Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates
June 5, 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.
*** Family-friendly acoustic music and fun, June 8 (Pittsburgh, Shadyside), 5:00-9:00 pm: Benefit for Protect Our Parks
at Shadyside Nursery, 510 Maryland Ave. “Weather Permitting.”
***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 Corbett Frack 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:
***Link to Shalefield Stories-Personal stories of those affected by fracking
***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 Skytruth 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. Robinson Township Supervisors Plan To Weaken Ordinance On Drilling
“Robinson Township residents are at odds over proposed amendments to the township zoning ordinance and map, and nearly 100 people attended a public hearing at the Fort Cherry High School auditorium to voice their opinions on the possible revisions.
The current zoning ordinance, passed in December 2013 by the previous board, included amendments to how the township would address agriculture, the oil and gas industry and property subdivison. However, supervisors Rodger Kendall and Steve Duran, who won their seats in November, announced intentions at that time to repeal or make substantial changes to the zoning ordinance and map as soon as they took office.
The zoning ordinance and map are being revamped to prepare for the arrival of the Southern Beltway, which will run through Robinson Township.
In all, 21 residents took to the podium during the hour-long meeting. Overwhelmingly, residents addressed the topics of gas drilling – which, under the proposed ordinance, will be permitted in four districts: agricultural, industrial, Residential 1 and IDB, and will require conditional use approval in special conservation, commercial, general residential, and Residential 2 districts – and farming regulations.
“I support the proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance and zoning map. The new zoning districts allow for growth along the new turnpike and state Route 22 if developers choose to do so. It still keeps agricultural and rural residential areas in the township. I am in favor of this amendment and I support the new supervisors,” said Bob Foley of Bulger.
Many residents voiced support for the supervisors and the proposed zoning ordinance, including Jim Cataney who spoke on behalf of his family and said, “We are in favor of the zoning changes and thank supervisors for looking out for the best interest of our township.”
Others did not share that sentiment.
Resident Cathy Lodge contends that the proposed ordinance is a “re-enactment of the unconstitutional portions of Act 13 and proposes to allow gas drilling in all zoning districts.”
Said Lodge, “This is a clear violation of the Supreme Court ruling and in violation of the state constitution. No municipal government may simply decide what they wish to allow where.”
Lodge said the proposed zoning ordinance is illegal and that residents can, and should, challenge it in court.
Attorney Michael Oliverio, representing former supervisor Brian Coppola, who voted in December to approve the current zoning ordinance, also said he believed the ordinance is unconstitutional.
And Andrew Zimmer said he believes the proposed zoning ordinance does not do enough to regulate gas companies.
“If you pass these ordinances as they are now, you can’t go back. If you give the gas companies free reign, the damage cannot be undone.”
Kendall and Duran said following the public hearing they are confident the proposed ordinance is legal, and the current one contains dozens of problems and restrictions on property owners and farm owners. Before the current zoning ordinance was approved in December, companies could apply for permits by conditional use. That was changed, and the current ordinance requires companies to apply for permits through a special exception application.
“The gas companies have to meet four pages of conditions in order to get approval,” said Duran.
They also believe the current ordinance places too many restrictions on farmers, including limiting the operation of equipment to the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and think the proposed zoning ordinance addresses those issues.
Supervisor Mark Brositz said he thinks some parts of the proposed zoning ordinance will benefit the township, specifically those items that address farming, but he said he cannot support the entire ordinance.
“I feel like it’s a wholesale rezoning of the township. There’s no line item veto, where I can vote against the parts of the ordinance I don’t agree with, so I can’t support it,” said Brositz, who thinks the ordinance is not strict enough regarding oil and gas regulation. “I’m not against any kind of drilling, I just want rules. I don’t feel we should give up some rules for energy security because I don’t believe it’s giving us energy security. The gas is sold to the highest paying customer, even if it’s outside the continental United States.”
Residents attend a hearing on zoning and drilling in Robinson, Washington County.
“Supervisors chairman Rodger Kendall — who is a leaseholder with driller Range Resources — proposed the zoning changes after taking office in January. Zoning rules that were adopted in December “restricted the [oil and gas] industry very much,” he said.
A May letter from the five-member planning commission listed concerns about the proposed zoning amendments, including its legality, lack of control over natural gas development, instances of spot zoning and inconsistencies with the comprehensive plan that “could create controversy and potential litigation issues.”
`Supervisors must vote on the proposal within 45 days.”
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/washington/2014/06/02/Public-weighs-in-on-zoning-and-drilling-proposal-in-Robinson-Washington-County/stories/201406020193#ixzz33Y38wNiV
2. Act 13 Summary by David Ball
Comment by Debbie:“Dave Ball prepared the following summary of the PA Supreme Court decision on Act 13 in regard to zoning. He wrote it in response to the attempt by the two new pro-fracking supervisors in Robinson Twp to change their local zoning ordinances to allow fracking as a "permitted use" in all zoning districts.
I think we should print this out and give it to all of our supervisors and solicitors in all of our townships.
And as a reminder, Dave is a plaintiff on the Act 13 lawsuit, both as a private citizen and as councilman for Peters Township. “
-------------By David Ball
“Zoning is a limited police power granted to municipal governments and is intended to assure that one person’s enjoyment of his or her rights does not interfere with the rights of another person. A zoning district is a geographically designated area into which are grouped like or compatible uses. Zoning exists to protect the due process rights of property ownership as well as to protect the health, safety, morals and welfare of the community as a whole.
Section 3304 of Act 13 granted the gas industry the right to drill in all zoning districts and to operate compressor stations and processing plants in most districts. Section 3303 of Act 13 declared that state environmental laws “occupy the entire field” of oil and gas regulation, to the exclusion of local ordinances.
The Supreme Court unambiguously struck down sections 3303 and 3304 as unconstitutional. They said that local municipalities could zone and could regulate the location of gas drilling AND they had to do this in a manner consistent with the environmental protection amendment, Article 1, Section 27 of the Constitution. They also clearly stated that gas drilling is an industrial operation and may not exist in a residential area or any other area where the stated uses are incompatible with industrial operations.
The proposed Robinson ordinance seems to be a “re-enactment” of the unconstitutional portions of Act 13 and proposes to allow gas drilling in all zoning districts. This is a clear violation of the Supreme Court ruling and in violation of the State Constitution. Therefore it is an illegal ordinance. No municipal government may simply decide what they wish to allow where. Land uses must conform to the Constitutional mandates regarding zoning, one of which is that the uses included in a zoning district must be compatible.
Any Supervisor voting to enact such an ordinance should be aware that to knowingly enact an illegal ordinance could subject that supervisor to personal liability. It may also place the municipality’s insurance coverage in jeopardy as insurance companies are increasingly prone to deny coverage under such circumstances.
