Happy New Year!
Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates January 1, 2014
* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
* To view permanent documents, past updates, reports, general information and meeting information http://westmorelandmarcellus.blogspot.com/
* Our email address: email@example.com
* To discuss candidates: http://www.facebook.com/groups/VoteProEarth/
* To contact your state legislator:
For the email address, click on the envelope under the photo
* For information on PA state gas legislation and local control: http://pajustpowers.org/aboutthebills.html-
WMCG Thank You
* Thank you to contributors to our Updates: Debbie Borowiec, Lou Pochet, Ron Gulla, Marian Szmyd, Bob Donnan, Gloria Forouzan, Elizabeth Donahue, and Bob Schmetzer.
*** WMCG Steering Committee Meeting We meet the second Tuesday of every month at 7:30 PM in Greensburg. Email Jan for directions. All are very welcome to attend.
*** Public Hearings On Oil/Gas Regs The public hearings will be held at 6 p.m. A list of locations and dates follows: (I copied those in our area. Jan)
Jan. 22, 2014, Washington and Jefferson College’s Rossin Campus Center / Allen Ballroom, 60 South Lincoln Street, Washington, PA 15301
Jan. 23, 2014, Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Convention and Athletic Complex, 711 Pratt Drive, Indiana, PA 15705
Lisa Kasianowitz, Department of Environmental Protection
(Also see article #1 under Take Action!)
Flyercise-This is a good way to work to protect your family from fracking and get exercise.
Flyering helps to inform your area. If you want to distribute information on fracking in your neighborhood, WMCG and the Mt Watershed have handouts for you. Some rural areas are best reached by car and flyers can be put in paper boxes (not mailboxes) or in doors. Please contact Jan if you would like to help. Meetings are also good venues for distributing flyers as well—church meetings, political, parent groups, etc. If you can only pass out fifteen, that reaches fifteen people who may not have been informed.
***Volunteers Needed to Map Frack Pits- Skytruth
You Can Support a Public Health Study By John Hopkins At Home At Your Computer
Volunteers Needed: Crowd sourcing Project to Map Fracking in Pennsylvania for a Public Health Study and National Mapping Initiative
(You are given a window to examine by Skytruth. . Your job is to Click on all the frack pits you see in that square and the data will be processed by Skytruth. jan)
What: FrackFinder PA - Project Moor Frog is crowd sourcing (using the public to help do the work) project that needs cyber-volunteers to find fracking ponds on aerial photographs.
Where: Online at frack.skytruth.org/frackfinder
Why: Data produced by the crowd will be complied into series of maps identifying the location of fracking ponds in Pennsylvania, and support a public health study with partners at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
SkyTruth will be launching the second phase of a crowd sourcing project to map the impact of unconventional drilling and hydraulic fracturing using aerial imagery. We need your help to engage even more volunteers so that, state by state, we can build a nationwide, multi-year map of fracking.
FrackFinder is a web-based tool that presents cyber-volunteers, or skytruthers, with aerial photos of permitted or active drilling sites, and asks users to perform a simple image analysis task. In this phase of the project, we are asking volunteers to find all the fracking ponds at Marcellus Shale drilling sites in PA. Learn more about our first FrackFinder project here.
We are doing this work to support a public health study with our partners at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. Additionally, we have arranged to have a reporter from Wired magazine (a tech magazine with an audience of 3 million) cover the launch of the effort, which we are calling FrackFinder PA – Project Moor Frog.
We are asking for your help to promote this sky truthing project as we get nearer to the launch. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more and to coordinate efforts to engage the public in this effort to produce a nationwide, multi-year map of the impacts of fracking.
David Manthos: Outreach & Communications Director http://frack.skytruth.org/frackfinder
Office: 304-885-4581 | Cell: 240-385-6423 | firstname.lastname@example.org”
***As always letters to the editor are important and one of the best ways to share information with the public. ***
1. Please Comment On Proposed Oil and Gas Regs
Environmental Quality Board Opens Public Comment Period on Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations
Will Hold Public Hearings
Harrisburg – The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Quality Board announced today that the public comment period for a proposed regulation for environmental protection performance standards associated with oil and gas activities will open on Saturday, Dec. 14.
The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) is a 20-member independent board chaired by the Secretary of DEP that adopts all of the department’s regulations and considers petitions to change regulations. During the public comment period, the EQB will be hosting seven public hearings across Pennsylvania and offer multiple ways to submit comments.
Along with the EQB hearings, DEP will be holding two webinars on Thursday, Dec. 19, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Friday, Jan. 3, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., to present information and answer questions on the proposed regulation.
“Public participation is a key part to forging the best regulations possible,” DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo said. “An exceptional number of hearings are being offered by the EQB to gather information and to be sure that people’s voices are heard.”
The proposed regulation implements key provisions of Act 13 of 2012, including further consideration of impacts to public resources, such as parks and wildlife areas; the prevention of spills; the management of waste; and the restoration of well sites after drilling.
Additionally, the draft rulemaking also includes standards affecting the construction of gathering lines and temporary pipelines, and includes provisions for identifying and monitoring abandoned wells close to proposed well sites.
People wishing to present verbal testimony at a hearing are requested to contact the EQB at least one week in advance of the hearing to reserve a time. Those who wish to present testimony at the hearing may use the address below or call the EQB at 717-787-4526 to reserve time to testify. All relevant written and oral comments that are received at a public hearing will be considered when finalizing the regulation.
Witnesses are limited to five minutes of testimony and are requested to submit three written copies of their testimony to the hearing chairperson at the hearing. Organizations are limited to designating one witness to present testimony on their behalf at each hearing.
The public is being invited to submit comments to the EQB regarding the proposed rulemaking by Feb. 12, 2014. Along with their comments, people can submit a one-page summary of their comments to the EQB. Comments, including the one page summary, may be submitted to EQB by accessing the EQB’s Online Public Comment System at http://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/RegComments.
Written comments and summaries should be mailed to Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477.
The summaries and a formal comment and response document will be distributed to the EQB and available publicly prior to the meeting when the final rulemaking will be considered.
People can also submit comments to RegComments@pa.gov.
Online and email comments must also be received by the EQB on or before Feb. 12. If an acknowledgement of comments submitted online or by email is not received by the sender within two business days, the comments should be re-sent to the EQB to ensure receipt.
For more information or to register for DEP’s Informational webinars, visit www.dep.state.pa.us, keyword: Webinars. After registration, an email will be sent containing a link to the webinar. The webinar will be recorded and posted on the Oil and Gas webinars webpage for future viewing.
To view materials for the proposed regulation, visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click the “Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations” button.
Media Contact: Lisa Kasianowitz, DEP, 717-787-1323
Editor’s Note: The public hearings will be held at 6 p.m. A list of locations and dates follows: (I copied those in our area. Jan)
Jan. 22, 2014, Washington and Jefferson College’s Rossin Campus Center / Allen Ballroom, 60 South Lincoln Street, Washington, PA 15301
Jan. 23, 2014, Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Convention and Athletic Complex, 711 Pratt Drive, Indiana, PA 15705
Lisa Kasianowitz, Department of Environmental Protection
Bob Donnan-- Notes on the Proposed Changes
For citizens of the Commonwealth here is a chance to provide comments and input. Here are some highlights on past hot-button topics:
ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY BOARD-
[ 25 PA. CODE CH. 78 ]
Environmental Protection Performance Standards at Oil and Gas Well Sites
The Environmental Quality Board (Board) proposes to
amend Chapter 78 (relating to oil and gas wells). The
proposed rulemaking would amend Chapter 78 to update
the requirements regarding surface activities associated
with the development of oil and gas wells. Additionally,
the proposed amendments would address recent statutory
changes in the act of February 14, 2012 (P. L. 87, No. 13)
(Act 13), codified at 58 Pa.C.S. §§ 2301—3504.
The proposed rulemaking would update existing requirements
regarding containment of regulated substances,
waste disposal, site restoration and reporting
releases. The proposed rulemaking would establish new
planning, notice, construction, operation, reporting and
monitoring standards for surface activities associated
with the development of oil and gas wells. This includes
requirements for freshwater impoundments, centralized
impoundments, containment systems and practices for
unconventional wells, wastewater processing, borrow pits,
gathering lines, horizontal directional drilling, temporary
pipelines and road-spreading of brine. The proposed rulemaking
would also add new requirements for addressing
impacts to public resources, identifying and monitoring
orphaned and abandoned wells during hydraulic fracturing
activities, and water management planning. These
additional requirements will provide increased protection
of public health, safety and the environment.
APPLYING BRINE FROM CONVENTIONAL WELLS ON ROADWAYS:
§ 78.70a. Pre-wetting, anti-icing and de-icing.
(a) Use of brine from oil and gas wells for pre-wetting,
anti-icing and de-icing shall only be conducted under a
plan approved by the Department and may not result in
pollution of the waters of the Commonwealth. Only
production brines from conventional wells, not including
coalbed methane wells or wells drilled in hydrogen sulfide
areas, may be used for pre-wetting, anti-icing and deicing
under this section. The use of drilling, hydraulic
fracture stimulation flowback, plugging fluids, or production
brines mixed with well servicing or treatment fluids,
except detergents, may not be used for pre-wetting,
anti-icing and de-icing activities.
(9) The freshwater and centralized impoundment,
if any, used in the development of the well.
(c) When the well operator submits a stimulation record,
it may designate specific portions of the stimulation
record as containing a trade secret or confidential proprietary
information. The Department will prevent disclosure
of the designated confidential information to the
extent permitted under the Right-to-Know Law (65 P. S.
§§ 67.101—[ 67.3103 ] 67.3104) or other applicable
[ (d) In addition to submitting a stimulation record
to the Department under subsection (b), and
subject to the protections afforded for trade secrets
and confidential proprietary information under the
Right-to-Know Law, the operator shall arrange to
provide a list of the chemical constituents of the
chemical additives used to hydraulically fracture a
well, by chemical name and abstract service number,
unless the additive does not have an abstract
service number, to the Department upon written
request by the Department. ]
Subchapter H. UNDERGROUND STORAGE
§ 78.402. Inspections by the gas storage operator.
