* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
* To view permanent documents, past updates, reports, general information and meeting information http://westmorelandmarcellus.blogspot.com/
* Our email address: email@example.com
* To discuss candidates: http://www.facebook.com/groups/VoteProEarth/
* To contact your state legislator:For the email address, click on the envelope under the photo
* For information on PA state gas legislation and local control: http://pajustpowers.org/aboutthebills.html-
WMCG Thank You
* Thank you to contributors to our Updates: Debbie Borowiec, Lou Pochet, Ron Gulla, the Pollocks, Marian Szmyd, Bob Donnan, Elizabeth Donahue, and Bob Schmetzer.CAlendar
*** 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.
***Delmont Informational Meeting
Huntley and Huntley Activity in the Area
April 1, 2014 from 6:45pm-8:30pm. RSVP is requested.
Delmont Fire Hall
Recently, several people from the Delmont area reached out to us at the Mountain Watershed Association because they wanted to learn more about the activities of Huntley and Huntley, Ion Geophysical and other companies conducting shale gas related activities in your area. At the residents’ request we are holding a public meeting at the Delmont Volunteer Fire Department on April 1, 2014 from 6:45pm-8:30 pm. RSVP is requested.
The meeting will include a presentation on lease terms; insurance and mortgage issues; health and environmental impacts; what is and is not legally permissible; tracking activities using online tools; and other topics. The presentation will be followed by an in-depth question and answer session.
Through our experiences with industry we are aware that not all the facts are put on the table. We want to rectify this. We hope you will come and bring your neighbors so you can make an informed decision about what you want to do with your land in your community. If you do not attend this meeting we still recommend you seek professional counsel before signing any agreements.
For questions please call Kathryn or Nick at 724-455-4200 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Sincerely,
Kathryn Hilton, Community Organizer
***Deer Lakes Park Meeting –A public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 2 at Deer Lakes High School. To comment at the public meeting sign up 24 hours before the meeting day.http://www.alleghenycounty.us/council/meetings/comment.aspx
***Letters to the editor are important and one of the best ways to share
information with the public. ***
***Tenaska Plant Seeks to Be Sited in South Huntingdon, Westmoreland County***
Petition !! Please forward to your lists!
Please share the attached petition with residents of Westmoreland and all bordering
counties. We need each of you to share the petition with your email lists and any group with which you are affiliated. As stated in the petition, Westmoreland County cannot meet air standards for several criteria. Many areas of Westmoreland County are already listed as EPA non-attainment areas for ozone and particulate matter 2.5, so the county does not have the capacity to handle additional emissions that will contribute to the burden of ozone in the area as well as health impacts. According to the American Lung Association, every county in the Pittsburgh region except for Westmoreland County had fewer bad air days for ozone and daily particle pollution compared with the previous report. Westmoreland County was the only county to score a failing grade for particulate matter.
The Tenaska gas plant will add tons of pollution to already deteriorated air and dispose of waste water into the Youghiogheny River. Westmoreland County already has a higher incidence of disease that other counties in United States. The pollution doesn’t stop at the South Huntingdon Township border, it will travel to the surrounding townships and counties.
If you know of church groups or other organizations that will help with the petition please forward it and ask for their help.
***Forced Pooling Petition
“The PA DEP announced the first public hearing on forced pooling in PA to be held in less than two weeks. We're pushing on the DEP to postpone the hearings and address the many problems we have with their current plans. In the meantime, we're circulating a petition to the legislature calling on them to strike forced pooling from the books in PA.
Forced pooling refers to the ability to drill under private property without the owner's permission. It's legal in the Utica Shale in western PA, but the industry has not made an attempt to take advantage of it until now. Forced pooling is a clear violation of private property rights and should not be legal anywhere.
I know I've asked a lot of you. Unfortunately, we're fighting battles on many fronts and they just keep coming. But with your help, we've made lots of progress, so I'm asking you to help me again by signing and sharing this petition.”
Appreciatively, as always,
***Act 13 Forum Video Is Up
The video is split into 2 parts for a total viewing time of about 2 hours. There is a small amount of blank time (about a minute) at the beginning of Part 1, but just let it play...
Our Water, Our Air, Our Communities — And Forced Gas Drilling?
What: Delaware Riverkeeper Network hosted a forum with the lead litigators and litigants of the landmark Act 13 case – the case in which the conservative Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared that the rights of pure water, clean air, and a healthy environment, across the generations, must be protected by state and local legislators.
The forum included a discussion of how Act 13 came to be passed, how and why the legal challenge was formulated, including the interesting alliance between the 7 towns and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and the implications for environmental, municipal, and legislative decision making going forward.
***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. http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/
*** 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.”
1. Contaminated Water in Donegal PA
By Roger Drouin, Truthout | News Analysis
“As the first official research is published that confirms water contamination by hydraulic fracturing, an alarming amount and array of hazardous chemicals and compounds - including arsenic, chloride, barium and radium - are found in Pennsylvania groundwater.
Shortly after a gas company in Donegal, Pennsylvania, began storing fracking wastewater in an impoundment pit, a water well at a nearby home showed some alarmingly elevated levels of barium and strontium.
The home sits within 2,000 feet of the impoundment pit, which began leaking in late 2012, Kathryn Hilton told Truthout. Hilton is a community organizer at the Mountain Watershed Association.
