Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates January 29, 2014
* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;https://www.facebook.com/groups/MarcellusWestmorelandCountyPA/
* To view permanent documents, past updates, reports, general information and meeting information http://westmorelandmarcellus.blogspot.com/
* Our email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
* To discuss candidates: http://www.facebook.com/groups/VoteProEarth/
* To contact your state legislator:
For the email address, click on the envelope under the photo
* For information on PA state gas legislation and local control: http://pajustpowers.org/aboutthebills.html-
WMCG Thank You
* Thank you to contributors to our Updates: Debbie Borowiec, Lou Pochet, Ron Gulla, Marian Szmyd, Bob Donnan, Gloria Forouzan, Elizabeth Donahue, and Bob Schmetzer.
*** WMCG 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.
***As always letters to the editor are important and one of the best ways to share information with the public. ***
To view what other people wrote thus far: http://www.irrc.state.pa.us/full_list.aspx?IRRCNo=3042&type=1
To view what we presented:
For talking points on the regs: http://alleghenysc.org/?p=16312
The public is being invited to submit comments to the EQB regarding the proposed rulemaking by March 14. Along with their comments, people can submit a one-page summary of their comments to the EQB. Comments, including the one page summary, may be submitted to EQB by accessing the EQB’s Online Public Comment System at http://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/RegComments.
Written comments and summaries should be mailed to Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477.
The summaries and a formal comment and response document will be distributed to the EQB and available publicly prior to the meeting when the final rulemaking will be considered.
People can also submit comments to RegComments@pa.gov.
Online and email comments must also be received by the EQB on or before March 14. 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.
To view materials for the proposed regulation, visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click the “Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations” button.
Media Contact: Lisa Kasianowitz, DEP, 717-787-1323
From Sierra Club, Allegheny Group
Pressure continues from the gas industry to drill wherever and however they wish.
Say No to:
***Drilling Allegheny County Parks file://localhost/(http/::alleghenysc.org:%3Fp=16160)
*** Weakening protection of endangered species (http://alleghenysc.org/?p=16332)
***Avoiding liability for treating acid mine pollution with fracking waste water (SB411) (http://alleghenysc.org/?p=16175).
***Fracking and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. ACTION: Tell President Obama that no trade agreement should pave the way for increased fracking. http://alleghenysc.org/?p=16163
***Tell Congress to CLOSE THE FRACKING LOOPHOLES!
Five Congressional bills, the Frack Pack, would force the industry to follow the environmental laws that protect our air and water.
Use this automatic form or contact your Congressman on your own, https://secure.nrdconline.org/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=C93FD11CD0E3ACF78C2A6A63B0708B44.app337a?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=3181&autologin=true&utm_source=alert&utm_medium=text1&utm_campaign=email
These are all issues that we ordinary citizens can help control, by speaking out and writing to our elected officials.
Derry Twp. TRUTH ALERT:
PA PERMIT VIOLATION ISSUED TO HOME GAS & OIL CO INC IN DERRY TWP, WESTMORELAND COUNTY 2014-01-17
Operator Home Gas &Amp; Oil Co Inc
Violation Type Environmental Health & Safety
Violation Date 2014-01-17
Violation Code 78.65(2) - Failure to restore site within 30 days of permit expiration when well not drilled
Violation ID 686947
Permit API 129-27230
Municipality Derry Twp
Inspection Type Complaint Inspection
Inspection Date 2014-01-17
Comments Spoke with Complainant on 1/15/2014. Set up a meeting for Friday 1/17/2014. The Department also contacted the Operator in 1/15/2015 to inquire about the current condition of the site. As on 1/17/2014 the Department has not received a return phone call from the Operator. During the inspection the Department observed a well pad with an excavated unlined drill pit located onsite. The Department notes that the permit expired on 1/3/2010. The Department suggests the operator restore the site at their earliest convenience.
***Concerned about the air quality in your community due to drilling?—Speaker Available
Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project will provide a professional speaker if you host a community meeting. “Tyler Rubright is available throughout the next couple of weeks to come to meetings and present and/or help to facilitate and answer any questions.”
Contact Jessa Chabeau
***Energy Industry Runs Roughshod Over North Dakota-Video
Rachel Maddow reports on recent oil disasters in North Dakota and how accountability is sacrificed for fear of discouraging energy industry. http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/watch/energy-industry-runs-roughshod-over-nd-105687108001/www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/watch/energy-industry-runs-roughshod-over-nd-105687108001
***Video: Hidden Financial Dangers of Fracking-- 16-25 % drop in Property Value--Two Studies cited in the video: Property values drop if you have a water well and live within 1 km of a gas well, property values drop by 16%: Denver study if you live near a well values drop by 25%.
Reuters recently told the story of one Los Angeles man who blames Freeport McMoRan (NYSE: FCX) for the fact that his property's value has plummeted, leaving him unable to sell his house for anything near what he bought it for. Brian Stoffel discusses how those who hold out are being hurt, and what they are threatening to do. Lawsuits are being filed by affected landowners.
