Friday, August 16, 2013

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates                    August 15, 2013
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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”

Calendar of Events

***WMCG Steering Committee Meeting- 7:30 Monday, August 19.  Meetings are usually held in Greensburg . All are welcome to attend. Email Jan for directions.


***Allegheny County--The Fight for County Parks (From Marcellus Protest-please share widely)

“Allegheny County government is seriously considering fracking in our parks.

Boyce Park
Deer Lakes Park
Harrison Hills Park
Hartwood Acres Park
North Park
Round Hill Park
Settlers Cabin Park
South 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:

Meeting date:  Tuesday, August 20 at 5 p.m.

Location: County Courthouse 436 Grant Street, 4th Floor - Gold Room, Pittsburgh

Phone: 412-350-6495”

Find your council district & member:


For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:

Frack Links

***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 placed their names on the list of the harmed because they became sick after fracking began in their area .


***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.

Sincerely, , 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 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.




1. Frack Fluid Spills at Beaver Run Reservoir in June

(Where are the voices of our county commissioners about toxic waste being spilled next to the drinking water of 150,000 people? Jan)


The PA DEP has cited Consol Energy's CNX Gas after a spill of fracturing fluid at Beaver Run Reservoir in June.

Officials at the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County said no contamination occurred from the June 1 incident at the Kuhn 3D pad in Bell Township.

               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, including those in Murrysville, Export and Delmont.

               Soil in the affected area was excavated, and chloride levels in the soil and water were tested. Fracking resumed on June 3, Consol Energy spokeswoman Lynn Seay said, and tests showed that all the problems were remedied by June 4.

               DEP cited CNX for failure to properly control or dispose of industrial or residual waste to prevent pollution of the waters of the Commonwealth; stream discharge of IW, including drill cuttings, oil, brine and/or silt; and pit and tanks not constructed with sufficient capacity to contain pollutional substances. DEP has not determined a fine or penalty for CNX. The company has set in place additional controls at the site since the incident, Seay said.

                              That wasn't the only incident at the reservoir that month. On June 13, a containment dike around the Mamont 1 drilling pad overflowed muddy water down a hill towards the reservoir. The dike, which is designed to hold rainwater and release it slowly in the environment, was repaired the same day. DEP is not citing the driller for the incident.

               The incidents have Murrysville Councilman Dave Perry scratching his head.

“The two incidents are relatively minor, but CNX needs to re-evaluate their spill-control policy,” said Perry, an environmental geologist. “Sure, there was no impact, but two uncontrolled releases in two weeks indicates that their spill-control procedures are inadequate.”

               Last July, CNX was cited after liquid cement leaked into a creek that empties into the reservoir at the Kuhns 3B well pad. That was the first violation incurred by the company at the reservoir. Drilling has taken place at the reservoir since 2010.

               Consol Energy has 36 horizontal Marcellus wells located on five pads and five vertically drilling wells on one pad at Beaver Run Reservoir, Seay said. The company plans to drill on another pad in 2014.”

Excerpt:  Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or

Read more:


2. Obama Administration Censors Truth About Dimock 

               by DeSmog Blog  by Steve Horn

               “DeSmogBlog has obtained a copy of an Obama Administrations EPA fracking groundwater contamination PowerPoint presentation describing a then-forthcoming study's findings in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

               The PowerPoint presentation reveals a clear link between "fracking" for  gas in Dimock and groundwater contamination, but was censored by the Obama Administration. Instead, the EPA issued an official desk statement in July 2012 - in the thick of election year - saying the water in Dimock was safe for consumption.

               Titled "Isotech-Stable Isotype Analysis: Determining the Origin of Methane and Its Effects on the Aquifer," the PowerPoint presentation concludes that in Cabot Oil and Gas' Dimock Gesford 2 well, "Drilling creates pathways, either temporary or permanent, that allows gas to migrate to the shallow aquifer near [the] surface...In some cases, these gases disrupt groundwater quality." 

               Other charts depict Cabot's Gesford 3 and 9 wells as doing much of the same, allowing methane to migrate up to aquifers to unprecedented levels - not coincidentally - coinciding with the wells being fracked. The PowerPoint's conclusions are damning.

