Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates August 8, 2013
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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-
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***Ask Pres. Obama to Resume Fracking Studies
From Food and Water Watch
“Last week, there was breaking news from EPA whistle-blowers that in 2012 the EPA abandoned an investigation of fracking-related water contamination in Dimock, Pennsylvania after an EPA staff member raised the flag that it was likely caused by fracking¹.
There's an unfortunate trend here, because they've also abandoned their fracking-related water contamination investigations in Pavillion, Wyoming² and Weatherford, Texas³. This is unbelievable, and totally unacceptable.
Will you join me today in calling on President Obama and his new EPA administrator Gina McCarthy to immediately reopen these investigations and deliver safe drinking water to the residents of these communities while the investigations commence?
Thanks for taking action,
Sarah Alexander, Deputy Organizing Director, Food & Water Watch”
***Allegheny County--The Fight for County Parks (From Marcellus Protest-please share widely)
“Allegheny County government is seriously considering fracking in our parks.
Deer Lakes Park
Harrison Hills Park
Hartwood Acres Park
Round Hill Park
Settlers Cabin Park
White Oak Park
We're planning to get up & get in the way - NO Fracking at our County Parks!
Sign up to SPEAK against fracking our parks at the upcoming County Council meeting. Each speaker will have up to 3 minutes to speak. Let them know why YOU think our parks shouldn't be fracked.
Your request to speak MUST be in no later 24 hours BEFORE the Aug. 20 meeting. Sign up online, do it TODAY: Online: http://www.county.allegheny.pa.us/council/meetings/recomm.asp
Meeting date: Tuesday, August 20 at 5 p.m.
Location: County Courthouse 436 Grant Street, 4th Floor - Gold Room, Pittsburgh
Find your council district& member: http://www.county.allegheny.pa.us/council/dist.aspx
***Stop Fracking of Public Lands
From Breast Cancer Action
“Do public lands in the U.S. really belong to you and me? If they do, shouldn’t we have a say in how they are used – especially if the decision could be harmful to public health?
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering new regulations that will allow private companies to drill and frack for oil and gas on public lands. We say: NO WAY.
We will not stand idly by while our government allows private companies to drill public lands and pump it full of chemicals that harm our health.
Fracking on public lands jeopardizes drinking water across the country -- from Washington to West Virginia, from Montana to Florida. Each time a new well is fracked, tens of thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals, including known human carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, are pumped deep underground to force oil or natural gas to the surface.
Take action right now to so President Obama hears our message loud and clear: Ban Fracking on Our Public Lands!
There’s no un-contaminating our water supply. Now’s the time for us to act – together.
Annie Sartor, Policy and Campaigns Coordinator, Breast Cancer Action”
To take action: https://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6098/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=14944
National Wildlife- on Public Land Regulation being Moved to States’ Domain
Fracking bill will take Public out of Public Lands
Proponents of H.R. 2728 say federal fracking rules aren’t needed if states have their own regulations. It’s about local control, say members of Congress who want the states, not the federal government, to regulate fracking on federal lands—those public lands that belong to all Americans.
The House Natural Resources Committee is considering a bill that would bar the feds from enforcing any “Federal regulation, guidance or permit requirement regarding” fracking in states that have their own rules or guidance.
And they aren’t worried if the public or federal officials don’t think state rules are strong enough to protect water and air quality, human health, wildlife and fish. The bill sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Rep. Bill Flores of (R-TX) would prohibit the Interior Department from regulating fracking on federal lands regardless of whether state rules “are duplicative, more or less restrictive, shall have different requirements or do not meet Federal guidelines.”
“[The bill] would allow fracking within any unit of the national park system or any other federal land if it was permitted to do so under state law,” Rep. Holt warned.
A cynic would argue that the bill is about the empowerment of the oil and gas industry. It’s easy to see why oil and gas companies would rather take their chances with state regulators. Consider the following:
**Federal agencies are charged with balancing competing uses on federal lands and analyzing the potential effects on a range of resources. States usually have no such mandate.
State regulations, enforcement, staffing and funding levels vary widely.
**The main focus of most state oil and gas commissions is on getting the minerals out of the ground and the makeup of commissions is typically heavily weighted toward industry.
**While many state oil and gas agencies include the word “conservation” in their name, it doesn’t refer to “environmental protection,” as a recent E&E story noted. It refers to extracting all the oil and gas in an area before moving to another spot so the minerals aren’t wasted—“conserving” the petroleum resources.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING and PUBLIC LANDS pages for more related news on this topic. http://ecowatch.com/2013/fracking-bill-public-lands/
Calendar of Events
***WMCG Steering Committee Meeting –Monday, August 19, 7:30 in Greensburg. Email Jan for directions to the home of Cynthia Walter and Mike Atherton. All are invited to attend.
***County Commissioners Meeting- 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at the county courthouse at 10:00
***August 12---Medical Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing-at Carnegie Science Center Cancelled. If you received notification of this event, it has since been cancelled.
Here’s the link: http://carnegiesciencecenter.podomatic.com/
For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:
***To sign up for notifications of activity and violations for your area:
***List of the Harmed--There are now over 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/
***Problems with Gas?—Report It-from Clean Air Council
Clean Air Council is announcing a new auto-alert system for notifying relevant agencies about odors, noises or visible emissions that residents suspect are coming from natural gas operations in their community.
Just fill out the questions below and our system will automatically generate and send your complaint to the appropriate agencies.
Agencies that will receive your e-mail: the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Regional Office of sender and Harrisburg Office), the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Take Action Here
If you witness the release of potentially hazardous material into the environment, please also use the National Response Center's online form below:
Thanks for your help.