***To sign up for notifications of activity and violations for your area:
*** List of the Harmed--There are now over 1600 residents of Pennsylvania who have placed their names on the list of the harmed when they became sick after fracking began in their area. http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/
*** Link to the Duquesne Seminar:
Mediasite presentation -- Facing the Challenges Conference, Duquesne University, November 2013
List of Presentations:
Bain - Establishing a Water Chemistry Baseline for Southwest Pennsylvania: The Ten Mile Creek Case
Bamberger, Oswald - Impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health: updates
Boufadel - The potential for air migration during pneumatic drilling: Recommendations for best performance
Brittingham - The effects of shale gas development on forest landscapes and ecosystems
Brown - Understanding exposures from natural gas drilling puts current air standards to the test
Capo, Stewart - Isotopic signatures as tracers for shale gas fluids
Christopherson - Why local governments take action in response to shale gas development
Collins - Regulatory structures for reuse and disposal of shale gas wastewater
Drohan - How fracking technology is changing landscapes compared to past resource extraction disturbance
Grant - Marcellus shale and mercury: assessing impacts on aquatic ecosystems
Howarth - Shale gas aggravates global warming
Ingraffea - A statistical analysis of leakage from Marcellus gas wells in Pennsylvania
Jackson - Water interactions with shale gas extraction
Jansa - Gas Rush Stories
Kelso, Malone - Data inconsistencies from states with unconventional oil and gas activity
Porter - Impact of Marcellus activities on salamanders and fish populations in the Ten Mile Creek watershed
Rabinowitz - Health complaints, water quality indicators, and proximity to gas wells in Washington County PA
Robinson - Air Quality and Climate Issues with Natural Gas Development and Production
Stolz - The Woodlands: a case study of well water contamination related to unconventional shale gas extraction
Stout - Wheeling, West Virginia Experience with Frackwater: What "Brinewater" and "Residual Waste" Trucks are Really Carrying
VanBriesen - Challenges in assessing effects of shale gas produced water on drinking water treatment plants
Ward - Measuring the human and social service impacts of natural gas development
Ziemkiewicz - What does monitoring in the three rivers tell us about the effects of shale gas development?
All articles are excerpted or summarized. Please use links to read more.
1. PA Supreme Court---- GOP Leaders Cannot Intervene in Act 13 Case
“The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that two state GOP leaders still have no place in the court battle regarding Act 13, the law governing Marcellus Shale drilling. State Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Samuel H. Smith, both Republicans, had sought to intervene in the Act 13 challenge.
But the Commonwealth Court “held that the legislators did not have a legally enforceable interest in the action.” The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday, affirming the ruling.”
2. Discord at EQB Hearings
By Anya Litvak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Four members of the DEP presided over a divided house Wednesday night at Washington & Jefferson College.
Every five minutes, either the left side of the room or the right would break into applause at the southwestern Pennsylvania public hearing of the agency's proposed new oil and gas regulations.
Citizens who felt the regulations don't go far enough to control the shale gas industry in Pennsylvania outnumbered industry supporters at the meeting organized by the DEP's Environmental Quality Board.
The DEP is proposing that drillers be required to restore the water to its pre-drill quality but most speakers urged the agency to require drillers to ensure impacted water is brought up to the federal safe drinking water standard, even it fell below that standard before gas activity began.
Many speakers opposed the use of open storage pits and the practice of burying drilling waste at the site of the well, which is allowed under the proposed standards. Some suggested that all well waste should be tested and potentially categorized as hazardous material.
Cynthia Walter of Greensburg took to the podium with an empty milk jug and urged the DEP to disregard what might be "inconvenient," "cumbersome" and deemed an "unnecessary burden" by oil and gas companies.
"Pennsylvania is fourth in the nation for milk production. Any contamination from frack water or beneficial reuse [and] this is at risk," she said pumping the milk jug into the air.
The proposed guidelines are the DEP's response to the environmental portions of Act 13, Pennsylvania's 2012 oil and gas law that imposed an impact fee on drillers and prescribed a spate of environmental restrictions on shale gas operations.
Some of the changes proposed involve:
• Requiring operators to identify orphaned or abandoned wells within 1,000 feet of the well bore, monitor them and plug them if fracking somehow interferes with such wells.
• Allowing lined and fenced-in open pits only for temporary storage of solid waste.
• Protecting all tanks from unauthorized acts of third parties.
• Requiring freshwater impoundments to be lined and fenced in.
• Mandating secondary containment at all unconventional well sites, which would be inspected at least weekly.
DEP extended the comment time until March 14.
Many speakers praised the DEP's initiative to require drillers to locate and monitor abandoned wells, but some -- like John Walliser, vice president for legal and government affairs with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council -- wanted the agency to go a step further.
Drillers shouldn't just monitor these wells but should actively avoid or mitigate potential impacts on abandoned wells or natural faults underground, he said.
Mark Cline, a fourth-generation oil man with Bradford-based Cline Oil, has attended two EQB hearings so far and plans to speak at one being held in Indiana Township tonight, but couldn't make it to Washington to plead his case that conventional wells should be wholly excluded from these regulations.
"We're not the same as the Marcellus Shale industry," he said. "We're making the point that we've been here 150 years. We've been regulated to death."Cline Oil has hundreds of active wells, none deeper than 2,000 feet. They trickle oil at small quantities -- not enough to pay for compliance with these regulations, he said.
DEP's proposed regulations do distinguish between conventional and unconventional development for some requirements. But for others, they appear neutral to the source of the fuel.
Gary Hovis, president of Hovis Oil Co. in Venango County, gave a brief history of fuel use and polled the audience on how many people walked to the meeting.
"Horse and buggy?" he said, looking around the room and drawing sparse chuckles.
Carmichaels resident Veronica Coptis answered the joke.
"How many of you drank a glass of water today? How many of you took a breath of air?" she said. "If we don't have clean water and clean air, it really doesn't matter what type of transportation we use."