               "Methane is released during the drilling and perhaps during the fracking process and other gas well work," the presentation states. "Methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking and other gas well work...Methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality."

               Despite the findings, the official EPA desk statement concluded any groundwater contamination in Dimock was "naturally occurring."

               "EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern," read the EPA desk statement. "EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock."

               Two EPA whistleblowers recently approached the American Tradition Institute and revealed politics were at-play in the decision to censor the EPA's actual findings in Dimock. At the heart of the cover-up was former EPA head Lisa Jackson.

                              EnergyWire's Mike Soraghan explained the studies were dropped - according to one of the unidentified whistleblowers close to the field team in Dimock - "out of fear the inquiries would hurt President Obama's re-election chances."

               Though the two EPA career employees' initial findings pointed to water contamination in Dimock - as seen in the PowerPoint presentation - their superiors told them to stop the investigation, in turn motivating them to blow the whistle.

               One of the whistleblowers said he came forward due to witnessing "patently unethical and possibility illegal acts conducted by EPA management."

               "I have for over a year now worked within the system to try and make right the injustice and apparent unethical acts I witnessed. I have not been alone in this effort," the unnamed whistleblower told Soraghan. "I took an oath when I became a federal employee that I assume very solemnly."

               At the center of the management team overseeing the false desk statement: former EPA head Lisa Jackson, who now works as Apple's top environmental advisor. Jackson was recently replaced by just-confirmed EPA head Gina McCarthy.

               This was revealed by the other whistleblower, who as part of the regular duties of his job, was a member of the "HQ-Dimock" email listserv. On that list, Jackson went by the pseudonym "Richard Windsor" as a way to shield her real name from potential Freedom of Information Act requests.

               "Many members of the email group...were lawyers and members of Lisa Jackson's inner political circle," explained Soraghan.

Key Freedom of Information Act Filed

               American Tradition Institute has filed two FOIA's in response to the whistleblowers coming forward.

               "One FOIA request seeks certain e-mails, text messages, or instant messages of three specified EPA field staff which are to, from or make reference to the White House or EPA HQ,"explained ATI. "The second FOIA request focuses on emails sent as part of the ‘HQ-Dimock’ discussion group. Both requests cover the seven-month period from December 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012."

               Natural Resources Defense Council - which has also been critical of the EPA on this issue - is suspicious of ATI's motives in this case.

               ATI is more well-known for denying climate change's existence and "ClimateGate" in particular. Yet, when push comes to shove, NRDC's Kate Sinding approves of ATI's FOIA filing and looks forward to what it discovers.

               "It appears to be an attempt to bully EPA out of these cases," Sinding told EnergyWire. "If their request results in getting more information about the decision-making, that's good information for everyone. But I question their motivation."

                              The real question at the heart of the matter: What were the EPA's motives for doing an about-face on a key multi-year tax-payer subsidized study?

               "It is unconscionable that, in the name of political expediency, the Obama Administration suppressed key information that would have connected the dots between fracking and water contamination," Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch told DeSmogBlog. "Gina McCarthy must put the health and safety of Americans first and prevent the agency from succumbing to political pressure."

`              Scott Ely - a former Cabot employee and Dimock resident who has three small children and whose water was contaminated by Cabot - expressed similar despair over EPA abandoning ship in this high-profile study.

               "When does anybody just stand by the truth? Why is it that we have a bunch of people in Washington, DC who are trying to manipulate the truth of what's happening to people in Dimock because of the industry?," Ely asked rhetorically.

               Ely says he keeps an open line of communications with EPA employees, who regularly check in and caution him not to use his water. The employees remain unidentified for fear of retribution by EPA upper-level management.

               "We thought EPA was going to come in and be our savior. And what'd they do? They said the truth can't be known: hide it, drop it, forget about it."

© 2013 DeSmog Blog


3. PA Shale Drillers Face New Rules on Air Pollution

                            By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

                            “Shale gas drillers in Pennsylvania are facing new rules that will, for the first time, limit noxious emissions, including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants.

