Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates September 19, 2013
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Thank you to contributors to our Updates: Debbie Borowiec, Ron Gulla, Marian Szmyd, Bob Donnan, Gloria Forouzan, Elizabeth Donahue
WMCG Activity and Thank Yous
*Jennie Gorley, Jan Milburn, and Annie MacDougall met with artist Anne Neely to discuss water and fracking. Anne is painting incredible murals to be displayed at the Boston Museum of Science and some of our words, in addition to voices of many others, will be recorded on a sound track which will be played at the exhibit.
* Thanks to Cynthia Walter and Mike Atherton, Jan and Jack Milburn, and Roger Foley for tabling at the Mother Earth Festival this weekend at Seven Springs. Thank you to the Mt Watershed for providing our group the opportunity to be present at the festival by covering the costs of tabling, and to Mt Watershed’s community organizer, Kathryn for assisting our group.
* Thank you to Clean Air Council for setting up the Webinar with Allison Insley regarding health effects of the Tenaska Station.
* Thank you to Dr Walter for gathering data for reporters investigating fracking .
* Thank you to Lou Pouchet for serving as our new Thomas Merton liaison.
*Thank you to Harriet Ellenberger for her generous contribution of printed material on fracking to be distributed at labor events.
***Stop NPR from Accepting Natural Gas Industry $
(From Move on)
NPR receives underwriting funds from the American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA). In exchange, NPR airs misleading ads promoting further development of natural gas, which must now be mined by the environmentally damaging extreme extraction process, “fracking”. This path would commit the US to decades more of increasing dependence on fossil fuels. NPR refuses to disclose its policy on how it selects sponsors from which to accept funding. (For a detailed account of my two-year unsuccessful attempt to get through NPR’s corporate wall of secrecy surrounding its underwriting practices go to http://wp.me/pJm45-33d.)
NPR (National Public Radio) should stop accepting funds and airing underwriting announcements from the American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA). NPR must be transparent and accountable with its sponsorship practices.
*** Stop Gag Orders On Children Soon after fracking operations started near the Hallowich family farm in Mount Pleasant the family started experiencing health problems like nosebleeds, sore throats, and unexplained headaches. They were forced to abandon their home and to sue the gas companies, eventually reaching a settlement that includes a standard gag order.
But in an unprecedented move, the gas companies insisted the gag order extend to the Hallowiches’ children, age 7 and 10 years old at the time, legally barring them from talking about what happened to them -- and fracking -- forever.
Stop silencing children. Take immediate legal action to remove the Hallowich children from the gag order placed on their family, and ensure your company does not include children in any future gag orders related to fracking.
The Hallowich children suffered unexplained illnesses and were forced to move from their childhood home. They will be processing these traumatic experiences for the rest of their lives. Children should not be forced by fossil fuel corporations to remain silent about issues that affect their health and well-being.
Will you join me and add your name to my petition telling Range Resources, Mark West Energy Partners, and Williams Gas to legally remove the children from the gag order — and commit to never go after kids again?
Thank you for your support. Corinne Ball
*** Take Action on PA Endangered Species (Sierra Club)
Just when you thought the special interests couldn't find another way to eliminate environmental protection in Pennsylvania, "there they go again......" This time they are going after the protectors of Pennsylvania's threatened and endangered species, such as the osprey, the great egret, the bog turtle and the banded sunfish.
The mining, gas drilling, and timber industries want to undermine the independence of the PA Fish and Boat Commission and the PA Game Commission to administer Pennsylvania's endangered species laws.
House Bill 1576 would send the Commissions' endangered species lists to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission -- an agency dominated by the legislature -- for additional scrutiny.
These changes proposed in the bill blunt the effect of the Commissions' list of threatened and endangered species of fish and wildlife, allowing more mining, drilling and clear-cutting in Pennsylvania's lands. The Commissions would have to go through a very cumbersome regulatory review process. To make matters even worse, under the current versions of the bills the agencies would only be allowed to protect fish and wildlife already listed by the federal government.
At the same time, permit applications for mining, oil and gas drilling, and timbering would be approved, without any on-the-ground check for their impacts on the PA endangered species.
This week, Sierra Club's Conservation Chair Tom Au testified before a Joint House Committees hearing urging opposition to HB 1576. He pointed out that the agencies' scientists are better judges of the threats to wildlife and aquatic life. He explained that the agencies make decisions proposals for protecting rare, threatened, or endangered species in an open, transparent manner. The agencies publish the scientific data collected, have it reviewed by other scientists, publish proposed lists and protection plans, accept public comment, and hold public hearings. It is hard to find fault with this deliberative process.
TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO OPPOSE HB 1576.
Don't let the mining, drilling, and timber industries drive our precious wildlife, fish and plants into extinction in Pennsylvania!
Thanks, Jeff Schmidt, Director, Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter
***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.
1. Parker County, TX – The EPA began an investigation after a homeowner reported that his drinking water was bubbling like champagne. But after fracking company Range Resources threatened not to participate in another study in March 2012, the EPA set aside the "smoking gun" report connecting methane migration to fracking. EPA halted 'fracking' case after gas company protested. USA Today, January 16, 2013.
2. Dimock, PA – The mid-Atlantic EPA began testing water in Dimock, PA after residents complained that their drinking water was contaminated from nearby fracking operations. But the federal EPA closed the investigation in July 2012 even after the staff members who had been testing the water warned of methane, manganese and arsenic contamination. ( Internal EPA report highlights disputes over fracking and well water. LA Times, July 27, 2013.)
3. Pavilion, WY – The EPA released a draft report in 2011 linking fracking to contamination of an underground aquifer. After drawing criticism from the oil and gas industry, the EPA handed the investigation over to the state of Wyoming in June 2013 to be completed with funding from EnCana, the drilling company charged with contaminating the water wells in the first place. (EPA Drops Fracking Probe in Wyoming. Wall Street Journal, June 20, 2013.)
The EPA abandoned citizens when they needed them most. This is no coincidence.
Tell President Obama and the 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.
We're up against a powerful industry, but Americans know how dangerous fracking is — and they're fighting back. Last month, along with our partners we delivered over 600,000 petitions to President Obama to ban fracking on federal lands. In the last two weeks, Los Angeles city council members introduced a fracking moratorium and Highland Park, New Jersey became the first town in the state to ban fracking. We're building a broad, powerful movement to fight back...and win.
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”
***Sick of Dirty Fossil Fuels? Consider Ethical Electric
From Sierra Club
“Would you rather power your home with dirty fossil fuels or clean wind power?
Now you have a choice: Ethical Electric.
The Sierra Club has partnered with Ethical Electric because they use only 100% renewable energy and they stand with the Sierra Club fighting for clean air, clean water, and protecting the environment.
Ethical Electric recently started taking customers in Pennsylvania, and we’re encouraging people like you to make the switch to clean energy now!
Ethical Electric buys wind power from local sources and provides it to your utility who then delivers it to you. You’ll take thousands or even tens of thousands of pounds of climate-changing pollutants out of the atmosphere every year that you power your home with Ethical Electric.
And, since Ethical Electric obtains power from local wind farms, you’re helping America shift to clean alternatives every time you pay your electric bill.
Switching to Ethical Electric is fast and easy. There’s no home visit. You get the same bill, same service on the same power lines. The only thing that changes for you is that your utility will be required to use local, clean electricity from our new Sierra Club partner, Ethical Electric.
Enrolling with Ethical Electric takes only a few minutes online through Ethical Electric’s website. Or call 1-888-700-6547 to get started.
Make your choice for clean energy and switch to Ethical Electric today.
Sincerely, Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director
P.S. The more of us that switch to Ethical Electric, the more demand there will be for clean, local power. Choosing an Ethical Electric plan is fast and easy. Make the switch today!
***Volunteers Needed For Mother Earth Fair at Seven Springs
This weekend--Sept 20 -22, Friday through Sunday. Can you donate an hour or two to table with us? Saturday is covered. We could use help Friday or Sunday. Kathryn has badges for workers to enter the fair. Let me know if there is a time you can volunteer. Help is greatly appreciated. jan
Mother Earth News Fair
Dates: Sept. 20-22, 2013
Time: All day (9:00 AM to 7:00 PM)
Location: Seven Springs Resort, Champion, PA
*** WMCG Steering Committee Meeting Second Tuesday each month. All are invited. 7:30 PM at Mike and Cindy’s, Greensburg. Email jan for directions.
*** Protect Our Parks - South Park Fairgrounds September 21
Outreach/education during Community Day
*** Webinar with Allison Insley --Tenaska Station in Ruffsdale PA Sept 25, 7:00 pm
*** Pittsburgh Environment and Health Conference-Oct 25
Everyday, we read or hear about how we need to protect our environment. What does that really mean? What does this have to do with YOU? What does it mean to be green?
At the Pittsburgh Environment & Health Conference we will answer these questions as we talk about the links between the environment and your health. They don't just affect you; they affect your entire community.
