* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
* To view past updates, reports, general information, permanent documents, and meeting information http://westmorelandmarcellus.blogspot.com/
* Our email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
* To discuss candidates: http://www.facebook.com/groups/VoteProEarth/
* To contact your state legislator:
For the email address, click on the envelope under the photo* For information on PA state gas legislation and local control: http://pajustpowers.org/aboutthebills.html-
WMCG Thank You
* Thank you to contributors to our Updates: Debbie Borowiec, Lou Pochet, Ron Gulla, the Pollocks, Marian Szmyd, Bob Donnan, Elizabeth Donahue, and Bob Schmetzer.
Latrobe Farm Market
Thank you to Mike Atherton and Cynthia Walter, Dorothy Pochet and Jan Milburn for working our TDS testing table at Latrobe Farm Market.
To Carol Cutler for a lovely job on creating the flyer, Mike Atherton for publicity, and Jan and Jack Milburn for posting flyers around the Latrobe area.
Thank You --Recent Donations
Thank you to April Jackman, the Shelton family, and Marc Levine for their generous donations that support our work to protect the health and environment of local communities.
We have been busy—You may notice the articles are absent pictures this week. The group has been incredibly busy so this is a bare- bones summer issue. We: worked at the Latrobe Farm Market for two weeks testing water samples and sharing information about fracking, are working on distributing the Tenaska petitions, are preparing new handouts on data about fracking –including water pollution to the Yough River from the proposed Tenaska plant, worked to get a logo created to have our banner made-which we now have, continue to meet with grad students doing their research on various aspects of fracking, are talking to reporters as needed, are working on local zoning issues, are coordinating a session with Mt Watershed and Jim Rosenberg to learn how to search DEP enotices and permits, and many of us are preparing testimony for the Carbon hearings in Pittsburgh next Friday. We always need your support and could be present at more farm markets and events with more volunteers. Our success is limited only by the number of people who care enough to get involved and make a difference. We will continue informing the public, and fighting for the health and the environment of our communities.
A little Help Please --Take Action!!
***Tenaska Plant Seeks to Be Sited in South Huntingdon, Westmoreland County***
Just Use the Link
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.
**Delmont Community Meeting: Proposed Mariner East I Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline July 30: 6 – 7:30 p.m. Delmont Public Library, 77 Greensburg St, Delmont
Proposed Mariner East I Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline
Presentations on environmental, economic and social issues associated with the Mariner East Pipelines. Come learn more.
Clean Air Council, Steamfitters Local 449 Union
And----Sign the petition for the PUC to deny Sunoco Logistics' application to be designated as a public utility corporation for the Proposed Mariner East I Natural Gas Liquids Pipeline project and require them to go before local zoning boards to receive permission for the project.
*BE THERE FOR PITTSBURGH AIR --- Rally to Support Curbing Climate Pollution from Power Plants, Pittsburgh, July 31. ACTION. Demonstrate your support for national climate action. (July 12, 2014) http://alleghenysc.org/?p=19099
See article below
***Fair Shake Gets 12% Profits at Wigle Whiskey -Monday, August 4 (6-9 PM)
2401 Smallman St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
You are invited.... and bring some friends...
12% of all sales will go to Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services.
"Fair Shake provides legal representation so that your health, your well-being, your work, and your environmental needs have a voice. No matter who you are. And we teach young attorneys how to do the same."
Attorney Jordan Yeager (of anti-Act 13 fame) is on Fair Shake's Board of Directors. Fair Shake is helping to provide legal services in the fight against fracking.
*** Learn how to better examine DEP e-notices and permits August 5, Mt Watershed Office Bring your laptop. There is limited room so let jan know if you are interested. Jim Rosenberg will be our facilitator.
***Boston Art Show Utilizes Local Voices-- July 11, 2014 through January 5, 2015
Open to the public, Boston Museum of Science
Several of us spoke to artist Anne Neeley about water contamination from fracking. Excerpts of what we said about our concerns regarding fracking will play in a loop along with music in the background as people view Anne’s murals of water. The show is not exclusively about the effect of fracking on water and includes other sources of pollution. (see sites below).
