Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates
July 12, 2013
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* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
* To view permanent documents, past updates, reports, general information and meeting information http://westmorelandmarcellus.blogspot.com/
* To discuss candidates: http://www.facebook.com/groups/VoteProEarth/
* To contact your state legislator:
For email address, click on the envelope under the photo
* For information on the state gas legislation and local control: http://pajustpowers.org/aboutthebills.html-Calendar of Events:
***Westmoreland County Commissioners Meeting- 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the county courthouse at 10:00
****July 17 Meeting on Seismic Testing, Pipeline Agreements, and Shale Gas Development By Penn State in cooperation with the Municipality of Murrysville
Wednesday, July 17 - 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. - Murrysville Community Center 3091 Carson Avenue, Murrysville PA 15668
Registration is required due to limited seating. Please call 724-837-1402 to register.
We encourage you to attend to ask good questions. jan
***July 20 Fracking Forum in Shadyside
Saw Gasland II? Stay involved.
1-4 pm. Friends Meeting House
4836 Ellsworth Ave
For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:
***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/
***Josh Fox on the Daily Show-- 6 minutes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZAsK2IsFHw
The Daily Show’s John Oliver interviews Gasland Director Josh Fox on his new film, Gasland Part II, which elaborates on the government’s role in promoting the fossil fuel industry’s practice of or fracking for natural gas and oil. Exposing the grave warning signs coming from U.S. “energy sacrifice zones,” Fox warns of the systemic corruption with regard to our regulatory agencies and industry influence. He also discusses the technical and engineering problems of the fracking process and the effects of methane emissions being worse for climate change than coal.
1. An Open Letter to President Obama from Gasland Director Josh Fox—This is excellent!
“I write to request a meeting with you and families directly impacted by oil and gas drilling and fracking—as documented in Gasland Part II—together with a small group of scientists and engineers who are also featured in the film. We would like to discuss health and economic impacts felt by communities located near the oil and gas fields, share our first-hand stories, and provide you with evidence on rates of well leakage, water contamination, air pollution and methane emissions.
We are aware that your administration has met with the natural gas industry and their representatives and lobbyists many times. We now ask you to meet with us: representatives of those suffering from unconventional drilling and fracking, and members of the scientific community who wish to inform you of the perils of this unprecedented push to drill.
We believe that the natural gas industry has not been forthcoming with your administration about the real effects of drilling and fracking on our water, air, land, climate, public health and safety—and on democracy itself. As such, we seek to discuss with you the dark side of fracking, a perspective that has not yet been presented to you with adequate weight or emphasis.
In 2008, when I was offered a gas lease on my land in the upper Delaware River watershed in Pennsylvania, I decided to investigate the effects of drilling and fracking around the nation. That investigation became the documentary Gasland. While filming, I discovered widespread water contamination, air pollution, methane leakage, land scarring and massive industrialization of previously rural, suburban or urban areas. Most disturbingly of all, I discovered in the gasfields of America people who had lost control of their lives, their communities and their human and civil rights.
Although I had never before made a documentary, Gasland was accepted at the Sundance Film Festival, picked up by HBO, nominated for the 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary and received four Emmy nominations—winning one for my direction. The film has been aired on television in over 30 countries to an estimated audience of 50 million people.
I have now made a second film, Gasland Part II, which covers a new form of contamination—the capture of our regulatory agencies by the oil and gas industry. I document industry’s undue influence on your administration as well as on state and local regulators whose job is to protect the public health and safety. A striking pattern emerges: Time and again, regulators investigating citizens’ concerns determine the gas development operation nearby is a clear cause of water contamination, only to walk away after protest from industry reaches an uncomfortable pitch. The film’s portrayal of the exclusion of “we the people” from the dialogue about the future of energy in the United States should concern you. Gasland Part II premieres July 8, on HBO.
