Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates April 24, 2014
* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
* To view past updates, reports, general information, permanent documents, and meeting information http://westmorelandmarcellus.blogspot.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.
*** 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.
***Earth Day at St Vincent- Sunday, April 27, 12-5:00
Earth Day Tables are in the gym area.
***Dr John Stolz "Well Water Quality and Unconventional Shale Gas Extraction in a Butler Community" - April 26, 1:00
The environmental impacts and microbiology of unconventional shale gas extraction is a major interest of Dr. Stolz and his laboratory. Dr. Stolz and his team have been studying the water contamination in the Connoquenessing Woodlands and Dr. Stolz will speak about their findings.
Free and open to the public.
When: Saturday, April 26 at 1:00 pm
Where: Butler Public Library
218 N. McKean St.
Butler, PA 16001
John F. Stolz, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Environmental Research and Education; Professor, Environmental Microbiology
Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences; Center for Environmental Research and Education
***Webinar by TEDX –starting April 21 for six weeks
Natural Gas Development, Public Health, and Protecting the Most Vulnerable Populations
Join Carol Kwiatkowski, TEDX's Executive Director April 21st at 2pm EDT for a webinar hosted by the Center for Environmental Health. Dr. Kwiatkowski will be speaking about the public health implications of natural gas development, with an emphasis on air pollution and the hazards it might hold for vulnerable populations, including children and pregnant women. Recent studies pointing toward the endocrine disrupting effects of chemicals in natural gas operations will be discussed.
This webinar is the first in a six-week series on Fracking, Natural Gas, and Maternal Health. The webinars feature presentations by experts in the field of environmental health, medicine, and public health. They will each run 45-60 minutes with 10-15 minutes for Q & A.
A little Help Please
***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 wastewater 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.
Sierra Club Sues Texas Commission on Proposed Tenaska Plant
SIERRA CLUB VS TEXAS COMMISSION On ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY,
I. CASE OVERVIEW
Sierra Club seeks an order reversing Defendant’s December 29, 2010, final order in Docket No. 2009-1093-AIR.1 The order authorizes the construction and operation of a new solid fuel-fired power plant by approving the application of Tenaska Trailblazer Partners, L.L.C. (Tenaska, Trailblazer, or Applicant) for state and federal air pollution permits.
This new facility is a large solid fuel-fired electric generating unit, or power plant, to be constructed in Nolan County, Texas. The Tenaska facility will generate about 900 megawatts (MW) of electricity and is authorized to emit over 9,207 tons per year of criteria air pollutants.2
While under the jurisdiction of the State Office of Administrative Hearings, the proceedings bore SOAH docket number 582-09-6185. 2 There are several “criteria” pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, particulate matter with a diameter of less than 10 micrometers, particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and sulfur oxides. For each of these air pollutants, National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) have been established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are adopted through the Commission’s rules. See e.g 30 TEX. ADMIN. CODE § 101.21 (“The National Primary and Secondary Ambient Air Quality Standards as promulgated pursuant to section 109 of the Federal Clean Air Act, as amended, will be enforced throughout all parts of Texas.”) Criteria pollutants must be evaluated prior to obtaining a PSD permit.
Filed 11 March 14 IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS
.3 The facility will also emit an estimated 6.1 million tons per year of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide (CO2).
At the heart of this lawsuit, Sierra Club alleges the approval of the permit application was made in violation of:
a. the requirements of the Texas Administrative Procedures Act (TEX. GOV’T CODE, Chapter 2001) regarding Defendant’s authority and duties upon adoption of a final order;
b. the requirements for a preconstruction application and approval by TCEQ, including:
i) Deficient information and legal bases for the findings related to hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and the corresponding maximum achievable control technology (MACT) determination.
ii) Deficient information and legal bases for the findings related to prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) review and the corresponding best available control technology (BACT) determination.
iii) Failure to consider and minimize the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. II. DISCOVERY
1. This case is an appeal of an administrative agency’s actions, and therefore based on the administrative record. Designation of a level of discovery is not applicable. If discovery becomes necessary, it should be controlled by Level 3. TEX. R. CIV. PROC. § 190.4.
***Letters to the editor are important and one of the best ways to share
information with the public. ***
***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,
***Sunoco Eminent Domain Petition “PA PUC for public utility status, a move that would impact property owners and municipalities in the path of the Mariner East pipeline. As a public utility, Sunoco would have the power of eminent domain and would be exempt from local zoning requirements. A December 2013 PA Supreme Court ruling overruled Act 13’s evisceration of municipal zoning in gas operations and upheld our local government rights. We petition PA PUC to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution and deny public utility status to the for- profit entity, Sunoco.
That's why I signed a petition to Robert F. Powelson, Chairman, Public Utilities Commission, John F. Coleman Jr., Vice Chairman, Public Utilities Commission, James H. Cawley, Commissioner, Public Utilities Commission, Gladys M. Brown, Commissioner, Public Utilities Commission, Pamela A. Witmer, Commissioner, Public Utilities Commission, and Jan Freeman, Executive Director, Public Utilities Commission, which says:
"We, the undersigned, petition the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution and deny public utility status to the for-profit entity, Sunoco."
Will you sign the petition too? Click here to add your name:
***The Daily Show
Public Herald’s Josh Pribanic and Melissa Troutman with Bradford 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 http://thedailyshow.cc.com/ or go to www.publicherald.org.