Some of us were fortunate to see photos of Anne’s murals. They are beautiful and very thought provoking . Jan
ANNE NEELY WATER STORIES PROJECT: A CONVERSATION IN PAINT AND SOUND
July 2014 – January 2015, Museum of Science, Boston
“Water Stories: A Conversation in Painting and Sound” is at the Museum of Science, Boston through January 2015. In recent years I have conveyed ideas about water and the phenomena of water through nature, the news, memory and imagination. These paintings explore the beauty and foreboding of water, related to central themes, mostly manmade and thru climate change affecting this country. Sound artist Halsey Burgund has created a 35 minute audio composition that accompanies the paintings, comprised of five sections grouped by thematic content: The Future, Stories, Bad Things, Science and Cherish. The voices are edited and combined with water sounds and musical elements and play in a continuous loop throughout the gallery. By placing this work in this Museum of Science there is an extraordinary opportunity to clarify and illuminate issues around water through visceral connections that paintings often elicit from viewers while raising public awareness. My hope is that this exhibition will spawn a new sense of ownership about not only the issues facing us about water but how we use water on a daily basis.”
"Together, Anne and I plan to explore big ideas about what’s happening with water in this country. In the 2014, the Museum will exhibit Anne’s work and host a series of related programs. At the Museum, we find that mixing art with our more typical educational approaches works well. The art opens people to ideas, emotion, scale, and import, in ways that more explicit techniques may not. It broadens the audience, welcomes people who learn differently, and adds dimensions of experience that are otherwise unavailable."
— David G. Rabkin, PhD, Director for Current Science and Technology, Museum of Science, Boston, MA
Visit these sites for images and more information:
***Quadrennial Energy Review July 21 - 10 a.m.
CMU Rashid Auditorium, Forbes Ave Gates-Hillman Center, Pittsburgh, 15213
Panel discussions on natural gas infrastructure
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
From Peter Wray, Sierra Club: MAJOR CLIMATE CHANGE ACTIONS COMING UP
We are organizing two buses from Pittsburgh to the PEOPLES CLIMATE MARCH in New York City, September 21. See http://alleghenysc.org/?p=19091.
*Join the People’s Climate March in New York City, Sept. 21. ACTION: Register now for a seat on one of the Pittsburgh buses. (July 12, 2014) http://alleghenysc.org/?p=19091
State Ethics Probe Into Deer Lakes Park Vote Expands from Futules to Kress and Fitzgerald. Financial gain and deal making probed. (July 12, 2014) http://alleghenysc.org/?p=19105
And Other Sierra Club Posts:
*Divestment from Fossil Fuel Companies Gains Momentum. Churches and colleges withdrawing financial support. (July 12, 2014) http://alleghenysc.org/?p=19114
*Learn How Citizens Forced Coke Plant Cleanup in New York. Visitors will describe how they gained a record fine against polluting company, July 17 & 18. (July 10, 2014) http://alleghenysc.org/?p=19072
*Supreme Court Supports EPA’s Right to Regulate Carbon Emissions from Industrial Sources. Decision eases way for Obama’s Climate Action Plan. (June 27, 2014) http://alleghenysc.org/?p=18967
*Corbett Wants to Keep Fracking of Parks and Forests under Wraps. Unclear if Ohiopyle Park and Forbes Forest are threatened. (June 27, 2014) http://alleghenysc.org/?p=18962
***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!
***Petition For Full Disclosure of Frack Chemicals
From Ron Slabe
I created a petition to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which says:
"We, the undersigned, in conjunction with the public comment period currently underway, call on the EPA to conduct public hearings in areas where fracking operations are either occurring or have occurred so that we may voice our concerns over the lack of full disclosure of the fracking chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. (Docket number EPA-HQ-OPPT-2011-1019)"
Will you sign this petition? Click here:
Thanks! Ron Slabe
***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
“Sunoco has petitioned the 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:
***Cove Point Liquid Gas Facility--Petition
In order to ship natural gas overseas, you've got to liquefy it. The process is a very dangerous one. LNG facilities that serve domestic energy needs already exist. An incident at one of them in Plymouth, Washington in March forced everyone within a two-mile radius of the facility to evacuate. The risks it poses are not limited to the area surrounding the facility, however. Fracking to extract the gas from the shale and then moving it by pipeline to the LNG facility damage the environment and put health and safety at risk.
The ruling comes at an important time because FERC is currently in the process of downplaying the environmental impacts of the proposed Cove Point LNG export facility. FERC is currently accepting comments on the environmental review of the Cove Point project. The Department of Environmental Protection and others called for an extension of the deadline, but FERC rejected their requests yesterday. The comment period ends on Monday.
That means we only have a few more days to flood FERC with comments telling them to conduct a full, comprehensive, and credible study called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Will you add your name to my petition and share it with your friends?
Here's the URL to the petition, just in case the link doesn't work. http://petitions.moveon.org/environmental-action/sign/say-no-to-the-cove-point
Thanks so much, as always!
***Link to Shalefield Stories-Personal stories of those affected by fracking http://www.friendsoftheharmed.com/
***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 and condensed. Please use links for the full article.
Special Thanks to Bob Donnan for photos.