We thus respectfully request a meeting with you. More specifically, I wish to introduce you to members of seven families from disparate regions across the nation who have all had their lives ruined by drilling and fracking operations. These families are emblematic. They represent thousands of people who have had their basic rights trampled by drilling on nearby properties and by the attendant gas refining and delivery infrastructure. These citizens include—
The Lipsky family in Texas, whose water was contaminated and made flammable by Range Resources;
The Gee family in Pennsylvania, who, after four generations, were forced off their land by a six-well horizontal drill pad built by Shell on a neighboring property;
The Fenton family in Wyoming, who have been battling Canadian drilling giant Encana and who are now suffering health problems from the air and water contamination around their house;
The Tillman family of Dish, Texas, who were forced by polluted air to move from the town that Mr. Tillman was serving as mayor;
The Switzer and Ely families of Dimock, Pennsylvania, whose water was shown to be contaminated by both the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection—only to receive a roller coaster ride of broken promises by both agencies; and
The Bevins family from West Virginia, whose son CJ was killed on a drilling pad in New York as a result of an unsafe drilling site, and whose campaign has helped alert the country that workers in the oil and gas industry are seven times more likely to die on the job than workers in other industries.
In addition, I would like you to meet with the scientists in the film: Dr. Tony Ingraffea, Dr. Robert Howarth and Professor Mark Z. Jacobson.
Dr. Ingraffea from Cornell University, a former oil and gas industry researcher, will explain how the industry is incapable of ensuring the integrity of wells being drilled and how the industry’s own science shows that wells are leaking at high rates, contaminating our country’s precious groundwater. Dr. Howarth, also of Cornell, will describe how the release of methane, one of our most potent greenhouse gases, into the air from fracking and natural gas production render the use of fracked gas even more deleterious to the climate than burning coal. Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, director of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program, will explain that there is a way forward for America that is free of fossil fuels. As he and his colleagues have documented in a groundbreaking study, wind, water and solar resources available to us right now make it possible for our nation to claim true energy independence and protect the health and safety of the generations to come.
America has been forever changed by the sense of grassroots collective drive that your election in 2008 instilled in us as a nation. The grassroots movement that has sprung up across the country and across the world against fracking has all the enthusiasm, positivity, sense of history, endurance and resolve as the one that elected you our President.
When speaking to your grassroots campaign staff in 2012, you reminded them that the only way to fight the enormous influence of corporate cash and power in the election was the strength of “neighbor talking to neighbor,” of communities coming together to fight for what is right. That is exactly what the grassroots movement against fracking is made of: people fighting for their communities locally, with an eye on the bigger global challenges ahead. Above all, we are a movement of people, not corporations; we are a movement of neighbors who care deeply about the places we live and about this country as a whole. We believe that it is your desire to put the people’s interests at the forefront of your political message and it is in this spirit that we ask you to meet with us.
President Obama, we support you. We support your earnest desire to fight climate change, but the science shows that your embrace of natural gas will undermine everything you are trying to accomplish in your plan. And the violation of health and property rights that inexorably accompany drilling and fracking operations undermines any claim of energy independence.
We urge you to meet with us as you have met with the gas industry. We are on your side. We do not wish to see your legacy inscribed by fracking chemicals in the ground, high levels of emissions and pollution in the air, ruined families, broken shards of the American dream and the terror felt by millions as the drilling industry descends on lands in 34 states. Do not let your legacy be a switch from coal to gas, a Pyrrhic victory, an exchange of one form of climate-killing pollution for another that, over its entire lifecycle, is just as calamitous. Instead, ground your energy policy in careful science and let your legacy include hearing the people out.
In the name of fairness and democracy, we implore that you meet with us, as you have met with the oil and gas industry.
We look forward to your reply. Thank you for considering this request.”
Josh Fox the writer/director/producer of the Emmy award-winning documentary feature Gasland and its sequel, Gasland 2.
2. Meeting on the Worstell Impoundment
“The DEP has agreed to hold a meeting with Cecil Township supervisors to answer questions regarding the status of a controversial Marcellus Shale water impoundment.
DEP spokesman John Poister said Friday the meeting, to be held at the agency’s Pittsburgh headquarters, is not public and will be limited to the supervisors and a few guests.