In August, 2012, DEP test results showed levels of barium and strontium above EPA standards. "Those are hazardous chemicals that can cause health problems when exposed to for extended periods of time," Hilton said.
The unidentified property owners were unable to comment about the incident because they are involved in active litigation with the gas company, WPX Energy. The company has since removed the impoundment pit, but the homeowner is still "using a water buffalo" for drinking water, Hilton told Truthout. In June, 2013, the DEP's Oil and Gas Program issued a determination letter concluding that the high chemical levels were caused by the nearby fracking activity, according to an agency spokesperson.
Environmentalists, scientists and residents worry that other homeowners may be facing similar, often unknown, threats from contamination throughout Pennsylvania - where the fracking boom has positioned the state as the third-largest producer of natural gas. Those concerns are growing as shale development continues to expand and transforms Pennsylvania communities that were once quaint rural areas into areas filled with drilling equipment and trucks.
"These drilling sites are really industrial sites," said David Brown, a toxicologist at the Environmental Health Project in Washington County, Pennsylvania. "There is a lot of diesel fuel around, a lot of chemicals brought in to frack the rock, and it is all dumped in water or the air."
At the well in Donegal, the levels of chemicals such as strontium that were measured in the well could be high enough to cause some skin or gastrointestinal reactions, environmental scientist Vanessa Lamers told Truthout. An elderly person or infant would be even more susceptible.
"That's a lot of strontium and barium," Lamers said after reviewing the sample results. "The chloride is four times over the limit."
This case is not the only example of chemicals and compounds contaminating drinking water in areas with fracking activity. Between 2008 and fall 2012, state environmental regulators determined that oil and gas development damaged the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses.
The findings in Pennsylvania are significant because they are some of the first official research to show confirmed water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing - an industry environmental groups say the Environmental Protection Agency and feds are not taking a serious look at and that state regulators are not equipped to adequately regulate.
Last year, state Auditor General Eugene A. DePasquale announced his office is conducting a performance audit of the Pennsylvania DEP's water testing program to "determine the adequacy and effectiveness of DEP's monitoring of water quality as potentially impacted by shale gas development activities" between 2009 and 2012. http://truth-out.org/news/item/22407-contaminated-water-supplies-health-concerns-accumulate-with-fracking-boom-in-pennsylvania
2. Fifth CNX Incident at Beaver Run Reservoir
March 2 Spill “An engine oil spill at a Marcellus shale well pad at Beaver Run Reservoir in Washington Township caused a small fire Saturday, state DEP officials said Wednesday.
The spill did not cause soil or water contamination at the reservoir, which serves 150,000 residents of Westmoreland County, including those in Murrysville, Export and Delmont, said John Poister, DEP spokesman.
An unknown amount of engine oil was spilled onto a holding tank at the Mamont South 1A pad, he said. A pump engine on site failed, causing the spill. The spill caused a fire, which damaged the metal cover put on top of the secondary holding tank.
CNX Gas, a division of Consol Energy, has been conducting Marcellus shale drilling at the reservoir since 2010.
“No environmental impacts occurred and mitigation was successfully completed during each of these events. Consol Energy was not issued violations for any of the incidents in question,” Consol spokeswoman Kate O'Donovan said in an email Thursday.
Poister said there is no visible damage to the holding tank, but state officials will return to the site for further inspection.
This is at least the fifth incident requiring DEP attention since June at Consol's drilling operation at the reservoir in Bell and Washington townships.
In June, CNX Gas was cited after a fracking fluid spill. Another spill occurred in November, records show. In February, two barrels of oil-based mud were discharged on the site.
The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County could not be reached for comment.”
Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmurrysville/yourmurrysvillemore/5717048-74/spill-reservoir-consol - ixzz2whhvKl66
I can find no news report of the following spill cited on the MACW site (If someone has seen information on this incident, please send me the article). It appears this is not the same incident covered by Daveen Kurutz in the above article. Jan)
March 12 Spill CNX Gas Company Representative’s Report on Resevoir Spill
“3/12/14 ‐ Mamont South 1 Pad, in Westmoreland County, Calfrac Mechanic Ron Simpson was performing preventative maintenance on the telebelt (conveyor system for sand) when 2 gallons of used motor oil was spilled on containment at 16:45. Due to heavy rain and strong wind gusts, we had a loss of primary containment, contaminating a nearby puddle of water. The oil was contained, cleaned up with oil soaks and a water truck. DEP has been notified of the incident.”
MAWC’s Report on Resevoir Spill
“March 13, 2014 An oil spill accident at the Mamont South 1 drilling pad from March 12 was investigated. Bryan Anderson from Consol was interviewed. He stated that routine maintenance was being performed on the semi‐trailer mounted sand conveyer by an independent contractor. The contractor spilled app 2 gallons of used oil under the trailer. The containment area directly under the trailer consisted of black rubber with a curb and was full of water from that day’s rain. The oil on water was blown by the wind over the black curb. Bryan stated that the contractor violated site protocol which states that containment areas must be pumped before using the equipment in them. The contractor also failed to report the spill which was later found by Bryan. The oil was contained by the white boom socks that are placed around the trailer perimeter and pumped off. No oil made it past the white socks which are in a circle around the entire vehicle. The individual contractor was banned from returning due to the above 2 infractions. The attached pics show the black and white containments.”