Anya Litvak: email@example.com or 412-263-1455. First Published January 22, 2014 11:59 PM
3. Townships Respond In Act 13 Case
“Local townships are asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to not reconsider its opinion that struck down key provisions of the state’s Act 13 case.
Seven municipalities, including Robinson, Mt. Pleasant, Cecil and Peters townships, formally responded to a request made by the state DEP and PUC to rehear the case. Both the PUC and DEP argued the court should consider more evidence after it ruled in December that parts of Act 13 were unconstitutional.
The municipalities countered state agencies had no compelling reason for rearguing Act 13, which governs oil and gas drilling in Pennsylvania. They also argued in the 15-page document the court’s decision was never based on factual evidence because it was purely a legal determination.
“From the beginning, the question was one of law,” said David Ball, a plaintiff in the case as both an individual and councilman for Peters Township. “We challenged the law as being unconstitutional, and the court ruled that segments of the law were unconstitutional. I don’t know how much clearer it really gets than that.”
Municipalities submitted about 150 evidence exhibits throughout the case hearings, but those facts were never disputed by the agencies, Ball said. In addition, the agencies did not submit any of their own documents supporting their case. Ball and others argued that while those supplementary materials were provided to the court, that evidence was not the basis from which the court reached its opinion.
“Neither the Commonwealth Court nor this court required factual findings to conclude that statutory language allowing heavy industrial activity next to homes, schools and sensitive natural resources without consideration of local conditions and preventing municipalities from ameliorating adverse impacts violated the people’s inherent rights as guaranteed under the Pennsylvania Constitution,” read the response.
In the document, municipalities also pointed to the fact that Attorney General Kathleen Kane never sought reargument of the case, even though it is her duty to defend the constitutionality of all laws passed by the General Assembly. The appellees wrote that, “By contrast, the DEP is charged with protecting this commonwealth’s environment, yet rather than defend its … fiduciary duties, agencies seek to undermine their constitutional role.”
The municipalities said the Supreme Court, as the highest court in the state, needs to put its foot down.
“Our contention … is that the court has ruled, and there needs to be finality in a court decision,” Ball said. “You can’t just keep rehearing, rehearing, rehearing.”
In its opinion, the court also remanded several provisions to Commonwealth Court for consideration, including the severability of Act 13, or whether the unchallenged provisions of the law can hold up without the remainder. Attorney John Smith, one of the appellees in the case, said the Supreme Court needs to make a decision on whether it will rehear the case before those provisions can be considered by the lower court.
“We are hoping for a quick determination, because the court has remanded a number of important issues back to the Commonwealth Court that can’t be decided until the (Supreme Court) disposes of this request,” Smith said.
Smith said he was not immediately aware of any cases in which the Supreme Court reconsidered its opinion – especially one that stretches over 160 pages.
“It’s a very unusual request, and it’s even more extraordinary if the court would entertain it,” Smith said.
Ball said he believes this is a last-ditch effort by the administration after previous attempts to preserve the law failed.
“The PUC and DEP, to me, this is a Hail Mary. They’re desperate,” Ball said. “They need to appease the people in the gas industry, apparently. They’re grasping at straws.”
4. Oil and Gas Charter School
The Southern Local Board of Education moved forward with plans to establish and operate a gas- and oil-oriented community school - also known as a charter school - by approving a preliminary agreement with Jefferson County Educational Service Center (ESC).
Southern Local Superintendent John Wilson laid out his vision for the proposed school for the public at the board of education meeting. He said the school will be geared toward preparing students for careers in the gas and oil industry, but will also offer a traditional curriculum as per state requirements.
The school will be open enrollment for students grades 9-12, and most of their studies will be through online modules, said Wilson. He noted teachers will also be onsite at the community school to provide guided instruction in conjunction with the student's online learning. Wilson emphasized that plans for the school are still in the early phases, and the charter for the school is not yet complete.
The community school is the brainchild of Wilson and Ash. Both men were looking for ways to prepare students for careers in the gas and oil industry that has developed heavily in both of their school districts in recent years. A charter for the school was obtained by Ash and the two set to work.
The Jefferson County ESC granted its approval to the proposed community school last month. As for the name of the school, Wilson said the tentative name for the school is the Utica Shale Academy of Ohio or U.S.A of Ohio for short.
5. Gas Propaganda In The Schools
from Bob Donnan
A little birdie told me recently that Oil & Gas is trying to get into classrooms in South Fayette schools to do pro-drilling presentations. Talk about a Hearts & Minds campaign from the ground up! Makes you think
fractivists should also be actively seeking to do presentations in schools, or at least alerted to present a differing opinion.
6. Fracking and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court
By Cliff Rieders, Esq.,
“Section 27 of the Declaration of Rights in the Pennsylvania Constitution states that the people of the Commonwealth shall have the right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources “are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.” The Commonwealth was appointed as trustee of these resources to “conserve and maintain” them for the benefit of all the people.
The opinion represents a marvelous explanation of the nature of the Marcellus Shale formation, how drilling is done, and the scope of the amendments to the Oil and Gas Act.
Justice Castille, casting off any pretest of shyness, noted that Act 13 introduced heavy-duty industrial uses, natural gas development and processing, including permission to store waste water, into all existing zoning districts as a right including residential, agricultural, and commercial. “…[a]t its core, this dispute centers upon an asserted vindication of citizens’ rights to quality of life on their properties and in their hometowns, insofar as Act 13 threatens degradation of air and water, and of natural, scenic, and esthetic values of the environment, with attendant effects on health, safety and the owners’ continued enjoyment of their private property.” At slip opinion p. 57. This, wrote the Chief Justice, implicates the Environmental Rights Amendment, Article IA, Section 27.
Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment has no counterpart on the federal level.. The Court utilized the dispute over Act 13 to undertake a necessary explication of the Environmental Rights Amendment, including foundational matters. In other words, what does the Environmental Rights Amendment really mean and how far does it go? Justice Castille wrote his legacy with an answer to the question which he so aptly raised. “The environmental public trust was created by the people of Pennsylvania, as the common owners of the Commonwealth’s public natural resources; this concept is consistent with the ratification process of the constitutional amendment delineating the terms of the trust.” At slip opinion p. 83. The Commonwealth is a fiduciary which has a duty to act toward the corpus of the trust, the public natural resources, with “prudence, loyalty, and impartiality.” At slip opinion p. 84.
The Commonwealth has an obligation to refrain from performing its trustee duties respecting the environment unreasonably, including legislative enactments or executive action. The Commonwealth has a duty to refrain from permitting or encouraging the degradation, diminution, or depletion of public natural resources, whether such degradation, diminution or depletion would occur through direct state action or indirectly. Indirect depletion, diminution or degradation would be caused by the state’s failure to restrain the actions of private parties. Id.
The Court explained why the Pennsylvania Constitution places citizens’ environmental rights on par with political rights. Three and a half centuries ago forests blanketed ninety percent of the Commonwealth’s surface of over twenty million acres. Two centuries later, the state experienced a lumber boom that by 1920 had left much of Pennsylvania naked to vegetation by trees. Loggers scarred the land and left it desolate. This devastation was the subject of rage which was manifested in the Pennsylvania Constitution. “Never again,” said the people of Pennsylvania.
The sweeping scope of this opinion is the statement that the likes of Teddy Roosevelt would have admired. Justice Castille has enshrined himself forever in the Hall of Fame occupied by our nation’s most important environmental protectors.
The Court proceeded to examine the law chapter by chapter and section. Local government, noted the Court, would be required under Act 13 to authorize oil and gas operations, impoundment areas, and location assessment operations (including seismic testing and the use of explosives) as permitted uses in all zoning districts throughout a locality. Local government would be required to authorize natural gas compressor stations as permitted uses in agricultural and industrial districts, and as conditional uses in all other zoning districts. Local governments were commanded to authorize natural gas processing plants as permitted uses in industrial districts and as conditional uses in agricultural districts. The authority of local governments in connection with virtually any component of Marcellus Shale drilling was denuded by Act 13 in an unconscionable rush to exploit the subterranean environment. As the Court noted, “local government zoning role is reduced to pro forma accommodation…” At slip opinion p. 111.
The Chief Justice wrote that Pennsylvania has a “notable history of what appears retrospectively to have been a shortsighted exploitation of its bounteous environment, affecting its minerals, its water, its air, its flora and fauna, and its people.” At slip opinion 117. This Court, led by its chief, is not about to let that happen again, not on their watch and not on their sacred land. The Court verbally explored the scars on the land as a result of unregulated and uncaring destruction of one of the greatest land grants in history.
In a manner, this opinion is a conservative piece of art. Local governments, it was reinforced, have the power to frame local ordinances they see fit within the limitations of their delegated powers. A political branch of government hungry for corporate oil and gas donations cannot override the legitimate place of grass roots government. The entire Act was not, of course, found invalid. What was declared improper is a statutory scheme hatched by the Governor and devoured by many legislators which would have permitted and even encouraged gas development with no rules and no restrictions regardless of the harm which that exploitation might cause.
Courts do not have armies, navies or air forces to enforce their rulings. Courts speak effectively only when they have moral authority behind them based upon an honest articulation of the law. Reading the opinion in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should make any citizen proud of the viability of our Pennsylvania Supreme Court. May our Justices continue to serve in good health, peace and contentment throughout 2014 and beyond.
Clifford A. Rieders, Esquire
Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Harris, Waters, Waffenschmidt & Dohrmann
Cliff Rieders, who practices law in Williamsport, is Past President of the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association and a member of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. None of the opinions expressed necessarily represent the views of these organizations.
7. Radioactive Gas Drilling Waste Sets Off More Radioactivity Alarms
May 2013. Iris Bloom, Protecting our Waters
“Fracking industry truck drivers have been blowing the whistle for some time, saying that radioactivity alarms are going off “all the time.” Workers report that the radioactivity levels are sky-high, even in empty trucks that have already dumped their load of drill cuttings at landfills. Now the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Associated Press, StateImpact PA, Shale Reporter and other news outlets are revealing some of the numbers supporting an increased urgency to stop dumping radioactive waste all over Pennsylvania.
The basic AP story includes alarming numbers followed by empty reassurances from PA DEP with no data and no information to back up the myth that everything is just fine. No physicians, impacted residents, radioactivity experts or workers are interviewed — just the PA DEP spokesman, Kevin Sunday, whose job is to stifle public outrage. Here is the Shale Reporter version of the AP story:
“Gas drilling waste is setting off radiation alarms at Pennsylvania landfills –Tribune Review
“The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that the alarms went off 1,325 times in 2012, with more than 1,000 of those from oil and gas waste, according to Department of Environmental Protection data.
DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday tells the paper that all the data so far indicates that public health is protected. After an alarm workers flag the waste for special treatment.
The state began requiring radiation monitors at landfills in 2002 because of medical waste. But oil and gas drilling brings up mineral fragments containing naturally occurring radiation.
DEP says past research has shown problems are unlikely. DEP started a review in January to examine radioactivity in drilling waste and on all the equipment that handles it.”
