Thursday, December 19, 2013

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas-Happy Holidays
  To All!!



 To see photos or to receive our news updates, please email jan at

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates        December 19, 2013

*  For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
*  To view permanent documents, past updates, reports, general information and meeting                information
* Our email address:
*  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:      


WMCG     Thank You

                              * Thank you to contributors to our Updates: Debbie Borowiec, Lou Pochet, Ron Gulla, Marian Szmyd, Bob Donnan, Cynthia Walter, Gloria Forouzan, Elizabeth Donahue, and Bob Schmetzer.



Donations- Our Sincere Thanks For Your Support!
The Paluselli family
Jan Kiefer
Mary Steisslinger
Wanda and Joe Guthrie
 Lou and Dorothy Pochet for donating to group printing costs.
Joe and Judy Evans for printing costs of fracking tri-folds.
Jan and Jack Milburn for donating to group printing costs.
Harriet Ellenberger for donating to group printing costs.






*** 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. 

Volunteers Needed!!

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)

Who: SkyTruth

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

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

Office: 304-885-4581 | Cell: 240-385-6423  |”


Take Action!!

 ***As always letters to the editor are important and one of the best ways to share information with the public. Pick any frack topic and get it in the public eye.*** 

1.  NPR  -Post Your Complaint on Facebook  

“Great news! Thanks to your hard work, we've got a meeting tomorrow with the NPR ombudsman. The ombudsman works on behalf of us, the listeners, to make sure the reporting we hear on public radio is accurate, balanced, and compelling.


               This is an amazing chance not only to talk about the offensive gas industry-sponsored ads airing on NPR, but also to move overall news coverage about fracking in a critical direction. We're bringing fracktivists from effected communities and experts in the dangerous drilling practice (thanks to your support.) Of course I'll also have your 40,000 signatures and copies of the radio ad you helped make to drive home the message.

               However, for this meeting to really succeed we need to include your voice as well. Click here to leave a message on the Facebook wall of NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos, telling him what you think of NPR's coverage of fracking and the sponsored messages from the gas industry.

               You can suggest stories NPR should have covered, or tell us about times a local or national story you heard got fracking really right or really wrong.

Thanks for making this possible,

Drew Hudson, Director, Environmental Action


2. Comments 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.

 Public Hearings

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.

               Online Comments

               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

               Written Comments

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.

               Email Comments

People can also submit comments to

 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, 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 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)

Washington County

Jan. 22, 2014, Washington and Jefferson College’s Rossin Campus Center / Allen Ballroom, 60 South Lincoln Street, Washington, PA 15301

 Indiana County

Jan. 23, 2014, Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Convention and Athletic Complex, 711 Pratt Drive, Indiana, PA 15705


Lisa Kasianowitz, Department of Environmental Protection




3. Tell FERC---Stop Rubber-Stamping Frack Pipelines

               On September 29, Steven Jensen, a farmer in North Dakota, discovered a massive 865,000-gallon fracked oil spill in a wheat field on his land. The spill, which is one of the largest inland oil-pipeline accidents in the United States ever, may have gone on for weeks unnoticed before it was discovered.

               The spill in North Dakota is not an isolated incident. Every week there are news reports about pipeline leaks and explosions that contaminate our land and water and sometimes kill. But instead of fixing its crumbling infrastructure, the oil and gas industry has embarked on a reckless spending spree. It wants to build thousands of miles of new pipelines so that it can frack America and make us dependent on dirty fossil fuels for decades to come.

               We have to speak out now to stop it. The petition, which is to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, says the following:

               America doesn’t need endless pipelines and related infrastructure that impact local communities and that choke off the development of clean, renewable energy supplies. It is time for FERC to put down its rubber stamp and place a moratorium on new fracking and oil- and gas-related infrastructure projects.

               Tell the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: Stop approving oil and gas infrastructure.

               Private land is seized by eminent domain. Dangerous and polluting compressor stations are constructed in the middle of residential neighborhoods. One gas pipeline is slated to cut through the Gateway National Recreation Area. And now there’s a plan to build another large and potentially explosive pipeline near a nuclear reactor in one of the most densely populated areas of the country.

               How can this happen? Isn’t anyone looking out for the public’s safety and welfare?

               That "someone" should be FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It’s supposed to consider “public convenience and necessity” before permitting projects like these. But it’s fallen down on the job. Instead of critically examining all the impacts associated with oil and gas infrastructure, it’s become a rubber stamp for an industry that has shown that it doesn’t give a damn about the health and safety of the American people.

               Tell FERC that America doesn’t need endless pipelines and related infrastructure that impact local communities and choke off the development of clean, renewable energy supplies.

               Will you join me and add your name to my petition to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to demand that it stop approving oil and gas infrastructure?

Thank you for your support.

Jill Wiener



**Westmoreland Activity**

North Huntingdon Report from Marie Moore The meeting last week had a nice turn out considering the very short notice and several of us spoke.  They are of course only looking at the money and think it’s a good thing for the community. They feel that since no equipment will be in the surface of the park that this will keep the park safe. We know it will not. They also have the attitude that everyone around us is doing it- why not us. A reporter was there from the local paper and normally her recaps get published the next day. Her story has still not been published. I reached out to her and she said that is up to her editor. I find it curious that it has not been published yet considering the impact of their actions can have. They have yet to publish the agenda for tonight's meeting. If you have any questions just ask.           

               And report from Kathryn  North Huntingdon Commissioners Special Meeting 12/12- According to Commissioners, they are meeting with Huntley & Huntley to negotiate a subsurface lease for Oak Hollow and Braddock’s Trail behind closed doors.  Some terms the Commissioners revealed were:  a 10yr lease; bonus payment: $1,500acreX275acres=$411K; 16% royalties; no surface activities.  Approx. 10 residents of NHT came to the meeting and spoke in opposition.  I am meeting with some of these residents on Thursday 12/19 at 7pm in Bob Evans, NHT (conference room) to strategize on how to keep this proposal from coming to fruition (If you have an interest in attending you are welcome, please let me know  Commissioners have bought into the idea that drilling is definitely coming to NHT and since it is coming, they may as well allow more and get money off it…’s going to take a major show of township support to prevent this.  We can mobilize! If we look at Protect Our Parks in Allegheny County, it is working!

A few relevant details:

1.       Huntley&Huntley has 336 traditional wells with 41 reported violations since 2008, and 155 reported violations since they began extraction activities in 1995.

2.       In Allegheny County, Range Resources and Huntley&Huntley are working to lease park lands at $3,000 /acre bonus and 17% royalties.

3.       Park Drilling is NOT on the agenda for the Regular Commissioners Meeting tonight.  A decision will not be made until after the new year.


4.       From previous interactions with Huntley&Huntley they do not necessarily have plans to begin drilling immediately, thus the 10yr lease.  I think part of this is due to their lack of experience, but also the lack of infrastructure to get the gas to market.  –Which was indicated in a landowner meeting in Burrell months ago.

5.       Huntley&Huntley is a PA company.  They’ve been around since 1912, but only began their own extraction in 1995.  They have interest in Marcellus/Utica wells, but according to DEP reports have themselves not drilled one in PA.

Happy Holidays,

 -Kathryn Hilton 724-455-4200 ex. 4#


Fracknation Screening-- from Kathryn Hilton, Mt Watershed Assoc.:  Attendance at the showing in Indian Head was not good, which is good.  The film was long and sensationalized- the audience picked up on this.  Q&A was abbreviated.  It was clear to many that while I was invited to participate in the panel I was not given the opportunity to actively do so.  I corrected WPX representative, Susan Oliver’s attempts to obfuscate twice! Which was pulling teeth- I had to raise my voice and interrupt to even have the opportunity of being heard. Unfortunately, I did not get to respond to most of the statements made.

There was a good showing of informed citizens.  I’d say all in all it was as “successful” as one might hope.  This event was put on by the Mountain Laurel Chamber of Commerce.  Feel free to contact them and say that you do not support gas activities in the Laurel Highlands!


Frack Links

***WTAE-  Affects Of the Gas Industry Some notes: “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:


***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.


***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  <> 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.



Fracking News

1.   Why Drilling UNDER a Park is a Bad Idea

by Kathryn Hilton, Mt. Watershed Assoc.  (summarized)

               “Drilling under a park means the well must be sited within 3 miles of the park,  (to my knowledge, no horizontal leg has ever exceeded 3 miles). The area within that 3 mile radius is recognized as the area of greatest exposure by the Environmental Health Project.  Truck traffic will still impact the area and contaminants will still make their way onto park property.  This idea of not drilling on parklands is only pushing the burden to the surrounding community.       Furthermore, well integrity remains a concern because the drilling, perforating and fracking will occur under park property.  The potential for methane migration and chemical contaminants to taint waters in any given park is still present.  Furthermore, the infrastructure required for getting this gas to market will still be required.   Not locating the well pad on park property does not protect the park from compressor stations or pipelines unless that is explicitly written in an agreement. 

