Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates August 29, 2013
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Thank you to Volunteers:
Thank you to everyone who has helped with distributing flyers. We were on the sidewalks outside concerts at St Clair Park and will be at Northmoreland Park.
Workers included Harriet Ellenberger, Cindy Walter, Mike Atherton, Kathryn Hilton, Jan and Jack Milburn and Marian Szmyd.
If you are attending an event where you can hand out information on fracking, please let me know, and we will provide you with some literature. This is a good way to better inform the public and often can be done with no fee involved — public sidewalks are public . jan
Thank you to all who responded to the Alert:
Last Friday, we blew our own expectations out of the water.
Organizations from across the country submitted over 1 million comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency that controls US federal lands, to say no to a new proposal to expand fracking on our public land.
This amazing response from activists from all over the country sends a loud and clear message to the BLM and the Obama administration that we will not stand for any more fracking on our lands -- we want renewable energy, and we want it right away.
Last Thursday, with our friends at Americans Against Fracking, a coalition of organizations focused on banning fracking, we delivered over 650,000 of those comments to the BLM. 350’s Policy Director Jason Kowalski stood with organizations big and small who want to ban fracking, from the frontlines in Pennsylvania, to many of the national organizations tackling the issue.
Fracking threatens our climate, water and health. Time and time again we’ve seen fracking wells crack and water contaminated. Methane gas is one of the most potent greenhouse gases and fracking leaks a ton of it into our atmosphere. What’s not leaked is burned and turned into CO2, which we already have far too much of anyways.
But together, we’re showing that our movement is ready to step up to do big things to stop fracking. And that’s huge.
Thank you for standing 1 million strong against fracking,
Linda Capato, 350.org”
***Help Protect PA’s Wild Trout Streams and Endangered Species
PA Legislature Looking to Gut Protections to Appease Drillers & Other Special Interests
Oppose H.B. 1576 & S.B. 1047
A.K.A The Endangered Species Coordination Act
Politicians in Harrisburg are considering a proposal that would put endangered and threatened wildlife in Pennsylvania at risk—such as the Banded Sunfish, Brown Bat, and Northern Cricket Frog.
Email your legislator today and ask them to oppose efforts to rollback protections for PA’s endangered species.
The proposal being considered would remove the classification of “endangered” or “threatened” for all species categorized as such by the state—and require them all to be re-designated—or lose protections. They would also put the fate of these creatures in the hands of politicians by removing the power to protect species from ecologists and scientists.
And even worse, developers, frackers and other polluters would be able to begin construction in a natural area, without considering nearby populations of endangered species.
Tell your legislator to keep endangered species protections in place.
Rachel Carson once said, “"Like the resource it seeks to protect, wildlife conservation must be dynamic, changing as conditions change, seeking always to become more effective."
The current proposals don’t make protection for these animals more effective at all. It’s a step back for critical populations of Pennsylvania wildlife.
So help us give them a voice in Harrisburg by emailing your legislators today. Ask them to oppose legislation that rolls back protections for Pennsylvania’s threatened and endangered species.
 "House Bill 1576," Pennsylvania
Spread the word and share this info on your Facebook page: http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/river-action/ongoing-issue-detail.aspx?Id=61
5 Reasons to Oppose these bills (from Mt Watershed) :
There are many things wrong with these Bills but five things to point out now with proposed H.B 1576:
* The PA Fish and Boat Commission, PA Game Commission, and Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources would be prohibited from designating a species as Threatened &Endangered unless the species was FEDERALLY designated.
* Plus the law would put political pressure over the science by requiring any action or listing by the agency to first be submitted to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for approval.
* The proposed legislation would greatly weaken PA’s Wild Trout stream designation – by removing the ability for a stream to be given Wild Trout stream protection provisionally in advance of publication in the PA Bulletin. This contradicts how DEP applies Exceptional Value existing use designation to Wild Trout streams in advance of Environmental Quality Board (EQB) approval and would allow for degradation of our important and rare wild trout streams as PADEP works through the lengthy and often multi-year long stream upgrade process.
* Any new designation of a Pennsylvania endangered species could only happen if that species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its entire federal range. So a species could be on the verge of extinction in PA and it would not qualify as endangered in Pennsylvania and receive necessary special protections under this new proposed law.
* The legislation would shift the burden onto the taxpayers and state agencies to determine the presence of threatened and endangered species instead of keeping that burden on the developers and polluters who are applying for permits.
Pennsylvania species on the existing state’s listing would be AUTOMATICALLY DELISTED from the state’s “centralized database “ after two years unless they are re-designated by the agency.
***Oppose The Natural Gas Consumer Expansion Act SB 738
Presented by Gene Yaw, and co-presented by Pileggi, Tomlinson, Vulakovich, Vogel, Ward, Erickson, Mensch, Greenleaf, Gordner, White, Robbins, Vance, Wozniak, Rafferty, Costa, Baker, Waugh, Brewster, and Browne
In a nut shell, what this legislation means is that the municipalities would be required to submit a plan for the expansion of natural gas as a public utility, and the cost for this infrastructure will come from "customer contribution". In other words, the people living in rural PA will foot the entire cost of this expansion project. But that's not all. This bill also states that any future expansion costs will also be in the form of "customer contributions". This will not affect customers that are natural gas customers prior to this legislation. Bottom line, anyone who is not a current natural gas customer will be footing the bill for the entire expansion project... like it, or not.
By increasing the demand, this will automatically increase the domestic price. Couple that with the cost of the infrastructure, and we'll end up much higher property tax and much higher utility bills.
It will also mean more drilling, more compressor stations, more pipelines, more construction, more truck traffic, more pollution, etc., etc., etc.!
Another perfect example of privatizing the profits by socializing the costs.