The conference includes lunch, and you will leave with information that can help you live a greener, healthier life. With small changes, you can help your kids and their kids live healthier.
Featuring Keynote Speakers:
Nancy Alderman - Environment and Human Health, Inc.
Cecil Corbin-Mark - WE ACT for Environmental Justice
Lois Gibbs - Center for Health, Environment and Justice
Edward Humes - Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist & Author
Richard Louv - Children and Nature Network
David Orr - Environmental Studies Program, Oberlin College
Ted Schettler, MD - Science and Environmental Health Network
During afternoon workshops you will hear from and interact with local experts who will address a series of environmental and health-related topics and describe the work that is taking place right in our communities.
Space is limited! Click here to register today! http://pittsburghenvironmenthealth.org/
Where & When
David Lawrence Convention Center
1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
October 25, 2013
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
*** Facing the Challenges-- Duquesne University-- Nov 25, 26 Researchers present on : Air and water, Animal and Human Health, Geological, Biological investigations.
For a full calendar of area events please see “Marcellus Protest” calendar:
*** Shale Truth Series -- Dr. Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University says the gas industry has changed communities, and that many people who once lived in rural or suburban areas now find themselves living in industrial zones.
In the previous two segments with Dr. Ingraffea we heard him discuss shale gas drilling and the unique dangers it poses to communities and their drinking water. How the gas and oil industry will leave Pennsylvania a polluted landscape after it finishes tapping the Marcellus formation.
A new Shale Truth segment can be seen on The Delaware Riverkeeper Network's YouTube channel every Wednesday at http://bit.ly/ShaleTruth
***Pa has only seen tip of Fracking Iceberg-Dr Ingraffea
***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. 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.
***Preview - Glass Half Empty: An American Water War
All articles are excerpted. Please use the links to view the full article.
1. Pa. Senator Jim Ferlo Introduces SB1100
(Commentary by Bob Donnan)
“You would think the courtyard would have been jam-packed with more cameras and reporters. After all, Senator Ferlo was calling for a 3-year moratorium on further permitting of gas drilling in Pennsylvania. That’s major, and Senator Ferlo didn’t pull any punches in his speech.
Speakers at the event included Adam Garber of Penn Environment, and Terry Greenwood who told of his “famer’s luck” and loss of cattle due to drilling on his farm. “ Bob
Ferlo presents fracking moratorium bill
September 19, 2013 – “There are more than 14,000 permits issued for unconventional wells in various stages of operation,” Ferlo said at a press conference Wednesday in Pittsburgh. “I’ve introduced this bill because Pennsylvanians and gas field residents all over the country have been forced to stand by and watch these infractions. We must take a step back to deliberately and thoughtfully determine the impact and indirect costs and benefits of an industry that lacks proper regulatory oversight.”
The new bill, Senate Bill 1100 — or the Natural Gas Drilling Moratorium Act --would grant a moratorium on the granting of permits for unconventional wells. Ferlo was joined in support of the bill by various environmental groups, including PennEnvironment and the Food and Water Watch.
2. Fracking Wastewater Spill Puts Entire Species at Risk
By Amy Mall, Natural Resources Defense Council
“Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently published a peer-reviewed journal article that discusses the results of the investigation into a 2007 fracking wastewater spill in Kentucky.
Fracking wastewater that was being stored in open air pits (a practice that can lead to toxic spills) overflowed into Kentucky’s Acorn Fork Creek and left an orange-red substance, contaminating the creek with hydrochloric acid, dissolved minerals and metals, and other contaminants. Prior to this pollution, the creek was so clean that it was designated an Outstanding State Resource Water. The Creek provides excellent habitat for the Blackside dace, a small colorful minnow protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because it is a threatened species.
State and federal scientists found that the toxic fracking waste “killed virtually all aquatic wildlife in a significant portion of the fork.” The dead and distressed fish had developed gill lesions and suffered liver and spleen damage.
Blackside dace experienced significant die off after fracking wastewater spilled into the Acorn Fork Creek.
“Our study is a precautionary tale of how entire populations could be put at risk even with small-scale fluid spills,” stated the lead USGS scientist in the investigation.
One of the things that bothers me the most about this case is that the scientists had been alerted to the fish kill “by a local resident.” All spills are supposed to be reported—by the oil and gas company—to the National Response Center.