               In fact, if one is going to exploit a park, some would say it might make more sense to put the rig in the most isolated part of the park and shut the park down for the construction of well pad, drilling, fracking, completion and restoration time as to isolate more folks from exposure instead of putting it on property next to residents.

 Thank you,

 If you have additional questions or would like more information I am generally in my office 10-6pm. Call anytime 724-455-4200 ex. 4#

 Kathryn Hilton

Community Organizer, Mountain Watershed Association


2. Communities Fight Back on Fracking

From Sierra Club Allegheny

               “While Allegheny County Council has been faced with the prospect of fracking in County Parks since August, here is what other communities have been doing during the same time period. In New Jersey on Sept. 17 Highland Park banned fracking, as did New Brunswick on Oct. 2. At the Nov. 5 elections fracking bans were passed in three Colorado communities: Bolder, Fort Collins, and Lafayette. On Nov. 30 a Massachusetts Statehouse committee approved a bill calling for a 10-year statewide fracking ban. On Dec. 10 the Erie County (NY) legislature banned fracking on County owned land, banned shipment of frack waste on county roads to municipal treatment plants, and banned the use of frack waste water on county highways. Note that in New York State there were already bans against fracking in 68 municipalities and moratoria in 107. Finally, on Dec. 11, Dallas County Council in Texas (!) passed a county-wide ban fracking within 1,500 feet of homes, a move that the industry claims is a de facto ban on fracking in the county.

               And by the way, Pittsburgh was the first city to ban fracking, back in November 2010. That action saved the city parks so why are County Council members reluctant to also keep fracking away from the county parks?

Link to speak at Allegheny County Jan 14. meeting on fracking in parks.”


3.   Rep., Jesse White calls For investigation Of Unreported 21,000-gallon Frack Water Spill  

               “Washington/Allegheny/Beaver, today called on state, federal and Washington County authorities to investigate an unreported spill of at least 21,000 gallons of Marcellus Shale flowback water, based on internal emails from a Marcellus Shale water hauling company in Washington County    

                              The emails between employees of Red Oak Water Transfer, now operating as Rockwater Energy Solutions, were obtained from a civil court filing in the Washington County Court of Common Pleas case concerning impacts of drilling activities at a natural gas drilling site operated by Range Resources in Amwell Township. Rockwater was operating as a subcontractor of Range Resources, purportedly moving drilling wastewater to and from drilling sites and waste impoundments in the region. The internal emails between Rockwater employees and executives, which were first reported Saturday by the Marcellus Monitor website, explicitly detail a spill of gas well flowback water on Dec. 6, 2010, with a minimum of 500 barrels, or 21,000 gallons, of flowback water spilling into an environmentally-sensitive waterway that empties into a trout-stocking stream.

               The emails describe black water pouring out of a pipe into the ground, and then into a nearby stream. However, the exact location of the spill was not specified, and sworn deposition testimony from a Rockwater executive, who was included in the emails, now denies any spill ever occurred.

               “Based on the seriousness of this incident and the uncertain impacts to the people and habitat of Pennsylvania, I am asking county, state and federal officials to thoroughly investigate this matter without delay,” White said. “Considering that Range Resources has admitted they don’t even know what chemicals they are using in their drilling operations, a spill of this magnitude represents a potentially serious concern for humans, animals, fish and the habitat near this stream."

               White said that more disturbing than the spill is evidence that Rockwater apparently engaged in a "cover-up" of the incident. Emails between Rockwater executives indicate the spill might not have been reported because the company was concerned about losing business as a result, and that employees were instructed to keep quiet about the incident.

               Furthermore, personnel files obtained from the filed pleading show that a Rockwater employee was suspended without pay in connection with a “flowback spill ‘cover-up,’” which was further detailed as “not reported” and a “serious violation.”

               “The spill is bad enough, but the compelling evidence of a cover-up demonstrates a callous disregard for the health and safety of the people of Pennsylvania,” White said. “Conduct this egregious is a textbook example of how some operators in the Marcellus Shale have no concept of earning a social license to operate in our communities."

               In September, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane filed charges against XTO Energy Inc. in relation to another 2010 spill of flowback water in Lycoming County. In order for the attorney general to take the case, it must be referred by the DEP, the Washington County district attorney or the Fish and Boat Commission. White urged all three to refer the case to the attorney general immediately. According to White, authorities should take seriously all such incidents when it comes to protecting Pennsylvania’s residents and natural resources.

               “With the companies involved still operating every day in southwestern Pennsylvania, the people deserve immediate action and real answers about what really happened out there,” White said. “Identifying and punishing bad actors is the only way to put the natural gas industry on notice that their commitment to environmental safety must be more than industry talking points. You have to practice what you preach."



4. House Of Representatives Votes to Block Federal           Fracking Rules

Republicans argue that regs will slow down energy production

By Pete Kasperowicz

               “The House passed legislation Wednesday evening that would block the Department of the Interior from regulating fracking in states that already have their own regulations in place.

               Members passed the bill 235-187 with the help of 12 Democrats; two Republicans voted against it.

The bill, H.R. 2728, is one of three energy bills House Republicans brought up this week to speed up the process of extracting and moving energy across the country, which the GOP said would help lower energy costs and create jobs.

               President Obama's veto threat against the bill, and the likelihood that the Senate will ignore it means it stands almost no chance of becoming law. Nonetheless, Republicans argued that pending rules from Interior would only slow down energy production and job creation in states that are already regulating fracking.”


5.   U.K.--54-foot Wind Turbine Blade Wrapped in Large                  Red Bow Blocks Frack Site

(Please note the quote, “The Government and big energy companies are planning to build a new wave of gas-fired power stations, partly fed by thousands of fracking wells…              This would lock us into using this expensive and dirty fossil fuel for decades to come.” 

               That is exactly what is happening with the Tenaska plant proposed in Westmoreland County, pipelines being built, and Gov Corbett pushing for natural gas fueling stations. We are being locked into long- term dependence on gas and consequently accompanying air and water pollution. Jan)


               “The growing protest movement against the "new wave" of gas-fired power stations and fracking test sites around the U.K. added a festive spirit to its campaign on Monday when a group of demonstrators delivered a 54-foot wind turbine blade to a drilling site near the city of Manchester, blockading workers from entering the site.

               "This morning fifty pro-renewables campaigners delivered a 17 meter, 1.5 tonne wind turbine blade as a 'Christmas gift' for fracking company IGas," announced No Dash for Gas, the UK-based anti-fracking group behind the action.

               After wheeling in the massive piece of equipment and assembling it on the spot, protesters left it in front of the entrance of the site wrapped in a large red Christmas bow.

               IGas, the gas company which was carrying out exploratory drilling at a site in Barton Moss, just outside the city of Manchester, was forced to stall production before police eventually managed to move the blade out of the way.

               No Dash for Gas protester Sandra Denton, who participated in the action, stated:

               We’ve delivered this early Christmas gift to IGas to remind them that we don’t need damaging, risky and polluting energy sources like oil and gas to power the UK.

               The Government and the big energy companies are planning to build a new wave of gas-fired power stations, partly fed by thousands of fracking wells across the British countryside.

               This would lock us into using this expensive and dirty fossil fuel for decades to come, trapping us in a future of spiraling energy prices and disastrous floods, storms and droughts as climate change kicks in.” - Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer



6. Extremely Important Study

Fracking Sites Tied to Hormone Disruptors


Published: Dec 16, 2013

By Salynn Boyles, Contributing Writer, MedPage Today

Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

               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, a study found.

               Testing of a subset of natural gas drilling chemicals revealed novel anti-estrogenic, novel anti-androgenic, and limited estrogenic activities.

               Surface and ground water samples taken from hydraulic fracking sites in a drilling-dense area of Colorado showed higher levels of estrogenic, anti-estrogenic and anti-androgenic chemical activity than reference sites with limited drilling, researchers found.

               Evidence of endocrine-disrupting activity in a selected subset of chemicals used in the controversial oil and natural gas extraction process was also shown in a study published online ahead of print in the journal Endocrinology.

Fracking Spill Sites Had Twice the EDCs

               Water samples from drilling sites in Garfield County, Colo. that experienced fracking spills or accidents showed moderate to high levels of the endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) activity, while samples from sites with little drilling showed very little activity, wrote Susan C. Nagel, PhD, of the University of Missouri in Columbia, and colleagues.

"We found no significant anti-androgenic activity at any of our control sites and significant anti-androgenic activity at all of the spill sites," Nagel told MedPage Today.

               On average, water at fracking spill sites had double the amount of total endocrine-disrupting activity compared with control sites, she said.

Nagel characterized this association as strong, and said the study is the first to show an association between fracking and endocrine-disrupting activity.

               Around 750 chemicals have been reported to be used in hydraulic fracking, including more than 100 known or suspected to be endocrine-disrupting.

Fracking Exempt From Water Protection Regulations

               But the permanent underground injection of chemicals used in fracking is not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and has been exempted from multiple federal regulatory acts, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.

               And there is no federal spill site registry, although some state regulatory agencies keep some information on spills, Nagel said.

