Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates
May 15, 2014
* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
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* 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.
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.
*** 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.
***Fracking Documentary Triple Divide Norwin -May 17
Saturday Matinee Screening, May 17 at 1 PM
Norwin Public Library Community Room
100 Caruthers Lane, Irwin, PA 15642
Join producers Melissa Troutman and Josh Pribanic at a screening of this 90-minute film.
Investigations on the question, “How are the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the operators handling impacts from shale gas development?”
The screening is sponsored by the newly formed North Huntingdon Environmental Stewardship Project. For more information, please visit the project’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NHuntingdonEnvironment, email email@example.com or call 724-864-6189..
***Penn Trafford Zoning-May 20, 7:00pm The PT Secretary has announced a new zoning ordinance and map is listed on the township website, penntwp.org. It's an eye opener as there are major changes that require homeowner’s input.
***Dr. Jerome Paulson, Sat. May 17: 2-3:30 PM
Friends Meeting House, 4836 Ellsworth Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213
“Jerome A. Paulson, MD, FAAP, is a Professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, and a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
As a clinician, a researcher and an advocate, Dr. Paulson works to enhance children's health, and particularly to identify and mitigate the impact of environmental hazards on pediatric populations. He is director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and Environment, a federally-funded environmental health specialty unit affiliated with the Department of Environment and Occupational Health that provides education and outreach to health professionals, parents and the community.
Dr. Paulson is the chairperson of the executive committee of the Council on Environmental Health American Academy of Pediatrics, serves for the Children's Health Protection Advisory Committee for EPA and on the technical advisory board for the Blacksmith Institute. Dr. Paulson has served as a special assistant to the director of CDC's National Center on Environmental Health, again focusing on children, and in 2000 received a Soros Advocacy Fellowship for Physicians from the Open Society Institute working with the Children's Environmental Health Network.
At Children's National Medical Center, Dr. Paulson serves as the Medical Director for National and Global Affairs of the Child Health Advocacy Institute.
Dr. Paulson is an expert on the health effects of hydraulic fracturing and has presented and lectured frequently on the subject.
***PITTSBURGH ARTISTS AGAINST FRACKING through June 1.
Garfield Artworks, 4931 Penn Ave., Garfield.
The exhibit Pittsburgh Artists Against Fracking was organized in support of Protect Our Parks, a coalition fighting to prevent hydrofracturing for gas in Allegheny County's public parks. Protect Our Parks distributes information, speaks out, meets with officials and circulates petitions. It's not surprising that many local artists support the group, and a portion of all sales from this Garfield Artworks show will be contributed to Protect Our Parks. (Last week, Allegheny County Council voted to permit fracking beneath Deer Lakes Park.)
Art exhibits addressing significant issues are a tradition, and the fracking of local parks is certainly a significant issue. Exhibit organizer Bob Ziller wanted to be inclusive, so he didn't require artworks to address fracking directly, though he encouraged participants to exhibit works relating to nature. With more than 80 artists — almost all from Pittsburgh currently or previously — and more than 100 artworks, the exhibit makes a dramatic statement through quantity alone.
Some works explicitly address environmental concerns. In Sandy Kaminski Kessler's "Danger Danger," the robot famous for warning "danger, danger" on the television show Lost in Space appears to issue an environmental warning, as it's drawn on a topographical map. Kyle Milne's "Untitled Maps" features a mound of what appear to be gobs of tar on a mining map, creating an unnerving depiction of the waste left over from resource extraction. Thommy Conroy's "Diagram F" shows a cross-section in which sci-fi creatures battle on the surface while drilling contaminates the water supply.
Most compelling in the context of the exhibit are those works that address fracking more or less directly. David Pohl's "Let them drink benzene, toluene, xylene, and ehtylbenzene" is graphically strong, and the Marie Antoinette-inspired statement clearly condemns recklessness regarding the public's health. In "Fracking the Body," Maritza Mosquera likens the slow healing of the body after invasive surgery to the healing the earth requires after being cut into for fracking.
Also directly related to fracking is Bob Ziller's "Unicorn Love Cheney," ridiculing Dick Cheney's infamous "Halliburton loophole," which exempts fracking from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. And Paul Kuhrman's modified baseball card "Ickey Rivers" manages to contain a fracking rig, a stream of chemical pollution, "oops," "ickey rivers," and "anger." That pretty well sums up the concerns here.
***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.
***Physicians for Social Responsibility Webinars on Health
Begins Wednesday, May 7, 6:00 p.m
This PSR webinar -- one in a series of three -- will provide science-based health information and an unparalleled opportunity to ask your questions and hear an expert’s answers.
Are you concerned about hydraulic fracturing (fracking)? Want to learn from a medical authority about fracking’s potential harms to health? Join us next Wednesday, May 7 when fracking expert Jerome Paulson, MD, presents "Potential Health Impacts of Unconventional Gas Extraction."
To find out how to sign in, and to get the dates for our other upcoming fracking webinars, click here.
***Webinar on Divestment- Wednesdays-- Web Workshops will happen on the first Wednesday of every month, starting on May 7th.
How can fossil fuel divestment help get us where we need to go? What are the intersections with larger climate and social justice movements? What are the financial arguments for divestment? And how in the world do I get started on my own campaign? Each month, Fossil Free campaign staff & special guests will dive into strategies, arguments, and crucial skills.
The first Web Workshop will be on May 7th and explore the divestment "theory of change." That's wonky campaigner speech for "how does this thing we're doing make the change we want to see in the world." That's a question we get a lot at Fossil Free, and we're excited to explore it with all of you. Will you join us?
TAKE ACTION !!
**Letters to the editor are important and one of the best ways to share information with the public. ***
***See Tenaska Petition at the top of the Updates
***Petition- Help the Children of Mars School District
Below is a petition that a group of parents in the Mars Area School District are working very hard to get signatures. Please take a moment to look at the petition and sign it. It only takes 5 minutes. We are fighting to keep our children, teachers, and community safe here and across the state of Pennsylvania.