1. Municipalities Pleased With Act 13 PUC Ruling
“Of the more than 2,500 municipalities in Pennsylvania, four faced challenges to the money they received from Marcellus Shale development since 2012.
Those four townships – Cecil, Mt. Pleasant, Robinson and South Fayette – also happen to be four of seven municipalities who filed the lawsuit against the zoning provisions of Act 13.
A state appeals court ruled municipalities cannot be subject to zoning reviews by the Public Utility Commission and, subsequently, to revocations of impact fee monies by the PUC.
The court decision upheld some provisions of the law that municipalities argued were unconstitutional, but several petitioners were still pleased with the verdict.
Peters Township Councilman David Ball, a petitioner in the case, said he considered the ruling a big win for municipalities.
“We won the thing that we were most concerned about, that we really don’t want the PUC reviewing ordinances, and the court was very clear on that,” Ball said.
Ball said the decision will prevent the PUC “from being able to basically bully townships” by withholding impact fees on unconventional gas wells – a revenue stream that was established by Act 13 in lieu of a severance tax on the industry.
“Now with this court ruling, that threat is gone. … We won’t have to deal with the PUC’s intimidation anymore,” said Andy Schrader, chairman of supervisors in Cecil Township, one of the petitioners in the case.
“Everybody that lives in one of these communities is affected,” said Brian Coppola, former supervisor for Robinson Township and a petitioner in the case.
Coppola said the PUC withheld $400,000 in impact fees from Robinson Township when a resident argued the township zoning ordinance was prohibiting natural gas development and asked the PUC to review the ordinance. The PUC ultimately released the funds under court order – an action Coppola thinks ultimately helped their case.
“We’ve already lived through a challenge,” said John Smith, solicitor for Cecil and Peters townships, “and we’ve already received, in the past, suggestions from oil and gas operators that if we don’t approve certain permits, that our impact fee may be at risk, and/or they would seek attorneys fees under the act.”
Smith said in an email statement he was “extremely pleased” with the court ruling Thursday that “once again protected the rights of local governments and Pennsylvania citizens with its decision in favor of the Act 13 municipalities.”
However, he disagreed with other aspects of the ruling. The court upheld the provision of Act 13 that drilling operators are not required to notify private water suppliers if there is a spill, though they are required to do so for public water sources.
“While we believe all Pennsylvania citizens agree that the failure of the law to require notice of spills at drilling sites to local citizens that rely on water wells and springs for drinking water is not sound policy, the court did not believe that the provision rose to the level of violating the Pennsylvania Constitution on equal protection grounds,” Smith said in an email.
Smith said what opponents called a “medical gag order” was not found to be unconstitutional, but said the court’s interpretation of that provision was commendable.
“The court did interpret the law to read that disclosures of trade secrets can be made to patients who suffer chemical exposures from drilling operations … and that the medical information can be written in medical records,” Smith said. “The court’s reading of the statute alleviated much of our concern with how much the confidentiality agreement or ‘medical gag’ provision would serve to hinder patient care. We will be discussing the full decision with our clients in the near future.”
2. Compressor Station Next to Organic Farm?
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“An overflow, equally divided crowd of more than 300 people attended Wednesday night’s New Sewickley township supervisors hearing on a proposal to build a Marcellus Shale gas compressor station in southeast Beaver County next to the Kretschmann Family Organic Farm, one of the region’s oldest and most profitable organic farms.
“I speak on behalf of the Ziegler Road neighborhood, and we see no benefits to this compressor station coming into our neighborhood,” said Chris Palmer, a resident of the road leading to the proposed compressor station site.
“This type of facility should be put somewhere else, not in a residential neighborhood.”
Dallas-based Cardinal Midstream Inc. has applied for a conditional use permit for the proposed 12-acre compressor station site on Teets Road, about 2,000 feet from the Kretschmanns’ farm in an area of the township zoned for agricultural use.
Darlene Parisi-Dunne, another township resident, said she has concern the “safety, quiet and rural serenity” of the township will be lost if the compressor station is built.
“That’s what drew us here and that is what is now threatened,” she said. “I ask you to deny the zoning permits based on property rights, property values and health concerns.”
But Terry Broniszewski, a local farmer, said the shale gas drilling has brought prosperity to the local farms that have signed leases and are receiving royalties.
“For all of you against this proposal, if you stop the compressor station and drilling, you’ll see a lot of for-sale signs on farms again and we’ll have Walmarts. This is a beautiful township, and this compressor station is the best way to keep it beautiful.”