This one case illustrates:
*The unacceptable risk of open air toxic waste pits in the oil and gas industry
*Why we need safe setbacks so that oil and gas operations are prohibited from being this close to important water sources
*The toxicity of fracking fluid and wastewater
*The lack of oil and gas industry accountability when it comes to preventing and reporting dangerous spills of toxic waste”
3. FLIR video of MarkWest Houston Pa. Gas Liquids Plant (Provided by bob donnan)
“Thanks to Frank Finan and Calvin Tillman of ShaleTest, we have the latest FLIR video recorded with Frank’s $90,000 camera… this is the model which actually shows VOC’s being emitted… NOT to be confused with infrared or cheaper model FLIR cameras. While the naked eye sees nothing, Frank’s camera picks-up the real deal. More videos of local well site and pipeline emissions will be posted in the coming months.”
Naked eye view
4. 5 Reasons Solar is Beating Fossil Jacob Sandry
“The solar industry is growing drastically every year, while fossil fuels continue to be phased out. This is why it’s frustrating to hear people say that renewable energy is not ready to compete with fossil fuels as a means to power our country. Here are five reasons why solar is already winning.
There are more people in the U.S. employed in the solar energy marketplace than mining coal. The banal argument that transitioning to a clean energy economy will cost us jobs is simply false. Solar is growing more than 10 times faster than the American economy.
Solar already employs more than coal, and that gap is widening. In 2012, solar added 14,000 new jobs, up 36 percent from 2010 and the industry will add another 20,000 jobs this year. The fossil fuels industry cut 4,000 jobs last year. So when it comes to employing Americans, solar is winning.
Solar panels have a seen a consistent drop in prices over the last three decades, and in the last few years that drop has been meteoric. In the last 35 years prices have gone from $75/watt to around $.75/watt. Since 2008, the cost of coal has risen 13 percent. In some parts of the market, solar has already reached parity with coal.
I’m sure you’ve heard the argument that solar is economically effective only by relying on government subsidies. Currently this may be true, but if solar prices reach Citigroup’s prediction of $.25/watt by 2020, subsidies may not be needed. And then there’s the glaring fact that oil, gas and coal receive subsidies that dwarf those of renewables ($409 billion vs. $60 billion globally).
And that’s ignoring the extra costs that burning fossil fuels impose on the rest of society, that aren’t paid by fossil fuel companies (called externalities by economists). The Harvard Medical School estimates that burning coal in the U.S. costs $500 billion in environmental and health damage (and then there’s, you know, the whole climate change thing). If those costs were taxed onto coal plants, the price of coal would more than double.
With the cost of solar dropping rapidly, installations are escalating at an exciting rate.
Earlier this year, the U.S. became the fourth country to have 10 gigawatts of solar energy capacity, with installations increasing at a rate of 50 percent annually for the last five years, that rate is expected to increase to 80 percent this year.
Two-thirds of global solar capacity has been installed over the last two years. In contrast, 175 coal-fired power plants in the U.S. are expected to be shut down over the next five years (more than 10 percent of total capacity). This reflects the rising costs of coal and the implementation of stricter environmental regulations.
While fossil fuels have been an omnipresent part of investment portfolios for decades, their reign may be coming to an end. Recently a number of reports have shed light on an impending carbon bubble. Fossil fuel companies are valued in the market based on their reserves of unburned fuel still in the ground. If international regulations are put in place to prevent atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from rising above 450 ppm (the estimated cap to avoid irreversible climate change), much of the listed reserves couldn’t be used.
This means that many fossil fuel companies are overvalued as they potentially have huge unburnable reserves of fuel. British bank HSBC estimates that once stricter climate regulations are put in place, the value of fossil fuel companies may fall drastically. Already, coal companies have dropped in value 75 percent over the last five years.
Firms like Mercer and WHEB are advising investors to move their investments out of coal and oil and into renewables. Major investors are already making this move. Warren Buffett has invested in one of the largest solar farms in the world and has predicted the end of coal as an American power source.
5. Environmental Impact
Environmental impact should be pretty clear, but here are some interesting impacts of coal extraction and burning that you may not be aware of:
* acid mine drainage and coal sludge pollutes rivers and streams
* air pollution causes acid rain, smog, respiratory illnesses, cancers and toxins in the environment
* coal dust from mining causes respiratory illness
*coal fires in abandoned mines put tons of mercury into the atmosphere every year and account for three percent of global carbon dioxide emissions
*coal combustion waste is the second largest contributor to landfills after solid waste
*mountaintop removal coal mining causes flooding, destruction of entire ecosystems and communities, and the release of greenhouse gases
* emissions of 381,740,601 lbs of toxic carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur dioxide, mercury, radioactive materials and particulate matter annually
* enormous contributor to global climate change”
Jacob Sandry is a fellow at Mosaic, a company connecting investors to high quality solar project.
