Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates June 22, 2013
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Calendar of Events
***Fracktracker Training-Free--Sign Up Now
To follow what is going on with gas operations/violations near you. We will learn how to track permits, wells, and violations using the Fracktracker computer program.
June 26- Two Sessions 3-5pm or 6-8pm
ST Vincent College Dupre Science Pavilion, West Building, Room WG02
Presented by Mt Watershed Assoc and FracTracker Alliance
Also sponsored by Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group
To RSVP for one of the 2 hour sessions contact Kathryn Hilton at Kathryn@mtwatershed.com or 724-455-4200 ext. 4
Please share this information with you email lists.
***Westmoreland County Commissioners Meeting--2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the County Courthouse at 10:00 am
***WMCG Steering Committee Meetings--2nd Tuesday of every month at 7:30 pm
***EPA Again Backs Down Due to Industry Pressure
The state of Wyoming is taking over the EPA investigation into the possible contamination of Pavillion, WY area groundwater by fracking.
EPA had already concluded -- for the first time -- that fracking had polluted groundwater, and was getting their conclusion peer reviewed when Wyoming's Governor Mead announced it was taking over.
The state could only take control if the Obama administration allowed it. In allowing it, the White House is allowing the very interests who denied there was a problem in the first place to -- in essence -- investigate themselves. And now the people around Pavillion have been abandoned, their polluted drinking water unresolved. Gasland II explains the politics of these actions very well.
This decision continues a nationwide pattern of Obama Administration walkbacks of EPA investigations whose preliminary results indicate fracking-enabled oil and gas development presents real risks to public health and water. Similar actions have occurred in Parker County, Texas, and Dimock, Pennsylvania.
Tell President Obama and the EPA to stand by their own study! Use the link below to sign the letter.
Here is an excerpt from the message.
“Allow EPA to continue the good work they were doing investigating the contamination of groundwater by oil and gas development. It is imperative that the EPA continue as the lead on this study in order to truly protect communities and water resources from fracking.
It is outrageous that this important study has been handed over to an industry-friendly state government, leaving Pavillion-area citizens unprotected. Many families still do not have clean drinking water because of contamination from the drilling industry.”
***Call WESA about Range Resources’ Ads On Public Radio
Public Radio is still running Range Resource ads and I am still hearing a lot of complaints. . Continue to call and tell WESA this is not the mission of public radio –to be a mouthpiece for the industry—to present industry propaganda as fact .
Call or email WESA and let them know if you will not donate because of this issue and that you disagree with this policy. I spent quite awhile on the phone with one of the program directors. We all need to do this.
WESA Phone 412- 381 -9131
Director of Content & Programming: Tammy Terwelp: email@example.com
***To sign up for notifications of activity and violations for your area:
***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/
1. Gasland Showing –1700 In Attendance-- Amazing Film
“Pittsburgh had the largest attendance of any city on the tour. Actually Josh said this was a record for ANY of the Gasland showings, I and II. Mel Packer understood that Williamsport with 900 attendees, had the second highest attendance. Incredible organizing efforts on the part of so many—the primary organizer was Marcellus Protest.
And thank you to all of you who helped post publicity. “
From Beaver County Times by Amanda King –
“Celia Janosik was more angry than excited to attend the premiere of Gasland Part II at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.
The Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Committee Treasurer of Economy Borough has spent the better part of three years advocating for the natural gas industry to stop hydraulic fracturing or as it's most commonly known as; fracking. Underneath Southwestern Pennsylvania is the Marcellus shale -- a rock formation filled with a mecca of natural gas.
"I've had people ask, 'Why don't you just give up?" Janosik said as tears rolled down her cheeks. "I've got grandkids."
The crowd was receptive to Fox's film by cheering when shots of Pittsburgh appeared and when Fox was arrested in Washington D.C. But, this crowd was different from the audience who gathered three years ago to see Fox's debut.
"This is not the choir," Marcellus Protest activist Mel Packer said.
Packer, who has been on the front lines of the controversial issue, said he didn't recognize a lot of people Thursday night at the screening.
One man who seemed to be middle-aged said he heard about the screening on the local NPR affiliate radio station, 90.5 WESA.”
…Yet, Part II opened beautifully and ended the same way with creative, shots of nature woven together atop Fox's narrative stating that he isn't stopping this fight, a foreshadowing that Gasland Part III may be in the future.
Gasland Part II airs on HBO July 8, 9 p.m.”
2. PA State Democratic Committee Passes Support for Moratorium
The PA State Democratic Committee voted to support a moratorium on fracking at its Jun 14-15 meeting in Lancaster.
Special congratulations to the citizen group Berks Gas Truth for their work with the Committee.
There is a fracking moratorium in parts of Montgomery County, Bucks, Chester and Berks counties.
3. Candidate Schwartz Opposes Moratorium
“The Democratic frontrunner for the 2014 governor's race has rejected the state party's call for a moratorium on fracking, a campaign spokeswoman said Friday.