                            The new state rules will take effect immediately. According to the rules, shale gas drillers will be required to either get an air quality plan approved by the state DEP before drilling a well, or implement practices and emission controls more stringent than federal requirements that took effect in April 2012.

                            The new rules end the 1996 blanket exemption granted unconventional shale gas wells from pollution control requirements.

                            Chris Abruzzo, acting DEP secretary, said Thursday that the new emission rules build on "existing federal requirements by continuing to set the high, but fair, bar we have come to expect."

                            The rules require well operators to do leak detection and make timely repairs for the entire well pad and facility, including condensate tanks containing so-called "wet gases" such as ethane, propane, and butane. Emissions of nitrogen oxides must be reduced to less than 100 pounds per hour, half a ton per day and 6.6 tons per year. Federal rules do not limit those emissions.


                            According to Kevin Sunday,  DEP spokesman, the state's rules will also require that all flaring done for emissions control on gas storage tanks be enclosed.

                            According to the DEP, enclosing flares reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds and hazardous gases by up to 99.9 percent.

                            Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said the new rules will result in improved air quality in the state.

                              "Operators can either meet the tougher than federal conditions or go through the state plan approval process, which can take a long time," Mr. Creighton said. "Operators may be incentivized to meet the tougher standards."

                            According to Clean Air Council attorney David Presley, the council also commented on the proposed rules but hasn't had a chance to review the final language.

                "If the wells are no longer exempt from getting a plan approval, that's something we asked for," Mr. Presley said.”

Don Hopey: or 412-263-1983.



 4. Researcher Brian Fontenot Interviewed

Pro Publica


“High levels of arsenic and other metals found  in groundwater study


What did you find?

               We found that there were actually quite a few examples of elevated constituents, such as heavy metals, the main players being arsenic, selenium and strontium. And we found each of those metals at levels that are above EPA’s maximum contaminate limit for drinking water.

               These heavy metals do naturally occur in the groundwater in this region. But we have a historical dataset that points to the fact that the levels we found are sort of unusual and not natural. These really high levels differ from what the groundwater used to be like before fracking came in. And when you look at the location of the natural gas wells, you find that any time you have water wells that exceed the maximum contaminate limit for any of these heavy metals, they are within about three kilometers of a natural gas well. Once you get a private water well that’s not very close to a natural gas well, all of these heavy metals come down. But just because you’re close to a natural gas well does not mean you’re guaranteed to have elevated contaminate levels. We had quite a few samples that were very close to natural gas wells that had no problems with their water at all.

               We also found a few samples that had measureable levels of methanol and ethanol, and these are two substances that don’t naturally occur in groundwater.  They can actually be created by bacterial interactions underwater, but whenever methanol or ethanol occurs in the environment, they’re very fleeting and transient. So for us to be able to actually randomly take a grab sample and detect detectable methanol and ethanol — that implies that there may be a continuous source of this.


You found levels of arsenic in areas with fracking that were almost 18 times higher than in areas without fracking or in the historical data. What would happen to someone who drank that water?

               Arsenic is a pretty well-known poison. If you experience a lot of long-term exposure to arsenic, you get a lot of different risks, like skin damage, problems with the circulatory system or even an increased risk of cancer. The levels that we found would not be a lethal dose, but they’re certainly levels that you would not want to be exposed to for any extended period of time.


What about the other stuff you found?

               The heavy metals are a little bit different because they are known to be included in some fracking recipes. But they’re also naturally occurring compounds. We think the problem is that they’re becoming concentrated at levels that aren’t normal as a result of some aspect of natural gas extraction.

               It’s not necessarily that we’re saying fracking fluid getting out. We don’t have any evidence of that. But there are many other steps involved, from drilling the hole to getting the water back out. A lot of these can actually cause different scenarios whereby the naturally occurring heavy metals will become concentrated in ways they normally wouldn’t. For example, if you have a private water well that’s not kept up well, you’ll have a scale of rust on the inside. And if someone were to do a lot of drilling nearby, you may find some pressure waves or vibrations that would cause those rust particles to flake out into the water. Arsenic is bound up inside that rust, and that can actually mobilize arsenic that would never be in the water otherwise.