Matt Walker, Community Outreach Director, Clean Air Council
***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.
***Carnegie Mellon President Challenged on Fracking
July 7, 2013 12:03 am
The scientifically problematic commentary "The Way Forward on Shale" (June 9 Forum) by Carnegie Mellon University president Jared L. Cohon cherry-picked information to support the merits of shale gas and the Center for Sustainable Shale Development while ignoring the growing scientific evidence that shale gas is a human and environmental health and climate-damaging energy option.
Mr. Cohon rested nearly his entire case on findings from the National Research Council report "The Hidden Costs of Energy." This report failed to include much of what is now known about shale gas production, including: climate-warming methane leaks, problematic ozone and other health-damaging air pollutant emissions, ground water contamination and emerging research on radioactivity of shale gas and produced water in Pennsylvania and beyond.
To be fair, most public health and environmental research on shale gas production had not been sufficiently executed by the time this report was published in 2010. However, the CSSD, supported by Mr. Cohon, seems to ignore the past three to four years of climate, health and environmental data on shale gas production -- seemingly to promote an oil and gas industry agenda that continues to obscure independent scientific information.
SETH BERRIN SHONKOFF
Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/letters/shale-cherry-picking-694524/#ixzz2bTlQG57f
1. Driller EQT Sues 70 Allegheny Property Owners Under Pooling Law
EQT Corp. has sued scores of landowners in Allegheny County for access to their properties under a recently enacted law that gives gas drilling companies the power to combine some neighboring parcels into drilling units without compensating owners.
The 69 individuals and one golf course in Forward named in the lawsuit are accused of blocking the company from conducting surveys on their land to determine where to drill for shale gas. It appears to be the gas industry's first attempt at using the controversial pooling law.
“The fact that it's being used (to sue people) is disgusting,” said Robert J. Burnett, a Downtown attorney working with the National Association of Royalty Owners but not involved in the EQT case. The state “gave the drilling companies a weapon to beat down landowners,” he said.
The law, which the governor signed on July 9, gives drillers power to pool leased properties into one unit for wells that drill sideways, as long as contracts don't prohibit such combinations. Before the law, landowners could have demanded more money or better legal terms from drillers to include their properties in a pool.
The Forward contracts, like most old oil and gas leases, don't mention pooling and so the law makes it clear that Downtown-based EQT can combine them into units it needs without permission from landowners, the company claimed in its lawsuit filed July 22 in Common Pleas Court.
EQT lobbied for the law on pooling, according to state Rep. Garth Everett, who sponsored the legislation.
“Some of the Legislature didn't know better. They just kind of did whatever. If a lobbyist gives them something and tells them what to do, they'll do it,” said William Beinlich, one defendant and an organizer of the Monongahela Group.”
Timothy Puko is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: http://triblive.com/business/headlines/4447866-74/eqt-gas-law#ixzz2bEACcAWP
2. Research: Well Water Contaminants Highest Near Gas Drilling
University of Texas Arlington, Study
Environmental Science& Technology
(Yet another study about water contamination that we will hear nothing about in the media. Jan)
“A new study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium closest to gas extraction sites, according to a team of researchers that was led by University of Texas, Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Kevin Schug.
The results of the North Texas well study were published by the journal Environmental Science & Technology . The peer-reviewed paper focuses on the presence of metals such as arsenic, barium, selenium and strontium in water samples. Many of these heavy metals occur naturally at low levels in groundwater, but disturbances from natural gas extraction activities could cause them to occur at elevated levels.
"This study alone can't conclusively identify the exact causes of elevated levels of contaminants in areas near natural gas drilling, but it does provide a powerful argument for continued research," said Brian Fontenot, a UT Arlington graduate with a doctorate in quantitative biology and lead author on the new paper.
He added: "We expect this to be the first of multiple projects that will ultimately help the scientific community, the natural gas industry, and most importantly, the public, understand the effects of natural gas drilling on water quality."
Researchers believe the increased presence of metals could be due to a variety of factors including: industrial accidents such as faulty gas well casings; mechanical vibrations from gas drilling activity disturbing particles in neglected water well equipment; or the lowering of water tables through drought or the removal of water used for the fracturing process. Any of these scenarios could release dangerous compounds into shallow groundwater.
They compared the samples to historical data on water wells in these counties from the Texas Water Development Board groundwater database for 1989-1999, prior to the proliferation of natural gas drilling.
On average, researchers detected the highest levels of these contaminants within 3 kilometers of natural gas wells, including several samples that had arsenic and selenium above levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. For example, 29 wells that were within the study's active natural gas drilling area exceeded the EPA's Maximum Contaminant Limit of 10 micrograms per liter for arsenic, a potentially dangerous situation.
The areas lying outside of active drilling areas or outside the Barnett Shale did not show the same elevated levels for most of the metals.
Scientists note in the paper that they did not find uniformity among the contamination in the active natural gas drilling areas. In other words, not all gas well sites were associated with higher levels of the metals in well water.
Some of the most notable results were on the following heavy metals:
*Arsenic occurs naturally in the region's water and was detected in 99 of the 100 samples. But, the concentrations of arsenic were significantly higher in the active extraction areas compared to non-extraction areas and historical data. The maximum concentration from an extraction area sample was 161 micrograms per liter, or 16 times the EPA safety standard set for drinking water. According to the EPA, people who drink water containing arsenic well in excess of the safety standard for many years "could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer."
