Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates May 29, 2014
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* 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.
***Rally and Lobby to Protest Fracking of Our State Forests and Parks, Harrisburg, June 17
Clean Water Action and Sierra Club are sponsoring a rally and lobby day at 1 pm on June 17th in Harrisburg to protest Gov. Corbett’s recent decision to allow further fracking beneath our state forests and parks. Unlike the recent fight in Allegheny County, State Democratic legislators are united in their opposition to this move by the Corbett administration. Rides from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg are being co-oridinated by Clean Water Action – please contact Tom Hoffman at 412.523.2255.
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!
***Don’t let Gov Corbnett Fracking More State Parks and Forests
Gov. Corbett just lifted the moratorium on leasing our state parks and forests for fracking. Our legislators could stop him--but only if you act now. Send a message to your legislators today.
Gov. Corbett just lifted a three-year moratorium on leasing of state forests and parks for gas drilling.
He is hoping we’ll all just forget about the ways fracking has already devastated Pennsylvania. We’re no fools. We know more drilling means more blowouts, more spills of toxic fracking wastewater, and more ruined landscapes.
The governor’s order will allow drilling under our state parks for the first time. The Legislature is the last line of defense for our state parks and forests--and that’s why I need you to act immediately.
Tell your state representative and state senator to fight Gov. Corbett’s effort to open more of our state parks and forests for fracking.
Already more than 700,000 acres of our state forests have been leased for gas drilling. That’s more than 40 percent of our existing state forestlands.
But the drillers want more--and sadly, Gov. Corbett is happy to hand it to them.
Tell the Legislature to stop this wrong-headed idea.
It just makes sense: Our parks are some of the best natural places in our state. They should not be sold off for private gain and put at risk.
We cannot stand back and watch as more of our state is opened to drilling.
Click here to stand up for our state parks and forests today.
***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:
***PCN TV Court Hearing- Act 13 –The remaining 4 issues (from Debbie)
The May 14th Commonwealth Court session from Philadelphia aired Tuesday, May 27. Here is the link. It is now posted on the site but will only be available for about a month so watch it now.
***Video Beaver Meeting –“Living in a Fracking Sacrifice Zone “
Panel with Yuri Gorbi, Bill Hughes, Jill Kriesky
***Dr. Jerome Paulson- LINKS BETWEEN UNCONVENTIONAL GAS EXTRACTION AND HUMAN HEALTH
Thank you to Bob Donnan for taping and getting this video on you tube
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.
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.
.***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/
All articles are excerpted. Please use links for the full article.
1.OUR BURGEONING GAS PATCH—
Pictures and Videos from Bob Donnan
(Is this what we want near our homes and schools? Jan)
By Dob Donnan:
“Burgeon: “To develop rapidly, flourish”
As I quickly realized five years ago, you really have to get airborne to have any idea what is going on with the O&G extraction and processing industry in our tri-state area. Usually you can’t see much from public roads. So let’s take a fresh aerial look at what things looked like in our area 3 days ago.
Sites of interest take on various flavors including a drilling pad (Trax Farm where EQT is drilling 11 wells close to homes), failed Range Resources impoundments (John Day Impoundment), Range sites already in court (Yeager pit & pad), the cancerous-like metastasizing MarkWest site near Houston Pa, the rail yard full of frac sand rail cars, propane & probable ‘Bakken oil bomb’ rail cars (Rook Rail Yard in Carnegie just a few miles from downtown Pittsburgh), the most recently completed well pad in Cross Creek County Industrial Park, and the newest super-sized processing plant on a former mountaintop just southeast of Moundsville WV (Oak Grove).
