnout numbers speak for themselves. It’s really unfortunate, because so many of these races have a far greater impact than most people may imagine
With natural gas drilling of the Marcellus Shale and the infrastructure that comes with it, such as pipelines and processing plants, local government is more important now than ever. It’s really interesting, because party affiliations are often thrown out the window when it comes to the issue of what role, if any, local government should play in natural gas development. Some of the most progressive Democrats and some of the most conservative Republicans—people who may not agree on much of anything—are often in lockstep in the desire to avoid a big-government takeover of our local property rights.
I’ve talked a lot about Act 13, the state law passed last year that pretty much took away the rights of local municipalities to use zoning to help ensure natural gas development is consistent and safe. A group of municipalities, including Mt. Pleasant, Cecil, Robinson and South Fayette Townships challenged Act 13 in court, with attorneys taking the case pro bono—at no cost whatsoever to taxpayers.
These townships are all very different, but they share one critical characteristic: The elected township supervisors, both Republicans and Democrats, had the guts to stand up and say they believed the people living locally in a community should have more say about some things than Gov. Tom Corbett and the unelected Harrisburg bureaucracy of the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Commission.
None of these municipalities tried to ban drilling—they just wanted to protect the home and business owners in the community from poor planning and a lack of accountability. The recent example of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas gave us all a grim reminder of what happens when local zoning is ignored. There is a reason some industries shouldn’t be within a stone’s throw of your kid’s school, your church or your hospital, and the supervisors in these communities decided it was important enough to stand up and fight for.
And guess what? Despite the baseless pessimism of a handful of naysayers and a never-ending string of nuisance lawsuits filed by a handful of drilling companies intent on behaving like stubborn children, the municipalities are actually winning.
The Commonwealth Court ruled the zoning preemptions of Act 13 are unconstitutional, so the law has not gone into effect. That could all change depending on what the state Supreme Court does, and will likely be impacted in a huge way based on whether Corbett tries to appoint a justice to replace Joan Orie Melvin who will uphold Act 13, which could wreak havoc on our region. Concerns about your property values potentially taking a nosedive are very real without fair zoning to define what our communities should be.
Despite the never-ending push by the public relations propaganda wing of the gas industry to portray themselves as victims, zoning laws aren’t designed to punish anyone; they’re designed to protect people and give them some certainty. If you bought a house in a residential area, you made that very large purchase with a basic understanding of what could be built around you and your family—to change the rules in the middle of the game infringes on our fundamental Constitutional right to enjoy our private property.
Like I’ve learned from about two dozen commercials, drilling is just the beginning. We’re looking at a massive buildup of pipelines and compressor stations as the natural gas industry moves toward exporting our gas to foreign countries. We need to decide right now how we want that to look.
Do we want local officials who will ask the tough but fair questions and demand accountability to protect the people and property of the community, or do we want eager enablers who are content to stick their heads in the frac sand and blindly repeat slick but largely untrue talking points?
You can support the responsible development of Marcellus Shale while still maintaining local zoning. Even the drilling nirvana of Texas allows local communities to use zoning to control natural gas production, so let’s not act as though this is some revolutionary concept. The gas industry has enough cheerleaders in government; what we need are some fair and objective referees.
Decisions are made by those that show up. Ask questions, demand answers and go vote on May 21. Now more than ever, it really matters.”
2. Letter to the Editor…
Supervisor Andy Schrader announces he will not attend private meeting with Range
May 11, 2013 - This is in response to the article, “Cecil Township supervisors want private meeting with Range Resources,” which appeared in the Wednesday edition of the Observer-Reporter.
It states that it was not known whether Schrader would attend the meeting. For the record, I will not attend any private meeting with Range Resources. It gives the appearance of some kind of secretive deal going on and I won’t be a part of it. I have always said that I will meet with Range but it has to be at a public meeting where our residents can hear every word that is said.
Andy Schrader, McDonald
Cecil Township supervisor. “
3. North Huntingdon Residents Want to Know Sunoco’s Pipeline Plans
By Paula and Andy Pollack
“After months of debate, the proposed Sunoco Logistics pipeline that was planned to run through North Huntingdon Twp was defeated and a new route has been chosen.