*Selenium was found in 10 samples near extraction sites, and all of those samples showed selenium levels were higher than the historical average. Two samples exceeded the standard for selenium set by the EPA. Circulation problems as well as hair or fingernail loss are some possible consequences of long-term exposure to high levels of selenium, according to the EPA.
*Strontium was also found in almost all the samples, with concentrations significantly higher than historical levels in the areas of active gas extraction. A toxicological profile by the federal government's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recommends no more than 4,000 micrograms of strontium per liter in drinking water. Seventeen samples from the active extraction area and one from the non-active areas exceeded that recommended limit. Exposure to high levels of stable strontium can result in impaired bone growth in children, according to the toxic substances agency.
The paper also recommends further research on levels of methanol and ethanol in water wells. Twenty-nine private water wells in the study contained methanol, with the highest concentrations in the active extraction areas. Twelve samples, four of which were from the non-active extraction sites, contained measurable ethanol. Both ethanol and methanol can occur naturally or as a result of industrial contamination.
Historical data on methanol and ethanol was not available, researchers said in the paper.
The paper is called "An evaluation of water quality in private drinking water wells near natural gas extraction sites in the Barnett Shale formation." It is available on the Just Accepted page of the journal's website. A YouTube interview with some of the study's authors is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1_WDDtWR_k&feature=youtu.be.
Contact: Traci Peterson email@example.com 817-521-5494 University of Texas at Arlington
3. EPA Censored Key Dimock, PA Water Contamination Study
ED Rendell’s Influence
“Once again - the Obama administration put the kibosh on a key EPA study on fracking groundwater contamination, this time in Dimock, Pennsylvania.
Though EPA said Dimock's water wasn't contaminated by fracking in a 2012 election year desk statement, internal documents obtained by LA Times reporter Neela Banerjee show regional EPA staff members saying the exact opposite among friends.
"In an internal EPA PowerPoint presentation...staff members warned their superiors that several wells had been contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic, most likely because of local natural gas production," writes Banerjee.
"The presentation, based on data collected over 4 1/2 years at 11 wells around Dimock, concluded that 'methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality.' The presentation also concluded that 'methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking and other gas well work," Banerjee further explained.
It's essentially a repeat of Steve Lipsky's water contamination by Range Resources in late-2010 in Weatherford, Texas. In that case, EPA conducted a taxpayer-funded study, determined Range had contaminated his water, sued Range - and then proceeded to drop the suit and censor the study in March 2012.
EPA also recently kicked the can down the road on a high-profile fracking groundwater contamination study in Pavillion, Wyoming, originally set to come out in 2014. That release is now expected in 2016, another election year. Just days after EPA's decision, a Duke University study again linked fracking to groundwater contamination in the Marcellus Shale.
"We don't know what's going on, but certainly the fact that there's been such a distinct withdrawal from three high-profile cases raises questions about whether the EPA is caving to pressure from industry or antagonistic members of Congress," Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) told the LA Times.
Ed Rendell and Friends At Work Again?
Located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale basin, Dimock was featured prominently in both "Gasland" documentaries, as well as in "FrackNation," the industry-funded film created to counter Josh Fox's films, produced and directed by climate change deniers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney.
In the case of "FrackNation," McAleer used EPA's desk statement for propaganda purposes. He portrayed Craig and Julie Sautner - whose water was contaminated by Cabot Oil and Gas - as "crying wolf" for expressing anger that EPA privately told them their water was contaminated, then publicly stated that it wasn't.
The Sautners aren't alone in their frustration, however, and they're in good company.
"What's surprising is to see this data set and then to see EPA walk away from Dimock," Robert Jackson, co-author of the June 2013 Duke study that included Dimock water samples, told the LA Times. "The issue here is, why wasn't EPA interested in following up on this to understand it better?"
Jackson raises the million-dollar question: Who from the industry pressured USEPA to censor the actual results of the Dimock study? In Steve Lipsky's case it was former head of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell.
Rendell - tied to the shale gas industry via Ballard Spahr LLP law firm and venture capital firms Element Partners and Greenhill & Co. - privately lobbied EPA to shut down its study and lawsuit centered on Lipsky's groundwater contaminated by the Pennsylvania-headquarted Range Resources. His lobbying proved successful, likely in part due to three of his former aides now working as industry lobbyists.
One of those lobbyists is K. Scott Roy, Rendell's former "top advisor." Roy not only lobbies for Range Resources, but also sits on the Executive Board of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Prior to serving in the Rendell administration and becoming a fracking lobbyist, Roy worked in the office of former PA Republican Governor Tom Ridge, who went on to serve as "strategic advisor" to the Marcellus Shale Coalition in 2012.
By law, the EPA is tasked to investigate groundwater contamination cases and punish violators of the law with criminal sentences. Instead, the industry has run roughshod over communities nationwide, letting polluters go free with no EPA accountability. In the military, dereliction of duty is a serious crime, but for upper-level EPA staffers, it seems to just be business as usual. “
4. Fracking A Reservoir Is Dirty Business --Beaver Run
“The DEP has cited Consol Energy's CNX Gas after a spill of frack fluid at Beaver Run Reservoir in June. According to a statement on the authority website, CNX was “fracturing” a well when a leak occurred at a plumbing union. While workers were repairing the leak, at least 100 gallons of processed fracking water flowed into the soil. The reservoir is the source of drinking water for 150,000 people.
Photo of Beaver Run Reservoir by Steve White
DEP cited CNX for failure to properly control or dispose of industrial or residual waste to prevent pollution of the waters of the Commonwealth. That wasn't the only incident at the reservoir that month. On June 13, a storm caused a containment dike around the Mamont 1 drilling pad to overflow muddy water down a hill towards the reservoir. Last July, CNX was cited after liquid cement leaked into a creek that empties into the reservoir at the Kuhns 3B well pad.
