Friday, July 19, 2013

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates       July 19, 2013 

*  For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
*  To view permanent documents, past updates, reports, general information and meeting information
*  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:      


Thank you
Thank you to everyone who took the time to add your name to letters to Senators asking for a moratorium on drilling. jan

Calendar of Events

***Westmoreland County Commissioners Meeting-  2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the County Courthouse at 10:00


***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:



TAKE ACTION!! 3 Alerts

***Tell DEP To Revise Critical Policy on Public Participation  

               The PA DEP is currently revising a policy on how the public participates in the permitting process. Many of these policies and procedures will directly impact how residents living near polluted facilities will be able to participate in decisions about shale gas infrastructure in Pennsylvania.  This is your chance to tell PA DEP what you think about their proposed policy changes and make your own suggestions.

               Comments are due on Monday, July 22nd by 5PM.

Thank you for helping to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air!

Matt Walker Clean Air Council Community, Outreach Director

Take Action Here:


 Copy of the action alert:

“My biggest concern is that the public participation policy will be almost useless for most shale gas facilities that are now permitted because of the stream-lined General Permit 5 (GP-5), which doesn’t allow for public comment and public hearings. Since the great majority of new facilities in Pennsylvania are part of the oil and gas industry and falls under GP-5, this is extremely relevant. I urge PA DEP to change the participation policy to allow for meaningful public participation in polluting facilities like compressor stations that are now being quickly permitted with the GP-5, often in close proximity to each other.

                    Documents with PA DEP’s analysis of a permit application are often not available prior to a comment deadline and this prohibits the public from having meaningful input on PA DEP’s analysis and decision-making. The Department should allow for two separate comment periods so the public has the opportunity to comment on a company’s application and DEP’s analysis of the application. I’m concerned about PA DEP’s proposed timing of comment periods and public hearings. Public hearings should not occur during the initial 30-day comment period, but should occur only after a comment period is over (if substantial interest has been shown).

                    I urge PA DEP to put all permit applications, technical review documents, and any other associated documents or maps online for free public access. It is extremely difficult to obtain files from regional offices in enough time to allow for well-informed comments.

                    I support the idea of webinars for educational purposes, but urge the Department to never substitute a webinar for a public meeting or public hearing. Not all residents interested in participating in the permitting process can attend online webinars could be excluded from the process.

                    Thank you for considering my comments. Please keep me informed about any decisions related to the Policy on Public Participation in the Permit Review Process.”


***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.

From Earthworks

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 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.”




Frack Links

***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.


***Josh Fox on the Daily Show--   6 minutes

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.




***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.



***Green and Clean?   WTAE TV   Under the Green and Clean tax law, farmers get tax breaks for  farming the land. The tax break was not intended to give breaks to   landowners who lease for gas drilling.



Frack News

1. Toxic Wastewater Used For Surface Application for Consumption by Wildlife and Livestock

(I have read this article three times and never cease to be stunned by the lack of regulation regarding fracking. It is the government employee members of PEER who are fighting to right this particular wrong. Jan)

                “Millions of gallons of water laced with toxic chemicals from oil and gas drilling rigs are pumped for consumption by wildlife and livestock with formal approval from the U.S. EPA, according to public comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Contrary to its own regulations, EPA is issuing permits for surface application of drilling wastewater without even identifying the chemicals in fracking fluids, let alone setting effluent limits for the contaminants contained within them.

               EPA has just posted proposed new water discharge permits for the nearly dozen oil fields on or abutting the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming (EPA has Clean Water Act jurisdiction on tribal lands). Besides not even listing the array of toxic chemicals being discharged, the proposed permits have monitoring requirements so weak that water can be tested long after fracking events or maintenance flushing. In addition, the permits lack any provisions to protect the health of wildlife or livestock.

Under the less than watchful eye of EPA, fracking flowback is dumped into rivers, lakes and reservoirs,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that in both the current and the new proposed permits EPA ignores its own rules requiring that it list “the type and quantity of wastes, fluids, or pollutants which are proposed to be or are being treated, stored, disposed of, injected, emitted, or discharged.” “Gushers of putrid, grayish water encrusted with chemical crystals flood through Wind River into nearby streams.”

               Surface disposal of water produced by oil and gas drilling is forbidden in the Eastern U.S. but allowed in the arid West for purposes of “agricultural or wildlife propagation,” in the words of the governing federal regulation. Thus, the “produced water,” as it is called, must be “of good enough quality to be used for wildlife or livestock watering or other agricultural uses.”

