Friday, March 14, 2014

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates March 13, 2014

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates

       March 13, 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.  Email Jan for directions. All are very welcome to attend.

***The Climate Marchers Are Coming!

“They left Los Angeles March 1st and have Pittsburgh, Irwin, Greensburg, Ligonier etc on their itinerary.  I've already sent a welcome to them to count on warm hospitality in Greensburg.  Dates are not firm yet.” 


B. Survil, Ph:   724-850-1616


*** Act 13 Forum –To view the live webcast after March 13th, please visit:

Our Water, Our Air, Our Communities - And Forced Gas Drilling?

The Inside story on the landmark court case that overturned the pro-drilling Act 13

and recognized our constitutional right to a healthy environment.

 (The forum explains many interesting details about the Act 13 case.  Jan)




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

information with the public. *** 


RON SLABE Thanks All for Signing Frack Pit Ban Petitions

Dear friend,

     On Tuesday, March 11, 2014, I was able to deliver our petition to Ban the Frack Pit with over 3800 signatures to the PA DEP's Environmental Quality Board in Harrisburg, PA.   Along with several environmental groups, we  brought petitions and letters  and presented them to the PA DEP.  Those petitions and letters, gathered with the help of such groups as Clean Water Action, PennEnvironment, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Sierra Club, Upper Burrell Citizens Against Marcellus Pollution, and several other environmental groups, had over 17,000 signatures demanding an end to open impoundments or what is commonly known as frack pits.  Mr. Scott Perry, DEP Deputy Secretary, received us in the lobby of the DEP and accepted our petitions and letters.  We who delivered those messages and the signers of those letters and petitions, spoke for the countless number of Pennsylvanians who are tired and fed up with the environmental degradation caused by these open impoundments or frack pits.

     I cannot thank you enough for your signature and help in making this effort a great success.  And remember, if you still haven't signed, you still have until tomorrow, March 14, which is the last day for accepting public comment on the proposed DEP regulations.  The petition to Ban the Frack Pit  with any additional signatures  will be delivered electronically to the DEP.

     Finally, I want to leave you with a most profound ballad written and sung by Kris Kitko, called the Frack Pit Love Song.  It is a beautifully written piece of music which tells the true tale of the horrible consequences of the frack pit.  Just click and listen.  Give it about 20 seconds before the music starts.  If you have trouble, just go to YouTube to find the "Frack Pit Love Song”  

***Help Needed for Pittsburgh Parks!!

From Doug Shields


Thanks for signing the petition to stop fracking Allegheny County Parks!   Over 3,600 have signed!

Things are heating up in Allegheny County Council with regard to drilling under and around Deer Lakes Park.

We need you help more than ever!  I ask that you sign up at the local PROTECT OUR PARKS web page here:


Numerous meetings have been held between citizens and County Council Members. While these discussions have been cordial, the County Council, as of yet, has taken any action to conduct public informational meetings. It is also unclear if they appreciate their Constitutional obligations as outlined in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision related to Article I, Section 27, of the PA Constitution.

There were four (4) major well fires two weeks ago, notably the Chevron well blowout in Greene County where, tragically, one worker was killed and another injured. It is time we put a stop to this risky business!


Please take the time to contact the Council and let them know you are opposed to leasing of drilling rights in Deer Lakes Park.   All are invited to communicate with the Council. They truly do want to hear your opinions.  Please be courteous.  Here is a link for Allegheny County residents to determine who your County Council member is: 



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.


*** 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


***Colbert’s Tip of the Hat To Chevron’s Pizza Gift

            “On Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert called out Chevron’s absurd apology tactics in the highly publicized “pizza gift certificate” scandal. As reported on EcoWatch, the vouchers were an attempt to make amends with residents following the fatal gas well explosion at a Chevron Appalachia drilling site in Dunkard, PA. We couldn’t help but share this priceless bit:”


Fracking News

***E notice for North Huntingdon

North Huntingdon Municipality:

Blasting Activity Permit –Geokinetics Inc.

    Authorization # 1011683 has been overdue as of 2/28/2014.



(All articles are excerpted. Please use links to read the entire articles. Jan)


1. Wanda Guthrie Comments On the Bobtown , Green County, PA  Explosion

 Excerpt From New People

            “The DEP is seriously understaffed and the three inspectors could not get within 500 feet of the well pad. DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo said it was “fortunate” that the nearest house was about a half mile away from the exploding drilling site, yet Abruzzo and Gov. Corbett continue to defend Act 13, the law that would allow gas well pads and the attendant infrastructure to be built just 300 feet from homes schools, day care centers, hospitals, or any other structure in PA.”