The Worstell impoundment, operated by Range Resources, has been a contentious issue since January, when the township mailed a letter to the DEP stating Range did not obtain proper approvals for the original use and construction of the impoundment. According to the letter, “Range Resources originally constructed the Worstell impoundment to serve gas wells on two well pads located beside the impoundment, but … Range Resources now desires to expand their use to serve wells located on other property and for general wastewater storage.”
Local residents have reported seeing a steady flow of trucks entering the property from the Swihart Road entrance, according to Casciola. Both Range Resources and state regulators have claimed the impoundment is used sporadically.
As to further conversation between the DEP and Cecil Township since the request was filed, Casciola said Friday, “We haven’t had any.”
Casciola wonders if the impoundment is servicing more wells than Range Resources originally planned and if the property should be restored to its natural state.
“We would like to know the answers to that, what is going on,” he said. “It seems like the DEP comments in the paper once in a while. We’re only hearing what we read in the paper, just like the residents are.”
Earlier this year, the DEP admitted that a defective valve in a holding tank at the site caused 30 gallons of recycled wastewater to escape in November 2011. Two months prior to that incident, Range discovered a hole in the top liner of the impoundment during an inspection, which led state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, to believe the company installed a faulty leak detection system.
White believes the impoundment “has turned into a hazardous dumping site for water from who knows where.”
A right-to-know request White filed with the DEP in April for records and permit information regarding the impoundment was partially denied. The DEP withheld 126 pages under attorney-client privilege and redacted 11 others, according to White. He is in the process of appealing that limitation through the state Office of Open Records.
White also hopes to have many questions answered, including how the impoundment was allowed to be constructed, why it has yet to be taken down and whether there is groundwater contamination. White said he was not aware the meeting was private, but he plans to attend unless “explicitly told otherwise by the DEP.”
“It’s pretty clear that there are a lot of unanswered questions,” White said.” http://www.observer-reporter.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=%2F20130705%2FNEWS01%2F130709645#.Udo5ic1q1Ec
3. WVA Explosion Burns 5 Workers
Several gas well workers were injured after an explosion at an Antero site in Doddridge County. The explosion sent five of those workers to West Penn Burn Center in Pittsburgh and left residents concerned about the safety of themselves and other workers.
For John and Diane Pitcock, the sights and sounds of gas well drilling is the norm at their Doddridge County ranch. But after seeing an unusual flare and hearing venting on Saturday, they feared the worst.
The Pitcocks' house is located just 2,500 feet from the site where the gas well explosion occurred.
"This type of drilling is so different than conventional than regular drilling, and it has a lot more risks and concerns to it. It's not your conventional drilling," said Diane Pitcock. The Pitcocks said they were initially told to evacuate their home.
12News headed to the site to find that only safety personnel were allowed past the gates.
The Pitcocks said they want answers from officials on why this happened and how they plan to make sure it doesn't happen again.
"We wouldn't have known. But then we were told, 'It's not safe, you might not want to stay around there. And this is our property, we have to live with this," said Diane
Antero Resources has issued a statement about the incident. http://www.wboy.com/story/22778144/doddridge-county-residents-want-answers-after-gas-well-explosion
4. Things You Need to Know About Dealing with Pipeline Companies- Tell Them To Take It By Eminent Domain (Message from New York)
“From: Mike Bernhard <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, Jul 8, 2013
Subject: Emkey gas pipeline
Friends and neighbors:
Surveying has begun for the Emkey pipeline that will interconnect the east-to-west pipelines below and above Chenango County. This phase will involve a transmission line from Preston through Smithville, Oxford, Coventry and Oxford, as well as Colesville in Broome County (map attached). As in the case of the “Constitution” pipeline project – which runs through Afton as well as Broome and Delaware Counties- local pipeline shills are lying about the effect of these transmission lines, which will increase the likelihood of hydrofracking in these and adjacent towns, with all of fracking’s infrastructure of unregulated gathering lines and compression stations.