Please share this with your spouses, friends, family, and any organizations that would support this cause. We need 100,00 signatures immediately, as the group plans to take the petition to Harrisburg within a week.
Your support is greatly appreciated!
***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:
***Video Beaver Meeting --Living in a Fracking Sacrifice Zone
Panel with Yuri Gorbi, Bill Hughes, Jill Kriesky
***Dr Ingraffea- The Intersection Between Hydraulic Fracturing and Climate Change
***Lisa Parr Speaks from Bob Donnan
Lisa’s Parr’s presentation begins at the 3:30 mark of this video:
Lisa Parr: “Imagine having your dream home surrounded by gas drilling and fracking, and then ending up with 19 chemicals in your body!
When it’s your daughter in the bathroom with a nosebleed in the middle
of the night everything comes sharply into focus!”
***The Sky Is Pink --- Joe reminds us of this video.
"The Sky is Pink", a short film by Josh Fox, deals with the issue of "fairness" as well as the issue of gas migration. The answer from the panelist "vanishingly small" is patently false. The recent study by Ingraffea supports DEP and industry findings of about 6 to 7 percent of new wells leak and some fifty percent leak after 30 years. Ingraffea also points out that these numbers underestimate the real problem as only leakage at the wellhead is reported. The Sky is Pink can be seen:
It is a good review of both issues and worth a second look if you have seen it already.
Ingraffea's work is referenced:
***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.”
All articles are excerpted. Please use links for the full article.
1. Appeals Court Heard Arguments On 4 Sections of Act 13
Will water well owners have to be notified of spills?
Will the PUC have the authority to review ordinances and withhold fees?
Will the industry have eminent domain rights for gas storage units?
By Laura Legere / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"A state appeals court will hear arguments on Wednesday (May 14, jan) about whether several sections of Pennsylvania’s contested drilling law can survive after the state Supreme Court struck down key aspects of the law late last year.
The challenges to the state’s 2012 update of the oil and gas law, known as Act 13, have been narrowed to only a handful of issues after the Supreme Court ruled in December that the law unconstitutionally limited local governments’ right to say where well sites, compressor stations and other oil and gas facilities can be located. The high court told the Commonwealth Court to consider if the rest of the law can stand.
Now, the parties have whittled the fight to four issues they will debate before the judges:
- Does the Public Utility Commission still have jurisdiction to review municipal ordinances that regulate oil and gas development?
- Can the law require DEP to alert public water suppliers, but not private water well owners, of spills?
- Can companies use eminent domain to take property for gas storage?
- Can medical professionals be blocked from disclosing the chemicals used in oil and gas operations?
The two sides agreed not to challenge the validity of the entire, wide-ranging act, which was the first comprehensive update of the state’s oil and gas law since the 1980s and allows the state to collect and distribute an impact fee on shale gas wells. The fee has raised more than $630 million for state programs and communities in the last three years.
In briefs filed to support the PUC’s continued role in reviewing ordinances, the Commonwealth and several oil and gas organizations said the commission still can offer advice to municipalities and hear challenges to their ordinances even though the uniform zoning provisions of the law were thrown out.
The PUC’s review is “essential” to determine if local governments are eligible to receive their share of the impact fee, the commission wrote.
But the challengers — who include several municipalities, local officials, environmental groups and a doctor — said the state and its industry supporters are simply looking for “a backdoor method” of imposing the law’s remaining setback buffers around drilling operations as a cap rather than a minimum, thereby limiting local governments’ say in where operations can take place.
The law’s special system for ordinance reviews wrongly takes the power away from local zoning hearing boards and county common pleas courts and gives it to the commission, “a role the PUC is not equipped or capable of handling effectively and fairly,” the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs wrote in a brief supporting the municipalities.
The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors also backed the municipalities’ position, writing that if the law’s scheme for ordinance reviews is left standing, it would put the PUC and the Commonwealth Court in the position of acting as “local zoning hearing boards, but on a statewide level.”
“This would be an unreasonable result because it would likely lead to decisions being made through the same statewide lens that the Supreme Court rejected,” the association wrote.
Lawmakers in the General Assembly might try again to define the role that municipalities can play in overseeing oil and gas development, whether or not the court upholds the ordinance review process.
“There is still this open question about what local governments can do after the Supreme Court’s decision, and the legislature may just decide to address that,” he said.
The parties in the court case also disagree about whether a provision of Act 13 is an unconstitutional “special law” because it requires the DEP to notify public water suppliers but not private water well owners of spills at oil and gas sites.
Challengers argue that private well owners should also be notified of spills because oil and gas operations — and the pollution risks they bring with them — generally take place in rural areas where residents primarily rely on private water wells.
The only reason not to treat all water supply owners the same is “a desire to mask the true effects of the oil and gas industry on rural communities,” the challengers wrote.
The full significance of the Supreme Court’s ruling — including the revival of the state’s environmental rights amendment that gives Pennsylvanians a right to “clean air, pure water” and “the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment” — will not be settled by this next stage of the process.
“The biggest issue that remains is: What is the extent of protections that are afforded by the environmental rights amendment to the Constitution?” Mr. Pifer said. “That’s not something that’s going to be addressed on remand before the Commonwealth Court.”
Judges hear debate on sections of Act 13 drilling law
May 14, 2014 11:43 PM
By Laura Legere / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“The challengers — who include municipalities, local officials, environmental groups and a doctor — argued that four sections of the law should be dropped or changed after the Supreme Court ruled in December that the law unconstitutionally limited local governments’ right to say where oil and gas facilities can be located.
In their questions Wednesday, the judges probed the consequences and limits of the law’s notification and disclosure rules that affect doctors, water well owners and drilling companies. The state’s attorneys emphasized that Act 13 provides for more disclosure than was required before the law was adopted in 2012, but the challengers said the law provides inadequate or unequal protection.
If the court strikes down a section of the law that limits what doctors can reveal about confidential drilling chemicals that affect their patients, the state would return to a situation where doctors and patients are not entitled to any of that information unless a company volunteers it, said Howard Hopkirk, senior deputy attorney general.
