Friday, February 28, 2014

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates February 27, 2014

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group                           Updates February 27, 2014

*  For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
*  To view permanent documents, past updates, reports, general information and meeting                information
* 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, the Pollocks, 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- next meeting March 11.  Email Jan for directions. All are very welcome to attend.


***Feb 28 Public /Town Hall- Injection wells, earthquakes, toxic frack waste impoundments, and a Community bill of Rights. Youngstown, Ohio. Videos and Presentations at the

 Unitarian Church 1105 Elm St 7-9pm

TAKE Action!!

 ***Letters to the editor are important and one of the best ways to share

information with the public. *** 


Everyone Must Do This To Have An Impact
EQB Comments
          Many of us braved the cold to testify at hearings in Indiana and Washington PA. Others attended hearings in other parts of the state. The industry is out in full force. They have paid employees at every hearing-actually they have the same people sometimes reading the same statements at every hearing. It is up to us, to you, to speak for the air and water quality and property values that we feel need to be protected. My award for most unbelievable comment of the night goes to the representative from Dogwood Energy who said that the regs should be established without the input of citizens’ groups. So apparently the democratic process to drillers means only the industry speaks and they write their own rules.
We have more wells going in every day. I receive, on average, a call a week from a distraught area resident whose neighbor sold out to the industry. PA doesn't have a moratorium as do more cautious states, so these regs are critical. Zoning can help to restrict the placement of gas operations but not the "how they operate aspect”. If fracking occurs anywhere near you, these are the regulations that govern much of that process, that, for example, allow a toxic frack pit near your home or school or radioactive drill cuttings to be stored or buried on site.
 The PA oil/gas regs were never meant to regulate fracking. They were written for shallow gas wells and do not protect the public. Below are links to comments. You can rephrase and add your thoughts to send in a statement of your concerns.   jan


To view what other people wrote thus far: 


To view what we presented:


For talking points on the regs:


Online Comments

                  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

                   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 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 and click the “Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations” button.

 Media Contact: Lisa Kasianowitz, DEP, 717-787-1323


           Petitions to DEP To Ban Frack Pits:



***1.   Petition From Penn Environment

Here in Pennsylvania, fracking is one of the biggest threats to our communities and our environment.  In 2012 alone, the fracking industry created 1.2 billion gallons of fracking wastewater--laced with cancer-causing chemicals, contaminated with radioactivity, and polluted with heavy metals.

This toxic waste sits in exposed pits, which often leaches into our rivers and contaminates our air.

It's both disgusting and frightening.

               The DEP is taking public comment right now on a proposal to manage this fracking waste. This is our best chance to end this dangerous practice and limit fracking's damage.

Submit your comment right now to tell the DEP: Ban all fracking waste pits today.

               When a wastewater pit caught fire in Hopewell Township, flames shot 100 feet into the air and block smoke spread across the countryside. It was so bad that days later, nearby residents still couldn’t stay in their homes.

With stories like this, you would think these toxic sites would have already been banned. Leaks from pits can contaminate drinking water supplies, and evaporation of these chemicals threatens our air quality.  The pollutants pose risks for acute and chronic health impacts, from dizziness to rashes and even cancer.

There's no way to get around it: These pits are dangerous.

               We need thousands of Pennsylvanians telling the DEP to ban them all.

Take action now to ban all toxic and dangerous fracking waste pits in Pennsylvania.


David Masur

PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center Director

PS. If you have friends or family who are concerned about fracking, please forward this to them. We need to get 10,000 comments in to the DEP by the end of the comment period if we’re going to ban all fracking waste pits.



***2. Petition by Ron to Ban Frack Pits To the DEP Environmental Quality Board

Hello everyone,

               Frack pits are a source of toxic waste-waters and cancer causing agents and pollute our environment through leakage, spillage, and evaporation of toxic VOCs, thus contaminating water, soil, and the air we breathe.

Frack pits are a danger to animal, plant, and human life and have no place in our Commonwealth.

In place of the frack pit, all gas operators should be required to use some form of a closed loop system for waste storage.

We, the undersigned, demand an end to the open impoundment or frack pit and demand PA place the health and welfare of its citizens above all other interests.