2. Mars Area School Board Rejects Drilling Proposal

By Bill Vidonic

            “More than 150 Mars Area School District residents cheered loudly Tuesday night as the nine-member school board voted unanimously to reject Rex Energy's proposal to conduct horizontal drilling for oil and gas underneath district property along Route 228.

            “This is not just for today, but forever,” said Amy Nassif of Adams. “The community has spoken. We do not want this type of industry near our children.”

            The school board rejected an agreement that would have paid the district just over $1 million for a five-year lease. The pact promised the district about $4,000 an acre for drilling rights about a mile underneath nearly 175 acres of school property.

            The $1 million payment included about $330,000 in advance royalties for the rights to drill from a site about 4,000 feet from district property. The district would have received 15 percent of royalties from the drilling.

The school district's rejection means that the Mars Home For Youth won't be able to finalize a separate lease agreement to drill under its property, because school district property is between the youth home and the drill site, Rex officials said.

            Board solicitor Tom King said questions remained as to how much of the mineral rights the school district owned on the 175 acres because a full title search hadn't been done. There's also a question of long-term liability from the substances that are used in the extraction process, he said.   

The drilling proposal had drawn strong opposition from parents, who cited safety concerns. Nassif presented directors the signatures of about 900 people, collected in person and online, opposing the plan.

            The grassroots group Protect Our Children — which is partnering with members of the Marcellus Outreach Butler and Marcellus Outreach Middlesex — said it has concerns about environmental pollution and its effects on children. The groups want a ban on drilling within a mile of the school.

            “Thank you, school board. You did the right thing, but we as a community need to take the next step,” said Charles Clark, who has a second-grader attending Mars Elementary. “

Bill Vidonic


 3. Drilling Halted After 2 Earthquakes In Ohio

            “ The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has halted drilling at Hilcorp's well pad  in Poland Township. The action follows two earthquakes both of which had epicenters close to the well pad.

                        According to the USGS, the first earthquake occurred one mile south of Lowellville. The agency pinpoints the epicenter  roughly 2,000 feet northeast of Poland Township Park on land owned by Republic Services' Carbon Limestone Landfill, where Hilcorp is developing 12 oil and gas wells in the Utica shale formation.

            The second earthquake's epicenter was traced to roughly 4,000 feet east of Poland Township Park.

            The first earthquake registered at a depth of 1.2 miles, USGS reports. The second quake occurred at a depth of three miles.

            According to the ODNR, Hilcorp has drilled seven wells at the site. One of those wells is in production, another one is being drilled and four other wells are permitted at the site.

            ODNR released a statement saying the agency is "in the process of analyzing the [seismic activity] data. All available information indicates the events are not connected to Class II injection activities. Out of an abundance of caution we notified the only oil and gas operator in the area, and ordered them to halt all operations until further assessment can take place," the statement continued. "ODNR is using all available resources to determine the exact circumstances surrounding this event and will take the appropriate actions necessary to protect public health and safety."

            John Williams, an activist who is part of a group that opposes the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, emailed a statement and stated the region has experienced its "first earthquake caused by fracking, not just injection wells," and petitioned residents to appeal to local government to assist homeowners with earthquake insurance.

            After the 2011 quakes, the state of Ohio placed a moratorium on injection wells within five miles of the D&L site on Ohio Works Drive in Youngstown.

            "To be clear, Hilcorp has no disposal wells in the area," the company's statement concluded. "Hilcorp always strives to be a good neighbor and responsible corporate citizen in the communities that we operate in. We welcome the inquiry into exactly what happened in Poland and encourage state inspectors to provide the community with as much information as possible."

Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio


4. Fayette Commissioners Move To Limit Comments

            “Commissioners Al Ambrosini and Vincent Zapotosky agreed on Tuesday to place on their meeting agenda for March 18 a resolution to establish rules for public comment at commissioner meetings. Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink did not attend the agenda meeting. A legal representative of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association recommended the board tread carefully in any limitation to public comment.

            “It's a public comment period. People can ask questions. We are not obligated to debate,” Ambrosini said. “We have to use some common sense here. We are not violating anyone's rights.” Rules adopted in 1997 by an earlier board limited public comment to three minutes per person if requested in advance and two minutes if not. Ambrosini said he didn't know those rules were in effect.”


5. Seismic Test Equipment in Residents’ Yards

Commonwealth Court Orders They Cannot Remove Equipment

By Rachel Morgan


“Local commissioners have been pushed aside in their efforts to stop a seismic testing company from conducting what the officials consider disruptive activities.

            Under a recent court order, Hopewell Township officials cannot tell residents to remove, destroy or prohibit Seitel Data Ltd. from placing receivers — or geophones — in the right of way, which in some cases can mean residents’ yards.