If such an ordinance should be enacted, citizens have every right, and indeed obligation, to challenge it in court as well as suing those who enacted it.
I hope this very brief summary helps. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org
PS. Please note that I am not a lawyer and I do not represent this explanation as legal advice. It is an observation of what the SC said. “
3. Crews Still Removing Soil From Leaking Jon Day Impoundment
Estimated 10,000 Tons Contaminated
“A “broken” leak-detection monitor beneath the Jon Day impoundment led to a significantly larger breach of brine water than originally estimated as cleanup crews continue work to remove as much as 10,000 tons of contaminated soil from the Amwell Township site, state environmental regulators said .
Heavy rain this week hampered the cleanup because crews must stop work when storms approach, cover the entire site and then vacuum up the rain water using a specialized truck before continuing the soil removal.
By Friday afternoon, workers removed about 5,800 tons of contaminated soil from the Range Resources impoundment since a tear in the liner was discovered April 16, with the amount expected to climb even higher, DEP spokesman John Poister said.
“Our inspectors have voiced some very strong concerns to Range about this,” Poister said. “Range is responding. They’re doing the job, but they have a big job over there.”
The impoundment was last used by Range to store the salty brine water 11 months ago, leading to concerns by the DEP about how long it was leaking into the ground and remained unnoticed. Poister said the leak-detection monitor never alerted the company of the problem because it was “crushed” either during construction or filling of the impoundment.
“We obviously have a lot of questions about why the leak-detection system was compromised, or broken, and why it wasn’t discovered sooner,” Poister said. “If it was undetected here, could it be undetected elsewhere? We’re concerned about that and have voiced those concerns to Range about these impoundments.”
Even with the increased amount of contaminated soil at the site, he said the DEP has found no evidence that it reached groundwater or affected residents near the area.”
4. PA Dept. Conservation and Natural Resources Former Secretary Testifies
Opposes More Leasing of State Forests
“Forcing the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to lease more state land for gas drilling by dictating a revenue goal in the annual state budget is "a knife in the heart" of the agency's core mission, said former DCNR Secretary Michael DiBerardinis during testimony in Commonwealth Court Monday afternoon.
DiBerardinis explained that the department is tasked with managing the state forest ecosystem in a sustainable way, to balance all interests in the public natural resource for its preservation and future use by citizens of Pennsylvania.
"It's why the agency exists," he said. "To take that away from the department is to take its meaning, its reason to be."
Yet that's what began to happen in 2009 after Gov. Ed Rendell and the Legislature realized that millions could be raised from gas leases on the state forest, millions they could use to plug budget holes, rather than as outlined in law further preserving the state's natural resources.
DiBerardinis became animated on the witness stand as he described the threat: "If you get people reaching in from the outside telling us 'Lease this' now - that destroys what I thought was the mission of the agency - to manage in a sustainable way.
"Look," he said, "if somebody else is going to tell you how much to lease and where to lease, why do you need us? You don't need foresters who give their whole lives to this... If that's the way the game is going to be played, it's just a waste of money."
It might also be unconstitutional.
That's the gist of the legal case before the court: that Rendell, and now Corbett following in his footsteps, have - along with legislators - placed short-term budget considerations above their constitutional duties under Article 1 Section 27.
Rather than managing the forests as trustee, the suit argues the forests have instead been managed for quick lucre.
The Supreme Court's December ruling on Act 13 gave Article 1 Section 27 new force. The plurality opinion written by Republican Chief Justice Ronald Castille eloquently condemns the exploitation of state resources for short-sighted profit motives.
The immediate action before the court is a request for an injunction against any further leases of state land and any further diversion of revenues from gas leases to general fund uses until the full case is decided.
DiBerardinis was the second DCNR Secretary to testify on Monday, and both lent considerable support to the lawsuit's central thesis that responsible management of the state forests went out the window in 2009 after the first round of Marcellus leases brought in approximately $160 million - more than anyone had imagined.
John Quigley, DiBerardinis's chief of staff at the time and who succeeded him as DCNR secretary, called it "an oh shit moment."
Rendell froze the proceeds of the sale and diverted them to the general fund budget, which was contrary to the 1955 law that created the Oil & Gas Lease Fund, which established the principle that money generated from the public lands should be reinvested back into the public lands.
Quigley explained how the legislature then amended the fiscal code in 2009 to give itself the sole authority to appropriate oil and gas revenues, a move he called "an effective repeal of the Oil and Gas Lease Fund Act."
Since then, the Corbett administration has increasingly used money from the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to pay for general operations at DCNR. While the attorney for the governor attempted to demonstrate that the money is still being used for many of the same purposes, Quigley shot back: "When you reduce the agency budget from $220 million to $35 million, it doesn't give the agency much choice but use the money to run the show."
Previously, he said, the agency was required by law to use money from gas leases to fund conservation, recreation and flood control.
DiBerardinis explained a memo he sent to Rendell less than a month before he resigned in the spring of 2009 telling the governor that he and the DCNR staff were opposed to further leasing.
"The context of this memo," DiBerardinis said Monday, "is there was growing interest in directing the department - directing the department, not letting us manage the forests as we saw best, but directing us to do more leasing, to direct us at budget time 'You have to get this much money and lease this much land.'"
` DiBerardinis said the agency's ability to perform its core mission - to manage the forests in a sustainable way - was being threatened.
"Once you start getting directed," he said, "somebody else is calling the shots."
DiBerardinis noted that the very first Marcellus lease was done in response to growing pressure, especially from members of the legislature, some of whom were touting legislation that would have opened up all 2.1 million acres of state forest to drilling.
"We were very nervous about that," DiBerardinis said. "We thought that would be disastrous."
One of those legislators, he noted, was Sen. Mary Jo White. White's chief of staff at the time, Patrick Henderson, is now Gov. Corbett's chief advisor on energy issues.
DiBerardinis said the first lease was done with full consultation of the foresters - they had control of "the where and how much."
In subsequent leases, Quigley testified, the department was directed by the governor and the legislature to lease however much land was required to meet their budget goal.
Under those circumstances, DiBerardinis said, "The fundamental management tool has been taken away from you."
He said, "I believed then and I believe it now - this is wrong."
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"
5. Scientists Believe First Conclusive Link Between Aquifer Contamination and Fracking
June 14, 2014For the past two years, News 8 has aired a series of stories of flames shooting from water wells in Parker County. Dangerous levels of methane gas somehow found its way into the water supply.
While Barnett Shale gas producers deny any connection to their operations, a pair of scientists are now disputing that. They say test results just released by state regulators provide concrete evidence linking fracking and groundwater contamination.
Parker County resident Steve Lipsky first noticed it in 2010. His well water was becoming contaminated with increasing levels of methane gas. So much so that once he vented his well, natural gas would come streaming out. He illustrates the volume of gas by lighting the vent on fire at night.