* * * * *
(c) Storage operators shall inspect the gas storage
reservoir and storage protective area at least annually to
discover if material changes have occurred that require
an amendment or supplement of the map and data as
required in section [ 301(a) and (b) of the act (58 P. S.
§ 601.301(a) and (b)) ] 3231(a) and (b) of the act
(relating to reporting requirements for gas storage
operations). As part of that inspection, gas storage
operators shall inspect known abandoned wells and
plugged wells within the gas storage reservoir area and
the gas storage protective area, subject to the right of
entry, at the end of the injection season when the storage
pressure is at its highest. The inspection record shall
include observed evidence of gas leaking and other conditions
that may be hazardous to the public or property.
§ 78.68b. Temporary pipelines for oil and gas operations
This proposed section contains the requirements for
temporary pipelines associated with oil and gas operations,
including installation, construction, flagging, pressure
testing, inspection operation, recordkeeping and removal
requirements. This section also contains cross
references to applicable regulatory requirements in Chapters
102 and 105.
2. DEP Should Extend Comment Period
From Move On.ORg
"By any responsible account, the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and the future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction."
Know where that comes from? Would it surprise you to know that it came from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling on Act 13, the law that put a gag order on physicians treating fracking victims and sought to remove local control over gas drilling operations?
This week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave the gas industry and government officials who love it a powerful smackdown, but there's more work to be done.
Now, the Department of Environmental Protection is accepting public comments on a proposed set of fracking rules. Their Environmental Quality Board will hold 7 public hearings across the state in January.
Trouble is that 38 counties in PA are being fracked, yet only 5 of the hearings are in those counties and the most heavily impacted counties have been passed over. To make matters worse, the DEP is only accepting written comments for a 60-day period that started on December 14th.
Sure seems like they're not interested in hearing from those whose lives have been turned upside down from drilling!
Please tell the DEP to extend the comment period and hold hearings in every county where fracking is occurring!
***WTAE- Societal Effects Of Gas Industry Some notes by jan): “Many gas industry workers are not local people but are from out of state. There have been increased criminal cases and abuse problems, and housing has become unaffordable especially for low-income families. In Greene County, the influx of workers spiked housing costs--a $350 apartment may now be $700. Greene has had the highest peak in protection from abuse orders in more than a decade. Nearby counties had similar increases. The Washington County DA notes a steady increase of 700 criminal cases each year since the industry arrived 5 years ago. He attributes this to a rise in drug abuse and also more people coming in from the oil and gas industry.
In West Virginia (Ohio County), calls for emergency service nearly doubled. Larceny increased more than 50% and criminal citations more than quadrupled. During the same period in Green County, larceny climbed 50% and Fayette County drug abuse violations by 20%. In Westmoreland County curfew and loitering increased by 55%. Two out-of-state industry workers were recently charged with murder in the beating death of a Wheeling Jesuit University athlete. No one is tracking whether it is oil and gas workers who have led to these increases. However, in Bradford County, the DA does say they see a 40% increase in criminal cases mostly due to the gas industry. Bradford County has asked a Senate committee for more state police resources
To view the video:
***Video: Hidden Financial Dangers of Fracking-- 16-25 % drop in Property Value--Two Studies cited in the video: Property values drop if you have a water well and live within 1 km of a gas well, property values drop by 16%: Denver study if you live near a well values drop by 25%.
Reuters recently told the story of one Los Angeles man who blames Freeport McMoRan (NYSE: FCX) for the fact that his property's value has plummeted, leaving him unable to sell his house for anything near what he bought it for. Brian Stoffel discusses how those who hold out are being hurt, and what they are threatening to do. Lawsuits are being filed by affected landowners.
***To sign up for notifications of activity and violations for your area:
*** List of the Harmed--There are now over 1600 residents of Pennsylvania who have placed their names on the list of the harmed when they became sick after fracking began in their area. http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/
***New Penn Environment Video
PennEnvironment, along with the federal organization, EnvironmentAmerica, released a new video exposé on fracking.
Narrated by Martin Sheen and filmed on location in Pennsylvania, the piece will allow public television viewers to hear from:
· A Pennsylvania family whose well water was contaminated and granddaughter became ill after fracking operations commenced nearby;
· Dr. Poune Saberi, who has examined health data from nearby residents and workers and believes that the numerous, documented cases of residents becoming ill near drilling operations are likely "the tip of the iceberg;" and
· Lou Allstadt, former Executive Vice President of Mobil, explaining why he now sees fracking as inherently fraught with environmental destruction.
A couple of facts from the video: In 3 years there have been more than 3,000 violations and 1.3 billion gallons of toxic waste produced
The segment has the potential to reach up to 60 million households this year. In addition, we have <http://youtu.be/ljHCJfkZ308> a shorter commercial-length version of the video that is being rolled out to other networks like CNN and MSNBC starting this month.
***Pipeline/Eminent Domain Factsheet-Handout
Food and Water Watch
***Frackademia Handout-Industry’s influence on Education:
***Orange You A'Peelin'? Guide to PA Fracking Permit Appeals
You can print this booklet off the site.
***Video-- Dr Ingraffea Speaks at Butler Community College
Published on Nov 22, 2013
The science of shale gas: The latest evidence on leaky wells, methane emissions, and implications for policy. A.R. Ingraffea Ph.D, P.E.; M.T. Wells, Ph.D, Cornell University; R. Santoro, R. Shonkoff, Ph.D, Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, Inc. Butler Community College, Butler Pa, November 21, 2013.
The latest evidence on leaky Gas wells.
1. Act 13 Articles
**Editorial in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The ACT 13 Decision is a welcome gift
December 25, 2013 12:00 AM
“Heartfelt thanks to Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices Ronald Castille, Debra McCloskey Todd, Seamus McCaffery and Max Baer for overruling Act 13’s theft of our ability to protect ourselves in our communities from being assaulted without recourse by the industrialization, the pollution and the environmental degradation of fracking (“High Court Sides With Towns Over Gas Drilling,” Dec. 20).
And thanks, too, to South Fayette and other communities that went to the trouble and expense of bringing the case. This decision is a hope-engendering holiday gift to the people of Pennsylvania.
The Corbett administration and its allies have treated the huge, out-of-state drilling companies as their constituents, while disenfranchising the citizens who elected them by forbidding local zoning prohibitions and, astoundingly, by trying to muzzle the ability of physicians even to tell patients about health impacts of drilling. The complete capitulation of the administration to the gas companies raises the question of what the drilling companies’ wealth might be buying them.
We should all remember in the next election cycle who stood on our side and who was willing to sell our health and environment to the highest bidders.”
SUSAN ORENSTEIN, M.D.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/letters/2013/12/25/The-ACT-1/stories/201312240121#ixzz2oVrHwS75
**Act 13 Ruling elevates environmental rights amendment
BY ROBERT SWIFT (HARRISBURG BUREAU CHIEF)
HARRISBURG - The state Supreme Court ruling striking down a state law limiting the ability of local governments to zone gas drilling marks the broadest application yet of Pennsylvania's Environmental Rights Amendment to statewide legal issues, the amendment's author said Friday. The court voted 4-2 on Thursday to hold a provision in the gas drilling impact fee law giving state agencies oversight over local drilling zoning regulations unconstitutional. Three of the justices in the majority opinion said it conflicts with the environmental rights amendment, Article 1, Section 27 of the state constitution. This amendment says that Pennsylvanians have a right to clean air, pure water and preservation of natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment, and the state has a trustee role to conserve and maintain public natural resources for all the people, including future generations.
"I think this (ruling) creates the beginning of a new environmental jurisprudence," said former Sen. Franklin Kury of Northumberland County, who wrote the amendment. "The court in my opinion got it right on how to interpret the amendment." The court's numerous references to the amendment means it will have increasing importance in future environmental cases, said Mr. Kury. He said he's not involved in the impact fee case. The practical effect of the amendment so far has been to give the public legal standing to challenge environmental decisions in court and to require local officials to take environmental issues into consideration when awarding permits or approving new development, Mr. Kury has written. The amendment has its roots in the environmental pollution left by anthracite mining during the 19th and early 20th centuries in Northeast Pennsylvania. As a young boy, Mr. Kury lived in Shenandoah where his two grandfathers were coal miners.
**Bob Donnan Quotes “A local sage”:
A local sage puts the recent Pa. Supreme Court ruling this way:
“Wow what an opinion! It is an amazing piece of work. Chief Justice Castile really wrote a masterpiece. I have read many opinions of court in the paralegal gig and in the Council. It is simply one of the most interesting and well-crafted Opinions I have ever seen.
The Opinion is so detailed and rich. It just makes me so proud to be an American again. The word “citizen” now has powerful meaning.
Chief Justice Castile has left us a legacy opinion that will serve us and our heirs for generations to come. Thank God someone back in the late 60’s was forward thinking enough to get Section 27 amended to the PA Constitution.
Merry Christmas! What a gift we now have.”
**Quotes From The Ruling By the PA Supreme Court
*** The PA Supreme Court has ruled Act 13 is unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. Notably, the Court stated, ““As the citizens illustrate, development of the natural gas industry in the Commonwealth unquestionably has and will have a lasting, and undeniably detrimental, impact on the quality of these core aspects [life, health, and liberty: surface and ground water, ambient air, etc.] of Pennsylvania’s environment, which are part of the public trust.” Opinion at 117
***Justices Castille, Todd, and McCaffrey held that the provisions violate Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution – the Environmental Rights Amendment. Justice Castille stated that “we agree with the citizens that, as an exercise of the police power, Sections 3215(b)(4) and (d), 3303, and 3304 are incompatible with the Commonwealth’s duty as trustee of Pennsylvania’s public natural resources.” In discussing Section 3304’s uniform zoning provisions, Justices Castille, Todd, and McCaffrey agreed that the provisions “sanctioned a direct and harmful degradation of the environmental quality of life in these communities and zoning districts.” They also concluded that the Act forced some citizens to bear “heavier environmental and habitability burdens than others” in violation of Section 27’s mandate that public trust resources be managed for the benefit of all the people.