The township’s five-member board of supervisors — at least one of whom has leased the gas under his property to drilling companies that would pipe gas through the compressor station if it is built — will decide whether to grant the zoning permit within the next 45 days.
Many at the hearing, held at the Big Knob Grange in Rochester, Beaver County, wore stickers announcing their support of Don and Becky Kretschmann, who started the organic farm on Ziegler Road 35 years ago, and through a Community Supported Agriculture or “CSA” program they established, now sell vegetables, fruit and herbs to more than 1,000 families in Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties. They also sell at various farmers’ markets in the region.
Mr. Kretschmann has said he’s worried about pollution from the compressor station affecting his organic produce and calling his certification and livelihood into question.
More than 200 of the farm’s CSA customers have sent letters of support to the commissioners urging them to deny Cardinal’s request for the zoning variance.
Duane Rape, the chairman of the supervisors, said 678 landowners, including him, have signed shale gas leases for their property, covering a total of 15,517 acres or 71 percent of the township. The proposed Cardinal compressor station, which would connect via pipelines to as many as 80 wells in the area, would initially contain four 1,340-horsepower compressors that would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and emit 78 tons of nitrogen oxides, 24 tons of volatile organic compounds and 98 tons of carbon dioxide each year.
The Kretschmanns are concerned those air pollutants, plus the diesel exhaust from the six to eight tanker trucks a day needed to transport condensate — water and wet gas — from the site each day, could damage their crops and call into question the farm’s organic certification. Accidental spills, additional air emissions, “burps” or “blowdowns” caused by equipment malfunctions could also occur, adding pollutants to air and water and causing additional degradation to the farm’s soil and groundwater.
Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds can combine in the presence of sunlight to produce ground-level ozone, the principal component of smog. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ozone and smog can cause a variety of breathing and lung problems, worsen bronchitis, emphysema and asthma, and interfere with plant growth and development.
Cardinal has said it has plans to double to eight the number of compressor units at the Pike compressor station in the future.
Several representatives of Cardinal and its consultants made lengthy presentations about how the compressor was sited, plans for mitigating the loud operating noise from the compressors and road improvements in the area around the proposed site.
Christi Wilson, managing consultant for Trinity Consultants, a Pittsburgh air consulting firm, said the compressor engines Cardinal would use would meet and exceed state and federal standards. She said farm animal flatulence releases more methane than the natural gas industry.
While Mr. Rape said he has signed a lease for his shale gas, Supervisors Ross Jenny, Greg Happ and Dave Yeck have not signed leases for their property. John Nowicki declined to say if he has signed a shale gas lease.
Richard Weber, chief executive officer of Penn Energy Resources LLC, which will push gas from its wells to the proposed compressor, said the Cardinal proposal meets or exceeds the terms of the township’s ordinances and the zoning law.
“I know not everyone supports this and I know it will have an impact,” he said. “Our job is to make sure to minimize that impact. ... This facility will not impact the quality of the produce and livestock grown in the community.”
But Holly Wilson-Jene, a Mt. Lebanon resident who is a chemical engineer and customer of the Kretschmanns, said the chemical pollutants that would be released by the compressor station are highly toxic, including cancer-causing benzene. “My concern is the proximity to the organic farm,” she said. “This facility is more like a small refinery. It may be classified as a minor source of pollution, but it’s a major issue.”
Michael Oliverio, an attorney representing the Kretschmanns, moved to enter the 200 statements from the organic farm’s customers into the record and also to continue the hearing to allow additional experts to offer testimony.
Wayne Lucas, the attorney representing Cardinal, objected to the introduction of the organic farm customer emails because they were not from New Sewickley, and said the company “vigorously objects to a [hearing] continuance.”
(I question if the attorney’s name is an error and is actually Blaine Lucas of Babst Callen who appears frequently in local districts always representing the gas industry. Jan)
Don Hopey: email@example.com or 412-263-1983.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/west/2014/07/24/New-Sewickley-residents-turn-out-to-oppose-gas-facility/stories/201407240211#ixzz38MYeyP3g
TO TAKE ACTION:
EMAIL: the New Sewickley Board of Supervisors: firstname.lastname@example.org and cc: email@example.com
3. Auditor General Report: DEP Does Poor Job of Record Keeping, Monitoring, and Taking Action
Anyone who has tried to navigate DEP sites for information on permits, inspections, or spills can concur with this report. I have called and spoken to DEP people who tell me that they don’t know how to use some of the sites. jan
“The DEP was “unprepared to meet the challenges of monitoring shale gas development effectively,” according to a scathing 128-page audit report released Tuesday by state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale about DEP’s performance monitoring of potential impacts to water quality from Macellus Shale development between 2009 and 2012 – a report that lists eight findings that detail the department’s “shortcomings” related to its function as a regulatory agency.