To see photos:
3. Murrysville Park Petitioners Work For Signatures
“Alyson Holt, 41, is helping lead the way to put a referendum question on the November ballot to help council decide whether to lease the oil and gas rights under Murrysville Community Park to Marcellus shale drillers.
Council is reviewing an ordinance that would solicit bids for those rights under 262 acres of the park along Wiestertown Road.
The municipality received an offer from Huntley & Huntley that would net nearly $600,000 up front for the drilling rights and 12.5 percent of the profit the company earned on any gas extracted.
Unsure of which direction residents want council to go, officials asked residents to form a group to devise a question that would appear on the November ballot, a feat that requires more than 3,000 residents to sign a petition.
Each spring, Holt watches her sons run around Murrysville Community Park, sprinting across the soccer fields with hundreds of other children. But she doesn't think that will be the case if a Marcellus shale well pad is erected nearby.
“There are hundreds of kids that use that park on any given Saturday,” she said. “With the recent Greene County explosion, I'm thinking, ‘What in the world would make us, as a community, want this next to a park that we built for recreation?' ”
So Holt set up a Facebook page — Murrysville Fracking Discussion — to start a community dialogue on the topic. That was the quickest way to get word out about the petition and what Murrysville is considering, she said.
She doesn't have much time, due to guidelines set by the municipal home rule charter. Residents have 45 days to circulate a petition in response to an ordinance adopted by council. To put a referendum question on the ballot, the petition must have the signature of at least 20 % of registered voters.
“It's (ridiculous) to ask residents to try to get 3,009 signatures for a referendum in 45 days,” Perry said. “That's a virtual impossibility. That's a very difficult bar to meet to get those signatures.”
Huntley has acquired land adjacent to the park. Perry said he expects drilling to occur near the park, but he said officials hope to be able to work with Huntley to ensure that the company goes above the requirements from the state and municipal regulations.
“Leasing could help significantly lessen the impact in that area,” Perry said.
But drilling near any park ignites fear in Holt.
She worries that some children won't be able to participate in sports anymore because of fumes and pollution.
“I want it to send a strong signal to council that, hopefully, we don't want fracking underneath our Murrysville Community Park,” Holt said.
“Why did we build this park for our children's use if we're going to put something that puts their health at risk next to it?
“Communities like Murrysville have a huge amount to lose,” Holt added. “Not the least of which are the health of their residents and the reputation of their communities as a great place to live.”
4. Murrysville Residents Want Drilling Ordinance Revisited
“Members of the Citizens for the Preservation of Rural Murrysville asked council last week to postpone any decisions about drilling — including whether to solicit offers to drill under Murrysville Community Park — until municipal drilling regulations have been revisited.
Board member Linda Marts said the group's board of directors wants council to establish a task force to revisit the municipal ordinance. That is in the works, chief administrator Jim Morrison said.
Murrysville resident Alyson Holt — who, along with the preservation group, plans to circulate a referendum petition to help council determine if the park's gas rights will be leased — agreed that revisions are needed.
“Much has been learned in that time,” Holt said. “Municipalities now have both the constitutional right and the public-safety obligation to enact zoning ordinances that protect their citizens' constitutional rights to clean air; pure water; and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”
A municipal task force met throughout 2010 and 2011 to craft the regulations, which include a zoning district where surface drilling can occur. Seven members of that committee —will review the regulations for ways to improve the ordinance.
“All are very well-versed in work done previously, as well as actions done by the Supreme Court,” Morrison said.
Officials said they planned to revisit the ordinance after the state Supreme Court overturned significant portions of Act 13, the state's drilling regulations. The state regulations had limited local officials' power to regulate the drilling process.
Resident Leona Dunnett, who had been outspoken against drilling in the past, said she thinks municipal officials have more power since Act 13 was overturned.
“The precedent set actually states that local zoning laws trump the state's power,” Dunnett said.
Morrison said the group will begin reviewing the ordinance in April. “
Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmurrysville/yourmurrysvillemore/5825575-74/drilling-regulations-council#ixzz2xBUiJOLe
5. Letter To Editor by Kathryn Hilton
Many are sick of being exploited by gas interests
March 22, 2014
“It is true that I am not a resident of Bobtown in Greene County, but I am a resident of Fayette County and have plenty of experience dealing with Chevron. Professionally, I support residents whose lives are unjustly and grossly impacted by Chevron and other operators’ “do whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we please” attitude. The blatant disregard shown in how the company practices locally and internationally supports the intended message of the petition delivery (asking for an apology after Chevron offered pizza coupons to the community after a natural gas well exploded): We are sick of being exploited for profit and we deserve justice in our communities and some real compensation for losses.
One may argue there are not many stories being told publicly regarding impacted families, drinking water and so on, so natural gas development must not be as dangerous as “sensationalists” claim. The residents I spend countless hours supporting do not want to speak to reporters who are going to change the story and write as though it is the impacted people on a limb instead of the offending parties. The March 7 Associated Press article “Chevron Pizza 'Scandal’ Isn’t One in Small Town” (post-gazette.com) supports this conclusion. I am personally in contact with many families in Fayette and other counties who agree with the message of the petition, more than a few of whom are being exploited by Chevron. This is not an exaggerated claim of frustration, but rather an international effort to draw attention to the very real issue, which is that natural gas industrialization is destroying the lives of Pennsylvanians.
