Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates July 26, 2013
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* 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
***County Commissioners Meeting- 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the county courthouse at 10:00
For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:http://marcellusprotest.org/
***WTAE WTAE reported on the recent preliminary findings of a study that indicated there was no migration from 8 Marcellus wells, but has not reported on several other independent studies indicating contamination. KDKA did not mention that the truck spilling hydrochloric acid on I- 70 was a fracking truck.
The media’s coverage of fracking is either non- existent or pro-industry. I called WTAE and complained that they only reported part of the study (see # 1) but more importantly that they have provided no coverage of many other studies that have found water contaminated with methane, ethane, propane, and toxic chemicals. The staff person responded that you could pick any research you want. I explained that there is gas industry sponsored research and independent research and the media has not been covering any of the independent research unless it is pro- fracking. They have not interviewed people who are sick, or reported on the existence of the SW PA Environmental Health Study. I mentioned several other important issues that have received no attention. The WTAE representative responded that they have covered stories on fracking. I asked when, and he had to admit the stories he was referring to were aired 3 years ago. 3 years ago! I commented that that was before the station started receiving money from Range. He denied that they received money from Range. I was, of course, referring to huge amounts of money for advertisement. He had no response.
The point is –We need to speak up. This is the public corporately owned media. Speaking out is our civic duty. Don’t grumble to yourself and let irresponsible reporting continue day after day. When you see something particularly irritating and irresponsible —call or email the station and let them know it is not accurate. Jan
WTAE—412- 244- 4444
***Stop Fracking Allegheny County Parks-From Doug Shields
I just created the petition "Stop The Fracking of Our Allegheny County Regional Parks" and wanted to ask if you could add your name too.
This campaign means a lot to me and the more support we can get behind it, the better chance we have of succeeding. You can read more and sign the petition here:
P.S. Can you also take a moment to share the petition with others? It's really easy – all you need to do is forward this email or share this link on Facebook or Twitter:
*** Tell the Obama Administration: Don't put fracking advocates in charge of a fracking pollution investigation
The state of Wyoming is taking over a U.S. 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.
All-of-the-above energy myth abandons communities.
This decision continues a nationwide pattern of Obama Administration walk backs 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.
TAKE ACTION Here: Tell President Obama and the EPA to stand by their own study!
***Tell Gov. Corbett- Time to Clean Up the Fracking Mess-
Clean Water Action
“We know that fracking is contaminating our water. We know that DEP knows. So is DEP doing anything about it? We deserve better from our State Government - take action today!
Every day families receive no action from the DEP is a day they have to live without access to one of our most basic needs, clean drinking water. Tell Governor Corbett his DEP must take action to protect our drinking water from natural gas drilling!
Send your message to Governor Corbett and your State Legislators:
Please personalize your message! We've provided a sample email, but your message will have a bigger impact if it is in your own words.”
***Tell Bureau of Land Management to Reveal Frack Chemicals
Center for Effective Government
Recently, Duke University published a new study showing that hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," poses serious threats to our drinking water. The Duke study found that, on average, methane concentrations in drinking water were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher than normal at homes near fracking wells. Propane, another flammable gas, was also found in drinking water samples.
People living near fracking sites have a right to know what chemical risks they may be facing. Unfortunately, the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has proposed a weak rule that would not require companies to reveal all the chemicals they are pumping underground when drilling on public lands.
Please click here to urge the Bureau of Land Management to require fracking companies to disclose the dangerous chemicals they are using when drilling on public land.
As proposed, the BLM rule allows drilling companies to keep some of the chemicals used in fracking secret from the public, the government, and emergency responders. And instead of posting the names of disclosed chemicals on an official public website, the companies would submit their information to a private, industry-funded site called FracFocus.org. Information sent to this site may not be subject to open government laws like the Freedom of Information Act.
The deadline to comment on the rule is Aug. 23, so please take a few moments to weigh in now. Tell the Bureau of Land Management to revise its proposed rule and protect our water supplies.
As always, thank you for being an active, engaged citizen.
Katherine McFate, President and CEO, Center for Effective Government
***To sign up for notifications of activity and violations for your area:
***List of the Harmed--There are now over 1300 residents of Pennsylvania who became sick after fracking began in their area and placed their names 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 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.
***Health Problems Forum-Video
Mac Sawyer, former gas field truck driver, Joe Giovannini mason and resident of Cannonsburg, Robert McCaslin who worked as master driller. Larysa Dyrszka, MD, Board certified pediatrician, former director of pediatrics at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, NJ, attendee at the first US Health Impact Assessment Conference in Washington DC., and affiliate member of Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy and Lauren Williams, Esq, PA attorney specializing in environmental and public law who focuses on land use issues including those that relate to gas drilling. Lauren William’s discussion of the gag order on doctors is a good explanation of the problems surrounding the Act 13 order.
You must click on each speaker in turn to hear all the presentations.
***Dr. Brasch Hosts Fracking Program-- Dr. Walter Brasch, author of the critically acclaimed book, Fracking Pennsylvania, is hosting a weekly half-hour radio show about fracking. "The Frack Report" airs 7:30 p.m., Mondays (beginning July 29) and is re-run 7:30 a.m., Wednesdays, on WFTE-FM (90.3 in Mt. Cobb and 105.7 in Scranton.) The show will be also be live streamed at www.wfte.org and also available a day after the Monday night broadcast on the station's website. Brasch's first guest is Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth. He will be interviewing activists, persons affected by fracking, scientists, and politicians. Each show will also feature news about fracking and the anti-fracking movement.
Brasch is a multi-award-winning four-decade journalist and social activist, a former newspaper reporter and editor, multimedia production writer-producer. Among his most recent awards are those from the Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters Association, Pennsylvania Press Club, National Federation of Press Women, National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and Society of Professional Journalists. He is professor emeritus from the Pa. State System of Higher Education. He is also the author of 17 books, most fusing history with contemporary social issues.