We continue to try new camera technology on flights, having ongoing successes while suffering intermittent failures (the Nikon GPS device appears to be kaput, and the latest mounting method used for the GoPro 1080HD camera picks up too much vibration causing a wave effect in videos). But after 27 flights over the tri-state, I hope to continue to bring the public a very real look at what shale gas drilling and extraction is doing to our region’s landscape, air and water. Photos and videos don’t lie, showing it like it really is. Today’s reality check begins here:
TRAX FARM (Union Township) – I am getting reports from neighbors about the excessive noise levels from a recent hissing sound where EQT is in the process of drilling 11 wells on a former Chesapeake pad. Notice they didn’t completely surround the site with sound walls, probably a cost-cutting measure:
JOHN DAY IMPOUNDMENT (Amwell Township) – You may recall the news one month ago regarding Range’s latest leaky 15 million gallon pit where they now have to remove a large volume of contaminated soil. When will these toxic pits be BANNED?? Here’s a look at how that work is proceeding:
Bumpy video due to turbulence
YEAGER FRAC – This pit and production area is at the core of a major lawsuit against about 20 subcontractors who worked on Range Resources’ Yeager site. Even with the lawsuit well underway, and set to go to trial in January, Range’s credo here is frac you:
MARKWEST HOUSTON PA – A couple of friends continue to work to get moved away from this ever-growing blight to our county’s air and landscape, disaffectionately known as OLE SMOKEY for all the black plumes it has released into our air over past years. If I see any black clouds above our neighborhood, seven miles away, this is my first suspect:
On the other side of the ridgeline is their propane railout,
with plans to ship 200 rail cars per day:
ROOK RAIL YARD – This rail yard usually has more of those black tank rail cars that could be carrying propane from the MarkWest Houston plant, or that highly explosive Bakken crude (aka ‘oil bomb trains’) while legislation loiters that would take dangerous DOT-111 tank cars (half or more of the US fleet) off the tracks or force them to be retrofitted for better safety in derailments:
CROSS CREEK COUNTY “INDUSTRIAL?” PARK – Fresh look at the Pandora’s Box our three county commissioners opened when they extended the surface drilling lease to include 7 new well pads inside the park by the year 2020:
OAK GROVE – Imagine removing another mountaintop in scenic West Virginia (just southeast of Moundsville) to build a humongous de-ethanization plant to extract ethane from the wet gas to transport via pipeline out of the area, more than likely to a cracker plant which will further process the ethane for plastic manufacturing. What really opens your eyes is that this same company (Williams) has another super-sized plant closer to Moundsville along the Ohio River, and there are now close to a dozen super-sized gas processing plants in a fairly close radius around Wheeling WV:
It took 3 days each to transport those two fractionation
towers up narrow, twisty country roads to this site:
AND FINALLY: ‘HOLY COMPRESSOR STATIONS BATMAN!’ – We’ve seen compressor stations built in our county that often begin with a couple 1,380 HP (horsepower) compressors (for moving gas through pipelines) and then grow to 5 or 6 compressors, usually remaining under a 20,000 HP threshold. Compare that to this monster compressor station in West Virginia, not far from that Oak Grove site. I count twelve compressors here batman, and they sure don’t look like the smaller models:
Remember the old adage:
“First come the wells, then the pipelines, then the compressor stations.”
...and that adage leaves out all the truck traffic.
If they are drilling wells near you, where will compressor stations be located?”
2. Mark Houston Plant Lightning Strike
By Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Lightning hit a gas refinery plant in Washington County Wednesday, and an ensuing fire caused a leak of product that formed a plume over the plant, county 911 operations manager Ken Bollinger said.
Residents in a 2-mile area were evacuated, but were allowed to return to their homes around 9:40 p.m.
"It appears there may have been some product leaking into the atmosphere," he said. Neighbors reported seeing a plume over the refinery.
The plant will remain shut down until a thorough inspection has been completed, Mr. McHale said in a statement. Company officials did not immediately identify the substance or substances that composed the plume observed over the plant.
The county Department of Public Safety's hazardous materials team is on site monitoring air quality and "anything in the atmosphere," Mr. Bollinger said. Public safety director Jeffrey Yates is also on-scene.
The Houston Borough Volunteer Fire Department started evacuating homes closest to the plant and "moved outward until they felt the plume had dissipated," he said.
About 50 people gathered at the Charters fire hall late Wednesday.
Anthony Mankey, who lives about a mile from the refinery, sat with his wife, Linell, and children, Carolyn, 11, and Jacob, 9. He said he's thought about moving and has had concerns about the refinery before, having heard "strange noises and loud bangs," as he did tonight.
"You could hear the roar from the processing plant," he said.”
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/washington/2014/05/28/Residents-evacuated-after-Washington-County-gas-refinery-leak/stories/201405280210#ixzz3355CeDrG
3. Two More Drilling Sites Found To Contain Radioactive Frack Sludge - Washington County
DEP sees no threat
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Range Resources has confirmed that Marcellus Shale drilling sludge with radioactivity content too high for normal landfill disposal is stored at two more of its drilling pads in Washington County.
Waste containing higher radioactivity levels is being temporarily held by Range at the Malinky pad and the MCC pad in Smith, near Mount Pleasant. Earlier this month, drilling sludge from Range Resources' Carter drill pad and impoundment in Mount Pleasant was also found to have higher radioactivity readings.