               Methanol and ethanol are substances that should not be very easy to find in the groundwater naturally. We definitely know that those are on the list of things that are known to be in hydraulic fracturing fluid. But we were unable to actually sample any hydraulic fracturing fluid, so we can’t make any claims that we have evidence fluids got into the water.


               Do you think fracking is responsible for what you found?

Well, I can’t say we have a smoking gun. We don’t want the public to take away from this that we have pegged fracking as the cause of these issues. But we have shown that these issues do occur in close relation, geographically, to natural gas extraction. And we have this historical database from pretty much the same exact areas that we sampled that never had these issues until the onset of all the fracking. We have about 16,000 active wells here in the Barnett Shale, and that’s all popped up in about the last decade, so it’s been a pretty dramatic increase.

               We noticed that when you’re closer to a well, you’re more likely to have a problem, and that today’s samples have problems, while yesterday’s samples before the fracking showed up did not. So we think that the strongest argument we can say is that this needs more research.”



5. Victory in Fracking Wastewater Fight in PA

Thank You Clean Water Action and Earthjustice!

       "If not for the effort of Clean Water Action and Earthjustice, a wastewater treatment plant in southwestern Pennsylvania might have spent each day of the past three years dumping up to 500,000 gallons of untreated natural gas drilling wastewater into the Monongahela River. Instead, the plant has not discharged a drop of waste into the river—a drinking water source for 350,000 people. And under a new permit issued by the Pennsylvania  DEP, the plant will not be allowed to discharge anything, unless it proves it can comply with the law and treat all of the contaminants in fracking wastewater.

               The DEP had initially tried to fast-track the planned wastewater plant in Masontown, PA, quietly allowing Shallenberger Construction Inc. to dump inadequately treated fracking wastewater directly into the Monongahela River until the company built all of the necessary treatment facilities at the plant.

                “When fracking began in western Pennsylvania, the gas industry treated our rivers as a convenient place to dispose of their waste,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA state director for Clean Water Action. “We knew we had to act and we are glad to see that this agreement upholds the protection for our drinking water that every Pennsylvanian expects and deserves.” In 2008, pollution levels spiked so high in a 70-mile stretch of the Monongahela River that the entire city of Pittsburgh was urged to drink bottled water. The DEP acknowledged that the problem was due in large part to untreated fracking wastewater being discharged from sewage treatment plants. The Shallenberger plant would have added to that contamination."

August 7


 6. Wastewater in Warren PA

 By Sharon Kelly, DE Smog Blog,  July 18

                   “A Pennsylvania industrial wastewater treatment plant has been illegally accepting oil and gas wastewater and polluting the Allegheny River with radioactive waste and other pollutants, according Clean Water Action, which announced today that it is suing the plant.


“Waste Treatment Corporation has been illegally discharging oil and gas wastewater since at least 2003, and continues to discharge such wastewater without authorization under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Streams Law,” the notice of intent to sue delivered by Clean Water Action reads.

                            Many pollutants associated with oil and gas drilling—including chlorides, bromides, strontium and magnesium—were discovered immediately downstream of the plant’s discharge pipe in Warren, PA, state regulators discovered in January. Upstream of the plant, those same contaminants were found at levels one percent or less than those downstream, or were not present at all.

                            State officials also discovered that the sediments immediately downstream from the plant were tainted with high levels of radium-226, radium-228 and uranium. Those particular radioactive elements are known to be found at especially high levels in wastewater from Marcellus shale gas drilling and fracking, and state regulators have warned that the radioactive materials would tend to accumulate in river sediment downstream from plants accepting Marcellus waste.

                            “To us, that says that they are discharging Marcellus Shale wastewater, although no one admits to sending it to them,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action.

                              The amount of radioactivity found in the Allegheny riverbed is striking. Sediments just downstream of the Waste Treatment Corporation’s discharge pipe contained over 50 picocuries per gram (pCi/g) of radium-226, state records show. To put that number in rough context, the levels found in the Allegheny are 10 times those that the EPA requires the surface soil at cleaned-up uranium mining sites to achieve.”