               "There are many pathways for chemicals used in natural gas (fracking) operations to contaminate surface and ground waters: spills during transport before and after extraction, the drilling and fracturing processes, disposal of waste water, failure of well casings, and from structural issues surrounding abandoned wells," Nagel and colleagues wrote.

               The researchers' goals were twofold. They sought to measure the estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, androgenic, and anti-androgenic activities of 12 suspected or known EDCs used in fracking, and they compared these activities in surface and ground water from fracking and nonfracking sites.

               They chose Garfield County, Colo., which has more than 10,000 active natural gas wells, as their primary sample location.

               Water samples were collected from ground, surface, and artisan water sources in September of 2010 from five distinct sites with 43 to 136 natural gas wells within one mile and a spill or incident related to natural gas drilling occurring within the previous 6 years. Surface water samples were also collected from the Colorado River, which is the drainage basin for this drilling-dense region.

Reference samples were collected from areas without drilling in Boone County, Mo. and in areas with little drilling in Garfield County.

Most Chemicals Showed Anti-Estrogenic Activity

Among the findings from the chemical analysis:

               Anti-estrogenic, anti-androgenic, and limited estrogenic activities were observed in the 12 natural gas drilling chemicals tested, while no androgenic activity was observed. At 10 mcgM, anti-estrogenic activities ranged from 24% to 65% suppression of 10 pM 17beta-estradiol (E2), and anti-androgenic activities ranged from 0% to 63% suppression of 100 nM testosterone.

               The chemicals exhibited IC10s (concentrations required to suppress 10% of the maximal activity of the positive control) ranged from 0.15-6.33 mcgM. Of note, 2-ethyl-1-hexanol (IC10 = 0.60 mcgM) and ethylene glycol (IC10 = 0.15 mcgM) exhibited the greatest potency for anti-estrogenic activities, and ethylene glycol (IC10 = 0.50 mcgM), n,n-dimethylformamide (IC10 = 0.50 mcgM), and cumene (IC10 = 0.62 mcgM) exhibited the greatest potency for anti-androgenic activities.

               Estrogenic activity was observed for bisphenol A, which exhibited supra-agonistic activity and an EC50 of 2.00 mcgM (concentration required to exhibit half of its maximal activity).

"To our knowledge this is the first report of anti-estrogenic activity of ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, 2-ethylhexanol, ethylene glycol, diethanolamine, diethylene glycol methyl ether, sodium tetraborate decahydrate, 1,2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, n,n-dimethyl formamide, cumene, and styrene; and novel anti-androgenic activity of 2-ethylhexanol, naphthalene, diethanolamine, sodium tetraborate decahydrate, 1,2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and cumene," the researchers wrote.

Drilling Sites Had More EDC Activity

Among the findings from the drilling-site analysis:

               Ground water at three drilling sites in Garfield County with spill histories exhibited near maximal estrogenic activities and low to moderate anti-androgenic activities, while both Garfield County and Missouri reference sites with little or no drilling exhibited low levels of estrogenic activities.

Colorado River samples exhibited activities at moderate levels, while Missouri reference sites exhibited low estrogenic, very low anti-estrogenic, and no anti-androgenic activities.

               Estrogenic activities were observed in both ground and surface water at drilling-dense sites and in Colorado River samples. Low estrogenic activities were also observed in Garfield County and Missouri reference sites. Ground water samples collected from three of the drilling-dense sites exhibited higher estrogenic activities than both Garfield County and Missouri reference samples (P<0.0001).

               Anti-estrogenic activity was observed in surface water at four drilling-dense sites and in Colorado River samples, while little to no anti-estrogenic activity was observed in Garfield County or Missouri reference sites. Ground water samples exhibited little to no anti-estrogenic activity, with three drilling sites tending to exhibit greater additive agonist activities than reference sites, likely due to the high levels of estrogenic activities exhibited by these samples.

               Anti-androgenic activity was seen in ground and surface water at four drilling sites and in Colorado River samples, while no anti-androgenic activity was observed in the Garfield County or Missouri reference sites. Surface water samples collected from three drilling sites displayed greater anti-androgenic activity than Missouri reference sites (P<0.05) and surface water samples collected from the Colorado River displayed intermediate anti-androgenic activity that did not differ from the drilling sites but were significantly greater than the Missouri reference sites (P<0.05).

               Study strengths included the measurement of total EDC activity, and study limitations included the lack of direct identification of fracking chemicals in the tested water, Nagel said.

               She added that more comprehensive sampling of the Garfield County drilling sites is warranted to confirm that natural gas drilling operations contribute to elevated EDC activity in ground and surface water.”

Funding for this research was provided by the Passport Foundation Science Innovation Fund, the University of Missouri, and the STAR fellowship Assistance Agreement awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The researchers declared no competing financial interests.


7. GASP Works For Better Pollution Controls

Jupiter Compressor Station

          “In response to comments submitted by GASP, Group Against Smog and Pollution, Pittsburgh, the DEP aggregated the Jupiter  gas compressor station,  in Green County , operated by EQV  with a nearby well site for air permitting purposes. DEP policy states that sources located within ¼ mile of each other are presumed to be adjacent and sources located at a greater distance can be considered adjacent on a case-by-case basis.  However, in practice, DEP has tended to ignore any sources located beyond ¼ mile, even though EPA has clearly stated that there should be not bright line rule about how far apart sources can be located and still be considered adjacent.

               This station is the first example where DEP aggregated a compressor station with a nearby well site in response to public comments.

Kriebel Compressor Station

        In a response to an appeal filed by GASP, the Allegheny County Health Dept and Kriebel agreed to reduce NOx emissions from the Rostraver Compressor Station by 87%

        GASP appealed the permit arguing that greater engine emission reductions were technically and economically feasible and required as a matter of law.

 Kriebel will install a more effective engine exhaust catalyst and maximum allowable NOx emissions from the engine will be reduced from 5.12 tons per year to .66 tons per year.

        While the engines operating tat the facility are relatively small, emissions from this type of source are worth the attention because there are so many  small stationary engines in operations and add controls to reduce their emission are incredibly cost effective.”

From: GASP Hotline, Fall 2013


8.   Chamber of Commerce Wants Fracking Study Locked

               The chamber is the largest business lobbying group in the US

               (The study might result in better regulation of the industry)

               “(Reuters) U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said an EPA study due next year could be used to justify clamping down on fracking.

               "This could short-circuit America's absolute explosion in energy opportunity that is creating millions of jobs," he told a meeting of business executives.

               A major force in U.S. politics, the Chamber of Commerce is the biggest business lobbying group in the country and has been a steady critic of President Barack Obama.


The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

               The EPA's study, first requested by Congress in 2010, may prove pivotal in the government's regulation of  fracking.            

               Currently, fracking is largely regulated by states, rather than the federal government. In its first major regulation on the energy boom, the EPA finalized a rule last year that targets smog-forming pollutants from fracking wells. It allows drillers to flare the gases until 2015.

               Critics of fracking, including many environmentalists, worry that drilling operations near schools and homes could pollute water and air.

               The United States overtook Russia as the top producer of natural gas last year and surged past Saudi Arabia this year as the world's biggest oil producer.”

 (Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by Paul Simao


9. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Tells Industry to Inform Public That Fracking Is Safe

(We’re just confused)

               “Interior Secretary Sally Jewell delivered a proclamation that only served to highlight just how much misguided faith the Obama administration has invested in the oil and gas industry, and its quest to keep the American public hooked on fossil fuels.

               Jewell cited what she called “confusion” in the fracking debate, implored the oil and gas industry to clear up “misinformation,” about the process, and asserted that industry should “make sure the public understands … why it’s safe.

               And when members of the public sent one million comments to President Obama and the Bureau of Land Management condemning their permissive approach to fracking on federal lands, Secretary Jewell simply ignored them and chose to offer public relations advice to the oil and gas industry, rather than work to protect communities and public lands that belong to all of us. Hardly a month goes by without the release of a new study that highlights one aspect or another of the harmful effects of fracking. Given these headlines, it’s no wonder that despite the untold millions of dollars being spent by the oil and gas industry to promote the process, Americans are increasingly rejecting it. A recent poll released by the Pew Research Group finds that opposition to fracking has grown significantly across most regions and demographic groups. Overall, 49 percent are opposed to increased fracking, up from 38 percent six months ago, while only 44 percent support it.

               Americans are turning against this practice not because they are confused, but because the evidence of fracking’s harmful effects continues to swell. In just the last few months, a Duke University study linked fracking to elevated levels of methane, ethane and propane in groundwater; a study out of University of Texas, Arlington found high levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in samples from water wells near active natural gas wells; and last month, a study in Environmental Science and Technology found concentrations of radium in the Allegheny River 200 times normal levels, as a result of fracking waste disposal.

               Recent studies also confirm that the common practice of shoving fracking waste down underground injection wells causes earthquakes.  According to new a study in Science, deep-well injection of slippery fracking waste primes geological faults in ways that make them reactive to distant natural earthquakes.