State DEP spokesman John Poister said the stored waste doesn't present a health threat to nearby workers or residents.
In March, Range trucked the drilling waste to the Arden Landfill in Chartiers, Washington County, but the landfill rejected the shipment after it set off alarms at the gate, indicating its higher radioactivity reading, Mr. Poister said.
The DEP said radioactivity levels of the two red metal boxes on the Malinky pad were measured at 212 microrems. Range said the radioactivity level of the MCC pad waste was also at "about 200 microrems an hour."
Matt Pitzarella, Range Resources, said the radioactivity measurements at the landfill were done very close to the Malinky containers, but the radioactivity declined to background levels quickly within a short distance from the containers. He said the lab characterizations of radioactivity can take several weeks.
State oil and gas regulations give Range one year to remove the waste bearing radioactivity from the drill pad sites where it is being stored in large metal containers properly identifying their radioactivity content, but Mr. Pitzarella said he expects disposal of the Malinky waste material this week.
Mr. Poister said the DEP is encouraging landfills to enforce radioactivity rules. "We've been talking to landfills and encouraging them to reject loads with radioactivity higher than 150 microrems because we want more thought given to how we handle this and what goes into landfills. It's something we feel is necessary given the oil and gas boom."
He said it's "not uncommon" for wastewater to have picked up natural radiation washed from the underground shale formation. Normal background radiation in the area is between six and eight microrems.
He said Range told the DEP it has not yet determined where the loads of higher radioactivity materials will be disposed. Range must alert DEP 72 hours before the radioactive loads are moved, notify the department of the final disposal site and provide receipts.”
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/2014/05/27/Two-more-containers-found-with-Marcellus-Shale-sludge-radioactivity-in-Washington-County/stories/201405270162#ixzz3333OzZmC
4. Corbett Lifts Moratorium On State Parks
“Governor Corbett issued an executive order overturning a 2010 state moratorium on new oil and gas leasing of public park and forest land.
It allows companies to extract gas horizontally from wells located on adjacent private land or in areas of state forests where leases already exist.
Former Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, leased about 130,000 acres of state forest land to gas companies, before he instituted a moratorium on future leasing during his last year in office.
Corbett expects the new leasing to raise $75 million immediately, in leasing bonus payments. In the order, he also directs DCNR to spend future royalty revenue on upgrading park and forest infrastructure and acquiring land.
However, it’s not clear he has the legal authority to do that.
Pennsylvania’s fiscal code was amended in 2009. It states that no royalty money from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund may be expended unless appropriated by the General Assembly.
And although the governor’s proposal could allow for more drill rigs, equipment, and truck traffic in public forests, DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti has said the administration does not view that as an additional surface disturbance.
“I know that’s out there– about the increased truck traffic, etcetera,” she said at a February budget hearing. “If a new well bore is permitted, that is not a new or additional surface disturbance. These are old leases that were already executed.”
The state’s main gas industry trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition praised the plan as a common-sense approach.”
5. Court Hearing- Attempt To Halt State Forest Drilling
BY MARIE CUSICK
“The state Commonwealth Court heard testimony today on an effort to prevent the Corbett administration from opening up more public park and forest land to natural gas drilling.
As part of a larger lawsuit, the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (PEDF) is seeking a preliminary injunction to halt additional leasing of public land and the transfer of $117 million from the state Oil and Gas Lease Fund for DCNR’s operating budget.
Governor Corbett issued an executive order ending a four-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing of park and forest land in a effort to raise $75 million dollars for this year’s budget.
The administration has called the order a restrictive approach to expanding drilling. It allows companies to extract gas horizontally from wells located on adjacent private land or in areas of state forests where leases already exist.
jj“We learned very quickly this would be different”
Penn State University forestry professor James Grace was the first witness to testify on behalf of the PEDF.
Grace chairs the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) natural gas advisory committee and served as its Bureau of Forestry director when the gas boom began during the Rendell administration.
At the time, Grace says the department only had experience will shallow, conventional gas extraction and didn’t know how to handle the size and scale of Marcellus Shale development.
“We learned very quickly this would be different from what we experienced in the past,” he said.
He praised the current efforts by DCNR to mitigate adverse impacts from drilling– in particular its recently published Marcellus monitoring report–but he says he doesn’t believe the state should engage in new leasing until the impacts of development are fully understood.
“I’m not opposed drilling for gas on state forest land,” he said. “It’s a question of scale.”