Together with the Compulsory Integration of unleased properties into Drilling Units, Eminent Domain provides a tool for gas corps to leverage the acquiescence of a few large (often non-resident) landowners into a public policy that favors irresponsible corporations (and to a lesser extent, those large landowners) at the expense of residents with modest properties.
If you are in the path of the pipeline, the attached letter from Bob Lidsky (copied below) deserves your careful reading. Even if you are not directly in the path of the pipeline, you should understand the pressures that gascorp brings to bear on our neighbors in the line-of-fire, and be ready to support whatever resistance they can offer. To learn from the resistance to the “Constitution” pipeline, see http://www.stopthepipeline.org/.
Please forward widely. And stay in touch.”
***************** Letter by Robert Lidsky*******************
“I own land, directly in the path of the proposed Constitution Pipeline. The
property is quite hilly and has beautiful views. There is one small area near the top, which has a gradual enough slope to build a home.
Last December, Constitution asked for permission to survey. Their map shows the pipeline running directly through the only area suitable for
building, siting a septic field, driveway and home. I realized that the pipeline if built would render my property, un-buildable, un-mortgage-able, uninsurable, and nearly worthless.
I Joined Stop The Pipeline and refused permission to survey. Over the next
few months I learned a lot about Williams, Constitution, FERC, and the politics of pipelines and eminent domain.
Then I received Constitution’s offer for their completely one-sided right of
way agreement. They say their limited-time initial offer is for 3 times the value of the right of way. Yet it represents only 15% of the value of the land. Their terms are ominous- a virtual minefield of legal traps. And attached is a thinly veiled, threatening letter explaining that if I do not agree they will take the right of way, against my wishes, by using Eminent Domain.
SIGN-OR ELSE! What should I do?
There is no way I can or would agree. There is no way I would sign any
contract to do business with them.
I know that legally, the situation is out of my control and that they can take
their easement under federal law by utilizing eminent domain.
Their tactics attempted to make me feel helpless, and, for a while I did,
dealing with a depressing, seemingly hopeless, situation. But joining STP helped me realize that by resisting collectively, we have a good chance of stopping them. That was when I started to investigate and learn about what actually happens in Eminent Domain.
Rather then simply stonewall; to refuse to sign, I decided to fight, to take
them on face-to face. So I met with the Right of Way agent for Constitution.
First we discussed the survey. Having previously denied permission I asked
how the survey was performed because in the legend it used the words “field survey”. The agent knew that I had denied permission. I asked him if they were illegally on my land and he said that the survey was done virtually, using GPS coordinates from the tax map. I did not believe him, as there were numerous sightings of surveyors by my neighbors.
I told him that he was ruining my investment. He did not argue that the
amount offered would be an insignificant fraction of the amount the property
would depreciate. He said emphatically, that the price was firm and they
would not negotiate. They do not pay more, or buy the entire parcel under
I told him the route ran right through the only place on the property where I
could site a home. He replied that the route is non-negotiable.
We discussed their right in the proposed contract to cross my property to
gain access to the right of way. He denied that. I told him that he was being
misleading, showing him the access clause in the proposed agreement. He said it wasn’t true. I told him the contract rules, not what he says. He implied it could be negotiated.
We discussed the planned access road just to the north of my property line.
He said that permission for this was not yet granted. This is conjecture, but
I got the impression he was having a hard time getting people to sign, not
just next door, but also with others.
I brought up the prepayment for future damages clause. He said they would
pay all costs and I said that’s not true, just read the contract. He replied
that Constitution would hold me harmless. I countered with Constitution’s
right to sell or assign to anyone. Who will be the responsible party?
This led to the question of insolvency or failure or bankruptcy of
Constitution. I told him I was not going to accept this “Pandora’s Box” of
legal pitfalls at any price. His answer was to say he would check this out
with some higher-ups and get back to me. He has not contacted me.