***"By any responsible account, the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and the future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction." PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille. Opinion at 118
****The Court held "To describe this case simply as a zoning or agency discretion matter would not capture the essence of the parties' fundamental dispute regarding Act 13. Rather, at its core, this dispute centers upon an asserted vindication of citizens' rights to quality of life on their properties and in their hometowns, insofar as Act 13 threatens degradation of air and water, and of natural, scenic, and esthetic values of the environment, with attendant effects on health, safety, and the owners' continued enjoyment of their private property. The citizens’ interests as a result, implicate primarily rights and obligations under the Environmental Rights Amendment -- Article I, Sec. 27.
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.)
***Page 39, Residential Districts a sanctuary- Addressing residential districts in particular, the court noted that “reserving land for single-family residences preserves the character of neighborhoods, securing zones where family values, youth values, and the blessings of quiet seclusion and clean air make the area a sanctuary for people.” Id. at 481 (quoting Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1, 9 (1974)). But, the court observed, Act 13 requires municipalities to act affirmatively to allow incompatible uses, such as “drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives” in all zoning districts, including residential, and “applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise.” Id. at 484-85. The court held that, because it commands unconstitutional zoning outcomes, Section 3304 violates due process.
***Justice Baer concurred in finding Act 13 unconstitutionality, agreeing with the Commonwealth Court’s reasoning. Justice Baer stated that the provisions “force municipalities to enact zoning ordinances, which violate the substantive due process rights of their citizenries.” He further noted “Pennsylvania’s extreme diversity” in municipality size and topography and that zoning ordinances must “give consideration to the character of the municipality,” among other factors, which Act 13 did not.
***Additionally, in a reversal of the findings of the Commonwealth Court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that Dr. Khan satisfies standing requirements. The court noted that “existing jurisprudence permits pre-enforcement review of statutory provisions in cases in which petitioners must choose between equally unappealing options and where the third option, here refusing to provide medical services to a patient, is equally undesirable.” Opinion at 25. In other words, provisions of Act 13 put Dr. Khan in the untenable and objectionable position of choosing between violating Act 13’s confidentiality agreement and “violating his legal and ethical obligations to treat a patient by accepted standards, or not taking a case and refusing a patient medical care.” Id. Therefore, Dr. Khan’s interests were indeed “substantial and direct…not remote,” and conferred standing. Opinion at 26. The Court remanded Dr. Kahn’s case to the Commonwealth Court for further proceedings.
In a 4-2 decision, the court held that portions of the law dealing with restrictions on local zoning violate Pennsylvania’s constitution. Chief Justice Ron Castille was joined by justices Todd, McCafferty and Baer in the majority. Justices Saylor and Eakin issued dissenting opinions.
The Decision and concurring opinion can be found at: http://www.delawareriverkeeper.org/resources/Reports/Opinion J-127A-D-2012oajc.pdf
**CELD Comments On Court Ruling
“In today’s decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court also ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs. However, in a departure from the lower court, the state Supreme Court rooted its decision not in the property rights of landowners, but on Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment.
The Amendment, adopted in 1971 by the voters of the State as part of the State Constitution’s Declaration of Rights, declares the right of citizens to “clean air and pure water” and to the “preservation of natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment.” The Amendment also declares that the State and its municipalities must act as trustees to protect the rights of Pennsylvania citizens under the Amendment.
The Court ruled that Act 13’s elimination of zoning and land use planning authority – the primary method through which municipalities act as trustees – was unconstitutional. For, the Court found, the State cannot interfere with the constitutional duty of municipal governments to carry out the duties imposed by the Environmental Rights Amendment.
In essence, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivered a ruling today which limits the power of the State to interfere with the duty of municipalities to act as a trustee of natural resources.
The Court thus overturned several sections of Act 13, including the sections creating the power of the State to nullify municipal zoning provisions which ran afoul of the Act’s requirement that oil and gas drilling could occur in any area of a municipality, regardless of how that area was zoned.
The Court’s decision was a drastic departure from that of prior courts with respect to the Environmental Rights Amendment. Ever since the Amendment’s overwhelming adoption by the people of the Commonwealth, courts have generally disregarded it, holding that its sole purpose was to provide additional authority to state agencies to protect the natural environment.
In response to the decision, Thomas Linzey, the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) based in Mercersburg, PA, stated, “Today was a significant victory for municipalities seeking to regulate the placement of oil and gas wells and other structures on the surface of land.”
“Further, today’s decision may not only affect Act 13 or oil and gas drilling. For years, the state legislature has sought to eliminate local authority on extraction and other activities, including forestry and coal, which the Court referenced in its decision.”
For many years, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has represented municipal clients adopting local ordinances that ban corporate projects harmful to communities. As part of that work, the Legal Defense Fund has fought to overturn another Pennsylvania law – known as ACRE (“Agriculture, Communities, and Rural Environment”) – which forced corporate factory farms into communities regardless of local zoning and land use planning laws which sought to limit industrial agriculture.
Linzey stated, “The Court’s decision calls into question the constitutionality of any state laws which nullify the authority of municipal zoning ordinances and land use plans. Today’s ruling gives new life to people’s environmental rights, and serves more importantly, in some ways, to shield our communities from a state legislature that has been privatized by certain industries.”
Linzey further explained, “This ruling, while welcome, does not stop fracking of Pennsylvania’s communities, nor does it recognize the right of the people of Pennsylvania to govern their own communities without state or corporate interference.”
“Today’s decision does, however, for the first time open the door for future rulings that would add that law. However, there remain tremendous legal barriers in place which subordinate the authority of people, communities, and nature to protect themselves from fracking and the wide range of activities that the state legislature has forced into our municipalities,” explained Linzey. “http://www.celdf.org/press-release-statement-on-the-pennsylvania-supreme-courts-ruling-that-parts-of-act-13-are-unconstitutional#.Ur533nYljEk.email
Contact: Ben Price Projects Director
2. North Huntingdon Residents Question Drilling Park
The Industry (Huntley and Huntley) Offers to Bring the DEP To Meetings
By Amanda Dolasinski
“Residents fearful that drilling would destroy Braddock's Trail Park in North Huntingdon urged commissioners to forbid a land survey company to have the exclusive mineral rights on the public property.
“We received a proposal from Huntley and Huntley, which we felt should be presented to the board for discussion and consideration,” Mike Turley, assistant township manager, said at the commissioners' meeting.
The potential lease on Braddock's Trail and Oak Hollow parks could generate more than $411,000 for the township.
Township officials have been in deliberations with the company throughout the year, Turley said. Huntley and Huntley officials are interested in a nonsurface lease, he said.
As part of that type of lease, there would be no facilities on township property, he said. Essentially, a drill site would be placed on another parcel, and horizontal drilling below the surface would occur to extract the gas.
“This met one of our concerns that we minimize or eliminate any impact to the surface of park properties,” Turley said.
The potential lease, which could be for 10 years, would include an upfront payment of $1,500 per acre or about $411,000 for 274 acres. It also would include a 16-percent royalty rate if drilling would occur.
Turley said there aren't any Marcellus wells drilled in the township, although drilling is happening nearby, he said.
He also said proposed seismic testing activity could occur in the township sometime next year. Seismic testing is necessary for natural-gas companies to determine the best locations to drill.
“The result is that we've expected for some time that there will be wells drilled in the township and, in particular, these two areas that we're talking about,” Turley said. “This is to occur regardless of whether we participate or not. We just happen to own two large parcels in the area of interest.”
Although commissioners have the authority to forbid drilling in public parks, residents in the township can approve private contracts with Huntley and Huntley on their properties.
Commissioner Richard Gray said he worries a lease would not directly benefit residents.
“What I've seen … it never seems to benefit the residents,” he said. “If the township can make money from this, it should be directly tied to a tax decrease rather than just be sitting in the bank.”
Luke Bungard, senior landman with Huntley and Huntley, said he attended to the meeting to hear residents' worries. He offered to provide specialists from the state DEP to attend future meetings.
Numerous residents protested the potential lease on park property.
“I am appalled that fracking is even being considered as a possibility at this park or Oak Hollow,” said Marie Moore, who said she lives on property adjacent to Braddock's Trail Park.
“Residents rely on parks for a quiet, safe place to enjoy nature,” she said. “Residents look to you, as commissioners, to improve the community. Yes, that includes bringing in new business and creating jobs, but it also includes protecting the parks that we have and the health of your residents.”
Don Miller, of Sycamore Drive near the park, said he is worried future drilling could contaminate well water that he and his wife still use. “I'm concerned you're going to ruin the park; you're going to ruin the well,” he said.
North Huntingdon commissioners could continue discussions on the potential lease before the end of the year.
Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
3. Fracknation Shown in Indian Creek
Good work Kathryn, Anne, and Doug and Briget!
The Mountain Laurel Chamber of Commerce conducted a presentation on fracking at the Indian Creek Valley Community Center on Dec. 10. FrackNation, was created by investigative journalist Phelim McAleer. (McAleer was referred to by the San Francisco Chronicle as "climate denial's Michael Moore. Jan)
The documentary examined the process of fracking and aimed to address what the filmmakers say is misinformation about fracking — such as that it leeches chemicals into the ground, therefore contaminating water supplies, and is known to trigger earthquakes. (the misinformation that has been corroborated by independent research. Jan)
Panel discussion followed the viewing, and a question and answer session concluded the meeting.
Speakers included Jordan Frei, state Rep. Mike Reese's office; Kathryn Hilton, Mountain Watershed Association Marcellus Shale Citizen Collation; Davitt Woodwell, Western Regional Pennsylvania Environmental Council; Susan Oliver, WPX Energy; and Jason Rigone, Westmoreland County Economic Development Corporation.
Susan Oliver, manager of community relations with WPX Energy said fracking is currently being conducted in Cook Township and the Donegal area.