Ironically, the new route will be even closer to Lincoln Hills. This pipeline will carry liquid propane under extremely high pressure between Delmont and Houston, PA. The new route will basically follow the high-tension power lines between Delmont and Houston which crosses near the Irwin interchange. It is our understanding from conversations with both North Huntingdon and Hempfield that the proposed new route will happen.
We have not seen or heard of any public hearings being held to allow us to express our safety concerns.
You can read about this change in an article written by Timothy Puko in the Saturday, March 9, 2013 edition of the Tribune-Review, "Residents reroute pipeline". http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/3624387-74/pipeline-gas-move” Please share any further information regarding this issue by forwarding to Jan.
From the Tim Puko Article:
“Many residents were surprised late last year to learn the company was seeking to acquire land and hadn't ruled out trying to use eminent domain. Safety experts had said the liquid gas cargo would be some of the most dangerous for a residential area. During leaks, it forms a thick cloud and hovers until it finds an ignition source, experts said.
Moving the pipeline away from suburbs probably is a safer option, said Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, an independent group in Bellingham, Wash. It may seem that putting pipelines next to one another might heighten risks during explosions, but several large pipeline explosions have happened in recent years without damaging nearby lines, he said.
The pipeline will be about a 45-mile spur from a processing plant in Chartiers to a pipeline hub in Delmont. It's part of the Mariner East project, which will move as many as 70,000 barrels of ethane and propane from Western Pennsylvania shale gas wells for export from Philadelphia.
Range Resources Corp., the dominant driller in Washington County, supplies most of that gas and has contracts to ship half of it to Europe.
McGinn didn't immediately have details about how many homes will be along the new pipeline route. It still may have suburban areas to go through around Canonsburg, Forward, Elizabeth, Jeannette and Penn. Sunoco Logistics officials are still deciding the path of the line and plan to meet with residents and emergency officials in its area, McGinn said.
Timothy Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/3624387-74/pipeline-gas-move#ixzz2TMwtVIXP
4. Radioactive Frack Waste Triggers Concerns at Dump Sites
“The number of garbage trucks setting off radiation monitors had a fivefold increase between 2009 and 2012, drawing renewed attention from state officials who hadn't believed radiation would be a big problem from the s drilling industry.
South Huntingdon is trying to block MAX Environmental Technologies Inc. from receiving DEP permission to accept a higher level radioactive waste, supervisor Melvin Cornell said.
“This stuff they compile as they dump it. It will grow and grow and grow,” Cornell said. “Hey, if there's nothing wrong, take it down, and make a playground with it where they live. That might sound harsh, but we don't want it here.”
Radiation alarms went off 1,325 times in 2012, with more than 1,000 of those alerts just from oil and gas waste, according to data from the DEP.
The state's landfills have to one day be fit for people to live on after they close, so the state has to make sure they aren't allowing a dangerous build-up of radioactivity, officials said.
State regulators, industry supporters and some scientists say that treating shale waste properly eliminates big health risk. But there are critics who argue that bringing large quantities of even low-level radioactive particles to the surface can lead to a slow, incremental build up of particles that people breathe or eat throughout their lifetimes.
The state began requiring radiation monitors at landfills in 2002 because of medical waste. But oil and gas waste — which brings up naturally occurring radiation formerly locked a mile or so underground — has become an increasing concern.
The spike in radiation alarms roughly corresponds shale drilling activity. Radiation detectors went off 423 times in 2008 and 1,325 times in 2012, according to DEP data. Gas drillers punched 335 new shale wells in 2008 and 1,354 new shale wells in 2012.
The average radium content in Marcellus shale wastewater samples was more than double the content found in wastewater from other gas-producing formations, the Geological Survey found in 2011.
It's more than 40 times the federal limit for industrial discharges, but it can be diluted in treatment or separated with chemicals into a sludge, said Mark A. Engle, a groundwater expert and study co-author. Engle said that the radioactive sludge should be safely contained by a dump's liners.