Without more than two seconds of thought I can identify at least a dozen households in Fayette and Westmoreland counties in which lives are actively being destroyed by natural gas industrialization.
Bullskin, Fayette County”
The writer is a community organizer with the Mountain Watershed Association.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/2014/03/22/lt-div-class-libPageBodyLinebreak-gt-Many-are-sick-of-being-exploited-by-gas-interests-lt-br-gt-lt-div-gt/stories/201403220007#ixzz2x2HqEGTv
6. Research –Some Tests Miss 99% of Radium in Fracking Waste
Brine Afffects Results
“Every year, fracking generates hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater laced with corrosive salts, radioactive materials and many other chemicals. Because some of that wastewater winds up in rivers after it’s treated to remove dangerous contaminants, regulators across the U.S. have begun to develop testing regimens to gauge how badly fracking wastewater is polluted and how effective treatment plants are at removing contamination.
A newly published scientific study, however, shows that testing methods sometimes used by state regulators in the Marcellus region can dramatically underestimate the amount of radioactive radium in fracking wastewater.
These test methods can understate radium levels by as much as 99 percent, according to a scientific paper published earlier this month in Environmental Science and Technology Letters. The tests, both recommended by the EPA for testing radium levels in drinking water, can be thrown off by the mix of other contaminants in salty, chemical-laden fracking brine, researchers found.
Not all the radium tests from the Marcellus region dramatically understate radioactivity. Many researchers, both public and private, have used a method, called gamma spectroscopy, that has proved far more reliable than the EPA drinking water method. But the results of the research serve as a warning to regulators in states across the U.S., as they make decisions about how to monitor radioactivity in fracking waste.
“People have to know that this EPA method is not updated” for use with fracking wastewater or other highly saline solutions, said Avner Vengosh, a geochemist at Duke University.
The team of scientists from the University of Iowa tested “flowback water,” using several different test methods. The EPA drinking water method detected less than one percent of radium-226, the most common radioactive isotope in Marcellus wastewater.
Several scientific studies have cited radium results obtained using the flawed test methods, including a widely-cited 2011 United States Geological Survey paper on radium from Appalachian gas wells, a 2012 paper which nonetheless found that radium levels in the wastewater were “commonly hundreds of times the US drinking water standards,” and a 2013 paper that sought to “guide water management strategies” by mapping where certain contaminants were most concentrated. Some of the flawed test results cited in these papers were provided by Pennyslvania state regulators.
Gamma spectroscopy has long been considered the gold standard for this type of testing, and the new research helps confirm that method’s accuracy.
In 2011, a front-page New York Times investigative report revealed that regulators in Pennsylvania had failed to adequately monitor radioactivity and other contamination in Marcellus waste, even though they knew it was being sent to ill-equipped waste treatment plants.
No tests, regardless of methodology, have shown fracking wastewater on its own is so radioactive that simply being near it could cause harm to a person. For radioactivity to be dangerous at the levels found in fracking wastewater, a person must eat, drink or breathe in the radioactive materials, either directly or from contaminated fish. However, radioactive material can concentrate over time and levels can rise dramatically. For example, the sediments downstream from one Pennsylvania treatment plant were found to carry concentrated amounts of radium, enough to potentially pose a radioactivity exposure threat.
This research could, however, raise awareness of the EPA tests’ shortcomings and prevent other states from adopting the recommendations from Marcellus-region regulators.
Even when people are directly caught dumping fracking waste, penalties can be merely a slap on the wrist. Fracking wastewater has also been illegally dumped into public water supplies and accidentally spilled into rivers in streams. On March 20, an Ohio man was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and probation for illegally dumping oil and gas waste into a Mahoning river tributary.
Given the flaws in oversight and enforcement, some are skeptical that states can control the radioactive waste from fracking.”
7. Marcellus Shale Earth First! Halts Anadarko Fracking Operation In The Tiadaghton State Forest
“Waterville, PA -- In the pre-dawn hours, activists with Marcellus Shale EarthFirst!, Pennsylvania residents and students took action to halt Anadarko's hydraulic fracturing operation in the Tiadaghton State Forest. Protestors blocked the only access road to a wellpad by locking themselves to barrels of concrete, preventing workers from entering the site. Dozens more activists rallied on the state forest road nearby in support. The activists are demanding an immediate halt to all plans for new drilling on Pennsylvania's public lands.
Michael Badges-Canning, retired school teacher from Butler County said: “The public lands of Pennsylvania belong to all Pennsylvanians. It is my obligation as a resident of the Commonwealth and a grandparent to protect our wild heritage, our pristine waters and the natural beauty for my grandchildren, Dougie and Lochlin.”
Gov. Corbett has recently issued an executive order to open Pennsylvania’s remaining public lands for hydraulic fracturing. This includes state forests that have been off limits to gas companies since 2010, when then Governor Ed Rendell declared a moratorium on any new leases. The moratorium came in the wake of a Pennsylvania DCNR study that concluded no remaining state owned lands were suitable for oil and gas development without significant surface disruptions. Corbett’s current move to lift the multi-year ban ignores the negative effects that new leases will have on Pennsylvania’s most ecologically sensitive forests, including those where species are at risk.