               That's why I created a petition to PA DEP's Environmental Quality Board, which says:

" This petition will be forwarded to the PA DEP's Environmental Quality Board that is accepting comments on proposed regulations and will demand an end to open impoundments or frack pits as they are commonly known. "

Will you sign my petition? Click here to add your name:


Ron Slabe


***WESA Public Radio

from Briget Shields

               WESA Pittsburgh's public radio is having their listener drive now.  Instead of renewing my membership I have sent this statement. I think it would help if others vocalize our mission to divest in anyone promoting the fossil fuel industry.  Here is my pledge comment.  Don't know if they will print it in the comment section I posted it in but wanted to share in hopes others will relay the message. You can promote your own organization and put it in your own words but while the membership drive is going on is a good time to let them know we are not happy with the Range Resource ads we are constantly hearing.


I have always supported public broadcasting. BUT....there is a well fire in Greene County where people are being exposed to toxic fumes, 300,000 people in WV living with contaminated water from chemicals used in the fossil fuel industry including fracking , hundreds of people without any water for over 5 years because of the fracking industry in SWPA thousands in PA. Are you reporting this? NO. Imagine my surprise when I hear many times a day your station promoting the very industry that is the cause of this destruction.

Instead I am giving my membership dollars to those organizations that promote clean renewable energy and those that work to educate the public to stop the toxic fossil fuel industry like:  Shalefield Stories, Marcellus Protest, PennEnvironment, Sierra Club, The Thomas Merton Center.

 Public broadcasting like all media outlets is failing us.

Briget shields

WESA Facebook page



***Petition to Protect Deer Lake Park Allegheny County

Please sign the CREDO petition to stop the fracking of Allegheny County’s Deer Lake Park. You and over 3,500 others are making a difference.  Your voices are being heard on the Allegheny County Council.

               In order to keep you informed of events, as they are about to unfold in the County Council, I ask that you take the time to visit the Protect Our Parks web page.

 By signing up at Protect Our Parks you’ll provide POP with the ability to mobilize Allegheny County residents who’ve already signed the CREDO petition. I hope you can do this today!

               In the coming weeks, the Allegheny County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald intends to present legislation to the County Council that would enable the leasing of gas rights in Deer Lakes Park to notorious drilling operator, Range Resources - the only driller to submit a proposal to the County.

               We certainly appreciate the support of non-county residents as well. I invite you to sign on to the Protect Our Parks page too!  However, the County Council has stated that they will give greater weight to the opinions of the citizens of Allegheny County.  It looks like it will be a very close vote.  If you live outside of the county and have friends and/or family in Allegheny County, I hope that you will reach out to them and ask them to sign up with Protect Our Parks.

               Widely circulating the Protect Our Parks link on social media is also very much appreciated.

 I am depending upon you to help put a stop to the fracking of our county parks.

 I do hope you will continue to be a part of this effort.  Please, go to the Protect Our Parks link today - sign up and, together, we’ll protect our parks!


 Douglas Shields

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania http:

P.S. Be sure to visit the PROTECT OUR PARKS homepage!


 State Groups Oppose Fracking Our State Forests.

From Clean Water Action

As you are probably aware during Corbett's budget address he proposed balancing the budget by over turning the moratorium on new gas drilling leases for state parks and forests.

               Please find attached an organizational sign on letter we are working on with several other groups. The letter will be sent to all legislators urging them to oppose this proposal and any budget that contains it.

               Steve Hvozdovich

Clean Water Action- Pennsylvania

Marcellus Shale Coordinator

February 11, 2014


WMCG Signed on to the following letter:

Dear Legislators:

                    The undersigned organizations urge you to oppose Governor Tom Corbett’s proposed plan to end the existing moratorium on gas leasing in state forests and ask you to vote against any budget that incorporates revenue from that plan.  Reopening state forests to new gas development fills a one-time budget gap with decades of risk and the vast majority of Pennsylvanians oppose it.

                    Pennsylvania state forests are recreational and ecologic gems as well as leading drivers of our tourism economy. Our state forests consist of more than 2.2 million acres of pristine wilderness that are home to a variety of animals including black bear, wild turkey, native brook trout, and rare birds. Parks and forests offer opportunities for hiking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, horseback riding and is one of the best sources for hunting and fishing.