7. Research:   Higher Leakage Rate of Methane from           Fracking


A new study of the air above a natural gas field in Utah suggests that far more methane gas may be escaping into the atmosphere from drilling operations than previously estimated. The study, to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is the first to use an aircraft to directly sample the air downwind of natural gas and oil wells in order to calculate emissions of methane and contributors to smog. Most other studies to date have relied on various estimating techniques to determine methane emissions associated with natural gas drilling.

               The new study sheds insight on a critical question — just how much methane gas, which in the short-term is a far more powerful global warming agent than carbon dioxide (CO2) — is escaping from drilling, processing, shipping, and burning natural gas in the U.S.? The EPA estimates that, nationally, the “methane leakage” rate is about 1.5 percent, but other recent studies have suggested that is a lowball estimate.

               This new study, while limited in scope to one natural gas field on one particular day in 2012, also argues for a higher estimate of methane leakage, on the order of between 6.2 and 11.7 percent.

               Malcolm Sweeney, a coauthor of the study and a scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Climate Central that he was surprised by the “huge amount” of methane emissions the study found. “We’re estimating that 9 percent of that is just leaking right out, never getting to the end of the pipeline . . . to the actual user point,” he said.


8. Hallowichs Required to Sign Off on Health Problems

By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 12

               “The previously confidential agreement to settle a Washington County family's claims that its health and property value were damaged by nearby shale gas development contains lifetime bans on what they can say and do, and also places restrictions on where they may live.

               The 2-year-old settlement agreement, restored to the public court record Monday morning when it was filed with the Washington County prothonotary, prohibits the Hallowich family from living within 2 miles of any existing Marcellus Shale facility owned by Range Resources, MarkWest Energy and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream, or within 1,000 feet of any existing natural gas lease involving the companies.

               The 17-page settlement agreement also includes the Hallowiches' previously reported payoff of $750,000, and notes they will continue to receive oil and gas royalties under the terms of a lease agreement entered into by the previous owners of their farm.

               It prohibits them from objecting to any drilling under any new property or residence they may own, and details the lifetime nondisclosure and nondisparagement clauses preventing them from speaking publicly about the settlement or protesting or challenging any gas development activity or lease by the operators. The operators also agreed not to disclose the terms of the settlement nor to disparage the Hallowiches.

               Before signing the agreement in August 2011, Stephanie Hallowich and her husband, Chris, had been vocal critics of the shale gas development that surrounded their 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant, Washington County.

               The settlement agreement states the companies denied their shale gas development activities caused any health problems, and Matt Pitzarella, a Range spokesman, has repeated that position in recent weeks when the Hallowich case has been in the news.

               "We are pleased that the public now has access to this information, which clearly demonstrates that there [are] absolutely no health, environmental or safety impacts from gas development," Mr. Pitzarella said in an emailed statement.

               The settlement included an admission by the family that it suffered no environmental, health or safety impact from drilling adjacent to their property. The Hallowiches' attorney, Peter Villari, said the companies insisted that such a provision be included in the settlement.

               The settlement document, though relied on by Washington County Judge Paul Pozonsky to approve of and seal the settlement Aug. 23, 2011, was missing from the case file delivered to the prothonotary's office that day. Its absence from the court records was discovered when Debbie O'Dell-Seneca, Washington County Court of Common Pleas president judge, acting on a request by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington Observer-Reporter, ordered the case file unsealed in March 2013.

               Reporters from the Post-Gazette were excluded from the settlement hearing, and when the court released a hearing transcript two weeks ago at the Post-Gazette's request, it contained a statement by Range's attorney that the agreement's gag order applied to the Hallowiches and their children, then ages 7 and 10.

               After the release of the transcript, Mr. Pitzarella said Range never intended for the gag order to apply to the children, but the other companies have not issued similar denials. Kathy K. Condo, an attorney representing MarkWest, declined to comment, and Erin McDowell, Mark West's attorney, did not respond to a request for comment.”