Today, the contamination has become so bad, even his well water ignites.
"Oh, it's getting worse,” Lipsky said. “That's what I'm trying to tell you."
Last summer, Lipsky filed a complaint with state oil and gas regulators at the Texas Railroad Commission. Tests were conducted by the Texas Railroad Commission and it issued its official findings.
The methane concentration levels in Lipsky's water is up slightly, the report indicates. It also states that the chemical make-up of the methane was inconclusive as to a specific source of the gas.
Specifically, the tests conducted by the state showed Lipsky's water contained 8.6 milligrams per liter of methane, just under the federal government's unacceptable limit of 10. But tests recently run by University of Texas at Arlington scientist Zac Hildebrand measured 83 milligrams per liter, the highest methane contamination level he says he has ever seen.
"But what we can say right now is that those are dangerous -- that's a dangerous level," Hildebrand said.
Lipsky says the Railroad Commission knew its concentration tests were not accurate.
Test data supplied in the report measured the chemical make-up of both the gas found in Lipsky's water and from two nearby gas production wells, called the Butler and the Teal. According to the Railroad Commission report "the evidence is insufficient" to determine if the two samples match.
Yet an inspection of the test data shows the chemical signature - known as the isotopic analysis - of the Barnett Shale gas is 46.52. The chemical signature measurement of the gas in Lipsky’s well is 46.63, an almost identical match.
"The methane and ethane numbers from the Butler and Teal production are essentially exactly the same as from Lipsky's water well,” said earth scientist Geoffrey Thyne of Wyoming, who reviewed the data for WFAA. “It tells me that the gas is the same, and that the gas in Lipsky's water well was derived from the Barnett formation."
We also asked soil scientist Bryce Payne of Pennsylvania to review the data. He agrees, saying the gas in Lipsky's water (referred to in the report as well number 8) is clearly the result of fracking operations.
"The gas from well number 8 is coming from the Barnett and it's coming nearly straight from the Barnett," Payne said.
What's more, both Thyne and Payne believe these test results could represent the nation's first conclusive link between fracking and aquifer contamination.
And what we seem to have here is the first good example that that in fact is happening,” Thyne said.
When we asked them to respond to the alleged discrepancies, state officials declined, instead giving us a statement: "Railroad Commission staff stands behind the conclusions reached in the May 23rd report. We are aware of other ongoing studies in the area, and we welcome the opportunity to review any future reports."
But Lipsky said he will no longer ask state regulators for protection. He said the new evidence is illuminating and overwhelming, and that residents of the Barnett Shale must act now to protect their water.
"Unless people get off the couch and vote or do something, who's going to stop them from continuing doing what they are doing?" Lipsky said.”
6. Leaked EPA Draft Suggests Closer Scrutiny Of Frack Waste Treatment Plants
“An internal draft EPA document leaked to DeSmog gives a small window into how, after a full decade since the start of the drilling boom, the agency is responding.
The document, dated March 7, 2014, is titled “National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permitting and Pretreatment for Shale Gas Extraction Wastewaters: Frequently Asked Questions.”
It's revealing for what it shows about how EPA staff are taking the hazards of fracking wastewater more seriously — and also how little things have changed.
It's far more in-depth than the prior FAQ. It has twice as many pages as the version the EPA published in 2011, after it was revealed that regulators had allowed industry to send hundreds of millions of gallons of this waste through municipal water treatment plants in Pennsylvania that were not equipped to remove its most dangerous toxins before the water was then discharged into rivers, sometimes just a mile or so upstream from drinking water intake pipes.
The EPA's new draft document now lists almost two dozen individual substances — like benzene, radium, and arsenic — that it says have been found at high enough levels in shale wastewater to cause concern. By contrast, the 2011 version focused mostly on the high levels of salts found in the waste.
The new document also explains that the substances it lists are not the only potential pollutants that must be removed before water can be considered fully treated and ready to enter rivers and streams. It explains that each treatment plant can only take wastewater once regulators are satisfied that they know what is actually in it.
This has been an ongoing challenge for regulators in the past, as the industry has refused to reveal some of the actual chemicals or their levels to the public because, they explain, it would put them at a competitive disadvantage by potentially disclosing trade secrets.
The new EPA document also serves as a final nail in the coffin for a common industry talking point. This is the claim that fracking's waste is harmless because it is 99 percent sand and water, with a few chemicals like those used in ice cream mixed in.
“The wastewater that is generated after hydraulic fracturing operations is essentially salt, sand and water,” Energy in Depth, the shale industry's public relations arm, wrote on Jan. 3.
But, in its dry technical jargon, the EPA explains that tests have found chemicals and heavy metals in the shale industry's waste at levels high enough to pose hazards to drinking water safety, human health and the environment.
“Further examination based on type of criteria showed that: drinking water maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) were exceeded for 8 parameters; water quality criteria for human health protection were exceeded for 9 parameters; and criteria for aquatic life protection were exceeded for 16 parameters,” the EPA's new draft document explains.
These hazards are drawing increased attention from federal regulators in the wake of recent reports that fracking chemical exposures can be fatal. In at least four cases, the chemicals in fracking waste have been so powerful that they have killed workers, according to a May 19 announcement by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
“According to our information, at least four workers have died since 2010 from what appears to be acute chemical exposures during flowback operations at well sites in the Williston Basin (North Dakota and Montana),” the researchers wrote. “While not all of these investigations are complete, available information suggests that these cases involved workers who were gauging flowback or production tanks or involved in transferring flowback fluids at the well site.”
Experts including EPA officials, environmental advocates and front-line scientists who reviewed the EPA's draft FAQ document for DeSmog generally praised it as thorough. But the document also drew criticism for failing to directly address one of the key issues in wastewater disposal: recycling.
Of course, the EPA's draft document on the wastewater must be read against the backdrop of certain realities. Laws are only as good as their enforcement.
The EPA's new document is strong in many ways. But recent history has shown us nothing if not that the EPA often pulls out of enforcement actions and investigations when confronted by strong industry opposition. To be clear, the front-line scientists and regional officials in closest contact with the effects of shale gas extraction have rarely been the problem when it comes to enforcement. It has often been the political appointees that have pulled back on the federal agencies' duties.
In June, the agency pulled out of investigating water contamination claims in Pavilion, WY after the industry and its allies in Congress pushed back against the EPA's initial findings (EPA's own internal watchdog Inspector General later concluded that the original investigation had been justified).
Al Armendariz, who was the EPA's top administrator for oil-rich southern states including Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana, was driven from office after Republicans in Congress took aim at him over comments he made about his approach to law enforcement. There was also the instance where EPA pulled back from its investigation in Dimock, Pennsylvania in 2012 — but then internal agency documents obtained by the LA Times showed staff believed fracking had caused water contamination there.