“That kind of takes your breath away, that statement,” said President Judge Dan Pellegrini, who repeatedly said that the chemicals used to coax gas from wells are “essentially a big secret.”
The law requires companies to disclose details about the chemicals they inject underground during hydraulic fracturing, but it allows exemptions for trade secrets.
The judges also asked whether the Public Utility Commission should still have a role in reviewing municipal ordinances that regulate oil and gas development now that the universal zoning provisions of the law have been struck down.
“At least two legs of a three-legged stool are gone,” Judge Pellegrini said.
The PUC still has a crucial job in determining whether ordinances meet the surviving standards of the law and whether municipalities are eligible to receive impact fees paid on shale gas wells, said Matt Haverstick, an attorney representing the commission.
“It’s not the weak sister that is left over,” he said.
An attorney for several industry trade groups indicated companies want a streamlined way to challenge ordinances that are designed to curtail development.
“We’re trying to overcome obstruction,” said David Overstreet, an attorney representing the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute.
The challengers said the PUC’s role is too connected to the invalid provisions to function without them and should be eliminated. What might have been a simple ordinance review by the commission would now be very complicated, attorney Jordan Yeager said.
The parties also debated whether Act 13 can require the DEP to alert public water suppliers but not private water well owners of spills, and whether companies can use eminent domain to take property for gas storage.
The attorneys and judges acknowledged that much about the law will be left unsettled even after the Commonwealth Court rules on the issues in front of it. Only future cases and new legislation will provide more clarity.
“We’ll be back here someday,” Mr. Haverstick said.”
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/powersource/policy-powersource/2014/05/14/Judges-hear-debate-on-sections-of-Act-13/stories/201405140210#ixzz31pL0VRtV
2. Robinson Zoning –The Chairman (a Leaseholder) And His Sister Rewrite Code
“Loosened rules for Marcellus Shale drilling are part of a proposed overhaul of zoning laws in Robinson, Washington County.
Supervisors will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. June 2 in Fort Cherry High School auditorium, 110 Fort Cherry Rd., to discuss amendments related to natural gas operations, zoning districts, farm regulations and other issues.
Chairman Rodger Kendall, who joined the board in January, has said he rewrote much of the zoning ordinance with the help of attorney Loretta Kendall, his sister.
In a newsletter set to be distributed to residents, drilling supporters Mr. Kendall and Vice Chairman Stephen Duran said three public workshop meetings in February pointed out problems with zoning regulations such as “a regulatory shut out [sic] of oil and gas drilling,” split zoning of some properties and “unattainable noise standards” on farms.
“The amendments proposed by Mr. Kendall addressed the discovered discrepancies,” according to the newsletter.
Supervisor Mark Brositz said Monday that he disagrees with much of the content of the newsletter. He voted against copying and mailing it—a project estimated to cost about $1,500.
“I feel that there [are] misstatements and lack of a complete story in several of the articles,” Mr. Brositz said.
Mr. Kendall is a leaseholder with driller Range Resources, and Mr. Duran’s father holds a drilling lease.
Township attorney Gretchen Moore said Monday that a letter has been sent to the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission asking for an opinion on the appropriateness of the supervisors voting on drilling issues.
“Regardless, we can move forward with the hearing because the vote isn’t going to be taken that night,” Ms. Moore said.
Robinson resident Brenda Vance recently presented a petition with 281 signatures asking the board to keep the zoning ordinance intact.
“It’s a drastic change,” Ms. Vance said of the proposed amendments. “Somebody else should be monitoring [drilling] and governing it, not just people who have such a great stake in it,” she said.
The proposal would alter the zoning ordinance and map — including some Marcellus Shale drilling rules — approved in December by Mr. Brositz and former supervisors Brian Coppola and Terrence Love.
The proposal would allow Marcellus Shale well site development on properties 10 acres or larger, including combined parcels.
Well development would be a permitted use in the rural-residential, agricultural, industrial and Interchange Business Development zoning districts, and would be a conditional use in the commercial, single-family residential, general residential and special conservation zones.
The proposal also addresses subsurface gas facilities and activities, water impoundments, compressor stations, processing plants, alternative fuel service stations, water recycling facilities, temporary housing for well site workers, mineral excavation and combined cycle gas turbine electric generation.”
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/west/2014/05/15/Drilling-farm-noise-addressed-in-Robinson-zoning-proposal/stories/201405150160#ixzz31qqJrc5v
3. Panel in Beaver County: Health Risks Abound With Drilling
“The pollution from these gas drill rigs is a major concern to many area residents. The noise pollution from truck traffic and the drilling site is also a problem.
Puffy skin, headaches and breathing difficulties were some of the symptoms cited as health effects from oil and gas drilling sites during a forum at the Community College of Beaver County on Saturday.
A West Virginia activist, New York state scientist and Pennsylvania advocate against hydraulic fracturing discussed health problems, environmental concerns and other issues to a crowd of 75-plus attendees.
“How do we balance our society, our community’s needs for energy without destroying our air, our water and our land?” activist Bill Hughes, of West Virginia, said. “We all live in the same watershed. We share the same air."
Hughes says he frequently tells Pittsburgh-area residents dealing with air pollution that any of the emissions from his state’s well pads and compressor stations go northeast because of prevailing winds.
“And it’s all stamped, ‘Do not return to sender,’” he said.
Speaker Jill Kriesky, associate director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, said people who work in the gas and oil industry experience problems, and when that happens, they try to find different work.
The organization, which focuses on Washington County and addresses health issues associated with the natural gas drilling industry, has found people with skin, eye, respiratory and neurological issues, traits that aren’t attributed to preexisting conditions, Kriesky said.
She advised people to call public health departments when they have symptoms, but from what her organization has seen, those public services are not responsive, she said. Her organization has a nurse practitioner who evaluates people who think they’ve been sickened by drilling efforts.