                    Governor Corbett’s proposal to balance the 2014 budget by opening up our state forests to further gas leasing threatens both the environmental and economic benefits our forests provide. His proposal would end the moratorium on new leases for natural gas drilling former Governor Ed Rendell put in place. Former Governor Rendell issued the moratorium in October 2010 because he determined that more forest drilling would “jeopardize fragile ecosystems.”

                    The public agrees with former Governor Rendell’s decision. A poll in September 2013 by Mercyhurst University found that 67% of Pennsylvanians thought gas extraction should not occur in state parks. A more recent January 2014 poll by Franklin and Marshall College found that 68% of Pennsylvanians oppose additional gas development in state forests. Governor Corbett’s proposal is an affront to the wishes of Pennsylvanians. Advancement and support for this proposal would signal that our government is not listening and that the opinions of citizens don’t matter.

                    Gas exploration and drilling causes impact to the state forests. There is no such thing as no-impact drilling. Even proximity to drilling puts our forests at risk. Pollution respects no boundaries. Accidents with natural gas drilling operations like spills of toxic wastewater, explosions, and methane migration have occurred across the Commonwealth. Additional drilling will mean noise and light disturbance from heavy machinery, seismic exploration, construction of new roads and pipelines, and increased truck traffic.  These potential dangers and activities increase the risk of upsetting the natural habitat of animals, disrupting the peace that is associated with enjoying nature and threatening the health of nearby families.   The Commonwealth has leased nearly half of the 1.5 million acres of forest it owns that overlays with the Marcellus shale. Many of the leased land have yet to be drilled. Have we not already leased enough land for the natural gas industry? According to a study the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) finished in 2010, all of the unleased forest land is in ecologically sensitive areas or cannot be accessed without cutting through ecologically sensitive areas.  According to former DCNR Deputy Secretary John Quigley, the Rendell administration scoured the state forest for tracts that were not ecologically sensitive and could still be leased. “We found all the needles in the haystack at that time, said Quigley. I don't know where there are additional tracts like that.” 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently reminded us that we have an obligation to protect our forests for future generations.  Once the integrity of our state forests are destroyed there is no turning back. Our state forests were established as sacred places for the enjoyment of all and the conservation of the natural environment—not as future industrial sites used to fill short term revenue needs. We need to preserve these places for future generations as they were preserved in the past for us.


Again, we ask you to oppose Governor Corbett’s proposal to lease our state forests for natural gas drilling and any budget proposal that includes it. We look forward to any comments or questions you may have on this subject and offer our support to any leader standing in opposition to this irresponsible and irrevocable action.


Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale Campaign Coordinator

Clean Water Action

Josh McNeil, Executive Director,  Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania


Frack Links

***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


***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.


*** 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?



*** Southwest PA Environmental Health Has Air Monitors

From Ryan Grode at the SWPA-EHP:

               “I am beginning a distribution of new air quality monitors for individuals who are living near any type of drilling activity.  If you know of anyone who would want to have one of these monitors at their home I would visit them and set up the monitor for them, then come back in a few weeks to pick up the monitor and perhaps our nurse practitioner will join me and conduct an exposure assessment on the family.

               If you hear of anyone who would like help dealing with issues because of drilling please refer them to me. The office number is 724-260-5504. As mentioned I'll personally be able to go out to see the family and speak with them and possibly set up air quality, water quality, and possibly in the future soil quality monitors.”


From Jan:

               At our last WMCG meeting, SWPA-HEP provided information about the air and water monitors. “Speck” is the air monitor developed by Carnegie Mellon. It is used indoors, plugged into an outlet, and detects particulate matter. These monitors are being used within about 3 miles of fracked wells.  The device is not calibrated in a way to be used in a court of law.  It is used to give the homeowner an idea of the level of pollution they are being exposed to, and it registers a continuous read.  The dylos monitor could detect 2.5 particulate but had no continuous read.

               The water indicator, called  “Catfish”, is placed in the back of a toilet and measures conductivity which is related to general water quality of water. Further testing can be done if conductivity is abnormal.




***Isaak Walton Presentations-- A series of presentations on how shale gas drilling can affect water, air, and property, as well as citizens' rights and state laws like Act 13.