                                    The company uses seismic testing to create a map of subterranean rock layers, then sells that information to oil and gas companies, who then use it to determine the best areas in which to drill for oil and gas. A contractor for Seitel, Dawson Geophysical, is conducting the seismic testing in Hopewell.

            “The essence of the injunction against Hopewell Township, which includes its elected officials, employees and police, is that the township cannot interfere by any means whatsoever with Seitel’s seismic operations in Hopewell Township and cannot communicate with township residents about seismic operations conducted on or in township rights of way,” said Mike Jones, solicitor for Hopewell, Potter and Greene townships.

                        The right of way is commonly 33 feet wide, but can be up to 120 feet, and “extend beyond the paved road and shoulders,” according to PennDOT. The agency will execute right of way “only when it will benefit the public,” its website says.

            But Shawn Gallagher of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, who represents Seitel, said the company is permitted by Section 459 of the Pennsylvania Code, which deals with seismic activity by the vibroseis method, regarding occupancy of highways by utilities. “Highway is defined as roads and rights of way,” he said.

            But some have different definitions of right of way, namely, Jones.

            “It has been our stated position at every Commonwealth Court proceeding over the past six months that, ordinance or no ordinance, Act 13 or no Act 13, municipalities have the right to just say ‘no’ to a nonpublic use of their rights of way,” Jones said. “Seitel has stated to us that this data is worth millions to those who have commissioned the study, namely Range Resources. Interestingly, Range Resources has stated that there is no intention to ever drill a well in the municipal boundary of Hopewell Township as this data is being collected for use in operations west of Hopewell Township.

            “That is why the (Hopewell) Township Commissioners are opposed to a private use of public rights of way for private financial gain and have appealed this issue to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania,” he said.

                        Seitel sent out letters to local residents in Beaver and Allegheny counties asking for permission to conduct seismic testing on their land .  The letters contained various permit numbers, causing some residents to question whether these permits were issued by the state DEP or Seitel. The DEP confirmed they were not DEP-issued permits.

            DEP officials said Tuesday that conducting seismic testing via vibroseis trucks does not require a DEP-issued permit, but that it may be subject to local municipal ordinances.

            By June,  Seitel had state permission to conduct seismic testing on state roads, it still needed local permission to do so on township roads, Kyle Ayers, a spokesman for Seitel said at the demonstration.

            But local elected officials at that time raised concerns for local infrastructure, such as home foundations, utility lines and water lines.

            Then in August, Seitel sued Hopewell and Potter townships, seeking permission to conduct seismic testing on local roads. Jones said at the time that Hopewell and Potter had already adopted regulations for seismic testing within the townships, but that Seitel wanted to have these regulations set aside by the court. In addition, Hopewell did not grant Seitel the right to use vibe trucks on its roads, due to aging infrastructure, and roads with a history of sliding problems, Jones said in that same interview.

                In September, Seitel was granted a court order in the Commonwealth Court, forbidding Hopewell and Potter townships from ordinances to regulate seismic testing, court documents show.

More legal cases ensued.

                In October, the Center Township Water Authority, the Municipal Water Authority of Aliquippa, and Wayne Lipecky, a Hopewell Township resident, sued Seitel, Hopewell, Center and Potter in Beaver County Court, saying that seismic testing could damage infrastructure beneath some roads.

                An agreement for that case was reached in December in Beaver County Court. In the agreement, Seitel said it will not vibe roads directly over the municipalities’ infrastructures. It also requires Seitel to post various bonds and secure insurance should any damage occur from seismic testing on roads.

                Also in October, Seitel sued Center, Greene Township and Shippingport — none of which had ordinances to regulate seismic testing in place — and was granted a court order that said that these municipalities “are hereby (prohibited) pending further order of court from enforcing and applying seismic regulations either by resolution or agreement to petitioner’s survey operations and from arbitrarily and unreasonably prohibiting petitioner’s use of the municipality’s respective roads.” That order is still in place, pending further action of the Commonwealth Court.

                Last month, after Hopewell sent out automated calls regarding the seismic testing, the newest court order was issued.

                “The township was advising that we had no right to place our equipment there in the rights of way, and that was incorrect,” Gallagher said Tuesday. In court documents, Gallagher said that “Hopewell had begun robo-calling all of the residents in Hopewell, advising them Seitel does not have the authority to lay the geophones and that they have the right to remove them if placed within the right of way.”

                Gallagher said that some of Seitel’s geophones have gone missing and the company was in the process of procuring their return. He also said that the ongoing court cases have delayed the company’s operations, which were originally scheduled to be completed in November.

                “Seitel hopes to conduct and complete its operations in the area without any further incident now that the Commonwealth Court has made it clear that we can place our equipment within the rights of way,” Gallagher said.


                Hopewell officials have since appealed the Jan. 31 order to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, citing lack of jurisdiction under Act 13, since their ordinance has been rescinded.