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 elissat22].
***The Fight For Deer Lakes Park
Allegheny County Council Meeting ( 4 hours long)
***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/
***US Chamber of Commerce is Prime Supporter of Fracking
From Journalist Walter Brasch:
DID YOU KNOW . . . The U.S. Chamber, which spends more in lobbying expenses than any company or organization and has been a prime supporter of fracking, spent about $901.2 million between 1998 and 2012, with $95.7 million of it spent in 2012. Under new Supreme Court ruling last week, the cap is off on contributions. The anti-fracking movement doesn’t have the money to counter such massive financial outlays by lobbyists AND INDIVIDUALS. But, it does have the spirit and can use social media, rallies, and music to try to reach the people.
For more information about fracking and its health and environmental effects, get a copy of FRACKING PENNSYLVANIA, available at
http://www.greeleyandstone.com, amazon.com, bn.com, or your local bookstore.
***The West Virginia Host Farms Program
The West Virginia Host Farms Program is a volunteer-based initiative. The goal of the program is to provide opportunities for the environmental community to study the impact of Marcellus shale natural gas drilling in the state. This includes an invitation to academic researchers, journalists, environmental scientists, public policy and environmental law professionals, public health advocates, and other advocacy groups concerned about drilling impacts.
West Virginia landowners living on or near drilled properties and/or compressor stations opt to participate in the program by becoming volunteer “host farms” for researchers and journalists. Through a managed database of participant landowners throughout the state, the WV Host Farms Program serves as a point of contact between those in the environmental community seeking suitable locations for study of Marcellus in WV, and those who are landowners able to provide them.
Who We Are.....
We are a grass roots effort of concerned landowners in WV who are willing to provide access to our private properties on or near drill sites. This enables environmental researchers, journalists, environmental advocacy groups, and others to come to WV to observe and study the effects that Marcellus drilling and fracking has on the environment, water quality, public health, and safety in our rural WV communities. Those interested in visiting a WV Host Farm will be able to access the private properties of our many volunteers who live right at "ground zero," of the Marcellus shale drilling activity in West Virginia.
We do not charge a fee for this access. We are all volunteers who opt to participate as "host farms” in order to increase public awareness as well as research opportunities. We volunteer because we are committed to providing unfettered access to the environmental research community, so that they can more easily evaluate the impacts of shale gas drilling and fracking.
DEP Response on Herminie Compressor Station—Many of you commented on this station
Apr 2 at 1:19 PM
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 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 (www.dep.state.pa.us).
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
All articles are excerpted. Please use the links to read the full article
Page 122 of Robinson v. Commonwealth Is Worth Repeating
The court ruled that 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".
1. Truck Crash Spills Frack Water and Diesel Into Chartiers Creek, Washington County
“Two trucks carrying discharged fracking water stopped at a red light on Route 18 in Canton when a tractor trailer hauling more than 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel slammed into them from behind, said John Poister, a spokesman for the state DEP. All three trucks overturned.
About 1,300 gallons of diesel and 400 gallons of fracking water spilled, though most of it was contained on the roadway and in the storm water system, Poister said. An unknown amount reached the creek.
Poister said the tankers had been hauling frackwater from one Range Resources site to another.
Local fire departments and county hazmat workers are on scene with DEP officials and Weavertown Environmental Group, which has contained the spill to 1 1⁄2 miles of the creek and started cleaning, Poister said.
“We don't know the environmental impact on the creek,” he said. “The diesel fuel, obviously, is a major concern.”
2. Range Resources Impoundment -500 Tons of Contaminated Soil Leak In Amwell Twp.
by Amanda b Gillooly
“Crews have removed 500 tons of contaminated soil from a Range Resources centralized impoundment located in Amwell Township, Washington County – the site where the state DEP said was a “significant leak.”
Although Matt Pitzarella, the Marcellus Shale drilling company’s director of corporate communications, disputed there was, in fact, a “leak” at the site, DEP’s spokesman John Poister was clear: Yes, there was a “significant leak” at the impoundment – one that will require even more soil to be removed.
Poister indicated that a DEP inspector was on scene Tuesday, and said two crews are working at the John Day impoundment to remediate the area. One crew is removing soil, he said, while the other is using plastic to cover the ground in an effort to shield it from rainfall. Rain, Poister said, would “just push the salt further into the ground."
Poister said the DEP was not aware of where the soil is being transported, but confirmed that Range Resources is in the process of having its contents analyzed.
The DEP, he said, has not yet received a form from Range Resources that shows what chemicals are in the soil. Such a form is required by the state before contaminated soil can be dumped into a landfill.
Poister said DEP also did not know how much soil would potentially need to be removed from the John Day impoundment. However, a confidential source has said it could be as much as 3,000 tons.
The spokesman said DEP officials are in the process of drawing up a notice of violation, but could not say when it would be finalized and sent to Range Resources.
Poister could not provide further details about whether the John Day impoundment in Amwell Township had been used to store fresh water or waste water, but said there “is not distinction” and could have been permitted either way.
He did say, however, that he did not believe the impoundment was being actively used when the leak was reported last week.
It was not clear how 500 tons of soil could be contaminated by a leak if the impoundment was empty.