Consol Energy has 36 horizontal Marcellus wells located on 5 pads and 5 vertically drilling wells on one pad at Beaver Run Reservoir. The company plans to drill on another pad in 2014.”
5. US Sues Exxon Over Polluted Drinking Water In PA
“A federal lawsuit claims hydraulic fracking has polluted public drinking waters in Pennsylvania with toxic wastes.
“The United States sued Exxon subsidiary XTO Energy, claiming its fracking has polluted public drinking waters in Pennsylvania with toxic wastes.
In the lawsuit, the United States cites XTO's natural gas well pad and storage facility in Hughesville, Lycoming County, for unauthorized discharges of flowback fluid and produced fluid.
In its recent complaint, the United States claims a state inspector observed and documented pollutants as they were released from XTO tanks and valves used in hydraulic fracturing, to flow through the aquifer into public water.
In its lawsuit, the United States says a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit may be issued to authorize pollutant discharge into federal waters but only on the condition that all discharges meet applicable Clean Water Act requirements, which is not the case for the Lycoming County well.
Liquid injected into the wells during fracking generates a byproduct known as flowback fluid, and wastewater byproduct from the production of natural gas liquid is called produced fluid.
According to the complaint, "flowback fluid and produced fluid contain brine, proppant, hydraulic fracturing chemicals, dissolved solids, heavy metals and radionuclides."
The complaint continues: "At its facility, defendant stored the flowback fluid and produced fluid in portable tanks, known as Baker Tanks, to be recycled and then reused in its fracturing operations at various wells throughout Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Defendant used mobile treatment equipment to recycle the produced water from the Baker Tanks and at times stored produced water to be transported off site to be recycled, so that the produced water can be reused.
"On November 16, 2010, a state inspector conducted an inspection at the Facility. At this time, defendant had approximately 57 Baker Tanks on the well pad , each having a capacity of 21,000 gallons.
"The state inspector observed an open valve on a 21,000 gallon Baker Tank. The contents of the Baker Tank were being released to the ground. The Baker Tank was connected internally to five other Baker tanks, all of which stored flowback fluid and produced fluid. The flowback fluid and produced fluid stored in the tanks contained, among other things: barium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium, bromide, chloride, total dissolved fluids.
"The flowback fluid and produced fluid released from the Baker Tank flowed overland to the drainage basin for the Lower Branch of the Susquehanna River. It also drained through the surface soils and into groundwater, which was then released in seeps to a spring and in unnamed tributary known as Tributary 19617."
The complaint says the fluids "entered the fracture system," and "recharged groundwater over time ... . Sampling conducted after the release into Tributary 19617 and the unnamed spring showed that for up to sixty-five days pollutants associated with natural gas extraction, such as total dissolved solids, strontium, barium, bromides and chloride, were present."
The tributary feeds Sugar Run stream and Muncy Creek before flowing into the Susquehanna River, all three of which are perennial, navigable waters and protected from pollution by the Clean Water Act.
Uncle Sam seeks civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day for each violation after Jan. 12, 2009, and an injunction against further Clean Water Act violations.
On Dr. Rodriguez’s Suit
Dr. Rodriguez sued the state last year, claiming it passed an unconstitutional "Medical Gag Rule" that prohibited him and other doctors from talking about the effects of fracking on public heath and sued the state.
At the behest of the industry, Act 13 aka House Bill 1050 called the toxic slurry injected into the ground in fracking a "trade secret," and barred Rodriguez and other doctors from talking publicly about it. Gov. Thomas Corbett signed the bill into law on Valentine's Day 2012.
In his lawsuit, Rodriguez, a kidney specialist, called the trade-secret claim ridiculous, as well as unconstitutional. He said he has patients who need clean drinking water for their kidney diseases, and that he had "recently treated patients directly exposed to high-volume hydraulic fracturing fluid as the result of well blowouts, including a patient exposed to hydraulic fracturing fluid who was admitted to the hospital with a complicated diagnosis with low platelets, anemia, rash and acute renal failure that required extensive hemodialysis and exposure to chemotherapeutic agents."
The trade-secret claim is shaky, at best. It's well known that frackers inject byproducts of the drilling process into rock formations to crack them, and give natural gas a way to escape. Any liquid at all would do the trick.
Rodriguez claimed that abiding by the Medical Gag Rule would violate his professional oath and responsibilities. That litigation is continuing.”
5. State Asks PA Supreme Court to Rehear Act 13
“The state has asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to rehear arguments in the fight over how much power municipalities have over oil and gas drilling, a move that comes one week after Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's appointee to replace Joan Orie Melvin was sworn in to the bench. A group led by several Pittsburgh suburbs has been fighting the state for more than a year over the constitutionality of a law, known as Act 13, which mandates local governments allow gas drilling in all areas of a town, even in residential neighborhoods. They argue it strips them of their constitutional rights over local zoning.
Some local towns that are challenging the law worried Wednesday that the request for a rehearing, if granted, could be detrimental to their case because Corbett's appointee restores a 4-3 GOP majority the court lost after Melvin was suspended in May 2012. She resigned after a corruption conviction this spring. “To me, the request is ridiculous,” said Jonathan M. Kamin, an attorney representing South Fayette, one of the towns suing over the law. “We find it rare and disconcerting that the defendants would get to appoint a judge who would get to decide the case in their favor.”