Iris Bloom, Protecting Our Waters:
One wonders what this “past research is” that indicates that “problems are unlikely.” To the contrary, past research, in fact, has shown flowback returning from Marcellus Shale drilling in Pennsylvania with Radium 226 levels thousands of times the safe limit for drinking water. It is well known that fracking waste pits all over PA (like the one in Lycoming County where the plastic liner was found full of over 100 holes) leak toxic radioactive waste into our soil and groundwater every day. Flowback spills are a daily occurrence at frack pads, so routinely so that workers endure 18-hour shifts doing nothing but vacuuming up spills. And Mac Sawyer, a former fracking truck driver and environmental cleanup worker in the Marcellus Shale industry in Pennsylvania, has stated that sometimes “they just disable the alarm” rather than treating flowback or drill cuttings waste with the special care required of radioactive waste. Uranium is mobilized by fracking, along with radium 226.
Radium 226 causes bone, liver, and breast cancer, according to the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry). Radium 226 has a half-life of 1,500 years. Radium has also been shown to impact the blood, eyes, teeth, and more. ATSDR reports:
How can radium affect my health?
Radium has been shown to cause effects on the blood (anemia) and eyes (cataracts). It also has been shown to affect the teeth, causing an increase in broken teeth and cavities. Patients who were injected with radium in Germany, from 1946 to 1950, for the treatment of certain diseases including tuberculosis were significantly shorter as adults than people who were not treated.
How likely is radium to cause cancer?
Exposure to high levels of radium results in an increased incidence of bone, liver, and breast cancer. The EPA and the National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation, has stated that radium is a known human carcinogen.
A number of people, including one 26-year old man, reported losing their teeth by late 2012 after drinking spring water (for years, apparently) that was contaminated by the gas drilling blowout (2010) in Moshannon State Forest. The spring had a sign warning the water is contaminated, but the people who had always drunk from this perfectly good, pristine spring water collected their water from a different point where the sign was
(Fracking truck in Towanda, Bradford County, PA in June 2011. PA laws allow toxic radioactive fracking waste to be labeled “residual waste.” Photo: Iris Marie Bloom)
not visible. In case you’ve forgotten, that blowout spewed fracking flowback waste and methane high into the air for over 16 hours and “could have been” a “major catastrophe” according to the generally understated John Hanger, then-secretary of PA DEP.
Former PA Governor Ed Rendell, who now invests in and profits from Marcellus Shale industries, looked the other way while three of his former staffers approved the policy allowing trucks to carry toxic radioactive fracking waste while labeling it “residual waste” and not carrying a manifest, or placard, saying where the waste came from, what’s in it, how much there is of it, and where it’s going. Rendell’s former staffers jumped ship to work for the industry, and Rendell himself has become an industry cheerleader
PA DEP is and has been behind the eight ball — to put it mildly — when it comes to monitoring, fining, penalizing and reporting on the fracking industry. Empty reassurances just aren’t enough when workers’ and residents’ health, and environmental well-being, is at stake. In a state that still allows fracking flowback to be dumped on roads legally for “dust suppression” and “de-icing” purposes, where spraying fracking waste on land is reported to continue, and where trucks with toxic radioactive waste are allowed to be labeled “residual,” we’d like to hear some outrage, instead of outrage management, from policymakers, opinion-makers and legislators.
Two-Thirds of Pennsylvanians Support a Gas Drilling Moratorium Now
On the good news side, PA Senator Leanna Washington has joined the list of co-sponsors for PA State Senator Ferlo’s gas drilling moratorium bill. The two-thirds majority in Pennsylvania who support a gas drilling moratorium are starting to wake up and speak up. Radioactive fracking waste is one more reason to step up the support for a moratorium now.
8. Range Finds Nothing-- But Independent Researchers Find Methane Contamination Is Spreading
“Texas' oil/ gas regulators have opened a new investigation into allegations that methane is contaminating North Texas water after residents complained that independent sampling by university researchers revealed high levels of the explosive gas in their residential wells, the state agency and scientists said.
Further analysis by independent scientist, Geoffrey Thyne, of testing done by the EPA and Range Resources indicates the contamination is spreading to more wells and the levels are increasing in some cases. Thyne said his preliminary analysis strengthens his belief that the contamination originates at wells drilled by Fort Worth-based Range.
Thyne: "The leak continues and it's spreading. I can say, based on the current data, there are at least two other wells that show the same source ... which is the Range well."
Range Resources has no evidence the gas in the water and the gas it is producing is the same, company spokesman Matt Pitzarella said in an email. The gas in the water is naturally occurring, as sometimes happens. Range's tests do not find dangerous levels of methane in the water, but the company encourages all homeowners to vent their wells.
However, Thyne and Duke University scientist Rob Jackson say they have seen dangerous levels of methane. The findings are likely different because the oil and gas industry typically uses a different sampling method, Thyne said.
It’s A Match
Thyne's study includes isotopic analysis. This fingerprint-type analysis allowed him to review the unique chemical makeup of the gas found in the water wells and compare it to the gas Range Resources is producing and methane in a rock formation called the Strawn, which is where Range says the gas contaminating the water originated.
Thyne had already reviewed some data for the EPA after it opened its investigation in 2010, but in recent months he did a more thorough analysis. Now, after a preliminary review, Thyne said he is more convinced the gas in at least three of the water wells originates in the Barnett shale — the rock layer from which Range Resources is extracting gas — and is identical to what is found in the company's well bore.