To read the bill: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/CFDOCS/Legis/PN/Public/btCheck.cfm?txtType=PDF&sessYr=2013&sessInd=0&billBody=S&billTyp=B&billNbr=0738&pn=1213
That is why everyone needs to call their representatives and insist they vote "NO" on SB738.
***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”
***Rob Rogers Fracking Cartoon An excerpt:
“The whole idea of marketing fracking as a “festival” makes me uncomfortable.”
“What’s next the “Carbon monoxide expo” or the “Mercury-poisoning regatta?”
***Colbert Video -- Range Pays for Silence on Fracking and Health Problems
Colbert’s Satire on Hallowich Case
***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 . 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.
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 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.
***Preview - Glass Half Empty: An American Water War
***Texan drought sets residents against fracking - video
NRC Report ID: 1057959
Incident Time: 2013-08-22 17:00:00
Nearest City: Canonsburg, PA
Location: MARKWEST CRYOGENIC PROCESSING PLANT WESTERN AVE
Incident Type: FIXED
Material: UNKNOWN MATERIAL
Medium Affected: AIR
Suspected Responsible Party: MARKWEST CRYOGENIC PROCESSING PLANT
Lat/Long: 40.284130, -80.312195 (Approximated from ZIP)
***WEB REPORT*** 11:20 AM LARGE FLARING FLAMES, STACKS RELEASING WHITE/GREY SMOKE INTO THE ENVIRONMENT- WITNESSED FROM ROUTE 19. 5:30PM- 7:15PM, LARGE FLARING FLAME- STACKS RELEASING A LARGE AMOUNT OF BLACK SMOKE INTO ENVIRONMENT, MULTIPLE OCCURRENCES. .
1. CBS (KDKA) Celebrates Gas Industry
All Gassed Up: CBS Radio hands over the mic to natural-gas boosters
by Chris Potter Pittsburgh City Paper
“CBS Radio, which owns KDKA and three other local stations, celebrated Aug. 15 as a "Marcellus Shale Festival" — a chance "to celebrate all that Marcellus Shale brings to our region." The festival featured an on-air parade of drilling boosters at KDKA, as well as off-air programming at the North Side's Stage AE.
Morning host Marty Griffin, for example, touted the broadcast as a celebration of "hope and opportunity." His guests included Pitzarella, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald — who has aggressively pursued drilling opportunities on county land — and Phelim McAleer, maker of pro-drilling film FrackNation. Environmentalists, by contrast, were ridiculed in absentia: Griffin mocked Doug Shields, a vocal drilling opponent, by suggesting the former city councilor was "pounding on a bathroom door somewhere, looking for work."
And when environmentalists did appear, they say, they were ushered out.
While the festival was billed as "free to the public," Stage AE is private property, and Lucas Lyons says security told him to leave when he tried to convince attendees that drilling was dangerous. ("People started calling me ‘Obama,'" Lyons says — and because the president supports drilling, "I was really confused.")
Another environmentalist, Kathryn Hilton, tried circulating anti-drilling literature. "I was fairly certain there weren't going to be any alternate views available," she says. And indeed, she says she was told to distribute the material outside.
"The industry likes to say they operate in good faith," Hilton says, "but the absence [of dissenting voices] suggests they aren't."
The Festival events and broadcasts were sponsored by drilling interests, including an upcoming industry convention and Norton Rose Fulbright, a law firm with a drilling practice. Companies like Range are frequent CBS Radio advertisers; sports-talk station 93.7 The Fan even offers a sponsored "Fracking is Fun" fact-of-the-day feature.
CBS Radio senior vice president Michael Young says CBS does "not normally" conduct such promotions, though the station has held smaller-scale "expos" on drilling before.
"We promoted it as a Marcellus Shale Festival, and the town-hall meeting was about how private companies and the public sector were working together," says Young.
"In our editorial coverage, I think you get a diverse sense of opinions, and of objective news coverage." When asked about claims that environmentalists' opinions were unwelcome at the Festival, Young said he couldn't comment. But "if there's a big story" related to drilling, "our folks will be out there and be objective."
But why should audiences believe that? When a broadcaster boosts an industry on and off the air, is it fair to expect listeners to distinguish a station's news-gathering from its promotions?”
2. Rep. White Leads- Will anyone follow
Mandatory Air Monitoring—Just what the doctor ordered
Posted: August 26, 2013 03:22 PM
From: Representative Jesse White
To: All House members
Subject: Air Quality Monitoring Systems with Publicly-Accessible Data Near Natural Gas Operations
“In the near future, I will be introducing legislation that would mandate air quality monitoring systems be placed near all natural gas compressor stations, processing plants and centralized wastewater impoundments.
Under this legislation, air quality monitoring systems would be required at all current and future sites. In addition, the facility operators would be required to install and maintain monitoring systems at their own expense as a condition of their permitting. Further, this legislation would require that all air quality levels recorded by monitoring systems be made publically accessible through a real-time display posted on the Internet.
Recently, the Associated Press reported on preliminary data from the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project regarding cases in which residents may have experienced symptoms and illnesses as a result of living in close proximity to natural gas operations. To date, the project has discovered 27 cases in which residents developed symptoms and illnesses after nearby natural gas operations began. All 27 cases are confined to Washington County residents who have had no underlying medical conditions that were likely to have caused the symptoms in question, but who live near probable sources of drilling-related water and air pollution.
According to the AP article, (which can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fracking-health-project-puts-numbers-debate) A previous DEP report found some of the state's highest levels of gas drilling air pollution in Washington County, including toxic compounds such as benzene, toluene and formaldehyde. Other gas drilling firms and companies operate in the area, too. Long-term exposure to benzene can affect the immune system and cause cancer, while toluene can cause excessive sleepiness, confusion and, with long-term exposure, brain damage.