Provided by Bob Donnan
6. DEP Issues New Permits to Range Despite Violations and Alleged Contaminated Groundwater
A group of western PA landowners blasted the DEPs decision permitting Range to begin fracturing two gas wells at a Washington County site despite an ongoing dispute over alleged groundwater contamination from a third well already operating there.
In an appeal filed with the state’s Environmental Hearing Board on July 30, the three landowners said DEP had issued drilling permits for two wells at the Yeager site in Washington County despite continuing allegations that a Range-operated well drilled at the site in 2009 had led to groundwater contamination affecting several area residents.
The appeal said there was evidence showing that an impoundment used to store water, drilling fluids, and other chemicals had leaked into the ground on several occasions in 2010 and 2011, and that there had been a slew of other violations of state environmental regulations at the site.
“The department’s issuance of the Yeager permits in light of this evidence of contamination was clearly done in error,” the appeal said. “There are ongoing department investigations into Range’s activities at the Yeager site, including an ongoing investigation into the leaking of the Yeager impoundment, and open violations that should be forthcoming, including the confirmed contamination of … drinking water sources.”
“The Oil and Gas Act allows for the denial of a permit when an application [is] ‘in continuing violation’ of the Oil and Gas Act or any other statute or regulation administered by the department,” the appeal said. “Further activity should be prohibited.”
Despite a series of spills which the landowners say DEP never punished Range for, the company sought permits to start drilling two additional wells on the property in April.
Over the landowners’ objections, DEP approved the permits in June.
The Yeager site is already the subject of at least one other appeal before the EHB. Loren Kiskadden launched an appeal with the board in October 2011 after the DEP denied his request for an alternative water source to be installed on his property following a series of tests that showed elevated levels of iron, manganese and methane in his water supply.
` According to EHB filings, Kiskadden’s water turned gray and started foaming after drilling operations at Range’s adjacent Yeager impoundment began. However, the department said its tests determined that the Yeager site was not the source of Kiskadden’s water contamination.
Separately, the appellants — along with several other area landowners, including Kiskadden — are locked in litigation with Range in a case currently pending in the Washington County Court of Common Pleas seeking damages stemming from the alleged contamination, according to court records.
The appellants are represented by Kendra Smith of Smith Butz LLC.
The case is Stacey Haney et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection et al., case number 2013-112 before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board.
http://www.law360.com/energy/articles/462173?nl_pk=5e47cad4-f8b5-474f-90fd-587913202099&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=energy By Matt Fair
Law360, Philadelphia (August 05, 2013, 3:11 PM ET)
7. Mt. Pleasant Township Wants Range to Remove Impoundment Pits
“Mt. Pleasant Township officials are demanding that Range Resources removes its four water impoundments in the township, but the company is challenging that request on its assertion that the pools are still needed for drilling around the area. Larry Chome, who is the municipality’s zoning officer, on June 13 sent a letter asking the company to restore the one wastewater and three freshwater impoundments because gas drilling has not occurred in the township in more than two years.
“We find the continued use of (the impoundments) to be in violation of Mt. Pleasant Township zoning ordinance, Article 5, Chapter 200-22, because the use of freshwater or wastewater impoundments is an incidental use to the drilling of an oil or natural gas well,” Chome wrote. “Since the well or wells near the impoundment are completed, there is no need for the continued use for the impoundments.” Range Resources appealed that request, and there will be a zoning board hearing at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 at Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department’s social hall.
Photo of frack pits by Bob Donnan
8. Legislation Introduced to Eliminate Fracking Industry Loophole -Cleaner Act
“Fracking is now responsible for 90 percent of domestic oil and gas production, with thousands of wells popping up across the nation. The number of wells is expected to skyrocket during the next two decades.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) of 1976 requires the safe disposal of solid waste and hazardous materials. In 1980, RCRA was amended to exempt waste from the production and development of oil and natural gas (“exploration & production” waste), and so these fracking wastes are not considered hazardous as a result.
U.S. Rep. Cartwright (D-PA) introduced the Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations (CLEANER) Act which aims to eliminate a hazardous waste exemption that was added onto the RCRA in 1980. That amendment, which exempted oil and gas companies from having hazardous waste disposal standards, would be removed under the CLEANER Act.
Rep. Cartwright explained:
Under current federal law, oil and gas companies do not even have to test their waste to see if it is toxic, leaving us with no way of knowing what is being disposed of and how it is being treated. It is time oil and gas companies comply with existing minimum standards and oversight. RCRA is meant to protect the public and the environment from hazardous waste. Toxins pose health and environmental risks no matter what industry produces them. It’s time to hold oil and natural gas producers to the same standards that other industries have complied with for over 30 years.
Today the task of regulating disposal of these wastes is currently left to states, with mixed results. For example due to numerous complaints in Ohio, EPA is conducting an investigation of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources who is responsible for issuing disposal permits for these wastes to be injected underground in Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch recently reported that Ohio injected more than 14 million barrels of fracking waste into disposal wells in 2012, and more than 8 million came from other states.
In addition, Kathryn Hanratty, director of water affairs for the People’s Oil & Gas Collaborative- Ohio, stated:
Many communities in Ohio are allowing spreading of oil and gas waste products on roads for dust control assuming that some government authority must have tested them and deemed them safe. However, this waste is not tested and it is very likely to run off into our streams and lakes.
9. ‘Frack Hits’-- When 2 Wells Meet, Spills Can Result
Gayathri Vaidyanathan, E&E reporter EnergyWire:
“When a geyser of oil and fracking fluid spewed out of an oil well on a farmer's field in Innisfail, Alberta, it coated 100 trees with a fine mist. About 20,000 gallons of oil and fluid collected on a snow-covered field and had to be cleaned up.
