Friday, April 11, 2014

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates April 10, 2014

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group                           Updates April 10, 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,  Elizabeth Donahue, and Bob Schmetzer.



*** WMCG Group 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.


***Allegheny County Parks Meeting-_April 12


To all,

As you know, Allegheny County Council is now acting on the County Executive's request to approve the fracking of Deer Lakes County Parks.  Council will hold several general public and open committee meetings over the next few weeks before a final vote.

The Protect Our Parks coalition, invites you to an organizational meeting on Saturday morning.




10:00 to 11:30 am. Saturday April 12

East Liberty Presbyterian Church

116 S Highland Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15206


Let Tom Hoffman know that you will be joining him on Saturday, <>



Take Action!!

 ***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 ask each of you to help us by sharing 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 than other counties in United States.  Pollution won’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,


From DelawareRiverkeeper


Frack Links

***The Daily Show

Public Herald

Public Herald’s Josh Pribanic and Melissa Troutman with Bradley County Residents

If you missed this Daily Show segment based on the reporting of the producers of Triple Divide, a video will be  available on line at the show’s website  or go to .

Joshua Pribanic [@jbpribanic] describes water contamination in Leroy Township, Bradford Co., PA to Daily Show with Jon Steward correspondent Aasif Mandvi and crew. Photo by Melissa Troutman [@melissat22].


***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.


DEP Activity

DEP Response on Hermine Compressor Station—Many of you commented on this station

Apr 2 at 1:19 PM

Dear Commenter,

 On March 31, 2014, the Department modified Plan Approval PA-65-00979A to reflect the removal of the Waukesha L5794LT compressor engine, require installation of an oxidation catalyst to control the Caterpillar G3516LE compressor engine, prohibit the simultaneous operation of the Caterpillar G3516LE and G3512LE compressor engines, and allow the second new Caterpillar G3612LE engine currently authorized under PA-65-00979A to begin temporary operation at the Herminie Compressor Station located in South Huntingdon Township, Westmoreland County.

 This notice is being provided in accordance with the requirements of 25 Pa. Code §127.51 to all protestants who have submitted comments.

               A summary of the comments received during the public comment period and the corresponding Department responses can be found in the attached Comment and Response Memo which is included in the Plan Approval file.  I have also attached a copy of the modified plan approval.  All other documents relating to the Herminie Compressor Station air quality plan approval are available for review at Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Southwest Regional Office, 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.  Instructions for scheduling a file review may be found under the Regional Resources section of the Department’s website (


 Alan Binder | Air Quality Engineering Specialist

Department of Environmental Protection

Southwest Regional Office

400 Waterfront Drive | Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Phone: 412.442.4168 | Fax: 412.442.4194



Page 122 of Robinson v. Commonwealth Is Worth Repeating

 The court ruled-  governments  have trustee obligations.

 "Proper exercise of a Trustees discretion is measured by benefits "bestowed upon all [the Commonwealth's] citizens in their utilization of natural resources" rather than " by the balance sheet profits and appreciation [the Trustee] realizes from its resource operations".


All articles are excerpted. Please use links to read the rest of the stories. Jan


1. The People Speak---A Majority Oppose Drilling Parks in           Allegheny County

               “Tonight over 50 people signed up to speak at the Allegheny County Council meeting. Only 4 of them were pro-fracking, they all get regular checks from the fracking industry.

Meanwhile, we the people, came with the simple agenda of keeping fracking out of OUR parks, to keep our families and communities safe.

               It's not over yet, we understand that, but man it was wonderful to see so many new faces from every corner of our county. Stay strong more coming up. But I wanted to end tonight with a big thanks to everyone who came.”   From A Group Member


2. Act 13 Decision -What does it mean? -Jan

               There have been some meetings with local officials and a video conference with officials and the Act 13 attorneys recently. Other forums are being planned. The following are the opinions of local township officials or Act 13 attorneys on what that decision means as well as some other facts related to fracking that they conveyed. Jan


* The gas industry lowers the tax base because it lowers property values. In Denton Texas there is so much drilling that there is no room for any other development.

* Can you keep drilling out of a community? Communities will probably still need to leave some area for drilling. There was a question of how can residents be protected if the community is fully developed.

 *The zoning provisions of Act 13 never took effect, so there was no reason for local authorities to change ordinances.

* Judge Quigley asked the important question- “What makes the gas industry special to be allowed in residential areas?”