***Watch Gasland II for Free
1. Study: Water Not Polluted At 8 Marcellus Well Sites
This report was very misleading. The account reprinted in news sources, even USA Today and other national papers, comes from Kevin Begos. Anyone who follows fracking news knows that there was never a gas well Begos didn’t love. It is interesting that one article included the fact that DOE gave the information to AP—not to other more critical news sources, just AP News was noted. If this preliminary study, not yet peer reviewed, does not find migration at the eight Marcellus well sites that were selected, it does not mean drilling poses no risk to drinking water as was headlined in the media. Most of the contamination that has occurred thus far across the country has been attributed to faulty well casings, spills, and leaks, not migration. In addition, this study only finds that migration did not occur at these particular wells that were selected and monitored in corroboration with the gas industry. There are many other studies that show migration from gas wells into water wells/aquifers can occur much more quickly than previously thought and that it has, in fact, occurred. But not a word of those studies was televised and they received almost no newspaper space. Jan
“A study found no chemicals from the fracking process migrated to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a western PA drilling site. After a year of monitoring, the researchers found that the frack chemicals stayed thousands of feet below the areas that supply drinking water. Drilling fluids tagged with unique markers were injected more than 8,000 feet below the surface, but were not detected in a monitoring zone 3,000 feet higher.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory study marked the first time that a drilling company let government scientists inject special tracers into the fracking fluid and then continue regular monitoring to see whether it spread toward drinking water sources. Eight new Marcellus Shale horizontal wells were monitored in Greene County, Pa. The scientists also monitored a separate series of older gas wells that are about 3,000 feet above the Marcellus. While the lack of contamination is encouraging, Jackson said he wondered whether the unidentified drilling company might have consciously or unconsciously taken extra care with the research site, since it was being watched. He also noted that other aspects of the drilling process can cause pollution, such as poor well construction, surface spills of chemicals, and wastewater.
"This is good news," said Duke University scientist Rob Jackson, who was not involved with the study. He called it a "useful and important approach" to monitoring fracking, but cautioned that the single study doesn't prove that fracking can't pollute, since geology and industry practices vary widely in Pennsylvania and across the nation.
One finding surprised the researchers: Seismic monitoring determined one hydraulic fracture traveled 1,800 feet (6 football fields long!) out from the well bore; most traveled just a few hundred feet.”
Scott Anderson, a drilling expert with the Environment Defense Fund, said:
"Very few people think that fracking at significant depths routinely leads to water contamination. But the jury is still out on what the odds are that this might happen in special situations," Anderson said.
And more on Migration:
2. Former Vice President of Mobil Speaks on Migration of Methane into Drinking water
“The industry will tell you that the mile or two between the zone that's being fracked is not going to let anything come up.
But there are already cases where the methane gas has made it up into the aquifers and atmosphere. Sometimes through old well bores, sometimes through natural fissures in the rock. What we don't know is just how much gas is going to come up over time. It's a point most people haven't gotten. It's not just what's happening today. We're opening up channels for the gas to creep up to the surface and into the atmosphere. And methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas in the short term - less than 100 years - than carbon dioxide.
Ellen Cantrow, Truthout Journalist: Was there any major turning point that started you thinking about methane migration?
Louis Allstadt, former executive VP of Mobil: There were many. An example is that one of the appendices of the draft SGEIS [New York Department of Environmental Conservation guidelines for the gas industry] that was issued in July 2011, had a section describing an EPA study of the only cases where similar fractures had been unearthed. These were in a coal-mining area. The EPA investigation indicated that the fractures had progressed in unexpected patterns and at greater lengths than expected. In September, when the draft SGEIS was eventually put out for comment, that section had been expunged.
EC: That's shocking! I know a lot has been discovered about the collusion between New York's DEC and the industry. Is this one big example?
LA: Yes, it is. To ignore the only direct evidence of fractures, or to remove it from public information, indicates that the industry was trying to hide something. The other point is that in terms of a turning point (in my thinking), here is evidence that the fractures go further and in patterns that were not expected. It showed that fractures could allow methane to reach drinking water aquifers or the atmosphere.”
3. Interstate 70 near Smithton Shut Down Due to 100 Gallon Hydrochloric Acid Leak
Poister Says it Evaporated on the Road
From: Donnan Landscape
Bob Donnan’s Commentary:
“Seems you can never escape the presence of the oil and gas industry for very long. Returning from a weekend trip to the Laurel Highlands, we became part of the ‘captive audience’ in an Interstate 70 traffic jam due to a spill of [hydrochloric acid & ‘who knows what’] when the interstate was closed for over 4 hours yesterday from a truck like the one in the photo below. Thanks Halliburton!
And the iffy-ness of what was actually in this tanker truck further points to improvements that need to be made with placarding and shipment logs of O&G trucks travelling Pennsylvania highways.”
“July 21, 2013 -- A leak from a tanker carrying water mixed with hydrochloric acid residue prompted officials to close a stretch of Interstate 70 near Smithton for more than four hours Sunday. A motorist spotted a leaking valve on a Halliburton tanker and called 911. John Poister, DEP spokesman, said the tanker was carrying 100 gallons of water with hydrochloric acid residue. “The water was back flow from a cleaning project,” Poister said. It did not penetrate any groundwater sources. “I think most of it evaporated on the pavement,” Poister said. Because the tanker was stopped under an I-70 bridge, officials asked the nearby Flying J and Smithton Travel Center plazas to evacuate.
“That (water mixed with the acid) is what they claimed it was. We got it from three different (sources). The shipping papers did not really show what was in there. We knew it was some type of acid. ... We originally thought it was pure hydrochloric acid. ... I would trust their (DEP) judgment. Halliburton confirmed it and the driver told us (it was a water mixture),” Nemec said.”