A series of similar incidents are being reported across the United States and Canada.
Drillers call it a "frack hit" or "downhole communication," and it could also contaminate groundwater aquifers.
A basic review by EnergyWire , revealed more than 10 cases of frack hits that have resulted in spills ranging from 300 gallons to 25,700 gallons. The events were recorded in states from Montana to Texas.
The incidents are called frack hits because they happen when the fractures of two wells intersect. The communicating wells have, in cases, been as far apart as 1.8 miles, though it is more common for the wells to be less than 3,000 feet apart. That is too close for comfort because most states allow adjacent horizontal well bores to be about 600 feet from each other.
"Our concern is where the communication results in a loss of well control," said Ron Gusek, vice president of an Alberta-based oil and gas company and chairman of an Alberta industry task force set up to examine frack hits. "In other words, there's a fluid spill on the surface or loss of well control underground that could lead to contamination of a water aquifer."
The incidents generally go unrecorded by state regulators, but traces are found in oil spill databases as instances where operators report an overflowing production tank that spilled a few barrels into the environment.
Frack hits will be more common in the future as companies drill multiple wells in close proximity on each well pad.
Some frack hits:
New Mexico: A horizontal well being fracked communicated downhole with an older producing well on Feb. 22, 2012, leading to a spill of 9,000 gallons of oil. The wells were separated by 600 feet. The spill was cleaned up.
New Mexico: Two vertical wells, both fracked, communicated across a distance of 2,000 feet on July 7, 2010, causing a spill of 19,000 gallons of produced water. The spill was cleaned up.
Oklahoma: A well being fracked communicated with a neighboring well on Oct. 10, 2012, spilling 420 gallons of oil. The spill was cleaned up.
Oklahoma: A well being fracked communicated with a neighboring well on June 7, 2012, spilling 714 gallons of oil and produced water. The spill was cleaned up.
Arkansas: A well being fracked hit another well on Nov. 2, 2012, spilling 3,300 gallons of produced water. The spill was contained in the berm and cleaned up.
Montana: Two wells communicated during fracking on Jan 3, 2012, spilling about 35,000 gallons of oil and water. The spill was cleaned up.
West Virginia: Two frack hits have come to the attention of the DEP since 2011: one where a company was fracking in the Marcellus Shale and communicated with producing wells, and another where a company was fracking in the Berea sandstone formation and communicated with an abandoned well.
Frack hits could be a path of contamination, particularly in cases where the cementing is below standards.
In New Mexico on Feb. 9, 2012, Devon Energy Corp. was fracking a well when an older producing well 600 feet away started spouting 7,000 gallons of oil and wastewater. The fracks had hit the older well and pushed fluids out.
If the well had not been properly cemented -- a possibility with older wells -- the fluids could have migrated outside the well bore and directly entered groundwater aquifers.
"Everyone thinks cement is this magic; it's not," said Michael Beck, president of Surface Solutions Inc. and a consultant for the oil and gas industry in Canada who is helping companies including Encana Corp. deal with downhole communication issues. "Cement is not 100 percent perfect, it cracks." `
Some fractures get away from the drillers, extending even as far as adjacent formations. Using microseismic technology, researchers in Pennsylvania recently found one extending as far away as 1,800 feet, as reported by the Associated Press.
In the case of the Alberta spill, regulators found that an oil well 3,000 feet away was being fracked, and it had communicated with the well that lost control. About 20,000 gallons of fracking fluid and oil had to be cleaned up.
The fractures move toward the regions of lowest pressure, which can be a nearby well bore. Once a channel is established, the pressures of around 10,000 pounds per square inch travel rapidly across the formation to the older well. It pushes fracking fluid and whatever is at the bottom of the producing well -- oil, gas and produced water -- up the old well bore, which is not equipped to handle high pressures.
"The frack fluid crosses the path of least resistance," said James Amos, supervisory environmental protection specialist with the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico. It runs up the well bore and can cause the production tank that's collecting the oil to overflow.
To the lay observer, it appears to be a surface spill. But in reality, such spills are caused by fracking hundreds or even thousands of feet away.
Communication between wells is not always bad. Sometimes companies want the fracks to communicate to effectively stimulate the rock. But problems arise when the communication is unintended and unexpected.
The worst-case scenario is when the fluids, propelled by high pressure, travel outside the steel pipe casing the producing well, through a bad cement job, and the brine enters groundwater aquifers. The risk is high when the frack hits communicate with older producing wells or abandoned wells.
"If it doesn't get inside the well bore, it can migrate up the outside of the well bore; there are water aquifers up there," Beck said. He described aging cement as a layer of bubble gum wrapped around the steel pipe casing a well. It separates from the well bore with time, especially in areas where the geology is sandy or swampy, and provides a path to the groundwater aquifer.
10. Investigation of Antero For W VA Explosion
“Antero Resources, claims in its report issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, that the cause of the blast was a buildup of gas in tanks used to store flowback water.
According to the West Virginia Gazette, Antero said the accident was due to “the presence of an accumulation of gas from storage tanks on location” and “weather conditions exacerbating the accumulation potential of said gas.” The company also blamed “a concentration of heavier than methane hydrocarbons in the gas mixture” and “an apparent ignition source near” a C&R Drilling skid pump. Previously, Antero had blamed the explosion on a crew that was inserting a production tube into the metal casing around the drilled hole.
Despite Antero Resources vowing to more closely review the layout of equipment on drilling sites, consider taller storage tanks for flow back water and latch those tanks to ensure explosive gases are contained, the DEP is calling for a more complete review of the investigation.