In a press release DePasquale said, “There are very dedicated hard-working people at DEP but they are being hampered in doing their jobs by lack of resources – including staff and a modern information technology system — and inconsistent or failed implementation of department policies, among other things. “It is almost like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose. There is no question that DEP needs help and soon to protect clean water.”
The audit revealed that DEP failed to consistently issue official orders to well operators who had been determined by DEP to have adversely impacted water supplies. After reviewing a selection of 15 complaint files for confirmed water supply impact, auditors discovered that DEP issued just one order to a well operator to restore or replace the adversely impacted water supply.
DEP claims that in many cases such orders are procedurally unnecessary as well operators may have already taken steps to restore the water supply under what the agency terms “voluntary compliance.”
“When DEP does not take a formal, documented action against a well operator who has contaminated a water supply, the agency loses credibility as a regulator and is not fully accountable to the public,” DePasquale said. “When DEP has enforcement authority under the law it must exercise that authority routinely, consistently, and transparently. Those gas well operators whose actions cause harm to water supplies should not get an enforcement ‘pass’ just because they have convinced DEP that they will come into compliance with the law or that they negotiated a settlement with the property owner.”
Auditors also reported that DEP did a poor job in communicating its investigation results to citizens who registered complaints with the department. The agency was not always timely in meeting statutory timeframes for response to complaints it did receive.
“For example, of the water-related complaints reviewed by auditors, the DEP Williamsport regional office responded to complaints within 10 days, 100 percent of the time, while the DEP Pittsburgh regional office responded to the complaints within the 10-day time period only 64 percent of the time,” DePasquale said. “Why would citizens in the Pittsburgh area have to wait longer for a response than people in the Williamsport area?”
Auditors also noted that DEP’s complaint tracking system, which is used to monitor all environmental complaints, including those that are oil and gas related, was ineffective as it did not provide management with reliable information to effectively manage the program.
“We could not determine whether all complaints received by DEP actually were entered into the system. What’s more, because of how DEP grouped related complaints, it is difficult to figure out exactly how many complaints were received, investigated, and resolved by DEP,” DePasquale said. “While DEP did issue a new policy related to complaint handling, for most of our audit period the existing policy was woefully inadequate. DEP must get that complaint system working.”
In the area of inspections, auditors attempted to measure how quickly DEP was in conducting its initial inspection of shale gas wells, a basic regulatory responsibility.
Unfortunately, auditors were thwarted by DEP’s lack of reliable data—learning that only a “needle in a haystack” review of thousands of hard-copy files would ever yield a conclusion. Worse, DEP uses a 25-year-old policy on the frequency of inspections, which has a “loop hole,” that only requires DEP to conduct inspections as it has the financial and human resources to do so.
Auditors also found that DEP does not post to its website all statutorily required inspection information. When the data was tested for accuracy, the auditors found errors of more than 25 percent in key data fields, and that as many as 76 percent of inspectors’ comments were omitted from the online inspection reporting.
“It is unfathomable to us that for a basic responsibility of DEP — inspecting oil and gas facilities – little criteria exists for when those inspections should occur,” DePasquale said. “Until DEP updates its out-of-date inspection policies, to include mandated inspections at specific critical drilling stages and during the life of the well, it will be nearly impossible to measure DEP’s performance in conducting this very basic responsibility to protect the environment.”
The auditors also noted that DEP does not use a manifest system for tracking shale gas well waste from the well site to disposal. Instead DEP relies upon a disjointed process that includes self-reporting by well operators with no assurances that waste is disposed of properly.
With respect to transparency, auditors discovered that accessing DEP data is challenging as it is a myriad of confusing web links and jargon. The information that was presented on its decades-old eFACTS database was often incomplete—requiring a physical review of hard-copy files at distant offices to verify the actual information.
“Through our audit we found that even conducting a review of hard-copy files is not a fool-proof guarantee, as we found some supporting paper files were missing and DEP was not able to produce them,” DePasquale said. “DEP must improve how it conveys reliable information to the public for an activity that is as high-profile as shale gas development.”
Of the eight audit findings and 29 recommendations to improve DEP’s monitoring of potential water quality impacts of shale gas development, DEP disagreed with all audit findings, but conversely agreed with the majority of the recommendations, indicating that there is some acknowledgement on DEP’s part that it must improve. Eighteen of the 29 recommendations do not require additional funding.