Although this data is only in preliminary stages, there are indications that air pollution generated from natural gas production may have a much greater impact on the health of area residents than was previously thought.
I believe that requiring air quality monitoring systems to be placed near natural gas compressor stations, processing plants and centralized wastewater impoundments will hold everyone to a higher standard and ensure that air quality is safe for residents living nearby.
If we are going to have an honest, fact-based debate about the impact of drilling-related operations in our communities, the public should have access to the facts in an unfiltered way. This will also be useful for operators who contend their facilities are not impacting the air quality; if there is no impact, it should be clear for everyone to see.”
If you would like to co-sponsor this legislation, please contact Dominic Lemmon at 717-783-6437 or DLemmon@pahouse.net.
3. Court Should Say No to Act 13 Reargument
By DAVID M.BALL
“Wouldn't life be great if we could have a redo on things we think might not go our way? That's exactly what the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the
Department of Environmental Protection are seeking in a recently filed request for a reargument of the Act 13 1awsuit before the State Supreme Court.
In February 2012, the state House of Representatives approved, by a razor-thin margin of 10 votes, House Bill No.1950 which became Act 13, amending the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act. Act 13 was written by industry, for industry and to the detriment of the commonwealth's citizens. Among many other unconstitutional features, the law stripped municipalities of their zoning and planning rights. It permitted industrial operations such as gas well drilling, compressor stations, hazardous waste impoundment ponds and processing plants in all zoning districts, including residential areas. It violates the core rationale for zoning, voids the comprehensive plans of municipalities, holds the very real potential of subjecting citizens to dangerous environmental hazards, will adversely impact property values and promotes the interests of one industry.
In March 2012, several individuals and seven communities, including Peters, Mt. Pleasant, Cecil and Robinson townships in Washington County, filed suit against the commonwealth. The suit asked Commonwealth Court to declare certain provisions of Act 13 unconstitutional and to stop implementation of the parts of the law. The court ruled that parts of Act 13, including the sections that would strip zoning authority from local municipalities and allow the PUC to act as judge and jury regarding the law were, indeed, unconstitutional
The state decided, predictably, to spend more taxpayer money and appeal to the Supreme Court, and the case was heard in October before only six judges, thanks to the suspension of Justice Joan Orie Melvin. To date, the decision has not been handed down, and Corealle Stevens was sworn in as the seventh Justice on July 31 to replace Orie Melvin. Shortly thereafter, the DEP and the PUC filed a motion to have the case reargued before the Supreme Court now that a seventh justice has been appointed.
If granted, such a motion would seriously call into question the integrity of the court. Why do they want a rehearing with seven justices? Earlier this year in a talk before the Philadelphia Bar Association, Justice Michael Eakin indicated that two pending cases were tied 3-3.The presumption is that one of those was the Act 13 decision. A 3-3 decision by the court is a decision, just as surely as any other vote. In the case of a 3-3 decision, the decision of Commonwealth Court is upheld.”
4. Research Study: Fracking Fluid From 2007 Kentucky Spill May Have Killed Threatened Fish Species
“2013 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Southeastern Naturalist.
A joint study from the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that a fracking fluid spill in Kentucky in 2007 likely caused the widespread death of several types of fish.
Nami Resources Company, a London, Ky.-based oil and gas exploration company, spilled fracking fluid from four well sites into the Acorn Fork Creek in southeastern Kentucky in May and June 2007. Not long after, nearly all the aquatic life -- including at least two fish from a threatened species -- in the part of the stream near the spill died. Chemicals released during the spill included hydrochloric acid.
After studying samples of the water and bodies of green sunfish and creek chub, government researchers have concluded that the spill acidified the stream and increased concentrations of heavy metals including aluminum and iron. Fish exposed to the water developed gill lesions and showed signs of liver and spleen damage, USGS announced in a press release.
The gill lesions were consistent with "toxic concentrations of heavy metals," the researchers concluded.
Nami Resources pleaded guilty to charges that it violated the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts in the spill and paid a $50,000 fine in October 2009, but blamed the incident on "independent contractors" who were not under the company's direct supervision.
"Our study is a precautionary tale of how entire populations could be put at risk even with small-scale fluid spills," said USGS scientist and lead author Diana Papoulias in the release.
"These species use the same water as we do, so it is just as important to keep our waters clean for people and for wildlife," co-author Tony Velasco said. "This is an example of how the smallest creatures can act as a canary in a coal mine."
The study appears in a special 2013 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Southeastern Naturalist.”
5. EPA To Set Air Pollution Rules, Gas Industry Bulks
By RENEE SCHOOF, McClatchy Newspapers
“The EPA is expected to announce the first national rules to reduce air pollution. The White House has been reviewing the EPA plan to consider possible changes, the normal procedure for regulations. Industry groups have lobbied for exemptions
The final version will show how President Barack Obama’s administration navigates between the nation’s needs for energy and health.
Pam Judy of Carmichaels, Pa.., says she fears that her family already is at risk from fumes from a large natural gas compressor station 780 feet from their home in the hills. When they built it, they were far from everything. Three years later, a natural gas compressor station was built on neighboring property.
“We have fumes that are in our yard almost constantly,” she said. “There are times when it smells like diesel or a kerosene smell. It’s very difficult to pinpoint the exact smell. Then there are times we get a smell like chlorine. When we get that chlorine smell it literally will scorch your eyes and your throat.”
Air tests found 16 chemicals in her yard, including benzene, a chemical the EPA classifies as a carcinogen. She said test of her blood also showed exposure to benzene and other chemicals. Benzene can cause dizziness and headaches, symptoms she’s had. Her adult children have had runny noses, headaches and sore throats that go away when they aren’t at their parents’ home.