“Natural gas development provides the Laurel Highlands area, and our entire nation, the opportunity to benefit from clean burning, low cost, energy that is safely produced right here in Westmoreland County,” Oliver said. It was noted that fracking in the area created many jobs and helped keep the Commonwealth afloat after the 2008 recession.
“Many jobs are supported by the natural gas industry,” said Rigone, executive director of Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation. “From an economic impact standpoint, this low-cost abundant supply of energy can bring even more jobs back to PA.”
Hilton, a community organizer of the Mountain Watershed Association, attended to discuss the organization's Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project — developed to provide assistance to citizens in areas where shale gas development is occurring.
“All parts of the life-cycle of natural gas industrialization expose residents and workers to toxic substances which lead to negative health impacts,” said Hilton. “During every part of the life-cycle, from well pad, to pipeline, to compressor station, to processing facility, to natural gas fired power plant, there is an inevitability of human error and mechanical failure which will further expose residents and workers to toxins.”
The stewardship project assists citizens in protecting their property, health and environment from impacts of Marcellus shale activity, said Hilton.
“We also assist citizens in reporting pollution incidents as well as gathering information that can be used by others to tell the story of drilling impacts, she said.”
Hilton said that the fact of the matter is that the impacts of drilling for natural gas are just now starting to come to the surface.
“As time goes on, more and more instances of contamination are coming to light,” she said.
During the question and answer portion of the evening, many locals expressed concern about contamination of water sources.
Annie MacDougall of Cook Township questioned the fracking process in her community. She cited an example of a family in the Donegal area who was having water contamination issues after fracking occurred on their property.
“What is WPX doing to rectify this situation?” she asked. In response, Oliver stated that it was not determined that the drilling was the cause of the contamination.
Douglas and Bridget Shields who owns a residence in Rector also voiced concerns.
“The promoters of drilling always avoid the downside and promote the up side. There is no mention or illustration of hazard and risks,” said Douglas Shields. “Inability to get a mortgage, homeowners insurance, how it impacts a mine subsidence insurance policy if other third parties are released from liability or possible surface or subsurface contamination of the owners property. And the worst is the non-disclosure of the health risks from exposures to BETX and other airborne toxins. This is all typical of a meeting sponsored by industry and their supporters. People come to them for information and they get a glossed over and contorted view of the matter. The ‘jobs and money' matters are pushed and the realities are hidden away.”
In March, the group will cover Act 13 impact fee and the many economic benefits to local communities and businesses in the area.
Cami DiBattista is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
4. Decision Restores Murrysville's Right to Regulate Drilling
Daveen Rae Kurutz
“A state Supreme Court decision has restored Murrysville officials' rights to regulate Marcellus shale drilling.
Last week, the Supreme Court returned constitutional powers to municipalities and community leaders with a 4-2 decision overturning large portions of Act 13, the state's oil-and-gas regulations.
“I'm ecstatic with what they've done,” Murrysville Councilman Dave Perry said. “They've come back and said that drilling procedures and gathering has an impact on the quality of people's lives.”
Murrysville adopted its own regulations in October 2011, but that ordinance was superseded by the state legislators' adoption of Act 13 in February 2012.
Municipal officials did not support the restrictions of the act. While council did not financially back the legal challenged filed by several southwest Pennsylvania communities, it issued letters of support and backed a plea by the National Resource Defense Council in September 2012. That “friend-of-the-court” brief was filed by a New York City-based nonprofit group that lobbies in favor of environmental issues and against Marcellus shale drilling in favor of overturning the legislation.
Murrysville chief administrator Jim Morrison said council will reexamine its ordinance to see if there is additional information that needs to be addressed.
He said he was pleased that the ruling supported the idea that municipalities can continue to handle zoning locally. “The ruling is pretty clear,” Morrison said. “The industry had an impact on the environment and citizens' rights to clean air and clean water, and local communities have the right to protect that.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmurrysville/yourmurrysvillemore/5291805-74/murrysville-drilling-act#ixzz2ocTgoCCX
5. Update on Dimock
Vera Scroggins made a right to know request from DEP about the Dimock Water contamination.
"... [Y]ou asked 'to see any documents stating that the DEP has found the water wells safe to use and drink with these families and with the original 18 homes affected by gas drilling in Dimock, Pa., Susquehanna County'.
The Department ... does not posses records stating that any of these residents' private water supplies are safe to use and drink." -- PA DEP 12/24/2013
6. EPA Inspector General Says EPA Was Justified Investigating Texas Water Contamination
“The EPA was justified in intervening to examine possible risks of gas drilling to Texas drinking water, the agency's internal watchdog reported.
But environmentalists say the report raises fresh concerns about the EPA's 2012 decision to halt its investigation into possible well-water contamination in Parker County, Texas.
Over three years, the EPA has sampled water in Dimock, Pa., Pavillion, Wyo., and Parker County after residents complained that their water had turned foul once gas drilling began nearby. In each case, the EPA found evidence of contamination but declined to pursue further water sampling or disciplinary action against the energy companies.
Critics have accused the Obama administration of backing away from the inquiries amid industry and political pressure, and because it views gas drilling as crucial to the economy and a cleaner environment.
In July, an internal EPA report indicated that workers in its Philadelphia office wanted to keep monitoring Dimock's drinking water but EPA headquarters closed the investigation.
The inspector general's inquiry was started at the behest of Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and other lawmakers who contend that EPA's regional office in Texas, EPA Region 6, had exceeded its authority during the Parker County investigation. Many Republicans viewed the EPA's investigation as a politically motivated attack against the oil and gas industry.
Inhofe's office dismissed the inspector general's report, saying it had "failed to examine [a] closed-door conspiracy" to ruin the reputation of the energy company involved, Range Resources.
But environmentalists welcomed it as vindication of efforts by the EPA and independent scientists to explore the potential pollution risks of kfracking. The EPA got involved in 2010 because Range Resources and Texas regulators failed to act immediately on homeowners' complaints of possible drinking water contamination, the report says.
When the EPA conducted its own tests, it found such high levels of methane in the water supply of two homes that it posed a risk of explosion, the report says. EPA tests also showed that the water contained benzene, a known carcinogen, above the agency's maximum contamination levels.
Methane is the main component of natural gas, and an analysis performed for the EPA by an independent scientist found samples from the water supply to be nearly identical to the natural gas from the nearby Range Resources gas well.
Range Resources and Texas denied that the company's gas development had contaminated the residents' water.
The EPA issued an emergency order against Range Resources to provide drinking water to the affected residents and to better monitor the gas well. When Range Resources did not fully comply, the Justice Department filed a complaint on behalf of the EPA in January 2011 but withdrew it by March 2012.
The inspector general's report said the EPA and Justice Department halted their action because the EPA worried about the costs and legal risks of the case. Although most officials were confident of their evidence, "there was always a risk that the judge could rule against the EPA. If that happened, it would risk establishing case law that could weaken the EPA's ability to enforce" parts of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the report said.
Range Resources threatened to refuse to cooperate with a study the EPA had begun into possible effects of fracking on drinking water if the agency disciplined it, the report said. The EPA shelved its complaint after getting a nonbinding agreement for access to the company's sites, the report said, but so far Range Resources has declined to participate in the study.
A policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Amy Mall, said the EPA had enough evidence to intervene but "chose to step away from enforcing the law when drinking water was unsafe.... Drinking water quality should never be traded for a hollow promise that may never be fulfilled."
In a statement, the EPA said the report determined its actions were "supported by law and fact."
Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella denied that its natural gas development had contaminated drinking water and said it was reviewing the report. The company is pursuing a $3-million defamation lawsuit against Steve Lipsky, one of the homeowners who complained about his water.”
7. Allegheny Co. Park Gas--- $3.5 Million Signing Bonus
“Allegheny County stands to gain $3.5 million in signing bonuses and potentially more than $70 million to lease the acreage beneath Deer Lakes Park for gas well drilling.
`According to documents that the Post-Gazette requested from energy giant Range Resources, the company, in conjunction with driller Huntley & Huntley, forwarded a proposal to county Executive Rich Fitzgerald last month, calling for a one-time signing bonus of $3,000 per acre for the park's 1,180 acres and a 17 percent royalty rate on all future gas sales.
The companies have already built 4 well pads in the area surrounding the park, Pitzarella said with 19 wells drilled over the past five years and more on the way. So the county’s property will soon be completely encircled by gas wells.
State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, says the environmental and unknown impacts of Marcellus Shale drilling outweigh any benefit -- including tens of millions of dollars.
"I'm adamantly opposed to drilling," Mr. Ferlo said. "I work with Rich Fitzgerald. I respect him, but I think he's taking the quick way out. We've seen this at the airport and now we're threatening county parks."
Mr. Ferlo said he's concerned that Mr. Fitzgerald will use revenues generated by drilling at the airport and county parks to plug budget holes, but he wants the county executive and others to delay further drilling until the impact on the environment is known. He's proposed a statewide moratorium, but acknowledges that it has little legislative support.
Washington County learned from the mistakes that were made at Cross Creek Park, including one wastewater spill in 2009, several environmental violations and the accidental clear-cutting of more than 100 trees by a Range subcontractor in 2011.”
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/north/2013/12/15/Park-gas-offer-includes-3-5M-bonus/stories/201312150160#ixzz2ohoHPQ49
8. DEP -- New Mapping Tool
From Bob Donnan:
I already heard back from a couple people with problems viewing the Pa DEP mapping tool (I was using my Windows desktop computer). Here is the first comment I got:
“I clicked on the link, was told to download Silverlight Mircrosoft program, did so [on my MAC] and that message continues to come up and won't redirect to the DEP site. Is there something else I need to be doing?”
So I tried the mapping tool link on my iPhone since it is also an Apple product (uses Safari for a web browser) and got the same prompt to install Silverlight. I then went to the App Store and installed Google Chrome on my iPhone, tried to go to the mapping site again, and still got the install Silverlight prompt, but the install failed. I tried to download the Firefox browser on my iPhone and got the message; “Sorry, Firefox is currently unsupported by iOS devices.”