5. DOE Approves Proposal To Export Marcellus LNG From Cove Point, Maryland
“The Department of Energy approved a proposal to convert Dominion Resource’s Cove Point, Maryland import terminal into an export facility for liquefied natural gas.
The terminal is already connected to an interstate pipeline system that draws from wells in Pennsylvania that is also owned and operated by Dominion.
Japanese trading company Sumitomo Corporation has agreed to pay $4 million to convert the Cove Point facility to cool natural gas to its liquid form so it can be exported. Sumitomo plans to sell the gas to utilities in Japan. The DOE is required to approve any deals with non-free-trade countries and make sure they’re in the public’s best interest.
The high production of natural gas in Pennsylvania has produced a glut which has caused prices to drop and drilling to slow down in some of the state’s gas fields. Hall said exporting Marcellus LNGs could stabilize the market.
But not everyone is rejoicing today’s announcement.
Environmentalists have criticized Dominion’s proposal because it would mean continued drilling in Pennsylvania.
The manufacturing industry has also been lobbying with fervor against LNG exports. Companies like Dow Chemical that use cheap natural gas to make plastics claim the bargain-basement prices are what’s putting manufacturing back in business and keeping costs low for their customers.
America’s Energy Advantage, a lobbying firm started by Dow CEO Andrew Liveris, released a statement criticizing the DOE’s decision.
“We’re increasingly concerned with the process and data DOE is using to justify more exports of American natural gas to our global competitors,” AEA’s Director of Public Affairs Jennifer Diggins wrote. “DOE is making decisions that could have far-reaching and potentially irreversible impacts on our economy and American manufacturing based on 30-year-old guidelines for natural gas imports, not exports.”
The Cove Point facility still needs to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before it can come online.”
6. Gov. O'Malley Urged to Fight Gas Export Terminal On MD Bay
Millions of Tons of CO2 Will Add to Global Warming
“A broad coalition of environmental and other groups urged Gov. Martin O’Malley to oppose development of a natural gas export terminal on the Chesapeake Bay, calling it an unacceptable environmental and safety threat.
Members of the coalition, which includes more than 120 local, statewide and national groups outlined their concerns over the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility at Cove Point. They contended it would pollute the air and bay, undermine state efforts to combat climate change and expose nearby residents to the risks of a catastrophic explosion, either by accident or from a terrorist attack.
If approved, the $3.8 billion gas liquefaction complex proposed by Dominion, would be the first on the East Coast to export LNG anywhere in the world. Three others have received at least preliminary federal approval on the Gulf Coast.
Based on estimates provided by Dominion, he said, the export complex - which would include a gas liquefaction plant and a 130-megawatt gas-burning power plant - would release 3.3 million tons/pounds of carbon dioxide annually. That would make it the fourth largest single source of climate-altering carbon in the state, Tidwell said, more than most of the coal-burning power plants in Maryland.
Tidwell also predicted that opening an export terminal on the bay would accelerate natural gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania, Ohio and possibly even western Maryland.
Others at the demonstration Tuesday voiced concerns over pollution from up to 90 LNG tankers expected to visit the terminal a year, as well as over disruption from construction of the terminal and related infrastructure elsewhere. Some said they worried about risks of an accidental explosion or terrorist attack, noting that the terminal is close to a residential community and three miles from the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant.
The O'Malley administration has yet to take a position on the project. Abigail Hopper, the governor's energy adviser, said he was "reviewing the issue very carefully.
"As you know," she added in an email, "reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Maryland is an important priority for the governor, and he remains committed to ensuring that happens."
7. Marcellus Shale Landman Pleads Guilty in Mineral Rights Scheme
“A Marcellus Shale landman indicted earlier this month on charges he and another worker fraudulently obtained and sold mineral rights in Washington County pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court. William J. Ray, 29, of Monroeville, pleaded guilty to mail fraud in the scheme in which he acquired mineral rights from several property owners without their knowledge and sold them off to drillers.
Federal investigators said Ray stole $543,146 in the scheme and U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton previously stated he is seeking forfeiture of that money. Ray could also face 33 to 41 months in federal prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab.
Range Resources officials previously said company officials noticed some “oddities” with the leases and worked with the intermediary mineral buyers to conduct an audit of the situation before turning their information over to authorities to handle the investigation.”