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Montgomery County, does not agree with the resolution passed by the state party last weekend asking for a moratorium until the effects of fracking in Pennsylvania can be studied more closely.”
4. Report Finds Fracking a Risk for Pregnant Women and Children
“The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) released a new report outlining the health risks to pregnant women and young children from harmful chemicals used in fracking. The report, Toxic and Dirty Secrets: The Truth About Fracking and Your Family’s Health, shows how frack chemicals can pollute the air and water in communities around fracking sites and pose health risks especially to pregnant women and children, who are most vulnerable to chemical exposures.
some of the harmful substances commonly used in fracking include methane, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes), arsenic, radium, ozone, formaldehyde, radium, radon, nitrogen oxides, methylene chloride and silica sand. These substances are associated with low birth weight, birth defects, respiratory problems, cancer and fertility problems.
“Nurses are deeply concerned about the irreparable harm fracking inflicts upon the people and communities in their care,” said Kathy Curtis, LPN, Board Member of the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments. “Fetuses and children are disproportionately vulnerable to the deleterious effects of exposure to environmental toxicants,” said Dr. Sheila Bushkin, MD, MPH. “Although health impacts from industrial chemicals already exist in our population, the magnitude of risk would be greatly increased if High-volume Hydraulic Fracturing (HVHF) is permitted within the state of New York. Exposure to industrial chemicals and to ionizing radiation cause greater injury during development and early life. This may result in greater likelihood of birth defects, cognitive and behavioral development and lifelong disabilities. Likewise, environmental exposures to these substances, place pregnant women at greater risk from complications of gestation, resulting in increased maternal illnesses and mortality. From an ethical point of view, it is the responsibility of the medical community and legislative leaders to protect the health of the people of New York State and future generations. The first step would be to conduct a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment, prior to permitting the onset of HVHF activities within this beautiful state.”
http://ecowatch.com/2013/report-fracking-health-risks-pregnant-women-children/Center for Environmental Health
5. Center for Sustainable Shale Development Questioned for Bias
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“A recent report says foundations and environmental groups partnering to improve Marcellus Shale gas drilling and development standards have substantial and undisclosed ties to the industry.
The report by Public Accountability Initiative, a nonprofit watchdog group, criticizes the 11-member Center for Sustainable Shale Development for a lack of transparency about those links and for "greenwashing" the industry's environmental image.
The Heinz Endowments, which spearheaded the partnership launched in March, was targeted by the report for not disclosing that its president since 2008, Robert F. Vagt, is on the board of directors at Kinder Morgan, a natural gas pipeline company, where he was paid $136,016 last year and where he owns $1.2 million in stock.
"That's a significant, undisclosed conflict of interest," said Kevin Connor, Public Accountability director and an author of the report released last week. "One of the main funders of the center has undisclosed ties to industry that people should have been informed of and groups involved should have been aware of. It's a violation of the public trust."
Heinz and 10 partners launched the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which set 15 voluntary performance standards.
It challenged shale gas developers to meet those standards and receive independent, third-party certification that they were following industry best practices.
The 21-page report details a number of links between the gas industry and CSSD members. In addition to the Heinz Endowments, those members include the William Penn Foundation, and the environmental groups Clean Air Task Force, Environmental Defense Fund, Group Against Smog and Pollution, PennFuture and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. Also members are the gas companies Chevron, Consol Energy, EQT and Shell.
Mr. Connor said the shale gas development certification process has been criticized by other environmental groups and "is, on its face, a greenwashing effort because the certification process is without a lot of teeth."
Joe Osborne, legal director at the Pittsburgh-based Group Against Smog and Pollution, which is a member of the CSSD but does not have a seat on its board said,
"But anyone who approaches CSSD with a critical mind-set will find it's a legitimate organization and has the potential to significantly improve the environmental performance of the gas drilling industry," Mr. Osborne said.
Editors note: Don Hopey is president of the Society of Environmental Journalists, a professional journalism organization with 1,300 members, which has received grants from the Heinz Endowments.
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/marcellusshale/pittsburgh-environment-groups-ties-to-gas-industry-called-into-question-692097/#ixzz2WcxaodqT
6. Wyoming Throws Out EPA Study That Used Millions of Dollars of Taxpayers Money
“Pavillion area citizens, landowners and environmental groups today condemned Wyoming Governor Mead’s announcement that the state is assuming control from the EPA of the investigation into groundwater contamination by fracking near Pavillion, WY.
Pavillion farmer John Fenton said, “We went to EPA for help after the State of Wyoming and Encana refused to address the public health impacts of unbridled development in the Pavillion area. Now Encana has bought its way back in and is working with the State on a strategy to cover up the mess they’ve created. Our Government’s priority is clearly to protect industry rather than Wyoming citizens, our health and our property values. Governor Mead, the Obama administration, and Encana have decided what is best for our community without consulting us. We were presented with Mead’s vague plan at the same time it was released to the public. Unlike the other stakeholders, we bear the brunt of living in the toxic mess that has become our community, but our input has been thrown out with EPA’s investigation. This is a sad day for our country.”