               Secretary Jewell is right about one thing: there is a lot of misinformation out there. Unfortunately, it’s being spread by the oil and gas industry and has penetrated the talking points of President Obama and top administration officials

               In the unconfused words of Filipino environmental leader Von Hernandez, “every investment in fossil fuels is an investment in death and destruction.”


10. Activists In Milford PA Lead Fight Compressor         Station

By Charles Reynolds

“MILFORD — A group concerned about Pennsylvania becoming "just an extraction colony" for gas companies held an informational meeting last week.

               The problem is growing exponentially, they say. A proposed new compressor station in Milford will be 13 times the size of the existing facility. And in the past ten years, they say, construction of new gas plants in the state has increased 200 percent.

               About 40 people piled into the  Pike County Library in Milford on Dec. 4 for a meeting about the Columbia Gas Pipeline's compressor station. The meeting was informational, as well as a call for residents to file as intervenors.

               Columbia Gas is owned by parent company NiSource. Its current compressor station up Fire Tower Road — which is more of a metering station at the moment — at 620 hp is inadequate for the company's needs, the gas company says. They plan on replacing it with a two engine, 9400 hp station and using it to help transport gas from the Marcellus fields  to the proposed expanded site in the Dominion Cove Point Natural gas plant in Lusby, Md..

In pre-filing documents, the company had originally asked for a 6600 hp upgrade.      

               The group, headed by Alex Lotorto and Jolie DeFeis, has no official name yet, but is building public awareness and — they hope — public resistance to yet more construction that they say is “a regional explosion of midstream pipeline construction” that would be used to “send methane gas overseas for foreign consumption.”

               “We've become a sacrificial town for the gas industries,” DeFeis lamented.

Lotorto explained to the assembled residents that the sole goal of the pipeline and gas companies is to “make money."

               Help from governmental bodies is not coming, the group says. Governor Corbett is pro-gas, pro-fracking and pro-pipeline.

               He went on to say that local residents, who will be so deeply affected, will not even see any benefits. They will see no decrease in their own energy costs.

'No logical justification'

               Lotorto and DeFeis briefly talked about how to file as an intervenor and asked all those present to get their friends and neighbors to do so as well.

Most of the meeting was taken up by concerns about the new facility. Lotorto and others said noise will increase significantly because the station will run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

               And what is called a “blowdown" — when gas must be released during routine maintenance — comes without any announcement beforehand, said Lotorto. He said the sound is equivalent to “ten jet engines.”

               An informational flyer the group handed out listed possible chemical emissions from the proposed plant, such as nitrous oxide (8.58 tons per year), carbon monoxide (3.29 tons per year), volatile organic compounds (5.39 tons per year), sulfur oxides (three one-hundredths of a ton per year), and formaldehyde (1.5 tons per year).

               Some in the audience do not want the compressor station built at all, saying there is no logical justification for it. Others want the station moved to a different location. But all agreed that if the station is going to be built, is should be done in the "safest, most environmentally friendly way possible.”

               Milford Township Supervisor Gary Clark said his goal was to get Columbia Gas (NiSource) in for a conditional use hearing before work begins on the project, and insisted the company demonstrate it would be building the station in a manner that did not harm residents. But until that time, he said, the supervisors would not express an opinion publicly one way or the other.

               Clark said Columbia Gas has set precedents in the past by coming to the township for such hearings involving work on the old station. The company has also gone through the conditional use process in other townships. The township has yet to hear from the company in response to a letter sent last month.

               The meeting ended with DeFeis calling on everyone to get and stay involved, especially through the use of social media. She said updates could be found on the “Air, Soil and Water” Facebook page, as well as the soon-to-be renamed “Stop Tennessee Gas from devastating Cummins Hill Road” page.

               Anyone can sign onto the FERC website and subscribe to all the comments and papers filed, as well as follow the progress once construction begins, by registering (free) and subscribing to Docket CP14-17. (At”


11. Brine Injected Deep Underground Did Not Stay Put


               “The East Poplar oil field started up in 1952 on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana, just a few miles north of the city of Poplar.

               When oil (or gas, jan) is produced, brine or produced water rich in salts and toxic metals also comes out of the ground. The oil companies injected the wastes back underground to a depth of between 800 and 1,000 feet, where it was assumed the material would stay put. It did not.

               In 2004, Bruce Smith, a geophysicist at USGS, flew a helicopter over a 100-square-mile area on the reservation. Dangling from his ride was a magnetic beam that could detect the presence of salty water below ground.

               "It is kind of like a CAT scan of the Earth of very small areas as we fly over," Smith said.

               Smith found two potential plumes covering 12 square miles that seemed to be migrating closer to Poplar's water supply.

               The scientists drilled 40 boreholes, tested the water on the reservation and found it was significantly contaminated. In 2010, they tested three public wells Poplar draws its water from and found that all were contaminated with brine. The pollution was due to a well casing failure of an injection well, Smith said.

               Meanwhile, farther north in North Dakota, the Bakken boom was continuing apace and the USGS directed its efforts there. Smith and his colleagues found at least 292,745 wetlands and 4,440 miles of streams were within a mile of an oil or gas well. Spills of oil and produced water were common in the state, which reported 1,129 incidents in 2012 (EnergyWire, July 8). A snowy winter in 2011 caused several waste pits containing brine to overflow in the spring.

               These spills are noted in official databases, but the extent of brine contamination in the subsurface is unknown. Once a spill happens, there is some remediation of the soils, but the movement of brine below ground is not tracked.”


12. Big Oil Funds Attack On EPA Air Pollution Standards

DeSmogBlog  By Farron Cousins

                The EPA’s health standards on industry air pollution are under attack from two separate fossil fuel backed lawsuits.

               The EPA is currently battling two major legal obstacles in the courts over its authority to enact and enforce provisions of the Clean Air Act. the U.S. Supreme Court had already ruled this was not only within the agency’s jurisdiction, but a duty that it had to perform for the American public.


               At the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit,  the EPA defended its work to limit the amount of mercury and arsenic that energy companies are allowed to release into the air. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, these health standards that are under attack from the dirty energy industry have the potential to save as many as 45,000 lives a year.

               Based on the D.C. Circuit’s previous rulings regarding the Clean Air Act, it is likely that the EPA will be the victor in this case.

               In 2008, the D.C. Circuit castigated the EPA for failing to develop mercury emission standards, as required by the Clean Air Act. So the industry’s attempt to challenge the agency for actually following the Court’s orders seems unlikely to go in the industry’s favor. The Circuit Court had also admonished the former Bush administration for their lack of efforts to protect the public health with their cross-state pollution rules.

               And it is the same issue of cross-state air pollution that sets the stage for the EPA’s other judicial fight. Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments from a team of lawyers representing the dirty energy industry and the EPA on whether or not the agency has the authority, and the ability, to monitor cross-state air pollution. The question at hand is whether or not the pollution can be traced back to its original source—without a confirmed source, there can be no liability.

The Washington Post explains the issue in the case:

               The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule affects mostly the eastern two-thirds of the country and requires power plants in more than two dozen states to clean up nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution that contribute to soot and smog elsewhere.

               According to the EPA, eliminating the pollution would prevent 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths and 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks as well as decrease emergency room visits and the number of respiratory disease episodes.

               Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recused himself from this case, leaving the Court split four to four on ideological lines. The case is predicted to go in favor of the EPA, largely due to Alito’s absence taking away a certain vote in favor of the industry.

               Both of these cases are backed by science showing that air pollution can be deadly, and that reducing this pollution is a no-brainer when it comes to the health and safety of the American public. But inconvenient science has never stood in the way of the industry’s agenda, and that has opened up an opportunity for them to take their case all the way to Congress.

               the House Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing in which subcommittee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) invited a climate change denier to cast doubt on the science of climate change.

               During the hearing, members of Congress were fed denial whoppers that included a claim by University of Alabama professor John Christy that only 52 percent of scientists believe in man-made climate change. According to Raw Story, there was only one witness called during the hearing who appeared to believe that anthropogenic climate change not only existed (he pointed out that more than 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific research on the subject confirmed it), but that it was a threat.

               Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Smith has taken in more than $550,000 from the oil and gas industries, his second largest industry campaign contributor.

               It’s unlikely that anything will come from Rep. Smith’s circus of a hearing, but it will solidify his position as a worthy recipient of dirty energy industry cash. It also shows that science, in all forms, is facing some very serious attacks in America, and the attackers all have one thing in common—significant funding from Big Oil.”


13.      230 Businesses and Politicians Call on Obama to                                        Harness Offshore Wind

               “A massive coalition of nonprofit organizations, businesses and General Assembly members banded together today for a single cause—pushing the Obama Administration for offshore wind development in the U.S.


               The 230-plus-member group wrote a letter to the president arguing that he should “redouble” support for offshore wind projects. The group says offshore wind is in line with Obama’s Climate Action Plan as well as his recent demand to triple federal use of renewable energy. There are no offshore projects in the U.S., though a handful of proposals exist.