8. Endangered Species Act Attacked at Federal Level
Impacts From Oil and Gas will Be Dismissed
“The Obama administration has proposed a new rule that would scale back the requirement that federal agencies fully track the harms inflicted on endangered species when large-scale plans are developed and carried out on federal public lands. As a result, the cumulative impacts on rare species from actions like oil and gas drilling will be discounted in the decision-making process—putting hundreds of plants and animals at greater risk of extinction. The change is being proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, which have repeatedly failed to track how the projects they approve are affecting rare and vanishing species.
“America’s endangered species are already dying deaths by a thousand cuts, because too often no one’s keeping an eye on the big picture,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This proposal will make that problem even worse.”
Under the Endangered Species Act, wildlife agencies must develop an “incidental take statement” that sets an upper limit on the amount of permitted harm that a federal agency may inflict on an endangered species. This statement is the key provision ensuring that agency-approved actions don’t jeopardize protected species.
The new proposed rule says that for so-called “programmatic” actions—such as land-management plans for public lands, oil and gas leasing and general permits for development issued under the Clean Water Act—the incidental take statements will not be required to contain numeric limits on the amount of harm permitted. While there are rare cases where it is almost impossible to determine the number of individuals harmed by an action, this proposed policy will open up a huge loophole by failing to ensure that upper limits are set on harm to endangered species whenever possible.
“Our wildlife agencies should be working on stronger and more sophisticated mechanisms to understand and track harms that occur at these sweeping, landscape scales,” Hartl said. “Instead they’re just walking away from the challenge—and endangered species will suffer.”
9. Industry Funded Fracking Study Fatally Flawed
“Today, the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources released a study funded by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the natural gas industry that stated two things: that the sample size it looked at is “not sufficient” to fully understand the methane pollution from fracking, and that the rates of methane pollution from this sample size are nonetheless 10 to 20 times lower than those calculated from more complete measurements in other peer reviewed studies. This discrepancy f.
At best this study will be considered an interesting outlier that calls for further research. At worst, it will be used as PR by the natural gas industry to promote their pollution. In fact, methane is 105 times more powerful than carbon pollution as a global warming pollutant, so figuring out its real climate impacts has very real consequences for us going forward.
Methane pollution from fracking is a serious and growing threat to global climate stability, which is why we welcome peer-reviewed studies that examine the climate impact of fracking. Unfortunately, these results seem so far from the results of other studies that the scientific watchdog group Physicians, Scientists, and Engineers for Healthy Energy has called this study “fatally flawed.”
Here’s the science: A recent study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that wells in the Uintah basin of Utah leaked 60 tons of methane per hour, and studies from Cornell University have found dangerously large methane pollution rates from fracking, showing that gas is not a viable “bridge fuel,” and in fact could be worse for the climate than emissions from coal fired power plants.
In this EDF and industry funded study, only 190 well sites were measured out of the over 25,000 wells drilled in the last year alone. As the paper acknowledges, this sample size is “not sufficient” for measuring methane pollution from fracking at a national scale.
So what does this study tell us? Mainly, that we need more peer-reviewed studies that look more seriously into methane pollution from fracking nationwide, not just studies from the industry’s best-bet wells.
There’s been even more controversy on the people behind this study. Among others, Steve Horn at De-Smog Blog has long been skeptical of EDF’s position in the industry studies, and he has a studious critique of this study’s funding.
The fossil fuel industry desperately wants to get us hooked to its latest product before we have time to adequately study it. They know that renewable energy technology is here now and ready to be implemented, but they’re hoping consumers won’t notice, or have the courage to make the switch to the real Energy Revolution that can carry us fully into the future.”
10. Fracking and Colorado Flood
“The photos, a mere snapshot of the true extent of the damage, call into doubt, once again, the happy talk of our political class, and the oil and gas industry:
Displaced condensate tanks near Greeley and Kersey, CO, from flooding. These tanks are used to store waste liquid from drilling operations. Oil and other hydrocarbons not captured in earlier separation processes rise to the top of these tanks and are recovered as marketable. The toxicity of the liquids stored in these tanks is largely unknown because they have been exempted from federal environmental laws. In Colorado, these liquids are collected and reinjected into deep wells that are theoretically below usable groundwater. The industry claims this liquid, of unknown toxicity, will never migrate upwards into shallower groundwater. This is a highly contested assertion since many academic geologists and engineers think contamination of groundwater is inevitable over the long term. These tanks vary in size. When full, they contain between 12,000 and 20,000 gallons of liquid. The state of Colorado does not require these tanks be secured to the ground, though the industry says some operators do use chains for tethering.