               In the last decade, fracking fluids often consisting of powerfully toxic chemicals have been included in this surface discharge. The exact mixture used by individual operators is treated as a trade secret. But one recent analysis identified 632 chemicals now used in shale-gas production. More than 75% of them affect the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems; 40-50% impact the kidneys and the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems; 37% act on the hormone system; and 25% are linked with cancer or mutations.

               “Amid all the controversy on this topic, there is one point of agreement: drinking fracking fluids is not a good idea,” added Ruch, pointing to cases where cattle drinking creek water contaminated with fracking fluids died or failed to produce calves the following year. “The more than 30-year old ‘produced water’ exception was intended for naturally occurring fluids and muds from within the geologic formations, not this new generation of powerful chemicals introduced downhole.”

               PEER is asking the EPA to rewrite the permits to regulate all the chemicals being discharged and to determine whether the produced water is potable for wildlife and livestock. The public comments period on the proposed Wind Reservation permits closes on July 26, 2013.


2. Smoke from Gas Plant in Washington County Alarming           Neighbors

          "Over the weekend, while MarkWest installed the equipment, liquid fuels from natural gas drilling were sent up the plant's smokestack to be flared, burned off in open air.  But tests of the new equipment produced roiling black clouds of pollution along with giant flames that made it appear from a distance as a major house fire. [

               John L. Obenour, 84, whose Hornhead Farm sits next to the plant, said he went to the plant Monday to complain after repeated episodes of billowing black smoke found their way to his property. He said he has black soot on his window seals and black streaks on his roof. Such episodes have happened several times, he said. "I could detect a smell because the atmosphere was so heavy, as it is," he said. "The last couple of days I could detect that smell and the god-dang black stuff in the air was settling this way and that. "You can't stop progress, and I never want to be a thorn in their side," he said. "But I also want to have clean air." Raina Rippel, director of the Environmental Health Project based in Peters, said, "We have had concern for some time about residents' health and safety living in close proximity to this site, and this event magnifies those concerns.""



3. Violation Report from Derry from Skytruth alert

(There are many violations listed on Skytruth.  I sometimes pull one to illustrate that we should all subscribe and pay attention to what is spilled or released in our area.   Drill cuttings are often radioactive and toxic, jan)

Report Details

Operator           Wpx Energy Appalachia Llc

Violation Type              Administrative

Violation Date              2013-07-11

Violation Code              78.61A - Improper pit disposal of drill cuttings from above the casing seat

Violation ID    672525

Permit API       129-28841

Unconventional           Y

County               Westmoreland

Municipality Derry Twp

Inspection Type          Routine/Complete Inspection

Inspection Date       2013-07-11

Comments       violations issued 78.61 (d)



ID: 672525 Date: 2013-07-11 Type: Administrative

78.61A - Improper pit disposal of drill cuttings from above the casing seat 78.61 (d)

ID: 672526 Date: 2013-07-11 00:00:00 Type: Environmental Health & Safety

401CSL - Discharge of pollultional material to waters of Commonwealth.

ID: 672528 Date: 2013-07-11 00:00:00 Type: Administrative

201H - Failure to properly install the permit number, issued by the department, on a completed well. 32.11 (g)

Enforcement Action(s)

ID       Code

299703         NOV - Notice of Violation



4. Pennsylvania Shale Gas Drilling Update

From Sierra Club:

               “How far has shale gas drilling advanced in Pennsylvania? According to the Web site, of the 12,584 ‘unconventional’ wells permitted in the state as of July 2, 2013, 29 percent are now producing. How quickly the remaining wells begin to produce depends in large part on the price of natural gas.


12,584 Unconventional wells are permitted in PA

10,636 are horizontal wells

7,205 are drilled or under development

3,696 have reported production values

125 new wells added in the last 21 days”


5. Corbett Signed Pooling Legislation Into Law

               “Gov. Corbett defended legislation he signed into law this week that critics say will undercut some landowners in lease negotiations with Marcellus shale gas drillers.

               The new law, which was tacked onto legislation to clarify information on gas royalty payments, empowers oil and gas drillers to combine land into larger drilling units as long as a property owner's lease doesn't prohibit it.

               It effectively forces people with existing contracts to allow their land to be pooled into larger drilling units without having full power to negotiate better deals in return, legal scholars and landowners’ advocates have said.