               The U.S. has potential for its own offshore wind developments like one in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Copenhagen, Denmark, a 230-plus-member coalition says. According to the group, there are more than 4,000 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind potential along U.S. coastlines. About 1,300 GW are along the Atlantic coast alone, which is the equivalent of powering 85 million American homes and removing more than 100 million cars from U.S. road.” by Brandon Baker


14. ALEC Official Calls Solar Users ‘Freeriders’

               At The American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) December summit ,  the organization’s anti-renewable energy resolution has been a major focus.

               Backed by fossil fuel titans like Koch Industries and Exxon Mobil, ALEC has been trying all year to roll back renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in states across the country with little success.

               In addition to figuring out how to win back corporate sponsors following the controversial backing of Stand Your Ground gun laws, ALEC’s December agenda includes further discussion on its resolution, which could possibly kill net metering and/or impose a fee on solar users like Arizona did last month.

               John Eick labeled some solar users “freeriders.”

                ALEC works for its utility member companies to make it prohibitively costly for homeowners to put solar panels on their rooftops and feed extra electricity then generated back into the grid—a process spurred by “net metering” laws, which exist in most states. ALEC’s new resolution could be used to lower or outright kill those net metering payments, or to add fixed charges to solar customers.

               John Eick, who is temporarily running ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force now that Todd Wynn jumped ship for Edison Electric Institute, accuses homeowners that feed solar energy back into the grid of being “freeriders,” despite making their own capital investments in rooftop solar and producing a surplus of electricity that then supplies the entire grid:

               “As it stands now, those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system. They are not paying for the infrastructure they are using. In effect, all the other non direct generation customers are being penalized,” he said.

               Eick dismissed the suggestion that individuals who buy and install home-based solar panels had made such investments. “How are they going to get that electricity from their solar panel to somebody else’s house?” he said. “They should be paying to distribute the surplus electricity.”

               ALEC’s utility members fear the revolution that is distributed solar generation. The effort to make rooftop solar energy more costly in Arizona has been led by ALEC member utility Arizona Public Service, which lied to the public in attempts to hide its funding of groups affiliated with the Koch brothers that have run ads against incentives for rooftop solar production. APS recently rejoined ALEC after a short year where it had distanced itself.

               Ultimately, ALEC’s battle against clean energy, and the jobs that come with it, fits into their decades-long role in the climate change denial movement. ALEC has consistently fought to deny the science of climate change, force teachers to misrepresent climate science to their students, and churned out copycat state bills to block regulations of greenhouse gases.

Brandon Baker


15. Fracking Hell: Living Next to a Shale Gas Well

               “Nausea, headaches and nosebleeds, invasive chemical smells, constant drilling, slumping property prices – welcome to Ponder, Texas, where fracking has overtaken the town.

                Veronica Kronvall can, even now, remember how excited she felt about buying her house in 2007. What Kronvall did not imagine at the time – even here in north Texas, the pumping heart of the oil and gas industry – was that four years later an energy company would drill five wells behind her home. The closest two are within 300ft of her tiny patch of garden, and their green pipes and tanks loom over the fence. As the drilling began, Kronvall, 52, began having nosebleeds, nausea and headaches. Her home lost nearly a quarter of its value and some of her neighbors went into foreclosure. "It turned a peaceful little life into a bit of a nightmare," she says.

               In north Texas, where Kronvall lives, the number of new oil and gas wells has gone up by nearly 800% since 2000. It's impossible to drive for any length of time without seeing the signs, even after the rigs have moved on elsewhere: the empty squares of flattened earth, the arrays of condensate tanks, the compressor stations and pipelines, and large open pits of waste water. Virtually no site is off limits.        Energy companies have fracked wells on church property, school grounds and in gated developments. Last November, an oil company put a well on the campus of the University of North Texas in nearby Denton, right next to the tennis courts and across the road from the main sports stadium and a stand of giant wind turbines. In Texas, as in much of America, property owners do not always own the "mineral rights" – the rights to underground resources – so typically have limited say over how they are developed.            

               The crews proceeded to flatten the earth and install a 200ft red and white drilling tower that loomed high above their homes. Convoys of articulated lorries rumbled down the main road. "It was terrible," Kronvall says. "There was a lot of banging and clanging. The number of trucks was just phenomenal, and the exhaust, the fumes in the air, it was 24/7."

               She says the activities on the other side of her fence deposited a layer of white powder on her counter tops. The sound of the crew shouting into megaphones invaded her bedroom. Bright lighting pierced her curtains and made it difficult to sleep. The rumble of trucks and equipment rattled the glasses in her cupboard, and the smell – an acrid blend of chemicals – was all-pervasive.

               "My wife was pregnant the whole time the rig was there," Wesley says. There was the din of diesel generators belching soot, and a nauseating mix of chemicals competing with the aroma of dinner. The noise and smells penetrated to the next street over, where Christina Mills lives. Like the Howards and Kronvall, Mills, 65, was attracted to Ponder because of its sleepiness, and bought the fourth house built in the entire development when she moved to the town in 2001. "But when that derrick was up, you would have thought you were in Las Vegas," she says, "and I live one street over."

               Two doors down, Kronvall says, her eyes watered constantly when she was at home, stopping only after she had been at work for an hour or two. As well as bouts of nausea and low, throbbing headaches, there was blood when she blew her nose. "I had nosebleeds pretty much throughout the entire process," she says.

               As the neighbors soon discovered, both they and the developer who owned the meadow behind Kronvall and the Howards were powerless because they did not control the mineral rights. The local authorities had already changed the zoning regulations to allow fracking close to their homes, and fought attempts to hold a public meeting about the drilling. Even now, Mills is furious at the way the council treated Remington Park: "They continued to allow them to build and sell homes, knowing full well that they were getting ready to drill behind us."

               She is, somewhat to her surprise, angry with the energy company, too. This is a first for Mills. An accountant, she started her career carrying out audits in the oilfields of Oklahoma. She considered herself a supporter of oil and gas. "In 17 years in Oklahoma, never did I see them intrude on a heavily populated area. They made it personal here, and that's when I had a problem… They came into the back of our neighborhood, 300ft from the back fence. That is so intrusive."

               All the neighbors could do, for the eight months it took to put the wells into production, was watch. Eventually, the rig was dismantled and moved on, leaving two oil wells and three waste tanks in the area just behind their homes. Another three wells, six more waste tanks and a large open pond were erected on the other side of the meadow. Heavy trucks still pull up almost every day to empty the tanks beside the well pad.

               Mills now uses an inhaler after developing asthma. "I am not ever sick," she says, "but in the past 18 months I've had pneumonia three times." She has missed about eight weeks of work.

He goes on: "It's always different but, sooner or later, it is always the same."


16. New Study-- U.S. Fugitive Methane Emissions Exceed           EPA’s Data

Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States

               Scot M. Millera,1, Steven C. Wofsya, Anna M. Michalakb, Eric A. Kortc, Arlyn E. Andrewsd, Sebastien C. Biraude, Edward J. Dlugokenckyd, Janusz Eluszkiewiczf, Marc L. Fischerg, Greet Janssens-Maenhouth, Ben R. Milleri, John B. Milleri, Stephen A. Montzkad, Thomas Nehrkornf, and Colm Sweeneyi

               A new study led by researchers from Harvard University, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds light on a question that continues to vex industry executives and policymakers alike: How significant are fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production?


               The study claims that U.S. methane emissions may be as much as 50 percent higher than estimates in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) annual Inventory – the equivalent to adding 2.3 million cars to the road. Most significantly, the study’s authors assert that methane that is leaked or vented during oil and gas production—aka “fugitive methane”—may be up to five times greater than current estimates. If these results are correct and applicable to oil and gas development nationwide, it would fundamentally alter the scale of the fugitive methane problem and seriously undermine any climate advantage natural gas possesses over coal.

               It was the oil and gas sector – the largest source of methane emissions in the United States – where the variance was greatest, and which is the greatest cause for concern.

               What Are the Implications of this Study? And What Are the Caveats?

If fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas systems are indeed five times greater than previously estimated, that would imply a leakage rate in the range of 5-15 percent of total production. Not only is this a substantial quantity of product vanishing into the air (natural gas is primarily methane), it is also significantly higher than most previous estimates – including from industry – and would reduce or eliminate any advantage natural gas has over coal from a climate standpoint. While natural gas emits roughly half the CO2 of coal at the point of combustion, because methane is such a powerful greenhouse gas, any fugitive methane that escapes during the drilling, processing, or transmission of natural gas serves to lessen that benefit.