Anadarko’s proposed development of the Clarence Moore tract, part of the Loyalsock Forest, has become the center of the grassroots campaign to defend Pennsylvania’s remaining wild places. Local residents packed DCNR hearings in protest of Anadarko’s plans, leading to the ousting of former DCNR secretary Richard Allan. According to PA DEP’s Oil and Gas Compliance Report, Anadarko has been cited with nearly 250 violations over the last five years, ranking the company in the top three percent of violators statewide.
Danielle Dietterick with Marcellus Shale Earth First! said: “As a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania, I feel a moral responsibility to protect my home from the malicious onslaught of an industry with a track record of environmental degradation and human rights violations. Our Governor's complicity has proven he is an industry pawn who can ignore the words of our state constitution and the desires of those who he is supposed to represent.”
Residents of Pennsylvania have shown that they will not give up their wild places without a fight. In July 2012, nearly 100 activists with Marcellus Shale EarthFirst! Forced a 70-foot-tall EQT hydrofracking drill rig to suspend operations for 12 hours in the Moshannon State Forest. Last fall, students from around the country rallied with Allegeny County residents in Pittsburgh to oppose County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s plan to open up county parks to hydrofracking. Marcellus Shale EarthFirst! has vowed to prevent any new shale gas development in the Loyalsock State Forest.”
8. Gasland-MAJORSVILLE, WVA-Now Worse Than a Wasteland
(This is the video to send people who think gas operations are great. I had to cut and paste the link. Jan)
From Bob Donnan:
Several people have told me recently,
“You gotta see Majorsville, have you driven through there?”
Yes I had, several years ago, and that March 2011 visit is captured in this video when everything was on one side of the road:
The difference 3 years has made! The place has grown exponentially, just like MarkWest’s ‘sister shop’ in Houston, Pa, that’s right, the one we call ‘Ole Smoky.’
If you go looking for the place, a warning, Majorsville is hard to find, and you may only have a cell signal on the ridges.
The ‘shock and awe’ of Majorsville is not just what is in that valley- it is the surrounding area sliced and dice with pipelines, well pads and compressor stations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8hmGAVwseY
You can view the Majorsville area from the air 5 months ago in: “Five Minutes over Majorsville”
The you tube site also states:
“An old natural gas compression and pipeline facility in Majorsville West Virginia has grown into a Marcellus Megopolis with fractionation towers and pipelines replacing trees.”
9. Councilwoman Danko’s Letter to Editor:
PG Supports Deer Lakes Lease
March 26, 2014 12:00 AM
“To paraphrase “Casablanca’s” Captain Renault, I was “shocked, shocked” to read that the PG editorial board in its editorial “Prudent Drilling” (March 24) had determined that “The county has a good deal at Deer Lakes Park” and that “this lease … is carefully crafted and worthy of approval by county council.” Unfortunately, given the economic realities of today’s newspaper business, no regular reader of the PG should be surprised by this editorial.
However, as a member of Allegheny County Council — the body which according to the home rule charter has ultimate responsibility for all of the county’s land use decisions — I can say categorically that as of Tuesday, neither I nor any of my colleagues had received legislation from the chief executive related to Deer Lakes Park, nor have we seen a lease. We have received a one-page press release which bears a striking resemblance to the PG’s editorial. To be blunt, I wonder how you’ve made the determination that the lease is “carefully crafted” without actually having seen the lease? As with the deal between the Allegheny County Airport Authority and Consol, the details are important. The press release put forth by the county executive and his team needs to be fleshed out via a careful and thorough review by county council and the public hearing process.
To say I am disappointed in the PG would be an understatement. Perhaps next time the PG can simply reprint the chief executive’s press release and place it as an insert into my morning newspaper.
BARBARA DALY DANKO
Council Member, District 11
Allegheny County Council
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/2014/03/26/PG-support-for-the-Deer-Lakes-lease-is-premature/stories/201403260027#ixzz2x2qKbZiE
10. Would Fracking Under Deer Lakes Park Run Afoul of State Constitution
by Bill O'Driscoll
“In the 1980s, when John Dernbach was a lawyer and special assistant for PA DEP, the agency's offices featured posters trumpeting the Commonwealth's Environmental Rights Amendment. The 1972 addition to the state's constitution guaranteed a right to clean air and pure water. "Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all people, including generations yet to come," reads Article 1, Section 27. And the trustee of these resources, it adds, is the Commonwealth itself.
"Three really nice sentences," Dernbach remembers thinking. "Wouldn't it be nice if the courts treated them like law?"
Mostly ignored for 40 years, the amendment resurfaced dramatically in December, when the state Supreme Court scrapped major provisions of Act 13. Dernbach's scholarship (he's now a law professor) figured in that ruling — a decision that might have bearing on Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's drive to drill for gas under the county's Deer Lakes Park.
No wellpads would go in the park itself; Range would use neighboring wellpads to drill horizontally beneath the park. Before the lease can be executed, the deal must pass Allegheny County Council.
The 1,180-acre park is named for its spring-fed lakes, and the county's website touts it as "a paradise for fishermen."