HYDROCHLORIC ACID –From Bob Donnan
Concentrated hydrochloric acid (fuming hydrochloric acid) forms acidic mists. Both the mist and the solution have a corrosive effect on human tissue, with the potential to damage respiratory organs, eyes, skin, and intestines.
4. Delmont Rejects Seismic Testing
“Although it wants to map subterranean gas pockets in Delmont, Cougar Land Services, Texas, won't have permission to survey borough-owned lands.
Delmont Council last week rejected their request to complete seismic testing underneath the borough building. The proposed testing was in anticipation of future drilling by Chevron, borough solicitor Dan Hewitt said.
“They want to plant small bombs on your property, detonate them and do mapping,” Hewitt said. “There is no benefit to the borough.”
Seismic testing enables drilling companies to determine what areas are suitable for hydraulic fracturing. Using seismic waves, explosives or vibrating machines, drillers are able to “map” where pockets of gas are located. The process is used to determine if drilling would be profitable on a particular property.”
Comment from WMCG member on Seismic Testing In Delmont:
“I found it interesting, and encouraging, that Delmont's solicitor and council feel that what is good for the drillers is not necessarily good for the community. And if it isn't good for the community, maybe it isn't good for the residents of the community. What benefit is there to any of this activity? The money? At what cost? These are huge trucks, 60,000 to 80,000 pounds each and multiple trucks are used. What are essentially man-made earthquakes are created, sending energy into the earth--and locally, that earth has been undermined for coal. Dynamite is placed in "shot holes," 50-100 feet deep according to an article from Wildlands CPR. And the advisors (Penn State Extension) tell us, if we consider leasing or permitting seismic testing on our property, to get a good lawyer who knows the gas industry. What is wrong with this picture?”
Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmurrysville/yourmurrysvillemore/4351595-74/testing-seismic-property#ixzz2ZYcjTMLo
5. On Seismic Testing By Kathryn Hilton, Mt. Watershed
“Seismic Testing is performed before an area is selected for drilling. This involves laying miles of lines, much like outdoor extension cords laid out over the land in grid fashion for great distances. Then either explosive charges are dropped from the air and ignited or “thumper” trucks are placed strategically in this grid to pound the ground to create seismic waves, which can then be analyzed electronically in a remote location. These seismic tests can damage foundations, bridges, retaining walls, towers, and other infrastructure. Homeowners’ insurance does not usually cover damage resulting from seismic testing. To be able to claim a damage one must allow the company to come into one’s home and on property to photograph before testing happens for documentation.
However, if you own gas rights you do not have to consent to allow testing on your property and it is trespassing if they do come on your property- this applies to if you own the road way and have given easement to a township or the state- you have absolute right to refuse their testing.”
Good article on Seismic: http://www.wildlandscpr.org/road-riporter/shake-rattle-roll-understanding-seismic-testing
6. Eminent Domain in Penn Township
“Sunoco Pipeline officials are trying to use eminent domain to acquire an easement near a retirement home/assisted-living center in Penn Township for a 50-mile liquid gas-transmission line. The company filed a petition in Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court against Quest Realty Partnership, which owns 89 acres.
Court records show the filing is Sunoco’s first attempt in the county to take right-of-way against a property owner’s wishes for the Mariner East project. Sunoco also initiated cases last week to request court orders enabling it to go onto properties in Sewickley and South Huntingdon townships to perform environmental testing related to the proposed pipeline path.
Sunoco has plans to run its pipeline — to transport ethane and propane as natural gas liquids — along the same route as an existing line owned by Dominion Transmission Inc. Dominion previously got a court order to condemn via eminent domain a portion of Quest’s property along Mellon Road in August 2011.
In its filing against Quest, Sunoco said it may use the right of eminent domain because it is considered a “public utility corporation” under Pennsylvania’s Business Corporation Law.
But a Harrisburg attorney who represents some Washington County property owners in the pipeline’s path says it’s not clear to him that Sunoco has the authority for eminent domain.
Under the law Sunoco cites, a company may receive permission to condemn land for pipes transporting natural gas, petroleum or petroleum products but not natural-gas liquids, Michael Faherty said.
“I think it’s open to a number of challenges,” Faherty said after reviewing a copy of Sunoco’s filing.
Quest’s attorney, George Pomper, also disputed Sunoco’s authority in a letter earlier this year in which he opposed Sunoco’s court filing to conduct environmental testing on Quest’s property.
“Sunoco is not a ‘utility’ to the best of our knowledge,” Pomper said in the Jan. 24 letter filed in court records. “Sunoco is known as a gasoline retailer and purveyor of motoring products such as wiper blades, tires and convenience store goods. “The owners of Quest Realty are not aware of any electricity, natural gas, water and the like sold by Sunoco to the public.” Pomper did not return messages from the Penn-Trafford Star about Sunoco’s filing.
Landowners who oppose eminent domain can raise objections questioning whether a company is properly licensed or if a project could create environmental concerns, said Peter Georgiades, a Pittsburgh attorney who specializes in eminent domain issues. But simply saying, “I don’t want it” isn’t sufficient, he said. “There’s no leg to stand on if you don’t want it,” Georgiades said.
As of Monday, Sunoco reached agreements for rights-of-way for 16 Penn Township residential and industrial properties, county records show. Two months ago, Penn Township commissioners declined to act on Sunoco’s offer of a $1,550 payment for an easement on vacant property the township owns behind Smartie Artie’s at Zackel’s restaurant in Claridge. Manager Bruce Light he hasn’t heard anything from Sunoco since, but the township has received notice that Sunoco applied for an erosion and sedimentation control permit from the Westmoreland Conservation District.”
Chris Foreman Staff Reporter, Tribune-Review Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013
7. Act 13 Judges
"We’ve just learned that the newly appointed 7th judge, Judge Stevens, will not participate in the Act 13 case, meaning it will definitely be decided by six justices. Unless one of them changes, a 3-3 decision would mean the lower courts’ decision stands."