*  Someone asked, “Are gas overlay areas legal?” Overlays place an industrial drilling area over a previously zoned residential area, as in Murrysville. The legality of this system was questioned.

*The gas industry wants to be permitted everywhere, in every district. It seeks density.

*Even if drilling occurs in an industrial zone, it should still be allowed only as a conditional use. (Cecil Twp-The Compressor station must go in the heavy industrial zone only)

* People buy their home with the expectation of protection of property and health via  zoning ordinances.

*A Marcellus pad can be 2000x bigger than shallow well pad.

*Gas companies can run compressor stations on gas containing frack chemicals, which is very dirty. They should use electric motors.

* Gas companies can lease 500 acres, use only 20 acres, and hold open the other acreage forever.

*Most leases are forever. So if ever want to sell your home, the gas companies own the lease. This is not something many buyers desire.

*The following issues are yet undecided and were kicked back to the Commonwealth Court:

               -Gag rule being placed on doctors

               -Water well owners having to be notified of spills

               -Eminent domain being used to acquire gas storage

               -PUC having the right to review zoning ordinances

*Gas sites can see activity for 8 to 9 years-There can be a constant cycle of drilling,       refracking, and sometimes processing at facilities.

*You don’t want storage tanks in your area. There is constant truck traffic along with other issues.

*Gas companies won’t admit that some workers are on site 8 hours a day—that may violate exposure allowances.

*Twp. can zone out centralized impoundment pits, which can have activity for years. (This is not the same as regular frack pits.)

*It is wise to use engineers who do not work for gas industry.  There should be no conflict of interest.

*Townships can now require vapor recovery.


3. Company Sues Hempfield for Denying Seismic Testing           On Roads and Right of Ways


“A seismic testing company claims in a federal lawsuit that a Westmoreland County township has violated its due process rights by refusing to allow the company to conduct tests along township roadways and rights-of-way.

               ION Geophysical Corp. of Houston, Texas, claims that because Hempfield doesn't have an ordinance regulating or banning seismic testing, it doesn't have the authority to prohibit it. The company is conducting testing for oil and gas operators.

               Hempfield's solicitor couldn't be reached for comment. The company wants a federal judge to order Hempfield to allow the testing and exempt the company for a year from any ordinance the township might pass in an attempt to regulate or ban seismic testing.”

Read more:


This news just in-- And not good (Jan)

Federal judge allows seismic testing in Hempfield

By Brian Bowling

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2014, 7:24 p.m.

Updated less than a minute ago

               A Westmoreland County township can't interfere with a ION Geophysical when it uses public roads to conduct seismic testing later this month, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

               ION Geophysical of Houston sued Hempfield after the township's board voted to halt negotiations for a seismic testing agreement.

               The company contends the township lacks the authority to block the testing because it hasn't passed an ordinance regulating it, and that the board's decision to stop talks violated the company's due process rights because ION had no way to appeal the refusal.

               The township contends that it has a right to refuse to enter into an agreement, and its rights-of-way agreements don't provide for seismic testing.

               The tests send vibrations deep underground to get a picture of potential reserves of natural gas.

               U.S. District Judge Maurice Cohill granted the company's request for a preliminary injunction that will allow it to conduct the tests until the lawsuit is resolved. Cohill said blocking the tests would hurt the company while allowing it won't hurt the township.”

Read more:


4. DEP: Drillers Extract Thousands of Tons of Radioactive           Cuttings in Pa.

               Environmental watchdogs say a system for tracking radioactive material unearthed during gas drilling depends too much on the industry’s self-policing, making it impossible to judge how much waste is generated or how dangerous it might be. Their concern centers on cuttings – the rock unearthed during the drilling process.

               The deepest rocks are sometimes radioactive. They may become more volatile when exposed to chemicals used during fracking, said Nadia Steinzor, program coordinator for the Oil and Gas Accountability Project of Earthworks.

               During 2012, an estimated 4,175 tons of cuttings were radioactive, said Morgan Wagner, of DEP. The DEP does not have an estimate for how much radioactive material was unearthed last year, Wagner said.

               Environmentalists say the state’s estimates, when they exist, are difficult to verify.

“We don’t know the scope of the problem,” said Adam Garber, field director for PennEnvironment. “… It’s only (going) to get worse.”

               Two years ago, state regulators identified “several containers” of waste which were so radioactive that state officials required it to be moved out of state, Wagner said.