“There was plenty of back and forth with DEP during this audit, and in some cases we just could not agree on some findings,” DePasquale said. “What matters here is the protection of our drinking water supplies. Implementing these 29 recommendations, two of which were directed to the General Assembly, will go a long way now to protecting drinking water resources. When we look back five years from now, I believe everyone will all agree that our environment and our quality of life are better because of this audit.”
Among the recommendations, auditors encouraged DEP to:
*always issue an administrative order to a well operator who DEP has determined adversely impacted a water supply—even if DEP used the cooperative approach in bringing the operator into compliance or if the operator and the complainant have reached a private agreement;
*develop better controls over how complaints are received, tracked, investigated, and resolved;
*invest resources into replacing, or significantly upgrading, its complaint management system;
*find the financial resources to hire additional inspectors to meet the demands placed upon the agency;
*implement an inspection policy that outlines explicitly the requirements for timely and frequent inspections;
*create a true manifest system to track shale gas waste and be more aggressive in ensuring that the waste data it collects is verified and reliable;
*reconfigure the agency website and provide complete and pertinent information in a clear and easily understandable manner;
*invest in information technology resources and develop an IT structure that will ensure its oil and gas program has a strong foundation for the ongoing demands placed upon it; and
*develop an all-electronic inspection process so that inspection information is accurate and timely to DEP—and more importantly—public stakeholders.
“Shale gas development offers significant benefits to our commonwealth and our nation, but these benefits cannot come at the expense of the public’s trust, health, and well-being,” DePasquale said. “We must collectively find solutions to this challenge so that Pennsylvania becomes a leader among states in regulating shale gas development. I am committed to working with the governor, the General Assembly, and other partners to ensure this audit begins that discussion.”
Here were the findings:
DEP failed to issue administrative orders – DEP has a statutory mandate to issue an administrative order when it determines an operator adversely impacted a water supply. Despite this mandate, DEP in many cases chose instead to seek voluntary compliance and encouraged operators to work out a solution with affected parties. DEP also used operators’ time and financial assistance to complete investigations. In our review of 15 positive determination complaint files, we found that DEP issued just one order to an operator to restore/replace the adversely impacted water supply.
DEP communicated poorly with citizens. In cases where DEP investigated allegations of adverse impacts to water quality from oil and gas activity, it didn’t consistently and effectively provide complainants with clear written investigation results. Further, DEP missed certain key statutory deadlines in investigating these complaints. For example, the Pittsburgh district resolved 76 percent of its complaints within 45 days. DEP cited the complexity of some of its investigations, which may involve extensive testing and specialized isotopic testing, as a reason for missing these deadlines.
DEP was unprepared to handle citizen complaints. DEP stated it tracked all complaints it received about oil and gas activity through its complaint tracking system, yet this system was unable to generate consistent and reliable data on the nature and total number of complaints DEP received. DEP has tried to patch CTS and improve its procedures for use of CTS, but DEP still cannot use CTS data to reliably answer simple questions such as: how many shale gas related complaints were received or how many complaints resulted in a positive determination?
No assurance that shale gas wells were inspected timely. DEP followed an outdated and ambiguous inspection policy that did not provide any clear criteria for how many times DEP should inspect a well. We attempted to measure DEP’s performance in this critical area, but we were stymied by DEP’s continual reliance on manual records and limited reliable electronic data. Also, despite adding several oil and gas inspectors to its staff, DEP did not have sufficient resources to manage the increased demands from Pennsylvania’s shale gas boom.
Shale waste monitoring needs to improve. DEP monitors shale waste with self-reported data that is neither verified nor quality controlled for accuracy and reliability. A true manifest system would allow waste to be tracked seamlessly from generation to transport to final disposition, and it could be a proactive tool for DEP to ensure waste is properly disposed. DEP has been reactionary—only if a complaint is registered or an accident occurs, does DEP verify that where the waste was generated. Such an approach is counter-intuitive to being proactive over waste management.
Transparency and accountability are lacking. DEP “provides a spider web of links to arcane reports on its website. Users are left with a dizzying amount of data, but none of the data is presented in a logical and sensible manner. Worst of all, where DEP could be open and transparent about credible cases of adverse impacts to water supplies, it chooses instead to use an overly strict interpretation of the law and not post any such information.”
Information on inspections poorly tracked. Inspections of shale gas facilities are one of the key aspects of DEP’s monitoring efforts. By law, DEP is to post certain inspection and any resulting violation information on its website. The audit found DEP does not post all required information and in testing the data for accuracy, and found errors as high as 25 percent in key data fields. We also found that as many as 76 percent of inspectors’ comments were omitted from online inspection reporting.