                “Under Section 3306 of Act 13, ‘any person who is aggrieved by the enactment or enforcement of a local ordinance’ that violates Act 13 ‘may bring an action in Commonwealth Court to invalidate the ordinance or enjoin its enforcement,’” Jones said. “It is our argument on appeal to the Supreme Court that although the Commonwealth Court initially enjoined the enforcement of the ordinance, that ordinance was immediately rescinded. Therefore, we argue, the Commonwealth Court lacked jurisdiction to take any further action in the case under any provision of Act 13.”



6. DEP Manipulates Law On Fracking Complaint, Leaves       Leroy Twp. Family Without Water

(Link to this article. Documents, maps, and photos are posted. jan)

Public Herald | March 7, 2014 By Joshua B. Pribanic

       “It’s day one and Christine Pepper’s family has no water. There’s no water for the family to drink, to shower or wash their clothes so they’re making calls to inlaws and saving single gallon plastic jugs. It’s day one, and the Pepper family has 45 days until they know what’s happened. It started when Christine splashed water on her face from the kitchen faucet and a burning sensation shot through her skin. “It felt like my face was on fire for 20 minutes,” she said. Later red bumps developed. Not shortly after there was no water at all. The Pepper’s spring-fed well, which had produced water for more than 50 years, went completely dry.

            “I’m not saying we’ve never had low water,” explains Christine’s husband Cory, “but it always comes right back, but it’s stayed dry for two weeks. And … I’ve never seen it! I’m 42, I’ve lived here 42 years, and my Dad was 18 when he bought this house.”

            Cory and Christine Pepper stand at their spring water well in Leroy Twp. in Pennsylvania after looking for water in their well after it recently went dry for the first time

            The Peppers live on Southside Road in Leroy Twp. Bradford County, where Public Herald reported on drinking water problems in the documentary Triple Divide. The  DEP has pending Gas Migration Investigation (GMI) cases throughout the area, with Leroy Twp. being famous for two GMI’s in the last three years: the Atgas 2H well blowout in April 2011, and the Morse 5H well subsurface problems in 2012. Both wells are within three miles of each other.

            Cory and Christine Pepper live 1,000 feet from the Morse 5H well and 3 miles from the Atgas 2H well, each operated by Chesapeake Energy Corporation.

            According to DEP, the Morse 5H well is currently in “inactive status” due to regulatory procedures. But, there’s a second well on the pad—the 3H—which the Peppers were told was put into production the same week their well went dry. “They opened up the [3H] well and the next day we have problems,” told Cory, who happens to work locally for the gas industry but has been skeptical that fracking had anything to do with stories of water contamination in the area.

            The phrase “opened up” is another way of saying the gas well went “on line” or into production. Essentially, the company pulls a plug and the gas is released, ready to go to market. When Cory saw his family’s spring dry up, and found out that the 3H well had been put online, he and Christine did the only thing to do; they called DEP to submit a complaint. Christine talked to DEP on a Friday but as Cory puts it, “They told her it was an inconvenience for them to come out and test it on a Friday. So, they came out Tuesday [Feb. 11]. That was day one with DEP.”

 As of June 2013 Public Herald found Bradford County had 285 water supply complaints. Of those, 10 complaints were filed for Leroy Twp., seven being water complaints. The remaining three general complaints have at least two concerning drinking water from spills; one involving a 4,700 gallon spill of hydrochloric acid, a component of fracking fluid, on July 4, 2013.

            To see all of the Bradford County complaint files visit Public Herald’s new #fileroom website. Carolyn knows about these complaints,

         The Morse 5H well is also responsible for blowing out and impacting a creek down the road on Tim Pepper’s farm [Cory's brother], an incident documented in Triple Divide. With the Leighton’s case, Tim Pepper’s creek blowout, and other incidents happening within the past two years, DEP has evidence on the Morse well for the presumptive clause. But, instead they’ve left the Pepper family without water and manipulated the law.

            “If they took care of the landowners and the local people you’d be so much further ahead, but they won’t. And that’s what pissed me off,” Cory protests. If the Peppers water supply turns out to be safe to drink, it doesn’t restore their trust in the department or Chesapeake Energy. For complaint #302587 Christine affirms, “It’s not just my life I’m concerned about; it’s their life.”


7. Pro Publica:  The Latest In Fracking Health Studies

“In 2011, when ProPublica first reported on the different health problems afflicting people living near gas drilling operations, only a handful of health studies had been published.  Three years later, the science is far from settled, but there is a growing body of research to consider.

            A review of health-related studies published last month in Environmental Science & Technology concluded that the current scientific literature puts forward “both substantial concerns and major uncertainties to address.”