This decision continues a nationwide pattern of Obama Administration walkbacks of EPA investigations whose preliminary results indicate fracking-presents real risks to public health and water. Similar actions have occurred in Parker County, Texas, and Dimock, Pennsylvania.
“It seems clear that the White House’s “all of the above” energy policy means fracking’s impacts on communities are being ignored,” said Earthworks Energy Program Director Bruce Baizel. He continued, “All across the country, whether it’s Wyoming, or Texas, or Pennsylvania, it appears the EPA is being politically pressured to back off sound science that shows fracking is a risk to public health. With these decisions, the Obama administration is creating more opposition to fracking, not less.”
Governor Mead’s announcement indicates that the state would cease peer review of EPA’s investigation, essentially ignoring it.
“The state of Wyoming is already on record, through action and inaction, as denying that Pavillion’s groundwater contamination is a cause for concern,” said area ag- producer, Jeff Locker, “They are throwing out a conscientious science- based study by EPA that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. The Governor’s plan postpones any conclusions for at least another year. It’s hard to believe that they’re trying to get to the bottom of the problem, they’re hoping this whole thing just goes away.”
See more at: http://www.earthworksaction.org/media/detail/pavillion_area_citizens_national_groups_oppose_wyomings_control_of_the_pavi#.UcSk681q2aJ
7. Geisinger Looking for Funding For Health Study
(In this state, where thousands of wells are drilled, compressor stations and other operations sited, and over 1300 people have declared their firm belief that their illnesses are cause by fracking by adding their name to the List of the Harmed, there is not money available for a health study? Jan)
“An important study on possible health impacts of natural gas drilling is still looking for additional funding.
Geisinger Health System spokeswoman Amanda O'Rourke said Wednesday the $1 million grant that was announced in February 2012 remains the only funding for a project that was projected to cost at least $25 million.
Geisinger plans to look at health histories of hundreds of thousands of patients who live near Marcellus Shale gas wells in Pennsylvania. Geisinger is based in Danville.
O'Rourke says small-scale pilot studies on trauma, births, asthma and pulmonary disease are moving forward. But pilot studies don't provide definitive answers to medical questions.
Geisinger says conclusions about whether drilling is safe are likely years away, though the pilot studies will be done sooner.”
8. Grassroots Leaders Oppose Radioactive Frack Waste Disposal in Ohio
“Grassroots leaders in Ohio called out state leaders for failing to protect Ohioans from solid radioactive waste from fracking. According to local citizens groups, Governor Kasich’s budget bill will provide inadequate protection from low-level radioactive waste, and therefore constitutes a handout to the oil and gas industry. They are asking the state to require the oil and gas industry to properly dispose of Low-Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW).
“The regulations represent yet another concession to the oil and gas industry at the expense of Ohioans’ health and safety,” says Alison Auciello, an organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Governor Kasich and our regulators are billing the proposal as a way to monitor and keep radioactive waste from landfills. But the legislation will indeed do the opposite of the claims made by the administration.
"The General Assembly is playing a word game to remake lethally radioactive waste into 'drilling cuttings' in order to allow drillers to dump their mountain of garbage on the cheap," said Terry Lodge, an attorney for the opposition working group. "They're replacing scientific fact with magical thinking and endangering public health, water, land and air--all for profit. By implementing these standards, they will violate federal standards. This will not stand."
Chris Borello, for Concerned Citizens of Stark County asserted, “the radiation inherently present in shale gas drilling waste is a very serious concern. Whether disposed via injection wells, dumped into landfills or discharged into our Ohio surface waters from waste water plants, our state appears to be targeted as a regional radiation sacrifice zone. But once let out into our environment, this carcinogenic and long-lived toxin will leave Ohioans at risk forever. The proposal in the Ohio budget is an outdated, substandard criteria misleadingly contrary to what the National Academy of Science, the US EPA and what 37 other states cite as the protective definition concerning this form of radiation.”
“Through the chosen definitions, this legislation exempts much radioactive and toxic material from any testing or tracking. Add oil-based substances, like benzene to this concoction and the Governor and Ohio regulators think this waste can be used for ‘any manner authorized as a beneficial use.’ This is bad policy and endangers the health of Ohioans,” said Vanessa Pesec, president of the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection.
Julie Weatherington-Rice, senior scientist at Bennet & Williams Environmental says, “Ohio learned an important lesson in the 1990s when we were considering placing a low level radioactive waste landfill in the state for medical and research waste. We learned that if you take a small amount of radioactive waste and mix it with a large volume of regular wastes, you end up with a large volume of radioactive waste. Somehow, our legislature and our administration have forgotten this vital, basic radiological lesson. Water-soluble wastes like radium, uranium, and radon gas just leach out anyway, leaving behind the rest of the radioactive elements to contaminate wherever our current government chooses to put them. You either learn from history, or you repeat the mistakes again and again.”