Centralized impoundments are used to store millions of gallons of water used during fracking.
Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.
State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process.
Critics have long maintained that impoundments, sometimes called frack pits, are not an industry best practice, and have pushed for safer storage methods, such as closed-loop systems.”
3. Robinson Meeting
“Two hundred eighty one people signed a petition to try to keep the old zoning ordinance, which provided some protection against fracking (via conditional use). The two new supervisors (Kendall and Duran - on the right side of the screen) are planning to pass a new ordinance which will allow drilling as a permitted use in all districts.
Go to the 50 minute mark to see Carolyn Vance present the petition and hear her comments. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=MrxxiBrwS_
4. Tempers Flare At Middlesex Twp Meeting
Supervisor Sprand says fracking near schools is ok because DEP allows it .
“MIDDLESEX TWP — Tempers flared on both sides of the controversy regarding the placement of six Marcellus Shale gas wells near five Mars schools and a residential development.
More than 150 people poured into the supervisors meeting, where about 75 percent cheered those who oppose the Bob and Kim Geyer wells on Denny Road. About 25 percent of those in attendance cheered those who told supervisors that taxpayers should be permitted to do what they want with their properties.
Supervisors Chairman Mike Spreng made it clear before the public comment period that only taxpayers in the township would be allowed to speak.
That rankled the group that opposes the wells due to safety concerns, because it precluded a presentation by attorney Jordan Yeager.
Yeager is a Philadelphia attorney who was instrumental in the state Supreme Court’s overturning of the local zoning portion of Act 13, the state’s gas act. The group that opposes the Geyer wells brought Yeager to the meeting to convince the supervisors that they have the power to prohibit the wells because they would be an industrial use in a residential-agricultural zone.
Those opposing the wells shouted that the attorneys there who planned to discuss a new phase of the Weatherburn Heights plan should also be prohibited from speaking if they were not residents of the township.
Yeager himself implored the board to give him five minutes to share his zoning information, but was denied.
Spreng also made it clear at the beginning of the meeting that he opposes any changes to the township zoning ordinance or a zoning overlay around the schools.
The group that brought Yeager to the meeting is trying to have a 2-mile overlay placed around the schools where unconventional gas drilling would be prohibited.
Spreng said if the state DEP experts thought school children could be endangered or sickened by nearby drilling, they would have prohibited it themselves.
Spreng had to bang the gavel several times to tame the shouts of “No!” precipitated by his comment.
Resident Jason Yost read the uses permitted in the township’s residential-agricultural zones after Hnath said he feels unconventional gas wells are an accessory to farming.
The accessory uses read by Yost included riding academies, veterinarians, and helipads for private use.
“I think I’m missing something,” Yost said. “Tell me how you read in that zoning how you put an industrial facility in these people’s backyards and so close to the schools?”
Supervisors Vice Chairman Don Marshall said Marcellus Shale gas drilling is not a long-term industrial use.
Three people told the supervisors they have young children, and they feel safe sending their students to the Mars schools after having studied unconventional gas drilling.
A registered nurse in the crowd said wells should be on 100 acres with only a few homes, not near a school district with 3,200 students and right beside a residential development like Weatherburn Heights.
The supervisors took no action on the matter.
Rex Energy submitted the permit application to the DEP.” Fridayhttp://www.thecranberryeagle.com/article/20140416/CRAN05/140419960/-1/CRAN#sthash.Xb6gA5U1.dpuf
5. Parr Family Wins Fracking Suit--$2.9 Million For Loss Of Property value, Pain and Suffering Mental Anguish
“A jury in Dallas, TX awarded $2.925 million to plaintiffs Bob and Lisa Parr, who sued Barnett shale fracking company Aruba Petroleum Inc. for intentionally causing a nuisance on the Parr's property which impacted their health and ruined their drinking water.
The jury returned its 5-1 verdict confirming that Aruba Petroleum “intentionally created a private nuisance” through its drilling, fracking and production activities at 21 gas wells near the Parrs' Wise County home over a three-year period between 2008-2011.
Plaintiffs attorneys claimed the case is “the first fracking verdict in U.S. history.”
The pollution from natural gas production near the Parrs' Wise County home was so bad that they were forced to flee their 40-acre property for months at a time.
The Parrs were represented by attorneys David Matthews, Brad Gilde and Rich Capshaw.
“They’re vindicated,” said Mr. Matthews. “I’m really proud of the family that went through what they went through and said, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore. It takes guts to say, ‘I’m going to stand here and protect my family from an invasion of our right to enjoy our property.’ It’s not easy to go through a lawsuit and have your personal life uncovered and exposed to the extent this family went through.”
According to Mr. Matthews' blog post, the verdict included $275,000 for the Parr’s property loss of market value and $2 million for past physical pain and suffering by Bob and Lisa Parr and their daughter, $250,000 for future physical pain and suffering, $400,000 for past mental anguish.
The Parrs' petition to the court is attached below. The case was Parr v. Aruba Petroleum, Inc., No. 11-1650 (Dallas Co. Ct. at Law, filed Mar. 2011) http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/04/22/breaking-3-million-jury-verdict-texas-fracking-nuisance-case
6. DEP Should Not Have Been Barred From Explosion Site
April 16, 2014 8:09 PM
“On Feb. 11, in Dunkard, Greene County, something went fatally and spectacularly wrong. A Marcellus Shale gas well exploded and burned for five days. One worker — Ian McKee, 27, an employee of Cameron International who was working for the well owner, Chevron Corp. — was killed.