Information technology resources are inefficiently used. DEP’s oil and gas program is not effectively using current IT resources available to it. The systems are reliant upon inefficient manual procedures, which impede effective and efficient data collection and reporting. DEP relies on contracted vendors (some of which are former DEP employees) for many of its IT-related needs.”
4. Greene Co. Town Sued Over Regulating Seismic Testing
By Brian Bowling
“A Greene County municipality delayed a seismic testing agreement so that it could pass an ordinance that effectively makes seismic testing impossible, a Texas company claims in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court.
Geokinetics USA Inc. of Houston wants U.S. District Judge Maurice Cohill to rule that Center Township's ordinance is invalid and that the company doesn't need the township's approval to conduct the testing.
Cohill in April ruled that a Westmoreland County municipality couldn't block seismic testing on its roads.”
5. DEP: Oil/Gas Operations Damaged Water Supplies 209 Times Since 2007
“Oil and gas operations have damaged Pennsylvania water supplies 209 times since the end of 2007, according to DEP.
The spreadsheet lists the 209 affected water supplies by county, municipality, and the date, regulators concluded that activities related to oil or gas extraction were to blame for contaminating or diminishing the flow to a water source.
The document does not disclose property owners’ names or addresses and it does not detail which companies that were deemed responsible for the damage, what caused the disruptions or what pollutants were found in the water.
DEP’s deputy secretary for oil and gas management, Scott Perry, said the agency intends to enhance the spreadsheet by adding links to the letters or orders related to each case at some point, which should reveal more information about how water was affected.
Environmental regulators are required by law to determine within 45 days of getting a drilling-related water complaint if oil and gas operations contaminated a water supply or reduced its flow. DEP reports its findings in letters to property owners. It also issues orders to companies to fix the damage in cases where oil and gas operations are found to be accountable or are presumed to be the cause because of the proximity between drilling activities and a disrupted groundwater source.
Those conclusions are public records.
After initially fighting news organizations’ requests for the determination letters and arguing it would be too difficult to find all of them in its files, DEP has increasingly provided access to the documents in the last year after courts required their release and as public interest in the information has grown.
When DEP posts the tally of damaged water supplies this month, it will mark the first time the agency has released its official accounting of drilling-related pollution and diminution cases on its website.
“There are 209 contamination cases since 2008, which is a lot, in my book, especially when you are talking about somebody’s drinking water supply,” said Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale coordinator for Clean Water Action.
The DEP spreadsheet reveals that oil and gas operations have affected water supplies in nearly every region where drilling occurs, from the shale gas sweet spots in northeastern Pennsylvania to the traditional oil and gas patch in the state’s northwest corner. DEP found that drilling activities damaged water supplies in Bradford County 48 times – the most of any county – followed by SusquehannaCounty (35 times), McKean County (24 times) and Forest County (17 times).
DEP’s southwest regional office issued the fewest water impact determinations of the three regional offices that oversee the industry. It found drilling activities caused water supply problems 13 times in six years: eight times in Indiana County, twice each in Washington and Westmoreland counties, and once in Fayette County.
The rate of problems has stayed flat in recent years following a surge in cases between 2008 and 2009 as shale gas extraction increased in the northeast region and methane trapped in shallow rock layers escaped into groundwater through flaws in some new wells there.
DEP found 18 cases of water supply impacts in 2008, 47 in 2009, 34 in 2010, 34 in 2011, 35 in 2012, 33 in 2013 and five through May of this year.
Mr. Hvozdovich said he is “glad to see that DEP is taking some concrete steps to try to improve transparency on this issue, especially considering how disorganized they were and how secretive water impacts from natural gas drilling were in Pennsylvania.”
But he called the information in the spreadsheet “pretty woefully below what the public deserves to see” and encouraged DEP to add details such as what types of impacts oil and gas operations have caused to water sources, which companies were involved, whether shale gas drillers or operators of shallow, traditional wells were found responsible, how companies addressed the problems and whether they were fined.
Academic researchers said even the spare information in the document so far will still be useful for understanding the geographic distribution of drilling-related issues across the state. And it might encourage the public to ask for more readily available data.”
6. Families Sick From Fracking Exposure Turn to Concerned Scientists-Southwest Health
“Like people in other regions transformed by the shale energy boom, residents of Washington County, Pennsylvania have complained of headaches, nosebleeds and skin rashes. But because there are no comprehensive studies about the health impacts of natural gas drilling, it's hard to determine if their problems are linked to the gas wells and other production facilities that have sprung up around them.