The family worries about long-term exposure and is wrestling with whether to stay. Their land was handed down in her family since her great-grandparents’ day, Judy said. “It’s really heart-wrenching for us to make the decision to move.”
Paul Parker, a retired vice president of an engineering company who worked with energy companies, has lived for 36 years in an area south of Pittsburgh where natural gas development has sprung up in the last few years. Parker said no to leases on his own property, but sees the development around him and says the area has been ruined.
“When you go outside, it’s like living in a chemical complex,” he said. He said pollution comes from vents on storage tanks near his property, as well as nearby
flaring to burn gas in early stages of well development and the diesel emissions of
hundreds of trucks needed to haul water and equipment to well sites.
The EPA’s rule would require companies to use portable equipment to
capture this gas that otherwise escapes to the atmosphere or gets burned
off in flares, a process known as green completion. The equipment would reduce volatile organic compounds, which contribute to the formation of smog ,and capture methane, and make it available for sale.
The industry estimates that more than 25,000 wells are fractured or refractured each year.
The American Petroleum Institute, API the lobby for the oil and gas industry, has asked the Obama administration to make the requirement apply only to wells where the gas stream is 10 percent or more of volatile organic compounds. That approach would exclude many wells.
The EPA’s existing rule for volatile organic compounds in the gas industry was issued in 1985 and applied only to leak detection at new and upgraded gas processing plants. That arrangement leaves much of the volatile organic-compound emissions from the oil and gas industry unregulated.
API told the EPA earlier that the average well is 2.95 percent volatile organic compounds. API spokesman Carlton Carroll said that number was wrong. “We believe the average is closer to 10 percent,” he said.
API president and CEO Jack Gerard wrote to senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett that emissions controls on VOCs would not be cost-effective. He also asked for other changes, including at least two years for building the equipment needed for green completions.
Environmental groups oppose those requests. They say that even small percentages of volatile organic compounds add up, because the volumes in fracking are so large. They also say that the industry over-estimated the costs of green completions, and they point out that in states such as Colorado and Wyoming, where the equipment is already required, the gas industry has continued to grow.
Other parts of the EPA’s plan would require equipment on compressors, storage tanks and new pneumatic controllers, the instruments that control pressure and other conditions.
“This industry produces an astonishing amount of air pollutions,” and the emissions have been largely ignored, said Joe Osborne, legal director of the Group Against Smog and Pollution.
Some pollutants on a local level can mean greater risks for cancer and neurological and reproductive problems, Osborne said. Other pollutants combine to form smog, which spreads over a much wider area. Smog can make it hard to breathe, aggravate asthma and other lung diseases and permanently damage lungs
In Pennsylvania, where GASP is based, parts of the state, along with much of the rest of the Eastern U.S., already don’t meet health standards for smog. The good news is that smog levels have gone down in the past 20 years, Osborne said. But the development of shale gas “has the potential to halt that progress or potentially even reverse it.”
Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/04/16/5104405/as-air-pollution-from-fracking.html#storylink=cpy
6. DEP Attempted To Suppress Controversial Study On Shale Gas and Climate Change
“StateImpact Pennsylvania has obtained a copy of the original draft climate report and internal DEP emails, which reveal an attempt by its Policy Office to suppress controversial research that questions the benefits of natural gas.
The DEP’s Policy Office wanted a team of Penn State scientists who authored the climate report to remove all references to a 2011 study from Cornell University.
The peer- reviewed paper, by professor Robert Howarth, has been the subject of intense debate. It concludes that from a climate change perspective, natural gas is dirtier than coal.
Howarth believes this methane leakage negates any climate change benefits derived from burning natural gas.
Here’s part of their original climate change draft report, which was submitted to the DEP in February 2012:
Under scenarios where large amounts of methane are vented, or fugitive methane emissions from the gas transportation system are high, the life-cycle climate impacts of natural gas power generation may be on par with coal-fired power generation (Howarth, et al., 2011). This conclusion also rests on assumptions regarding the timing of climate impacts over which there is additional uncertainty. Three other studies (Jiang et al., 2011: NETL, 2011: Cathles, 2011) question the assumptions by Howarth…
DEP policy specialist Jessica Shirley pressed the point to Sherrick in an email.
“Please ensure that all references to Howarth are removed,” she wrote.
Drafts of the climate report and internal DEP emails were obtained by the environmental group, PennFuture through an open records request and shared with StateImpact Pennsylvania.
Jessica Shirley, the DEP policy specialist who asked for the study to be removed, says it was her own judgment call, and she was not pressured by anyone above her.
“We ended up not taking it out,” she tells StateImpact, “[Howarth] will be in the final assessment report.”
Colm Sweeney studies greenhouse gas emissions for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado.
He and a team of scientists recently took measurements with an airplane over a gas field in Utah and found on one day the gas field leaked 6 to 12 percent of the methane produced (which is on the higher end of Howarth’s leakage rates).
“We need a lot more measurements to say methane leakage is a national problem,” he says.
The federal EPA recently slashed its estimates of how much methane is being emitted by oil and gas production, citing tighter controls by the industry.”
7. Fracking Boom Could Lead To Housing Bust
“When it comes to the real estate market in Bradford County, PA, says Bob Benjamin, a local broker and certified appraiser for residential mortgage, lending is an especially murky situation.
When Benjamin fills out an appraisal for a lender, he has to note if there is a fracked well or an impoundment lake on or near the property. “I’m having to explain a lot of things when I give the appraisal to the lender,” he says. “They are asking questions about the well quite often.”
And national lenders are becoming more cautious about underwriting mortgages for properties near fracking, even ones they would have routinely financed in the past, Benjamin says.
That’s a real problem in Bradford County, where 93 percent of the acreage is now under lease to a gas company.