9. A Texan Tragedy: Plenty Of  Oil, No water

“Fracking boom sucks away precious water from beneath the ground, leaving cattle dead, farms bone-dry and people thirsty.

               Beverly McGuire saw the warning signs before the town well went dry: sand in the toilet bowl, the sputter of air in the tap, a pump working overtime to no effect. But it still did not prepare her for the night last month when she turned on the tap and discovered the tiny town where she had made her home for 35 years was out of water. "The day that we ran out of water I turned on my faucet and nothing was there and at that moment I knew the whole of Barnhart was down the tubes," she said, blinking back tears. "I went: 'dear God help us. That was the first thought that came to mind."

               Across the south-west, residents of small communities like Barnhart are confronting the reality that something as basic as running water, as unthinking as turning on a tap, can no longer be taken for granted. Three years of drought, decades of overuse and now the oil industry's outsize demands on water for fracking are running down reservoirs and underground aquifers. And climate change is making things worse. In Texas alone, about 30 communities could run out of water by the end of the year, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Nearly 15 million people are living under some form of water rationing, barred from freely sprinkling their lawns or refilling their swimming pools. In Barnhart's case, the well appears to have run dry because the water was being extracted for shale gas fracking."


10. Sen. Bob Casey Wants Federal Money for Frack           Associated Jobs


“Alberts’ Spray Solutions uses heavy-duty polymer sprays to construct containment pens that prevent spills from contaminating the soil at drilling sites. In just three years, the subsidiary has grown to account for 20 percent of the parent company's gross annual sales, according to company president Edward Alberts.

The expansion has caught the attention of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who kicked off a statewide economic development tour Monday by visiting the Alberts Company headquarters just outside Williamsport.

               In front of the Spray Solutions’ warehouse, Casey held a press conference to unveil a bill that aims to pump federal job-training dollars into Pennsylvania's gas industry.

               Casey, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and Joint Economic Committee, touted his Marcellus Shale bill as a chance to help Pennsylvania thrive economically, and also support the nation in its push to become less dependent on foreign oil.

               Meanwhile, controversy continues to brew over fracking, the drilling process using pressurized fluids to bring natural gas to the surface. Opponents argue fracking may cause irreparable harm to the environment, and accuse regulators of overlooking negative consequences in favor of immediate economic boons. Critics worry the gas industry is bound for a boom-and-bust cycle that won't benefit communities like Williamsport in the long term.”


     11. Labor Law Violations By Gas Industry  

                            “Mr. Bean, an attorney with Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, is getting more and more calls these days, as the Labor Department's Marcellus Shale Initiative enters its second year.

                            The agency began targeting oil and gas firms because the industry has shown a pattern of labor law violations, according to John DuMont, district director for the department's Pittsburgh office. The firms tend to improperly label their workers as independent contractors, which allows the companies to avoid paying overtime. They also pay employees a day rate without calculating how many hours are worked in a week and without keeping proper records. So far, the largest judgment from the initiative was issued against Groundwater and Environmental Services Inc., a New Jersey-based company, for violations found in an audit of its Cranberry and Fairmont, W.Va., offices.      

                            The Labor Department audit concluded the environmental firm improperly classified 69 workers, who collected water samples from Marcellus Shale well sites, as professionals exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, even though they required no advanced knowledge to perform their jobs.  The exemption from minimum wage and overtime pay applies "bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales positions, as well as certain computer employees," who are typically paid on a salary basis, the department said.

     If you're in the shale gas industry, especially in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, then the U.S. Department of Labor has you under a microscope right now," Mr. Bean said. The odds of getting audited are high, he warned, and for those audited, "it's almost always bad news.” By that he means that most audits uncover violations, which isn't surprising, given how specific some employment laws are and the oil and gas industry's higher-than-typical rate of violating those laws.”


12. Butler Wastewater Plant

                            “RES Water-Butler, a Penn Township-based wastewater processor, has broken ground to build a treatment plant for the shale gas industry.