            Still, for some, waiting for additional science to clarify those uncertainties before adopting more serious safeguards is misguided and dangerous. As a result, a number of researchers and local activists have been pushing for more aggressive oversight immediately.

1.    An Exploratory Study of Air Quality near Natural Gas Operations. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment, 2012.

            The study, performed in Garfield County, Colo., between July 2010 and October 2011, was done by researchers at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, a non-profit organization that examines the impact of low-level exposure to chemicals on the environment and human health. In almost 75 percent of all samples collected, researchers discovered methylene chloride, a toxic solvent that the industry had not previously disclosed as present in drilling operations. The researchers noted that the greatest number of chemicals were detected during the initial drilling phase.

2.    Birth Outcomes and Natural Gas Development. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2014.

            The study examined babies born from 1996 to 2009 in rural Colorado locations — the state has been a center of fracking for more than a decade. It was done by the Colorado School of Public Health and Brown University.

            The study asserted that women who lived close to gas wells were more likely to have children born with a variety of defects, from oral clefts to heart issues. For instance, it claimed that babies born to mothers who lived in areas dense with gas wells were 30 percent more likely to have congenital heart defects.

3.    Health Risks and Unconventional Natural Gas Resources. Science of the Total Environment, 2012.

            Between January 2008 and November 2010, researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health collected air samples in Garfield County, Colo., which has been experiencing intensive drilling operations. Researchers found the presence of a number of hydrocarbons including benzene, trimethylbenzene and xylene, all of which have been shown to pose health dangers at certain levels.

            Researchers maintained that those who lived less than half a mile from a gas well had a higher risk of health issues. The study also found a small increase in cancer risk and alleged that exposure to benzene was a major contributor to the risk.

“From the data we had, it looked like the well completion phase was the strongest contributor to these emissions,” said Lisa McKenzie, the lead author of the study.

            During the completion phase of drilling, a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is forced down the well at high pressure, and is then brought back up. The returning mixture, which contains radioactive materials and some of the natural gas from the geological formation, is supposed to be captured. But at times the mixture comes back up at pressures higher than the system can handle and the excess gas is directly vented into the air.


8. Cause Of  W.Va. Pipeline Blast

( Bob Donnan: How much inferior foreign steel is being used for all the new gas pipelines being laid?)

            “Severe corrosion caused a 2012 natural gas pipeline rupture and explosion in West Virginia that destroyed three houses and cooked a stretch of Interstate 77, and the incident likely could have been prevented if the pipeline had been inspected or tested, said the National Transportation Safety Board.

            Investigators found severe external corrosion that reduced the thickness of the pipeline wall to about 30 percent of its original thickness. The 20-inch buried pipeline, which was installed in 1967, had not been inspected or tested since 1988, the report said. Columbia Gas Transmission Corp.’s response to the rupture was delayed by inadequate configuration of alerts and the lack of automatic shut-off or remote control valves, the report said. Columbia owns and operates the pipeline.


 9. DeSmog Blog Obtains Censored EPA Report on Dimock    Water Contamination

            “DeSmogBlog has obtained a copy of a EPA fracking groundwater contamination PowerPoint presentation describing a then-forthcoming study's findings in Dimock, Pa. 

            The PowerPoint presentation reveals a clear link between fracking in Dimock and groundwater contamination, but was censored by the Obama Administration. Instead, the EPA issued an official statement in July 2012 -- in the thick of election year -- saying the water in Dimock was safe for consumption.



             Titled "Isotech-Stable Isotype Analysis: Determining the Origin of Methane and Its Effects on the Aquifer," the PowerPoint presentation concludes that in Cabot’s Dimock Gesford 2 well, "Drilling creates pathways, either temporary or permanent, that allows gas to migrate to the shallow aquifer near [the] surface... In some cases, these gases disrupt groundwater quality."  

            Other charts depict Cabot's Gesford 3 and 9 wells as doing much of the same, allowing methane to migrate up to aquifers to unprecedented levels -- not coincidentally -- coinciding with the wells being fracked.  The PowerPoint's conclusions are damning

            "Methane is released during the drilling and perhaps during the fracking process and other gas well work," the presentation states. "Methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking and other gas well work...

            Methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality."

            Despite the findings, the official EPA desk statement concluded any groundwater contamination in Dimock was "naturally occurring."

            "EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern," read the EPA desk statement. "EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock."


                         EnergyWire's Mike Soraghan explained the studies were dropped -- according to one of two unidentified EPA whistleblowers who were close to the field team in Dimock -- "out of fear the inquiries would hurt President Obama's reelection chances." 

            Though the two EPA career employees' initial findings pointed to water contamination in Dimock -- as seen in the PowerPoint presentation -- their superiors told them to stop the investigation, in turn motivating them to blow the whistle.