At first glance, it may appear that the gas in the Strawn and Barnett layers are indistinguishable "but in fact, people are able to notice subtle differences," Thyne said.
Jackson, the Duke University professor, also specializes in isotopic analysis. He declined to share his study — funded by Duke and the National Science Foundation — until it is peer-reviewed and published, but some homeowners shared test results with the AP.
Jackson found higher levels of methane in some water wells — sometimes five to 10 times higher — than what Range Resources' tests showed. In some cases, the levels are five times higher than the 10 parts per million per liter set as a threshold limit by the U.S. Geological Survey.
"We're seeing high methane concentrations and that result alone indicates to me that EPA closing the case was premature," Jackson told the AP.
Elizabeth Struhs, whose property abuts Lipsky's, fears her family is in danger. Jackson's samples found 17 parts per million of methane per liter of water in her well, while Range Resources said its tests did not detect any hazardous methane level.
"We had good water before they came here and we should have good water now," Struhs said.”
9. Allegheny County to Monitor Air In Drilling Near Airport
“Jan 20 - The first big Marcellus Shale gas development project in Allegheny County, on county-owned land near Pittsburgh International Airport, will get special air pollution monitoring attention from the Allegheny County Health Department before and after the drilling begins. The county announced Monday that it will soon begin air quality monitoring on more than 9,000 acres in Findlay where Consol Energy Inc. plans to drill 47 shale gas wells and construct 17 miles of gas collection lines and 12 miles of water supply lines.
` According to the county, Consol will begin development of drilling pads, impoundments and pipelines in the second quarter of 2014, with drilling on the first two wells in July. "This project represents the first large-scale development of a wet gas field in Allegheny County," said Jim Thompson, the Health Department's deputy director of environmental health. "... we will conduct an air monitoring study in a community near to the project to make certain there are no unforeseen problems." Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations and gas compressor stations release tons of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds into the air annually, although NOX emissions have declined in Pennsylvania due to the shutdown of several coal-burning power plants.”
10. U.S. Solar Employment Rate Growing 10 Times Faster Than National Job Average
“According to the annual National Solar Jobs report released today by The Solar Foundation (TSF), an independent nonprofit solar energy research and education organization, the solar industry added 23,682 jobs from September 2012 to September 2013. Solar employment grew by 20 percent during that period.
Total employment for the U.S. solar industry reached 142,698 in 2013.
Solar employment grew 10 times faster than the national average employment growth rate of 1.9 percent in the same period.
“The solar industry’s job-creating power is clear,” Andrea Luecke, executive director and president of The Solar Foundation, said in a statement. “The industry has grown an astounding 53 percent in the last four years alone, adding nearly 50,000 jobs. Our Census findings show that for the fourth year running, solar jobs remain well-paid and attract highly-skilled workers. “That growth is putting people back to work and helping local economies.”
11. Marcellus Industry Job Numbers Fabricated Based on Penn State Research
(From Jon Bogle…
The Responsible Drilling Alliance in Williamsport, PA calls on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry to cease issuing its deceptive Marcellus shale employment reports.)
“When Marcellus drilling arrived in Pennsylvania in 2006-2007, they sold themselves as an economic game changer, “The Goose that Lays the Golden Egg,” according to then Governor Rendell. They commissioned a wildly exaggerated report on their economic potential which was disseminated as independent research by Pennsylvania State University.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) soon began to cooperate with the industry to track this new phenomena. The result is the monthly “Marcellus Shale Fast Facts”: an extensive 20-page report designed to inflate the importance of the gas industry. In its Marcellus reports, L&I created a new statistical category, “ancillary industries.” The 204,000 workers in the 30 ancillary industries are all counted as gas industry induced jobs even though only a small fraction have any involvement with the gas industry.
John Augustine, community outreach manager for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, announced, in a recent public presentation, that the gas industry employs 232,000 people with an average salary of $83,000 per year. Augustine’s claim of 232,000 jobs includes the 204,000 in the ancillary industries. The $83,000 compensation is only claimed in the core industries and even that is considerably greater than wage assessments for those occupations elsewhere in state reports.
The Marcellus industry is a kernel within the economic occupational category “Mining and Logging” which includes mining, quarrying, logging, and oil and gas drilling. The entire category of Mining and Logging employs 35,000 or only 6/10’s of one percent of the state’s labor force with the Marcellus gas industry being 4/10’s of one percent. The invention of “ancillary industries” have given cover to a very small industry.
Before the Marcellus drilling started in Pennsylvania, tens of thousands of vertical gas wells had already been drilled by a native industry. In the rollover from the Rendell to the Corbett administration, L&I’s “Fast Facts” suddenly added 7000 new jobs to the core Marcellus industry. The existing native gas industry had apparently been quietly incorporated into the Marcellus numbers, adding both to their weight, and giving an appearance of growth. If these workers are subtracted, the remaining Marcellus jobs number about 21,000 or only 10,000 new jobs since 2009. Along the way, L&I also shifted the statistical base year from 2008 to 2009, the nadir point of the great recession, thus making all the industry stats that followed it look better.
Jon Bogle firstname.lastname@example.org
12. Doctors Reluctant to Treat Patients
“Hearings are scheduled to begin on emissions and vapors emanating from the tar sands, specifically around the Peace River area in northwestern Alberta, Canada.
The hearings, which have been scheduled by the Albertan Energy Regulator, have come after years of complaints by local residents into the odors, which are so bad some families have been forced to move from their homes. Local residents have been complaining of symptoms such as severe headaches, dizziness, sinus problems, vomiting, muscle spasms and fatigue, amongst others.