During cross-examination attorney Sean Concannon–who represents Governor Corbett–quizzed Grace on several of the gas leases he signed during his time at DCNR.
Concannon pointed to the extensive list of restrictions the department routinely places on gas companies– including the spacing and location of wellpads, plugging requirements, and land reclamation.
“This lease is intended to be as comprehensive as possible, correct?” said Concannon.
“I’m not going to argue the lease protocols aren’t the best they can be,” Grace replied. “I’m more concerned about the cumulative impacts. There have been accidents and mistakes.”
“The forest was being treated as a cash cow”
Former DCNR Secretary John Quigley testified next, and he did not mince words when it came to his former boss, Governor Ed Rendell.
“The state forest was being treated as a cash cow,” Quigely said of the leasing that took place under Rendell. “That was extraordinarily dangerous and presented an existential threat to the resource.”
He went on to say he was “shocked and angered” in 2009 when the legislature amended the state fiscal code to give the General Assembly control over how royalty money from the state’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund was spent. It had previously been managed by DCNR.”
# # #
PATRIOT-NEWS, DON GILLILAND:
PATRIOT-NEWS, EDITORIAL BOARD
POST-GAZETTE: LAURA LEGERE
You Can Support the Lawsuit --From the PA Forest coalition -----“Lawsuits are very expensive.
Support PEDF's legal action vs. the Governor's plan to lease more gas rights under State Parks & Forests. Please donate whatever you can and then pass the hat with your organizations.
Mission: Good Stewardship of our Public Lands
Support Our Constitutional Right to Clean Air & Water !
Join Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation's legal action against Governor Corbett.
The PA Forest Coalition will match the first $4,000
donated - Just mention "PFC Matching"
6. Lawrence County Forced Pooling Lawsuit
“Carole and Bob Valentine, along with neighbors Martin and Suzanne Matteo and Steve Emery, filed a lawsuit asking the state Commonwealth Court to stop Hilcorp Energy Co. from taking Utica Shale gas that is trapped 7,400 feet beneath their properties. The land accounts for roughly 35 acres of a larger 3,232-acre area Hilcorp calls the “Pulaski Accumulation.”
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“The bluebird nesting boxes are full of hungry chicks, and umbrella-like leaves shade the long red row of rhubarb on Carole and Bob Valentine's 10 rural acres, hard against the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line in the northwest corner of Lawrence County.
Neither the bluebirds nor the rhubarb knows what the Valentines know: This slice of land they all call home is in the cross hairs of a landmark and precedent-setting legal battle over whether Hilcorp Energy Co. can use "forced pooling" to drill and hydraulically fracture the Utica Shale underneath the Valentines' property and take their gas -- even though the couple have repeatedly turned down company offers to lease the drilling rights.
"We are right dead center in the bull's-eye," said Mr. Valentine, a factory worker and former steelworker, who has lived on his green piece of West Middlesex for more than 30 years. "We told them no, and they say they're going to take our gas anyway. It's stealing our gas and our rights, and I think we have to stand up for our rights here."
Earlier this month the Valentines and the owners of two other properties, Martin and Suzanne Matteo and Steve Emery, filed a lawsuit saying they don't want to sell the shale gas they own, and asking the state Commonwealth Court to stop Hilcorp from taking the gas under their properties.
A court decision that allows Hilcorp to pool and tap the unleased Utica Shale gas might also open the door for new state legislation that would allow "forced pooling" for unleased Marcellus Shale properties too. That would be a major expansion of existing law that raises property-rights questions and could also prove politically problematic. Gov. Tom Corbett who has embraced shale gas development, is opposed to "forced pooling," having called it "private eminent domain."
Ms. Valentine said she and her husband turned down multiple lease offers from Hilcorp landmen because they don't like the disruptions, air pollution, truck traffic, spills and noise drilling has caused in nearby communities.
"Most of the people around here sign leases for the money, but that doesn't mean anything to us," she said. "We like nature and wildlife. And we own the property and pay taxes on it. If we don't want to sell our mineral rights, we won't. Under the constitution we have that right."
But the Houston, Texas-based drilling company, citing provisions of the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Law of 1961 that allow the "involuntary integration" and extraction of certain unleased oil and gas holdings, has applied to the state DEP for a permit to drill Utica Shale formation gas from 3,267 acres in northwest Lawrence County and southwest Mercer County.
Hilcorp calls the area, about 55 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, the "Pulaski Accumulation." It includes 3,232 acres the company has under lease agreement, and approximately 35 acres where the Valentines, Matteos, Emerys and two other property owners have declined to lease their land.