Among other recommendations, she said people should keep a health diary that includes information like the weather that day, drilling activity and whether a condition was new, preexisting or worsening, suggesting doctors can help patients better with the more information they have.
Scientist Yuri Gorby heads the civil and environmental engineering department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., near Albany.
After studying contaminated groundwater for some 20 years on the West Coast, he said his team learned the best way to clean up contaminated sites is to not let it become contaminated in the first place.
“If we really want to be effective in dealing with the issues that we’ve already created, we had better stop continuing this activity until reputable scientists have the opportunity and the funds and the time necessary to really address the issues that are already here,” he said.
Ben Avon resident Ted Popovich did his part to indicate his disdain for how Beaver County has been interested in fostering the energy industry.
During Saturday’s event, he donated an iPad to the Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Committee, a prize he said he received from Shell Oil Co. after attending a public meeting on the energy company’s proposed $2.5 billion petrochemical plant.”
4. PA Still Has No Health Registry
“After more than five years and about 6,000 wells drilled in the Marcellus Shale boom, public-health experts say the need to collect information near fracking operations in Pennsylvania is urgent.
A health registry “is a critical issue that needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Ralph Schmeltz, an endocrinologist and former president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.
Three years ago, the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommended that just such a registry be created to track people near fracking operations who reported they believed they were sick because of fracking. “Yet Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican who appointed the commission, has made no move to create a registry, and funds for it were stripped from Act 13, a bill that rewrote the state’s oil and gas law.
Without a registry, some researchers are forming partnerships to study health information in drilling communities. But there is little funding for the studies.
The gas industry maintains that fracking is safe, existing health studies are unreliable and negative findings on health cannot be linked to shale drilling.
Many residents blame natural gas drilling for health problems that include headaches, stomach aches, respiratory issues and rashes, as well as the psychological impacts from the noise, lights and heavy traffic that are part of drilling.
But there’s been no long-term study about how drilling affects public health overall, which is exactly what the Governor’s Commission called for — following individuals who live within a one-mile radius over time. While groundwater issues have long been a focus of the health debate, research also is needed on air emissions, wastewater disposal and potential harm to gas workers, public-health experts said.
Health departments in both New York and Maryland, are working on health studies. Those studies are funded by their respective state governments and their governors have refused to allow fracking until the studies are complete.
Jay Pagni, Governor Corbett’s press secretary, declined to respond to a question about why no impact-fee funds have gone to the department. Nor would he respond to claims by health experts that Corbett doesn’t want to look at the health consequences of shale drilling.
Media sources have reported that Corbett received around $1 million in contributions from the natural gas industry for his 2010 election campaign.
The lack of funds for the registry is a problem, said Dr. Bernard Goldstein, a former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
“The impact fee goes to 17 different state agencies, sub-agencies and commissions, but not the Pennsylvania Department of Health,” Goldstein said. “Does that mean that the Department of Health is certain that there is no impact on public health?”
Spokespersons for both the governor’s office and the health department said that they
When asked if she sees a state-led health registry getting created anytime soon, Raina Rippel, director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, said: “Not under this administration.”
It’s not the Health Department’s fault, said Nina Kaktins, a nurse and co-chair of an environmental health group within the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association.
“They had their hands tied,” she said. “If there is no budget allocated, they can’t perform the duties they are supposed to.”
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health http://publicsource.org/investigations/with-no-health-registry-pa-doesn-t-know-impact-of-fracking- - health
5. 1,100 TONS OF CONTAMINATED SOIL REMOVED
At RANGE RESOURCES IMPOUNDMENT
By Amanda Gillooly
Photo of frack pit from Marcellus shale u.s.
“A Pennsylvania DEP spokesman on Tuesday said about 1,100 tons of dirt was trucked out of a Range Resources’ centralized impoundment last week in Amwell Township, Washington County – the site of a “significant leak” in April that led to the agency issuing a Notice of Violation to Range Resources. DEP spokesman John Poister said it is likely that 2,100 tons of contaminated soil will ultimately need to be removed from the site.
“It’s a mountain of soil,” he said.
He confirmed that the leak is “serious enough” that a DEP inspector has been on scene at the John Day impoundment nearly every day.
“This is something we are taking very seriously,” he said, adding that DEP is committed to getting to the bottom of why the impoundment’s leak detection system didn’t work.
“This is a case where it failed miserably,” Poister said of the leak detection system. “Our concern is how long did this leak go unnoticed? We’re upset about this – the extent of the leak and why it wasn’t spotted earlier.”
He added it was “obvious to our people that this is not a small thing.”
Poister said the first step in the remediation process is the removal and replacement of contaminated soil.
A soil analysis was not yet available , but Poister confirmed that initial water quality tests indicated that chloride – or salt - is the primary contaminant.
“Salt is very damaging,” Poister explained.
The soil is being transported out of the site using an existing Form U. The company responsible for the cleanup efforts, Weavertown Environmental, is currently in the process of obtaining a new Form U, he said.
DEP issued a notice of violation to Range Resources, and Poister said a civil penalty is possible, too. That, though, is the final step in the process.”
Range Resources Equipment Failure Leads to Gas Leak , Evacuation
“The PA DEP is investigating an “equipment failure” at a Range Resources well pad in Washington County that caused a gas leak and spurred a precautionary evacuation of about 35 residents Wednesday morning.
Poister said the failure led to a release of methane into the air, and indicated that while such a release is a violation, it is too early to tell if a formal notice of violation would be issued to Range Resources.
“We do not believe there was a tremendous amount of methane released,” he said. However, DEP is taking air quality samples “just to be sure.”
6. Letter to the Editor
(Prosperity is in Washington County, about 10 miles south of Washington, PA.)
“Worrying About Fracking
When I bought my home in Prosperity, it was a quiet rural area. It has now been turned into an industrial work site.