But we do not know how badly the tar sands are really impacting people’s health. This is because according to a report commissioned specifically for the hearings by a public health specialist, some local doctors are reluctant to treat patients who draw connections between the tar sands industry and their personal health problems.
The report, prepared by Dr. Margaret Sears, concludes that: “There were reports from various sources that physicians would not diagnose a relationship between bitumen exposures and chronic symptoms.”
“Physicians are quite frankly afraid to diagnose health conditions linked to the oil and gas industry,” she adds.
And it gets worse. For those individuals who suggested there was a “connection” between their health problems and the tar sands, Sears records how “Physician care was refused … and that analytical services were refused by an Alberta laboratory when told that the proposed analysis was to investigate exposure to emissions related to bitumen extraction.”
Locals are arguing that the regulator must force the industry to capture the emissions: “The best result possible is that they make some regulations to get companies to capture their vapors,” believes Alain Labrecque, who has had to vacate his farm after suffering numerous symptoms including headaches, dizziness, fatigue and memory loss.
His family only started experiencing symptoms in 2011, after Baytex Energy purchased nearly 50 wells and in the area and started heating bitumen in above-ground tanks to extract the oil.
“There is definitely a regulatory gap,” Labrecque argues. “We just want more accountability—we want the regulator to take on a greater role, and have regulations in place so they can enforce them, and just provide more accountability to industry.”
Baytex, for its part, predictably argues that “there are no human health impacts associated with the emissions from our projects.”
The Labrecques have also now filed an injunction against Baytex to force the company to stop operating. The hearing,
though, won’t be heard until March.
Local residents will also have to wait until March for the report into the hearings to be published by the regulator.”
13. Fracking For Energy Renaissance That Will Not Come
“Geology is now showing that even impressive new technologies cannot necessarily conquer high-priced oil.
"Ah," you say, "you're leaving out natural gas. The fracking boom has certainly been a real wonder in the natural gas industry."
Actually, it turns out that what we should really be wondering is how so many smart people could get sucked into an investment scheme that lost so much money. The U.S. natural gas industry overproduced badly and is still suffering today from that mistake. It is doubtful that all but the most prolific shale gas wells are making any money--even at current prices which have more than doubled since the bottom. Some will say this is an incorrect assessment; but, these people tend not to include the cost of land and lease acquisition. Exxon Mobil Corp.'s CEO Rex Tillerson, whose company has one of the largest portfolios of U.S. shale gas assets, was succinct about shale gas profitability in mid-2012: "We are losing our shirts."
Despite all this, wonders-yet-to-come seem to dominate U.S. energy policy. There is talk of changing laws to allow the exporting of oil and natural gas. There is talk of American energy independence. There is talk of an American energy renaissance and the ruination of OPEC. It is all very breathless and essentially baseless.
It is an hysteria created by an industry that can no longer deliver on the promise of cheap, reliable energy--an industry that finds itself in the fight of its life, a fight against physics and geology that is increasingly unbending in the face of wonders-yet-to-come.”
14. Shake, Rattle & Roll…Seismic Testing
From Bob Donnan News
“The company Geokinetics is set to begin seismic testing in many areas .
Look where they buy their explosives, Wampum Hardware. And my source also points out, that unlike any other industry, they can put these charges in the ground for up to 120-days without security even in a ‘911 world.
Pentolite is a high explosive used for military and civilian purposes e.g. warheads and booster charges. Military pentolite comprises a mixture of 50% PETN and 50% TNT. A 50:50 mixture has a density of 1.65 g/cm3 and a detonation velocity of 7400 m/s. Civilian pentolite sometimes contains a lower percentage of PETN. Civilian pentolite has a detonation velocity of approximately 7,800 metres per second.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
2.2 lbs charges are placed in augered holes that are 8 to 35 feet deep
From Encyclopedia Britannica:
PETN, abbreviation of pentaerythritol tetranitrate, a highly explosive organic compound belonging to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose. PETN has the chemical formula C5H8N4O12. It is prepared by reacting pentaerythritol (C5H12O4), an alcohol traditionally used in paints and varnishes, with nitric acid (HNO2). The reacting solution is chilled to precipitate the PETN, which is filtered out, washed, dried, and recrystallized to produce a colourless crystalline material that is generally stored and shipped as a mixture with water and alcohol.
PETN retains its properties in storage for longer periods than do nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose. Nevertheless, it is a sensitive compound and is easily detonated by an appropriate mechanical shock. PETN was first synthesized in 1894 and was introduced as a commercial explosive after World War I. It has been valued in both military and civilian applications for its shattering force and efficiency. It is used by itself in detonators, blasting caps, and a detonating fuse known as Primacord, which is used to propagate a series of detonations from one explosive charge to another. A mixture of roughly equal amounts of PETN and trinitrotoluene (TNT) creates a military high explosive called pentolite, which is used in grenades, artillery projectiles, and shaped-charge warheads such as the ones launched by the old bazooka-type antitank weapons of World War II and their modern descendants.” Bob Donnan
15. RADON: BREATHING IT WHEN MARCELLUS GAS BURNS?
From a 2012 report “Radon in Natural Gas from Marcellus Shale By Marvin Resnikoff, Radioactive Waste Management Associates Executive Summary, January 10, 2012
From the report:
“It is well known that radon (radon-222) is present in natural gas. Published reports by RH Johnson of the US Environmental Protection Agency and C V Gogolak of the US Department of Energy also address this issue. Radon is present in natural gas from Marcellus Shale at much higher concentrations than natural gas from wells in Louisiana and Texas. Radon is an inert radioactive gas. It does not react chemically with other elements. Whatever radon is in the pipeline and is delivered to homes is released to the home environment from kitchen stoves and space heaters. The radon is not oxidized and is not made benign or non-radioactive in the burning process.”