Contacts: Alison Auciello, email@example.com, (513) 394-6257;
Chris Borello, firstname.lastname@example.org, (330) 499-5207;
Julie Weatherington-Rice, email@example.com, (614) 436-5248;
Terry Lodge, Esq., firstname.lastname@example.org, (419) 255-7552
9. Petroleum-Based Frack Fluid Dumped
DEP asking for help to identify polluter
“The PA DEP can't determine who was responsible for petroleum based, frack fluid dumped or spilled into Hicks Creek, PA in March 2012 and is seeking help from the public.
"The only way we are going to get any more evidence is if the public comes forward with some knowledge and information," DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said.
The creek did not require cleanup because it "replenished itself" in two weeks, Ms. Connolly said. DEP suspected three companies may have been responsible, Ms. Connolly said without identifying the companies. She noted the companies have been "cooperative" with the DEP probe.
"Some more than others," she added.
When a manhole cover on Stevens Lane was lifted in March 2012, DEP discovered oil underneath, Ms. Connolly said.
Under that same manhole cover on Stevens Lane, DEP also discovered evidence of "wildcat sewers," Ms. Connolly said. A wildcat sewer discharges untreated sewage to the ground, storm sewers or streams.
"Dozens of lines down there," Ms. Connolly said. "We don't know what they are doing. It's an issue we are going to be dealing with over the next few months, working hand-in-hand with the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority."
BY MICHAEL P. BUFFER (STAFF WRITER)Published: June 15, 2013
10. PA Municipalities Set to Receive Impact Fee Money From Gas Drillers
From Bob D
“Washington County will collect $4.7 million. The announcement pleased state Sen. Tim Solobay, who said the impact fees, coupled with gaming funds from Meadows Racetrack & Casino, have made Washington County “the envy of everyone else across the commonwealth.” (Sure thing Tim, that’s why so many people would like to move away from all the new air pollution in our county. We continue to get reports of more respiratory problems from local residents.)
Amwell Township earmarked to receive $593,491
(Home of the Yeager Impoundment, which allegedly contaminated a water aquifer)
Chartiers Township slated to get $578,165
(Home to the mega-complex used for extracting gas liquids to export by pipe & rail)
11. PA Supreme Court Appointment
From Bob: Pennsylvanians are still waiting for a ruling on ACT 13, the onerous new law that would strip local municipalities of most of their zoning rights (drilling permitted in R1 zones, etc). Some observers believe the court is currently deadlocked along party lines, and by the Governor adding a Republican, it will lead to the Supreme Court overturning the Commonwealth Court’s earlier ruling against ACT 13.
Corbett nominates appeals judge for high court
“Gov. Corbett has nominated state appeals court Judge Correale F. Stevens to fill a vacancy on the state's highest court. Stevens, Superior Court's presiding judge, would replace former Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin, who was convicted this year of misusing her staff to wage election campaigns in 2003 and 2009.
Stevens, a Republican, will need two-thirds approval from the GOP-controlled Senate before he can take the seat. Democrats
12. Toxic Hydrogen Sulfide Leak From Ruptured Pipeline in Alberta Canada
“A pipeline carrying deadly sour natural gas ruptured in Turner Valley in southern Alberta on Thursday, prompting the evacuation of some of the town's 2,100 residents, according to the Alberta Energy Regulator. Other residents were told to stay in their homes. The pipeline was ruptured when hit by river debris from floodwaters.
Hydrogen sulfide can be poisonous if inhaled; it is a potent neurotoxin and can be fatal. “
(Cbc.ca news, Canada)
13. NY Activists Try to Buy Back Senator Libous
“Southern Tier residents delivered a $202,000 giant eight by three foot fake check to Sen. Libous’ (R-NY) Binghamton district office today to “buy their senator back” from pro-fracking business interest and from big oil and gas lobbyists. $202,000 is the same amount of money Sen. Libous took in campaign contributions from fracking oil and gas interests in the last two years according to Common Cause. Community residents presented the check and demanded that Sen. Libous put science and the people’s interest above oil and gas interests, that Sen. Libous stop saying “the Southern Tier supports fracking” and that he stops taking contributions from pro-fracking business interests. The bottom line: residents demanded that Sen. Libous represent his constituents, not big oil and gas industry. The outrageous sum of contributions from pro-fracking interests is made worse by recent revelations that Sen. Libous has questionable personal ties to companies and relationships with individuals who stand to financially benefit significantly from fracking.
For years, Sen. Libous has been a staunch proponent of fracking, advocating for it in the legislature, in the press and speaking at gas industry sponsored rallies. He claims the Southern Tier overwhelmingly supports fracking, even as the polls show that is not the case. This year, Sen. Libous vowed to prevent a moratorium bill from coming to the Senate floor for a vote.