Flooded oil and gas wells, and pipeline, near Greeley, Kersey and Erie, CO, and along the Platte River. Preliminary press reports indicate that perhaps as many as 13,000 of the more than 20,000 wells in Weld County may have some degree of flood damage. This county has more wells than any other county in the country. The flooding and devastation have spread east along the Platte River drainage, out to the Nebraska line to be eventually recaptured in Lake Mcconaughy, the largest man-made impoundment in the state. The cresting on the Platte is estimated to be 17 to 20 feet above normal. Though wells are not as numerous on the eastern plains as in Weld County, oil development is plentiful. Many of the wells in this part of the state are believed to store drilling waste liquids in open pits rather in tanks as required in Weld County. Ozone created by leaking methane makes enclosed storage mandatory in Weld County. Not so, out east. Open pits may be widely flooded and disgorging their toxics into waterways.
Colorado regulations contain no setback requirements from water courses or impoundments, though a gentlemanly 50 foot setback has sometimes been suggested. Neither was flooding of well sites, whether in a flood plain or not, given even a glimmer of consideration in the COGCC’s 2009 statement of purpose and new rulemaking. This sort of blindness to reality is hard to understand since local flooding is common in Colorado, albeit not on the past week’s pervasive scale. The mantra of drill baby drill probably helped create this blind spot.”
Colorado Flooding Sparks 18,000-Gallon Oil Leak
10 oil and gas releases being monitored in the state, officials say
"Over 18,000 gallons of oil have leaked into Colorado's South Platte and St. Vrain Rivers as historic flooding continues to wreak havoc upon the state. One 5,250-gallon spill happened near Milliken, while a second, 13,500-gallon release happened near Platteville. The leaking tanks are owned by Anadarko, which stated on Thursday that "there were no impacts to the environment due to our drilling or hydraulic fracturing activities." In addition to the oil leaks, Noble Energy reported "natural gas releases" from three of its wells, with one of those releases still not contained. http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_24132296/oil-spill-along-st-vrain-river-near-platteville
From Nation of Change:
“Colorado flooding has not only overwhelmed roads and homes, but also the oil and gas infrastructure stationed in one of the most densely drilled areas in the U.S. Although oil companies have shut down much of their operations in Weld County due to flooding, nearby locals say an unknown amount of chemicals has leaked out and possibly contaminated waters, mixing fracking fluids and oil along with sewage, gasoline, and agriculture pesticides.
“You have 100, if not thousands, of wells underwater right now and we have no idea what those wells are leaking,” East Boulder County United spokesman Cliff Willmeng said Monday. “It’s very clear they are leaking into the floodwaters though.”
The problem for equipment even designed to withstand flooding is that water and debris have slammed the above-ground fracking infrastructure, or condensate tanks that hold the chemical-laden wastewater used in the drilling process. “Because the condensate tanks are either halfway empty or halfway full, they’re the pieces of infrastructure that are being torn off their anchors,” Willmeng said. “So you’re seeing these things that are strewn about the flood areas and some are filled up, some are knocked over, and some are completely washed away.”
In addition to the tanks, there are about 3,200 permits for open-air pits in Weld County, although most may not be operating. When “produced water” is held in open pits, as opposed to tanks, they can overflow and cause toxins like lead to contaminate new areas.
“Any flood that breeches a wastewater pit will flush the waste and contaminated sediments into streams and rivers,” Duke University Professor of Environmental Sciences told Fast Company. “Another concern is pipeline ruptures for oil and gas lines.”
11. Breaking: 5,250 Gallons of Oil Spill into Colorado’s South Platte River EcoWatch
“A damaged oil tank dumped 5,250 gallons of oil into the South Platte River south of Milliken, CO, yesterday.
Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action said in a statement Wednesday night that the spill “exemplifies the danger” of drilling and fracking in floodplains.
“This state of Colorado and the U.S. EPA must force Anadarko [the owner of the oil tank], to clean it up—no matter the cost—and make reparations to the public, including paying fines and enforcing the Clean Water Act which may include civil and criminal penalties,” said Wockner.
“In addition, the state must initiate new rules for drilling and fracking near rivers, streams and in floodplains that better protect the public and the environment.
Displaced condensate tanks near Greely and Kersey, CO, used to store waste liquid from drilling operations, have tipped over and are damaged from the severe flooding that has hit the region. Phillip Doe explained in his article that Colorado regulations do not require these tanks be secured to the ground. These tanks vary in size, but when full they contain between 12,000 and 20,000 gallons of liquid.”