1 - Ken DeFalla - Henry Enstrom Chapter - Water Quality

2 - Dr John Stolz - The Woodlands

3 - Dr Ben Stout - Charleston MCHM spill

4 - Dr Dorothy Basset - Energy Independence falsehoods

5 - John Smith, Esq - Act 13 Updates

6 - Raina Rippel, SWPA-EHP - Health Effects and Air Testing

7 - Ron Gulla - What to expect from the industry

8 - Linda & David Headley - Living close to drilling

9 - Joe Bezak - Jailed for stopping pollution of his land



Commentary by Carolyn Knapp On Water:

               “It is 15 days since my daughter and her family formally complained to the DEP about the quality and quantity of their only source of water to their home being damaged. According to state law they have 45 days from that date to make a determination. So I will be journaling about the progress and writing to DEP and Chesapeake on a regular basis to remind them of what this situation has done to my daughter's family and the DEP's and Chesapeake's legal responsibility to them.”



 Fracking News

1.  PA Supreme Court Will NOT Reconsider Act 13 Decision

By Amanda Gillooly

               “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced that it will not reconsider its decision that Act 13 – the state’s set of laws regulating the Marcellus Shale gas drilling activities – is unconstitutional.

               The state DEP and the PUC last month requested the court reconsider the case following its Dec. 19 decision, which declared key provisions of Act 13 as unconstitutional, including portions that would have taken zoning control out of the hands of local government bodies.

               The DEP and PUC hired an outside law firm, Conrad O’Brien, P.C., to handle the filing. One of the partners of the firm is Christopher Carusone, who joined the firm after leaving his position as Gov. Tom Corbett’s chief of staff in July.

               John Smith, one of the lead attorneys representing the handful of municipalities such as Cecil and Peters Township, a non-profit and medical doctor, said he was pleased with the decision.

Reached Friday, Smith said:

We are extremely pleased the court acted as justly and swiftly in denying this unprecedented request to reconsider. We look forward to litigating the injustices that the Supreme Court remanded back to the Commonwealth Court.”

One of those issues, he said, relates to gag orders on medical doctors.

               Jordan Yeager, one of the lead attorneys on the case stated, “The Corbett Administration wanted a ‘do-over.’ The Supreme Court said ‘no.’ Act 13 violated our fundamental constitutional rights. The court’s landmark ruling stands and we are all safer as a result.”

               Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and one of the original petitioners in the case said, “The State has heard the final word on Act 13 from the highest authority. Once again the primary rights of clean air, water, and a healthy environment for the people of the Commonwealth have been reiterated. We hope the Governor and his administration can now finally accept that they were wrong in their attempt to undo the Court’s deliberations. The governor should listen to what the Court has said and realize that the Court’s thoughtful, extensive set of opinions instructs all levels of government to fully adhere to their ruling. This is a great day for Pennsylvania”.


2.     11,000 Call on Chevron to Apologize for Responding to Gas           Well Explosion With Pizza Coupons

Berks Gas Truth          

               “When one of its gas wells exploded in Dunkard Township, Greene County, PA, killing one worker, injuring another and sparking a fire that burned for days, Chevron responded by issuing pizza coupons to area residents. Today, thousands outraged by the insulting gesture let Chevron’s CEO and staff know that pizza does not mean never having to say you’re sorry.

               In an apparent effort to smooth ties with the town, last week Chevron delivered coupons for one large pizza and a two-liter drink to residents affected by the blast.

               Impacted residents, concerned citizens and grassroots organizations delivered petition signatures to Chevron’s Smithfield, PA, office in a pizza box with a two-liter coke. Hundreds of others called and emailed Chevron’s CEO James Watson to place pizza orders. Many pizza orders were posted to Chevron’s social media pages.

               Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, started organizing a call-in day on social media that quickly grew to include a petition drive and a delivery of the signatures gathered to Chevron’s office. Chevron’s ‘let them eat pizza’ attitude toward the people most directly and profoundly impacted by the explosion speaks volumes about how people in the communities are regarded by the industry as a whole.

               I’ve never seen a response like this,” said Feridun. ”People jumped at the chance to show Chevron their disgust at its wholly inadequate and inappropriate response.”

               “Small gestures like pizza and pop do not change the destruction Chevron has left behind in Bobtown,” said Veronica Coptis, local resident and Center for Coalfield Justice community organizer. “If they want to help this community, how about taking meaningful steps like eliminating dangerous pollution or destructive truck traffic?”