“Southern Tier residents are fed up with Sen. Libous being a puppet of the oil and gas industry,” said Isaac Silberman-Gorn of Citizen Action New York. “Sen. Libous has long misrepresented his constituents on fracking in place of his own financial ties and outrageous campaign contributions from the oil and gas lobby. The fact is that a majority of Southern Tier residents don’t want fracking because the truth is that fracking threatens our health, our water, our air and our way of life.”
14. Fracking Begins-- Michigan Water Wells Fail
“As Encana’s fracking operation continues in Rapid River Township, local residents are losing water pressure and water coming out of the tap looks like milk.
Last week, fracking operations at the Westerman 1-29 HD1 continued, despite ongoing issues with the water supply on the pad. The additional water wells installed on and off the well pad failed to yield sufficient volumes to complete the well and Encana continued to obtain water from the Kalkaska Village municipal system until June 8, when the gas well was finally completed.
At some point mid-week, Bernard and Phyllis Senske, who live adjacent to the well site, started experiencing a drop in water pressure and discolored water.
“It looks like milk coming out of the faucet,” said Mrs. Senske.
In response to her distress, the Anglers of the AuSable, a group dedicated to protection of Au Sable and other Michigan trout streams, engaged Dr. Chris Grobbel, of Grobbel Environmental & Planning Associates, to inspect the well and sample the water.
His initial report found that “the static water level within the Senske well has been lowered by 11 feet. Homeowners Senskes reported that this problem is coincident with the nearby fracking operation which is also reportedly experiencing difficulties pumping groundwater to supply on-site fracking operation.”
This is not the first fracking operation to experience issues with insufficient water. Attempts to complete the Yonkman 1-29HD1 well in Missaukee County between December 2012 and February of this year were unsuccessful, despite construction of eight water wells in an effort to do so. Devon Energy approached nearby municipalities for water, and the City of McBain agreed—for $34,000.00. However, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) records illustrate that the Yonkman well was never completed.
Similar issues were also experienced at the State Richfield 1-27 well in Roscommon County, where four water wells failed to provide the quantity of water required to frack the well (4.8 million gallons), and two additional wells were required.
Dr. Grobbel recommends a pump aquifer yield test be performed to determine whether an aquifer can safely supply the volume of water required for any large quantity water withdrawal, so that adverse impact to groundwater can be properly assessed and avoided.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Senske reported that no problems have existed with well water quality or quantity, which was installed in the early 1990s. The only obvious change in the vicinity is the nearby fracking operation.”
15. Major Release of Gases at New Jersey Compressor Station Site
What To Do When Impacted By Frack Emissions
JUNE 16, 2013 by Iris Marie Bloom
“On Thursday there was a major release of gases in Roseland, New Jersey, where a new compressor station is being built,” reports Ted Glick, a participant in the regional Pipeline Protection network and Coordinator of the Essex Passaic Greens. Glick described the release:
“I got two emails and two urgent phone calls from Roseland people we’ve been working with. One of the calls, from an office building 100 yards or so from the [compressor station] construction site, was about people getting nausea and sick because it [the gas odor] was so strong. The other was about the local elementary school in Roseland, less than a mile from the site, being locked down because of it.
Less than a month ago there was another “planned release” of gas that local people didn’t know about which led to the lockdown of a public school in East Hanover. Local people have been telling us they’ve been smelling gas more often than in the past.”
As of now, this incident remains invisible in the media. Although this incident took place in Roseland, NJ, it follows a bottomless series of compressor station explosions and fires, as well as ongoing toxic emissions from the life cycle of shale gas, so the “what to do” discussion is relevant to many areas and to a wide variety of incidents.
What to do if you are impacted by a gas release or other environmental threat:
Note: below is an incomplete and minimalist set of suggestions.
Emissions associated with compressor stations as well as multiple stages of high-volume unconventional drilling can make you very sick, so if symptoms begin to emerge such as nosebleeds, dizziness, blackouts, nausea, rashes, sore and blistered throats, newly diagnosed asthma, etc., in addition to seeking medical care, you may need to consider moving. We are horrified at the ongoing displacement of people in shale country who face an agonizing choice between the homes they love and their health. It is crucial that people to stay and fight, but: health first.
*All affected people should, at a minimum: keep a log of what happened, including timing of odors and any health impacts. Taking the time to document incidents, as well as ongoing emissions, thoroughly will be a tremendous help. Suggestions:
*Call to report the incident to the National Response Center at: 1-800-424-8802
*Document, document, document: keep a detailed log. Include your calls and emails in your log: with whom did you speak, what did you say, who responded, what did they say, what is their contact information?
*Report in writing and by phone to both county and state Departments of Health.
*If possible, start air quality testing with a reputable third party; include methane testing.