               However, it’s important to note that much has changed since Harvard researchers took their measurements in 2007 and 2008. The boom in natural gas development due to hydraulic fracturing had not yet begun in earnest; there are now hundreds of thousands of hydraulically fractured wells across the United States. How their emissions compare to those of conventional wells is still an open question

Despite these caveats, this is nonetheless a valuable and important study—one that sheds light on an issue that remains all too murky. The EPA Inventory uses bottom-up estimates and engineering calculations in determining emissions levels. While this data is still the definitive source for all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, it’s far from perfect. Any direct measurement data helps bring clarity to the confusing world of fugitive methane emissions.” by  Michael Obeiter - December 02, 2013


17. World is Watching Mora County Battle Against           Fracking

               “It is a script destined for a Hollywood movie: A rural, low-income, mostly Hispanic New Mexico county passes a community rights ordinance, bans oil and gas drilling, and is sued by rich, greedy oil and gas barons. "We’re protecting our water," say two Mora County commissioners. Santa Fe, New Mexico.”


18. Most Toxic Ingredients Used In Coal, Oil and Gas Production By Don Lieber

               “The production of major fossil fuels each use hundreds, if not thousands, of chemicals—often not disclosed—many of which are highly dangerous to human health.

               Perhaps the most important historical legacy of fossil fuels, however, will be their collective role as the chief protagonist behind what may be the most urgent long-term global crisis in human history: greenhouse gas–induced climate change.

               It is my hope that this list, focusing on immediate public health risks (apart from climate change), serves as an adjunct to the myriad other reasons to end the use of fossil fuels—all of them—completely.

               The ten “ingredients” listed in this article are not intended as an exclusive list. The major fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas) each use hundreds, if not thousands, of chemicals—often not disclosed—many of which are highly dangerous to human health. Attempting a comprehensive list of all the harmful chemicals used willingly by the oil, coal and gas industries would be far beyond the scope of this blog series.

               This article, rather, represents some of the more commonly cited toxic ingredients in the public literature; a starting point in reviewing the overall public health dangers inherent across the spectrum in all three major fossil fuel extraction industries: oil, coal and natural gas.

1. Benzene

Fossil Fuel Use: Oil, Coal and Natural Gas

               Benzene is a well-established carcinogen with specific links to leukemia as well as breast and urinary tract cancers. Exposure to benzene reduces red and white blood cell production in bone marrow; decreases autoimmune cell function (T-cell and B-cells); and has been linked to sperm-head abnormalities and generalized chromosome aberrations.

               Benzene is one of the largest-volume petrochemical solvents used in the fossil fuel industry. It is a major component in all major fossil fuel production: oil, coal and gas.

               People are exposed to it from inhaling automobile exhaust and gasoline fumes, industrial burning such as oil and coal combustion, and exposure to fracking fluids.

               Studies linking Benzene from fossil fuel combustion to cancer and other severe health problems are increasingly reported from around the world. In Atlanta, scientists from Emory University earlier this year reported a “significant increase” in non-hodgkins lymphomas in regions close to oil refineries and plants that release benzene. In Canada, scientists reported unusually high rates of leukemia and non-hodgkins Lymphoma among residents living “downwind” from the tar sands fields in Alberta—corresponding with high benzene levels found in the same locations. In Calcutta (India) researchers recently linked sudden “spikes” in certain cancers to a corresponding rise in Benzene emissions since 2007.

               The Colorado School of Public Health last year published a report which warned that the benzene from fracking operations gives local residents higher long-term cancer risks. “Benzene is the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risks” for people living near fracking wells, said Lisa McKenzie, Ph.D., MPH, lead author of the study

               The damage benzene inflicts on the human body, however, often takes many years to develop—but those effects are catastrophic. As the fossil fuel industry blankets the U.S. and Canada with recently invented, highly profitable extraction methods such as fracking gas and tar sands oil production, long-term consequences have not been well considered. The story of Camp Lejune is worthy of study:

Over a period of thirty years from the 1950s to the 1980s, troops stationed at the U.S. military base at Camp Lejune, NC, unknowingly drank and bathed in highly contaminated water containing benzene (and a host of other toxic chemicals, originating from leaked fuel tanks and other commercial sources both on and off the base).

               Starting in the 1970s, unusual forms of cancers associated with long-term exposure to benzene became rampant among the camp’s residents. Mary Freshwater was a military wife who lived on the base for many years.

               “I was very active with the Officers’ Wives Club. We were at a party at one of my friend’s house one night. There were five of us in different stages of pregnancy. Every one of us lost their baby to a birth defect,” she told ABC news in this 2012 report, part of which I’ll repost here:

               On Nov. 30, 1977, Freshwater gave birth to a son, Russell Alexander Thorpe, but the baby was born with an open spine. He died one month later. At the time, few people were aware of the chemicals in the drinking water, nor the long-term health effects of those chemicals. Doctors suggested to Freshwater that she try to get pregnant again—and she did. Her second son, Charlie, was born without a cranium, and died the same day. Today, Freshwater is 68 years old and has been diagnosed with two different kinds of cancers, acute myeloid and acute lymphoma. She says doctors told her the diagnosis was consistent with exposure to chemicals such as benzene, which she was exposed to during her time at Camp Lejeune.

The full story of the contaminated water at Camp Lejune is told in the documentary, Semper Fi: Always Faithful.

               The use of benzene, like other toxins used in oil and gas, is particularly insidious because the effects—as seen in the children of the military families at Camp Lejune—take many years to manifest. And due to lax regulations, these products have been rushed into use long before any long-term testing has been possible.

               “It takes about 20 years, let’s say, for solid tumors to develop after exposure to a chemical,” said Brian Schwartz, an environmental epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University.

               The fossil fuel industry actively suppresses benzene disclosure and regulation. In April 2001, the Koch Petroleum Group (now Flint Hills Resources—still owned by the Koch brothers) “pleaded guilty to a felony charge of lying to the government about its benzene emissions.”

The Koch brothers reported 1/149th of their actual benzene pollution to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. The company was fined $10 million and ordered to fund an additional $10 million in costs for environmental cleanup in South Texas.

2. & 3. Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)

Fossil Fuel Sources: Oil, Coal and Gas

               Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are two primary examples of particle-forming air pollutants (particulate matter) from coal power plants. Particulate matter is known to contribute to serious health problems, including lung cancer and other cardiopulmonary mortality. SO2 and NOx are both highly toxic to human health, and contribute directly to thousands of hospitalizations, heart attacks and deaths annually.                           

               The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health, for example, labels sulfur dioxide “extremely toxic.” At high concentrations, it can cause life-threatening accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema); and it is linked to respiratory ailments including chronic lung disease and asthma, as well as heart disease. It can be fatal upon inhalation at high exposure rates.

               SO2 is particularly dangerous for children. Studies correlate SO2 emissions from petroleum refineries—even in lower exposure levels over time —to higher rates of childhood asthma in children who live or attend school in proximity to those refineries. Similarly, small particles of NOx can penetrate deeply into sensitive lung tissue and damage it, causing premature death in extreme cases. Inhalation of such particles is associated with emphysema and bronchitis.

               The largest sources of combined global SO2 and NOx emissions are from fossil fuel combustion at power plants and other industrial facilities.

               The American Journal of Public Health published reports in 2009 that high levels of sulfur dioxide, associated with oil refining, was found indoors in residential homes in Richmond, CA—a community which straddles four major oil refineries, including the massive Chevron oil refinery. The refinery processes up to 240,000 barrels of crude oil per day. In 2010 alone, it released some 575,669 pounds of chemicals, including SO2, into air, water and waste facilities. It may be no surprise, then, that residents of Richmond suffer statistically significant higher risks of dying from heart disease and strokes and are more likely to go to hospitals for asthma than any other nearby county residents.

               Conversely, one study in France reported a significant reduction in hospital visits related to SO2 exposure during the period of a national oil-refinery strike in France—when oil production ceased temporarily, and SO2 emissions dropped.

SO2 and NOx emissions represent a known and significant health risk from routine oil, gas and coal production—yet these emissions from oil and gas accidents pose additional—and unforeseen—risks. Worse, many oil- and gas-related accidents are not reported to the public at all—such as the 300 oil pipeline spills in North Dakota, which, since 2010, have never been reported. Accidents, whether reported or not, are a significant contributor to SO2 contamination and represent a serious public health risk. More than 42,000 tons of SO2 were released from oil and gas accidents—in Texas alone—between 2009 and 2011.

               This raises the question: just how much SO2 and NOx is emitted from fossil fuel sources, and exposed to the public, without anyone ever knowing about it?

4. Petroleum Coke (Pet Coke)

Fossil Fuel Source: Oil (particularly tar sands bitumen)

               Pet coke is an increasingly abundant by-product of tar sands bitumen oil processing. It is a heavy dust which resembles coal. It contains dozens of dangerous chemicals and heavy metals, including chromium, vanadium, sulfur and selenium. Research on its risks to public health have been scant; the little research so far is inconclusive. As explained by Chris Weisener, a researcher at the University of Windsor: “there is not much information about pet coke available, so its effects are not conclusively known.”

Does, in fact, pet coke represent a public health threat?

“From the air perspective, as long as it’s not being burned, the only concern would be fugitive dust,” said Chris Ethridge of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. (As if “fugitive dust”—laced with toxins—would be perfectly harmless floating freely in the air.)