Now we learn that for two days after the accident, Chevron refused to allow investigators in an emergency response team from the state Department of Environmental Protection to come onto the site — this despite the permit for the well stipulating that the operators should allow “free and unrestricted access” to a properly identified DEP employee.
That is outrageous. It took the arrival of DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo, reminding the company of its legal obligations, before Chevron relented. Until then, DEP had to take air samples from locations farther away.
Chevron’s excuse, relayed through a spokesman, was that “Chevron’s first priority was to ensure the safety of all responders and prevent additional injuries” and therefore access to the site “during the initial stages of the incident was restricted. ... No one, including Chevron personnel, was permitted access to the pad on the day of the incident, until experts ... arrived on the scene and were able to assess the situation.”
Thanks for the concern, but Chevron was breaking the law. DEP could have called the state police and forced its way onto the property, but it decided that a confrontation did not further the goal of dealing with the crisis. Fair enough, but it does raise the question of who is ultimately in charge of drilling in this state.
DEP has brought nine citations against Chevron as a result of the incident — one of them specifically dealing with the illegal failure to allow DEP staff access. If a similar situation occurs in the future, state officials should not be so patient.”
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/editorials/2014/04/17/DEP-access/stories/201404180001#ixzz2zCkXX3aI
7. Study: Fracking Causes Ozone Problems
12% Summer and 21% Winter Increase
“New research suggests that pollution from fracking contributes a much larger share of Dallas-Fort Worth’s smog problem than state officials have said. The study, conducted by Mahdi Ahmadi, a graduate student at the University of North Texas,
Ahmadi analyzed data from 16 air-quality monitors in the Metroplex going back to 1997, looking for a connection between oil and gas production and ozone. Seven of the sites were east of Denton, outside of the Barnett Shale, and nine were located in the shale area, close to oil and gas activity.
Ahmadi’s twist is that he adjusted for meteorological conditions, including air temperature, wind speed and sunlight—key ingredients in ozone formation. Backing natural factors out of the data allowed Ahmadi to better pinpoint human factors, including the link between fracking and ozone formation.
He found that while smog levels have dropped overall since the late 1990s, ozone levels in fracking areas have been increasing steadily and rising at a much higher rate than in areas without oil and gas activity.
“This is a small but important victory for real science in this process, as opposed to the completely politicized approach by TCEQ to prevent the imposition of new controls of any kind,” said Jim Schermbeck, director of North Texas clean-air group Downwinders at Risk.
Since 2008, meteorologically-adjusted ozone in the fracking region has increased 12 percent while in the non-fracking region ozone rose just 4 percent.
The trend during the winter was “even more striking,” said Dr. Kuruvilla John, the UNT engineering professor who oversaw the study. During winter months, the fracking region saw a 21-percent increase in ozone, while in the non-fracking area it went up 5 percent.
That’s significant because ozone season has traditionally been confined to the summer months. Moreover, EPA’s smog standards have become increasingly stringent over time, as scientists find more evidence for health problems at lower levels.
Regardless, Ahmadi’s research directly challenges the message from Gov. Rick Perry and Texas’ top environmental officials, who routinely dismiss links between smog, and oil and gas activity. On its website, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality claims that because the wind “blows emissions from the Barnett Shale away from the DFW area,” those emissions from fracking are “not expected to significantly affect ozone in the DFW area.”
8. Former Mobil Exec Says Safe Fracking Is Not Possible
Retired Mobil VP confirms technology is dangerous and untested
“In a message "straight from the horse's mouth," a former oil executive urged New York state to pass a ban on fracking, saying, 'it is not safe.'
"Making fracking safe is simply not possible, not with the current technology, or with the inadequate regulations being proposed," Louis Allstadt, former executive vice president of Mobil Oil, said during a news conference in Albany called by the anti-fracking group Elected Officials to Protect New York.
Up until his retirement in 2000 Allstadt spent 31 years at Mobil, running its marketing and refining division in Japan and managing Mobil's worldwide supply, trading and transportation operations. After retiring to Cooperstown, NY, Allstadt said he began studying fracking after friends asked him if he thought it would be safe to have gas wells drilled by nearby Lake Otsego, where Allstadt has a home. Since that time, he's become a vocal opponent of the shale oil and gas drilling technique.
"Now the industry will tell you that fracking has been around a long time. While that is true, the magnitude of the modern technique is very new," Allstadt said, adding that a fracked well can require 50 to 100 times the water and chemicals compared to non-fracked wells.
He also noted that methane, up to 30 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, is found to be leaking from fracked wells "at far greater rates than were previously estimated." https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/04/23-1
9. The Closer you Are, The Greater Your Risk
Physicians Scientists and Engineers For Healthy Energy
Third Report in Three Days Shows Scale of Fracking Perils
“The fracking industry is having a bad week.
In the third assessment in as many days focused on the pollution created by the booming industry, a group of researchers said that the controversial oil and gas drilling practice known as fracking likely produces public health risks and "elevated levels of toxic compounds in the environment" in nearly all stages of the process.