Chronicle of Higher Education
12. Journal Editorials Are New Battleground in Chemical Regulatory fight
(This battle over endocrine disruptors is relevant to the issue of the lack of regulation of fracking chemicals. Close to 40% of frack chemicals have been found to be endocrine disruptors. (TEDX org.) jan)
By Paul Basken
“In an uncommon high-level spat at the intersection of science and politics, the top editors at dozens of journals in endocrinology and related fields have published dueling editorials over the wisdom of chemical-safety regulations.
The latest salvo was fired on Wednesday, when the editors in chief of 20 journals posted an editorial warning that scientific studies over the years have clearly shown the harmful health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
They were responding to a July editorial by 18 other editors in chief alarmed by the European Commission's consideration of new restrictions on such chemicals, now used in a wide range of products, including baby bottles and farm herbicides.
Disputes over chemical safety and trade-offs over risk are longstanding, and much of the argument in this case centers on whether governments should require chemical manufacturers to clearly prove safety or whether safety should be presumed if dangers can't be shown definitively.
The venue of the argument, however, is itself groundbreaking. Statements signed by the editors of multiple journals, and reprinted in their pages, are rare, and typically occur on matters of journal policy.
In Europe the dispute is playing out amid efforts to update the European Union's law regulating chemicals. Some E.U. lawmakers want to include "endocrine disruptors" as substances of high concern. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to conditions that include impaired sperm quality, early puberty, and cancers. One prominent such chemical is Bisphenol A, found in some types of baby bottles and other products.
In the United States, a bipartisan group of senators this year proposed the first overhaul in decades of the Toxic Substances Control Act, hoping to set the standard that "no unreasonable risk of harm to human health or the environment will result from exposure to a chemical substance" under "intended conditions of use." They acted after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declined to use the current provisions of the law to add Bisphenol A and other chemicals to a list of items requiring heavier scrutiny.”
Letters to the Editor-Fracking the Parks in Allegheny County
Andrew McGill's article on the county council meeting on Tuesday proves the point that "we don't have a drilling problem, we have a democracy problem" This was very evident during the airport leasing. I wonder if the public actually understands the bad deal we got on the airport lease. Anyway, you can do the research to find out why there were many members who voted against it. Thank you Councilwoman Danko for introducing the bill.
The statement that " based on his own statements, the county executive is negotiating -- no one on council has been party to those discussions." And that Mr. Fitzgerald, who has spearheaded the plans to drill at Deer Lakes, says he'll veto her bill if passed by council. Is proof of the contamination of our democratic process.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/marcellusshale/allegheny-county-council-debates-parks-drilling-702814/#ixzz2ee4LL4dI
It is not up to the county executive to have secret negations (like with the airport deal) nor do I believe it's legal. But bullying and threats from the county executive is more proof that the deals being made are not being done in a democratic manner. This is one reason there are so many negative impacts being felt wherever drilling is taking place.
They are wheeling and dealing OUR property away without even giving thought to the people who have been without water for over 3 years in Butler county, Washington county, Green and many more across the state. Or the families who are sick with strange rashes and respiratory problems that weren't there before drilling started. Or the ex-workers now coming forward with statements about health impacts the industry is neglecting to address. I could go on.
I think it reasonable for the council members to stop and do some due diligence before leasing our land. I thought the oath of a politician was to "Serve and Protect" not "Rule and Neglect" ??? I commend and thank them for their integrity and courage to protect the citizens they were voted in to do. The gas isn't going anywhere.
Letter to the Editor: What do you personally hold near and dear?
Where are we going with the rush to drill where drilling really shouldn't occur? PA with its rolling hills, flora, and fauna, is one of the most beautiful states of the fifty, that is of course, until you have a heavy industry moving into the area. Allegheny Council Member, Barbara Danko has submitted a paper calling for a mere three year moratorium on drilling under county parks, including Deer Lakes. Anyone who is "up" on Marcellus Gas drilling knows there isn't any need to rush to capture the gas located there or anywhere within the state. It's been there for millions of years so what is a mere three-year moratorium? Natural gas prices are currently low due to over supply and companies are walking away from already leased ground for that very reason. Once the drilling begins with the accompanying noise, traffic, air pollution and loss of ground usage due to underground pipelines, there's no going back.
Give it some honest thoughts please, government reform committee, and have open meetings to get the views of many. I imagine those living in other areas within our state who have been severely affected by the industry wish they had someone who would have provided a moratorium for them.
711 Cora St.
Dead frogs in Clearville, Pa near drilling and gas storage. (from Bob Donnan)
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