               Environmental Action and aided in gathering signatures on the petition. Food & Water Watch also gathered signatures from its membership.

               The idea to deliver the petition signatures to Chevron’s Smithfield, PA, office came from Jesse Bacon, a field organizer Environmental Action Pennsylvania. “If Chevron is really so insensitive as to think pizza can make everything better—even the death of one of their own employees and a threat to an entire town—we needed a special delivery to get their attention.”

               Kathryn Hilton, community organizer for the Mountain Watershed Association, organized the petition delivery with partners the Center for Coalfield Justice, the Harry Enstrom Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, Fayette Marcellus Watch, Marcellus Protest and the Marcellus Citizens’ Group of Westmoreland County.

               “We are very concerned about exploitation of communities by Chevron and other drilling companies. Chevron has publicly stated the company is committed to doing it [unconventional operations] right, but the pizza coupon comes across as very insincere and dismissive of the serious impacts those living near shale gas wells face daily,” Hilton stated. “Residents impacted by the explosion in Greene County, and indeed those impacted by shale gas development across the region, deserve to be properly compensated. Chevron’s response to this tragedy was completely and wholly inappropriate. Shame, shame.”

               Ken Duffala, a representative with the Izaak Walton League of America in Greene County, made the following statement regarding Chevron’s actions:

               With the recent tragedy in Bobtown and Chevron’s pizza and soft drink offer to the public, a lot of residents feel the offer was hollow. The issue missed is that clean air and clean water need to be a top concern. I would highly recommend that the family of the worker who was killed be the highest concern, and that well safety be strictly enforced so no others lose their lives.

               “For years we’ve witnessed the blatant disregard for public wellbeing that oil and gas corporations have shown to Pennsylvania communities, through their inherently dangerous and polluting fracking operations,” said Emily Wurth, water program director at Food & Water Watch. “But the callous tone-deafness of Chevron’s pizza campaign in Dunkard Township took even us by surprise. Chevron’s absurd response to community hardship speaks volumes.”


3.  Union Township Homeowners Want More Local Control

Act 13 ruling buoys residents near Trax Farm gas well

               “On Dec. 19, the Baumgardner family began to hope again. It was a rare good day among four months of bad days for a family living 500 feet from a Marcellus Shale well pad.

               On that day, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared unconstitutional parts of Act 13, which limited local zoning control in favor of a statewide standard guiding where natural gas wells could be drilled.

               Georgann and Gary Baumgardner saw the ruling as a turning point in their struggle against EQT Corp., which began drilling in early November on nearby Trax Farm in Washington County, just over the Allegheny County line. The process has been wafting diesel fumes, noise and vibrations into their home -- and seems to be consuming their lives.

               One day, their bedroom air monitor flashed orange and the odor drove the family out of their Cardox Road house for hours. Another day, their daughter Rachel Cecchini, then eight months pregnant, moved out of the house next door and into a rental home several miles a way -- abandoning the painted nursery and her 93-year-old grandfather.

               EQT has built sound walls, put residents up in hotels and offered cash settlements, while Union Township has debated the merits of residents' complaints and the company's efforts to address them at many public meetings since drilling began. Yet the state Supreme Court ruling may alter the outcome of this intransigent battle.

               John Smith, an attorney at Smith Butz who successfully challenged Act 13's municipal zoning restrictions before the state Supreme Court, said the court's decision has empowered townships to challenge gas development.

               "Now, the sentiment is not only can we do something about it but we have an obligation to do something about it," he said.

               Mr. Smith, who serves as solicitor for Cecil and Peters townships, believes the court's decision paves the way for townships to regulate not just where a well can be placed but what environmental controls the operation should have to qualify for a permit.

               Mickey Gniadek lives down the street from the Baumgardners and isn't much bothered by the noise or the industrial activity except for a bad day in early December when he went to pick up his mail and saw a white cloud and smelled chemicals in the air. Then he began to feel as if he couldn't breathe.

               "All of a sudden, my chest feels like it's collapsing on me," he said. He began to develop red spots on his head, eyes, and cheeks, which took up to two hours to subside.

               The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, a nonprofit in Washington County that treats patients who think they've been impacted by oil and gas drilling, has installed air monitors in several homes on Cardox Road.