James Martin, chief of the DEP’s Office of Oil and Gas, issued a follow-up order that demands Antero provide “all information” used by the company in the initial report on the explosion, citing insufficient information.
Antero claims no pollutants were released or associated with the incident, writes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but in its newest order, the DEP asked “for a rationale expressing how it was deemed that no pollutants were released in the incident.”
“They don’t have a lot of information backing up what they say in this report,” said Kathy Cosco, a spokeswoman for the DEP ‘s Office of Oil and Gas. “This is a report that could have been submitted to us long before the deadline.”
Antero Resources has had a host of infractions prior to the July 7 explosion. In the Gazette-Mail, David Gutman explained that the DEP had cited Antero for 17 violations of state code in the past three years. The violations have been primarily environmental, including failures to prevent waste runoff and to report discharges, and for contaminating waterways.
One violation, dated January 4, warned, “Imminent danger water supplys [sic] threatened by allowing pollutants to escape and flow into the waters of the state.”
11. Research: Benzene Exposure Linked to Increased Rate of Non- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma NHL
(Benzene is one of the pollutants of both air and water that results from fracking, and a major issue in the battle in Dish, Texas. jan )
“The incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is significantly higher in areas closest to facilities releasing benzene into the environment, according to a new study.
The results, published online July 29 in Cancer, support an association between benzene exposure and the incidence of NHL.
Benzene is a component of gasoline. Exposure can cause chromosomal aberrations and genetic changes, note lead author Christopher Flowers, MD, associate professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Toxic effects can occur at air levels below 1 part per million, suggesting that even low levels of exposure can be harmful. Although benzene exposure has consistently been linked to hematologic cancers, its relation to NHL remains controversial. However, a number of population studies have supported an association between occupational benzene exposure and the risk of developing NHL.
As expected, there was a 0.31% decrease in the risk for NHL for every mile increase in the average distance from a site that releases benzene into the surrounding air or water, such as petroleum refineries and manufacturing plants.
However, there are some important take-home messages for oncologists, Dr. Flowers told Medscape Medical News.
"There are associations between residential location and location-related exposure to benzene and the incidence of lymphoma," he said. "This is one of the first studies to look at these relationships."
The incidence rates of NHL near benzene release sites were higher than expected. Specifically, the incidence was significantly higher surrounding 15 of the 19 benzene release sites, and all benzene release sites located in the greater Atlanta metro area had significant focal clustering.
Only 1 benzene release site associated with an increased incidence of NHL was located outside of metropolitan Atlanta; it was near Savannah.
Poisson regression indicated that, for every mile the average distance to benzene release sites increased, there was an expected 0.31% decrease in the risk of NHL.
NHL incidence was significantly higher in census tracts that were closer, on average, to benzene release sites. Additional studies are needed to examine spatial patterns of NHL incidence in other geographic regions and interactions between benzene and other exposures. Cancer 2013. © 2013 American Cancer Society.”
12. On Range Resources’ Gag Orders
Public Distrust of Industry Justified-Stop Gagging Children
“The industry wonders why the public doesn't trust it, but it's own behavior is partly to blame.
Mother Jones reports that landowners in Pennsylvania recently settled a dispute with Range Resources for $750,000 that related to alleged health and environmental damages from fracking on their land. As part of the deal, Range’s attorneys required the company agree to a gag order that prevents the family from commenting “in any fashion whatsoever” on fracking activities.
But that’s not all. A transcript from a court hearing in 2011 shows Range’s attorneys insisted that the gag order extends to the landowners’ children, ages 7 and 10. Presumably, the order would no longer apply once the children reach adulthood, but it’s not clear. Range’s lawyer told Mother Jones that the terms of the settlement apply to the whole family and “we would certainly enforce it.”
Range itself has a different view:
Matt Pitzarella, a Range Resources spokesman, said Wednesday that the comments by Mr. Swetz are “not something we agree with” and added “we don’t believe the . . . settlement applies to children.” He also said that Range has entered into no other nondisclosure agreements that bar children from speaking.
Does it really matter? The company allowed its lawyer to press for the settlement terms and to threaten enforcement. What’s more, reporters were barred from the original hearing and the Pittsburgh paper had to go to court to get the records unsealed. Range, in other words, is looking like a company that has something to hide. In fact, it seems so afraid of what might be revealed about its practices that it is trying to silence the mouths of babes.
Now that the story is getting national attention, the company’s best response is that it doesn’t agree with its own lawyers.
It’s not clear from the story what the family’s health claims were or whether a link to fracking was proved. But that issue once again gets overshadowed by an oil companies’ bully tactics.
This sort of behavior is exactly why the public doesn’t trust the energy industry. What can it do about it? Well, for starters, it could stop getting gag orders against children.”
Fracking Companies Issue Gag Orders and Buy Victims’ Silence
Ring of Fire
By Joshua De Leon
In further attempts to stifle public awareness of the dangers of fracking, energy companies have been issuing gag orders on families who contract with them. The gag orders cover everyone in the family, including children. Drilling company Range Resources offered $750,000 to a Pennsylvania family to move from their home with one catch: the family, and their kids, were not to say a word.
There have been numerous reports of dangerous pollutants contaminating the land and water supply of families in areas near fracking sites. The Hallowich family of Washington County, PA, experienced symptoms of contamination like “burning eyes, sore throats, headaches and earaches.”
Range Resources then paid the family thousands of dollars to relocate and keep quiet about their health issues caused by fracking pollution. Company spokesperson Matt Pitzarella said the family left because “they had an unusual amount of activity around them.”