So apparently the ‘Christmas gift’ is not so much for Apple product users as it is for desktop PC folks… maybe one of the computer gurus on this mailing list can tell me why. It would be my guess that the ESRI mapping data is more Microsoft based and formatted.
The map DOES view well on both Firefox and Internet Explorer if you have access to a Microsoft based PC with either software installed. (…at least we hope it will work…)
Happy Holidays -
(I could not get this tool to work at all. Nothing happened after downloading Silverlight. Jan)
About the Mapping Tool
Dec 21 - A new state Department of Environmental Protection mapping tool allows online users to look up well-by-well information across the commonwealth. Using the tool, which went live Thursday, users can view unconventional wells, the majority of which tap Marcellus Shale, as well as conventional, vertical wells, many of them going back to the 1970s and 1980s. The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association estimates the state has 70,000 active conventional oil and gas wells. Around 7,700 unconventional wells have been drilled or are under development, according to MarcellusGas.org.
ESRI - Pa DEP Oil & Gas Mapping
Users can also select map layers, such as exceptional value and high-quality streams or state forests, parks and game lands. These layers let users see where drilling occurs near important water bodies and public lands. Other data points include oil wells, injection wells, plugged wells and abandoned wells. Clicking on each point on the map reveals the well's name, operator, development status and township location, among other information (NOTE: You have to click on the “i” inside the blue/white square icon [information button] at the top of the map to activate this feature). DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said 12 to 15 DEP employees worked to develop the map over the past year. She said the department is working on including inspection and violation information with each well.
9. Mt. Pleasant Twp Approves Marcellus Tank Pad
By Bob Donnan
Fleet of Wastewater tankers
“ From freshwater impoundment to recycled wastewater tank farm, Range Resources can now make the conversion with Mt. Pleasant Township’s approval. After shooting down several proposals from the Marcellus Shale company in recent months, township officials reached an agreement regarding the Stewart impoundment during a special meeting Friday.”
Conceptual Image of tank farm with 15 tanks
10. Seneca NY Gas Storage Causes Outrage
“Inergy Midstream is proposing to use a series of caverns at Seneca Lake to store 88 million gallons of liquid petroleum gas and has also proposed using adjacent caverns for additional natural gas storage expanding capacity to 2 billion cubic feet. Inergy is awaiting approval by state and federal officials. The list of concerns regarding the plan includes: the structural integrity of the two caverns is questionable. Another cavern site directly below a rock formation plagued by rock movement and intermittent collapse. An earthquake registering 2.0 occurred on the west shore of Seneca Lake a mere 12 miles form the caverns. If gas would escape from the cavern the results could be deadly, setting of explosions. An industry insider, John Hopper, found that between 1972 and 2004 there were 10 catastrophic accidents involving underground storage sites for gas. All occurred in salt caverns.
Other concerns include the cumulative environmental and health impacts associated with building an industrial storage facility in a rural area.”
11. Federal Investigation Reveals Massive Taxpayer Giveaway to Oil/ Gas Drillers
Interior Department Abandons Reforms that Would Have Addressed this Giveaway
Oil and gas wells in Colorado: The impacts from drilling are undeniable; the least that should be done is to require drillers to pay their fair share.
The General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigatory arm of the federal government, released findings of a new investigation concluding that the Department of Interior (DOI) has failed to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are being fully compensated for revenues generated by drilling activities on their public lands. Despite decades of recommendations and studies that have established that DOI has been negligent in addressing this taxpayer rip-off, GAO investigators learned recently that DOI officials decided to basically throw in the towel and abandon a series of remedies that were in the works that would have attempted to address this inequity.
The Interior Department oversees hundreds of millions of acres of lands and waters that are utilized for energy development. The U.S. taxpayer should be receiving far more from drilling operations that occur physically on public lands (also known as onshore lands). Compared with the royalty rate of 18.75 percent that is collected for offshore drilling activities, the Interior Department charges for onshore a paltry 12.5 percent rate – a royalty that the GAO found in 2007 to be “one of the lowest government takes in the world.” Such a bottom basement rate means that taxpayers are being shortchanged out of billions of dollars of likely revenue.
That situation is bad in itself, but other successive GAO reports concluded that the agency’s accounting system to assess drilling operations was fundamentally nonexistent, and that it basically relied on the good word of oil companies to self-report via an honor system how much they should be charged for oil and gas produced on federal lands. Given that dubious practice, GAO in 2011 listed Interior’s oil and gas management on a “list of programs at high risk of fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.”
. Rather than adopting a series of recommendations offered by GAO, Interior officials informed the GAO that they had “discontinued its efforts to pursue the revised regulations because, according to Interior officials, the department does not have enough information to determine how to adjust onshore royalty rates.”
In short, Interior Department officials decided to not initiate fixes to their deeply troubled program based on a technicality, despite the fact that literally billions of dollars were at stake for taxpayers. Interior’s attitude is troubling in a number of ways. But it is especially concerning given that this posture puts millions of acres of public lands at jeopardy. When the Interior Department sanctions measures that vastly undervalue our lands for such operations as oil and gas drilling, mining, grazing, and coal extraction, to name a few, the viability of our public lands are put at additional risk. Utilizing these lands for such operations is a privilege, and the price to develop on our nation’s landscapes should be consistent with the market. But in allowing below rates to persist, development is perversely incentivized while conservation funding becomes vastly shortchanged. One just needs to look at the number of drilling leases that sit idle – for at last count over 25,000 leases were not being utilized. The dynamic that allows this gross speculation to occur, that ties up millions of acres that could be set aside for conservation, is a direct result of the fact that the cost to drill is phenomenally low.
12. Failure to Pass Tax Credit For Wind Industry
By Ryan Koronowski
` “The U.S. House of Representatives has already gone on vacation and the Senate effectively adjourned for 2013, meaning that the one-year extension of the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) will expire on Jan. 1, 2014.
The PTC is a $0.022 per kilowatt-hour tax credit on the power that new wind farms in the United States generate for the first ten years of their operation. These farms have to be “under construction” in 2013 to receive the credit, which is different than how it worked over the law’s prior 20-year history.
Wind is now within 5.5 percent of the cost of coal, and as the trends continue to make wind cheaper and more reliable, it’s also a good investment. Wind is 90 percent cheaper than it was twenty years ago, and 30 percent cheaper than it was three years ago.
In November, a multitude of conservative groups, led by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity sent a letter to Congress urging them to let the wind PTC expire. The letter said that the wind industry “has very little to show after 20 years of preferential treatment,” ignoring the improvements in manufacture and costs, as well as all the jobs created and carbon pollution saved. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and eight other Republican Senators sent a similar letter to Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus calling for the end of the production tax credit for wind power.
All forms of energy get government support through tax breaks—the oil and gas industry gets billions, and so does coal—but it’s mainly the renewable, clean energy that has to fight for an extension every year. AWEA’s CEO Tom Kiernan said on Monday at an Iowa press conference announcing the MidAmerican order, “If Congress were to remove all the subsidies from every energy source, the wind industry can compete on its own.”
Congressional Democrats pushed for a vote to extend, but there was really no legislative fight like the one seen last year.
The main reason for this? There was an extremely minimal chance that the House and the Senate would pass a stand-alone clean energy bill.”
13. Endocrine Study Reports
**News Report on Endocrine Disrupting Frack Chemicals “A new study out of the University of Missouri and carried out in Garfield County, CO links chemicals tied to natural gas drilling activities with endocrine system disruptions in the human body.
The study was released by a team of researchers, including Susan Nagel, head of the Endocrine Disruptors Group and assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at MU.
It found that both surface and groundwater samples taken from test sites in Garfield County that had “known natural gas drilling incidents,” such as spills of hydraulic fracturing fluids, had greater levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) than samples taken in areas devoid of drilling.
The researchers chose Garfield County for their primary samples because it is home to more than 10,000 active natural gas wells.
Water samples were taken in September 2010 from ground and surface sources, including the Colorado River, in five sites with between 43 and 136 natural gas wells within one mile, and where a spill or other reported incident had been reported within six years.
Reference samples were taken from other areas in the county that have little drilling, and from nondrilling areas in Missouri for comparison.
“In the present study, we identified EDC activity of several individual chemical components used in natural gas operations that may contribute to the activity that we measured in water,” Nagel and the other researchers wrote in the report.
The report concludes that most water samples from sites with known drilling-related incidents in the region exhibited more chemicals known to impact human sex hormone activity than the water samples collected from the other control sites.
The study measured 12 chemicals used in drilling operations, included those associated “fracking,” The findings “suggest that gas drilling operations may result in elevated EDC activity in ground and surface water,” the researchers wrote in the report.
Nagel told MedPage Today, an online medical journal, after the report was released that the study is the first of its kind to show a connection between gas drilling activities and EDCs.
She also said more comprehensive sampling needs to be done at drilling sites in Garfield County to confirm the findings of the study.
One industry spokesman, David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, noted the MU study’s link to “one of the nations’ most renowned anti-drilling activists,” which he said “leaves wide space for questioning the project’s claims and conclusions.”
He was referring to Theo Colborn, a gas industry critic from Paonia who is also an endocrinologist and president of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange.
Colborn acknowledged that she met Nagel in the mid-1990s and has encouraged her to do more research into the impacts of drilling on human hormone health. But she said she was not directly involved with the study.
Colborn hailed the study as an important breakthrough in research about the impact of chemicals used not only by the gas industry, but other industry as well, on human health.
“This is a very important paper, and it just might make people wake up to the fact that the only laws we have in place to protect us use very crude health end points,” Colborn said of measures to protect humans from high doses of chemicals that can cause serious disease, birth defects or death.
`“There are a lot of other health effects that we have to live with that are certainly annoying and that need to be taken into account,” she said.
Because of an exemption for fracking operations from regulatory acts such as the Clean Water Act, the EPA can’t even address it, said Colborn.
She said it’s also important not to refer to Nagel’s work as a “fracking study” per se, but rather one that addresses the impacts of oil and gas development beyond just the fracking phase of the process.”