               “We're going to have to have a difference of opinion,” Corbett told the Tribune-Review. “It does not empower a company to take gas from an individual who has not signed a lease. People are trying to use the term forced pooling. It doesn't do forced pooling. You cannot take from somebody who has not signed a lease.”

               That's false logic, countered George Jugovic, a senior attorney at Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, reiterating comments from several of the law's critics. The provision may apply only to people who have gas leases, but those people still have a legal right not to allow their land to be pooled into larger drilling units, they said.

               The change likely will affect Western Pennsylvania most, because many people here hold old oil and gas leases that don't mention that type of pooling, experts have said. Now drillers want to combine those lands so their horizontal wells can go sideways to tap shale gas from several properties at once.

               “Who would know (Corbett) was from southwestern Pennsylvania? Could be a reason he has a 26 percent approval rating,” said Jugovic, a former state environmental lawyer who resigned early in Corbett's tenure. “He's either ignorant or lying. One's the truth. I'm not sure which is worse.”

               Landowner advocates have criticized not only the effect of the provision but the way it passed. It was two sentences in a five-page bill drafted primarily to get better information to royalty recipients that received overwhelming approval in weekend votes at the end of June.”


6. Another Duke Study Finds Elevated Methane in Water           Near Fracking in NE PA

First Study to Verify Ethane and Propane Contamination

Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University

Published: the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science


“Some homeowners living near shale gas wells appear to be at higher risk of drinking water contamination from stray gases, according to a new Duke University-led study, Increased Stray Gas Abundance in a Subset of Drinking Water Wells Near Marcellus Shale Gas Extraction.

               The scientists analyzed 141 drinking water samples from private water wells across northeastern Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale basin.

               They found that, on average, methane concentrations were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher at homes within a kilometer of a shale gas well. Propane was detected in 10 samples, all of them from homes within a kilometer of drilling.

               “The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium content, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners’ water,” said Robert B. Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “In a minority of cases the gas even looks Marcellus-like, probably caused by poor well construction.”

               The ethane and propane data are “particularly interesting,” he noted, “since there is no biological source of ethane and propane in the region and Marcellus gas is high in both, and higher in concentration than Upper Devonian gases” found in formations overlying the Marcellus shale.

               The team published its peer-reviewed findings this week in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The new study is the first to offer direct evidence of ethane and propane contamination.

               “The helium data in this study are the first in a new tool kit we’ve developed for identifying contamination using noble gas geochemistry,” said Thomas H. Darrah, a research scientist in geology, also at Duke’s Nicholas School. “These new tools allow us to identify and trace contaminants with a high degree of certainty through multiple lines of evidence.”

Co-authors of the new study are Nathaniel Warner, Adrian Down, Kaiguang Zhao and Jonathan Karr, all of Duke; Robert Poreda of the University of Rochester; and Stephen Osborn of California State Polytechnic University. Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and the Duke Center on Global Change funded the research.”


7. PA Rep. Evankovich Wants to Remove Allegheny Co. Ability to Regulate Air Pollution

Allegheny County is Pennsylvania's second-most populated county, an urban center that surrounds the city of Pittsburgh and serves as home to 1.2 million people.

               One service funded by county residents is a Department of Health, whose mission is, in part, "protecting the population from harmful effects of chemical, biological and physical hazards within the environment."

               How could state Rep. Eli Evankovich have a problem with that?

The Murrysville Republican, who lives in Westmoreland County, is pushing a legislative proposal that would strip the Allegheny County health department of its power to monitor and regulate air pollution. He thinks county residents should just rely on the state Department of Environmental Protection.

               The people of Allegheny County, who for generations have lived next to steel mills, coke plants and other polluters, deserve better. The quality of their air should get county-based oversight from a health department that is both professional and familiar with local industry. How else do you protect the public?

               We wouldn't expect a lawmaker from Murrysville to get that. Mr. Evankovich should keep his hands off this health agency and save the crackpot ideas for his own county.


8. Using Recycled Frack Water

               “Slightly dirty water, it seems, does just as good a job as crystal clear when it comes to making an oil or gas well work.

               Exploration and production companies are under pressure to reduce the amount of freshwater used in dry areas like Texas and to cut the high costs of hauling millions of barrels of water to oil and gas wells and later to underground disposal wells.

               To attack those problems, companies are treating water from "fracked" wells just enough so that it can be used again.

               It doesn't lessen the potential for groundwater contamination, and it can increase the amount of contaminants that you are exposing the groundwater to," said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director for Clean Water Action.