Unfortunately I forgot to mention the inability of a landowner to get a
mortgage when an interstate high-pressure pipeline is nearby a potential
I brought up liability and insurance issues. I told him I would never sign
because by signing I was buying into an unending liability for damages by
becoming his partner in a commercial- industrial operation. I would always
have an increased insurance cost and would have to carry huge & expensive
limits for liability, if the property was insurable at all. He gave no response.
I left the most important for last. We discussed eminent domain. He said
they were reluctant to use it but then openly threatened that they would
absolutely use it if I didn’t come around and sign.
I think I shocked him when I told him my best course of action was to have
him TAKE the right of way from me by eminent domain! The court would still
award me something, but more important, I would have no liability. He said
nothing. He had no answer. He said he would get back to me. He never has.
I think this discussion of asking him to take me by Eminent Domain set him
aback. He seemed unprepared. I think he was used to forcing landowners to
sign using the Eminent Domain club. Constitution uses Eminent Domain as a
bargaining tool, but it can be put to good use against them.
Here is my layperson’s view:
IF I SIGN:
1) I give away my right to sue.
2) I enter into a business deal with unknown future liabilities.
3) I have continuing extra insurance expense.
BY TELLING THEM to TAKE MY LAND:
1) Only gas can be transported, no tar sands or other liquids.
2) No future pipelines or other utilities will be allowed.
3) We gain political power when significant numbers of landowners refuse to
5) FERC’s mandate is to listen to landowners.
6) They lose their bargaining tool when eminent domain is seen as better for
7) I still get paid something,
8) I have no liability,
9) I preserve my right to sue them later, in a class action for a taking of my
Only the landowners can stop Constitution. WE have the power. Hundreds of landowners have to welcome eminent domain as the best option, and as the only way to prevail. I know there are many other landowners who believe this. Please start expressing it in public now, in order to grow the
To stop them, we need to refuse signing, and to threaten a class action
lawsuit for the full value of our property, presenting them with a huge
political and financial problem.
Make this public! Make them walk away! ONLY by refusing to sign can we
win. It is your active resistance that will prevail. This can be done. We must
hit them where it hurts.
TELL THEM TO TAKE THAT EASEMENT BY EMINENT DOMAIN.
July 8, 2013”
5. Why Traffic Issues Are Important-
Statistics from Texas
“When I first started tuning in on fracking issue, road damage and truck traffic were the last things I thought we needed to worry about. Traffic issues didn’t grab my attention like toxic exposure through air, water contamination, land use and land contamination. Then I started getting run of the road frequently. In one year, I had to buy six new tires. I had several near wrecks because trucks would drive off muddy drill sites and leave giant chunks of caliche mud in the road, or because of ruts and potholes. Experience was my teacher.
Traffic accidents and fatalities skyrocket in shale boom areas. Karnes County, Texas in the Eagle Ford Shale experienced an increase of over 1,000% in commercial motor vehicle accidents from 2008 to 2011.
Eagle Ford Shale by county increases in traffic accidents from 2008 to 2011 (Source):
La Salle: +418%
Two Parker County men who were critically injured by water hauler trucks that failed to obey traffic laws have received “significant financial settlements” totaling 11.7 million.
”My clients suffered terrible injuries because these companies didn’t comply with federal regulations and failed to make safety a priority,” Laird said. “The growing energy industry has brought incredible revenue to Texas, but our roads are becoming more and more dangerous every day as a result.”
6. Fracking, The Environment, And Health
New energy practices may threaten public health.
Excerpts from: Journal, Environment and Health By Ruth McDermott-Levy,PhD, RN,Nina Kaktins, MSN, RN, and Barbara Sattler, DrPH, RN
“Melissa Owen became concerned when her 10-year-old son developed such severe nose bleeds that she used tampons to stop the bleeding. Soon after, a blistering rash appeared on his skin, and his sister began having similar nose bleeds. The Colorado family's physician attributed these symptoms to air pollution caused by the use of hydraulic fracturing-"fracking" to extract natural gas in their community. He recommended they move.