*Report fracking infrastructure emissions to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC Hotline. FERC is responsible for permitting the construction of pipelines and compressor stations, and is therefore responsible for ongoing emissions as well as big releases like this one. FERC Enforcement Hotline:
*When you visit your health professional, make sure to mention the incident or ongoing emissions so that it is documented clearly in your medical chart; and make sure to mention any symptoms you believe may correspond to this or related incidents, even if seemingly minor, because of the relationship between acute and cumulative impacts. Studies have found that most people do not mention environmental degradation or pollution incidents to their doctors even when highly relevant, timely and important.
*Important: talk. Talk to your neighbors, to activist networks, and to journalists. The general public still has no comprehension of the daily emissions, intentional and accidental, impacting our air and climate from the shale gas industry. Although you may be reeling from the incident(s) and coping, as much as you are able, tell the world.
*Use the Clean Air Council form to report the incident! This is specific to Marcellus Shale gas industry air releases. http://www.cleanair.org/program/outdoor_air_pollution/marcellus_shale/%E2%80%9Ccommon_senses%E2%80%9D_citizen_air_monitoring
*We must report emissions that we can smell. The incident you smell may not make you sick right away, but a little closer to the source it may be causing nausea or nosebleeds, shutting down schools temporarily, causing headaches, blistered throats, and more. If you report the smell, it validates the incident and makes it harder for the powers that be to dismiss the person who went to the emergency room with a nosebleed, for example, as “just one person.”
*Call your State Department of Environmental Protection?
The Pennsylvania experience with our Department of Environmental Protection has been so dismal that I almost hit “publish” on this “what to do” list without even mentioning them
However, Right to Know requests are now turning up hundreds of confirmed cases of water contamination buried in PA DEP records. I heard yesterday and have not validated yet that PA DEP has now confirmed 267 cases of water contamination from shale gas development (from drilling and fracking to waste handling: all phases) in just four counties. That is over 100 more cases than journalist Laura Legere was able to find from PA DEP for the whole state.
If people didn’t report those contamination incidents to begin with, the public wouldn’t know about it at all. So call them. Report, report, report. Keep reporting.
Finally, don’t let the frustration from reporting and asking authorities to help take away your own power. We all have more power than we know, and you may yet find a way with your neighbors and networks to directly stop the source that’s hurting your environmental health.
(I would add, if you experience health problems, add your name to the List of the Harmed started by Jenny Lisak. Web address is listed in links at the top of the Updates. jan )
16. Livestock Sick and Dying Near Fracking
“Livestock on farms near oil-and-gas drilling operations nationwide have been quietly falling sick and dying. While scientists have yet to isolate cause and effect, many suspect chemicals used in frack operations are poisoning animals through the air, water, or soil.
Michelle Bamberger, an Ithaca, New York, veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, published the first and only peer-reviewed report to suggest a link between fracking and illness in food animals.
The authors compiled 24 case studies of farmers in six shale-gas states whose livestock experienced neurological, reproductive, and acute gastrointestinal problems after being exposed—either accidentally or incidentally—to fracking chemicals in the water or air. The article, published in New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, describes how scores of animals died over the course of several years.
Exposed livestock “are making their way into the food system, and it’s very worrisome to us,” Bamberger says. “They live in areas that have tested positive for air, water, and soil contamination. Some of these chemicals could appear in milk and meat products made from these animals.”
-In Louisiana, 17 cows died after an hour’s exposure to spilled fracking fluid, which is injected miles underground to crack open and release pockets of natural gas. The most likely cause of death: respiratory failure.
-In New Mexico, hair testing of sick cattle that grazed near well pads found petroleum residues in 54 of 56 animals.
-In northern central Pennsylvania, 140 cattle were exposed to fracking wastewater when an impoundment was breached. Approximately 70 cows died, and the remainder produced only 11 calves, of which three survived.
-In western Pennsylvania, an overflowing wastewater pit sent fracking chemicals into a pond and a pasture where pregnant cows grazed: Half their calves were born dead. Dairy operators in shale-gas areas of Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Texas have also reported the death of goats.
Drilling and fracking a single well requires up to 7 million gallons of water, plus an additional 400,000 gallons of additives, including lubricants, biocides, scale- and rust-inhibitors, solvents, foaming and defoaming agents, emulsifiers and de-emulsifiers, stabilizers and breakers. At almost every stage of developing and operating an oil or gas well, chemicals and compounds can be introduced into the environment.
After drilling began just over the property line of Jacki Schilke’s ranch in the northwestern corner of North Dakota, cattle began limping, with swollen legs and infections. Cows quit producing milk for their calves, and they lost from 60 to 80 pounds in a week and their tails mysteriously dropped off. Eventually, five animals died, according to Schilke.
Ambient air testing by a certified environmental consultant detected elevated levels of benzene, methane, chloroform, butane, propane, toluene, and xylene—and well testing revealed high levels of sulfates, chromium, chloride, and strontium. Schilke says she moved her herd upwind and upstream from the nearest drill pad.