               Andy Tullai, chairman of Union Township supervisors who lives on the street, has three air quality monitors and uses a cell phone app to monitor noise and frequency. When something seems askew, he fires off an email to the township's zoning officer.

               The noise at his home, about 650 feet from the well site, isn't as intense as at the Baumgardners, but it's enough to keep the family up at night. "When you try to sleep you hear this moaning, this grinding," he said. "I put earplugs in and it still comes through. You can't stop it. You can't stop that low-frequency noise."

               Mr. Tullai said he and his wife get up in the middle of the night and turn on the TV to drown out the sound.

               "We've lived here 31 years. They've come at the end of October and they took our lives away. We want our lives back."

               Some residents have turned on Trax Farm for allowing the well pad so close to their homes, even though Bob Trax, its president, says he had no say in the matter. "I feel bad." Mr. Trax said. "I pressured [EQT]. I said please settle, please pacify, please make do."

               On all sides of the issue, there's a sentiment that there's only so much the company can do to ameliorate concerns given how close the well pad is to the homes on Cardox Road.

               On Jan. 22, the township called a special meeting to discuss the Trax well. EQT asked residents to bear with it for the next three weeks while the company finished drilling 11 vertical wells, after which it would do another baseline sound survey.

               To drill the horizontal sections would require a different rig, one that EQT community relations manager Nathanial Manchin promised would be less noisy and have fewer emissions.

               "The [township] supervisors basically said, that's fine," Mr. Grieb said. "But if there is [another problem], we're going to shut you down as you figure it out."

               The past week marked four weeks since the township meeting. Mr. Grieb said the latest word is that the company will finish by Monday.

               Tony Cecchini, the Baumgardners' son-in-law, thinks the hotel vouchers and the sound studies are a delay tactic, and he doesn't have the time. His baby is due March 6.

               EQT also has put compensation offers on the table of $50,000 per household. The money comes with the condition that residents will release EQT from any liability having to do with property or health damage. That's a standard clause for such contracts, noted Ms. Robertson.

The majority of residents have taken the deal, Ms. Robertson said.

               So far, Mr. Gniadek has refused. "I can't sign this piece of paper," he says. "You're basically asking me to give up my life for you -- so next time something like this happens again ... ."

               "One would expect that in light of the decision, at least some municipalities will become more aggressive in their attempts to regulate the industry," he said.

               Union Township enacted an oil and gas ordinance in 2010 that set thresholds for noise. It proposed that well sites would be given conditional permits -- meaning their approval in certain zones would be contingent on meeting the conditions of the ordinance -- something that Act 13 put on shaky legal ground.

With the Supreme Court's decision, the township now feels it can use the sound ordinance in its regulation of EQT's activities at Trax.

               For its part, EQT maintains that it never violated the sound ordinance and that its data shows the diesel emissions in the air never got to an "excessive" level, said Natalie Cox, director of corporate communications. "Some people have settled with themselves that this is temporary. 'I can get through this. In a year, [it] will be back to normal,' " she said.

               When a Chevron well in Greene County exploded Feb. 11, EQT officials should have calmed fears about something like that happening at Trax.

 "We're 500 feet away. Five hundred feet. That's insane," Mr. Gniadek said. "My house would be gone."

               The Greene County fire, which burned for several days with flames so hot that firefighters couldn't get within 900 feet of it, has added new urgency to Union Township's efforts, said its solicitor Dennis Makel.

"That makes you think twice now about having oil and gas wells close to people's homes," he said.

               Mr. Baumgardner has begun going to other township meetings, waiting until the comment period and recounting his experience living near a well pad.

"I'm here as a resident," his statement goes. "What you're hearing is not the truth."

He ends it with this: "Act 13 has been declared unconstitutional. The power is back with the people."

Anya Litvak: or 412-263-1455.

Read more:


(Occasionally we should take the time to thank reporters for their coverage. This article by Litvak deserves a thanks. Jan)


4. Murrysville Parks Referendum

Comment by Wanda

“Just read the news in the Murrysville Star and this is my response: As a former resident of Murrysville I can distinctly remember Jim Morrison saying that the park was left in the zoning area so that the Council would have more control over what could happen to it. Apparently what that meant was that the council could wait for the highest bidder. Yes, this is a community issue. The Murrysville ordinance as I recall, proposes that the site of the well be 600 feet from an existing structure but I am not sure about a property line. When Greene County had its tragic accident recently, it was a week before anyone could get within 500 feet of the area. What the Municipality has done is picked out the "sacrifice zones" and left in a park that belongs to the citizens of Murrysville and then called for bids on the gas underneath to use as revenue for the Municipality. Remember this when you consider this petition.”