Consol Energy has been developing gas well sites for at least the last year. The quiet has been replaced by drilling and fracking that occurs 24 hours a day. Sound testing has been done by company representatives and Morris Township. They agree the noise level is above those allowed in the township ordinance, but nothing has been done to remedy this situation. My family is unable to sleep at night without using earplugs. Consol Energy representatives offered a small amount of money as compensation, but they required a signed release that would have absolved them of all responsibility related to the drilling. The township does nothing.
The wells also create air pollution. The clean air has been contaminated with diesel and chemical pollution. Representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection say their budget has been cut and they don’t have the resources to keep up with all the complaints.
I worry about the quality of the air surrounding my home and contaminants in our water supply that could harm me and my family. Nobody seems to have a list of chemicals being pumped into the earth during fracking. The company refuses to test my water for chemicals since the fracking started.
Where is my family’s right to live in a safe, quiet and healthy environment? When we moved here, that is what we had. Now it is all changed. Surely many others are also affected.
Walter A. Kasperowski
7. Matrix Complications in the Determination of Radium Levels in Hydraulic Fracturing Flowback Water from Marcellus Shale
Environmental Science and Technology
(Yuri Gorby, PHD, microbial physiologist, noted at a recent conference that testing may have been detecting only 1-2% of radium levels in flowback water. Jan)
ACS ActiveView PDFHi-Res Print, Annotate, Reference QuickViewPDF [638 KB]PDF w/ Links[220 KB]Full Text HTMLAbstractSupporting Info ->FiguresReference QuickView Add to ACS ChemWorx
Andrew W. Nelson †‡, Dustin May ‡, Andrew W. Knight §, Eric S. Eitrheim §, Marinea Mehrhoff ‡, Robert Shannon , Robert Litman , and Michael K. Schultz *†@
† Interdisciplinary Human Toxicology Program, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, United States
‡ University of Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory, Research Park, Coralville, Iowa 52242, United States
§ Department of Chemistry, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, United States
Quality Radioanalytical Support, LLC, P.O. Box 774, Grand Marais, Minnesota 55604, United States
Radiochemistry Laboratory Basics, 1903 Yankee Clipper Run, The Villages, Florida 32162, United States
@ Departments of Radiology and Radiation Oncology, Free Radical and Radiation Biology Program, University of Iowa, 500 Newton Road, ML B180 FRRB, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, United States
Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett., 2014, 1 (3), pp 204–208
Publication Date (Web): February 10, 2014
Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society
*E-mail: email@example.com. Phone: (319) 335-8019.
The rapid proliferation of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas mining has raised concerns about the potential for adverse environmental impacts. One specific concern is the radioactivity content of associated “flowback” wastewater (FBW), which is enhanced with respect to naturally occurring radium (Ra) isotopes. Thus, development and validation of effective methods for analysis of Ra in FBW are critical to appropriate regulatory and safety decision making. Recent government documents have suggested the use of EPA method 903.0 for isotopic Ra determinations. This method has been used effectively to determine Ra levels in drinking water for decades. However, analysis of FBW by this method is questionable because of the remarkably high ionic strength and dissolved solid content observed, particularly in FBW from the Marcellus Shale region.
These observations led us to investigate the utility of several common Ra analysis methods using a representative Marcellus Shale FBW sample. Methods examined included wet chemical approaches, such as EPA method 903.0, manganese dioxide (MnO2) preconcentration, and 3M Empore RAD radium disks, and direct measurement techniques such as radon (Rn) emanation and high-purity germanium (HPGe) gamma spectroscopy. Nondestructive HPGe and emanation techniques were effective in determining Ra levels, while wet chemical techniques recovered as little as 1% of 226Ra in the FBW sample studied.
Our results question the reliability of wet chemical techniques for the determination of Ra content in Marcellus Shale FBW (because of the remarkably high ionic strength) and suggest that nondestructive approaches are most appropriate for these analyses. For FBW samples with a very high Ra content, large dilutions may allow the use of wet chemical techniques, but detection limit objectives must be considered.
8. Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater Disposal on Water Quality In Western PA
ACS ActiveView PDFHi-Res Print, Annotate, Reference QuickViewPDF [1051 KB]PDF w/ Links[427 KB]Full Text HTMLAbstractSupporting Info ->FiguresReference QuickViewCiting Articles Add to ACS ChemWorx
Nathaniel R. Warner *, Cidney A. Christie , Robert B. Jackson , and Avner Vengosh *
Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708, United States
Environ. Sci. Technol., 2013, 47 (20), pp 11849–11857
Publication Date (Web): October 2, 2013
Copyright © 2013 American Chemical Society
*(A.V.) Phone: 919-681-8050; fax: 919-684-5833; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org., * (N.W.) Phone: 603-646-9961; e-mail: Nathaniel.email@example.com.
The safe disposal of liquid wastes associated with oil and gas production in the United States is a major challenge given their large volumes and typically high levels of contaminants. In Pennsylvania, oil and gas wastewater is sometimes treated at brine treatment facilities and discharged to local streams. This study examined the water quality and isotopic compositions of discharged effluents, surface waters, and stream sediments associated with a treatment facility site in western Pennsylvania. The elevated levels of chloride and bromide, combined with the strontium, radium, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopic compositions of the effluents reflect the composition of Marcellus Shale produced waters. The discharge of the effluent from the treatment facility increased downstream concentrations of chloride and bromide above background levels. Barium and radium were substantially (>90%) reduced in the treated effluents compared to concentrations in Marcellus Shale produced waters. Nonetheless, 226Ra levels in stream sediments (544–8759 Bq/kg) at the point of discharge were 200 times greater than upstream and background sediments (22–44 Bq/kg) and above radioactive waste disposal threshold regulations, posing potential environmental risks of radium bioaccumulation in localized areas of shale gas wastewater disposal.