               In April 2012, a Westmoreland County landfill rejected a load of drilling waste when it triggered a radiation alarm. That load also reportedly was shipped to Idaho.

               Earlier this month, regulators in North Dakota reported finding black trash bags stuffed with radioactive “drilling socks” – filters used to strain liquid during the drilling process. The Pennsylvania DEP is studying the use and disposal of the same type of filters as part of its study.

               A DEP website that tracks the disposal of Marcellus Shale waste includes no reference to either the 2012 or 2013 Idaho shipments. Steinzor said that data gap is typical because the state’s system relies on self-reporting by gas drillers.

               Data provided by drilling companies show a staggering amount of waste.

Pennsylvania landfills last year accepted 785,000 tons of drill cuttings. Another 81,000 tons were shipped across the border into New York.


5. DEP Doesn’t Notify Private Water Well Owners of     Nearby Contamination

Unreported, Unrecorded-What You Don’t Know

By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

               “Even when pollution discharges from gas well pads and impoundments contaminate private water supplies, those violations often go unrecorded or publicly reported by state environmental regulators, according to documents filed in the Pennsylvania Superior Court case challenging the constitutionality of the state's oil and gas law, Act 13.

               According to a 40-page brief, filed with the court in Harrisburg, it is the "practice" of state DEP regulators not to issue a violation notice, fines or formal determinations of contamination where gas development companies reach private settlements with water well owners.

               That makes it impossible, according to the brief, for the public to know where and when groundwater, wells and springs are contaminated, because there is no publicly accessible record.

"For us, this is all about transparency and the ability to protect water supplies," said John Smith, one of four attorneys representing municipalities that challenged the constitutionality of the state's 2012 oil and gas law. "The DEP must provide citizens with information about the potential harm coming their way. If it doesn't record and make available the violations records then it is denying the public accurate information, which is unconscionable."

               The state Supreme Court ruled that the primary provisions of Act 13 that prevented municipalities from having a say in the placement of wells, pipelines and compressor stations were unconstitutional, but remanded other sections of the law to the Superior Court for reconsideration.

               The brief filed with the court Tuesday argues that a provision of Act 13 that requires the DEP to notify public water systems but not private water well users about drilling industry spills is unconstitutional because it is a "special law" that violates the state's equal protection principals for the sole benefit of the oil and gas industry," and "bears no rational basis to any legitimate public interest."

               The brief used the deposition testimony to illustrate that private water supply users faced health risks without a legal requirement that DEP notify private water supply users of contamination affecting their water supplies. More than 3 million Pennsylvania residents rely on private well water for drinking and everyday use, according U.S. Census Bureau statistics cited in the brief.

               Mr. Eichler was asked, during his deposition Jan. 29 for a water contamination case involving Range Resources' Yeager drilling operation in Amwell, if an individual could find out if his neighbor's well water had been contaminated if his neighbor and the shale gas drilling company had settled the complaint.

               According to the deposition transcript from that case, now before the state Environmental Hearing Board, Mr. Eichler said, "Well ... no, when I think about what information we have on file and what (the plaintiff neighbor) would have access to it's not clear to me how he might become aware of a problem at the Yeager water supply."

               The brief also notes, that since the DEP is supposed to consider a firm's violation history when issuing subsequent permits, a full picture of a firm's past performance is unavailable to decision makers and the public in such settlement cases.

               Asked if DEP considered the water contamination complaint against Range in deciding whether to approve subsequent drilling permits at the Yeager farm well pad site, according to the deposition transcript, Mr. Eichler said that it did not.

               But on Tuesday evening, the DEP's legal department sent the Post-Gazette a 10-page "Errata Sheet" that makes 64 "clarifications and corrections" to the sworn transcript record of the first two days of his three-day deposition, Jan. 29-31.

               The document, dated March 14 and signed by Mr. Eichler, changes his testimony that DEP records about water contamination aren't publicly available. In the amended record, Mr. Eichler now states that the private settlement agreement between Range and the owner of the contaminated water supply on the Yeager farm is "in the permit file that is open to the public," along with a document assessing Range a penalty for contaminating the springs.

               Mr. Smith said he will file a motion to strike the testimony changes because "a deposition isn't a take-home exam."