**Fracking Chemicals Found to Disrupt Hormone Function
“Endocrine disruptors interfere with the body’s endocrine system, which controls numerous body functions with hormones such as the female hormone estrogen and the male hormone androgen. Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals has been linked by other research to cancer, birth defects and infertility.
“More than 700 chemicals are used in the fracking process, and many of them disturb hormone function,” researcher Susan Nagel, Ph.D, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women’s health at the University of Missouri School of Medicine said in a media release. “With fracking on the rise, populations may face greater health risks from increased endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure.”
The study involved two parts. The research team performed laboratory tests of 12 suspected or known endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, and measured the chemicals’ ability to mimic or block the effects of the reproductive sex hormones estrogen and androgen. They found that 11 chemicals blocked estrogen hormones, 10 blocked androgen hormones and one mimicked estrogen. The researchers also collected samples of ground and surface water from several sites, including:
• Accident sites in Garfield County, CO, where hydraulic fracturing fluids had been spilled.
• Nearby portions of the Colorado River, the major drainage source for the region.
• Other parts of Garfield County, CO, where there had been little drilling.
• Parts of Boone County, MO, which had experienced no natural gas drilling
The water samples from drilling sites demonstrated higher endocrine-disrupting activity that could interfere with the body’s response to androgen and estrogen hormones. Drilling site water samples had moderate-to-high levels of endocrine-disrupting activity, and samples from the Colorado River showed moderate levels. In comparison, the researchers measured low levels of endocrine-disrupting activity in the Garfield County, CO, sites that experienced little drilling and the Boone County, MO, sites with no drilling.
“Fracking is exempt from federal regulations to protect water quality, but spills associated with natural gas drilling can contaminate surface, ground and drinking water,” Nagel said. “We found more endocrine-disrupting activity in the water close to drilling locations that had experienced spills than at control sites. This could raise the risk of reproductive, metabolic, neurological and other diseases, especially in children who are exposed to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”
The study, “Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region,” will be published in the journal Endocrinology. http://ecowatch.com/2013/12/16/fracking-chemicals-found-to-disrupt-hormone-function/
**Estrogen and Androgen Receptor Activities of Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals and Surface and Ground Water in a Drilling-Dense Region
Christopher D. Kassotis, et al.
Endocrinology December 16, 2013 en.2013-1697
. “Hundreds of products containing more than 750 chemicals and components are potentially used throughout the extraction process, including over one hundred known or suspected endocrine disrupting chemicals. We hypothesized that a selected subset of chemicals used in natural gas drilling operations and also surface and ground water samples collected in a drilling-dense region of Garfield County, CO would exhibit estrogen and androgen receptor activities. Water samples were collected, solid-phase extracted, and measured for estrogen and androgen receptor activities using reporter gene assays in human cell lines. Of the 39 unique water samples, 89%, 41%, 12%, and 46% exhibited estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, androgenic, and anti-androgenic activities, respectively. Testing of a subset of natural gas drilling chemicals revealed novel anti-estrogenic, novel anti-androgenic, and limited estrogenic activities.
The Colorado River, the drainage basin for this region, exhibited moderate levels of estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, and anti-androgenic activities, suggesting that higher localized activity at sites with known natural gas related spills surrounding the river might be contributing to the multiple receptor activities observed in this water source. The majority of water samples collected from sites in a drilling-dense region of Colorado exhibited more estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, or anti-androgenic activities than reference sites with limited nearby drilling operations. Our data suggest that natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated EDC activity in surface and ground water. “
**Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Found At Fracking Sites Linked To Cancer, Infertility: Study
The Huffington Post | By Dominique Mosbergen
“EDCs, which have the ability to interfere with normal hormone action, have been linked to a number of health issues. Last year, the World Health Organization issued a report highlighting the health risks associated with the chemicals, including cancer, infertility and impaired neural and immune function. Previous studies have also suggested that EDCs may have adverse effects on the reproductive system in both women and men.”
14. Harvard Study Blows Apart Obama's Case for Natural Gas
“We've long known that gas is only better than coal if it leaks at a rate of less than 2.7 times during production. The study makes it clear that gas wells are leaking at least that much.
In his last two State of the Union addresses, President Obama gave natural gas his full endorsement, and his party has followed suit. Now, a new study from researchers at Harvard has found that methane concentrations in the atmosphere are higher than thought. Obama's embrace of natural gas, it now appears, is actually an anti-science position that the president must reverse if he is serious about tackling the climate crisis. The president's "all of the above" energy strategy has been revealed for what it is: A naked attempt to please everyone (except the physics and chemistry of the planet) and a failed attempt to create a shield against the GOP's claims that Obama is against the exploitation of fossil fuels.
The Harvard study, "Anthropogenic Emissions of Methane in the United States," found that greenhouse gas emissions from "fossil fuel extraction and processing (i.e., oil and/or natural gas) are likely a factor of two or greater than cited in existing studies." In regards to methane, and this is key, the researchers found that "fossil fuel extraction and processing could be 4.9 +/- 2.6 times larger than in EDGAR, the most comprehensive global methane inventory."
The great promise of gas was that it could replace coal and reduce GHG emissions, but only if methane didn't leak into the atmosphere during drilling or transport, and only if natural gas didn't crowd out renewable energy development.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-kessler/harvard-study-blows-apart_b_4393599.html?utm_hp_ref=fracking
15. The Fracking/Real Estate Conundrum
Are home value declines near wells another multi-billion dollar subsidy for oil and gas industry?
“New research indicates that many of the 15.3 million Americans living within a mile of a hydraulically fractured well that’s been drilled since 2000 may have lost or be in the process of losing a good portion of their wealth as a result of this drilling activity.
So just how big of a loss are we talking about cumulatively? If the research is correct, it’s billions upon billions of dollars. As a matter of perspective, recent research indicates that drilling wells within just one mid-size community such as Longmont could, in a worst-case scenario, trigger a drop in home values of more than 15 percent. And a 15 percent drop in Longmont real estate values, a town with a population of only 88,000, would equal somewhere around a $1.2 billion loss.
The losses of those living near wells is due to the diminishing values of their homes and property as a result of the fact that an increasing number of buyers have become hesitant to purchase real estate near fracked wells and their accompanying industrial production platforms. It also doesn’t help that fracking/oil and gas shale development is also threatening the primary and secondary mortgage markets. No buyer, no sale. No mortgage, no sale. It’s that simple.
For the most part, the real estate market operates on just one principle; if a prospective buyer isn’t sure that they will be able to sell a property later for at least what they paid for it today, they won’t buy. Because of that apprehension, regardless of whether or not it is justified, a growing number of people don’t want to live or invest in a property near an existing well or even in an area that could one day end up with a well nearby because some third party owns the mineral rights.
Because perception is reality in the real estate market, informed buyers and qualified real estate agents are beginning to steer clear of houses and properties near oil and gas shale plays unless they are at a substantial discount to similar properties that are not threatened by such drilling activity. And if buyers and agents are aware of fracking’s impact on real estate values, you can bet that banks are also well aware of their potential exposure when lending money in those same areas.
If housing prices in an area fall because of the fear of fracking, then lenders stop lending in areas where fracking may occur, and when that happens, prices in those areas fall still further. Like many ups and downs within the investment community, it is a chain reaction triggered entirely by perception, but the results are all too real.
First, if people in communities and counties sitting atop oil and gas shale formations realize that they could potentially lose 5 percent to 20 percent of their property values should drilling occur anywhere near their homes, they would likely go the same route as Colorado’s Front Range citizens and begin to vote for moratoriums and outright bans on fracking. And that would create a disastrous delay for an industry whose economic vitality is literally dependent upon its ability to drill, produce and export our natural gas overseas as quickly as possible.
Foreign markets are currently willing to pay as much as four times the going rate for gas here in the states, but that won’t last forever. In fact, it is predicted that most foreign markets will be using their own domestically produced shale gas within the next five to 10 years.
The second reason the industry claims that oil and gas shale development is a positive for real estate values is because it has been so in some select areas. These exceptions to the lower price-near-drilling rule are often used as examples by the industry to try and quell a community’s fear that its real estate values could be harmed by nearby drilling activity. But it seems a somewhat disingenuous argument when all the facts are known.
Communities that have experienced a boost in real estate prices due to oil and gas shale development tend to be small, isolated towns located in close proximity to a major shale play during the drilling phase.
For example, Williston, N.D., has seen an extraordinary increase in property values due to the current oil shale drilling boom in the Bakken formation. Why this has occurred is not a mystery, nor is it applicable to other locations around the country such as the Front Range of Colorado.
In Williston, 15,000 mostly short-term (a few years at best) workers have descended, almost overnight, onto the tiny town with a population of 12,000 locals who already occupied nearly all of the 5,230 existing houses in the community.
As a result, wheat fields around the town have become home to thousands of travel trailers and motor homes of every size and shape. In these “man camps,” as they’re called by locals, it’s not unusual to find recently arrived workers paying thousands of dollars a month for the privilege of sleeping in a bunk in a crowded travel trailer. Many workers wind up living in their cars.
It’s true that existing home prices in the area have increased three- to fivefold because, during the drilling boom, they are being sold as rental properties that can be used to house the glut of workers who are willing to pay thousands to share a room with four to six of their oil-patch pals. Fast money tends to inflate things.
Like the landlords, the local restaurants in Williston are enjoying the boom, but they are also shelling out $25 an hour just to get someone to wipe down tables or wash dishes. And more often than not, the restaurant owners also have to provide housing for employees in the form of a trailer in the eatery’s parking lot.
But as with all booms, the bust will most assuredly come when the brunt of the drilling activity moves on to the next play. This is Williston’s third “boom” since 1981. I was there for the first one and can assure you that the real estate prices went up and then fell back to reality as soon as the rig count plummeted and the oilies moved on.
The only thing that will be left when the current boom subsides will be a devastated little North Dakota town with a bad case of culture shock and a few new tattoos.
This is what has happened to some extent in small towns near shale plays all across the country, including Colorado towns like Rifle and Trinidad that have already experienced the boom and bust cycles attributable to shale gas.