The Hilcorp permit application is the first in 30 years to invoke the "forced pooling" provision of the 53-year-old law, according to the DEP. It's also the first time the law has been used to justify a permit proposal for an "unconventional" shale gas well development, which uses directional drilling and "fracking," which injects millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand to crack the shale formation and release the gas it holds.
"The court will make a decision on the constitutionality of applying the law to the Utica," she said, "so it makes no sense to proceed with the hearings while the court is considering a decision that will control the outcome of the permitting."
Commonwealth Court will ultimately decide if the little-used Conservation Law's provision allowing use of "forced pooling" trumps private property rights and prohibitions against using state eminent domain powers to benefit private corporations.
Omar Abuhejleh, the Pittsburgh attorney representing the three landowners who brought the lawsuit, said Hilcorp's proposal is unconstitutional and violates the state's eminent domain code because it would take private property for Hilcorp's private, for-profit, enterprise. The lawsuit he filed asks the court to temporarily and permanently enjoin shale gas drillers from using the Conservation Law to justify drilling into shale holding unleased oil and gas.
"Hilcorp wants to take their gas. This is a takings case," Mr. Abuhejleh said. "The issue here is forced pooling and what the property owners' rights would be if they are integrated into the pool."
But the Hilcorp case may hinge on the even finer point of whether the pooling arrangement in the 1961 law is technically applicable to the fracking and collecting of shale gas, said John C. Dernbach, a law professor and co-director of the Environmental Law Center at Widener University.
"The shale is not a pool, so there is a threshold legal question of whether the language in the statute makes sense for shale gas extraction," Mr. Dernbach said. "Fracking under someone's land where you don't hold a lease, cracking the rock under that land is I think different than the capture rule, which allows drillers to drain gas and oil from a common reservoir under adjacent properties.
"But whether technically all the issues with spacing and pooling set out in the 1961 law make any sense for hydraulically fracturing the Utica Shale, I can't answer that."
"Hilcorp targeted us, but its goal long-term is to do this everywhere else, all over the state," said Mrs. Matteo, because the Utica Shale formation runs under all but five counties in Eastern Pennsylvania. "I never wanted to fight fracking, but it's something that's happening all around me and it has scared the hell out of me."
Don Hopey: email@example.com or 412-263-1983.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/nation/2014/05/18/Neighbors-sue-driller-Utica-Shale-forced-pooling/stories/201405180097#ixzz32V1ELLf7
7. American Lung Association Now Promotes Gas As Cleaner After Big Donation From Industry
“The American Lung Association had acknowledged that fracking causes massive amounts of cancer-causing air pollution, and urged stronger regulations, but after receiving hefty donations from a fracking company, the ALA switched to falsely promoting gas as "cleaner”. The public, deserve to know the shameful truth about the ALA. The organization claims to work to reduce lung diseases, yet partners with the single worst contributor to air pollution (and global climate disruption) - the fossil fuel industry, which actually causes respiratory and other illnesses. The ALA "supports the increased use of natural gas" as a "transitional fuel." Yet the officers and board of the ALA know full well that "natural" shale gas* is now primarily obtained by the dangerous process of fracking.
cancer for every 400 persons. Federal regulations allow for cancer risks to be no more than an additional cancer for every 10,000 persons.
Ralph Carlisle, the manager of a regional scrap yard called Brady Recycling, says he doesn’t have to read the white paper to know just how serious a risk the water poses. Carlisle keeps a Geiger counter on hand to protect his business from contaminated metals. He says 3 out of 4 water tanks, pipes, or other metal exposed to Hill Country drinking water are too radioactive for him to accept.”
8. Utah Anesthesiologist Speaks On Infant Mortality and Pollution
Some notes from the video:
“In this video, Anesthesiologist, Dr. Moench, President of Utah Physicians for A Healthy Environment, discusses why Utah will become the epicenter of the global warming crises. Uinta Basin has 4,300 oil and 6,900 gas producing wells and is out of compliance with federal air standards. Consequently, Dr Moench’s organization is suing the EPA.
The UT Dept of Health will conduct a study of infant death records. (This is in regard to the observed increased in infant mortality in the area. )He says, “This is a pollution nightmare. Uintah Basin has the highest levels of pollution in Utah, which includes the deadly compounds-benzene and toluene. The concentration of these toxic compounds in the atmosphere of the basin is higher than what would be produced by 100 million vehicles. If there is a pollution nightmare, there will be a public health nightmare.