In northeastern Pennsylvania, the Micelles family thought signing a lease to allow £racking operations on their farm would relieve some of their financial burden. But within the first week of drilling, Elizabeth Micelles noticed a sweet odor and a metallic taste in her mouth; by the second week, she and her husband and three children were experiencing fatigue, dizziness, vomiting, headaches, and nosebleeds. A visit to their NP and laboratory tests revealed that each had measurable levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen, in their blood.
These acute health problems are common among people living in communities in which "unconventional" oil and natural gas extraction, such as fracking, occurs. (These examples are composites based on the experiences of families affected by £racking as compiled by the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability.) Common symptoms or complications among people living near fracking sites include.
• burning eyes.
• dermatologic irritation.
• upper respiratory (difficulty breathing), gastrointestinal (severe abdominal pain ), musculoskeletal (backache), neurologic (confusion, delirium ), immunologic, sensory (smell and hearing), vascular, bone marrow (nosebleeds), endocrine, and urologic problems .
• the risk of endocrine disruption.
• changes in quality of life and sense of well-being. Longitudinal reports from long-term exposure to contaminated air and water from gas extraction don 't exist, but anecdotal reports make clear that the removal of fossil fuels from the earth directly affects human health. It's well known, for instance, that the combustion of fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change/ and increased rates of asthma, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer are all associated with our reliance on and use of fossil fuel energy, including coal, oil, and natural gas.
Children are at higher risk than adults for developing asthma and suffering complications from asthma owing to poor air quality, which can be caused by the burning of fossil fuels. As the population ages older adults become more vulnerable to climate related extremes in temperature and ambient air pollution from fossil fuels because of co morbidities and age-related changes, such as decreased respiratory reserve and the slowing of cardiac compensatory mechanisms. Moreover, there are numerous occupational hazards for the fossil fuel extraction workforce, ranging from noise concerns to major injuries and respiratory irritants that result in chronic disease.
Despite these health concerns and efforts to institute a moratorium on fracking until its environmental and health effects are better understood, the United States continues to rely heavily on fossil fuel energy.
President Obama's administration has repeatedly emphasized its plan to continue development of all energy sources including a significant expansion of drilling and fracking operations for natural gas and oil. Although the extraction of these nonrenewable sources of energy help the United States to meet its current energy demands and security needs, it's critical that the human and ecologic health threats associated with fracking be better understood and addressed.
Colborn and colleagues compiled a list of chemicals known to be used during natural gas extraction. Of the more than 350 that were investigated further, 75% were found to potentially affect the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems, the liver, and various sensory organs. Moreover, more than half of these chemicals could affect the brain and nervous system. It's estimated that 15% to 80% of the fluid containing these chemicals flows back through the well to the surface, where it's usually stored at the well site in tanks or open, lined pits, awaiting transport to treatment facilities or to deep-well injection sites for permanent disposal.
Nursing and other health professional groups, such as the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, in addition to federal agencies, have published resources on fracking (see Evidence-Based Resources on Fracking and Its Health Impacts). Using these, nurses can gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding fracking and help to educate their colleagues, patients, and other members of their communities while also taking the lead in promoting better monitoring and prevention of the potential health effects associated with fracking. Two of us (RM-Land NK), for example, have previously suggested that community health nurses in Pennsylvania, where there is extensive £racking operations on the Marcellus shale, incorporate evaluation of exposure risk (to air or water that may have been contaminated by drilling operations) into their patient assessments.
In June 2012, the ANA passed a resolution drafted by the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association entitled "Nurses' Role in Recognizing, Educating and Advocating for Healthy Energy Choices.” It calls for a national moratorium on new drilling permits for unconventional natural gas and oil extraction based on mounting evidence that fracking leads to human health threats, disruption in communities, and ecologic degradation. It emphasizes the need for nurses to be well versed in the health risks associated with fossil fuel energy and supports their engagement inpatient and community education as well as in policy and advocacy work. The resolution asserts that it's critical for nurses to know that safer energy optionssuch as wind, hydroelectric, solar, and geothermal power-exist, and that state and national policies can help or hinder whether the use of these alternative energy sources is explored.”