               But, like the Yeager case, not all contamination determinations are formalized by a letter. Responding to another question, Mr. Eichler said in the deposition that in the Yeager case the DEP didn't issue a Notice of Violation or assess a fine, or issue a determination letter that he could remember. But he said the DEP could keep track of such cases on its "Complaint Tracking System."

Those CTS records are not available to the public, he said.

               In response to follow-up questions, the DEP said no contamination determination letters are available on the department's "eFacts" Web page, where permit and enforcement records are available to the public but can be found by searching paper files at DEP regional offices. While those determination letters are public record, according to the DEP, the names of the complainants are redacted and all of the materials, records and investigation documents and reports are confidential.

               "Non-criminal investigative records are not required to be produced to the public even upon conclusion of an investigation, according to the (state) Right to Know Law," Morgan Wagner, a DEP spokeswoman wrote in an email response. "Once it is an investigative record, it is always an investigative record."



6. Chevron Denies Access To DEP At Explosion Site


When a Chevron gas well exploded in Greene County, killing a worker, the company blocked personnel with the DEP from accessing the site for nearly two days. The DEP acquiesced, despite its regulatory authority. Now, that issue is one of nine violations the DEP outlined in a letter to Chevron last month.

               Drilling companies are always required to grant access to DEP officials, regardless of the circumstances, according to their state-issued permits.

               In its notice of violation letter, the DEP cited Chevron for “hazardous venting of gas,” “open burning,” and “discharge of production fluids onto the ground.” However, Poister stressed that Chevron’s most serious violation was not blocking state regulators, but an equipment failure on the wellhead that is believed to have caused the explosion that took the life of 27-year-old Ian McKee, a contractor on the site.

DEP’s Scott Perry said that the lack of direct access to the site would not impact its investigation. “It did impede our ability to monitor the conditions at the site which was one of our concerns, whether or not the conditions could change and pose a threat to public safety,” .

7. Congress to EPA: Investigate!

               “For the first time, members of Congress called upon EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to “investigate the water contamination” in Dimock, PA; Parker County, TX; and Pavillion, WY. In all three communities, the EPA has withdrawn investigations into water contamination and stopped providing residents with clean drinking water.

 Eight Representatives, led by Rep. Matt Cartwright (PA-17), made the request in a letter to Administrator McCarthy.


               The EPA had investigated alleged fracking-related oil and gas pollution of drinking water supplies in the three communities. In each case, the EPA’s preliminary results indicated oil/gas development was the cause of the drinking water pollution but in each case, the EPA withdrew before finalizing the results of the investigations.

               Emerging data shows that the EPA was misguided in closing its investigations. In Parker County, TX, independent water testing from Duke University reveals that residents’ drinking water was still contaminated when the EPA determined it was safe due to relying on faulty gas industry testing. 

               The EPA’s investigations into fracking-related threats to drinking water are especially important as the Obama Administration advocates for increased natural gas exports as a counterweight to Russia’s influence in Eastern Europe. Because more than 90% of all gas wells are fracked, increased exports mean increased fracking.

               “Europeans aren’t fracking their own countries’ shale gas because they are worried about its environmental and health impacts,” said Ray Kemble, an affected resident of Dimock, Pennsylvania. He continued, “They’re right to worry. I haven’t had clean water for four years, and its due to oil and gas drilling.”

               “President Obama’s arguments for fracking change with the wind,” said Kemble. He continued, “Need a bridge fuel to a clean energy future? Fracking! Want energy independence? Fracking! Weaken Putin? Fracking! All the while his administration avoids clear evidence that fracking-related oil and gas development is poisoning Americans. Hopefully this letter will shake some sense into them.”

 The eight members of Congress who signed the letter are:

                 Matt Cartwright (PA-17)

                 Alan Lowenthal (CA-47)

                 Jared Huffman (CA-02)

                 Raul Grijalva (AZ-03)

                 Keith Ellison (MN-05)

                 David Scott (GA-13)

                 Mark Pocan (WI-02)

Rush Holt (NJ-12)


8. Oil/ Gas Wells Cause More Ozone In Utah’s Uintah Basin          Than In Los Angeles

Also high levels of Benzene

               These results were reported in Highly Elevated Atmospheric Levels of Volatile Organic Compounds in the Uintah Basin, Utah, a paper by a group of University of Colorado Boulder researchers like Detlev Helmig and Chelsea Thompson of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. The paper made its way to this month’s Environmental Science & Technology journal, published by the American Chemical Society (ACS).