The housing additions that were new and promising a few years ago are today bank-owned eyesores. The new restaurants, hotels and businesses that came have mostly gone. Today even the businesses that existed before the wells came are struggling to hold on now that the oil patch has shifted to the next unsuspecting, ill-prepared community.
It seems hardly an honest position for the oil and gas industry to point to such boomtowns as examples of oil and gas shale development’s positive influence on real estate values. Industry folks know that, for the most part, the benefit to real estate values only occurs during a drilling boom phase of development due to severe housing shortages for workers in less populated corners of rural America.
In most areas where a larger population exists before the rigs move in — areas such as Colorado’s Front Range or similarly populated parts of Pennsylvania, New York and Texas — researchers have found that fracking has a substantial and negative influence over real estate prices.
In these more populated, more developed areas there is no upward pressure on housing prices when the drilling comes because there is ample housing and other businesses to handle any short-term influx of the drilling related workforce.
So the real, long-term impact on housing values for most Americans living near oil and gas shale development is to the downside due to the perception, right or wrong, that drilling and fracking may contaminate the air and water, create a visual/noise nuisance and threaten public health, at least that is what the research is finding.
A recent study titled “A Review of Hydro-Fracking and its Potential Impacts on Real Estate” which was conducted by the University of Denver’s Ron Throupe, a professor in the Daniels College of Business, along with his DU colleague Xue Mao and Robert A. Simons of Cleveland State University, found that the term “fracking” is having an influence on public opinion, and that when it comes to real estate, that influence is likely causing people to not buy or at best pay less for homes near such oil and gas activity.
The study surveyed homeowners in Texas, Alabama and Florida. The homeowners were asked if they would buy a home under certain conditions, which included that “an energy company had bought the rights to (frack. Jan)…..
In Texas, where residents have had a long relationship with the oil and gas industry, only about a quarter of those surveyed said they would be willing to purchase the house. Of those who said they would still purchase the home, the best offers were around 6 percent below what should have been the home’s market value.
In a recent interview, Throupe told BW that in a county such as Boulder, where the apprehension over fracking is quite high, it is likely that homes near drilling operations could easily lose as much as 20 percent of their value. And he also pointed out that it isn’t just the homes adjacent to drilling that are being impacted. For instance, if a well is being drilled and fracked on the edge of a housing addition or within a town, the homes located in close proximity to the well and/or production platform will decrease in value, but so will all the homes within the addition or within a certain distance to the well. This loss in real estate value to homes that can’t even be seen from a well site is due to the comparable sales process used during the appraisal process.
The DU research also found that other factors near drilling operations, such as whether or not a home was on well water or city supplied water, also influenced potential purchasers’ willingness to buy and pricing.
In 2004, another study titled, “The impact of oil and natural gas facilities on rural residential property values: a spatial hedonic analysis” was conducted by Peter C. Boxall and Melville L. McMillan of the University of Alberta and Wing H. Chan of Ontario’s Wilfrid Laurier University. For simplicity this research will be referred to as the Boxall study.
The peer-reviewed Boxall study is believed to be the first actual study of the impact of oil and gas industry activity on real estate values. Because it examined a region on the edge of a significant population center, its findings may well be applicable to Colorado’s Front Range.
The Boxell study looked at the impact of gas wells and other associated industry development such as pipelines and production facilities on the values of real estate located just on the edge of Calgary, a million-plus-population city in Alberta, Canada. So the study looked at a populated area more similar to Colorado’s Front Range or the Barnett Shale’s proximity to Fort Worth, Texas, as opposed to a small isolated town like Williston, N.D.
The Canadian researchers examined how the fear of health risks from gas wells and the perceived lost amenity attributes caused by wells affected real estate values.
However, the peer-reviewed Boxell study researchers found that all three industry-funded papers had serious shortcomings in the processes used to arrive at their conclusions and that the findings were, in fact, in error.
The Boxell study concluded, “The results of this analysis strongly suggest that the presence of oil and gas facilities can have significant negative impacts on the values of neighboring rural residential properties.”
The report found that properties located within four kilometers (2.48 miles) of gas wells lost between 4 percent and 8 percent of their value.
Perhaps most importantly, the Boxell study researchers also recommended that the findings of this study and others that would be done subsequently should be used in the U.S. and Canada as a way to help determine proper compensation to homeowners whose property values have been negatively impacted by oil and gas activity.
If oil and gas companies were legally made to pay proper compensation for surface damages, which logically should include real estate value damages to homeowners, it is likely that much of the proposed drilling near populated areas such as Colorado Front Range communities like Longmont, Lafayette, Fort Collins and Broomfield would be deemed uneconomical, as damages could easily reach into the tens of millions of dollars or more for any well located in close proximity to concentrated housing.
At this point, the only reason that oil and gas companies can drill close to or even within communities is because outdated state laws regarding surface damages which exclude real estate value losses to nearby homeowners are, in fact, acting as a multi-billion dollar subsidy for the world’s most profitable industry.
And this is only the impact that the oil and gas industry is having on real estate values. Next week BW will be examining how oil and gas development is threatening to implode the primary and secondary mortgage markets of the United States. It’s a problem that has thus far stumped some of the best legal minds in the country. But a solution must be found quickly before the next chain reaction starts unwinding more financial markets.”
16. DEP Relied On Driller for Franklin Forks Investigation
Says John Hanger
“Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hanger criticized DEP's handling of a water contamination case during a press conference .
Hanger is accusing the DEP of giving WPX too much influence over the investigation of a high-profile water contamination complaint in Susquehanna County. `
Hanger, a former DEP secretary, said that DEP handed key portions of its investigation into the cause of high levels of methane, metals and salt in the groundwater in Franklin Forks to WPX Energy, the company accused of damaging the water supplies.
A DEP spokeswoman said the agency routinely asks for reports from companies suspected of causing environmental impacts and it also gathers information from people making complaints.
“Our determination is based totally on our 16-month investigation by our trained oil and gas specialists,” spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said. “We review all the evidence and reach our own independent conclusion. WPX Energy had no say in our conclusion.”
DEP has refused to release its own report of the investigation, citing a need to protect residents’ private information. DEP regularly makes available or redacts homeowners’ names, addresses and water quality data in its public files, but Connolly reiterated Thursday that DEP will not release the report “at this point.”
Hanger, who said he has not seen DEP’s report, said WPX’s involvement in the Franklin Forks investigation differs from normal information exchanges between regulators and companies.
“From what I can determine, this is a case where DEP has actually relied on WPX to do major parts of the investigation,” he said during a press conference outside DEP’s Wilkes-Barre office. “These investigations need to have DEP staff and DEP resources in charge.”
Last week, Hanger called for DEP to reopen the Franklin Forks investigation to consider new data about the well water gathered by an Ohio State University scientist.
In November, WPX won a court order to remove temporary water supplies it had installed last year at two Franklin Forks homes. The company dropped that effort on Friday and donated the water tanks to the families instead after critics called the company’s actions cold-hearted.” LAURA LEGERE / STATEIMPACT PENNSYLVANIA
17. Top Pipeline Regulator: Lack of Oversight ‘Keeps Me Up At Night’
Some 200,000 miles of rural gathering lines go entirely unregulated.
'In Pennsylvania, everything has been up to the industry to police themselves—whether it’s wellpads, whether it’s pipelines, whatever it is. … Our governor has handed over the keys of the state to the gas industry.'
While the natural gas industry has long insisted that pipelines are a safe means of transportation, hundreds of accidents have punctuated the shale gas boom of the last five years.
Usually they’re not fatal: In 2013, there have been dozens of leaks and explosions on gas pipelines in sparsely populated areas—in rural Wyoming, Texas, Missouri, Louisiana and West Virginia, to name a few—without any loss of life. But such accidents in crowded areas can be deadly. In September 2010, a gas pipeline explosion in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno killed eight, injured 58 and leveled several blocks. The following year, five people died in a similar explosion on a pipeline in Allentown, Pa.
Since most pipeline operators have to meet a bare minimum of safety requirements, critics have often charged the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) with failing to properly oversee the hundreds of thousands of interstate pipelines that fall within its jurisdiction. It’s no secret that the small-budget agency based in the Department of Transportation—whose 151 inspectors are tasked with covering more than 2 million miles of pipeline across the country—has its fair share of troubles in fulfilling its regulatory mandate.
But while PHMSA has enough trouble looking after its existing jurisdiction, a high-ranking agency official recently expressed major concern about something that remains outside of her agency’s watch entirely. More than 200,000 miles of energy pipelines aren’t subject to any federal or state regulation at all: the so-called “gathering lines” that transport mostly gas, but some oil, directly from wells to processing sites.
“What keeps me up at night? Gathering lines,” Linda Daugherty, PHMSA’s deputy associate administrator for field operations, told a crowd of safety advocates at the Pipeline Safety Trust’s annual conference in New Orleans last month. “There’s a whole lot of gathering lines out there that no one is inspecting. There are no safety standards applicable to those lines, and no safety agency or regulator is looking at them.”
Unlike larger transmission pipelines, which typically transport oil and gas over long distances, and distribution lines, which deliver consumable energy to customers, federal regulations don’t apply to about 90 percent of the nation’s 240,000 miles of gathering lines.
That means that unless a state has its own regulations—and most of them don’t—nobody’s looking after the pipelines. What’s more, the lack of basic data-collection requirements at both the federal and state levels means that nobody knows exactly how many pipelines are out there.
“Overall, there’s no requirement to report accidents to PHMSA, so nobody really knows how many are occurring,” says Darin Burk, head of the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives and pipeline safety program manager at the Illinois Commerce Commission. “I personally have heard of one or two in this state over the years, but whether that’s all that’s happened, I couldn’t tell you.”
PHMSA regulates pipelines according to “class”—a category that’s largely determined by the number of buildings that fall within a 660 feet radius of the line. The roughly 10 percent of gathering lines that cross medium to high-density areas—classes 2, 3 and 4—have to meet minimum safety requirements. But the 90 percent that fall under class 1 do not.