Nowhere is this pattern clearer than when it comes to the Congressionally-mandated federal fracking study that is supposed to assess whether fracking poses a threat to drinking water. That study is now long overdue, and it serves as a textbook example of the dichotomies within EPA.
According to the New York Times, which reviewed leaked drafts of the study over time, important topics like landfill runoff from drilling waste disposal sites and modeling whether rivers can dilute fracking wastewater after it is processed by treatment plants, were cut from study plans as they progressed up to the political appointees, at times over the objections of EPA staffers on the front line.
EPA higher-ups even attempted to muzzle staff and prevent them from speaking about ambitions in that study, the leaked documents showed.
“He could not have been more adamant or clear about the development of any documentation related to our efforts on Marcellus,” David Campbell, director of the E.P.A. Region 3 Office of Environmental Innovation, wrote as he described the instructions he had been given by the agency’s regional administrator, Shawn M. Garvin. “His concern is that if we spell out what we think we want to do (our grandest visions) that the public may have access to those documents and challenge us to enact those plans.”
With internal conflicts rendering the EPA slow and erratic in its response to fracking-related pollution problems, citizen groups have tried to fill the void and enforce environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act. These groups have sued over treatment plants that have failed to fully remove pollutants before releasing the wastewater into drinking water supplies.
“Because state and federal agencies have not taken an aggressive approach to dealing with drilling wastewater discharges, it has taken years to start to get this problem under control,” explained Mr. Arnowitt. “Going to court is not an easy route to take for citizen groups to get action on gas drilling wastewater discharges. The cost of litigation is always an issue, especially if you are trying to get court action in a timely manner.”
7. John Stolz’s Study Of Woodlands’ Contaminated Water
“John Stolz began researching the effects of gas-drilling in 2010, not long after the hydrofracturing boom took hold in Pennsylvania. These days, the Duquesne University microbiologist regularly serves as an independent expert on how fracking can affect well water.
His best-known research involves the Woodlands, a rural Butler County community where residents began complaining of declining well-water quality shortly after gas drilling began there in 2010. Many still rely on donated water to survive. Recently, Stolz — director of Duquesne University's Center for Environmental Research and Education — completed a three-year study, including water testing and surveys of Woodlands residents. A summary released in April reported that 56 of the 143 households surveyed (39 percent) had seen changes in their water quality, most often involving the water's color or smell. Though the findings are complex, the study concluded that it's "quite plausible" that drilling and related activities — including some 65 horizontal wells in the immediate area — had affected the local hydrology. (The full report is due in June.)
Contamination isn't unique to the Woodlands: Statewide, the DEP has confirmed more than 250 cases where drilling-related activities damaged water supplies. And recently, Stolz's research team collected samples from a Washington County community where fracking is occurring. "It's red water, it's brown water, it's black water," he says.
Stolz is also technical adviser to a coalition of environmental groups that has been meeting with state officials in Harrisburg to try to improve how the state deals with drilling-related water-quality issues. The group includes representatives from six groups, including the Sierra Club and Penn Environment. "I'm glad to have John in the room" to explain technical points, says Steve Hvozdovich, who represents Clean Water Action on the coalition.
"Our goal is to help DEP do their job better," says Stolz.
Among other issues, the coalition notes that when citizens complain of fouled water, the state routinely tests for only a narrow range of contaminants — usually leaving out dangerous toxins like mercury, chromium, cadmium and beryllium. "They could be reporting on more stuff," says Stolz.
The coalition's key Harrisburg contact has been Scott Perry, the deputy secretary of DEP's Office of Oil and Gas Management. "We very much value their input," says Perry of the coalition. But Perry sounds unlikely to back a change in testing standards. He says that unless other contaminants are suspected, the DEP tests only for substances likely to indicate contamination related to drilling. To "test for everything under the sun every single time," he tells City Paper, is both inappropriate and a strain on resources.
"When we're talking about health and safety and whether someone has safe drinking water, to me that's tough to place a price tag on," argues Hvozdovich. "If it's a resource issue, then our state needs to step up."
Stolz also worries that drillers and regulators pay too little attention to "legacy issues" — the presence of old coal mines and conventional gas wells drilled before the fracking arrived on the scene. He believes contaminants associated with mine drainage that are found in some water wells are caused by new "conduits" in the rock created by fracking. He says old mines in places like the Deer Lakes Park area might well cause problems if drilling happens.
"The damage," he says, "is gonna start popping up in places it's never popped up before."
8. Radioactive Frack Waste-Who Will Take It?
Sludge rejected in PA, sent to WVA
“As the drilling rush proceeds at a fast pace in PA, nearby states have confronted a steady flow of toxic waste produced by the industry. Range Resources, attempted on Tuesday to quietly ship tons of radioactive sludge, rejected by a local landfill, to one in nearby West Virginia where radioactivity rules are still pending. It was only stopped when local media reports brought the attempted dumping to light.
“We are still seeking information about what happened at the Pennsylvania landfill two months ago when the waste was rejected, and about the radiation test results the company received from the lab,” Kelly Gillenwater, a West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which had tracked the waste after it was rejected by a Chartiers, PA landfill because it was too radioactive. “For now this is still under investigation.”
It's one of a series of incidents involving the disposal of fracking's radioactive waste. Collectively these incidents illustrate how a loophole for the oil and gas industry in federal hazardous waste laws has left state regulators struggling to prevent the industry from disposing its radioactive waste in dangerous ways.
Range Resource's sludge, transported in two roll-off boxes (the type commonly seen on the backs of dumptrucks), was rejected by the Arden Landfill in Chartiers, PA, on March 1 after it tripped radioactivity alarms. After returning the radioactive sludge to the wellsite for storage, the company hauled it on Tuesday to the Meadowfield landfill in Bridgeport, WV.
The Meadowfield landfill, like the Arden Landfill, is owned by Waste Management, but the two sites differ in one crucial respect: Meadowfield lacks a radiation detector, while Pennsylvania law required the Arden landfill to maintain one. So no radiation alarm was triggered at Meadowfield.
Ms. Gillenwater told the local press that West Virginia's inquires did not begin until state officials read about the dumping in a Pittsburgh newspaper.
Those 12 tons of sludge, from the Malinky wellpad in Smith Township, showed radiation levels of 212 millirems (normal background radiation in the area is roughly 7 to 8 millirems). West Virginia officials said the sludge that's been dumped in Meadowfield will be allowed to stay.
But Range Resources, which is currently storing unusually radioactive fracking waste at two other wellpads in Pennsylvania's Washington county, was forbidden to haul that material to West Virginia until regulators find out more about the potential hazards.
Several of Range Resources wells — the MCC and Malinky well pads in Smith Township and the Carter well pad in Mt. Pleasant — have produced sludge with unusually high levels of radioactivity this year.
A Range Resources spokesman, Matt Pitzarella, was quick to dismiss concerns, appearing in local news reports and seeking to downplay the incident.