             One of the whistleblowers said he came forward due to witnessing "patently unethical and possibly illegal acts conducted by EPA management."

                        At the center of the management team overseeing the false desk statement: former EPA head Lisa Jackson, who now works as Apple's top environmental adviser. Jackson was recently replaced by just-confirmed EPA head Gina McCarthy.

            This was revealed by the other whistleblower, who as part of the regular duties of his job, was a member of the "HQ-Dimock" email listserv.

 On that list, Jackson went by the pseudonym "Richard Windsor" as a way to shield her real name from potential Freedom of Information Act requests.  

"Many members of the email group... were lawyers and members of Lisa Jackson's inner political circle," explained Soraghan.

                        The real question at the heart of the matter: What were the EPA's motives for doing an about-face on a key multi-year taxpayer subsidized study?

                        Scott Ely -- a former Cabot employee and Dimock resident who has three small children and whose water was contaminated by Cabot -- expressed similar despair over EPA abandoning ship in this high-profile study. 

 "When does anybody just stand by the truth? Why is it that we have a bunch of people in Washington, D.C. who are trying to manipulate the truth of what's happening to people in Dimock because of the industry?," Ely asked rhetorically. 

 Ely says he keeps an open line of communications with EPA employees, who regularly check in and caution him not to use his water. The employees remain unidentified for fear of retribution by EPA upper-level management.

 "We thought EPA was going to come in and be our savior. And what'd they do? They said the truth can't be known: hide it, drop it, forget about it."

Follow Steve Horn on Twitter:


10. Oil/Gas Workers Suffer

            “The oil and gas industry has a fatality rate seven times higher than for all other workers, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control. (CDC). According to the CDC, the death rate in the oil and gas industry is 27.1; the U.S. collective death rate is 3.8.

            "Job gains in oil and gas construction have come with more fatalities, and that is unacceptable," said John E. Perez, secretary of labor.

            Not included in the data, because it doesn't include the past three years, when the oil/gas industry significantly increased fracking in the Marcellus and other shales, is a 27-year-old worker who was cremated in a gas well explosion in late February in Greene County, Pa. One other worker was injured. Because of extensive heat and fire, emergency management officials couldn't get closer than 1,500 feet of the wells. Pennsylvania's Act 13, largely written by the oil and gas industry, allows only a 300 foot set-back from wells to homes. In Greene County, it took more than a week to cap three wells on the pad where the explosion occurred.

            The gas drilling industry, for the most part, is non-union or dependent upon independent contractors who often provide little or no benefits to their workers.   The billion dollar corporations like it that way. That means there are no worker safety committees and no workplace regulations monitored by workers. The workers have no bargaining or grievance rights; health and workplace benefits for workers who aren't executives or professionals are often minimal or non-existent.

It may be months or years before most workers learn the extent of possible injury or diseases caused by industry neglect.

                        Tom Bean, a former gas field worker from Williamsport, Pa., says he doesn't know what he and his co-workers were exposed to. He does know it affected his health:


 "You'd constantly have cracked hands, red hands, sore throat, sneezing. All kinds of stuff. Headaches. My biggest one was a nauseating dizzy headache . . .  People were sick all the time . . . and then they'd get into trouble for calling off sick. You're in muck and dirt and mud and oil and grease and diesel and chemicals. And you have no idea [what they are] . . . It can be anything. You have no idea, but they [Management] don't care . .  . It's like, "Get the job done. ' . .  . You'd be asked to work 15, 18 hour days and you could be so tired that you couldn't keep your eyes open anymore, but it was "Keep working. Keep working. Keep working.'"

            Workers are exposed to more than 1,000 chemicals, most of them known carcinogens. They are exposed to radioactive waste, brought up from more than a mile in the earth. They are exposed to the effects from inhaling silica sand; they are exposed to protective casings that fail, and to explosions that are a part of building and maintaining a fossil fuel system that has explosive methane as its primary ingredient. The oil/gas industry, the Chambers of Commerce, politicians, and some in the media, even against significant and substantial health and environmental evidence, erroneously claim there are economic benefits to fracking. Disregard the evidence that the 100-year claim for natural gas is exaggerated by 10 times, or that the number of jobs created by the boom in the Marcellus Shale is inflated by another 10 times. Focus on Greene County, Pa.

            Apparently, included in the "economic boom" is a small pizza shop that was contracted by Chevron to provide large pizzas and sodas to about 100 families living near the gas well explosion that cost one man his life.

Workers, like pizza boxes, are just disposable items to the oil and gas industry.”

[Dr. Brasch is an award-winning journalist of more than four decades. His latest of 20 books is Fracking Pennsylvania , an in-depth documented exploration of the economic, health, and environmental effects of fracking, with an underlying theme of the connection between politicians and campaign funds provided by the oil/gas lobby.]