               The U.S. EPA could also implement rules concerning recycled water when it delivers its study of hydraulic fracturing next year.

               Transportation is by far the costliest element of water management for fracking, and local communities like recycling because it takes trucks off the road.

               But the industry has a long way to go, Halliburton's Dale said, adding that recycling is still in a "pilot" period.

               Water use and resources are local issues, and approaches to managing water will vary by geography, XTO said in a statement, adding, "Recycling is not a universal solution."



9. Many Gas Spills & Mishaps, Few Fines

“If Kristi Mogen causes a crash on the road, she knows she'll probably get a ticket and have to pay a fine.

               So she's frustrated that Wyoming officials didn't fine Chesapeake Energy Corp. for an April 2012 blowout near her home outside Douglas, Wyo. The ruptured gas well spewed gas and chemicals for three days, forcing her and her neighbors to evacuate their homes.

               There are thousands of oil spills at the nation's onshore oil and gas well sites every year. But the data are scattered amid databases, websites, and even file drawers of state agencies across the country. EnergyWire spent four months mining the data for the most comprehensive report available on the spills that result from the nation's booming oil and gas industry.

"There's no punishment on that. There's nothing," said Mogen, who believes the gas and chemicals released in the spill sickened her family. "They're just going around with business as usual."

               It may have surprised Mogen, but it's actually rare for state oil and gas regulators to hit companies with fines after spills and blowouts.

               There are no national figures on oil and gas spills or enforcement. But where state records are available, they show agencies pursue fines against oil and gas producers in only a small minority of spill cases.

               The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality pursued water quality fines against 10 producers in 2012, records show, as it recorded 204 oil and gas production spills.

               In Texas, the leading producer of oil and gas, regulators sought enforcement for 2 percent of the 55,000 violations identified by drilling inspectors in the last fiscal year.

               In Pennsylvania, the heart of the Marcellus Shale gas drilling boom, 2012 records show state regulators levied fines in 13 percent of the cases where inspectors found violations.

               And in New Mexico, oil and gas regulators haven't issued fines in years.

               State oil and gas agencies are the main regulators of the nation's drilling boom. That boom is creating new wealth for oil and gas drillers and some landowners, but it's also leading to more accidents and pollution.

               Spills, blowouts and other mishaps rose 17 percent from 2010 to 2012 in states where comparable data was available, an EnergyWire investigation found (EnergyWire, July 8). Drilling activity in those states went up 40 percent.

                              Overall, there were more than 6,000 spills in 2012, an average of more than 16 spills a day.

               In Texas, officials say they take a "compliance-based" approach. Oil and gas drilling in Texas is overseen by the Texas Railroad Commission, which doesn't regulate trains but is instead an influential regulator among oil and gas agencies. Commission inspectors place a premium on helping drillers get back into compliance with the rules rather than hitting them with fines.

               Oklahoma has a similar compliance-based approach. An inspector succinctly laid out the thinking last year after following up on a spill of 300,000 gallons of oil and wastewater into pastureland.

               "Reinspected spill area," the inspector wrote. "Found spill has been cleaned up. Looks OK. Please close incident. No further action anticipated."

               Environmentalists and other critics say state regulators' reluctance fails to deter repeat violations.

               States track accident data in many different ways

               No state had more oil and gas spills reported last year than North Dakota -- 1,129. But that figure may demonstrate more about how states track spills than it does about which has the worst record.

               In North Dakota, companies have to report any spill that's 1 barrel (42 gallons) or larger. In Texas, the threshold is 5 barrels. And in Oklahoma and Montana, it's 10 barrels.

               "That's really jacking the number up significantly," said Kari Cutting, vice president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, adding that although companies have chafed at the limits, the group has elected not to try to get the threshold raised.

More than half of North Dakota's spills -- 588 -- were 5 barrels or less, while only 6 percent of Texas' 914 spills (53) were 5 barrels or less. Without the 588 smaller spills, North Dakota would have ranked fourth behind Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

               Just as the reporting requirements differ in most states, no two states disclose their spill records to the public in the same way. None meshes spill data with details of fines or other enforcement. Besides that, every state is different.

               New Mexico and Texas post the data online. Montana and Alabama keep their records only on paper in the central office.

               North Dakota has a detailed spill database that lists details such as the distance from water wells and buildings. But it's not online.

               Louisiana and Pennsylvania officials said they had no list of spills. Louisiana officials said the information can be found in the database of the Coast Guard's National Response Center.

               But Pennsylvania DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said there were 365 spills last year, a slight increase over the 345 in 2011.