The levels of radioactivity found in the sludge are in fact over twenty times background levels — not enough to cause harm to anyone standing a few feet away, but enough to cause concern that if the sludge were to wash into one of two nearby creeks, tributaries of the Monongahela River, it could pollute those waterways. In neighboring Ohio, which has also grappled with disposing Pennsylvania's fracking waste, environmentalists have also raised concerns about how liquid leachate from landfills that store radioactive waste will be disposed.
Perhaps the most striking thing about this incident is the fact that state regulators were only alerted to the shipment by press reports.
For most industries, a federal law, the Resource Recovery and Conservation Act, requires that hazardous materials (haz-mat) be closely tracked and disposed of under tight controls. Shippers must maintain a manifest that tracks every ounce as haz-mat moves from cradle to grave.
But under an exception to that federal law, crafted in 1988, much of the oil and gas industry's toxic waste is not regulated by the EPA's haz-mat rules. Although agency officials discovered strong evidence that the waste was dangerous, pressure from the Reagan White House kept their conclusions out of the report that the agency ultimately delivered to Congress.
The state does now require landfills to install monitors with alarms that go off if trucks carrying radioactive waste pass through. Landfills are supposed to reject any waste emitting over 150 millirems. A 2012 investigation by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette found that “nearly 1,000 trucks, carrying a total of 15,769 tons of Marcellus Shale waste were stopped at Pennsylvania landfill gates after tripping radioactivity alarms.”
When those trucks were turned back, that waste had to go elsewhere. And neighboring states have rules about disposing of fracking waste that are far more lax than in Pennsylvania. The patchwork of regulations means that rules can vary dramatically from state to state, and drillers can avoid costly regulatory compliance by crossing state lines.
“[Radioactivity monitoring] currently is not a requirement under West Virginia law,” Gillenwater told West Virginia's MetroNews. “However, legislation was passed recently requiring the DEP to implement rules related to that and our agency is actually in the process right now of drafting rules related to that.”
Earlier this month, the New Jersey state Senate approved a bill that would ban fracking waste disposal in the state. New York and Massachusetts are considering similar measures. West Virginia's rules, when they go into effect, will require that radioactive fracking waste be stored in separately constructed lined pits.
But the state that has seen the greatest amount of waste from Pennsylvania's fracking rush, Ohio, still has weak regulations for solid fracking waste, a May 13 investigation by Propublica concluded. The investigation found that over 100,000 tons of solid waste from Pennsylvania drilling wound up disposed in Ohio.
“It has the potential to leave a toxic legacy,” Alison Auciello of Food and Water Watch, an environmental advocacy organization, told Propublica, “that could turn much of Ohio into potential superfund sites.”
Marcellus Shale waste trips more radioactivity alarms than other products left at landfills
By Anya Litvak Pittsburgh Post-Gazette August 2013
“Last year, nearly 1,000 trucks hauling 15,769 tons of Marcellus Shale waste were stopped at Pennsylvania landfill gates after tripping radioactivity alarms.
The trucks were pulled to the side, wanded with hand-held detectors and some of the material was sent to laboratories for further evaluation. In the end, 622 tons were shipped to three out-of-state landfills specifically designed to dispose of hazardous and radioactive materials.
But most of the flagged waste was eventually allowed past the gates. It was safe enough to be buried along with other waste as long as it stays below the annual limit, the DEP and landfill operators deemed.
The increase in radiation alarms going off at landfills has mirrored the growth in Marcellus Shale activity, and the DEP has launched a yearlong study of radioactive Marcellus waste to determine any risks involved in its transportation or disposal.
The majority of the waste was drill cuttings -- chunks of earth pulled out of the well during the drilling process -- but there was also flow-back water, frack sand and other fluids that were turned into sludge for disposal.
It's these sludges that experts say are most likely contributing to elevated radiation counts.
According to the DEP, Marcellus sludge is three times more likely to trip alarms than solid shale waste. Last year, 224 loads of drill cuttings elicited alarms at landfills, while 773 loads of sludge did the same. So far this year, 211 loads of sludge and 124 loads of drill cuttings tripped alarms, the DEP said.
Kelvin Gregory, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University who works on Marcellus water issues, said the peak of radioactivity in wastewater comes after the initial gush of flow-back water comes to the surface after fracking. Radium concentrations are highest in produced water, a term that describes the brine that continues to flow out of the well for long periods of time after that well starts producing gas.
In a survey of flow-back and produced water at 46 Marcellus sites, Mr. Gregory found radioactivity increases for two months on average, then he saw plateaus.
Whether the level stays at that high concentration forever or tapers off at some point isn't yet clear, Mr. Gregory said. The wells haven't been producing long enough to tell.
In April, a truckload from Rice Energy arrived at Max Environmental's Yukon Landfill in Westmoreland County and set off the alarm. The waste was deemed too radioactive.
The company shopped it around to a few landfills, but no one would take it, Mr. Poister said. Eventually, the truck went back to the source while arrangements were made to transport the waste to a specialized disposal site in Idaho.
"We've taken quite a bit of drill cuttings at our Yukon facility this year, and only one truck triggered the radiation alarm," said Carl Spadaro, environmental general manager of the Yukon landfill. "Other landfills have had alarms triggered quite a bit."
Yukon accepts about 90,000 tons of waste annually and just last month amended its permit to be able to accept waste that trips radiation alarms.
"We didn't do this to bring in a lot of [radioactive] waste," Mr. Spadaro said. "We did this to level the playing field."
Yukon competes with two other landfills within a 5-mile radius.
"The biggest concern is exposure of a landfill worker during unloading and somebody who's handling material," Mr. Spadaro said.
The exposure level allowed at Pennsylvania landfills is a quarter of the EPA's public radiation dose limit of 100 millirem per year.
"This is equivalent to about two chest X-rays," said Kevin Sunday, a former spokesman for the DEP.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/marcellusshale/2013/08/22/Marcellus-Shale-waste-trips-more-radioactivity-alarms-than-other-products-left-at-landfills/stories/201308220367#ixzz33hvrqRdZ
9. 250 Medical Organizations Sign On to Letter To NY Gov. Cuomo
“Yesterday, a broad-based coalition of more than 250 medical organizations, health experts and researchers - mostly from NYS but some luminaries and fracking researchers from elsewhere as well - sent a letter to NY's Governor Cuomo and our new acting Department of Health commissioner, Dr. Zucker. The letter lays out recent science and trends in the data and calls for a 3-5 year concrete moratorium. Note that the national Physicians for Social Responsibility is among the signatories, as are the American Academy of Pediatrics District II, American Lung Association in NY, Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, numerous breast cancer networks, many doctors and even some county health departments.
The letter is available online: bit.ly/1kO3jFu
The letter carefully lays out trends in the data with dozens of careful citations and is fully fact checked. Those parts, in particular, may be useful to borrow from.