Lawyers, realtors, public officials, and environmental advocates from Pennsylvania to Arkansas to Colorado are noticing that banks and federal agencies are revisiting their lending policies to account for the potential impact of drilling on property values, and in some cases are refusing to finance property with or even just near drilling activity.
Real estate experts say another problematic trend is that many homeowners insurance policies do not cover residential properties with a gas lease or gas well, yet all mortgage companies require homeowners insurance from their borrowers.
“I think we are on the tip of this,” says Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale coordinator for Clean Water Action in Pennsylvania. “Whether you are the homeowner trying to get homeowners insurance or the neighbor [to a fracking site] who is trying to refinance, there are just so many tentacles to this. I don’t think people are grasping all the impacts of natural gas drilling.”
Brian and Amy Smith live across the street from a new gas well in Daisytown in Washington County, Pa.. Last year, when they applied for a new mortgage on their $230,000 home and hobby farm, they were denied.
According to ABC affiliate WTAE, this appears to be the first example in western Pennsylvania of a homeowner being denied a mortgage because of gas drilling on a neighbor’s property:
In an email, Quicken Loans told the Smiths, “Unfortunately, we are unable to move forward with this loan. It is located across the street from a gas drilling site.” Two other national lenders also turned down Brian Smith’s application.
“I think a lot of folks nationally are watching this case,” says Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a congressman who represents areas north and west of Denver. He noted that in his home district fracking leads to a “haircut on a property’s values.”
“I think it is something that the banks would frankly be smart to look at,” Polis says.
Elisabeth N. Radow, a lawyer and chair of the League of Women Voters of New York State’s Committee on Energy, Agriculture and the Environment, says the Smiths’ story shows that property owners are clearly vulnerable to what happens on their neighbors’ land in fracking territory. “A [fracking] gas well brings commercial activity, can pollute drinking water and devalue the property.”
Another big unknown is how homeowners might be affected by horizontal drilling happening underneath their property, May said. “Horizontal drill bores radiate out from the vertical bore up to one mile in each direction, which could potentially impact other owners’ fee-simple real estate ownership,” May says.
Twelve hundred miles southwest of Bradford County, Connee Robertson and her husband run an animal rescue center on 1.6 acres overlooking Little Red River .
Robertson moved to the area in 1993 because she fell in love with this part of the Ozarks known for its pristine rivers and lakes. That was before gas companies such as Chesapeake Energy discovered the Fayetteville shale formation.
Over the past few years, those problems have included earthquakes and drilling crews pulling water out of the Little Red River. One of Robertson’s horses died for unknown reasons, and her neighbors’ wells have been polluted.
More recently, Robertson has heard about buyers unable to purchase homes in the area because they can’t secure financing.
In the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains, traditionally known for tourism and recreation, drilling is scaring off prospective second-home buyers before they even start thinking about mortgages, says Melissa Troutman of the Mountain Watershed Association. She knows of one buyer who left the market after they learned that there was drilling three and a half miles from a home they were looking at.
Many of the largest mortgage institutions have already enacted policies that bar lending to certain properties near gas drilling and gas lines.
The Federal Housing Administration’s lending guidelines prohibit financing for homes within 300 feet of a property with “an active or planned drilling site.” In an email response to a question from Grist, FHA spokesman Lemar Wooley explained the reasoning behind the guidelines:
FHA is primarily concerned with the health and safety of the occupants of the dwelling. If the property is subject to smoke, fumes, offensive noise and odors, etc. to the extent they would endanger the health of the occupants then the property is ineligible. FHA is also concerned with the risk to the insurance fund. So if the property is subject to those same items and the health of the occupants is not endangered, but the marketability of the property is compromised, the property may not be eligible for FHA insurance.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also prohibit property owners from signing a gas lease.
May said many owners are now in “technical default” under the terms of their mortgage if they signed a gas lease without first getting consent from their lender.
Another clause in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages prohibits hazardous materials on a residential property. “It comes as a surprise to a lot of people. They weren’t aware that their mortgage came with those restrictions,” May said.”
By Roger Drouin
8. Professor Wants Air Emissions Regulated
Extreme Levels of Benzene Floating Around
“Levels of carcinogenic benzene in the air 625 feet away from one natural gas drill site were so bad that a West Virginia University professor said he would recommend "respiratory protection."
Although these extreme levels of benzene lasted for only about three hours at one particular site, Michael McCawley, chairman of the Department of Occupational & Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at WVU, said the readings show that air emissions from Marcellus and Utica shale drilling need more regulation.
A West Virginia DEP study - which the state Legislature requested and which included McCawley's work - does not recommend any change to existing state law, However, McCawley said this is only a small part of the picture because the DEP study primarily dealt with whether the Legislature should extend the current 625-foot setback requirement for wells to be located away from occupied dwellings.
"Not everything happens at the center of the well pad, the way the Legislature seems to believe," McCawley said. "Distance is less important than monitoring."
In multiple legal advertisements during the past few years, natural gas producers have confirmed the "potential to discharge" various amounts of these materials into the air on an annual basis from the operations at the natural gas wells and compressor stations:
carbon dioxide equivalent
McCawley studied the air near seven wells throughout the state. Each well was in a different stage of development at the time he monitored them from July through October 2012.
He said benzene was the primary constituent that he found at the sites, though he does not believe all of this came from the well itself.
"It appears the diesel activity at the well sites could be contributing to the readings we are seeing at the sites," McCawley said.
For those who live in the rural areas near these well sites, such as Wetzel County Action Group member Bill Hughes, the time for more regulation is now.
"These things are totally unregulated, unmonitored and unaccounted for," Hughes said of the air emissions from well pads. "The diesel fumes are continuous and almost unbearable. My neighbors do not live in the country to constantly breath in diesel fumes."