               In some states, such as California and West Virginia, oil and gas agencies don't track spills, but the state environmental protection agency does. In Wyoming, both the state Department of Environmental Quality and the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission track spills. The situation is similar in Montana, Ohio and other states.

States also track very different information.

               New Mexico and Colorado note whether spills affect water. Colorado had 400 spills, 154 that weren't contained within a berm and 22 of which affected surface water. An additional 63 affected groundwater.

               Of New Mexico's 734 spills last year, seven affected groundwater. Seven others affected a waterway, such as the pump line that froze in December near Navajo Lake and leaked drilling wastewater over a canyon rim.

               Most state oil and gas agencies are charged with promoting drilling in the state, in addition to regulating it. Inspectors and the people who oversee them often come from the oil and gas industry. It's not considered a conflict of interest. It's often a job requirement.

               "When you deal with the oil and gas agencies, their primary concern is to get the drilling going," said Wilma Subra, a Louisiana-based environmental scientist who monitors state regulation of oil and gas. "Environmental contamination is not a big deal."

               Industry officials say state regulators aggressively protect the environment and enforce safety.

               Under President Obama, EPA has frequently retreated from big drilling enforcement cases, such as those in Dimock, Pa.; Parker County, Texas; and Pavillion, Wyo. (EnergyWire, June 13).

               Mogen said she wants to see her state government take a harder line.

"Why not take away their permits [to drill] until Chesapeake gets their act together?" she asked.

               Some states do hit companies with six-figure fines after major incidents.

               North Dakota officials demanded a fine of more than $100,000 from Newfield Exploration Co. for a blowout that sprayed oil, gas and produced water for two days near Watford City in December. Newfield is contesting the penalty.

               A $100,000 fine is large in the world of state oil and gas enforcement. But Newfield is a $2.5 billion company that takes in that much money every 22 minutes.

               And the deterrent effect of the fine may be limited because it's not widely known. Even David Drovdal, a longtime Republican state legislator who owns the land where the spill occurred, said he wasn't aware of the fine levied for the spill on his property.

               The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources also sought a $75,000 fine from Slawson Exploration Co. for a December 2012 blowout near the banks of Lake Sakakawea and $300,000 more for failure to disclose hydraulic fracturing fluid ingredients to the FracFocus website as required. Slawson is contesting the charges.

               But enforcement is essentially nonexistent in New Mexico, which had some of the biggest spills last year. Inspectors with the state Oil Conservation Division have issued no fines since 2009, when a judge ruled that the agency doesn't have the authority to do so.

               That means there likely won't be a state fine for a spill of more than 45,000 gallons of oil and brine near Artesia, N.M., in late May that reached the Pecos River.

               The Chesapeake blowout in April 2012 blew a mist of gas and oil-based drilling mud over ranches and homes in Wyoming, including the one where Mogen, her husband and two daughters raise organic vegetables and grass-fed cattle.

               A cloud settled over their low-lying property, thick enough that they couldn't see their calf barn 200 feet from their house. When the evacuation ended, they returned to find a petroleum sheen in the water in their stock tank.

               Kristi Mogen evacuated her Wyoming home after a well blowout in April 2012 left a chemical cloud hanging over her farm. Photo courtesy of Stop the Frack Attack.

               One of their daughters had nosebleeds for 29 straight days, and a checkup showed she and her husband had dangerously low levels of oxygen in their blood.

               Mogen says she's perplexed by reports that the state penalizes farmers who break the rules on selling raw milk or green, leafy vegetables for fear of contamination.

               "But oil and gas companies are allowed to put chemicals in our air and in our soil," said Mogen, who traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this year for a lobbying day organized by environmental groups.

               Attempts to get comment from Wyoming Oil and Gas Supervisor Grant Black, who was not in charge at the time of the blowout, were unsuccessful. The investigation report from his agency, the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, found human error contributed to the accident but said Chesapeake didn't break any of its rules.

"Accidents will happen," Bob King, interim oil and gas supervisor at the time, explained to the Associated Press earlier this year. "I mean, you can't prevent every accident that is going to happen. We don't live in a perfect world."

               To Mogen, the failure to even cite Chesapeake for a violation added insult to the injury, essentially declaring the blowout and evacuation "a non-incident."


"Making people flee their homes, out here in Wyoming where we love our property rights," Mogen said, "that is not a non-incident."

From Energy Wire:


10. Josh Fox on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!


“JOSH FOX: There was only one problem: The gas industry denied everything.