As the letter puts it, "The totality of the science—which now encompasses hundreds of peer–reviewed studies and hundreds of additional reports and case examples—shows that permitting fracking in New York would pose significant threats to the air, water, health and safety of New Yorkers.”
Some excellent press coverage as well:
Times Union: Health groups urge 3-5 gas frack ban by Cuomo http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Health-groups-urge-3-5-gas-frack-ban-by-Cuomo-5515089.php
NYSNYS News: Hydrofracking opponents want 3- to 5-year moratorium http://www.troyrecord.com/general-news/20140529/hydrofracking-opponents-want-3-to-5-year-moratorium
Innovation Trail (NPR affiliate): Doctors ask DOH for more time to study fracking http://innovationtrail.org/post/doctors-ask-doh-more-time-study-fracking
May 29, 2014
The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224
Acting Health Commissioner Howard A. Zucker
New York State Department of Health Corning Tower Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY 12237
Dear Governor Cuomo and Acting Health Commissioner Zucker,
We, the undersigned physicians, nurses, researchers and public health professionals, write to update you on the alarming trends in the data regarding the health and community impacts of drilling and fracking for natural gas. The totality of the science—which now encompasses hundreds of peer–reviewed studies (Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE), 2014) and hundreds of additional reports and case examples—shows that permitting fracking in New York would pose significant threats to the air, water, health and safety of New Yorkers. At the same time, new assessments from expert panels also make clear that fundamental data gaps remain and that the best imaginable regulatory frameworks fall far short of protecting our health and our environment.
Concerned both by the rapidly expanding evidence of harm and by the uncertainties that remain, we urge you to adopt a concrete moratorium of at least three to five years while scientific and medical knowledge on the impacts of fracking continues to emerge.
Many of us have previously submitted official comments that highlight various studies and data that raise a range of concerns about impacts to public health. In light of such concerns, New York has wisely maintained a de facto moratorium. However, since the close of the last public comment period, the body of scientific studies has approximately doubled in size. Moreover, the pace at which studies are emerging has accelerated: the number of studies on the health effects of fracking published in the first few months of 2014 exceed the sum total of those published in 2011 and 2012 combined. (Mobbs, 2014).
All together, these new data reinforce the earlier evidence, reveal additional health problems associated with drilling and fracking operations, and expose intractable, irreversible problems. They also make clear that the relevant risks for harm have neither been fully identified nor adequately assessed. While the scope of concerns and new information is far greater than this letter can accommodate, trends in the data include the following:
Evidence linking water contamination to fracking–related activities is now indisputable.
An investigation by the Associated Press has confirmed cases of water contamination in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Texas (Begos, 2014). Fracking-related contaminants detected in water sources within the last twelve months include methane (Jackson et al., 2013),radium (Vengosh, Jackson, Warner, Darrah, & Kondash, 2014), arsenic (Fontenot et al., 2013), and hormone-disrupting substances (Kassotis, Tillitt, Davis, Hormann, & Nagel, 2014).
Reviewing the entirety of the evidence, the Council of Canadian Academies concluded, “A common claim. . . is that hydraulic fracturing has shown no verified impacts on groundwater. Recent peer-reviewed literature refutes this claim and also indicates that the main concerns are for longer term cumulative impacts that would generally not yet be evident and are difficult to predict reliably. . . . The most important questions concerning groundwater contamination from shale gas development are not whether groundwater impacts have or will occur, but where and when they will occur. . . ” (Council of Canadian Academies, 2014).
The structural integrity of wells can fail. These failures are common, unavoidable, and increase over time as wells age and cement and casings deteriorate.
According to industry data, five percent of wells leak immediately; more than half leak after 30 years (Brufatto et al., 2003). Data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection show a 6 to 7 percent failure rate for new wells drilled in each of the past three years. The consequences of gas leaks include risk of explosion, drinking water contamination, and seepage of raw methane into the atmosphere where it acts as a powerful greenhouse gas (Ingraffea, 2013).
Drilling and fracking contribute to loss of well integrity. Drilling creates microfractures in the surrounding rock that cement cannot fill and so opens pathways for the upward migration of liquids and gases. Additionally, high pressure from repeated fracturing can deform cement, further raising the risk of leakage. Age-related shrinkage and deterioration cause cement to pull away from the surrounding rock, reduce the tightness of the seal, thus opening potential portals for contamination. According to one expert panel, “the greatest threat to groundwater is gas leakage from wells from which even existing best practices cannot assure long-term prevention” (Council of Canadian Academies, 2014).
The disposal of fracking wastewater is causally linked to earthquakes and radioactive contamination of surface water. It remains a problem with no solution.
As confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey, deep-well injection of fracking waste has triggered significant earthquakes in Oklahoma (Sumy, Cochran, Keranen, Wei, & Abers, 2014). A team from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory reports similar findings in Ohio and demonstrates how injection of fracking waste can stress geological faults and make them vulnerable to slippage (Davies et al., 2014).
In the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico and Ohio, geologists have also linked fracking itself to earthquakes (Godoy, 2014; The Canadian Press, 2012; Vukmanovic, 2011). Members of the Seismological Society of America warn that geologists do not yet know how to predict the timing or location of such earthquakes: “We don't know how to evaluate the likelihood that a [fracking or wastewater] operation will be a seismic source in advance.” (Kiger, 2014).
are common, unavoidable, and increase over time as wells age and cement and casings deteriorate.
Researchers further warn that earthquakes can occur tens of miles away from the wells themselves. (Walsh, 2014)
Both the certainties and the uncertainties about the risk of earthquakes from fracking operations raise serious, unique concerns about the possible consequences to New York City’s drinking water infrastructure from fracking-related activities. No other major U.S. city provides drinking water through aging, 100-mile-long aqueducts that lie directly atop the Marcellus Shale. Seismic damage to these aqueducts that results in a disruption of supply of potable water to the New York City area would create a catastrophic public health crisis.
At the same time, hauling fracking wastewater to treatment plants has resulted in contamination of rivers and streams with unfilterable radioactive radium (Nelson et al., 2014; Warner, Christie, Jackson, & Vengosh, 2013).
Air quality impacts from fracking–related activities are clearer than ever.
Air pollution arises from the gas extraction process itself, as well as the intensive transportation demands of extraction, processing and delivery. And yet, monitoring technologies currently in use underestimate the ongoing risk to exposed people, especially children (Brown, Weinberger, Lewis, & Bonaparte, 2014; Rawlins, 2014; University of Texas, 2014).
Fracking-related air pollutants include carcinogenic silica dust (Moore, Zielinska, Pétron, & Jackson, 2014), carcinogenic benzene (McKenzie, Witter, Newman, & Adgate, 2012), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that create ozone (Gilman, Lerner, Kuster, & de Gouw, 2013). Exposure to ozone—smog—contributes to costly, disabling health problems, including premature death, asthma, stroke, heart attack, and low birth weight (Jerrett et al., 2009).