“The state isn't changing any rules while it does a year long study because past research has shown problems are unlikely, state officials said. They will be examining radioactivity in all facets of drilling, including sludge, wastewater, drill cuttings, gas and the imprint radioactivity may leave on all the equipment, pipes and trucks that haul it around.
Several groups have criticized a state policy that allows drillers to bury some waste at their well sites, as long as it's covered in its plastic liner and buried.
The DEP has proposed banning that practice …
Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/3945499-74/gas-radiation-radioactivity#ixzz2T8vZoGEZ
5. Air Pollution in Colorado- Highest Ever Wintertime Ozone Levels
“Colorado regulators have measured elevated wintertime ground-level ozone levels for the first time, prompting an environmental group to petition the Bureau of Land Management to halt all new oil and gas drilling on federal lands in NW Colorado where the pollution was detected.
New statewide data from the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division show high ozone levels along the Western Slope, as well as a short-term increase in places along the Front Range, including Rocky Mountain National Park, which never before had measured high ozone.
The wintertime ozone phenomenon had previously been seen only in the Uinta Basin in northeast Utah and in the Upper Green River Basin in southern Wyoming -- both of which are in areas that have heavy oil and gas drilling.
"Certainly there's an indication that there's a problem out there," said Garry Kaufman, the state Air Pollution Control Division's deputy director.
Kaufman, however, cautioned that much more quality assurance and quality control are needed with the data. He noted that the Rangely area shares the same airshed as the heavily drilled Uinta Basin in neighboring Utah, and that pollution from the nearby basin could be drifting into Colorado.
Sgamma noted that EPA last year implemented new oil and gas industry regulations addressing emissions of (VOCs), which along with emissions of nitrogen oxides from automobile tailpipes and industry smokestacks are the chief ingredients in the formation of ozone pollution.
But the new ozone numbers shine a spotlight on increased oil and gas development in the state, according to WildEarth Guardians. The group points to a state report earlier this year that found nearly half of all emissions of VOCs in Colorado are attributed to the industry.
WildEarth Guardians today filed a formal petition asking BLM to halt new oil and gas leases and applications for permits to drill in the White River Field Office.
"Our request is simple: Stop polluting the air and start fixing the problem," said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians' climate and energy program director in Denver. "With ramped up oil and gas drilling and fracking, and more coal mining on the horizon, the Bureau of Land Management can't ignore the fact that Colorado's clean air is at risk and that they have an obligation to do something about it."
EPA last year determined that the Upper Green River Basin, Wyoming which is home to oil and gas fields, is out of compliance with the federal ozone standard and gave the state three years to fix the problem.
EPA monitors in 2011 registered 13 days in three months, from January to March, when ozone levels in the basin exceeded the health-based standard, including a March 2, 2011, reading of 124 ppb -- higher than the worst ozone levels recorded that year in Los Angeles.
At such high concentrations, ozone can trigger asthma attacks and inflame the conditions of those suffering from bronchitis and emphysema, with small children and the elderly the most at risk.
A recent study conducted by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wyoming Department of Health measured daily ozone concentrations in Sublette County, Wyo., between 2008 and 2011 and found that increases in ozone concentrations had adverse health impacts for residents -- most notably an increase in the number of people visiting doctor's offices with respiratory complaints (Greenwire, April 12).
In Utah, ozone monitors this winter have measured concentrations as high as 130 ppb in some parts of the Uinta Basin.
A two-year study led by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, together with EPA, and partly funded by $2 million contributed by members of the Western Energy Alliance, concluded that oil and gas drilling operations are the primary source of the problem (EnergyWire, Feb. 20).
EPA has already designated seven Colorado counties, including the state's most heavily drilled county of Weld, as part of a "nonattainment area." The state faces a December 2015 federal deadline to bring those seven Front Range counties into compliance, Kaufman said, and the latest data certainly could threaten that effort.
"With Colorado's Western Slope now violating federal smog standards, it's critical that the state respond quickly to restore our clean air and the health of this state," Nichols said. "Smog is clearly a statewide issue, and it deserves statewide solutions that work."