8. Act 13 –Understanding the Legal Aspects
By Michael C. Duffy and Harry Weiss All Articles
The Legal Intelligencer
July 23, 2013 Excerpt:
“The fate of Pennsylvania's controversial zoning provisions of Act 13, the 2012 amendment to the Oil and Gas Act, will soon be decided by the Supreme Court in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth. At stake are provisions that would require municipalities to eliminate most restrictions on unconventional gas well development from local zoning ordinances. The provisions at issue expressly seek to provide a one-size-fits-all approach to local control of oil and gas development. This effort at uniformity has been met with stiff opposition from municipalities that believe Act 13 goes too far, usurping a local government's traditional role of regulating land use within its borders for the health and safety of its residents. So far, the plaintiff municipalities have had the better of the argument, challenging Act 13 on constitutional grounds, in contrast to a nationwide trend that has seen state courts relying on state/local conflict pre-emption doctrine to limit local efforts to regulate oil and gas development.
The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court declared the Pennsylvania provisions unconstitutional and void in July 2012, and based on earlier Supreme Court decisions on the topic, there is reason to expect that the state's highest court may uphold that decision. This outcome would restore municipalities' authority to enact zoning ordinances limiting, at a minimum, the location of oil and gas drilling activities within the municipality — authority recognized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court itself in 2009 in Huntley & Huntley v. Borough Council of Borough of Oakmont, 964 A.2d 855 (Pa. 2009).
To understand what Robinson Township is about, it is helpful to understand what the case is not about.
Three recent opinions from West Virginia, Ohio and New York provide an excellent overview of the trend in other jurisdictions finding pre-emption of local ordinances by state oil and gas law.
Trends in other states:
In West Virginia, the city of Morgantown passed an ordinance banning unconventional gas drilling within the city. The Monongalia County Circuit Court adopted the reasoning traditionally applied in state/local conflict pre-emption cases in Northeast Natural Energy v. City of Morgantown, No. 11-C-411, slip op. (Cir. Ct. Monongalia City. Aug. 12, 2011). The court found that West Virginia law manifests the state's intent to control the entire field of oil and gas development. Because the city's ban conflicted with the state's objective, the ban was pre-empted.
In Ohio, an appellate court held that a local ordinance imposing permitting, zoning and right-of-way construction restrictions on unconventional gas development was pre-empted in part by Ohio oil and gas law in State ex. rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy, 2013-Ohio-356, slip op. (9th App. Dist. Feb. 6, 2013). The court noted that Ohio law gives the state exclusive authority to regulate "permitting, location and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations."
New York courts that have addressed the issue generally have come down on the side of local regulation, despite using the same analysis as the West Virginia and Ohio courts. In Norse Energy Corp. USA v. Town of Dryden, 964 N.Y.S.2d 714 (N.Y. App. Div. 2013), a New York appellate court held that a local zoning ordinance that, in effect, banned all unconventional gas development in the municipality was not pre-empted by New York state oil and gas law because the state law contained no clear expression of legislative intent to control the land-use aspects of oil and gas development in such a way that it would pre-empt local zoning authority. Thus, in contrast to the West Virginia and Ohio decisions, Norse Energy's home-rule analysis favored preservation of local authority in the absence of any conflict between the state oil and gas law and local ordinance. Although this was a victory for the municipality, the Norse Energy court implicitly left open the possibility that the New York Legislature could pre-empt local zoning authority if it chose to clearly express such an intention.
At first glance, it appears as if this tension between state regulation of all aspects of oil and gas development on one hand and local governments' duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the community through local ordinance on the other hand is at the center of Robinson Township. However, Robinson Township instead is about Pennsylvania's ability to constitutionally mandate the development of local comprehensive growth and development plans (via the Municipalities Planning Code), while simultaneously imposing uniform restrictions on all municipalities' zoning powers, when such restrictions may incidentally conflict with municipalities' comprehensive plans. In other words, the constitutional limits of the state's ability to encroach on local zoning authority, rather than the limits of local authority to encroach on a field occupied by state law, is the central issue in Robinson Township.
In Robinson Township, the state argues that municipalities are "creatures of the state," whose powers are limited to those granted by the state, and, as such, the state can pre-empt the exercise of those powers through statutory enactment, unless such enactment is unconstitutional. The state further notes that Act 13's zoning provisions do not pre-empt local governments from enacting zoning ordinances, as long as they do not place any restrictions on the location of oil and gas drilling operations in conflict with Act 13.
The plaintiffs, including seven municipalities, assert that Act 13 would force municipalities to shoehorn oil and gas drilling operations into zoning districts where such activities would conflict with the local government's mandate to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens and provide for orderly development of the community. Imposing such requirements on local governments would be an improper use of the state's police power under the due process provisions of Article 1, Section 1, of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Thus, the municipalities have avoided confronting Act 13 on conflict pre-emption doctrine grounds — a confrontation they almost certainly would have lost — and put the state in the constitutional hot seat.
At the heart of the Commonwealth Court's decision was the notion that zoning in furtherance of Act 13's oil and gas development objectives is not the same as zoning "in conformance with a comprehensive plan for growth and development of the community," the latter being the only constitutional application of zoning. The upshot of the court's decision is that the state now appears powerless to pre-empt local zoning ordinances restricting oil and gas development, even if such ordinances rise to an outright ban, as in New York. Consequently, while the rationale of Norse Energy left room for the state to pre-empt municipality wide local zoning bans on hydraulic fracturing if it should choose to, the Robinson Township decision would leave Pennsylvania powerless to do so.
Such an outcome could be groundbreaking from a national perspective but not inconsistent with prior Pennsylvania case law on point. In Huntley, the Supreme Court broadly acknowledged the state's ability to limit local power, stating that even where the state previously granted municipalities power to act in a particular field, such powers are abrogated when the state pre-empts the field. However, the "field" at issue in Huntley was oil and gas development, not zoning. Ultimately finding that the then-applicable oil and gas law did not conflict with, and therefore did not pre-empt, local zoning restrictions on oil and gas development, Huntley left the door open, as New York has, for the state's express pre-emption of local zoning authority.