11. Texas Homeowners Seek up to $25 million in Damages from EagleRidge Energy-        Property Value Diminished

By Dianna Hunt / Staff Writer

            Forty-three homeowners in Hickory Creek neighborhoods have filed a lawsuit against EagleRidge Energy, seeking up to $25 million in damages for creating what the suit claims are nuisances that have diminished the value of their properties.

            The suit was filed in state district court in Denton by the owners of 25 homes in the two neighborhoods, which are close to natural gas drilling operations by EagleRidge. It is filed against EagleRidge Energy and EagleRidge Operating.

Fort Worth attorney Kirk Claunch, who is representing the homeowners, said the wells have limited the residents’ use of their property.

            “Who wants to go hang out in your backyard when all you hear is the sound of drilling operations and there’s a cloud of dust in the air and it smells bad?” he said. “They don’t want to go outside and do the things that most people want to do in their backyard, whether it’s gardening, swimming or anything like that.”

            The suit is seeking damages of $200,000 to $1 million per home, plus court costs.

            EagleRidge officials said in a written response to the Denton Record-Chronicle that they would “vigorously defend” the lawsuit.

            EagleRidge said in the statement that the wells in question obtained the proper permits, including permits under a city of Denton ordinance that found that gas well development in the area would be “compatible with and not injurious to the use and enjoyment of other property nor significantly diminish or impair property values.”


12. DEP Investigates Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority

            “The Tri-County Joint Municipal Authority office staff was fired late last week as the state DEP investigates possible reporting and permitting violations at the East Bethlehem Township water treatment facility. The water authority serves 10,000 customers in the Mon Valley.

             The authority’s board terminated the workers as the DEP launched an investigation into why water discharge records and modification permits hadn’t been filed for what DEP spokesman John Poister called a “lengthy period of time.”      Poister said the agency is looking into a number of violations and that it is very likely the municipal authority will be fined for multiple and repeated violations. The DEP’s investigation centers around the lack of discharge monitoring reports filed by workers as required under the federal Clean Water Act, Poister said.”


 13. Chloramine in  Water Systems

 By Bob Donnan

            “You’ve heard me mention on various occasions that I have a ‘nose full of ammonia’ after a shower, suspecting our “new” disinfectant CHLORAMINE to be the cause.  WHY?  Because some chlorine is replaced with ammonia to create CHLORAMINE. The reason PAWC switched our water was to reduce trihalomethanes, which were never a problem until fracking arrived.

            I got this email from a local friend on the same PAWC water system this morning:

            “So not that I intentionally get water in my eyes, but the stuff this morning has a wicked burn.  Visine even took a while to clear up the red. No worries.  All good in SW Pa.”

 The water company did say they would be super-chlorinating our water from around now through mid-April. WHY?  Because CHLORAMINE does not disinfect water as well as straight chlorine, meaning dangerous germs like E. coli can more easily persist.

 So then, I revisited the CHLORAMINE FACTS page which you should also do if your water system is using chloramine:


Here is a brief collection of bullet points from that page:

• Chloramine cannot kill the pathogens in the water as well as chlorine.

• As a result, people with suppressed immune systems must have their water boiled over TEN minutes BEFORE use to kill pathogens, or they risk becoming ill.

• Those at risk include children under 6 months of age, the elderly, those on or who have had chemotherapy, people with HIV or AIDS, organ transplant patients, and others with a weakened immune system.

• Chloramine is a less effective disinfectant than chlorine. The World Health Organization says that "monochloramine is about 2,000 and 100,000 times less effective than free chlorine for the inactivation of E. Coli and rotaviruses, respectively."

• Chloramine does not dissipate easily compared to chlorine.

• Chloramine stays in the water distribution system longer than chlorine.

• Chloramine is difficult to remove.

• Chloramine cannot be removed by boiling, distilling, or by standing uncovered.

• Some disinfection byproducts of chloramine are even more toxic than those of chlorine, i.e. iodoacids.

• Chloramine vapors and its disinfection byproducts can accumulate in indoor air and concentrate in an enclosed area such as a shower stall, small bathroom, kitchen, or apartment (see Toxic Showers and Baths:


• The EPA states that there are NO dermal (skin) and NO inhalant (respiratory) studies on chloramine as used as a disinfectant for drinking water.

• The EPA states that there are INADEQUATE cancer studies on humans or animals.

• The disinfection byproducts of chloramine have not been studied and may be worse than those of chlorine.

• Chloramine can cause and/or aggravate respiratory problems.