 “Uintah County is home to a combined 11,200 oil- and gas-producing wells. Over time, their presence led to researchers’ discovery that the Utah’s Uintah Basin area exceeded the EPA s eight-hour National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) level for ozone pollutants for 39 days last winter, placing it above the Los Angeles Basin’s typical summertime levels.

                              The group wrote that its 2013 observations from the Uintah Basin oil and gas development area are, “to the best of our knowledge, among the highest-ever reported mole fractions of alkane non-methane hydrocarbon in ambient air. Mole fractions for the aromatic compounds reach or exceed those reported from the most heavily polluted inner cities.”

               There are about 25,000 more wells under proposal, according to the study.

               Researchers found that Uintah Basin benzene levels often exceeded 1.4 parts per billion, which is a benchmark for chronic exposure, Lisa M. McKenzie, a public health researcher at the University of Colorado, Denver, told the ASC’s Chemical & Engineering News.  But since benzene is considered a carcinogen, the EPA does not define a safe threshold for its presence.

 “These observations reveal a strong causal link between oil and gas emissions, accumulation of air toxics and significant surface production in the atmospheric surface layer,” the study reads.”


9. Mortgage Lenders Tighten Policies

There is clear evidence that fracking in a community causes property to lose significant value. The mortgage industry, recognizing how drilling adds risk and reduces value, is beginning to tighten policies on lending on properties that have wells on or near them, or that are subject to leasing.

               As more Americans live closer to oil and gas wells, what lending institutions are most worried about are the additional risks brought by drilling:

*Uninsurable property damage for oil and gas activities outside of a landowner’s control.

*Lending institutions refusing to provide mortgage loans on homes with gas leases                because they don’t meet secondary mortgage market guidelines.

*The possibility of default because a borrower signed a mineral lease

*Prohibitively expensive appraisals and title searches made complicated by the long paper trail associated with mineral rights and attached liabilities.

*Difficulty of getting construction loans, which require a risk-free property.

               The number of banks that are applying stringent conditions or refusing to make loans to properties associated with oil and gas drilling is increasing. Here are some examples:

*             In North Carolina the State Employees’ Credit Union (NCSECU) has announced that it will no longer approve mortgage financing for split estates. The credit union, which manages almost $12 billion in residential mortgages, said it considers loans on such land to be riskier than those where the mineral rights remain with the land. “You could end up where someone puts a drilling platform on a property,” says NCSECU President Jim Blaine, “We’d have to tell their neighbors, ‘we’re sorry, your property value just went down.’”

* According to American Banker, at least two mortgage lending institutions in addition to NCSECU — Tompkins Financial in Ithaca, NY and Spain’s Santander Bank — will no longer write mortgages on land where oil or gas rights have been sold to an energy company.

*             Language in the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation’s (Freddie Mac) standard mortgage contract prohibits a “borrower from taking any action that could cause the deterioration, damage or decrease in value of the subject property.” If a landowner breaks that clause by signing a drilling lease or entering into a mineral rights agreement, Freddie Mac has the legal authority to exercise a call on the full amount of a mortgage, according to an agency spokesman.

*             According to a white paper prepared for the New York State Bar Association, Wells Fargo, one of the largest home mortgage lenders in the United States, is approaching home loans for properties that have gas drilling leases attached to them with a high degree of caution.

*             The Tompkins Trust Company has prepared a white paper that details how several companies, including Provident Funding, GMAC, FNCB, Fidelity and First Liberty, First Place Bank, Solvay Bank, and CFCU Community Credit Union, are putting hard-to-meet conditions on mortgages or denying loans altogether on properties with oil and gas leases.

Fracking and associated injection wells can lead to earthquakes that can damage property, a concern for a number of lenders.


*A Pennsylvania couple was recently denied a new mortgage on their farm by Quicken Loans because of a drilling site across the street. According to the lender, “gas wells and other structures in nearby lots…can significantly degrade a property’s value” and do not meet underwriting guidelines. Two other lenders also denied the family mortgages.

Federal lending and mortgage institutions (FHA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) all have prohibitions against lending on properties where drilling is taking place or where hazardous materials are stored. A drilling lease on a property financed through one of these agencies would result in a ”technical default.” FHA’s guidelines also don’t allow it to finance mortgages where homes are within 300 feet of an active or planned drilling site.

As we’ve seen over and over, increased oil and gas drilling causes irreparable damage to a community. Lending institutions are reacting because it’s their money that’s on the line.