The latest research, conducted by the Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, compiled "the first systematic literature review" of peer-reviewed studies on the effects of fracking on public health and found the majority of research points to dangerous risks to public health, with many opportunities for toxic exposure
“It’s clear that the closer you are [to a fracking site], the more elevated your risk,” said lead author Seth Shonkoff, from the University of California-Berkeley. “We can conclude that this process has not been shown to be safe.”
According to the "near exhaustive review" of fracking research, environmental pollution is found "in a number of places and through multiple processes in the lifecycle of shale gas development," the report states. "These sources include the shale gas production and processing activities (i.e., drilling, hydraulic fracturing, hydrocarbon processing and production, wastewater disposal phases of development); the transmission and distribution of the gas to market (i.e., in transmission lines and distribution pipes); and the transportation of water, sand, chemicals, and wastewater before, during, and after hydraulic fracturing."
Citing the recent research, the report continues:
Shale gas development uses organic and inorganic chemicals known to be health damaging in fracturing fluids (Aminto and Olson 2012; US HOR 2011). These fluids can move through the environment and come into contact with humans in a number of ways, including surface leaks, spills, releases from holding tanks, poor well construction, leaks and accidents during transportation of fluids, flowback and produced water to and from the well pad, and in the form of run-off during blowouts, storms, and flooding events (Rozell and Reaven 2012). Further, the mixing of these compounds under conditions of high pressure, and often, high heat, may synergistically create additional, potentially toxic compounds (Kortenkamp et al. 2007; Teuschler and Hertzberg 1995; Wilkinson 2000). Compounds found in these mixtures may pose risks to the environment and to public health through numerous environmental pathways, including water, air, and soil (Leenheer et al. 1982). [...]
At certain concentrations or doses, more than 75% of the chemicals identified are known to negatively impact the skin, eyes, and other sensory organs, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system, and the liver; 52% have the potential to negatively affect the nervous system; and 37% of the chemicals are candidate endocrine disrupting chemicals.
The group also warns that while numerous studies have proven the alarming and destructive nature of fracking, there is still not nearly enough research on the issue, particularly on the long-term effects of fracking on public health, such as future cancer rates.
"Most importantly," say the authors, "there is a need for more epidemiological studies to assess associations between risk factors, such as air and water pollution and health outcomes among populations living in close proximity to shale gas operations."
The review follows on the heels of two other reviews on the dangers of fracking released earlier this week.
The first report, a scientific study released Monday, found that methane emissions from fracking could be up to 1000 times greater than what the EPA has estimated. Methane is up to 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
The second report, a review conducted by Bloomberg News on Wednesday, detailed how industrial waste from fracking sites is leaving a "legacy of radioactivity" and other toxic problems across the country and spawning a "surge" in illegal dumping at hundreds of sites in the U.S. “
Published on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 by Common Dreams
Here's What Fracking Can Do to Your Health
By Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy,
A new study examines the potential hazards of natural gas extraction.
Gas extraction produces a range of potentially health-endangering pollutants at nearly every stage of the process, according to a new paper by the California nonprofit Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, released today in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Institutes of Health.
The study compiled existing, peer-reviewed literature on the health risks of shale gas drilling and found that leaks, poor wastewater management, and air emissions have released harmful chemicals into the air and water around fracking sites nationwide.
"It's clear that the closer you are, the more elevated your risk," said lead author Seth Shonkoff, a visiting public health scholar at the University of California-Berkeley. "We can conclude that this process has not been shown to be safe."
Shonkoff cautioned that existing research has focused on cataloging risks, rather than linking specific instances of disease to particular drilling operations—primarily because the fracking boom is so new that long-term studies of, say, cancer rates, simply haven't been done. Still, how exactly could gas drilling make you ill? Let us count the ways:
Air pollution near wells: Near gas wells, studies have found both carcinogenic and other hazardous air pollutants in concentrations above EPA guidelines, with the pollution at its worst within a half-mile radius of the well. In one Colorado study, some of the airborne pollutants were endocrine disrupters, which screw with fetal and early childhood development.
Several studies also found precursors to ground-level ozone, which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Silica sand, which is used to prop open underground cracks and which can cause pulmonary disease and lung cancer, was also found in the air around well sites; one study of 111 well samples found silica concentrations in excess of OSHA guidelines at 51.4 percent of them.
Recycled frack water: About a third of the water/chemical/sand mixture that gets pumped into wells flows back up, bringing back not just the toxic fracking chemicals but other goodies from deep underground, including heavy metals like lead and arsenic. Some of this wastewater is treated and recycled for irrigation and agriculture or dumped back into lakes and rivers. Multiple studies found that because the menu of chemicals is so diverse, treatment is often incomplete and has the potential to pollute drinking water supplies with chemicals linked to everything from eye irritation to nervous system damage to cancer, as well as the potential to poison fish. Even if wastewater is contained, spills can be a problem: One Colorado study counted 77 fracking wastewater spills that impacted groundwater supplies, of which 90 percent were contaminated with unsafe levels of benzene.
Broken wells: Drinking water supplies can also be contaminated when the cement casings around wells crack and leak, which studies estimate to happen in anywhere from 2 to 50 percent of all wells (including oil wells, offshore rigs, etc.). Methane getting into drinking water wells from leaky gas wells is the prime suspect in Pennsylvania's flammable faucets; a study there last year found some methane in 82 percent of water wells sampled but concluded that concentrations were six times higher for water wells within one kilometer of a fracking well. A Texas study found elevated levels of arsenic at water wells within three kilometers of gas wells. (While the Texas study linked the contamination to gas extraction in general, it was unclear what specific part of the process was responsible).