Infant mortality increases as air pollution increases. They cannot say for sure each infant death is due to industry pollution, but they think the evidence suggests air pollution must have played a role in this. There is also a very high rate of birth defects in the area. “
Watch the interview on msnbc:
9. Residents In SE PA Fight Pipeline
“The region is beginning to experience the tradeoffs long familiar to those who live on top of the Shale—more job opportunities and more disruption.
“It’s at our door”
Sherry Wolfe lives in Lebanon County and is upset about plans to build a new natural gas pipeline through the area.
“We all know what’s going on in the Marcellus Shale,” she says. “But it seems like it’s far away. Now it’s here. It’s at our door, and it’s frightening.”
The pipeline is part of a larger $3 billion Atlantic Sunrise expansion by Oklahoma-based pipeline company, Williams Partners.
Williams already operates the Transco system, which has over 10,000 miles of pipeline moving gas to other businesses, like utility companies and power plants. The Atlantic Sunrise project would increase Transco’s capacity by about 20 percent.
The new pipeline would also cut through several nature preserves in Lancaster County. When word of that got out, a local group quickly formed to fight the project.
“A lot of people who live in the southern end feel the same way I do,” she says. “We live here for a reason. We like the privacy, we like the beauty, we like the peace and serenity and the nature that’s around us.”
Williams’ spokesman Chris Stockton says although this pipeline expansion project isn’t designed to bring Marcellus gas to Pennsylvanians, it will serve millions of other people—in cities like Baltimore, Washington D.C. and as far south as Alabama.
“The Atlantic Sunrise project] is not designed to serve Pennsylvania,” he says. “But it could potentially in the future. The gas in the Transco system already provides about a third of the gas consumed in Pennsylvania.”
10. Radionuclides in Fracking Wastewater: Managing a Toxic
Environmental Health Perspectives DOI:10.1289/ehp.122-A50
“Perhaps nowhere is the question of drilling waste more salient than in Pennsylvania, where gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale using hydraulic fracturing (fracking) made the state the fastest-growing U.S. producer between 2011 and 2012.3 The Marcellus is known to have high uranium content, says U.S. Geological Survey research geologist Mark Engle. He says concentrations of radium-226—a decay product of uranium—can exceed 10,000 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) in the concentrated brine trapped in the shale’s depths.
Fluids trapped in the shale are remnants of ancient seawater. The salts in shale waters reached extreme concentrations over millions of years, and their chemical interactions with the surrounding rock can mobilize radionuclides. Several studies indicate that, generally speaking, the saltier the water, the more radioactive it is.
Dissolved compounds often precipitate out of the water, building up as radionuclide-rich “scale” inside pipes. To remove the pipe-clogging scale, operators might inject chemicals to dissolve it. Scale also may be removed mechanically using drills, explosives, or jets of fluid, in which case it joins the solid waste stream.
Wastes are often stored temporarily in containers or in surface impoundments, also called pits and ponds. Data on how many such ponds are used in shale gas extraction are sparse, but according to Kasianowitz, there are 25 centralized impoundments in Pennsylvania. Centralized impoundments can be the size of a football field and hold at least 10 million gallons of liquid.
Most impoundments are lined with plastic sheeting. Pennsylvania requires that pit liners for temporary impoundments and disposal have a minimum thickness of 30 mil and that seams be sealed to prevent leakage. However, improper liners can tear, and there have been reports of pit liners tearing and pits overflowing in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
A small 2013 study of reserve pits in the Barnett Shale region of Texas suggested another consideration in assessing pit safety. Investigators measured radium—the radionuclide generally used as a proxy to judge whether NORM waste complies with regulatory guidelines for disposal—as well as seven other radionuclides not routinely tested for. Although individual radionuclides were within existing regulatory guidelines, total beta radiation in one sample was more than 8 times the regulatory limit. “Evaluating the single radionuclide radium as regulatory exposure guidelines indicate, rather than considering all radionuclides, may indeed underestimate the potential for radiation exposure to workers, the general public, and the environment,” the authors wrote.
Ultimately most wastewater is either treated and reused or sent to Class II injection wells (disposal or enhanced recovery wells). A small fraction of Pennsylvania’s fracking wastewater is still being treated and released to surface waters until treatment facilities’ permits come up for renewal under new, more stringent treatment standards, Kasianowitz says.