In terms of the immediate hazards for those living in the vicinity of natural gas wells, McCawley said, "There is cause for concern." However, he said the Legislature does not have to change any rules to protect public health because he believes the DEP already has all the authority it needs. The DEP study determines the agency already has the "regulatory framework" to reduce air emissions from drilling. McCawley would like to see this put into action.
"The DEP could require companies to monitor their own air emissions as a way to control this," he said. "That way, they could at least know when there is a problem."
McCawley also said he is working with the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department to conduct a long-term study regarding how drilling is impacting Ohio County's air quality.
"You are not necessarily going to see benzene at well sites. But we need to know what is being emitted, how it is being emitted, and for how long it is being emitted," he said.
Hughes agrees, noting his neighbors do not want their children or grandchildren to get sick from the fumes.
"We will make no progress in minimizing the long-term regional air quality deterioration in our state until we formulate a process that requires all natural gas exploration and production companies to inventory and measure all emissions," he added.
To read the article: http://www.theintelligencer.net/page/content.detail/id/588790/Professor-Wants-Air-Emissions-Regulated.html?nav=515
9. Two Responses To Kevin Begos, AP
Regarding the Southwest PA Environmental Health Project Article by Begos
Response #1 by Larysa Dyrszka, MD; Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL; and Sandra Steingraber, PhD
“Early results from an on-the-ground, public health assessment in Washington County, Pennsylvania, indicate that environmental contamination is occurring near natural gas drilling sites and is the likely cause of associated illnesses. We are alarmed by these preliminary findings. They show that—after only six years of drilling—human exposure is occurring and people are getting sick. The presence of any sick people gives lie to industry claims that (fracking) is “safe.”
Focusing on the early low numbers from this ongoing study, however—as does a recent Associated Press story—is misleading. The 27 cases documented by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project team are not a surveyed sample of the region’s population, nor were they recruited to be part of a study. They are patients from a single rural clinic who came in seeking help. As such, these early figures could easily be the leading edge of a rising wave of human injury.
Furthermore, these 27 people represent only those suffering acute problems. Chronic illnesses can take years to manifest. Mesothelioma from asbestos, thyroid cancer from radiation, mental retardation from lead poisoning; birth defects from the rubella virus: all these now-proven connections began with a handful of case studies that, looking back, were just the tip of an iceberg. We know that many of the chemicals released during drilling and fracking operations—including benzene—are likewise slow to exert their toxic effects. Detection of illness can lag by years or decades, as did the appearance of illnesses in construction workers and first responders from exposure to pollution in the 9/11 World Trade Center response and clean-up.
The early results from the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project study implicate air contamination as the likely cause of three-quarters of the associated illnesses so documented. In some cases, starkly elevated levels of fracking-related air pollutants were found in the air inside of people’s homes. This is an unacceptable problem: breathing is mandatory and, while a drinking water source might be replaced, air cannot.
A minority of cases suffered from likely exposures to tainted water, but these low numbers are not reassuring. Many exposures related to natural gas extraction increase over time. First come airborne exposures, as seen in Washington County and around the country where drilling and fracking is taking place. In a small percentage of communities near drilling operations, water contamination also takes place immediately due to failure of the well casings. But, more often, water contamination is a delayed response. Well casings continue to fail as they age—up to 60 percent over 30 years—and, as they do, we expect health effects from waterborne contaminants to rise and spread to more communities.
Thus, each well is potentially the center of an expanding circle of illness. At first there are only a few cases, but the ultimate result may be widespread contamination.
In the AP story, the gas industry argues that lives are saved by cleaner burning natural gas. Even if there is any truth in that claim, saving U.S. lives from emissions from shamefully antiquated coal plants should not require sacrificing unconsenting children and families to contaminated air and water from fracked wells and the transportation of gas. Creating new health hazards to replace the old is unethical when clean, safe, renewable forms of energy exist.
Given that exposures and illness increase over time and given that many instances of contamination and illness related to fracking never come to light due to non-disclosure agreements with the industry, we cannot accurately quantify the extent of our problems with gas drilling. We do know they are here, and we have every reason to expect that they are not yet fully visible and they are growing.”
The Biased Mainstream Fracking Debate-Response #2
By Alan Septoff
“Yesterday’s Associated Press story (by Begos, Jan) about the health impacts of fracking-enabled oil and gas drilling in southwest Pennsylvania inadvertently reveals the bias that underlies much of the “mainstream” fracking debate.
The story covers results from the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project's study: fracking-enabled oil and gas development harms the health of residents living nearby.
One might think that a story about fracking’s threat to human health shows how robust the debate is – or even that there’s an environmental bias in fracking reporting. But one would be wrong.
There have been years of evidence of fracking’s threats to human health. Both from studies, and from the long established pattern of health impacts that follows oil and gas development wherever it goes. Yet this story implies that this research is the first of its kind.
The Associated Press claims that science reporting, especially in matters of public health, must be held to a very rigorous standard. Which, if true, would be easy to respect. But that rigor is only applied to one side of the fracking debate.
This same story which – years late – acknowledges the health risks of fracking, in the same breath suggests – without support – that the fracking's risks are offset by the benefits of replacing coal with fracked gas.
And that’s the bias. In many circles -- in the mainstream press and in government -- the bar is high for consideration of the downside of fracking. But there appears to be no similar bar to considering the (speculative) upside of fracking.
Furthermore, the story implies that the only alternative to fracked gas is coal. It makes no mention of evidence that natural gas is worse for the climate than coal. It makes no mention of the rapidly emerging, and now cost competitive, renewable energy market. Or (hah, silly me) energy conservation.