Murrysville  Referendum Petition-Trib Live

            By mid-April, Murrysville residents should be able to begin circulating a petition to force referendum vote on leasing the gas rights under Murrysville Community Park.

               Council voted to advertise an ordinance that would put those rights out to public bid. Once that ordinance is adopted in mid-April, residents can begin collecting signatures on a petition to create a referendum question regarding potential leases on the November ballot.

“(Residents) can't start getting signatures until after we approve the ordinance,” Councilman Dave Perry said. “We want a citizen's group to run with this right now to start education and start getting prepared. We want to give as much notice as possible — we don't want anyone to be surprised on this.”

               The ordinance directs Chief Administrator Jim Morrison to solicit bids for the gas rights under 260-acres of the park, which is located along Wiestertown Road.

Officials last month said Monroeville-based Huntley & Huntley offered $2,250 per acre for the right to drill under the park plus 12.5 percent of the royalties garnered from selling any gas from the property. The company has acquired hundreds of acres of property near the park, which is in the municipal drilling district.

Under the municipal home rule charter, residents are permitted to circulate a petition regarding any ordinance that council enacts, said Solicitor George Kotjarapoglus. Council can review that petition and change its mind on the ordinance, or the petition can be submitted to the county to place a referendum question on the November ballot, he said.

               The municipality isn't permitted to take the lead on any referendum, Kotjarapoglus said. However, officials can offer education on the issue.

Morrison said he plans to do just that but isn't sure of the best way. Resident Linda Marts agreed.

               “I feel that the majority of the citizens of Murrysville have no clue what this really would entail,” said Marts, who has expressed interest in circulating a petition. “We have a lot of young families with busy kids in all kinds of activities. I don't think they see the big picture. I think there's a large portion of people who think that it's all about the money.”

               Morrison said one problem is that people don't understand that it isn't a question of permitting drilling, but whether the park will be involved.

               “This isn't a drilling issue as much as it is a leasing issue,” Morrison said. “As much as it may be distasteful to people, the reality is that drilling is going to occur some time, somewhere in Murrysville.”


5.   Head of Exxon Opposes Fracking Operations In His           Neighborhood

               Some Texas communities are pushing back on the fracking issue: Dallas has passed strict limits on drilling; citizens in Denton are working a ban on drilling altogether within city limits. And now joining the list of residents who don’t want some fracking operations in their backyard? Rex Tillerson, head of ExxonMobil, which is the largest producer of natural gas in the country.

               The story comes from the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Gilbert, who learned that Tillerson has joined his neighbors in Bartonville (a Dallas suburb) in a suit against a water tower that would be used in part for fracking and drilling operations. Tillerson (along with former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey) is actually showing up in person at town hall meetings to protest the tower. “He and his neighbors had filed suit to block the tower, saying it is illegal and would create ‘a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,’ in part because it would provide water for use in hydraulic fracturing,” Gilbert reports.

               More from the Wall Street Journal on Tillerson’s objections:

He told officials that he and his wife settled in Bartonville to enjoy a rural lifestyle and invested millions in their property after satisfying themselves that nothing would be built above their tree line, according to the council’s audio recording of the meeting.

               Allowing the tower in defiance of town ordinances could open the door to runaway development and might prompt him to leave town, Mr. Tillerson told the council. “I cannot stay in a place,” he said, “where I do not know who to count on and who not to count on.”

               Tillerson has lived in Bartonville since 2001; since then, Gilbert reports, “companies have fracked at least nine shale wells within a mile of the Tillerson home, according to Texas regulatory and real-estate records,” including one owned by ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO.

               Tillerson’s lawyer tells the paper that he’s concerned about the impact of the tower on his property values. You can read the full story over at the Wall Street Journal.”



6.   Hopewell Twp. Homeowners Have Problem With           Seismic Testing

                Last week, a man took Channel 11 inside his home to show us cracks he said were caused by underground testing.  Now, an entire group of homeowners has come forward to say they have damage, too.