Activists denounced the deal as misguided and environmentally risky, especially the threats of air and water pollution. And some predict that the Act 13 ruling — and Article 1, Section 27 itself — will help activists derail the proposal.
Mel Packer, of anti-drilling coalition Protect Our Parks, says that in case the lease goes through, "We're talking to lawyers."
The parks are a public trust, and "the government is limited by the constitution in what it does with trust resources," says Jordan Yeager, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs who won the Act 13 fight. "When you are engaged in [fracking], you are ... injecting toxic chemicals into those public resources," says Yeager, of Doylestown, Pa.-based firm Curtin & Heefner.
John Smith, another plaintiff's attorney in the case, says that until now, government decisions about drilling have considered only revenue.
"There was never a question about the health and safety," said Smith at a March 12 panel discussion. Under the Act 13 ruling, however, governments must consider, "Do my actions further constitutional objectives?" says Smith, of Smith & Butz, based in Washington County.
Dernbach, who teaches at Widener University, says it's unclear whether a lease that disallows well pads on a parkland proper would violate Article I, Section 27.
Still, "it would be prudent for the county to investigate those questions" before approving this lease, says Dernbach, whose scholarship Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille cited seven times in his Act 13 ruling.
Fitzgerald touts lease provisions for testing groundwater near wells accessing Deer Lakes. But critics call such provisions insufficient. "All he's saying is, ‘If there's a problem, we are more likely to catch it, maybe,'" says Adam Garber, of Penn Environment. "If he was about keeping the park safe, we would do everything to minimize drilling near the parks."
Another issue is the county's plans for spending gas revenue. Under public-trust criteria, all such revenue must help conserve or improve trust lands themselves, says George Jugovic, chief counsel for environmental group PennFuture. But despite Fitzgerald's argument that drilling revenue is the best way to refurbish the park system's battered infrastructure, the county executive proposes feeding the vast majority of the money into the general operating budget.
"There's a real concern that this violates the constitution," says Jugovic. "Our concern is more based on principle and this trend of shifting funding of government operations on the backs of things that were intended to be conserved for future generations."
"I think [Fitzgerald's spending plan] would leave the county vulnerable" to a lawsuit, agrees Dernbach.
In 2012, the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund sued the Commonwealth over gas revenue from state forestland, claiming that the state fattened the general operating budget with $600 million that should have aided conservation efforts instead. A decision from Commonwealth Court is expected shortly, says PEDF attorney John Childe.
Allegheny County officials sound unconcerned about the possibility of legal action over Deer Lakes. Of the six justices who weighed in on the case, only two others backed Castille's reliance on the Environmental Rights Amendment. That may weaken its power to set a legal precedent.
Other Pennsylvania municipalities have leased parkland for drilling. Washington County's Cross Creek Park, for instance, already hosts wellpads. But Allegheny County would be the largest local government to do so, and activists especially distrust Fitzgerald. During his campaign for county executive, county records show, he accepted lots of gas-industry money, including nearly $20,000 from political-action committees or executives associated with Range and Huntley & Huntley alone. Huntley executives contributed another $10,000 to Fitzgerald in 2013.
Neither has some of Fitzgerald's rhetoric inspired confidence among environmentalists. At county council's March 18 meeting, he told councilors, "We're lucky to partner with a good company like Range." At a March 12 panel discussion on fracking, before a vocally anti-drilling audience, he said that "hopefully" state regulators will police the wells properly. "Hopefully," he added, "we learn from some of the past mistakes with our air quality, our water quality."
"‘Hopefully'?" piped up someone in the crowd.
Fitzgerald Accused of Snooping
“Some Allegheny County Council members said on Monday they want to begin a deeper investigation into whether county Executive Rich Fitzgerald's office snooped on their internal email system, a charge Fitzgerald's spokeswoman denied and said is “politically motivated.”
Others on council said the inquiry into a possible security breach has gone far enough.
Councilwomen Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, and Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square, said they want to pursue hiring a third-party firm or consultant who could investigate.
Councilman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, who first raised concerns about security breaches, said he isn't satisfied with investigations Allegheny County police and the county's Department of Computer Services conducted. He wants to review reports from the investigations.
Concerns over potential snooping by Fitzgerald's office prompted council to seek an independent server separate from the one it shares with the county administration.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/5824020-
11. Examples of Exempt and Nonexempt Oil and Gas Wastes
EPA Resource Conservation Recovery Act, Table 4-3
Produced waters, Drilling fluids, Drill cuttings, Rigwash
Well completion fluids, Workover wastes
Gas plant dehydration wastes, Gas plant sweetening wastes, Spent filters and backwash Packing fluids
Production tank bottoms, Gathering line pigging wastes, Hydrocarbon-bearing soil, Waste crude oil from primary field sites
Unused fracturing fluids/acids Painting wastes
Service company wastes, Refinery wastes
Used equipment lubrication oil, Used hydraulic oil
Waste compressor oil, Sanitary wastes
Boiler cleaning wastes, Incinerator ash
Laboratory wastes, Transportation pipeline wastes, Pesticide wastes
Drums, insulation, and miscellaneous solids
12. Home Loan Denied Due to Water Contamination
(The following email was sent to Bob Donnan. The bank’s letter of denial was included. Jan)
Feb 27 – FROM CLEARVILLE, PA
“You won't believe what is happening to us!! For 32 yrs. we have lived here and we went for a loan at our bank and first we got a call everything was great. Almost a perfect credit score, so we needed to sign the papers to go forward. We did that and put down payments on what we were going to buy. Then a few days later we are told that we can't borrow any money because our well was condemned. Which we don't even have the well hooked up to our house, we use our spring that HAS been tested numerous times and it has bacteria so we installed a UV light. We were told our property is not worth anything until we cement the well shut.