6. Drilling Boom Complicates Clean and Green
“ Since 1974, PA’s Clean and Green program has allowed farmers and landowners to pay a lower property tax rate on plots of land larger than 10 acres that are used for agriculture or are forests or open space. But with the booming development of the Marcellus Shale, many area farms now also have gas wells on them. In 2010, state legislators voted to amend the law so that any land used in gas and oil drilling could no longer claim the tax break. Owners would be responsible for paying the difference between the higher rate and their reduced amount from as early as 2007.
No collection notices have been sent out in Washington County thus far, but there’s potential for significant tax income. For example, Boni said a Washington County farm that had to pay rollback taxes on five acres from 2007 to the present would owe roughly $700 in rolled-back Clean and Green taxes. Seventy to 80 percent of the money generated would go to local school boards and the county and local municipalities would get the difference. Boni said of the nearly 8,000 Clean and Green properties in Washington County, roughly 1,000 have had wells drilled on them. So far the county has begun surveying 22 properties, but has not yet sent collection notices.”
Definition of C&G from the Bureau of Farmland Preservation:
WHAT IS CLEAN AND GREEN?
Clean and Green is a preferential tax assessment program, that bases property taxes on use values rather than fair market values. This ordinarily results in a tax savings for landowners. The Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted the program in 1974 as a tool to encourage protection of the Commonwealth's valuable farmland, forestland and open spaces. Currently, more than 9.3 million acres are enrolled statewide.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR A CHANGE IN USE OF LAND?
A landowner who breaches the covenant is subject to seven years of rollback taxes at 6% interest per year. The rollback tax is the difference between what was paid under Clean and Green versus what would have been paid, if the property had not been enrolled, plus 6% simple interest per year.
MAY I ENGAGE IN ENERGY DEVELOPMENT ON MY CLEAN AND GREEN PROPERTY?
The program was recently amended to provide for oil and gas development with a limited rollback tax penalty. Rollback taxes are only due with respect to those areas of the property devoted to the activity - as determined by the county assessor upon submission of a well production report to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Similarly, commercial wind production is now permitted with rollback taxes limited to those areas devoted to the activity. Tier one alternative energy systems - such as solar and biomass - are permitted without any rollback tax penalty if the majority of energy is utilized on the enrolled tract.
MAY I ENGAGE IN MINING ON MY CLEAN AND GREEN PROPERTY?
The program was recently amended to allow for one small non-coal surface mining permit on enrolled land. Rollback taxes are due on the affected areas.
Bureau of Farmland Preservation
7. Consol Shuts Out Media,
“ Consol Energy became the only company in the Pittsburgh region to bar reporters from attending its annual meeting, shutting the press out of a gathering that attracted about five shareholders. The Cecil-based coal and natural gas producer closed its doors to the media for the second year in a row, saying the secret proceedings allow executives to focus on business, and that the company is transparent throughout the year.
The practice is not illegal, but "it's not appropriate," said Lev Janashvili, managing director at GMI Ratings, a corporate governance research firm in New York. "What does that decision reveal and suggest about the quality of leadership at the company?" The other driller with headquarters in the region, EQT Corp., had security guards located inside the Downtown conference room that held its shareholder meeting in April, and had all attendees wanded with metal detectors.” http://pipeline.post-gazette.com/news/archives/25155-consol-shuts-out-media-cites-need-for-focus-in-shareholder-talks
8. History of a Fracked Park
Bob Donnan researched and recorded this data
Waste from Marcellus shale drilling in Cross Creek Park kills fish
June 5, 2009
A leaking waste water pipe from a Range Resources Marcellus shale gas well drilled in Washington County's Cross Creek Park has polluted an unnamed tributary of Cross Creek Lake, killing fish, salamanders, crayfish and aquatic insect life in approximately three-quarters of a mile of the stream. The state Department of Environmental Protection said Range Resources reported the May 26 wastewater discharge from a coupling on a 6-inch pipe running from a recently drilled well to a wastewater impoundment.
Part of Pa. DEP inspection report:
Condensate tanks near the gas well where radiation levels were detected at twice the background level in the park. Range has been using the ‘alternate waste disposal’ method to bury drilling pits inside the park.
A USGS study showed very high levels of radiation during some spot testing. The produced water from these wells was being hauled to Wheeling, WV for disposal into the Ohio River.