Nevertheless, Huntley observed that the purposes of zoning ordinances and oil and gas law are distinctly different — an observation relied upon heavily in the Robinson Township ruling. Because those doors were left open, the Supreme Court now has the opportunity to uphold the lower court's Constitution-based decision while preserving the well-established principles of state/local conflict pre-emption doctrine articulated by the Huntley court. Notably, the municipalities also have an advantage in the Robinson Township proceedings because the currently shorthanded court's three liberal and three conservative justices would uphold the Commonwealth Court's ruling by default in the event of a tie — though it's possible interim Justice Correale Stevens will be involved with the ruling depending on its timing.
Victory for the plaintiff municipalities is not set in stone, but it appears that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will have to fracture the existing legal bedrock to extract an outcome favorable to the state and industry.
Michael C. Duffy is an associate in Ballard Spahr's litigation department. He focuses on federal and Pennsylvania environmental regulatory compliance and environmental litigation.”
Harry Weiss is a partner in the firm's environment and natural resources practice.
Read more: http://www.law.com/jsp/pa/PubArticlePA.jsp?id=1202611305808&slreturn=20130623234346#ixzz2ZvoQRtOn
9. Allegheny National Forest Drilled
"Those wondering what opportunity looks like to drillers in regions originally set aside for conservation need only visit the Allegheny National Forest in Western Pennsylvania, a state that has opened its arms to drillers in recent years. Nearly 4,000 oil and gas wells were drilled in the Allegheny between 2005 and 2011. “Where there were once remote areas of the forest there is now oil and gas infrastructure,” said Ryan Talbott of the Allegheny Defense Project. “If you are a recreationist going to go out and go hiking, camping, fishing, what might have been your favorite area before is now a sea of roads and pipelines and well sites.”
In 2009, under pressure from Allegheny Defense and other environmental groups, the Forest Service sought to monitor the drilling, implement environmental safeguards and provide a measure of planning to the spaghetti network of drill sites. But 93 percent of the mineral rights in the state are privately held and the Forest Service, in a case currently under review by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, was sued by the gas companies who claim their property rights were violated."
10. Treatment Plants Accused of Illegally Disposing Radioactive Frack Wastewater
Clean Water Action Sues
By Sharon Kelly
“A Pennsylvania industrial wastewater treatment plant has been illegally accepting oil and gas wastewater and polluting the Allegheny River with radioactive waste and other pollutants, according Clean Water Action, which announced today that it is suing the plant.
“Waste Treatment Corporation has been illegally discharging oil and gas wastewater since at least 2003, and continues to discharge such wastewater without authorization under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Streams Law,” the notice of intent to sue delivered by Clean Water Action reads.
Many pollutants associated with oil and gas drilling—including chlorides, bromides, strontium and magnesium—were discovered immediately downstream of the plant’s discharge pipe in Warren, PA, state regulators discovered in January. Upstream of the plant, those same contaminants were found at levels one percent or less than those downstream, or were not present at all.
State officials also discovered that the sediments immediately downstream from the plant were tainted with high levels of radium-226, radium-228 and uranium. Those particular radioactive elements are known to be found at especially high levels in wastewater from fracking, and state regulators have warned that the radioactive materials would tend to accumulate in river sediment downstream from plants accepting Marcellus waste.
“To us, that says that they are discharging Marcellus Shale wastewater, although no one admits to sending it to them,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action.
A request for comment sent to Waste Treatment Corporation has not yet been answered.
The amount of radioactivity found in the Allegheny riverbed is striking. Sediments just downstream of the Waste Treatment Corporation’s discharge pipe contained over 50 picocuries per gram (pCi/g) of radium-226, state records show. To put that number in rough context, the levels in found in the Allegheny are 10 times those that the U.S. EPA requires the surface soil at cleaned-up uranium mining sites to achieve.
Most of the radioactive wastes associated with fracking are too weak to cause harm to people unless they are breathed in, drank or eaten, since the alpha and beta radioactivity they primarily give off is too weak to get past people’s skin. But at the levels discovered by state regulators, the dirt from the Allegheny’s riverbed could potentially be radioactive enough to cause harm to people who are simply near it.
Once-confidential oil and gas industry studies have also pointed to another risk from disposing of radioactive materials from drilling or fracking in waterways—the risk to fish and aquatic life like crustaceans and mollusks. Radium bioaccumulates in fish, meaning that the more a fish ingests contaminated water or soil over its lifetime, the more radium it will contain. If people eat those fish, those radioactive materials consumed along with the fish can do harm to people’s internal organs.
In their January study, state officials did not test fish or other animals like large clams or mussels from the Allegheny to see whether they were carrying radium or other pollutants. But they did study smaller organisms, and concluded that the wastewater being discharged after being processed by Waste Treatment Corporation into the Allegheny was “negatively impacting” aquatic life, specifically bugs, snails and small mollusks in the river. Many pollution-sensitive creatures found upstream of the plant’s discharge pipe were missing downstream from the pipe.
“Those are the base of the food pyramid for large species like fish that people are generally more concerned about,” Mr. Arnowitt said.
Just last month another industrial wastewater treatment plant was sanctioned by the EPA for illegally discharging untreated Marcellus waste. Environmental regulators also discovered high levels of radium around the discharge pipe at the Pennsylvania Brine Treatment Josephine plant. That plant was fined over $80,000 and the owner agreed to make up to $30 million in upgrades before accepting any more Marcellus shale wastewater.
The Clean Water Action lawsuit also calls attention to a troubling lack of record keeping for the toxic wastewater generated by the shale drilling boom, raising the possibility that more illegal dumping could be uncovered in the future.”