10. Fracking Boom Is Creating Illegal Toxic Dumping
“Industrial waste from fracking sites is leaving a "legacy of radioactivity" across the country as the drilling boom churns out more and more toxic byproducts with little to no oversight of the disposal process, critics warn.
According to a new report in Bloomberg, fracking is "spinning off thousands of tons of low-level radioactive trash," which has spawned a "surge" in illegal dumping at hundreds of sites in the U.S.
"We have many more wells, producing at an accelerating rate, and for each of them there’s a higher volume of waste,” Avner Vengosh, a professor of geochemistry at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, told Bloomberg. Without proper handling, “we are actually building up a legacy of radioactivity in hundreds of points where people have had leaks or spills around the country.”
Some states allow the contaminated material to be buried at the drill site. Some is hauled away, with varying requirements for tracking the waste. Some ends up in roadside ditches, garbage dumpsters or is taken to landfills in violation of local rules, said Scott Radig, director of the North Dakota Health Department’s Division of Waste Management.
Fracking for oil and gas is particularly radioactive because of shale rock, "the dense formations found to hold immense reserves of gas and oil," Bloomberg reports. "Shale often contains higher levels of radium—a chemical element used in industrial X-ray diagnostics and cancer treatments—than traditional oil fields."
Those radioactive elements often mix with wastewater and a list of undisclosed chemicals used in the process. Past reports have shown that water treatment does little to clean this toxic water. In one recent case, wastewater from a hydraulic fracturing site in Pennsylvania, which is treated and released into local streams, was found to have elevated levels of radioactivity in the public water supply.
When radioactive fracking waste is not dumped illegally or buried on site, it is brought with other waste to landfills, but the skyrocketing amounts of fracking waste are pushing those sites to their limits.
"West Virginia landfills accepted 721,000 tons of drilling debris in 2013, a figure that doesn’t include loads rejected because they topped radiation limits," reports Bloomberg. And in Pennsylvania the industry sent 1.3 million tons to landfills last year, including 16,000 tons of radioactive material.
While some states such as North Dakota scramble to deal with the growing problem, the list of reasons to halt the fracking industry altogether may become more enticing.
A report released on Monday found fracking sites are emitting up to 1000 times the amount of methane than federal regulators previously reported.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that is up to 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
11. Gas Explosion Causes Evacuation of Wyoming Town
“Residents and emergency crews were waiting for a fire to burn itself out after an explosion at a natural gas processing plant in Opal, Wyoming.
No injuries were reported. All of Opal was evacuated. It wasn't clear when residents would be allowed to go home.
"They were downwind from the plant," Lincoln County Sheriff Shane Johnson said. "The fire was still very active, and because of the nature of the processing that goes on there, that was the call that was made for safety reasons."
The explosion occurred in a cryogenic processing tower, which chills unrefined natural gas to remove impurities.
The Opal plant removes carbon dioxide and other impurities from natural gas that comes from gas fields in the region. It can gather up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas a day, and it sends the refined product into pipelines that go to urban centers to the east, west and south.
Williams said in a statement it has suspended collecting gas from surrounding areas and is looking for ways to resume production.
Renny MacKay, spokesman for Gov. Matt Mead, said investigators would look into the cause of the explosion once the site was secured.”
12. Heinz Endowment Has New President After Fracking Fallout
Former Endowment President Now VP of Rice Energy
The Heinz family is rebooting its foundation's leadership following a mess under the previous president. After weathering a controversy over fracking in which the philanthropy appeared too cozy with the oil and gas industry, the Heinz Endowments have appointed longtime associate and former staffer Grant Oliphant as the new president.
Oliphant is returning to the endowments in the aftermath of a rough patch that ended with key Heinz leaders either being ousted or resigning, including then-President Robert Vagt, who stepped down.
The trouble began with the launch of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, of which Heinz was a founding partner, which supports voluntary best practices for the shale gas drilling industry that's exploded across the region. Other partners in the center are Shell and Chevron. Members of the environmental community slammed the center and the foundation, which has backed clean water and other environmental efforts.
The fray was worsened by the fact that Vagt holds a ton of stock in and sits on the board of gas pipeline company Kinder Morgan.
A management shakeup followed, which many speculated was engineered by board member and environmentalist Andre Heinz, the son of board chair Teresa Heinz Kerry. Mrs. Kerry said the board had never authorized the creation of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, and more recently said it was the result of “misunderstandings.”
As for Robert Vagt, don’t worry he’s going to be fine. He’s the new chairman of oil and gas company Rice Energy. http://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2014/4/16/clean-up-guy-heinz-turns-to-old-friend-after-fracking-fallou.html
13. EPA Focuses on Fracking and Methane
You can link to the charts:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Tuesday released five technical papers as the first step to enacting President Barack Obama’s recent plan to reduce methane emissions.
The five white papers address different emissions sources and mitigation techniques regarding methane and volatile organic compounds. The sources of focus are fracking, leaks, compressors, liquid removal and pneumatic devices.