Although her steers currently look healthy, she says, “I won’t sell them because I don’t know if they’re okay.”
Nor does anyone else. Energy companies are exempt from key provisions of environmental laws, which makes it difficult for scientists and citizens to learn precisely what is in fracking fluids or airborne emissions. And without information on the interactions between these chemicals and pre-existing environmental chemicals, veterinarians can’t hope to pinpoint an animal’s cause of death.
The risks to food safety may be even more difficult to parse, since different plants and animals take up different chemicals through different pathways.
“There are a variety of organic compounds, metals, and radioactive material [released in the fracking process] that are of human health concern when livestock meat or milk is ingested,” Motoko Mukai, a veterinary toxicologist at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says. These “compounds accumulate in the fat and are excreted into milk. Some compounds are persistent and do not get metabolized easily.”
Veterinarians don’t know how long chemicals may remain in animals, farmers aren’t required to prove their livestock are free of contamination before middlemen purchase them, and the Food Safety Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture isn’t looking for these compounds in carcasses at slaughterhouses.
Documenting the scope of the problem is difficult: Scientists lack funding to study the matter, and rural vets remain silent for fear of retaliation. Farmers who receive royalty checks from energy companies are reluctant to complain, and those who have settled with gas companies following a spill or other accident are forbidden to disclose information to investigators. Some food producers would rather not know what’s going on, say ranchers and veterinarians.
“It takes a long time to build up a herd’s reputation,” rancher Dennis Bauste of Trenton Lake, North Dakota, says. “I’m gonna sell my calves and I don’t want them to be labeled as tainted. Besides, I wouldn’t know what to test for. Until there’s a big wipe-out, a major problem, we’re not gonna hear much about this.”
See more at: http://thefern.org/2012/11/livestock-falling-ill-in-fracking-regions-raising-concerns-about-food/#sthash.OUml89Pl.dpuf
Elizabeth Royte, the fern
17. Williams Co. Leaks Benzene Into Colorado Stream
No Fine Assessed Because It’s Called an Accident
“A plant for gas processor Williams Energy, near Parachute, Colo., spilled an estimated 241 barrels of mixed natural gas liquid into the ground, some of which eventually washed as carcinogenic benzene into Parachute Creek.
Two months have passed since the spill was discovered, and one can only wonder why the energy company has been put in charge of the clean-up (when in 60 days, they haven’t done anything), and why the state hasn’t issued any fines.
“I’d like to say they’ve cleaned it up,” said [downstream rancher Sidney] Lindauer on, referring to the combined efforts of Williams Midstream and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
But as he says, and as it’s clear for everybody, leaving the clean up solely in the hands of the company which made the mess is not a good idea.
“We need an independent agency that isn’t associated with the industry, or any industry, to monitor that creek,” he said, lamenting that “they [the CDPHE] pretty much leave it up to Williams.”
He said that aside from the benzene in the water, unexplained layers of dingy, brownish foam showed up on the creek’s surface in recent weeks.
“Sometimes that creek is cloudy and off color, so you know something’s going on,” he concluded, explaining that he gets water for his horses and his pastures from the creek, though his domestic drinking water is from the Town of Parachute’s water system.
So no clean-up, no fines, nothing. Why? Here’s why: the consent order won’t have a fine associated with it “as the release was not due to negligence but to accidental equipment failure,” officials said.
Oh, so it was an accident that leaked benzene into the water. Sorry for asking, fracking company – carry on.”
18. Missouri Lawyer Brings Nuisance Claims to Fracking Arena
“Six Pennsylvania families who sued Chevron Corp. (CVX) and units of The Williams Companies Inc. and WPX over fracking-related claims have turned to a Missouri lawyer who has used nuisance allegations to win cases against commercial animal feed operations.
The Fayette County residents last week alleged in a state court lawsuit that the energy companies’ fracking efforts leaked methane and polluted water, while their employees intimidated them and even ruined a breeding stock of Black Angus cows. The focus of their lawsuit, however, isn’t the property damage so much as the offensive byproducts of the operations, a legal tactic that has begun to gain traction as courts consider the application of nuisance law to the natural gas boom.
“You avoid some of the really difficult causation issues,” Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview, referring to the difficulty in proving specific damages in fracking cases. “You could show an interference with use of and enjoyment of one’s property without conclusively demonstrating that a gas company for example had contaminated a particular water well.”
Nuisance suits are based in part on the loss of such use and enjoyment of property, often through noise, odors or vibration, as opposed to physical damage like poisoned water. The attorney for the families, Charlie Speer, of Speer Law Firm P.A. in Kansas City, claims such litigation in the fracking context may face an easier path through courts because it doesn’t rely on scientific evidence.
Nuisance claims like those filed by the Fayette County residents are growing in popularity, lawyers said, as more plaintiffs include them in complaints containing a spectrum of environmental allegations against drillers and distributors.