Although these unregulated lines are, in theory, traversing only rural areas, that’s not exactly a reassuring thought for the people living near them, especially in shale-rich parts of the country where contractors are hard at work installing more and more infrastructure to keep the gas flowing.
“They get to say in the event of an incident, it’s only forest or trees that will be affected, not the population,” says Meryl Solar, 60, a retired computer programmer living in New Milford, Pa., whose house sits about 2,000 feet from DTE Energy’s unregulated Bluestone Gathering Line. “I guess I’m just either a forest or a tree, so are my neighbors.”
The Bluestone is one of many new lines to be installed in the fracking hotbed of Susquehanna County, supplying gas from the Marcellus Shale to transmission lines in New York and the southern portion of the county. Although Pennsylvania is home to one of the richest shale formations in the nation, it’s one of many states that lacks gathering-line regulations: The law simply requires contractors and homeowners to notify the state before they start any digging or excavation projects. That means it’s up to residents like Solar to do the kind of basic safety oversight that one might typically expect of regulators.
Solar says she received a booklet from DTE Energy about how to take “shared responsibility” for the pipeline, such as detecting potential leaks. She says the pamphlet included an erroneous suggestion to be alert for strange odors (unprocessed natural gas is odorless). The booklet also urged her to be on the lookout for what the industry calls “third-party intrusions”—that is, any unauthorized guests or construction crews who might pose a threat to the pipeline’s integrity.
An accident waiting to happen?
The lack of oversight is of growing concern as the natural gas industry continues to expand. Of course, the more wells that are dug, the more gathering lines will be needed to transport the shale gas that’s extracted. Indeed the number of miles covered by such lines is expected to reach about 640,000 by 2035, according to the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America.
But the sheer growth in pipeline mileage isn’t the only safety concern.
Today’s gathering lines are larger and pumping gas at higher pressures than ever before. Traditionally, they were 2 to 12 inches in diameter. By contrast, today’s shale-bearing ones range anywhere from 12 to 36 inches and feature maximum allowable pressures that far exceed “historical operating parameters,” a PHMSA advisory committee found two years ago.
The Bluestone Line that runs by Solar’s house, for instance, ranges from 16 to 20 inches in diameter. On its website, DTE Energy boasts of the “high pressure” system that “has the ability to move a larger volume of gas through a single line.” It’s not just the Bluestone—whether it’s other drilling-intensive areas lying in the Marcellus Shale or further out West in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, large high-pressure lines are the new norm.
They’re also encroaching into more populated zones.
“Over the years, the location of gathering lines has changed,” says Darin Burk. “They used to be pretty rural, non-populated, a lot of the time on private property. Well with the shale gas development, that’s changing. The gathering lines are starting to get into the more populated areas.”
What’s the hold-up?
Even the most basic federal oversight has proceeded at a snail’s pace. In 1992, Congress passed the Pipeline Safety Act, which gave PHMSA the authority to regulate gathering lines for the first time. But it wasn’t until 2006 that PHMSA actually published a rule that defined what a “gas gathering line” was—a decision it reached through extensive collaboration with the energy industry.
The charge that PHMSA is more of a friend to the oil and gas industry than a regulator is a familiar one.’ ”
Even so, one might have expected the Obama administration to usher in new oil and gas pipeline safety rules after the costly million-gallon spill in the Kalamazoo River in July 2010 and the San Bruno tragedy.
But efforts to draft an array of new pipeline regulations in the wake of these tragedies, which would make a flurry of improvements such as new leak detection requirements and better safety inspections, have ground to halt. Earlier this year, a high-ranking PHMSA official, Jeffrey Wiese, described the process as “kind of dying.”
Rulemaking on gathering lines has similarly stalled.
When asked what’s taking the agency so long, Hill says that the gas pipeline rule in question covers a variety of different topics and that the agency has to balance its competing concerns and “prioritize things.” PHMSA has dozens of congressional mandates, mostly housekeeping requirements and reports, from the 2011 Pipeline Safety Act, in addition to recommendations from the Government Accountability Office and Inspector General.
Political pressures have probably also driven the rule’s delay. Both Congress and the White House would likely prefer that PHMSA not undercut the mandates of the Pipeline Safety Act by preemptively issuing its own sweeping rules on gathering lines—and other topics.
But if the energy industry has its way—not an unlikely prospect, given PHMSA’s institutional history—it’s hard to imagine a rule that simply extends existing safety regulations to all gathering lines. The American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Gas Processors Association are all opposed to extending those regulations before implementing basic data collection requirements. Since those basic data collection requirements would likely need to come first, an expansion of existing safety regulations is probably at least a couple years away.
In the meantime, PHMSA is encouraging states to pass their own regulations. Texas and Ohio, for example, recently passed new safety requirements on gathering lines. It remains unclear how many other shale-rich states will follow suit.
Solar, for one, isn’t too optimistic about the prospects of that happening in her state.
“They’ve pretty much dug up all of rural Pennsylvania,” she says. “In Pennsylvania, everything has been up to the industry to police themselves—whether it’s wellpads, whether it’s pipelines, whatever it is. … Our governor has handed over the keys of the state to the gas industry.”
Cole Stangler is an In These Times staff writer based in northeast D.C., covering Congress, corruption and politics in Washington. His reporting has appeared in The Huffington Post and The American Prospect. He can be reached at cole[at]inthesetimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @colestangler. http://inthesetimes.com/article/16020/top_pipeline_regulator_says_lack_of_oversight_keeps_her_up_at_night/
18. ALEC Calls for ‘Guerilla Warfare’ To Weaken Carbon Emissions Standards
From National Resources Defense Council
“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a clandestine network of corporations and conservative state lawmakers held a special session to discuss upcoming EPA carbon-pollution standards for power plants.
According to reports, ALEC members and industry lawyers encouraged state legislators to limit their states’ cooperation with EPA, and even to engage in “guerrilla warfare” to weaken the agency’s ability to reduce carbon pollution.
Participants in the closed-door ALEC Environment Task Force meeting at the summit also discussed two draft resolutions to obstruct EPA’s carbon pollution standards. These resolutions, when introduced by ALEC members in state legislatures next year, will bear no mark of the corporations that designed them in the ALEC Task Force.
While it is known that American Electric Power chairs that ALEC task force, the current list of corporate members is secret. However, thanks to leaked internal ALEC documents, environmental advocates know the 2011 corporate member participants. They include American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), American Electric Power Company, American Gas Association, American Petroleum Institute, BP, Duke Energy Corporation, Edison Electric Institute, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Peabody Energy. “
19. Faith motivates Michael and Karen Bagdes-Canning
“As leaders in the Marcellus Outreach Butler, the couple has joined with dozens of Butler County residents to call attention to the dangers they believe fracking poses to people's lives. They said their work is largely motivated by their Catholic faith and the legacy they leave their grandchildren.
"I think we're called to be stewards of the planet," Michael, 60, a longtime member of the Cherry Valley Borough Council, told Catholic News Service.
Karen, 58, who taught autistic children before retiring, said she was just as concerned about the future facing the couple's grandchildren.
"The plan," she explained, "was to be involved with the grandkids, organic farming, the animals, feeding ourselves, living a healthy lifestyle. Then we heard about this (fracking) and we thought that's going to be all shot to hell."
Michael, who taught teenagers in a state juvenile detention facility for 29 years, believes otherwise. He has seen normally healthy people become ill with nausea, severe nose bleeds, unexplained skin rashes, breathing difficulties, hair loss and even leukemia where the symptoms developed only after a well has been constructed and the fracking process was executed. He has seen playful pets die after their owners unknowingly provided them contaminated water. The Bagdes-Cannings keep a one-gallon container of orange-tinged water collected in August from a home in a rural community known as the Woodlands near Butler, Pa., to show what came out of one homeowner's tap after a well was put into operation nearby.
Michael acknowledged that it is difficult to legally prove the ill health of residents to natural gas drilling. But he said he would rather be safe than sorry and wants to see stronger regulations of the natural gas industry not just in Pennsylvania but across the country. The couple maintained they are speaking out for future generations. "What kind of thing are we leaving our grandchildren?" Michael said of fracking. "How am I going to look at (my grandson) and see the planet is irretrievably harmed? What am I going to say when he asks 'What did you do?' I gotta say 'I did something, at least I tried.’”
See more at: http://www.catholiccourier.com/in-depth/previous-topics/debate-over-fracking/faith-motivates-catholics-to-speak-out-on-gas-oil-drilling-practices/#sthash.EX2mva3T.z3oHc5dO.dpuf
20. Chesapeake Fined $3.2 Million For Water Violations in WVa
“U.S. federal regulators said oil and gas company Chesapeake Energy Corp will pay a civil penalty of $3.2 million to settle Clean Water Act violations in West Virginia where it drills in the Marcellus Shale.
Chesapeake will also pay an estimated $6.5 million to restore streams and wetlands. The U.S. oil and gas company allegedly dumped rocks, sand and dirt into wetlands while building drill sites and roads, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Companies using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling construct drilling pads for rigs by clearing land that is then covered by crushed rock. Roads also need to be built to accommodate truck traffic to and from drilling sites.
The $3.2 million penalty, one of the largest of its kind ever levied by the federal government, is for violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which prohibits the filling or damming of wetlands, rivers, streams, and other U.S. waters without a federal permit, the regulators said.
"Chesapeake Appalachia LLC has reached a key milestone in the settlement process to resolve federal and state claims relating to surface construction activities that occurred in West Virginia prior to November 2010," the company said in a statement.
The settlement, which required court approval, also resolves alleged violations of state law brought by West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection.
In December 2012, the Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma company pleaded guilty to three violations of the Clean Water Act related to natural gas drilling in Wetzel County, at one of the sites subject to this latest settlement.
Chesapeake was sentenced to pay a $600,000 penalty to the federal government for discharging crushed stone and gravel into Blake Fork, a local stream, to create a roadway to improve access to a drilling site. The company has already fully restored the damage done to the site.”
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