Leveling the terms of the debate so that fracking's alleged upsides are treated with at least the same degree of scientific rigor and skepticism as its downsides – at the Associated Press, in state legislatures around the country, in Congress, and in the Obama administration – is essential to protecting communities and the environment from the negative impacts of fracking-enabled oil and gas development.”
- See more at: http://www.earthworksaction.org/earthblog/detail/the_biased_mainstream_fracking_debate#.UhwmYOCKl0p
10. Marcellus Shale Waste Trips Radioactivity Alarms
“Last year, nearly 1,000 trucks hauling 15,769 tons of Marcellus Shale waste were stopped at Pennsylvania landfill gates after tripping radioactivity alarms.
The trucks were pulled to the side, wanded with hand-held detectors and some of the material was sent to laboratories for further evaluation. In the end, 622 tons were shipped to three out-of-state landfills specifically designed to dispose of hazardous and radioactive materials.
But most of the flagged waste was eventually allowed past the gates. It was safe enough to be buried along with other waste as long as it stays below the annual limit, the DEP and landfill operators deemed.
To put it into perspective, the alarms flagged only 1 percent of all landfill-bound Marcellus waste last year, according to state figures. Shale gas operators reported sending just under 1 million tons of waste to Pennsylvania landfills in 2012. The majority of that was drill cuttings -- chunks of earth pulled out of the well during the drilling process -- but there was also flow-back water, frack sand and other fluids that were turned into sludge for disposal.
It's these sludges that experts say are most likely contributing to elevated radiation counts.
The increase in radioactivity at landfills may be a product of how Marcellus waste treatment has changed over the last few years.
In 2011, radioactivity concerns centered around water. Back then, oil and gas companies were still taking their waste to municipal wastewater treatment plants and to commercial plants that were discharging into the state's waters.
In the summer of 2011, the DEP collected and analyzed sediment from the PA Brine wastewater treatment plant in Indiana County and found levels of radium 226 in the discharge pipe that was 44 times the drinking water standard. Twenty meters downstream of the discharge point, levels were still 66 percent above the standard.
In April 2011, the PA Brine plant and all such plants in the state had been told not to accept Marcellus wastewater, but the radioactive elements found in PA Brine's soil were remnants of prior discharges.
Kelvin Gregory, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who works on Marcellus water issues, said the peak of radioactivity in wastewater comes after the initial gush of flow-back water comes to the surface after fracking. Radium concentrations are highest in produced water, a term that describes the brine that continues to flow out of the well for long periods of time after that well starts producing gas.
Yukon accepts about 90,000 tons of waste annually and just last month amended its permit to be able to accept waste that trips radiation alarms.
"We didn't do this to bring in a lot of [radioactive] waste," Mr. Spadaro said. "We did this to level the playing field."
Yukon competes with two other landfills within a 5-mile radius.
"The biggest concern is exposure of a landfill worker during unloading and somebody who's handling material," Mr. Spadaro said.
The exposure level allowed at Pennsylvania landfills is a quarter of the EPA's public radiation dose limit of 100 millirem per year.
Anya Litvak: email@example.com or 412-263-1455.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/marcellusshale/marcellus-shale-waste-study-shows-radioactivity-is-naturally-occurring-700313/#ixzz2cj2FYtAQ
11. MarkWest Plant Is A Problem in Chartiers Twp
“People living near MarkWest’s gas processing plant in Chartiers Township are losing patience with the company after another flaring incident at the site Thursday.
Suzanne Bastien, who lives less than two miles from the MarkWest plant, said she saw black smoke billowing from the flaring tower which she documented with her camera. Bastien said she and her husband have seen flaring there for four or five years, but the last two instances have been particularly bad.
“My eyes were burning, my throat was burning and I was nauseated when I got in the house. You could taste a metallic taste in your mouth,” Bastien said of the smoke from Thursday. “It just kind of hung in the air, which made it even worse. I don’t necessarily want to be an activist, but this is getting to the point where we’re really worried about our health.”
It’s at least the third flaring incident at the plant in the past six weeks, prompting the state DEP to investigate the problem and mandate the company submit a plan to rectify the issue. Company officials said the first flaring incident July 14 and 15 was from the installation of a new de-ethanizer that apparently was not operating correctly and causing the smoke.
MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale said Thursday’s incident was caused by a “system disruption and loss of power” at the plant that triggered safety systems to direct natural gas liquid to be burned off in the flare.
State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, questioned why the DEP has not yet mandated air-quality monitors at the plant so that residents could be alerted if there is a problem. He also questioned MarkWest representatives, who said after the last flaring that the events were planned and automated safety systems worked as expected.”
12. Sinkhole Disaster
(I saw this story covered on the news twice. In neither story was it reported that Occidental Petroleum was being sued for injection mining. Jan)
“Bayou Corne is the biggest ongoing disaster in the United States you haven't heard of.
One night in August 2012, after months of unexplained seismic activity and mysterious bubbling on the bayou, a sinkhole opened up on a plot of land leased by the petrochemical company Texas Brine, forcing an immediate evacuation of Bayou Corne's 350 residents—an exodus that still has no end in sight. Last week, Louisiana filed a lawsuit against the company and the principal landowner, Occidental Chemical Corporation, for damages stemming from the cavern collapse.
Texas Brine's operation sits atop a three-mile-wide, mile-plus-deep salt deposit known as the Napoleonville Dome, which is sheathed by a layer of oil and natural gas, a common feature of the salt domes prevalent in Gulf Coast states. The company specializes in a process known as injection mining, and it had sunk a series of wells deep into the salt dome, flushing them out with high-pressure streams of freshwater and pumping the resulting saltwater to the surface. From there, the brine is piped and trucked to refineries along the Mississippi River and broken down into sodium hydroxide and chlorine for use in manufacturing everything from paper to medical supplies.