14. How Fracking Destroys the American Dream
Excellent Piece on Property Value, Mortgages, Insurance
“The following examples begin to piece together the ways in which the threats posed by drilling and the deep pockets of the oil and gas industry quite literally hit home. Taken together, they are a call for decision-makers to start quantifying data and asking tough questions about drilling vs. the American Dream.
In a 2013 survey of 550 people conducted by business researchers at the University of Denver, a strong majority said they would decline to buy a home near drilling site. The study, published in the Journal of Real Estate Literature, also showed that people bidding on homes near fracking locations reduced their offers by up to 25 percent.
◦ Realtors in Colorado are taking note as clients become increasingly hesitant about buying homes near drilling sites, with fewer and fewer bids rolling in. “Some don’t want to even look at anything remotely close to any existing or proposed well sites,” Boulder County real estate agent Nanner Fisher told the Colorado Independent. She also told Boulder iJournal that “if there is a well that’s visible when you show a property, [the prospective buyer] will ask to look for something else. A lot of it is the visual effect of the well site,” she said. “And, they think if you can see it, it’s gotta be close enough that it’s not healthy.”
◦ An economic analysis by the Headwaters Institute undermines the idea that oil and gas developments fatten the bank accounts of communities and leave them better off than before drilling started. While there may be short-term windfalls, the study of six western states found that over the long-term “oil and gas specialization is observed to have negative effects on change in per capita income, crime rate and education rate.”
◦ Denver Realtor Adam Cox wrote in a column in the Colorado Statesman that “potential buyers balk at buying homes near a drilling site, even though that’s often where the discounted homes are” because they are so close to oil and gas activity. Similarly, he said, homeowners near drilling sites “often have to sell at significantly lower prices than when originally purchased due to the oil and gas industry neighbors.”
◦ The fumes, lights and deafening noise that came after a neighbor leased adjacent land for fracking became unbearable and forced to move from their Cleveland suburban home. In an interview with Reuters, she said they were able to sell their house for $225,000, only half its appraised value.
◦ In the Catskills, fracking fears have already impacted the real estate market even though the state has yet to make a determination on whether to allow drilling. The prospect that the state will open the region to drilling, as the New York Times reported, “has spooked potential buyers” in upstate New York. The Times story also quoted a realtor who shut down her business In Wayne County, PA. Agents there, the woman said, are having trouble selling rural properties “because people don’t want to be anywhere near the drilling.”
◦ A study conducted by researchers at Duke University found that the risks and potential liabilities of drilling outweigh economic benefits like lease payments and potential economic development in Washington County, PA. Even though lease payments can add overall value to homes with wells drilled on them, the possibility of contaminated water decreases property value by an average of 24 percent. The boost that comes from signing a lease offsets the increases, leaving a net decrease in value of 13 percent.
◦ A 2010 study of the Texas real estate market in the heavily drilled suburban-Dallas area near Flower Mound concluded that homes valued at more than $250,000 and within 1,000 feet of a drilling pad or well site saw values decrease by 3 to 14 percent.
◦ Faced with a boom in coal-bed methane development in the early 2000s, officials in La Plata County, CO studied the impacts of oil and gas development and found that properties with a well drilled on them saw their value decrease by 22 percent.
◦ In a 2005 peer-reviewed study, researchers found that oil and gas production “significantly affect the sale price for rural properties.” The study determined that the presence of oil and gas facilities within 2.5 miles of rural residential properties in Alberta, Canada reduced property values between 4 percent and 8 percent, with the potential for doubling the decrease, depending on the level of industrial activity.
◦ In Pavilion, WY, where the EPA has linked groundwater contamination with fracking, Louis Meeks saw the value of his 40-acre alfalfa farm all but disappear completely. In 2006, his land and home were appraised at $239,000. Two years later, as ProPublica reported, “a local realtor sent Meeks a coldly worded letter saying his place was essentially worthless and she could not list his property. ‘Since the problem was well documented … and since no generally-accepted reason for the blowout has been agreed upon,’ she wrote, ‘buyers may feel reluctant to purchase a property with this stigma.’ ”
◦ Similar nightmares have befallen residents of Dimock, PA, where fracking problems decimated home values, and the drilling company responsible, Cabot Resources, was ordered to pay impacted families settlements worth twice their property values, a total of more than $4 million.
◦ In North Texas, the Wise County Central Appraisal District Appraisal Review Board knocked down the appraised value of one family’s home and 10-acre ranchette from $257,000 to $75,000—a decrease of more than 70 percent. The board agreed to the extraordinary reduction as a result of numerous environmental problems related to fracking—just one year after the first drilling rig when up on the property.
◦ Unbeknownst to many suburban homeowners, homebuilders are starting to quietly retain mineral rights beneath the subdivisions they build in suburban areas. DR Horton has been perhaps the most notable construction company to employ this new tactic. In 2012, after an investigation by the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and the state’s Real Estate Commission, officials pressured the Texas-based homebuilder to return mineral rights it had retained from beneath about 850 homes. Residents who live in a Florida subdivision built by Horton were equally surprised when they found out that the company also held the rights to prospect for whatever minerals lie beneath 2,500 of their homes near Tampa.