               In fact, it is burned. The huge expansion of the tar sands oil mining in Alberta has created an unprecedented abundance of pet coke, which is now being used instead of coal in coal-powered power plants. It has become a huge export commodity in its own right. From Jan. 2011 to Sept. 2012, the U.S. exported more than 8.6 million tons of pet coke to China, most of which was likely burned in coal-fired power plants. (The largest pet coke trader in the world is Oxbow Corporation, owned by William Koch—brother of known fossil fuel industrialists David and Charles Koch.)

               The burning of pet coke not only poses significant health risks—it is also an egregious contributor to global climate change. When burned, pet coke emits five to 10 percent more CO2 even than coal.

               But pet coke’s dangers are hidden from the public. The industry classifies it as a “refinery byproduct,” which allows it to be excluded from most assessments of the climate impact of tar sands oil production—ignoring completely its dangerous end-use effects.

               As tar sands oil production in Alberta has increased exponentially in the past decade, its waste stream can no longer be hidden away in the remote Canadian hinterland. Piles of pet coke this year turned up in Detroit and Chicago, ”exported” from the tar sands production fields in Alberta, where it is now stored for subsequent export.

               Dark, rising clouds of pet coke have sparked public protests in Detroit and Chicago,  lawsuits (the Koch brothers are accused of illegal pet coke storage, to nobody’s surprise), health complaints and charges of environmental racism (it’s dumped, like much industrial waste, in low-income, mostly non-white neighborhoods). 

               Nevertheless, as an increasingly abundant by-product of the expanding tar sands oil industry, it is becoming a “profitable” fossil fuel product in its own right, even spawning its own industry support groups: the 13th annual Petcoke Conference is being held in San Diego in Feb. 2014, hosted by “The Jacobs Group”—one of the leading “pet coke service industries.”

               The industry ignores the public health dangers, the environmental hazards and the dramatic climate implications of pet coke; it is instead presented—as seen in the industry website snapshot below, as an exciting element of an expanding new energy industry. In truly Orwellian language, climate-killing pet coke is presented in attractive terms with these words: “amid accelerating change, standing still is not an option.”


  5. Formaldehyde

Fossil Fuel Source: Natural Gas

               Formaldehyde is a carcinogen with known links to leukemia and rare nasopharyngeall cancers, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Formaldehyde is highly toxic regardless of method of intake. It is a potent allergen and genotoxin. Studies have linked spontaneous abortions, congenital malformations, low birth weights, infertility and endometriosis to formaldehyde exposure. Epidemiological studies link exposure to formaldehyde to DNA alteration. It is also contributes to ground-level ozone.

               Formaldehyde is commonly used in fracking— although, the industry does not report the details of its use.

               In 2006, the fracking industry was granted waivers from federal clean air and water regulations (known as The Halliburton Loophole) — since then, it has operated with few, if any, reporting requirements regarding the chemicals it uses. (The waiver was promoted by the Bush-Cheney White House; Cheney, of course, was the former CEO of Halliburton).

               Independent studies, however, have detected dangerous levels of formaldehyde in both wastewater and ambient air emissions from fracking operations. One researcher, with the Houston Advanced Research Center, said reading from one test site in north Texas, “astoundingly high,” and, “I’ve never heard of ambient (formaldehyde) concentrations that high… except in Brazil.”

The designation of formaldehyde as a dangerous ingredient in fossil fuel production has been vigorously contested by both the fossil fuel industry and by the members of the U.S. Congress who receive huge funds from the industry.

               In 2009, Koch Industries, one of the nation’s largest fossil fuel companies, lobbied against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed declaration that formaldehyde “should be treated as [a] known human carcinogen.” The largest recipients of oil and gas industry contributions in the U.S. Congress, including Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) and Sen. Vitter (R-LA), also lobbied extensively against the designation.

               Sen. Vitter, indeed, accepts money directly from the formaldehyde industry. According to Talking Points Memo, his election campaign received about $20,500 in 2009 from companies that produce large amounts of formaldehyde waste in Louisiana. His preferences for the people of Louisiana are clear, and they aren’t the avoidance of cancer.


6. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)

Fossil Fuel Sources: Oil and Coal

In actuality, this is not a single listing—polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are an entire class of toxic chemicals, linked together by their unique chemical structure and reactive properties. I include them on this list because they are frequently cited collectively as a primary fossil fuel pollutant.

               Many PAHs are known human carcinogens and genetic mutagens. In addition, there are particular prenatal health risks: prenatal exposure to PAHs is linked to childhood asthma, low birth weight, adverse birth outcomes including heart malformations and DNA damage.

               Additionally, recent studies link exposure to childhood behavior disorders; researchers from Columbia University, in a 2012 Columbia University study, found a strong link between prenatal PAH exposure and early childhood depression. Infants found to have elevated PAH levels in their umbilical cord blood were 46% more likely to eventually score highly on the anxiety/depression scale than those with low PAH levels in cord blood. The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

               The rapid development of the Alberta tar sands oil fields in Alberta, Canada, has coincided with both the discovery of dangerous levels of PAHs in the region and multiple reports of significantly higher rates of cancer and other diseases in the adjacent communities. As reported in one local newspaper:

More women in the community are contracting lupus. Infant asthma rates have also increased. During the summer months, it is not uncommon to find mysterious lesions and sores after swimming in Lake Athabasca. “When you look at what is happening in the area, it can’t not be related to development,” says Eriel Deranger, a spokesperson for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “Too many times, we see things in the animals and health that the elders have never seen before.”

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 provides another window into the previously hidden dangers of PAHs in oil production. Following the massive spill, scientists found PAH levels to be 40 times higher than before the spill.

               Local fisherman, normally accustomed to some of the most abundant and healthy fisheries in the U.S., subsequently reported finding horribly mutated shrimp with tumors on their heads, some lacking eyes and eye sockets, clawless crabs “with shells that look like they’ve been burned off by chemicals.” An increasing number of scientists from diverse specialties—biologists, fish physiologists, environmental toxologists—from Louisiana State University, North Carolina University, North Texas University and others cite PAHs from the spill as the most likely culprit.

The effects of PAHs to wildlife in the Gulf waters—coming to light several years after the spill—may merit attention across the American heartland as U.S. domestic oil production increases dramatically.

               Will North Dakotans, for example, soon begin to see a sharp rise in rare cancers, due to the hundreds of unreported PAH-infused oil pipeline spills in that state since 2012, like their unfortunate northern neighbors in Alberta are now experiencing near the tar sands fields?

Is this what we mean by “energy independence?”

7.  Mercury

Fossil Fuel Source: Coal

               Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin. It damages the brain and the nervous system either through inhalation, ingestion or contact with the skin. It is particularly dangerous to pregnant women and children. It is known to disrupt the development of the in-vitro brain. In low doses, mercury may affect a child’s development, delaying walking and talking, shortening attention span, and causing learning disabilities. High dose prenatal and infant exposures to mercury can cause mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness and blindness.         In adults, mercury poisoning can adversely affect fertility and blood pressure regulation and can cause memory loss, tremors, vision loss and numbness of the fingers and toes.

               Coal-fired power plants are the largest single source of airborne mercury emissions in the U.S. The mercury emitted from such plants can travel thousands of miles; scientists recently linked the chemical fingerprint of mercury found in fish in deep portions of the Pacific Ocean to coal power plants thousands of miles away in Asia.

               Here in the U.S., many of the largest coal-powered power plants are located within 50-100 miles of some of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Austin.

               One out of every six women of childbearing age in the U.S. have blood mercury levels that could be harmful to a fetus, according to EPA reports. The EPA estimates that 300,000 children are born each year at risk for significant development disorders due to mercury exposure.

You may not hear references to mercury in the television ads speaking about “clean coal.” But it’s in there, too.

8. Silica (Silicon Dust/Fracking Sand)

Fossil Fuel Source: Natural Gas 

               Crystalline silica (“frac sand”) is a known human carcinogen; breathing silica dust can lead to silicosis, a form of lung disease with no cure.

               Silica is commonly used, in huge amounts, during fracking operations. Each stage of the process requires hundreds of thousands of pounds of silica quartz–containing sand. Millions of pounds may be used for a single well.

               The presence of silica in fracking operations, simply put, is a major safety risk with a high likelihood of dangerous exposure. Case in point: researchers from the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently collected air samples at 11 fracking sites in five different “fracking states” (CO, ND, PA, TX and AR) to evaluate worker exposure to silica. Every single site had measures higher than the NIOSH threshold for safe exposure—so high, in fact, that about one-third of the samples collected were even above the safe threshold for wearing a safety respirator mask. This was reported in May 2013 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.

The natural gas industry and its political allies have lobbied extensively against safety regulations and chemical disclosure laws; there are no federal or state standards for silica in ambient air, despite the high risks involved in acquiring lung disease. In 2006, the natural gas industry was given a waiver from the Clean Air and Water Act, granting the industry “free reign” in using the chemicals it needed without the strict rules of disclosure and/or regulation which other polluting industries were beholden to. (The waiver, of course, was an executive branch ruling—that is, approved only with the permission of the Bush/Cheney White House.)