What happened in Bayou Corne, as near as anyone can tell, is that one of the salt caverns Texas Brine hollowed out—a mine dubbed Oxy3—collapsed. The sinkhole initially spanned about an acre. Today it covers more than 24 acres and is an estimated 750 feet deep. It subsists on a diet of swamp life and cypress trees, which it occasionally swallows whole. It celebrated its first birthday recently, and like most one-year-olds, it is both growing and prone to uncontrollable burps, in which a noxious brew of crude oil and rotten debris bubbles to the surface. But the biggest danger is invisible; the collapse unlocked tens of millions of cubic feet of explosive gases, which have seeped into the aquifer and wafted up to the community. The town blames the regulators. The regulators blame Texas Brine. Texas Brine blames some other company, or maybe the regulators, or maybe just God.”
13. Reflections by an Environmental Expert on the Dunkard Creek Fish Kill…(from Bob)
“I also find it interesting that the determination of the saltwater algae that magically appeared in Dunkard Creek isn't linked definitively to equipment brought in from TX that was dumping directly into the creek and introduced the algae...hence the bloom and the fine. They levied the fine...but, don't say why. They didn't connect the dots in this report, but the elephant you referred to is in the room and boy, is it BIG.
I also took note that the biologist noted that the presence of the algae DOESN'T CAUSE A FISHKILL in water with pH over 7. This is extremely important because this is what I said for years: the fish kill was caused by the extremely low pH which was caused by the illegal dumping of frackwater. When I tested that water, it was 4.9...this is in the presence of the algae! Now, the algae would be RAISING pH as it advanced...so how low was it?! That acid water is what actually killed the fish! This report CONFIRMS it. The frackwater caused the kill, period.”
14. Airport Drilling- Profit Only Over Time
“Dallas/Fort Worth was the first international airport to sign a shale development lease. that has brought in about $300 million since 2006. But drilling there has been on hold for several years because of low natural gas prices.
"This thing comes and goes, "said David Magana, the public relations face of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
"If you know that going in and you don't create a lot of need from the gas revenue, then this thing goes very well."
Pittsburgh International is projecting that its deal with Consol, signed in February, will yield about $500 million over the life of the lease, which will be in effect as long as the gas keeps flowing profitably.”
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/airport-shale-drilling-takes-patience-700649/#ixzz2d8Vc6apl
15. Research: South Texas Earthquakes Likely Triggered By Shale Boom
Earthquakes in the Eagle Ford Shale region — including a 2011 quake felt in San Antonio — are likely being triggered by increased oil extraction, according to a new research paper from the University of Texas at Austin. A two-year survey of seismic activity links small quakes in South Texas largely to the upswing in the production of oil and brackish water that flows up alongside hydrocarbons.
Previous studies have linked earthquakes to the disposal of fracking fluids in deep wells in other regions, including in other parts of Texas and in Ohio. The UT study will be published online this week in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
16. Fracking, Fractures and Human-Induced Earthquakes
By Brian Allen
“A new Concord University geological initiative could help scientists recognize the potential for man-made earthquakes caused by natural gas drilling.
According to the West Virginia Geological survey there have been about 20 measurable earthquakes in the state in the past five years, more than half of those were in Braxton County where Chesapeake Energy was disposing fluid via deep well injection.
Chesapeake voluntarily lowered the pressure of its injections in Braxton County at the request of the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection in 2010, although they denied the wells had anything to do with the earthquakes.”
17. Fracking and Farming in WV
By S. Tom Bond, Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV
“There are many financial losses never accounted for in the development of gas from the Marcellus shale. The drilling platform area and deeply rocked roads are essentially taken out of production forever, removed from any kind of production. Pipelines and unimproved areas are out of use for the time of use for production and the 70 to 90 years beyond required for the re-growth of timber (if ever).
Building sites are lost, the effects of on-site disposal of wastes, which seep into the ground or are buried there, are a loss. The numerous compressor station locations can never be reclaimed completely, and depress values in their neighborhood. Lifestyle issues such as light, noise, smell, view and trespassing beyond the well pad and roads are completely forgotten in the industry accounting.
All these are ignored, externalized costs. Costs shoved off into the residents of the area where drilling is done. How would you establish a monetary value on these?
Price is the amount a willing buyer would pay a willing seller. Price determination could be made by looking at the price of a property before drilling and sale to an informed buyer afterwards. Obviously, several cases of such transfers could not be easily found. Once there is drilling in the neighborhood, property sales are not easy.”
18. Gas Used For Both Heat and Electricity Causes Problems
“When gas is used for electricity and also for heat, there needs to be enough space in the pipeline to serve both masters.
In the days following the Boston blizzard in February, a megawatt hour of electricity in the PJM grid/power pool went for about $35. In New England, it exceeded $250. Natural gas in that region was triple the price being charged in other parts of the country.
Oil and gas producers, as well as pipeline companies, project that power generation will be the largest and fastest growing use for all the new shale gas coming out of the ground, and they welcome it with open arms.
Yet few natural gas generators hold "firm capacity" contracts, which means the gas supply they're buying can be interrupted if another customer with priority needs it or if supply is somehow constrained. Firm capacity contracts guarantee that the volume a generator is buying will be delivered at the time needed. Consequently, they're more expensive than interruptible supply.
Coal plants can reach into their coal piles when called upon or they can let the unburned fuel sit for another, more lucrative day. Gas must be burned when it arrives as on-site storage isn't an option.
Because gas is a real-time fuel -- meaning it needs to reach the power plant just in time to be burned -- scheduling gas delivery is a much more complicated process than, say, arranging coal or even nuclear fuel supply.”
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/natural-gas-now-serves-two-masters-electricity-and-heat-699747/#ixzz2d6KWJ7Zf