                            The $2.5 million facility is expected to open by Nov. 1, according to company president Andy Kicinski. It will accept drilling fluid, flow-back frack water and produced water from shale wells, and treat it to a point where it can be reused in future drilling.

                            The new facility will be in Penn Township, Butler County, and will be able to process 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of wastewater daily. XTO Energy, a division of Exxon Mobil, is the anchor client, but it will be open to other operators as well. It is the same model as another facility in New Stanton operated by Reserved Environmental Services of O'Hara, which has some of the same owners and the same management team as RES Water.

                            "We're going to be cookie-cuttering these things across the western part of Pennsylvania," Mr. Kicinski said.

                            In fact, as the Butler plant is going up, another in Lycoming County is already permitted and scheduled to be built by 2015. Another plan to add hydraulic fracturing water processing capabilities to an existing treatment plant in Wheeling, W.Va., is under consideration, according to Nick Haden, vice president of government affairs and marketing for Reserved Environmental Services.

                            Mr. Kicinski said he's considered getting a discharge permit, which would require the facility to separate the salts in the wastewater stream, but at the moment it doesn't make sense because there's no market for those salts.”

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13. Dimock Area Residents Want Water Investigation           Reopened


“Residents and activists personally harmed by the hazards of fracking gathered at the EPA Region 3 office in Philadelphia, calling for the reopening of the investigation into drinking water contamination in Dimock, PA.

               A recent report in the Los Angeles Times revealed that EPA officials in Washington chose to close an investigation of Dimock drinking water despite evidence gathered from agency investigators based in Philadelphia that found “significant damage to the water quality,” from poisonous contamination likely caused by fracking.

               The EPA PowerPoint Presentation was released last Monday on DeSmog blog by investigative journalist Steve Horn. Evidence of drinking water contamination due to fracking was similarly ignored by the EPA in Pavillion, WY, and Weatherford, TX. The resident-activists conducted a press conference on their way down to EPA headquarters in Washington, DC, where they will deliver about 50,000 petitions to new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on her to reopen investigations in Dimock, PA, as well as Pavillion, WY, and Weatherford, TX. They are also calling on EPA to provide safe drinking water to residents while these investigations recommence. 

               “For years now, I have had to live with toxic, poisoned fracked water in my home,” said Ray Kemble, a former gas industry employee turned whistleblower and an affected Dimock area resident. “When EPA finally stepped in and tested my water, I thought ‘Thank God. Someone is finally here to help us.’ But then it became apparent to those of us on the ground that they were playing politics. EPA officials literally told us officially that our water was safe to drink but then told us off-the-record not to drink it. Now the truth is out and we want justice.”

                “The purpose of the EPA is to protect all Americans from the types of health and safety hazards fracking so obviously caused in Dimock and elsewhere,” said Sam Bernhardt, statewide organizer with Food & Water Watch, the organization that led the petition collection effort.

               “It’s time for Gina McCarthy and the EPA to do its job and stand up for public health, not continue wilting under pressure from the oil and gas industry to simply maintain the dangerous status quo.” Food & Water Watch



14. ALEC  Slush Fund Benefits Gas/Oil Industry

                            Now  there are new charges by two government watchdog groups that ALEC, the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, is running a secretive multimillion-dollar slush fund that finances lavish trips for state legislators and has misled the IRS about the fund's activity.

                            Most of the money in the scholarship fund comes from the telecom, pharmaceutical, and the oil and gas industry giants.  And so it really is quite a scam, in my opinion. What you have here is influence peddling.  I actually describe it as sort of institutionalized corruption. And what it means is that corporations are basically paying the lawmakers' travel, their airfare, their hotel, for the conference where these legislators meet to actually vote behind closed doors with these same lobbyists, many of the same lobbyists, on model legislation on bills to change our rights. And the corporations get a tax write-off for what is basically lobbying, and ALEC gets to wash this money for them, to wash it, basically, through their accounts. And the public is left in the dark. They have no idea that this corporation that wants to change the law in your state just paid for an all-expense paid trip for a legislator, not just to go on a trip, but to actually schmooze and booze and wine and dine, be wined and dined by these same corporations, all off the books, basically, in most states.”





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.
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