11. Pipelines and Ordinances (from a group member)
“In looking into the issue of pipeline safety, I found a series of articles published in the Phil. Inquirer in Dec 2011 right before Act 13 was passed.
There are two references to municipalities in Westmoreland County in the article “’Us vs. Them’ in PA Gaslands”:
In Westmoreland County, near Pittsburgh, Range Resources successfully filed suit to strike down the drilling and pipelines ordinance in Salem Township.
The court case, said Township Solicitor Gary Falatovich, "did a really good job of dismantling every modest control that the township was trying to impose. What can I tell you?"
Larry Grimm, a supervisor in Mount Pleasant Township in Westmoreland County, was more emphatic. He said Corbett and the legislature were stripping local officials of the ability to tailor laws to fit their unique areas.”
"We're different than they are up there in Potter County, enormously different," Grimm said. "They're taking that away from us. It's just that simple."
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/inquirer/marcellus-shale/20111212_Us_vs__Them_in_Pa__Gaslands.html#3BZCZQXD4XZx0W6J.99
12. Past President Colorado Medical Society ---Cancer Concerns with Fracking
“A former president of the Colorado Medical Society calls the current hydraulic fracturing boom an “experiment in motion” for the public.
One that could lead to higher rates of cancer and other illnesses over the next 10 to 15 years.
Dr. Michael Pramenko, a Grand Junction family physician, says he isn’t as worried about acute cases of exposure to carcinogens in “fracking” fluid – although he has treated a patient who accidently guzzled cancer-causing benzene. Pramenko says he is more concerned with long-term exposure from tainted water.
“Are there people out there being exposed to low quantities [of carcinogens] that we won’t ever know about? Sure,” he said. “Are there going to be some cancers down the road that come about across the United States? I think that’s true.”
Officials acknowledge there are up to 400 oil and gas spills each year in Colorado, but they say only 20 percent contaminate groundwater.
Boulder attorney Corey Zurbuch this month argued a case before the Colorado Court of Appeals pitting a Western Slope family against Denver-based Antero Resources. The Strudleys of Silt Mesa, near Glenwood Springs, claimed a nearby gas rig forced them from their home in 2011 by fouling their water and air and causing severe rashes, nosebleeds and blackouts.
Their case was dismissed before the discovery stage, Zurbuch argued, without the company fully divulging what chemicals they used, whether any spilled and if there were problems with the well. A ruling is still pending, but Zurbuch says such litigation will become more common as drilling moves closer to schools and homes in populated areas of the state – and that physicians need to become more aware of the symptoms of exposure.
“The panoply of symptoms that you can get if you’re living near one of these [rigs] – you’re being subjected to air pollution, pollution from the increase of diesel trucks, the pollution directly off the wells, and you may have water contamination,” Zurbuch said.
Depending on the chemical, symptoms can range from vomiting to gastrointestinal pain, seizures, dizziness, drowsiness and weakness.
Tainted water sometimes leaks from holding ponds and pipelines, and on occasion has contaminated nearby drinking water wells in rural areas. Major spills also occurred at a Suncor refinery north of Denver in 2011 and at a Williams’s gas plant near Parachute on the Western Slope this year. Both spills resulted in benzene levels higher than federal limits for safe drinking water in Sand Creek and the South Platte River (Suncor) and Parachute Creek (Williams).
One of the most common industrial chemicals, benzene is also used in gasoline, diesel fuel, industrial solvents and paint. Long-term exposure can lead to acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), which is a cancer of the blood-forming organs.
That’s alarming to Pramenko, who is particularly concerned about rural areas where drinking water often comes from domestic wells near drilling operations. Pramenko treated Ned Prather, a DeBeque rancher and outfitter who five years ago accidentally ingested a glass of benzene-laced water from his drinking well the state later said was fouled by a nearby Williams rig.
“Equate it to a cigarette,” Pramenko said. “You’re not going to get cancer from smoking one cigarette. You’re not going to get cancer from drinking one glass of water. Its repeated exposure.”
13. Studies: How Fracking Decreases Property Value
Earthworks cites 2 Studies
Water Source a Deciding Factor in Property Value
“A Duke University and Resources for the Future study found that the most significant factor in the impact of oil and gas development near residential property is whether water is piped in or sourced on-site from a well.
Based in Washington County, PA, the study found that property with on-site wells lost 13 percent of their value.
Fracking in residential areas impacts the property value of both lease owners and their neighbors.
Another study by Integra Realty Resources in Flower Mound, TX, looked at the relationship between property value and proximity to wells. It concluded that properties with houses that were less than 750 feet away from a drill site experienced an average sales price drop of 2-7 percent.
Oil and gas leases have also made it more difficult to get a new mortgage or refinance and can even constitute a technical default on an existing mortgage. Depending on the site of the well, leases can also affect neighbor’s mortgages due to setback violations or requirements, or uncertain future property value.
Last year, Jack and Carol Pyhtila spent several weeks working to refinance the mortgage on their roughly 30 acres in Tompkins County, NY. But when they arrived to sign the mortgage, the lender, Visions Federal Credit Union, had taken a closer look at the lease on their land and revoked its offer, said Mr. Pyhtila, 72.
Of course, making it more difficult to get a mortgage isn’t going to make selling a property with a lease any easier.
The rush to drill has led many single young men and family men to places like Williston, ND, for a shot at financial comeback.
As the Williston Herald reported, apartments that used to rent for $400 a month five years ago are going for four times that today, and homes that sold for $60,000 are now on the market for $200,000.
While this may sound like a dream for local residents, some, particularly senior citizens and people on fixed income, have found that they are no longer able to afford their rent and have been forced to move.”
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
14. Study: Fracking’s Costs to Local Communities
“From contaminated drinking water to long-term illness, who is going to be there to pay the piper after the new gas rush is over?” asked Erika Staaf, Clean Water Advocate from PennEnvironment. “With Pennsylvania’s weak bonding requirements, all too often individual residents and communities are going to be left with a heavy tab for fracking damage.” A recent study by PennEnvironment discloses that just reclaiming a fracking site can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And the damage done by fracking – from contaminated groundwater to ruined roads – can cost millions of dollars.