Unplanned toxic air releases from fracking sites in Texas increased by 100 percent since 2009, according to an extensive investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, InsideClimate News and the Weather Channel (Morris, Song, & Hasemyer, 2014).
We are alarmed that Utah’s formerly pristine Uintah Basin now appears on the list of the nation’s 25 most ozone-polluted counties (American Lung Association, 2014). Indeed, total annual VOC emissions from Uintah Basin fracking sites are roughly equivalent to those from 100 million cars (Lockwood, 2014). Questions about possibly elevated rates of stillbirth and infant deaths in the area have prompted an ongoing investigation (Stewart & Maffly, 2014).
Community and social impacts of fracking can be widespread, expensive, and deadly.
Community and social impacts of drilling and fracking include spikes in crime, sexually transmitted diseases, vehicle accidents, and worker deaths and injuries (Ghahremani, 2014; Gibbons, 2013; Healy, 2013; Hennessy-Fiske, 2014; O'Hare, 2014; Olsen, 2014). A new investigation by the Associated Press found that traffic fatalities more than quadrupled in intensely drilled areas even as they fell throughout the rest of the nation (Associated Press, 2014).
The Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative’s new report, “Assessing the Impacts of Shale Drilling: Four Community Case Studies,” documented economic, community government and human services impact of fracking on four rural communities. Among the findings: the advent of fracking brings a rapid influx of out-of-state workers and attendant costs for police, emergency services, road damage, medical and social services. At the same time, increased rent costs bring shortages of affordable housing (Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, 2014). As medical professionals, we know that these kinds of social impacts bring health consequences, especially for low-income single mothers and their children.
Industry secrecy contributes to unsettled science
Even as evidence of harm continues to emerge, reviews of the science to date note that investigations necessary to understand long-term public health impacts do not exist. Medical and scientific organizations and groups of scholars in the United States, England, Canada, and Australia have, very recently, acknowledged the legitimacy of public health concerns and called for high-quality, comprehensive health studies (Adgate, Goldstein, & McKenzie, 2014; Coram, Moss, & Blashki, 2014; Council of Canadian Academies, 2014; Kovats et al., 2014).
These recommendations echo those made earlier by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. In 2012, the GAO pointed out that drilling and fracking clearly pose “inherent environmental and public health risks.” And yet, “the extent of these risks...is unknown” due to lack of serious study of the long-term, cumulative impacts (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2012).
To explain why science is missing in action, we emphasize the obstacles faced by researchers seeking to carry out the needed research. Specifically, as independent observers have noted, “the gas industry has sought to limit the disclosure of information about its operations to researchers” (Sadasivam, 2014), and prolifically uses non-disclosure agreements as a strategy to keep data from health researchers, among others (Efstathiou Jr. & Drajem, 2013).
Nevertheless, important studies continue to fill research gaps and build a clearer picture of the longer-term and cumulative impacts of fracking. Many such studies currently underway will be published in the upcoming three–to–five year horizon. These include further investigations of hormone-disrupting chemicals in fracking fluid; further studies of birth outcomes among pregnant women living near drilling and fracking operations; further studies of air quality impacts; and further studies of drinking water contamination.
Just as medical professionals assert a sacred oath to ‘first do no harm,’ this is the proper course for New York State to follow in its decision about fracking. Indeed, Governor Cuomo, we hold you to your promise that fracking will not be allowed if the health of all New Yorkers and the quality of all watersheds cannot be protected. Amidst all the uncertainty, this much is very clear: based on the knowledge available to us now, the NYS Department of Health can come to no other determination except to say that this admirable and appropriate standard cannot be met.
Accordingly, and while critical ongoing studies are conducted, we urge that New York State take a leadership role in the nation by announcing a formal moratorium. Given the lack of any evidence indicating that fracking can be done safely – and a wealth of evidence to the contrary – we consider a three–to–five year moratorium to be an appropriate minimum time frame.
Finally, we believe that public health is best served by transparency and inclusiveness – particularly among those who stand to be affected. With a moratorium in place–and as more data
on the impacts of fracking emerge–the state should open a comprehensive New York-specific health assessment process that engages and seeks input from the public and the independent medical and scientific community (Concerned Health Professionals of New York, 2013).
HEALTH & MEDICAL ORGANIZATIONS
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
American Academy of Pediatrics, District II New York State
American Lung Association in New York
Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition
Breast Cancer Action, a national grassroots education and advocacy organization with over 2600 members in New York State
Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester
Breast Cancer Fund
Breast Cancer Options, Kingston
Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer
Center for Environmental Health, New York
Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition
Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Inc.
New York State Breast Cancer Network, a statewide network of 23 member organizations reaching over 135,000 New Yorkers affected by breast cancer each year
Otsego County Medical Society Physicians for Social Responsibility Physicians for Social Responsibility, Arizona Physicians for Social Responsibility, Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility, San Francisco Bay Area Physicians for Social Responsibility, NYC Chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility/Hudson-Mohawk Chapter Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy Science and Environmental Health Network Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project
Tompkins County Medical Society Western NY Professional Nurses Association Legislative Committee
Directors and Board Members Holly McGregor Anderson RN BS, Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester
Beverly Canin, Board Member, Breast Cancer Options, Kingston NY, New York State Breast Cancer Network, Breast Cancer Action
Donna Flayhan PhD, Director, The Lower Manhattan Public Health Project Andi Gladstone, Executive Director, New York State Breast Cancer Network Tess Helfman, President, Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition, Copiague, NY Roy Korn Jr. MD MPH FACP, President, Schoharie County Medical Society Karen Joy Miller, President, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Inc. Hope Nemiroff, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Options, Kingston NY Raina Rippel, Director, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project Jeanne Rizzo RN, President & CEO, Breast Cancer Fund
Laura Weinberg, President, Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, Great Neck, NY
10. Oil and Gas Production Wastes-EPA
(This is an excerpt of the information on the EPA site. Jan)
The geologic formations that contain oil and gas deposits also contain naturally-occurring radionuclides, which are referred to as "NORM" (Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials):
-uranium (and its decay products)
-thorium (and decay products)
-radium (and decay products)
Geologists have recognized their presence since the early 1930s and use it as a method for finding deposits (Ma87).
Much of the petroleum in the earth's crust was created at the site of ancients seas by the decay of sea life. As a result, petroleum deposits often occur in aquifers containing brine (salt water). Radionuclides, along with other minerals that are dissolved in the brine, precipitate (separate and settle) out forming various wastes at the surface:
-mineral scales inside pipes
-contaminated equipment or components
Because the extraction process concentrates the naturally occurring radionuclides and exposes them to the surface environment and human contact, these wastes are classified as TENORM.