16. Fracking—It’s about Health
“Countless of the aggrieved have been silenced. Award winning Journalist Andrew Nikiforuk states: “As somebody who has reported for 20 years on this industry in [Alberta], I can tell you I’ve met hundreds of people in this province who have signed confidentiality agreements once their water was blown, once their livestock was killed, once a member of their family were injured, once they lost most of their grass or their trees as a result of fouling events, contamination events, air pollution, you name it. It is common practice in this province to buy people out, and then buy their silence … so there is no record of how this industry quite often performs badly.”
Alberta sports 5,300 flare sites (a conservative figure I’ve drawn from Alberta Research Council’s 2000 research doc prepared for Alberta Environment – a very difficult figure to track down. See below). The air borne toxic compounds found in fracking communities include toluene, benzene and formaldehyde. Moderate exposure to toluene can cause excessive sleepiness, confusion, hearing loss and brain damage. Long-term exposure to benzene can affect the immune system and cause cancer – notably leukemia. Formaldehyde causes severe central nervous system impairment. Chromosomal damage. And cancer. Anything else these toxins are famous for? Neurological, pulmonary, gastroenterological, dermatological, immunological, hematological, endocrinological, ophthalmological, reproductive, and genetic illnesses and abnormalities. And, perhaps needless to say, death. Likely a very painful and egregious one.
I wish I could report that I’ve actually been revealing a Margaret Atwood dystopia. But no. This is the reality of towns across North America where people raising a family in tranquility wake up one day and find a well across the street. Literally. Or in their next-door neighbor’s back yard. Within days entire blocks of their neighborhoods are ravaged. They can’t sleep because the booming is relentless even throughout the night. Convoys are barreling through school zones. Children are passing out in the shower. People are developing tumors. Animals die. Tap water lights on fire. A house in Bainbridge Ohio actually got lifted right off its very self and was destroyed – while Richard and Thelma Payne were in it. That was the end of their home of 51 years. Calvin Tillman, the mayor of Dish, Texas abandoned his mayor ship along with the home and property he and his wife had painstakingly built for their family and fled to protect their children’s lives – after the severe nosebleeds his sons were suffering began to resemble the scene of a bloody murder. His description. Gary Gless bought his dream home in the sublime neighborhood of Windsor Hills, Los Angeles in 2002, anticipating his elite view of the first tee and clubhouse of the projected 18-hole golf course. Today, he leans over his balcony into the noise and toxic, rotten egg odor of the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field that has reduced his property value by 80% and turned him into an activist for a fracking ban in California.
There is no moral compass within the map of this industry’s invasion. In Pennsylvania, more than 3,000 fracking wells were identified within two miles of 320 day care centers, 67 schools and nine hospitals. In Texas, breast cancer rates are spiking among women living in the six counties with the most drilling, while breast cancer rates declined in the rest of Texas. Women’s cancers found in areas of intense activity include breast, cervix, colon, ovary, rectum, uterus, and vagina. I’d never even heard of vagina cancer till now. Had you? Men living in the same region are in the highest bracket for deaths from cancer of the bladder, prostate, rectum, stomach, and thyroid (based on National Cancer Institute cancer mortality maps and graphs 2011).
The air pollution is equally shocking. Gas drilling air pollution is released during all phases of operations - including Venting, which releases gas during well, pipeline and tank maintenance; and Flaring, which burns gas that’s a safety hazard. Flares explode into the sky with the noise of a jet engine, deliriously emitting chemicals of as yet unknown quantity. They run night and day. Next to the klieg lights. Sweet dreams..” By Judith Cockman
17. Judge to Rule in Sunoco Eminent Domain Case
“Jan 22 - Sunoco Pipeline believes Pennsylvania’s Business Corporation Law authorizes it to have eminent domain powers to condemn private property its needs across Washington County to develop a pipeline to ship Marcellus Shale products. Kandice Hull, a Harrisburg attorney representing the Philadephia company, claimed in court the law qualifies Sunoco as a privately owned utility that can take property without federal approval for easements because it’s involved in developing an interstate pipeline for products classified as oil. “We meet that law requirement without reference to any other authority,” Hull argued before Judge Katherine B. Emery as part of a challenge filed against Sunoco by the owners of 25 properties.
“This is not one of those exceptions under the Business Corporation Law,” argued Harrisburg attorney Michael F. Faherty, who represents owners of 10 of the properties, including Ronald and Sallie Cox, who are fighting to protect the wooded area they own in front of their home on South Spring Valley Road. The Cox case has become the first to reach a judge, and its outcome is expected to determine how the remaining cases will proceed through court. Faherty said he believes Sunoco needs approval to use eminent domain power from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Sunoco has four customers that would use the pipeline to ship ethane and propane. Range Resources of Southpointe identified itself as a major shipper on the line, while Sunoco declined to make public in court the identities of its other three customers in the project. Emery said she planned to issue a “prompt” ruling in the Cox case but would give Faherty another week to submit a response to a previous Sunoco filing.”
From Bob Donnan News:
Thanks to Bill & Mary Belitskus of Kane, Pa for sharing these photos of the Royal Dutch Shell Well Site in the Allegheny National Forest adjacent to the Belitskus Homestead (approximately 6,000 ft. from their water well).