               The industry exerts considerable influence in state policies as well, with particular influence in the main “fracking states”: North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Wyoming and Wisconsin. The relationship between the former Governor of Pennsylvania and the gas industry is a strong example: Gov. Corbett (R-PA), over his political career, received more than $2 million dollars in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industries (oil, coal and gas). Their support, arguably, was a crucial factor behind his 2010 election victory. In that election, the industry favored Corbett over his opponent, Dan Onorato, by more than 10:1, giving the Corbett campaign $1.3 million while only contributing $130,300 to Ontorato.

               Corbett, ever the gentleman, said “thank you” to his benefactors two years later when he pushed a law through the state legislature which restricted the rights of doctors from discussing with their patients potential links between symptoms and chemicals used in nearby fracking operations —adjacent to residential property, for example. (This was at the same time that numerous studies, including this one from the National Academy of Sciences, were reporting these very same links). This “gagging” law by Gov. Corbett was cited by the New England Journal of Medicine, which accused the gas industry of “infringing on clinical practice and the patient-physician relationship” in Pennsylvania.

               The fracking industry, in fact, is increasing its use of silica. New fracking techniques are currently being developed (using “shorter and wider” fracks) which will use significantly higher volumes of silica dust than ever before. The industry, expecting a period of growth, is ignoring the high risks of lung cancer and, instead, touting the expected rise in “frack sand stock value.”

9. Radon

Fossil Fuel Use: Natural Gas

               Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas which causes lung cancer. It is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after cigarette smoking. About 20,000 people per year die from lung cancer attributed to radon exposure according to the National Cancer Institute. Further, there is no known threshold below which radon exposures carries no risk.

               Radon exposure can come from a variety of natural sources. However, the newly-developed fossil fuel extraction methods collectively known as fracking (natural gas) represents a significant new and increased source of radon exposure to millions of citizens. Radon is released into local groundwater and air during fracking operations. It also travels through pipelines to the point of use—be it a power plant or a home kitchen.

               The science behind radon release and exposure is complex but explained well here by Christopher Busby, the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, who warns that radon dangers from fracking “have not been addressed properly (or at all) by the environmental impact statements published by the operators, or by the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA.”

               The proliferation of fracking in the U.S. has raised increased concern that the long-term public health consequences of radon exposure are being ignored in favor of the perceived short-term economic advantage of using fracked gas. In New York City, for example, Mayor Bloomberg has promoted the increased use of newly fracked natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region fields in Pennsylvania: the Spectra Pipeline, for example, is a massive new gas pipeline which, on Nov. 1, went on-line and is now transporting up to 800 million cubic feet of fracked gas into the center of Manhattan every day.

               The industry (and NYC Mayor Bloomberg) touts the development of fracking as an achievement for “clean energy” and American energy “independence.” The laws of chemistry and biology, however, tend to ignore patriotic sound bites, and Mayor Bloomberg is not doing New Yorkers any favors from importing newly fracked gas from Pennsylvania: the radon levels from wells in the Marcellus Shale are significantly higher than elsewhere in the U.S. This fact, combined with the short travel distance to end use in New York means that citizens throughout the most populated city in the U.S. will now be exposed to more amounts of this highly carcinogenic gas than ever before—in their homes, at work, in schools and yards above the highly pressurized pipelines running throughout the not-so-invulnerable New York City underground power grid (remember Sandy?), on the very streets of Manhattan.

               “City and state leaders have failed to think through the consequences of promoting radon-laced natural gas, and they failed to heed clear warning signs that gas from Pennsylvania represents a major threat to the public health of New Yorkers,” said Albert Appleton, former commission of the NYC Dept. of Environmental Protection and senior fellow at the Cooper Union Institute of Sustainable Design.

               Another industry expert, Marvin Resnikoff, a PhD physicist and international radioactive waste consultant, put it more succinctly. Using fracked gas from Marcellus, he said, will directly lead to thousands of new cases of lung cancer in New York.

               Long-term studies from diverse science, research and public health organizations, such as this one from the Federal Office of Public Health, provide evidence to take these warnings seriously. Many of these studies provide evidence that indoor radon causes a significant number of lung cancer cases in the general population.

               Dr. Resnikoff cited the the lack of attention, however, given to radon dangers by the New York State Department of Conservation’s Environmental Impact Statement on the use of Marcellus Shale fracked gas. “In the entire 1400 page statement there is only one sentence containing the word “radon” and no consideration of this significant public health hazard.” Read his full report here.

               Such government apathy runs contrary to the findings by the world’s leading public health and science organizations who have published very clear warnings. Organizations such as the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Cancer Institute, all articulate a definitive, well-established connection between radon and lung cancer.

               …and yet, like the tobacco industry in years past, today’s fossil fuel industry denies the science. Thus, a spokesperson for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a gas industry trade group, recently disputed the findings of the world scientific community about the dangers of radon: “Their claims are unsupported by facts and science,” says MSC spokesman Travis Windle.

               The Marcellus Shale Coalition’s website, it should be noted, makes no mention of the bloody lungs and painful bone metastases which, eventually, occur in end-stage lung cancer resulting from radon. Instead, it refers to the promise of “clean, job-creating American natural gas.” (Yes, the website actually says “clean.”)

10. Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) / Hydrogen Fluoride

Fossil Fuel Source: Oil and Gas

               Hydrofluoric acid (HF) is “one of the most dangerous acids known.” HF can immediately damage lungs, leading to chronic lung disease; contact on skin penetrates to deep tissue, including bone, where it alters cellular structure. HF can be fatal if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through skin.

               The senior laboratory safety coordinator at the University of Tennessee said, “Hydrofluoric Acid is an acid like no other. It is so potent that contact with it may not even be noticed until long after serious damage has been done.”

Hydrofluoric Acid is a common ingredient used in oil and gas extraction.

               Numerous studies, including recent ones conducted by both The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and the United Steelworkers Union (USU) cite the oil industry’s abysmal safety record as a high risk factor for a major HF accident; over the past decade, more than 7,600 accidental chemical releases from refineries have been reported by the industry. In the past three years alone, a total of 131 “minor” accidents involved HF.

               One major refinery’s experience speaks volumes about the fossil fuel industry’s disregard for safety and public health: the BP Texas City refinery. This single refinery has accumulated more than 600 safety violations, which, inevitably, led to tragedy: in 2005, a series of explosions at the refinery killed 15 people and injured hundreds more.

               This tragedy, however, was not entirely unforeseen by BP. Internal BP memos subsequently revealed that, in the days before the explosion, refinery managers in Texas lamented that “safety is not viewed as the #1 priority” (by company executives in London). Indeed, the memos discussed the likelihood that the refinery “would kill someone.” (This is the same BP which federal investigators found responsible for numerous safety failures leading to the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.)

And it isn’t only the workers who are at risk. Public health officials have long warned that HF accidents at oil refineries have a high likelihood of causing “mass casualties.” within the civilian population at large.

               50 U.S. refineries use HF, many in close proximity to highly populated urban areas such as Houston, Memphis and Philadelphia. THE CPI study estimates some 16 million people are within dangerous range of an accidental HF release—HF travels easily in the air, at great distance.

               And there’s more: the Center for American Progress listed HF as the nation’s second most dangerous industrial chemical vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

The fossil fuel industry is subject to little regulatory oversight. Federal rules for the use of HF in oil and gas refining are almost non-existent; there is no mention of the topic in the Bureau of Land Management’s recent draft rule for well stimulation methods with HF use (including fracking).

               The oil and gas industry spends considerably on lobbying and political campaign contributions to ensure the rules remain lax. In 2013, so far, it has spent more than $100 million in federal lobbying, ranking third among all U.S. industries in federal lobbying. In the past 15 years, the oil and gas industry has spent approximately $1.4 billion in federal lobbying. The energy exercises further influence through additional massive contributions to the political campaigns of friendly U.S. congresspersons. It has contributed millions of dollars to the campaigns of Sen. Inhoffe, Sen. McConnel (R-KY), Sen. Vitter, Sen. Boehner (R-OH), Sen. Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Blunt (R-MO) and others, all of whom have proven loyal to the industry by consistently voting against proposed new safety and public health oversight and regulations.

               The lack of regard to the enormous risks to the public posed by HF in fossil fuel production was summarized by a spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, one of the largest oil industry lobby groups in the nation, who, when asked to respond to questions about HF safety, simply said: “We use HF acid because it’s effective.”



We are very appreciative of donations to our group.
               With your help, we have handed out thousands of flyers on the health and environmental effects of fracking, sponsored numerous public meetings, and provided information to citizens and officials countywide. If you would like to support our efforts:  
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Westmoreland Marcellus Citizen’s GroupMission Statement
               WMCG is a project of the Thomas Merton Society
      To raise the public’s general awareness and understanding of the impacts of Marcellus drilling on the natural environment, health, and long-term economies of local communities.
Officers: President-Jan Milburn
                 Treasurer and Thomas Merton Liason-Lou Pochet
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