CLEARCUTTING BLUNDER IN COUNTY PARK COSTS RANGE
October 21, 2011 - Washington County solicitor J. Lynn DeHaven used the term "reparations" when announcing an agreement he reached with Range Resources over clear-cutting done in error at Cross Creek County Park near West Middletown. Clear-cutting by a Range Resources contractor was done "in an area specifically off-limits. It was one of the oldest stands of hardwoods in the park, the hillside we didn't want them touching," said Lisa Cessna.
Range had first encroached on West Middletown Cemetery property, then moved into an area of the park that was off-limits. But the mood among the county commissioners was anything but belligerent Thursday morning, because Range agreed to provide $100,000 worth of in-kind services at the park. Range is also to reimburse the county $14,247, which is double the value of the trees cut, based on estimates given by the company's forester.
RANGE VIOLATES PARK LEASE
September 16, 2011 - Range Resources' violation of a lease with Washington County on the site of a natural gas well pad on park property in Hopewell Township was raised Thursday after a Peters Township resident told county commissioners "drilling in Cross Creek Park has run amok."
County solicitor J. Lynn DeHaven said Range was told to "cease and desist." "They were cutting trees where we had not authorized them to cut trees, so we stopped them. The pad site was not where we approved," Fergus said. "It was an engineering error on their part. They thought they were on the county property when they were on cemetery property.
Range Resources’ 2nd documented spill inside the park….
DEP investigating spill at Cross Creek County Park
OBSERVER-REPORTER By Barbara Miller
March 15, 2013 - The state 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 natural gas drilling site noticed what is known as “re-use” water entering a secondary containment area. “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.
Lisa Cessna, director of the Washington County Planning Commission, which oversees county parks, said the Feb. 12 spill involved about 40 barrels of water (1,680 gallons). She has had a representative of the Washington County Conservation District and parks superintendent Kevin Garrison monitor the site, which has been mulched. Range drilled its first horizontal well in the 3,500-acre Cross Creek Park in 2008.
9. Why Obama Favors Exporting Gas
“The Financial Times reports that President Obama is likely to weigh in on the side of more exports. Why is that? Administration officials reportedly think that the trade and geopolitical benefits of increasing exports outweigh the possible downsides: A vocal lobby of energy-intensive manufacturers, including Dow Chemical and Alcoa, has urged the administration to limit export permits, arguing unrestricted LNG sales overseas could erode the energy cost advantage created by the shale boom’s cheap gas.
However, US officials believe that being seen to restrict exports for the benefit of domestic industry would send a terrible signal about the country’s support for free trade. So what’s the thinking here? A recent report from the Congressional Research Service breaks down some of the key trade issues. Technically, Article XI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade forbids restrictions on exports through quotas and licensing. The United States could conceivably get an exception for natural gas — because it’s a limited, exhaustible resource.”
10. Grassroots Can Stop Fracking One Town At A Time
City councils and local activists have stymied shale gas mining in New York, and could prove an example for others to follow
"And what Rendell failed to mention is that the drilling of over 150,000 wells for natural gas has transformed large swaths of rural Pennsylvania into what basically are industrial zones, bristling with monster trucks, wastewater ponds, and traffic jams. Air pollution is higher in counties with drilling than those without and residents complain about round-the-clock noise. Ed Rendell also didn't mention the McIntyre family, who live in Butler County – western Pennsylvania's frack zone – and whose members suffer from projectile vomiting, headaches, breathing problems, mysterious skin rashes … the list goes on. The family dog died suddenly, after lapping up some water the family believes was problematic. The McIntyres no longer drink, brush their teeth, or do their laundry with the water piped into their home.
New Yorkers worried about fracking have been looking at the impact it's had on their neighbors in Pennsylvania. Increasingly, they don't like what they see there. After a fact-finding tour to the town of Troy, in northern Pennsylvania, Terry Gipson, a New York state senator, reported that, despite signs of renewed economic activity in the region, he couldn't help wonder what will happen when the gas boom goes bust, as all booms inevitably do."
Front yard sign in Amwell Twp, Pa.
Photo by Bob Donnan