How much radiation is in the wastes? Because radium levels in the soil and rocks vary greatly, so do their concentrations in scales and sludges. Radiation levels may vary from background soil levels to as high as several hundred nanoCuries per gram. The variation depends on several factors:
-concentration and identity of the radionuclides
-chemistry of the geologic formation
-characteristics of the production process (McA88).
The table below shows the range of activities in these wastes:
Radiation Level [pCi/g]
Produced Water [pCi/l]
Pipe/Tank Scale [pCi/g]
The Radiation in TENORM Summary Table provides a range of reported concentrations, and average concentration measurements of NORM associated with various waste types and materials.
According to an API industry-wide survey, approximately 64 percent of the gas producing equipment and 57 percent of the oil production equipment showed radioactivity at or near background levels. TENORM radioactivity levels tend to be highest in water handling equipment. Average exposure levels for this equipment were between 30 to 40 micro Roentgens per hour (μR/hr), which is about 5 times background. Gas processing equipment with the highest levels include the reflux pumps, propane pumps and tanks, other pumps, and product lines. Average radiation levels for this equipment as between 30 to 70 μR/hr. Exposures from some oil production and gas processing equipment exceeded 1 mR/hr
11. Radioactive Drilling Waste Poses Serious Threat
By David Kowalski, Ph.D., Retired Cancer Researcher and member of Union of Concerned Scientists
“The Marcellus Shale contains radioactive materials, including radium and radon. Normally, the radioactive material is safely buried deep underground. However, shale gas drilling and fracking bring radioactivity in solids and liquid wastewater to the surface, posing a risk to public health if not properly managed.
Radium and radon can cause cancer if ingested or inhaled. Radium causes leukemia and bone cancer. Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
In 2009, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (I believe the writer means DEP. Jan) found radium levels in Marcellus Shale wastewater that are thousands of times greater than that allowed in drinking water by the EPA, and up to 267 times the limit for safe discharge into the environment.
Exemptions from key federal regulations allow gas industry solid and liquid waste to pass as “non-hazardous.” However, solid drilling waste from Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale has triggered radiation alarms at landfills. This waste has been imported by New York landfills. Liquid leachate from landfills is sent to waste treatment plants unequipped to monitor or remove radioactive materials, threatening drinking water sources.
Recently, a peer-reviewed scientific paper reported radium levels of 200 times background in Pennsylvania’s Blacklick Creek sediments downstream of a fracking wastewater treatment plant. The gas industry has not identified methods to clean up the wastewater and safely dispose of the radioactive material removed.
The DEC permits the spreading of salty wastewater (brine) on roads for de-icing, dust control and road stabilization as well as on land for dust control. However, because of the possible presence of radioactive materials, such applications of wastewater should not be permitted in the absence of testing for radioactive materials.
Radium and radon in waste from shale gas drilling and fracking pose a serious threat to public health, although the cancers induced can take years to develop. In light of lax monitoring of radioactivity by the industry and the states, as well as the absence of safe methods for waste treatment and disposal, the public should demand that the State Legislature pass laws banning this hazardous waste in order to protect our water, land, air and health.
Public input is more important than ever given heavy campaign contributions to state legislators from the natural gas industry.
David Kowalski, Ph.D.
12. Environmental Rights: 5 Facts About The Pennsylvania Constitution
Added to the state constitution more than 40 years ago, the environmental rights amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution was the basis for the Supreme Court overturning the law that pre-empted local zoning ordinances in order to maximize gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.
Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads:
"The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all of the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people."
Here are five facts about the amendment:
1 - The right to clean air and pure water is equivalent to the right to free speech.
As part of the Constitution's "Bill of Rights" section, the placement and the phrasing of the amendment puts the right to clean air and pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment on par with citizens' right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
2 - Both Republicans and Democrats were for it: the amendment passed the House of Representatives and the Senate unanimously - twice!
Adding environmental rights to the Constitution was a "strong bipartisan effort," according to its author, Franklin Kury, who was a representative at the time. "The leadership of both parties was for it."
3 - In addition to the Speaker at the time, Herbert Fineman, the amendment was co-sponsored by four future Speakers of the House:
Democrats Leroy Irvis and James Manderino, as well as Republicans Jack Seltzer and Matthew Ryan.
"There were heavyweight lawyers looking at this - they knew what was going on," said Kury. "Every legislator from the coal region was on there - World War II vets - no-nonsense guys."
"This was not some feel-good Earth Day proclamation, not a flight of environmental fancy."
Kury said legislators - and the people of Pennsylvania - had had enough of the environmental disasters that had been perpetrated by the coal and steel industries over the previous years.
"We were determined this would never happen again," he said.
4 - The people of Pennsylvania voted 4-1 in favor of the amendment. The amendment went before the people of Pennsylvania as a ballot question in May 1971. It was one of five ballot questions that election. Voters rejected two, and approved two with a margin of roughly 2 votes to 1, but the voters overwhelmingly approved the environmental rights amendment 4 to 1.
It received more than 1 million votes in favor and just 259,979 votes against.
In fact the environmental rights amendment received more votes than any of the candidates for statewide office who were on the ballot.
As the Supreme Court recently wrote: "To say the Environmental Rights Amendment was broadly supported by the people and their representatives would be an understatement."
5 - It took more than 40 years before the protections in the amendment were given full expression by the courts.
Ever since early court challenges in the 1970s, conventional wisdom held that Article 1, Section 27 didn't have real teeth.
The case law did establish that environmental regulations passed by the legislature and enforced by agencies like the DEP would survive a constitutional challenge because the Environmental Rights Amendment put environmental protection on par with the constitutional right to property.
Environmental enforcement by the state was thereby strengthened.
But citizen - and sometimes even state - challenges to specific projects rarely succeeded, because the courts created a "balancing test" in which any particular project was judged on whether or not it complied with existing regulations, whether an attempt had been made to mitigate environmental damage and whether that damage so clearly outweighed any benefits that proceeding would be "an abuse of discretion."
These precedents in the lower courts "weakened the clear import of the plain language of the constitutional provision."
The Supreme Court last year saw an opportunity to weigh in on Article 1, Section 27 in ways it never had before. It took the opportunity and overturned much that had been considered settled case law.
The Court determined that earlier precedent "has tended to define the broad constitutional rights in terms of compliance with various statutes and, as a result, to minimize the constitutional import of the Environmental Rights Amendment."
In overturning previous precedents, the Supreme Court attempted to outline the "foundational principles" for an entirely new and "coherent environmental rights jurisprudence."
According to the Supreme Court, "The right delineated in the first clause of Section 27 presumptively is on par with, and enforceable to the same extent as, any other right reserved to the people in Article 1." That includes the right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness; it includes freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to trial by jury and the right to bear arms.