We never had these problems until this gas company came through and started destroying everyone's property. I watch commercials and see people praising these gas companies, but it's all lies. I am very upset and I will voice my opinion [with written proof] about this situation. People need to know the truth about the air pollution and water contamination.
Please let everyone you know about this. I am so upset about this whole situation. I have so much more to tell, but it is getting late. We will talk again.”
13. Number of Firearms Licenses Issued Doubles
“The number of firearms licenses issued by the sheriffs’ offices in Washington and Greene counties has doubled over a two-year period and a handful of potential gun purchasers cited personal safety as the reason why they carry concealed weapons. The number of applications to carry concealed weapons jumped considerably from 2011 to 2013.
2011 – 504
2013 – 1,214
2011 – 3,676
2013 – 7,010
Those age 21 and over purchasing the $20 licenses, which are good for five years, as well as those who are renewing existing licenses, must appear at the sheriff’s license in person, pay cash and provide two character references.”
14. Hundreds Of Gas Wells In PA Have Been Reported For Air And Water Violations
“Hundreds of fracking wells in Pennsylvania have been reported for failures that could lead to air and water pollution, according to a new report.
The report, which focused on fracking wells in the U.K. and Pennsylvania, looked at multiple datasets of wells in Pennsylvania to determine their rate of well failures. Researchers found that one-third of a dataset of 3,533 wells in the state had been reported for environmental violation notices between 2008 and 2011. These violations included surface water contamination, land spills, site restoration problems and well barrier failures, including four violations for well blowouts.
Another dataset of 8,030 wells contained 506 reports for well barrier failures between 2005 and 2013.”
15. Water Pollution from Drilling Confirmed in 4 States
Industry’s Assertions of No Contamination Disproved
“In at least four states, hundreds of complaints have been made about well-water contamination from oil or gas drilling, and pollution was confirmed in a number of them, according to a review that casts doubt on industry suggestions that such problems rarely happen.
The Associated Press in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas and found major differences in how the states report such problems. Texas provided the most detail, while the other states provided only general outlines.
The AP found that Pennsylvania received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells, compared with 499 in 2012. The Pennsylvania complaints can include allegations of short-term diminished water flow, as well as pollution from stray gas or other substances.
The McMickens of Penn were one of three families that eventually reached a $1.6 million settlement with a drilling company. Heather McMicken said the state should be forthcoming with details.
Complaints about water contamination can come from conventional oil and gas wells, too. Experts say the most common type of pollution involves methane, not chemicals from the drilling process.
There's been considerable confusion over how widespread such problems are. For example, starting in 2011, the DEP aggressively fought efforts by the AP and other news organizations to obtain information about complaints related to drilling. The department has argued in court filings that it does not count how many contamination "determination letters" it issues or track where they are kept in its files.
Among the findings in the AP's review:
— Pennsylvania has confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells. There were five confirmed cases of water-well contamination in the first nine months of 2012, 18 in all of 2011 and 29 in 2010. The Environmental Department said more complete data may be available in several months.
In Pennsylvania, the number of confirmed instances of water pollution in the eastern part of the state "dropped quite substantially" in 2013, compared with previous years, DEP spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz wrote.
In Pennsylvania, the raw number of complaints "doesn't tell you anything," said Rob Jackson, a Duke University scientist who has studied drilling and water contamination issues. Jackson said he doesn't think providing more details is asking for too much.
"Right or wrong, many people in the public feel like DEP is stonewalling some of these investigations," Jackson said of the situation in Pennsylvania.
In contrast with the limited information provided by Pennsylvania, Texas officials supplied a detailed 94-page spreadsheet almost immediately, listing all types of oil and gas related complaints over much of the past two years. The Texas data include the date of the complaint, the landowner, the drilling company and a brief summary of the alleged problems. Many complaints involve other issues, such as odors or abandoned equipment.
"If the industry has nothing to hide, then they should be willing to let the facts speaks for themselves," he said. "The same goes for regulatory agencies."
16. WVU Scientist Monitoring Air At Wells
“Ensuring that thousands of Marcellus shale drilling sites comply with environmental regulations is a gargantuan task that one West Virginia University researcher is working to make as simple as checking a computer monitor from the office. In West Virginia alone, more than 1,400 Marcellus shale natural gas wells drilling permits have been issued for another 1,200 and the count keeps climbing. Often, the terrain makes the sites difficult to work in, and the lack of nearby power and phone lines makes them impossible to monitor using traditional systems.
McCawley, interim chair of the Department of Environmental Health in WVU’s developing School of Public Health, has placed three wireless monitoring modules – one upwind, one downwind, and one crosswind – at a test site in Washington County, PA, where a Marcellus well is about to be drilled. He is interested in measuring dust and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, as well as light and sound coming from the site.