9. Cove Point LNG Project Gets OK from FERC
(This project will export millions of tons of gas out of the country thus supporting the fracking boom. We will suffer the health and environmental effects. Jan)
Published on Thursday, 15 May 2014 10:14
“Today the staff of the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released an environmental assessment (EA) for the Dominion Cove Point LNG Project. FERC has concluded that approval of the proposed Cove Point LNG Project, with appropriate mitigating measures, would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. Potential impacts would be reduced with the implementation of Dominion Cove Point’s proposed minimization and mitigation measures and over 80 additional measures recommended in the environmental assessment. The Cove Point LNG Project plans to export approximately 5.75 million metric tons per annum of LNG from the Dominion Cove Point LNG Terminal located on the Chesapeake Bay
The proposed facilities associated with the LNG Terminal include the following:
One LNG liquefaction train consisting of gas treatment equipment, natural gas-fired turbine-driven refrigerant compressors, waste heat recovery systems, fire and gas detection and safety systems, and control systems.
Additional power generation including waste heat-driven steam turbine generators and other electrical accessories to supplement the existing on-site power generation.
Minor modifications to the existing pier; and the use of two off-site areas to support construction.
The next step for FERC will be to officially approve or deny the Cove Point LNG Project. Comments on the environmental assessment must be received in Washington, DC on or before June 16, 2014. The FERC Commissioners will take into consideration staff’s recommendations and comments received when they then make a final decision on the Dominion Cove Point LNG Project.
The FERC Cove Point LNG Project environmental assessment can be found online HERE.
To file a comment link to:
10. Bureau Land Management Is Not Inspecting High-Risk Oil/Gas wells
‘The government has failed to inspect thousands of oil and gas wells it considers potentially high risks for water contamination and other environmental damage, congressional investigators say.
Investigators said weak control by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management resulted from policies based on outdated science and from incomplete monitoring data.
The findings from the Government Accountability Office come amid the increased use of fracking. The audit also said the BLM did not coordinate effectively with state regulators in New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.
The bureau has become a symbol of federal overreach to industry groups opposed to government regulations related to oil and gas drilling. Environmental groups say the Obama administration needs to do more to guard against environmental damage.
The report said the agency “cannot accurately and efficiently identify whether federal and Indian resources are properly protected or that federal and Indian resources are at risk of being extracted without agency approval.”
In response to the report, Tommy Beaudreau, a principal deputy assistant interior secretary, wrote that he generally agreed with the recommendations for improved state coordination and updated regulations.
The report makes clear in many instances that the BLM’s failure to inspect high-priority oil and gas wells is due to limited money and staff. BLM officials said they were in the process of updating several of its policies later this year.
Investigators reviewed 14 states in full or part: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. In Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, fracking has become increasingly prevalent.
The report said the BLM had failed to conduct inspections on more than 2,100 of the 3,702 wells that it had specified as “high priority” and drilled from 2009 through 2012. The agency considers a well “high priority” based on a greater need to protect against possible water contamination and other environmental safety issues.
In Pennsylvania, for instance, an Associated Press investigation found the state received 398 complaints in 2013 alleging that oil or natural gas drilling polluted or otherwise affected private water wells. More than 100 cases of pollution were confirmed over the past five years.
“This report reaffirms our concern that the government needs to pay attention to the environment and protect public health and drinking sources from the risks of oil and gas development,” said Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
But Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at the Western Energy Alliance, a trade group representing energy companies, said the report’s findings show that states are better positioned to regulate oil and gas drilling.”
11. Another Study On Climate Harm From Gas Drilling
High Methane and Benzene Levels
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Another study has found that global warming pollution from natural gas drilling and production is likely far greater than estimated by current government emissions inventories.
During two days of intensive airborne measurements, oil and gas operations in Colorado’s Front Range leaked nearly three times as much heat-trapping methane as predicted by current inventory estimates, according to the new study from the University of Colorado-Boulder.
The measurements also found that benzene emissions were seven times higher than existing inventories, and that emissions of other chemicals that contribute to smog were twice as high as estimates.
“These discrepancies are substantial,” said lead author Gabrielle Petron, an atmospheric scientist with the university’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
“Emission estimates or ‘inventories’ are the primary tool that policymakers and regulators use to evaluate air quality and climate impacts of various sources, including oil and gas sources,” Petron said. “If they’re off, it’s important to know.”
The new study, published last week in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmosphere, provides confirmation of findings from research performed from 2008 to 2010 by Petron and her colleagues on the magnitude of air pollutant emissions from oil and gas activities in northeastern Colorado.
For years, the conventional wisdom was that natural gas was a good alternative to coal, producing half the carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy when burned in a power plant. However, natural gas itself is mostly methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, and the conventional thinking didn’t take into account methane emissions during the process of drilling for, producing and transporting natural gas.
Three years ago, the issue gained much more attention with the publication of a study by a team of Cornell University researchers, led by ecology professor Robert Howarth. That study reported that natural gas could be just as bad — or worse — than coal for global warming, especially if the issue is examined on the short time frame in which scientists believe action is needed to curb global warming.
President Obama is targeting greenhouse emissions from coal-fired power plants as part of his plan to combat climate change. But the administration has warmly embraced the natural gas boom, citing the switch from coal to gas for electricity generation as one way to combat climate change.
Last month, a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences likewise reported methane emissions greater than existing estimates based on examination of natural gas wells in Pennsylvania.
“These regional scale findings and a recent national study indicate that overall site leak rates can be higher than current inventory estimates,” that paper said. “Additionally, a recent comprehensive study of measured natural gas emission rates versus ‘official’ inventory estimates found that the inventories consistently underestimated measured emissions and hypothesized that one explanation for this discrepancy could be a small number of high-emitting wells or components.
“These high leak rates illustrate the urgent need to identify and mitigate these leaks as shale gas production continues to increase nationally.”
12. Sen. Whitehouse-- Limit Corporations/Protect Speech
Senate Bill 23217
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has introduced legislation to protect the health and safety of American citizens by limiting the ability of big corporations to demand that plaintiffs remain silent about their experiences as a condition of settling their disputes. Currently, for example, natural gas companies facing lawsuits from citizens who claim their water has been contaminated by the extraction process can require citizens to keep details of their cases secret in exchange for a cash settlement.