Their increasing unwillingness to lend will further hurt property values and drive up mortgage rates.


10. Pipeline Company Pays 2.1 Million in Eminent Domain           Battle-Texas

 Loss of Property Value

               “Mar 24 – North Texas family members have won a $2.1 million verdict against a pipeline company after their parcel of land lost value because an easement was taken for a gas line. This marks the third time Texas property owners recently have prevailed in similar eminent domain cases. The Johnson County dispute represents a fundamental debate between the pipeline industry and Texas landowners: Does a pipeline devalue only the narrow easement strip or some larger portion of the overall property? The jury agreed that land outside the easement lost value.


               "This verdict sends a strong message that pipeline easements often cause significant damages to property beyond the easement area," says Austin-based eminent domain attorney Luke Ellis of Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP, who represented the family.           "Unfortunately, many Texas landowners don't realize that they have a constitutional right to seek just compensation for such damages." The dispute began in 2007 when Midland-based Peregrine Pipeline Co. sued family-owned Eagle Ford Land Partners to gain a mile-long easement for a natural gas pipeline. Peregrine claimed Eagle Ford's damages totaled only about $80,000. The family's appraisers and lawyers countered that damages should account not only for the easement strip, but also for the loss in value to the remaining property.”


11. Obama Has Head In Sand On Methane Emissions

            His Plan Iffy and Voluntary

               “Methane emissions have decreased by 11 percent in the past 24 years, but they could pick back up by 2030 if actions aren’t taken to combat them

The president’s newly announced methane emissions strategy identified a few key methane emissions sources that the country needs to focus on: Landfills, Coal Mines, Agriculture, and

                Oil and Gas.

                     The EPA will solicit input from independent experts on how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources. If EPA decides to develop additional regulations, it will complete regulations by the end of 2016. The EPA will also work with the industry to expand voluntary efforts to reduce methane emissions through the Natural Gas STAR program.

               Lauren Pagel, policy director of Earthworks, says the methane strategy will have the best chance of working if it requires the EPA to directly regulate methane pollution from fracking.  “Unfortunately, when it comes to the downsides of fracking-enabled oil and gas development, so far the Obama administration has had its head in the sand,” Pagel said. “We hope that this plan signals a shift for this administration, putting their words into actions to limit the harms from oil and gas production.

               “But, no matter how stringent the methane pollution controls, they are no substitute for dropping dirty fossil fuels like fracked gas and replacing them with truly clean alternatives like conservation and renewables.”


12. Pa. Leases Over 1,400 Acres Under Rivers and Streams

               “Over the past year the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has raised nearly $5.9 million by quietly leasing more than 1,400 acres of mineral rights underneath publicly-owned waterways to gas companies.


The most recent lease agreement gives Chesapeake Energy the rights to extract gas from under 1,092 acres of the Susquehanna River in Wyoming and Bradford Counties for five years.

The state has entered into nine lease agreements of streambeds since March 2012. Pennsylvania waterways are considered publicly-owned if they are, or ever have been, used for travel or commerce.

Other lease agreements executed this year include 80 acres to Vantage Energy in at Ten Mile Creek in Greene County, 57 acres to Chevron at Dunkard Creek in Greene County, and 18.7 acres to ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy at Black Lick Creek in Indiana County.

               Former DCNR Secretary John Quigley, who served under Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, says he first became aware that gas companies were drilling under publicly-owned streams and rivers around 2009.

               Mark Szybist an attorney with the environmental group, PennFuture, believes the stream leases may be at odds with Rendell’s 2010 executive order, which placed a moratorium on new leasing of “lands owned and managed” by DCNR for oil and gas development.

               “If you read the executive order, it prohibits leasing of any lands administered by DCNR–not just state forests or state parks,” says Szybist. “So technically these leases would appear to violate the executive order, even if this is not the leasing Rendell had in mind.”

               Governor Corbett has said in the near future he plans to overturn the Rendell moratorium and open up more state park and forest land for drilling by issuing a new executive order which places a moratorium on leasing that would create an additional surface disturbance.”


13. Scientists Criticize Government –Not Enough Fracking           Data

               "A new University of Texas-Austin analysis of fracking near Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, criticizes state and federal regulatory agencies for dismissing public concern about the health and environmental impacts of gas and oil operations. Shale oil and gas production, is likely to be a driver of climate change, not only because burning petroleum products emits vast amounts of carbon dioxide, but because gas production and distribution systems are likely to leak methane, a gas about 35 times more potent than carbon as a greenhouse gas.