For the past year, he has been testing the wireless system and gathering background data before any drilling activity begins.
Each module includes a radio transceiver, a 12-volt, battery-powered monitoring device and a battery sheltered in a bright orange case. A 2-foot-by-5-foot solar panel keeps the battery fully charged even on cloudy days.
A base station module which houses a small, notebook-sized computer with cell phone modem receives the data from the monitoring modules.
Each case is small enough to be hauled on an all-terrain vehicle and handled by an individual worker.
“Set it and forget it. Let it do its job,” said McCawley.
Untethered from phone and power lines, the monitors easily can be placed between the source of possible emissions and the “receptor” – a school, hospital or community – that may be in the path of any potential pollution.
The wireless system wings data from the test site to a website server that McCawley accesses with a few keystrokes at his desktop computer in his office in Morgantown.
“The radio transceivers can send data up to 15 miles away, as the crow flies. They work by line of site,” McCawley explained.
No cell phone access? “Simply daisy chain the radio transceivers in the base stations along ridges until you get somewhere that has a cell phone signal,” said McCawley who has deployed a similar system at Coopers Rock State Forest nine miles east of Morgantown.
“Now you can monitor where it makes the most sense technically. Also, because the system is so portable, it can be rapidly deployed even in emergencies,” he said.
“The system is designed to be cheap, portable, off-the-shelf, and easy to use in a wide variety of situations. Plug and play,” he said.
McCawley expects each module to cost around $1,200 while the monitors in them could range, “from a couple hundred dollars to five or six thousand depending on the bells and whistles you want to add. In terms of cost and range, our system is more advanced than anything else. One manufacturer wanted $1,000 per radio transceiver that had only a little more than half a mile range.”
“Energy can be developed in an environmentally sound manner and that involves quality control. Quality control requires monitoring. We need to give industry the right tools to control this thing.
“Companies could see a lot of benefits from the system. They could monitor their sites 24-7 to detect problems early when they are easier to handle. And they could promote good community relations by making the data publicly available on their own websites. In fact, Chevron has shown some interest in the technology,” said McCawley.”
17. Laura Legers Now with Post Gazette
From Bob Donnan
“ Laura Legers, formerly of the times-tribune.com is now with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I understand she will be working at the P-G two days a week, covering energy regulatory issues and things that arise in eastern Pennsylvania, mostly in Scranton and Harrisburg. Laura is a great investigative reporter and I credit her with the Right to Know request that revealed 161 cases of contaminated Pa. water wells from fracking, buried in the PA DEP files. Hopefully the P-G uses her investigative skills. Good luck to Laura in her new assignment!”
From John Trallo:
18. Vera Scroggins This story is getting picked up all over
So far: 7 states, 3 countries, US National News Media, 2 wire services
International: France (Le Monde), Russia (RT)
Wire Services: Reuters, AP,
National: Huffington Post, Yahoo News (front page!), Bloomberg Business Week, Washington Post
Here's the YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKazb8AiJEs&list=UUEWwQRI3qXtuLt6p30OusQQ
*Why is this so important? If Cabot gets away with this bogus 'slap suit' against Vera Scroggins, it will set a dangerous precedent and the oil and gas industry will take steps to silence anyone who dares to tell the truth about their activities. We cannot allow that to happen. Vera deserves our full public support. I was proud to stand with her and the crowd of other socially, environmentally, and morally responsible citizens at the Montrose Court house today, and intend to be there with her when the judge announces his decision. We all need to stand in support of each other if we are to win this battle for our children, and our children's children and stop this industry from advancing. I refuse to accept, or believe this is a lost cause. - JT
From Bob Donnan:
BIG TEXAS OIL vs PA. CITIZEN
“Scot Michelman of Public Citizen said the real intent of the injunction is to intimidate demonstrators. "It tells them you will pay for what is going on at these sites. You will pay for speaking out against the big oil and gas companies."
From Huffington Post:
HARRISBURG, Pa., March 24 (Reuters) - An anti-fracking activist is set to ask a Pennsylvania judge on Monday to lift an injunction that bars her from her local hospital, grocery and other properties that sit atop vast lands leased by a Texas-based company for shale gas extraction.
A five-month-old injunction prohibits Vera Scroggins, 63, of Brackney, Pennsylvania, from setting foot onto 40 percent of Susquehanna County that is leased by Cabot Oil and Gas.
At Monday's hearing in Susquehanna County Court of Common Pleas in Montrose, Pennsylvania, Scroggins and her lawyers from the Pennsylvania ACLU and Public Citizen in Washington, D.C., will argue that the injunction was legally flawed, unconstitutional, and set a dangerous precedent by making much of the region where she lives off limits.
Judge Kenneth Seamans, who issued the injunction in October at the request of Cabot, will rule on the request.
"In the company's view, the right to extract gas also includes the right to control the movements of an individual protesting the company's activities," Scroggins said in court documents. "In short, the right to extract gas is, according to the company, also the right to banish."
Scroggins is known for recording anti-fracking video footage, some of which was used in "Gasland," an Oscar-nominated documentary by Josh Fox.
According to Cabot, Scroggins engaged in at least 11 incidents of trespassing to make her anti-fracking videos or lead tours, one of which included the participation of celebrities Susan Sarandon, Yoko Ono, and Sean Lennon.