Whitehouse’s bill, the Safety over Secrecy Act (S. 2317), could help to limit the use of confidentiality agreements in cases involving hazards to public health and safety.
“While confidentiality agreements can be useful tools to protect sensitive information and trade secrets, too often they are used to hide important safety concerns from regulators, policymakers, the news media, public health experts, and the general public,” Whitehouse said in a prepared statement submitted to the Congressional Record. “Under current law, judges are not specifically required to consider the public interest when determining the enforceability of confidentiality agreements. In cases involving hazards to public health and safety—and only in those cases—this bill would change that, and would require judges to balance a party’s specific interest in confidentiality against the public interest in disclosure of information when approving or enforcing confidentiality agreements.”
An excerpt of Whitehouse’s Congressional Record statement is below.
“Typically in these cases, victims face large corporations that can spend unlimited amounts of money defending lawsuits and prolonging their resolution. Faced with mounting litigation expenses and medical bills, plaintiffs often seek to settle their suits. In exchange for damages, they are forced to agree to provisions that prohibit them from discussing their cases or revealing information disclosed during litigation. Defendants are thus able to keep damaging information from getting out. As a result, the public—as well as regulatory agencies—remain unaware of the risks.
Let’s take fracking, where drillers from Pennsylvania to Arkansas and Wyoming to Texas have entered into cash settlements or property buyouts with individuals who claim fracking has contaminated their water and polluted their air. In the vast majority of these cases, the cost of the awards has been the plaintiffs’ silence. As Aaron Bernstein, associate director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, put it in an interview, non-disclosure agreements “have interfered with the ability of scientists and public health experts to understand what is at stake” in the country’s quickly evolving energy infrastructure.
Perhaps the most notorious case of fracking hush money is the Hallowich case. In that case, Chris and Stephanie Hallowich’s dream house—built on ten acres of land in southwestern Pennsylvania—turned out to be sitting atop the Marcellus Shale, one of the biggest fracking operations in the country. The previous landowner had leased the mineral rights to various gas companies. Soon after moving in, Chris, Stephanie, and their young children began experiencing headaches, nose bleeds, burning eyes, and sore throats. After complaining for three years of what they concluded were the side effects of contaminated air and water, the Hallowiches brought suit. Without accepting responsibility for any health effects, the companies agreed to pay the Hallowiches $750,000 so that they could move off the property, in exchange for the Hallowiches’ promise to remain silent about the case. The case gained international attention when the Pittsburg Gazette obtained an unsealed settlement transcript two years later and discovered that the Hallowiches’ seven and ten year-old children had been gagged for life along with their parents under the confidentiality agreement. Needless to say, these gag orders make it difficult to challenge industry claims about the safety of the fracking process. And fracking is just one of many areas where defendants impose secrecy as a condition of settlement.
Under current law, judges are not specifically required to consider the public interest when determining the enforceability of confidentiality agreements. In cases involving hazards to public health and safety—and only in those cases—this bill would change that, and would require judges to balance a party’s specific interest in confidentiality against the public interest in disclosure of information when approving or enforcing confidentiality agreements. My bill would not prohibit secrecy agreements across the board because there are appropriate uses for such agreements—including protecting trade secrets and other confidential company and personal information. Given its narrow scope, this bill would not place undue burdens on our judges or judiciary system.
In introducing the Safety over Secrecy Act, I want to recognize former Senator Kohl and his Sunshine in Litigation Act, which he introduced in various forms between 1995 and 2011. That bill, which I was proud to support in the Judiciary Committee, was a broader version of the legislation I have just introduced. I supported that bill when Senator Kohl introduced it, and I plan to offer my full support when it is introduced again in this Chamber.
I yield the floor.
13. Rig Count In PA Falls, Gas Production Rises
By Anya Litvak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“It's cheaper to partake in its offerings than in those of other shale plays and, in some cases, investors get twice as much gas for their money as anywhere else. It's so good that traditional ways to calculate its benefits may no longer apply.
Let's take a standard metric: the number of rigs in the ground versus the amount of gas coming out of it.
In Pennsylvania, the rig count has fallen steadily over the past few years. It now hovers just above 85, down from a high of 144 in early 2012. But new gas production has gone drastically in the opposite direction.
During the first quarter of 2014, the amount of gas ascribed to each rig in the Marcellus was 6,476 thousand cubic feet, twice as much as during its rig count peak and two and a half times the average of other shale plays in the U.S.
Part of the credit lies with oil and gas companies that have found quicker and more efficient ways to drill wells.
Efficiencies have moved from the big scale — drilling more than one well per pad, for example — to tweaks that happen underground. The horizontal sections of wells have gotten longer. The number of sections of wells that get fracked has increased, too, while the spaces between those sections has shrunk. And the wells themselves are being drilled closer together.
It now takes, on average, 15 days from start to finish to put a Marcellus well into production, according to Diana Oswald, manager of energy analysis with Colorado-based Bentek. Two years ago, it took twice that long.
Longer horizontal wells are the trend everywhere, not just in the Marcellus. So is tighter spacing and more frack stages per well.
Still, there are wrinkles with the rig-to-production ratio.
The Marcellus, more than some other shale plays, is constrained by a lack of pipelines. Wells are being drilled faster than pipes are being built to carry gas to market. So many wells remain temporarily shut in.
Bill Holland, editor at Gas Daily, a Platts publication, said it's time for a new way to measure productivity, perhaps by pinning gas production to how densely a well is fracked.
"As a generic rule, the connection between rig count and production has been completely destroyed," Mr. Holland declared.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/in-the-lead-2014-stories/2014/05/13/Innovation-Marcellus-Shale-so-good-that-traditional-benefits-no-longer-apply/stories/201405150062#ixzz31q0cunoX
14. Quest Realty Sues Over Sunoco Easement in Penn Twp.
“Nine months after Sunoco Logistics received an easement in Penn Township through eminent domain for a pipeline project, the property owner wants a different Westmoreland County judge to rescind the court order.