“I call them quality-of-life lawsuits,” Speer said in an interview. “I consider these to be private property rights cases and everybody in this country understands private property rights and values them.”
Nuisance complaints tied to fracking have been filed in at least 10 different states, including several in Pennsylvania, said Josh Galperin, associate director at Yale Law School’s Center for Environmental Law & Policy.
“In the case of natural gas drilling, harms stem from actions on and off private property, so the landowners and neighbors tend to present a series of legal claims, and nuisance is typically one,” Galperin said. If plaintiffs in nuisance cases “can show that there has been some substantial and unreasonable damage to the use and enjoyment of their property, they will be entitled to damages. The trick is how a judge or jury will weigh ‘unreasonableness.’ That turns on whether the utility of the activity outweighs its harm.”
In 1999, Speer said he filed similar lawsuits against two hog farms in northern Missouri on behalf of a group of residents who said the smells and runoff from the factories constituted an “unreasonable use of their property.”
A jury awarded $5.2 million to 52 plaintiffs. Speer said he has tried about a dozen cases since then on behalf of about 500 plaintiffs around the country. He said he lost one, which was partially overturned on appeal and ended up in a settlement.
Advances in fracking have spurred rapid development in states such as Pennsylvania. With that have come complaints that drilling has spoiled water and air, damaged roads, and altered the rural character of areas where gas is now being produced.
Since 2009, more than 35 lawsuits that allege fracking contaminated water have been filed in eight states, according to a Jan. 1 report from the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP. In those cases, homeowners must rely on scientific evidence that may not be conclusive, according to Speer.
Among the plaintiffs in Speer’s suit is Joseph Bezjak, a 75-year-old beef farmer, who said he agreed in 2010 to let Laurel Mountain Midstream Operating LLC, a subsidiary of Williams, run a 16-inch gas line across his 700-acre farm for $20 a foot of pipe.
Last year, the company tore down a fence on his property, leading to the interbreeding of cattle and ruining the Black Angus stock Bezjak had developed over 40 years.
Bezjak also alleged Williams pumped wastewater from an abandoned mine onto parts of his pasture “causing large black spots on the land,” according to the complaint.
“They got me spiritually, physically and emotionally upset,” Bezjak said in an interview. “I want to be made whole. My property’s been damaged. My cattle will never be the same.”
Tom Droege, a spokesman for Williams Cos., Brian Begley, a spokesman for Atlas Energy LP (ATLS), and Russell Johnson, a spokesman Chevron, declined to comment. Susan Oliver, a spokeswoman for WPX, said her company, which broke from Williams in 2012, doesn’t have operations in Fayette County. Speer said he would drop the company from the case if he discovered an error in his filing.
Fayette County homeowners David and Linda Headley, who own 116 acres of farmland, repeatedly notified Atlas Resources LLC (ATN) and other defendants about defects in well construction and design, according to the complaint.
Efforts by the companies to fix the defects by installing new seals, tanks and bypass lines have failed, according to the complaint. The wells continue to leak dangerous substance, have killed trees and a hayfield used by the Headley’s horses, and routinely make noise, sometimes hourly, according to the filing.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has repeatedly cited Laurel Mountain Midstream for discharging industrial waste into a creek near the Headley’s property, according to the complaint, which cites violations in June, July and August 2012.
Noise from a compressor station run by Laurel Mountain forced Benjamin Groover, his wife Lori and their two children to abandon their residence in June 2009, according to the court filing. The family has since moved within the county but still
Robert Nicklow, who lives within 800 feet of the station, is subjected to a “high decibel screeching sound” that can sometimes last all day as well as toxic substances including benzene, methane and ethane, Speer alleged in the court filing.
“On many occasions, Nicklow is forced to stay indoors,” according to the complaint.
Speer said the leases don’t inoculate energy companies from such litigation. He said a breach-of-contract suit wouldn’t have been appropriate, either, saying he doesn’t “think the contract speaks about odors and causing harmful effects.”
The Fayette County litigation includes claims by multiple landowners over damages allegedly emanating from fracking on their own property, and from that of neighboring plaintiffs also suing as part of the case.
“If it’s unmanageable for whatever reason, the deckchairs can be rearranged,” Speer said of the complex plaintiff structure, adding that a court could separate landowner claims.
Barros said he wasn’t surprised the landowners were suing the companies together as opposed to suing individually -- or each other -- since they are ultimately seeking compensation from the energy companies.
“Nuisance, at its most basic, says a land owner can do whatever they want with their property as long as they don’t interfere with the use and enjoyment of their neighbor’s property,” University of Kentucky law professor Stephen Clowney said in an interview. One difficulty Clowney said he foresees for the Pennsylvania plaintiffs is that the law typically makes room for technology to change and for the “social utility” of the defendants’ action.
The case is Headley v. Chevron Appalachia LLC, Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania, Allegheny County (Pittsburgh).