◦ As documented by Reuters, homeowners in subdivisions in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Louisiana and other states have all purchased homes without disclosure about severed mineral rights only to see drilling rigs spring up next door too late for them to do anything about it. “This is a huge case of buyer beware,” University of Colorado-Denver Law Professor Lloyd Burton told reporters. “People who move into suburban areas are really clueless about this, and the states don’t exactly go out of their way to let people know.”
◦ Senate and House committees in the Colorado Legislature have passed a measure that, much like disclosures for lead paint, would require sellers to notify prospective homebuyers about separated mineral rights and whether a property may be subject to oil, gas or mineral development. Senate Bill 14-009 is awaiting approval by both chambers to be forwarded to the governor.
◦ In at least 39 states, there are laws that compel “holdout landowners” to join gas-leasing agreements with their neighbors, allowing oil and gas companies to drill horizontally to tap into oil and gas reserves that cross property lines—whether the owner of a property wants to allow the drilling or not. Called “mandatory pooling” or “compulsory integration,” these laws basically create eminent domain by private enterprise.
◦ Pooling gives the owner an interest in the well, including royalty payments, but as in Colorado, where forced pooling orders were issued by the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 48 times in 2010, the law also makes the unwilling owner “liable for the further costs of the operation, as if he had participated in the initial drilling operation.”
◦ The intent of forced pooling is to create more orderliness in drilling underground oil and gas reserves, which rarely adhere to the patchwork of surface ownership. Forcing holdout landowners into leasing agreements is supposed to lead to fewer wells drilled and more efficiency in the ones that are. But it’s also frequently used as a threat by landmen looking to cash in on leases.
Mortgages and Fracking
Recognizing the numerous ways that drilling and fracking could damage value, the mortgage industry is starting to refuse to take on the financial liabilities and is tightening policies that prohibit lending on properties with wells on them or that are subject to leasing.
◦ Following the debacle in North Carolina over severed mineral rights (see above) the State Employees’ Credit Union in North Carolina officially has decided it will no longer approve mortgage financing for properties where the drilling rights have been sold off to someone else. 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.
◦ According to American Banker, at least three mortgage lending institutions—Tompkins Financial in Ithaca, NY, Spain’s Santander Bank and State Employees’ Credit Union in Raleigh, NC—are now refusing to make mortgages on land where oil or gas rights have been sold to an energy company. The publication quoted the president and CEO of the North Carolina credit union saying that if a landowner allows a drilling rig to go up on his or her their land, “We’d have to tell their neighbors, “We’re sorry, your property value just went down.’ ” (Also quoted in the Motley Fool.)
◦ Language in Freddie Mac’s standard mortgage contracts prohibit a “borrower from taking any action that could cause the deterioration, damage or decrease in value of the subject property,” and if the prohibition is broken by say, a landowner signing a drilling lease or entering into a mineral-rights agreement, Freddie Mac has the legal authority to exercise a call on a mortgage’s full amount if a borrower, 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 lender in the U.S. is approaching home loans for properties that have gas drilling leases attached to them with a high degree of caution.
◦ In addition to Wells Fargo, Provident Funding, GMAC, FNCB, Fidelity and First Liberty, First Place Bank, Solvay Bank, Tompkins Trust Co., CFCU Community Credit Union are either putting hard-to-meet conditions on mortgages or denying loans altogether on properties with oil and gas leases. (Excellent summary of oil and gas issues related to mortgage lending from a brokerage vice president is available online.)
◦ The backgrounder prepared by the NYSBA about gas leasing impacts on homeowners also includes a section on residential mortgages and says the combination of home-ownership and drilling, “creates a perfect storm begging for immediate attention.” Risks include: – Homeowners being confronted with uninsurable property damage for activities they cannot control. – Banks refusing to provide mortgage loans on homes with gas leases because they don’t meet secondary mortgage market guidelines. – Impediments to new construction starts, long a bellwether of economic recovery, since construction loans depend on risk-free property and a purchaser. – The possibility of a property owner defaulting on a mortgage by signing a gas lease. – Prohibitively expensive appraisals and title searches that are complicated by assessing the value of risks and the arcane paper trail of mineral rights and attached liabilities.
◦ 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. Also see http://bit.ly/1dIen28.
Homeowners who think damage to property incurred by drilling accidents is covered by insurance need to think again. Such damages are typically not covered.
◦ Last July, Nationwide Insurance spelled out specifically that it would not provide coverage for damage related to fracking. According to an internal memo outlining the company’s policy, “After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore. Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage.”
◦ Often, a driller or well operator’s insurance won’t cover damages, according to the NYSBA summary. Homeowners may have to sue for damages and, even if they win, may not get paid for all damages since drillers admit in their regulatory filings that they may not carry enough insurance.
Other online resources:
◦ Save Colorado from Fracking on how fracking lowers the value of property and real estate.
◦ The New York Times has compiled hundreds of pages of documents related to drilling and property rights and values that include federal guidelines, emails from realtors and mortgage brokers, memos from bankers etc.
◦ Reuters investigated the mushrooming issue of split estates and the conflicts between mineral rights and property rights, finding numerous instances across the country of homebuilders and developers holding on to ownership of oil and gas deposits while selling off subdivision lots, while providing little to no information about the issue to buyers.
◦ And in-depth look by the Colorado Independent at ways the fracking boom is coming into conflict with homeowners.”
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for mo http://ecowatch.com/2014/03/20/udated-fracking-vs-american-dream-resource-guide/