In suing Sunoco last week, Quest Realty Partnership is renewing its challenge of Sunoco's right to be considered a public utility under Pennsylvania's Business Corporation Law.
Quest officials also contend that a right-of-way drawing prepared by Sunoco and recorded with the county doesn't identify precisely where Sunoco's 50-foot permanent easement is located.
Common Pleas Court officials assigned the case to Judge Christopher Feliciani, whose colleague, Richard E. McCormick Jr., granted Sunoco's eminent-domain petition on Aug. 2.
Sunoco spokesman Jeffrey Shields said company officials generally do not comment on pending litigation.
The disputed easement is on 89 acres that are bordered by Mellon, Ader and Walton Roads. Quest also owns the William Penn Care Center and William Penn Senior Suites and Personal Care, which are on nearby properties.
Construction on the pipeline already is under way in the region.
The 50-mile pipeline, which will transport ethane and propane as natural-gas liquids, will run from the Houston area in Washington County to Salem Township.
It is part of an infrastructure network that will transport ethane and propane across the state into a small part of Delaware.
“Mariner East is scheduled to begin shipping propane by (the) second half of this year, and both ethane and propane by mid-2015,” Shields said in an email.
15. Well Water Contaminants Highest Near Gas Drilling
(I believe I included Schug’s study in a prior Update, but it is re-surfacing and circulating elsewhere so I am re-printing it. Jan)
July 26, 2013
“A new study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium closest to natural gas extraction sites, according to a team of researchers that was led by UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry Kevin Schug.
Brian Fontenot, who earned his Ph.D. in quantitative biology from UT Arlington, worked with Kevin Schug, UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and a team of researchers to analyze samples from 100 private water wells.
The results of the North Texas well study were published online by the journal Environmental Science & Technology . The peer-reviewed paper focuses on the presence of metals such as arsenic, barium, selenium and strontium in water samples. Many of these heavy metals occur naturally at low levels in groundwater, but disturbances from natural gas extraction activities could cause them to occur at elevated levels.
“This study alone can’t conclusively identify the exact causes of elevated levels of contaminants in areas near natural gas drilling, but it does provide a powerful argument for continued research,” said Brian Fontenot, a UT Arlington graduate with a doctorate in quantitative biology and lead author on the new paper.
He added: “We expect this to be the first of multiple projects that will ultimately help the scientific community, the natural gas industry, and most importantly, the public, understand the effects of natural gas drilling on water quality.”
Researchers believe the increased presence of metals could be due to a variety of factors including: industrial accidents such as faulty gas well casings; mechanical vibrations from natural gas drilling activity disturbing particles in neglected water well equipment; or the lowering of water tables through drought or the removal of water used for the hydraulic fracturing process. Any of these scenarios could release dangerous compounds into shallow groundwater.
Researchers gathered samples from private water wells of varying depth within a 13 county area in or near the Barnett Shale in North Texas over four months in the summer and fall of 2011. Ninety-one samples were drawn from what they termed “active extraction areas,” or areas that had one or more gas wells within a five kilometer radius. Another nine samples were taken from sites either inside the Barnett Shale and more than 14 kilometers from a natural gas drilling site, or from sites outside the Barnett Shale altogether. The locations of those sites were referred to as “non-active/reference areas” in the study.
Researchers accepted no outside funding to ensure the integrity of the study. They compared the samples to historical data on water wells in these counties from the Texas Water Development Board groundwater database for 1989-1999, prior to the proliferation of natural gas drilling.
On average, researchers detected the highest levels of these contaminants within 3 kilometers of natural gas wells, including several samples that had arsenic and selenium above levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. For example, 29 wells that were within the study’s active natural gas drilling area exceeded the EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Limit of 10 micrograms per liter for arsenic, a potentially dangerous situation.
The areas lying outside of active drilling areas or outside the Barnett Shale did not show the same elevated levels for most of the metals.
Scientists note in the paper that they did not find uniformity among the contamination in the active natural gas drilling areas. In other words, not all gas well sites were associated with higher levels of the metals in well water.
Some of the most notable results were on the following heavy metals:
Arsenic occurs naturally in the region’s water and was detected in 99 of the 100 samples. But, the concentrations of arsenic were significantly higher in the active extraction areas compared to non-extraction areas and historical data. The maximum concentration from an extraction area sample was 161 micrograms per liter, or 16 times the EPA safety standard set for drinking water. According to the EPA, people who drink water containing arsenic well in excess of the safety standard for many years “could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.”
Selenium was found in 10 samples near extraction sites, and all of those samples showed selenium levels were higher than the historical average. Two samples exceeded the standard for selenium set by the EPA. Circulation problems as well as hair or fingernail loss are some possible consequences of long-term exposure to high levels of selenium, according to the EPA.
Strontium was also found in almost all the samples, with concentrations significantly higher than historical levels in the areas of active gas extraction. A toxicological profile by the federal government’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recommends no more than 4,000 micrograms of strontium per liter in drinking water. Seventeen samples from the active extraction area and one from the non-active areas exceeded that recommended limit. Exposure to high levels of stable strontium can result in impaired bone growth in children, according to the toxic substances agency.
“After we put the word out about the study, we received numerous calls from landowner volunteers and their opinions about the natural gas drilling in their communities varied,” Hildenbrand said. “By participating in the study, they were able to get valuable data about their water, whether it be for household or land use.
“Their participation has been incredibly important to this study and has helped us bring to light some of the important environmental questions surrounding this highly contentious issue.”
The paper also recommends further research on levels of methanol and ethanol in water wells. Twenty-nine private water wells in the study contained methanol, with the highest concentrations in the active extraction areas. Twelve samples, four of which were from the non-active extraction sites, contained measurable ethanol. Both ethanol and methanol can occur naturally or as a result of industrial contamination. Historical data on methanol and ethanol was not available, researchers said in the paper.
The paper is called “An evaluation of water quality in private drinking water wells near natural gas extraction sites in the Barnett Shale formation.” A Just Accepted version is available here on the journal website.