Concerns about NORM in the Marcellus have recently focused on surface waters in Pennsylvania. That’s because until 2011, most produced water was sent to commercial or public wastewater treatment plants before being discharged into rivers and streams, many of which also serve as drinking water supplies. In April of that year PADEP asked all Marcellus Shale fracking operations to stop sending their wastewater to treatment plants, according to Kasianowitz. Although voluntary, this request motivated most producers to begin directly reusing a major fraction of their produced water or reusing it after treatment in dedicated commercial treatment plants that are equipped to handle its contaminants.
A team of Duke University researchers led by geochemist Avner Vengosh sought to characterize the effluent being discharged from one such plant, the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility in southwestern Pennsylvania. The researchers compared radioactivity and dissolved solids in sediment both up- and downstream of the facility and found a 90% reduction in radioactivity in the effluent. The radioactive constituents didn’t just disappear; the authors noted that most had likely been transferred and accumulated to high levels in the sludge that would go to a landfill.
Stream sediments at the discharge site also had high levels of radioactivity, keeping it out of the surface water downstream but posing the risk of bioaccumulation in the local food web. The outflow sediment radiation levels at the discharge site were 200 times those in upstream sediments. The study highlighted “the potential of radium accumulation in stream and pond sediments in many other sites where fracking fluids are accidentally released to the environment,” says Vengosh.
The study also demonstrated another potential impact of treated brine on water quality. Most produced water contains bromide, which can combine with naturally occurring organic matter and chlorine disinfectant to form drinking water contaminants called trihalomethanes. These compounds are associated with liver, kidney, and nervous system problems. The Duke researchers reported highly elevated concentrations of bromide over a mile downstream from the plant—a potential future burden for drinking water treatment facilities downstream.
Following the 2011 policy change, Ohio’s Class II injection wells began to receive much of Pennsylvania’s end-stage wastewater. Pennsylvania’s geology does not lend itself to this method; the state has only six injection wells available for this purpose, while Ohio has 177,10 and Texas has 50,000.14
Class II injection wells place the wastewater below the rock strata containing usable groundwater. Conventional industry wisdom says this prevents migration of contaminants into shallower freshwater zones.
But some believe this may be a flawed assumption. The reason fracking works to force gas out of the rock is also why some observers think injection wells could be unstable— the extreme pressure of injection can take nearly a year to dissipate, according to hydrologic consultant Tom Myers, who published a modeling study of fracking fluids’ underground behavior in 2012.
Myers says the lingering higher-than-normal pressure could bring formation waters, along with fracking chemicals, closer to the surface far faster than would occur over natural geological time scales of thousands of years. This is particularly true if there are faults and/or abandoned wells within the fracking zone.
Another study has demonstrated the possibility that formation water can migrate into freshwater aquifers through naturally occurring pathways. Although the pathways were not, themselves, caused by gas drilling, the study authors suggest such features could make certain areas more vulnerable to contamination due to fracking.
Asked about the integrity of deep-injection wells, Vengosh says, “As far as I know nobody’s actually checking.”
Fracking wastes may also be disposed of through “beneficial uses,” which can include applying produced water as a road de-icer or dust suppressant, using drilling cuttings in road maintenance, and spreading liquids or sludge on fields. Pennsylvania allows fracking brine to be used for road dust and ice control under a state permit. While the permit sets allowable limits for numerous constituents, radioactivity is not included.
Conventional wisdom about radium’s stability in landfills rests on an assumption regarding its interaction with barite (barium sulfate), a common constituent in drilling waste. However, Charles Swann of the Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute and colleagues found evidence that radium in waste spread on fields may behave differently in soil than expected. When they mixed scale comprising radium and barite with typical Mississippi soil samples in the laboratory, radium was gradually solubilized from the barite, probably as a result of soil microbial activity. “This result,” the authors wrote, “suggests that the landspreading means of scale disposal should be reviewed.”
Solids and sludges can also go to landfills. Radioactivity limits for municipal landfills are set by states, and range from 5 to 50 pCi/g.25 Since Pennsylvania began requiring radiation monitors at municipal landfills in 2001, says Kasianowitz, fracking sludges and solids have rarely set them off. In 2012 they accounted for only 0.5% of all monitor alarms. They “did not contain levels of radioactivity that would be acutely harmful to the public,” according to a 2012 review of Pennsylvania’s fracking practices by the nonprofit State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations. Dave Allard, director of PA DEP’s Bureau of Radiation Protection, points out that because all soils contain at least some radionuclides, “you’re always going to have some radium, thorium, and uranium, because these landfills are in soils.”