GAS INDUSTRY SPOKESPERSON: We have found no instance of hydraulic fracturing harming groundwater.

JOSH FOX: The war for who was going to tell this story was on.

JOSH FOX: Well, the oil and gas industry has been attacking the film, the families in the film, the scientists in the film, consistently for the last three years since it came out, and they’re at it again with this new film. It’s extraordinarily disheartening to see that this is their strategy. It’s deny, deny, deny, spread money around, try to influence politicians, spend lots and lots of money in the media to convince Americans that it’s a great idea to drill one to two million new gas wells. Those are the projections. The oil and gas industry has leased more land than the total landmass of California and Florida combined, which means that a lot of those adjacent properties in these 34 states where the drilling campaign is going on are also influenced, so it’s maybe twice that amount of area.

What did you find in part two? And start by talking about the significance of this Science journal study in relating earthquakes with fracking.

JOSH FOX: Well, first, in terms of earthquakes, which we do cover in the new film because there’s a huge shale play in California, and in fact there’s a Legacy thousand-acre oil field in the center of Los Angeles, which is being drilled and fracked right on top of the Newport-Inglewood fault line—the earthquake study showed that earthquakes far away, you know, on the other side of the planet, could then trigger bigger earthquakes where they have injection well facilities. So, injection well facilities are used for fracking waste. Fracking, you know, creates an enormous amount of wastewater. When they frack the wells with two to nine million gallons per well of fluid and water, that fluid has to come back up and be disposed of somehow. The industry has a huge problem figuring out how to dispose of it, so they inject it back down into the ground. And what the report says is that fault lines are becoming critically stressed by the process of injection wells. It also says that the fracking itself can cause minor earthquakes.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Jeremiah Gee—is that how you pronounce his name?

JOSH FOX: Sure, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: —in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, explaining what it’s like to live next door to land being leased to Shell Appalachia for gas drilling.

JOSH FOX: Contaminants were running off the site onto his property and killing his family’s pond. Under the ground, methane had migrated into their water well.


AMY GOODMAN: The clip ends with Jeremiah Gee showing how he can light his tap water on fire.

JOSH FOX: Yeah. Well, this is very common. The gas migrates from these leaking gas wells into aquifers and then people who are using their groundwater.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Tom Ridge, former governor of Pennsylvania and an outspoken supporter of the natural gas industry.

JOSH FOX: Well, Tom Ridge had a $900,000 contract to be the chief spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition. At around the same time, we noticed that the Department of Homeland Security, which—of course, Tom Ridge was the first Department of Homeland Security chair—the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security started circulating bulletins to law enforcement that listed anti-fracking organizations as possible ecoterrorists, which had no basis in reality. There had never been anything at all violent. These were people doing democratic organizing and organization. But then it was discovered that the Department of Homeland Security was actually circulating those bulletins directly to the Marcellus Shale Coalition and to other gas industry lobbyists and stakeholders. This was a scandal in Pennsylvania, which ended up with the DHS head resigning. But Tom Ridge and a lot of—three Pennsylvania governors in a row—Tom Ridge, Ed Rendell and now Tom Corbett—have heavy ties to the gas industry and go on to advocate for fracking and drilling without disclosing those ties in the media. It’s a situation where, in a report by the Public Accountability Initiative called "Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania," they describe as having the regulatory agencies and the democracy itself being taken away from the citizens. And that’s really the journey and the question behind this new film. The film is—you know, the first film features a lot of people lighting their water on fire. This is a film about the natural gas industry lighting our democracy on fire.

JOSH FOX: Well, this is President Obama advocating for fracking without ever saying the word "fracking," both domestically, also for export, and around the world in an initiative to promote shale gas and fracking around the world. What’s really disappointing about this is that this is a moment when an American president has come forward and spoken about climate change and exhibited his obvious and earnest desire to take on the problem; however, the emphasis on fracked gas makes this plan entirely the wrong plan. The plan focuses on carbon dioxide, but how we count global warming potential is in carbon dioxide equivalence, and methane, which is leaking out of these sites in very large quantities, is a super greenhouse gas. It’s up to a hundred times more potent than CO2 in the atmosphere, which means if you have more than 1 percent methane leakage, it’s like burning the gas twice. In the field, we’re seeing 7 to 17 percent of total production methane leaking into the atmosphere. Moving from coal to fracked gas doesn’t give you any climate benefit at all. So the plan should be about how we’re moving off of fossil fuels and onto renewable energy, which is what we know can power the planet, as we—with current technology. So, this administration—

AMY GOODMAN: What’s stopping that?