• Chloramine fumes can cause an individual to become congested and cause sneezing, sinus congestion, coughing, choking, wheezing, shortness of breath, and asthma (see the Hazardous Substances Fact Sheet for Chloramine, PDF, 98 KB), by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services).

• An increase in asthma due to exposure from chloramine in indoor swimming pool areas was shown in a Belgium study from the Catholic University of Louvain (PDF, 707 KB).

• Chloramine damages mucous membranes. The lung damage in those exposed to chloramine in indoor pool air is similar to that seen in regular smokers (see Health24 News article).

• Chloraminated vapor from showers, baths, hot tubs, dishwashers, and other household appliances contains volatilized chemicals that can be inhaled and cause irritation to the respiratory tract.”


14. Politicians Who Support Fracking Are Starting to Pay a Political Price-California

            “ The expected silent protest suddenly became vocal. Persistent shouts of “No Fracking!” seemed to rattle the normally sure-footed Jerry Brown, California. “All you guys who like to make noise, just listen a moment,” Brown said, trying to steer the audience back around to his points about fighting climate change with a range of solutions. But he had lost the crowd by then, as the slogans and shouts increased. He concluded by saying, “Thanks a lot, and keep protesting, but add a bunch more stuff.” Brown does have a climate record to tout, with his support for the state’s cap-and-trade system, his at times lonely advocacy for high-speed rail, and continued investments in renewable energy. “I support everything he said that he’s doing,” said RL Miller after the speech. “But climate leaders don’t frack.”

            Just a couple of hours after Brown’s speech, billionaire former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who plans to spend up to $100 million in campaign ads this year pressuring lawmakers to fight climate change, addressed the convention. He called for legislation that would force oil companies to get approval for fracking from counties through a public vote, requiring a two-thirds threshold. This is the same threshold that the state and local communities in California must secure to raise taxes. Steyer argued that fracking effectively imposes a tax on the public because of the health and safety costs that result from it, and so the public deserves the same protections as businesses enjoy. “This two-thirds vote requirement will empower local communities to secure the safety and health provisions their people deserve,” he said. “It will give communities the right to determine whether fracking is really in their interest.”


15. Wyoming Supreme Court—Trade Secrets Must Be Justified

“Litigation continues to better identify the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing

By: Earthjustice


Cheyenne, WY March 12, 2014 — Today, the Wyoming Supreme Court issued its decision in a case where Powder River Basin Resource Council and other groups challenged the Wyoming Oil and Gas Commission's withholding of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) chemical information from public disclosure and review. The Court reversed and remanded the case back to the District Court in Casper, Wyoming to fix certain deficiencies. In its opinion, the Court ruled in favor of the Resource Council in two main ways: 1) It held the Oil and Gas Commission has the burden of justifying the use of a trade secrets exemption and 2) It found that the definition of trade secrets under the Freedom of Information Act applies in Public Records Act cases, such as this one. In contrast, the Oil and Gas Commission wanted to use a broader definition of trade secrets, which would allow more withholding of chemical information from public disclosure and review.

            "We're pleased the Court recognized that the Oil and Gas Commission has to fully and rationally justify its use of trade secrets exemptions before it can hide fracking chemical information from public review," stated Marilyn Ham, Resource Council Board Member from Laramie County, Wyoming. "We're looking forward to the next stage of the case and hopefully to getting better information out to the public on what chemicals are used in fracking operations.

            The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed that the public's right to know is paramount under state law. If fracking operators don't want to reveal what chemicals they use, they will have to prove that the chemicals are trade secrets, which means they shouldn't be able to capriciously keep secrets from the public about dangerous chemicals," said Katherine O'Brien, an attorney with Earthjustice, which represents the plaintiffs. "We will continue the fight in the trial court to ensure that the identity of fracking chemicals—which threaten the water supplies that communities depend upon—cannot be kept secret from the public."



 We are very appreciative of donations to our group.
            With your help, we have handed out thousands of flyers on the health and environmental effects of fracking, sponsored numerous public meetings, and provided information to citizens and officials countywide. If you would like to support our efforts:  
             In the Reminder line please write- Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group (no abbreviations).  You can send checks to Jan Milburn, 114 Mountain Road, Ligonier, PA 15658 or you can give your check to Jan or Lou Pochet, our treasurer. Cash can also be accepted.
            To make a contribution to our group using a credit card, go to  Look for the contribute button, then scroll down the list of organizations to direct money to. We are listed as the Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group.
            Please be sure to write Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group on the bottom of your check so that WMCG receives the funding since we are just one project of many of the Thomas Merton Center.


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
              Secretary-Ron Nordstrom
              Facebook Coordinator-Elizabeth Nordstrom
                            Science Advisor-Dr. Cynthia Walter
To receive our news updates, please email jan at
To remove your name from our list please put “remove name from list’ in the subject line