               Susan Brantley, a Pennsylvania State University biogeochemist unaffiliated with the UT-Austin study, is among the scientists who have spoken out about the fracking data gap. "A few health studies have been initiated, but data are few and far between that allow scientists to interpret potential impacts," Brantley said. "In addition, the lack of federal oversight on a lot of activity which is controlled by the states makes for difficulties for scientists to evaluate or even get hold of needed data. In Pennsylvania, it is even difficult to determine exactly where spills have occurred, let alone the volume of the spill, the timing or the chemicals that were spilled."


14. Approval of LNG Exports Means More Money for Big Oil           and Gas, More Fracking In U.S. Communities


Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director, Wenonah Hauter

Washington, D.C. – “On Wednesday, the U.S. House’s Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power voted in favor of a bill to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) abroad under the guise of aiding Ukraine. But this bill, H.R.6, would only serve to increase profits for the oil and gas industry, greatly accelerating fracking here at home, endangering American communities, public health and the climate. We strongly recommend that both houses of Congress reject any and all plans to export LNG overseas.

               “Selling LNG abroad will drive up the industry’s profit margins, ultimately increasing gas prices here in the U.S. Ramping up fracking in the U.S., a requirement for meeting export demands, will only lead to more water contamination, more dangerous explosions and pipeline bursts and more methane emissions that will exacerbate global climate change.

               “The illogical nature of the subcommittee’s vote to expedite LNG export approvals because of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine is made evident by the fact that the United States will not have the infrastructure to support the proposed volumes of LNG exports until at least 2016. Moreover, once export facilities are built, U.S. fracked gas will likely go to Asia where the industry can fetch the highest prices.

               “It is obvious that oil and gas industry and top energy officials have been using the crisis in Ukraine to slip their agenda through Congress, and some members of Congress have bought in. But the truth is, natural gas should not be used as a geopolitical bargaining chip and the health and safety of our communities at home are too precious to be gambled with.”


15. The Netherlands Joins Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement

               “The Netherlands announced that would join the United Kingdom and others in ending support for public financing for new coal-fired power plants is a good sign for the growing fossil fuel divestment movement.

               “This is another sign that the coal industry is on its last legs,” said Tim Ratcliffe, of, which is helping coordinate the global movement to divest from the fossil fuel industry. “There’s a growing consensus that coal has no place in a carbon constrained world. Coal isn’t just bad news for the climate; it’s increasingly bad news for any financial portfolio. Institutional investors should read the writing on the wall and divest.”


 16. DEP- Water Oversight Lacking

"A 2½-month investigation by the Tribune-Review found that Pennsylvania state inspectors failed to examine more than 45 % of the 4,075 industrial plants, refineries, mines, sewage treatment plants and other facilities with permits to discharge into the Ohio River watershed over the past five years." The Trib collected and analyzed tens of thousands of state and federal government records involving water discharge permits and their oversight in the Ohio River watershed. The newspaper's examination found:


• Inconsistent oversight: Of the 796 places the DEP never visited, 352 are facilities with industrial or livestock waste, storm water potentially containing industrial pollutants, and pesticides.

• More spills: In 2012, the U.S. Coast Guard documented 76 incidents that led to substances illegally entering the Ohio or its tributaries. Last year, the number increased to 98 spills.

• Persistent scofflaws: DEP inspectors found a record 935 water pollution violations at 525 facilities in 2013 — three times as many as in 2008. Over that five-year span, DEP reached settlements totaling $9.4 million in fines against 1,068 sites within the watershed. DEP is limited to a $10,000 per day levy on a facility, but federal regulators can shutter a site if it continues to pollute.

• Budget cuts: Pennsylvania lawmakers earmarked $127.7 million in fiscal 2013 for DEP, 63 percent less than they budgeted in fiscal 2000.


               State regulators told the Trib they do the best with resources they have. The agency's 45 inspectors statewide tallied a record 3,134 inspections in 2013, nearly as many as the two previous years combined.

Read more:



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Westmoreland Marcellus Citizen’s GroupMission Statement
               WMCG is a project of the Thomas Merton Society
  To raise the public’s general awareness and understanding of the impacts of Marcellus drilling on the natural environment, health, and long-term economies of local communities.
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