At the federal level, radioactive oil and gas waste is exempt from nearly all the regulatory processes the general public might expect would govern it. Neither the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 nor the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act covers NORM. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has no authority over radioactive oil and gas waste. State laws are a patchwork. Workers are covered by some federal radiation protections, although a 1989 safety bulletin from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration noted that NORM sources of exposure “may have been overlooked by Federal and State agencies in the past.”
Fracking in the Marcellus has advanced so quickly that public understanding and research on its radioactive consequences have lagged behind, and there are many questions about the extent and magnitude of the risk to human health. “We are troubled by people drinking water that [could potentially have] radium-226 in it,” says David Brown, a public health toxicologist with the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. “When somebody calls us and says ‘is it safe to drink our water,’ the answer is ‘I don’t know.’”
PADEP is conducting a study to determine the extent of potential exposures to radioactive fracking wastewater. The PADEP study will sample drill cuttings, produced waters, muds, wastewater recycling and treatment sludges, filter screens, extracted natural gas, scale buildup in well casings and pipelines, and waste transport equipment. PADEP will also evaluate radioactivity at well pads, wastewater treatment plants, wastewater recycling facilities, and landfills.
The EPA is studying the issue with a review of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing, including radioactivity, on drinking water resources. A draft of the EPA study will be released for public comment and peer review in late 2014, according to Christopher Impellitteri, chief of the Water Quality Management Branch at the agency’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory.
The EPA study includes research designed to assess the potential impacts from surface spills, well injection, and discharge of treated fracking wastewater on drinking water sources. One project will model the transport of contaminants, including radium, from treatment outflows in receiving waters. Field and laboratory experiments will characterize the fate and transport of contaminants in wastewater treatment and reuse processes. Groundwater samples are being tested for radium-226, radium-228, and gross alpha and beta radiation. The overall study does not include radon.29
Both radon and radium emit alpha particles, which are most dangerous when inhaled or ingested. When inhaled, radon can cause lung cancer, and there is some evidence it may cause other cancers such as leukemia. Consuming radium in drinking water can cause lymphoma, bone cancer, and leukemias. Radium also emits gamma rays, which raise cancer risk throughout the body from external exposures. Radium-226 and radium-228 have half-lives of 1,600 years and 5.75 years, respectively. Radium is known to bioaccumulate in invertebrates, mollusks, and freshwater fish, where it can substitute for calcium in bones. Radium eventually decays to radon; radon-222 has a half-life of 3.8 days.
Geochemically, radon and radium behave differently. Radon is an inert gas, so it doesn’t react with other elements and usually separates from produced water along with methane at the wellhead. Although there are few empirical data available, the natural gas industry has not been concerned about radon reaching its consumers in significant amounts, in part because of radon’s short half-life and because much of it is released to the atmosphere at the wellhead.
Vengosh says PADEP has reports of hundreds of cases of spills and contamination that involved fracking fluids. Furthermore, he says, “The notion that the industry can reuse all flowback and produced water is simply not possible, given the chemistry of the wastewater.”’
… And even if fracking the Marcellus ceased overnight, the questions and potential problems about radioactivity would linger. “Once you have a release of fracking fluid into the environment, you end up with a radioactive legacy,” says Vengosh.”
11. Range Resources Equipment Failure Causes Leak – Washington County
“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.
DEP spokesman John Poister said Range Resources reported the “equipment failure” at the Herman Pad in Mt. Pleasant to Washington County 911 at 7:14 a.m. Wednesday. The local volunteer fire department and Range Resources personnel responded.
No injuries were reported.
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.”
Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further information.”
12. Santa Cruz First County in California to Ban Fracking
“Santa Cruz County in California triumphed Tuesday to become the state’s first county to ban fracking. The county’s board of supervisors voted 5-0 to prohibit fracking, as well as gas and oil development within its boundaries.
The county’s board of supervisors voted 5-0 to prohibit fracking, as well as gas and oil development within its boundaries.
“We congratulate the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors for their historic vote towards protecting California’s air and water, and for setting a positive example for other counties and Gov. [Jerry] Brown,” said Adam Scow, California Director of Food & Water Watch.
Members of Food & Water Watch, 350.org, Environment California, Center for Biological Diversity, Californians Against Fracking, Santa Cruz Sierra Club, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom rallied outside with students from University of California, Santa Cruz and county supervisor John Leopold after the vote to celebrate the victory. The Santa Cruz board voted last September to enact a 10-month moratorium on fracking and all oil and gas drilling. Tuesday’s vote makes that decision permanent.”