According to the Who Pays the Costs of Fracking? report, Pennsylvania’s bonding requirements do not even come close to covering these costs:
*Drilling operators are only required to secure $4,000 to $10,000 in bonds up front, for single wells.
*The bonds only cover site restoration and well plugging, not compensation for victims for damage to property or health, provision for alternative source of drinking water in case of contamination, and full restoration of damage to public infrastructure.
*The state releases the drillers from this assurance one year after the well is plugged and the site reclaimed, leaving impacted residents, communities, and taxpayers on the hook for longer-term damage.”
PennEnvironment Quoted in Sierra Club, Allegheny Group
15. XTO fined $100,000
“XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp., was ordered to spend $20 million to improve wastewater management practices to recycle, properly dispose of and prevent spills of wastewater generated from natural gas exploration in PA and West Virginia. An inspector with the Department of Environmental Protection discovered pollution occurred Nov. 16, 2010. That's when the company released between 150 to 1,366 barrels, or 6,300 to 57,373 gallons of flowback and produced water into state streams, according to the government report. The spill, which initially was estimated at more than 13,000 gallons by the company, polluted an unnamed tributary to Sugar Run and a spring.
The inspector observed wastewater spilling from an open valve from a series of interconnected tanks. The investigation determined that wastewater stored in the tanks at the facility contained the same variety of pollutants, including chlorides, barium, strontium and total dissolved solids, that were observed in surface waters. Untreated discharges of wastewaters from natural gas exploration and production activities typically contain high levels of total dissolved solids and other pollutants and can adversely impact fresh water aquatic life and drinking water quality.”
While XTO Energy was singled out by the federal government for its 2010 spill, Pennsylvania residents are waiting for a crackdown on fracking spills throughout the state.
In May, a malfunction at a fracking well sent 9,000 gallons of fracking fluid onto nearby residents’ land, including a farm site. It was the second spill in two months for Carrizo Oil and Gas. In March, a malfunction at another Pennsylvania fracking site spilled more than 227,000 gallons of fracking fluid, causing the evacuation of several homes. The EPA has not issued penalties against Carrizo for the spill.”
16. A Moratorium on Fracking in PA? (from Marcellus Protest)
A brief timeline:
April 2013 – Grassroots groups, including PennEnvironment, Clean Water Action, Mountain Watershed Association, Food and Water Watch, 350.org, and others delivered a petition of over 100,000 signatures calling for a moratorium to PA Gov. Tom Corbett.
April 2013 – State Senator Jim Ferlo is offering a bill to place a moratorium on all new shale gas extraction.
May 2013 – A poll indicated that 58% of Pennsylvanians want a moratorium on all fracking while risks are studied.
June 15, 2013 – The Pennsylvania Democratic Party voted 115-81 to support a moratorium on fracking until “the practice can be done safely” and until “full restitution by the natural gas industry for any harm” is made.
It is important to note that the Democratic Party’s resolution does not immediately give us a moratorium, nor does it require elected Democrats to support the idea. A bill would still need to pass the legislature and be signed into law by the governor. However, considering that Democratic politicians in PA have received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from gas corporations over the last decade, this move does demonstrate an increasing awareness that shale gas fracking destroys com- munities, pollutes air and water, decreases property values, makes people sick, poses dangers to workers and residents harms ecosystems and farming, and financially benefits only a tiny percentage of those involved in the process.
What is needed now? It was the shift in public opinion that made the Democratic Party’s resolution a possibility, so Pennsylvanians must to continue to educate their neighbors about why a stop to fracking is so urgently important, as well as to continue to push politicians of both parties to support and actually pass a moratorium bill into law.”
17. Study: Glycol Ether Affects Ovarian Function, Longer Time to Pregnancy
(As most of you know, glycol ethers are found in fracking fluids. Jan)
“Background: Glycol ethers are present in a wide range of occupational and domestic products. Animal studies have suggested that some of them may affect ovarian function.
Objective: To study the relation between women’s exposure to glycol ethers and time to pregnancy.
Methods: Urine from randomly selected women in the PELAGIE mother-child cohort who had samples collected before 19 weeks of gestation was tested to measure eight glycol ether metabolites by chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry. Time to pregnancy was collected at the beginning of the pregnancy by asking women how many months they took to conceive. Associations between metabolite levels and time to pregnancy were estimated in 519 women with complete data using discrete-time Cox proportional hazards models to adjust for potential confounders.
Results: Glycol ether metabolites were detected in 6% (for ethoxyacetic acid) to 93% (for phenoxyacetic and butoxyacetic acids) of urine samples. Phenoxyacetic acid was the only metabolite with a statistically significant association with longer time to pregnancy (fecundability OR 0.82; 95% CI: 0.63, 1.06 for the second and third quartile combined; fecundability OR 0.70; 95% CI: 0.52, 0.95 for a fourth-quartile (≥1.38 mg/L) vs. first-quartile concentration (<0.14 mg/L)). This association remained stable after multiple sensitivity analyses.
Conclusion: Phenoxyacetic acid, which was present in most of the urine samples tested in our study, was associated with increased time to pregnancy. This metabolite and its main parent compound, 2-phenoxyethanol, are plausible causes of decreased fecundability, but may also be surrogates for potential co-exposures frequently present in cosmetics.”
18. Public Be Damned in Cecil Township
“The idea that the PA DEP, under the Corbett administration, works primarily for the benefit of the people of Pennsylvania took another hit last week when it became clear that the DEP has no interest in hearing the questions and comments of those who live near the Worstell impoundment in Cecil Township.
The impoundment is operated by Range Resources and has been a point of contention since the first of this year, when township officials wrote to the DEP to allege that the company failed to obtain proper approvals for the original use and construction of the impoundment, which is a repository for gas-drilling wastewater.