JOSH FOX: Well, you know, this administration has done a lot of meetings with the natural gas industry. We know that. There is, I think, an undue influence of their promotion of themselves on the policy. And what we’re doing right now is asking President Obama, "Please, meet with the families and the scientists and engineers in the new film.”


11. PA Health Advisory Panel

Comment by Johen:

               “In observing who determines is going to be on this panel, and by doing so, controlling the study, don't expect this health impact study to be anything but a political green-washing. The bias is already built in. It's not independent; there will be no peer review.  

               According to Scarnati, the panel would be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Health. Other members of the panel would include the Secretary of Environmental Protection, as well as individuals appointed by the Governor, Senate President Pro Tempore, Speaker of the House and the Senate and House Minority Leaders.”

(Scarnati is the pro- gas industry senator who fought for the passage of Act 13, jan)


“Sen. Scarnati said:  “The Marcellus Shale industry has been a tremendous economic driver for our state, has brought numerous family sustaining jobs and is helping Pennsylvania become a leader in energy independence.”   “It is important that as this industry continues to expand, we ensure our families are protected and that questions regarding public health in the region are addressed.”



12. Research: Wastewater Wells Triggering Earthquakes

               Published in the Journal,   Science

               “There's new research that reveals two trigger mechanisms that may be setting off wastewater quakes — other, larger earthquakes (some as far away as Indonesia), and the activity at geothermal power plants.

Most of these little quakes in the U.S. are too small to feel. They tend to happen in "swarms." Over the past year, geoscientists traced some of these swarms to underground faults near deep wells that are often filled with waste fluid from the oil and gas drilling boom.

               Nicholas van der Elst, a geophysicist with Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, says there are lots of small faults all over the country. The injection of fluids migrates in and around the fault itself, "and kind of pushes outward on the fault walls and makes it easier for the fault to slip," he says.

The wastewater "loads up" these faults with tension until, at some point, they slip and the earth moves.

               So what van der Elst wanted to know was: "What prompts that slip?" Sometimes it's just all that water building up. However, he discovered that in three cases in the past decade — in Oklahoma, in Colorado and in Texas — the trigger was yet another earthquake, a really big one, thousands of miles away. In each case, the large earthquakes set up large seismic waves that traveled around the surface of the earth "kind of like ripples," van der Elst says. "You can even see them on seismometers, going around the world multiple times."

               Those three big quakes rang the planet like a bell. And when their seismic waves reached underground faults near waste wells in those three states, they nudged the tension in the faults past the brink. Soon, the area near the wells was swarming with mini-quakes.

And some of those swarms eventually culminated in pretty big temblors — in the magnitude-4.0 to -5.0, which is big enough to do some damage.

               Waste wells often go deeper than gas drilling wells, down into basement rock, where faults are more common. Scientists think the water may be lubricating faults in the Earth's crust, causing them to slip. Credit: Alyson Hurt / NPR

Van der Elst's findings appear in this week's issue of the journal Science.


And from Mother Jones  Major earthquakes thousands of miles away can trigger reflex quakes in areas where fluids have been injected into the ground from fracking and other industrial operations, according to a study published in the journal Science on Thursday.


13. Good Worms Affected by Coal Seam Gas Drilling?

               “Worms and mites burrow into coal seam gas plans. Questions are being raised about the impact of coal seam gas drilling on some little critters that most people don't know much about: Stygofaunas, which live in underground water systems, act as water purifiers, process energy, consume bacteria and assist in producing good water quality.”

 Australia ABC News, Australia.



14. W VA Explosion Not First Safety Issue With Antero

               “The Pitcocks have been plagued by noise, lights, dust, emissions and truck traffic after a neighbor leased his land to a drilling company, which has erected several well pads on the land adjacent to their property. Over the last year trees have been clear cut, miles of roads built through their rural neighborhood, and drilling has begun. On Friday, July 5, I visited their home and witnessed gas being flared from a well through the night—the light illuminated their front yard from a ridge top about 2,000 feet away. 


John Pitcock reported that the well continued to flare through the next day and night and another well beside it was loudly venting gas on and off. What became a nuisance turned to a real fright during the early morning hours of July 7, when an explosion occurred. While the cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, writing for the Gazette-Mail, David Gutman explained that this is not the first safety issue that             Antero has had recently:

                 Last August a spark at an Antero-owned well in Harrison County ignited methane gas several hundred feet underground, causing a fireball and a fire that burned for about an hour. Three workers were injured in that fire.