Once they’ve paid off the victims, the fracking operation is protected and the families are bound to the company, thus, sweeping any evidence of fracking’s dangers under the rug. The practice has proved helpful for the fracking companies in that when giving testimony to Congress, there is no pushback from those who have witnessed and experienced fracking pollution first hand.
“These gag orders are the reason [drillers] can give testimony to Congress and say there are no documented cases of contamination,” said Earthworks organizer Sharon Wilson.
Companies and lawmakers friendly to the companies have even gone so far as to gag doctors from expressing their professional concerns about dangerous fracking chemicals. Last year, a law passed in Pennsylvania that allows doctors to access the listing of the chemicals used in fracking. However, the doctors are prohibited from telling their patients about it.
Despite proof that fracking is harmful, like the documentaries Gasland and Gasland 2, which focus on the hazards of the fracking industry, there is still a lack of regulation against the fracking companies. Whenever the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demands companies to submit data about the chemicals used in the drilling process, the companies have the freedom to blow off the request.
By cutting off the flow of information, fracking companies still possess total control of exposure of their actions, and exercise them with impunity. Once there is a free flow of information about the harm caused by fracking, officials can, and should, institute stricter regulations.
13. BLM to Examine Air Pollution Before Approving Oil & Gas Wells in Colorado
“The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and four conservation groups today announced that the BLM will reexamine the air pollution potential of 34 oil and gas projects involving more than 1,300 wells proposed on Colorado’s Western Slope. The agency will also—for the first time—establish and maintain a publicly-accessible Internet tracking system for federal drilling permits in its Colorado River Valley Field Office.
These important steps to protect public health and Colorado communities are the basis for the settlement of a lawsuit that the conservationists brought to address oil and gas-related impacts in Garfield County and the surrounding area.
“We’re pleased that BLM is reconsidering these projects and finally addressing the smog and toxic air pollution they cause,” said Earthjustice attorney Michael Freeman. “This settlement will allow the agency and the public to better protect the health of Coloradans, and to preserve the remarkable scenic vistas in our state.”
Oil and gas development has become a major contributor to air pollution in the inter-mountain west. Parts of Colorado now violate federal ozone standards, largely because of drilling. Ozone (smog) is linked to respiratory and heart problems and increased mortality for children and the elderly. Oil and gas development also has contributed to the degradation of visibility in parts of western Colorado. “
14. Hundreds Halt Fracking in UK
“In the early hours of the morning, anti-fracking activists and community members in Balcombe, Sussex, UK, successfully halted the first day of explorations for a new shale gas development by famed (infamous, rather) fracking company Cuadrilla. Over 250 people united in a powerful, peaceful, joyful blockade—that eventually convinced the trucks containing the initial fracking equipment to abandon the site.”
15. Special Investigation: Fracking in the Ocean Off the California Coast
By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | News
“The Pacific Ocean may be the next frontier for fracking technology.
A Truthout investigation has confirmed that federal regulators approved at least two hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," operations on oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of California since 2009 without an updated environmental review that critics say may be required by federal law.
The offshore fracking operations are smaller than the unconventional onshore operations that have sparked nationwide controversy, but environmental advocates are still concerned that regulators and the industry have not properly reviewed the potential impacts of using modern fracking technology in the Pacific outer continental shelf.”
http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/17765-special-investigation-fracking-in-the-ocean-off-the-california-coastCatskills Citizens for Safe Energy
16. New Jersey LNG Port Will Result in More Fracking
from Catskills Citizens for Safe Energy
“Our demand for a longer public comment period on the proposed deepwater liquified natural gas (LNG) port was successful—the Maritime Administration is allowing the public another 30 days (until Aug. 22) to submit comments on this ill-conceived and dangerous project.
If Port Ambrose is licensed as an import facility, there is every reason to believe that it will be used to export Marcellus Shale gas to Europe and Asia. That will mean more fracking in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia—and the pressure to open New York State to fracking may prove to be irresistible.
The Maritime Administration, like the project sponsor, claims that if the current license application is approved, the port will not be allowed to export gas unless the owner applies for a new license, but there are several reasons to be skeptical:
A new license is not required by law. MarAd has the authority to amend an import license to permit exports, and this could be done without any further public scrutiny or environmental review.
There is no market for imported LNG in the U.S. There are already two deepwater LNG ports in the U.S. (both in Boston Harbor) and neither of them has imported any gas since 2010.
If the sponsor goes ahead and spends 3 or 4 hundred million dollars building Port Ambrose, you can bet it won’t be refused permission to export gas when it claims that it can’t make money on imports.
All potential uses of Port Ambrose must be examined now, before construction gets underway.”
16. Halliburton Contacted in Antitrust Probe of Fracturing
“Federal officials have contacted Halliburton Co. and Baker Hughes Inc. as part of an antitrust investigation into an oil and gas drilling process used in fracking.
“The Antitrust Division is investigating the possibility of anticompetitive practices involving pressure pumping services performed on oil and gas wells,” said Department of Justice spokeswoman Gina Talamona.
Halliburton is the biggest pressure-pumping provider based on revenue, with nearly 29 percent of the market in 2012, according to a Barclays Capital report this month that cited figures from Spears & Associates, an oilfield-services consulting firm. Schlumberger Ltd. had 21 percent, and Baker Hughes almost 4 percent, according to the report. No other company even reached 5 percent.
Halliburton’s stock fell 48 cents, or 1.1 percent, to close at $44.34 Thursday. Baker Hughes’ shares dropped 30 cents to $47.46, while Schlumberger stock slipped 28 cents to $82.57.”