Some township officials say that even though drilling of wells has been completed near the site of the impoundment, trucks continue to bring in fracking water from other locations. Andy Schrader, vice chairman of the township supervisors, says a counter on the road indicates that a truck is coming into or out of the impoundment every 18 minutes. Yet Range has indicated that the site is used sparingly.
One would think that six months would be more than enough time to get to the bottom of this, to satisfy the concerns of township officials and answer the questions of those who live near the operation. One would be wrong.
Initially, there was a move by some supervisors to have a private meeting with the DEP about the Worstell site and other drilling-related matters, but when word of that proposed behind-closed-doors gathering created a backlash, the session was scrapped and there was hope that a public meeting would result. But the DEP is now making it crystal clear that it has no interest in an open discussion of the issues.”
Flaring devices at Worstall Compound near Cannonsburg- Photo by Bob Donnan
19. Gov. O’Malley to Frack Maryland Despite Calls for Ban
He Says MD will not be Like PA where regs are practically non- existent
“Leaders in the Maryland Legislature rejected a bill last session that would have placed a ban on fracking in the state, seemingly supporting Gov. O’Malley (D-MD) in whatever plan he unveils for Maryland. The governor, in turn, has appropriated taxpayer money to conduct several studies to determine whether or not the long-term effects of fracking would be too detrimental to public health and the environment.
In fact, Gov. O’Malley has been telling anti-fracking advocates that the Old Line State will not turn into another version of Pennsylvania, where regulations are scant and taxes on the oil and gas industry are virtually non-existent. But more and more, we are seeing evidence that Gov. O’Malley wants to turn Maryland into a natural gas-friendly state like Pennsylvania. Almost as if to demonstrate that very point, I got some news that is as surprising as it is frustrating.
State officials recently revealed to Food & Water Watch that Gov. O’Malley has hired John H. Quigley, who served as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources during the state’s rapid expansion of fracking, to help draft key fracking regulations in Maryland. The news is further proof that Gov. O’Malley has already made his mind up to allow fracking and is moving forward with developing regulations to issue fracking permits in Maryland. “
Food & Water Watch, By Jorge Aguilar
20. Bob Donnan on the Smith Compressor Station Hearing
“So what did we learn from this drill? For those who attended the meeting, we found out that industry still knows how to pack a room with supporters. We further learned that Pa DEP representatives were perfectly willing to sit there and listen to a bunch of comments in favor of the compressor station that had nothing to do with the air quality permit.
You can see the complete meeting in living color right here:
Bob’s Comment on the Smith Compressor Station:
Comment regarding PA-63-00968A~I’m writing to request that PA DEP hold a public meeting and hearing for the Smith Compressor Station air permit because it would allow more local residents attend and learn about the project, ask questions, and directly communicate with MarkWest and PA DEP staff. I strongly recommend that you hold a hearing on this compressor station.
I have major concerns about the potential environmental and health impacts of MarkWest’s proposed Smith Compressor station in Washington County, PA. The Smith Compressor station, in combination with the extensive natural gas infrastructure in the area, will create significant environmental and health impacts. Has PA DEP ensured that approving this station will not deteriorate regional air quality and jeopardize compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQs)?
If the Department must grant this permit, I request PA DEP to ensure that the lowest emitting technology required by law be used at this station. Blow downs are a huge problem for residents who live near compressor stations, so blow-down prevention practices should be written into the permit.
Thank you for taking the time to read and consider my comment, and please respond back with any decisions on public hearings or updates on this permit.
Robert Donnan, McMurray PA
DEP releases findings on Smith compressor hearing
The May 1 hearing was an opportunity for residents to express concerns over the air-quality effects of an expansion of the station near Route 22 in Smith Township. The site is adding between six and eight additional Waukesha rich-burn engines. Findings from the hearing were released this week. The 19-page document highlighted some of the issues brought up by citizens and offered responses from the DEP.
Finalization of the plan approval means MarkWest has 18 months to get the additional engines up and running. Poister said once they’re operational, the facility must make it through a “shakedown” period in which DEP inspectors would ensure the plant is running to specifications. “They have to show that the new rich-burn system works as advertised,” Poister said. “This is a definite upgrade and is designed to improve the operation of that facility.”
Godwin Compressor Station in Canton, PA Photo by Bob Donnan
21. Youngstown Pushes for Protection From Fracking, Earthquakes, and Pollution
“They’re back and more determined than ever to win on Election Day in November 2013. The Youngstown, OH, Community Bill of Rights Committee is coordinating a new door-to-door campaign to get the required number of registered Youngstown voter signatures to put a question on the November ballot.
The group says that a “Yes” vote on that ballot question would uphold Youngstown citizens’ fundamental rights to protect their family’s safe drinking water, clean air and land, and to local self-governance.
“We came so close to winning last time that we fully expect to win the vote in November.”
22. NY Advocates Want Probe of Pro-Fracking Campaign Donations
“A coalition has called for a probe of campaign donations from pro-hydrofracking interests, after Common Cause detailed more than $14 million in contributions to politicians and political parties since 2007.
According to Common Cause/NY, a total of 183 entities who support shale-gas drilling donated to political campaigns, including some of the state Legislature’s top fracking advocates
Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, was the biggest beneficiary among state lawmakers, with his campaign taking in $353,205, according to the analysis.
“Powerful businesses and industries which stand to benefit from fracking use campaign contributions to gain influence with their local lawmakers, candidates, and party organizations,” Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner said in a statement. “We see a wide spectrum of fracking-related interests taking full advantage of New York’s lax campaign finance laws in the hope of a future payday if fracking is permitted.”
Hiscock & Barclay, an Albany-based law firm and lobbying group that has spent close to $753,000 on campaign donations. The firm declined comment.”
To view the Common Cause report, visit www.commoncause.org/ny/deepdrillingdeeppockets