               After Channel 11’s story aired last week, Hopewell Township officials said it has gotten hundreds of calls from residents wanting answers.  State lawmakers said they’ve been getting calls, too.

               Shawna Selinsky has many questions but said she's getting no answers when it comes to seismic mapping.   She said she grabbed her phone and started following and recording crews that are doing the work for Seitel Mapping out of Texas.

               The trucks are not only on residential streets but devices are in people's yards with signs on them, reading “Don't touch or face stiff penalties.”

“It’s on my property.  I don't know what it is, and I can't touch it.  That's crazy,” said neighbor Perry Sassic.

               Hopewell officials have been battling the company in court.  A current injunction blocks officials from interfering in the seismic testing and blocks them from talking to residents about it.

               The man who contacted Channel 11 about damage last week said a ruptured water line cost him $6,000.

               The company told Channel 11 it will be in the area for the next few weeks.  Officials also said they are not in the business of property damage and that they’ve just come to do a job. “


 7. Chevron Halted Drilling On All PA Gas Wells Following           Explosion

               “Chevron has shut down gas wells in Pennsylvania that it was still drilling or working to put into production following the deadly explosion and fire on a well pad last week in Greene County, a state environmental official said today.

               Scott Perry, a DEP deputy secretary, said work on seven well pads with wells that have been fracked and are awaiting production, or have not yet been fracked, has been suspended since the Feb. 11 blast in Dunkard.

               Mr. Perry said the DEP asked Chevron to shut down the wells, but the company had already done so, last week. State environmental inspectors are visiting the sites, and Chevron is inspecting all of its wells statewide, he said.”



8. Accountability  Should Be Demanded From Chevron

               “Let me ask you a question: In your experience, what would happen to your neighbor – the guy who lives, say, a half-mile down the road – if he was working on his property and something exploded?

               Like, a crazy-flames-shooting-into-the sky, local-first-responders-need-to-set-up-a-perimeter kind of explosion. Before you answer, let me add this query: What if the explosion sent someone to the hospital (while another disappeared during the incident)? What if it was the kind of explosion that burned for days – the kind of explosion that, the day it happened (in, say, the dead of winter) there was an air quality alert?

               Think he would be taken in for questioning? Think he might get criminally charged? Have some explaining do?

               I do.

               For some folks in Greene County, Pennsylvania, Chevron is that neighbor down the road.

               Local news reports confirm: The explosion happened early Tuesday morning. A half-mile perimeter has been established by local first responders. The fire is expected to rage for days. There will not be access to the site for days.

               If past practice is any indication, our state Department of Environmental Protection will, at best, say it is “investigating.”

               Just like it was investigating the various incidents of billowing black smoke and unexplained, prolonged flaring at one of the Marcellus Shale compressor station sites in Washington County, Pennsylvania. And let’s not forget about the DEP’s “investigation” into what internal emails from a water hauler in Washington County referred to as a “massive” spill that was the subject of a “cover up.”

               A state official asked the DEP (and Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone’s office) to refer the case to the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.

What’s happened with all that in the past couple of months? Nothing that the public is, or likely will be, privy to.

               Because it seems like when it comes to environmental accountability for incidents that may impact the community, the term “it’s under investigation” is the equivalent of a junk drawer where you throw all the stuff you don’t want to deal with.

               Now tell me: Would you feel safe living 500 feet away from a well? Would you feel your child was safe if she attended school within 500 feet of a well? What if your child attended school 2,500 feet away from a drill site? Safe? (If you answered no, and live in the Fort Cherry School District, for example, it’s just too bad– because the junior-senior high is 2,500 feet away from the Chiarelli well pad).

               Here’s my last question: What is it gonna take for people to start getting pissed off enough by these incidents to demand accountability and transparency?

               We live in a society where a petition to get Justin Bieber deported got 100,000 signatures almost overnight, but there is little righteous outrage over these kind of incidents. The people who do raise a little bit of hell? They are criticized for being radical activists.

               Caring about your community, your neighbors and your natural resources – and demanding accountability from people and corporations that threaten them – is far from radical activism.

It’s being a good citizen.

And I wish I saw more of it.

P***** off enough to make a phone call or send an email?

To view a page of contacts to start with:



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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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