                 DEP cited Antero for failure to maintain well control for that incident.

                 DEP has cited Antero for 17 violations of state code in the past three years. Those have been primarily environmental violations—for things like failing to prevent waste runoff, failure to report discharges and contaminating waterways.

                 One violation, from Jan. 4, warned, “Imminent danger water supplys [sic] threatened by allowing pollutants to escape and flow into the waters of the state.”

                 In June of last year Antero was drilling using water in Harrison County when they accidentally repressurized some old water wells, causing several geysers, one about 10 feet high, that flooded one nearby home and several garages.

                 In March 2011, state regulators shut down an Antero gas well in Harrison County after mud contaminated with drilling chemicals spilled into a nearby stream.

John Pitcock says that he doesn’t think companies should be drilling in this manner

in proximity to people’s homes.”


15. Frack Sand Creates Environmental Problems  

               “Wisconsin’s burgeoning frac-sand industry, regulators have found, creates waste streams they are scrambling to understand and control.

               From pyramids of discarded sand to sludge that accumulates in filtering devices, the mines create tons of waste byproducts that must be managed until they can be plowed back into the ground as part of reclamation plans designed to protect the environment and preserve the rural landscape.

               “The industry just came on too fast,” said Ruth King, a stormwater specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “I wish we could turn back the clock a couple of years and start over.”

               In a rash of continuing violations that started last year, heavy rains have combined with sand-processing water to overflow holding ponds on several mining sites. The breaches have dumped sandy sediment into public waters, where it can suffocate fish eggs, kill aquatic plants and rob fish of habitat they need to reproduce.

               Pollution concerns abound in frac sand waste streams. “


  16. Houston Gas Plant Flare Visible For Miles

               John L. Obenour, 84, whose Hornhead Farm sits next to the plant, said he went to the plant Monday to complain after repeated episodes of billowing black smoke found their way to his property. He said he has black soot on his window seals and black streaks on his roof. Such episodes have happened several times, he said. "I could detect a smell because the atmosphere was so heavy, as it is," he said. "The last couple of days I could detect that smell and the god-dang black stuff in the air was settling this way and that. "You can't stop progress, and I never want to be a thorn in their side," he said. "But I also want to have clean air." Raina Rippel, director of the Environmental Health Project based in Peters, said, "We have had concern for some time about residents' health and safety living in close proximity to this site, and this event magnifies those concerns.""


Observer-Reporter newspaper:

Rob McHale, MarkWest manager of governmental and environmental affairs, could not be immediately reached for comment. Poister said MarkWest engineers are working to get the de-ethanizer to function properly. MarkWest received permission from the DEP to install the equipment, but Poister said the agency is sending an inspector to the plant to assess the situation. “We’re quite concerned about the heavy level of the smoke in the air, particularly on a day like today when it is so hot and the air is so thick anyway,” Poister said. The DEP received a number of calls from concerned residents, as well as photos of the smoke. “We want to thank all the people who sent us pictures,” Poister said. “That really helps.”


               MarkWest spokesman Rob McHale said the flaring of natural gas liquid was the result of an “upset condition” as workers at the processing plant attempted to configure the newly installed equipment that separates propane and butane.

               “It’s not a malfunction,” McHale said. “That is a safety system that is designed to do exactly what it did.” State environmental regulators traveled to the site Tuesday morning to investigate the issue and discuss with MarkWest workers how it can be prevented in the future. Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister said preliminary findings show the company committed no violations, but the flaring and plume were still unsettling. UeZzT4LD_cs


Update on the UltraRAE air testing meter in earlier photos (from Bob)…

 …the cost is around $5000.   It tests for VOC’s Nonspecific and Benzene Specific.  The monitor was set for VOC’s Nonspecific when I took the photo.  There is another piece that needs to be added to the monitor in order to test for Benzene only.  That is not to say that Benzene was not included in the total VOC’s.

               Here is the link for the UltraRAE 3000



Westmoreland Marcellus Citizen’s GroupMission Statement
   To raise the public’s general awareness and understanding of the impacts of Marcellus drilling on the natural environment, health, and long-term economies of local communities.
Officers: President-Jan Milburn
                 Treasurer-Wanda Guthrie
                 Secretary-Ron Nordstrom
                 Facebook Coordinator-Elizabeth Nordstrom