A group of scientists from Pennsylvania and neighboring states have stepped in to fill this gap by forming a nonprofit—apparently the first of its kind in the United States—that provides free health consultations to local families near drilling sites. Instead of waiting years or even decades for long-term studies to emerge, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWPA-EHP) is using the best available science to help people deal with their ailments.
"As far as unconventional natural gas drilling goes, we are the public health service of the United States right now," said Michael Kelly, the media liaison for the EHP.
David Brown, a toxicologist and the group's co-founder, said government agencies haven't done enough to study, analyze and mitigate the risks people face from drilling.
The DEP—which oversees the oil and gas industry—has no ongoing or planned health studies, though it is researching air and water quality at certain sites, Scott Perry, the agency's director of oil and gas management, said. None of the hundreds of millions of dollars in impact fees the state has collected from the industry since 2011 has gone to state or local health departments.
The EPH's decision to take a public health approach, rather than focus on research, was an ethical one, said Brown, a former chief of environmental, epidemiology and occupational health at the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
"We saw that people were sick, and the risks [from shale extraction] were plausible," he said. "You really cannot or should not do studies on sick people without providing some sort of assistance. You should help them get better."
EHP does not advocate for or against shale development. Too often, said Brown, residents who are sick end up "neglecting themselves" by spending all their energy trying to stop drilling in their backyards instead of seeking medical help.
Based in McMurray, a small community about 15 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, EHP’s services are available to anyone who makes an appointment at the clinic, where the staff of five will:
· explain what scientists know and don't know about the risks and impacts of shale gas development.
· provide tips on how to reduce exposure to natural gas activities, perhaps by using indoor air filters or keeping daily logs of symptoms, odors and wind direction.
· lend simple air monitors so residents can track the air quality inside their homes to determine when and how often they are exposed to certain air pollutants.
"In a sense, they're filling a role that some of the public health agencies have not been fulfilling," said Lisa McKenzie, a researcher at the Colorado School of Public Health who studies gas drilling impacts.
When people blame their health problems on gas drilling, the EHP staff sifts through the clues to find the most probable explanation by taking into account a patient's medical history, their proximity to shale activity and other industrial sites. In addition to the clinic staff, seven other EHP scientists based across New England provide support.
EHP's nurse practitioner, Suann Davison, meets one-on-one with patients and also conducts house calls in and around Washington County. When health problems are likely linked to drilling, patients may be referred to pulmonologists or other specialists.
If someone lives 20 miles from the nearest well, their symptoms probably aren’t related to shale gas, said EHP director Raina Rippel. The link would be much stronger for a resident downwind of a gas well who develops new respiratory problems or worsening pre-existing symptoms after the drilling starts.
"If we can document there was a probable exposure and absence of a more likely explanation, like an underlying medical problem, then I think it helps us define it as more than just self-reported health impacts," said Rippel, a former community organizer who led the advocacy group Center for Coalfield Justice.
Davison said her patients usually have a combination of symptoms including respiratory problems, rashes and lesions, irritated eyes, nosebleeds, numbness, tingling, headaches, nausea and vomiting. These symptoms have been linked to some of the chemicals emitted during shale development, including formaldehyde, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds. Other compounds may be linked to water pollution.
Some of her patients are wary of the industry, but others are landowners who leased their mineral rights and now worry about the health impacts. "It doesn't matter to us [who they are]," she said. "We'll see anyone."
EHP was launched in 2011 with a grant from the Heinz Endowments. The group also receives support from the Pittsburgh and Claneil Foundations.
Philip Johnson, senior program officer of the Heinz Endowments' environment program, began paying attention to the potential health risks of fracking in 2009, when he noticed a sharp increase in complaints from Western Pennsylvania residents.
"We realized we had a potential public health threat. Typically what happens when new threats emerge is you need information and data flows to separate anecdotes from empirical evidence...And there were really no intervention models like this we were aware of in the country," he said.
Heinz Endowments approached some public health experts for help. As part of the planning for what eventually became EHP, they interviewed residents, studied the available scientific research and toured communities near drilling sites.
Rippel, the EHP director, remembers being shocked at the size of a processing plant they visited in Houston, Pennsylvania. She said it took up about as much space as a football field and looked like a refinery. "It [was] almost reminiscent of a Houston, Texas kind of scene," she said.
Amelia Pare, a plastic surgeon in Washington County, said what EHP is trying to do is "laudable" and "the most positive thing we have. But it's nowhere near enough…It's a drop in the bucket for what's really needed."
Pare has lived in Southwest Pennsylvania for 15 years. Four or five years ago, she noticed patients coming in with strange symptoms, including lesions on their face. Most were poor and lived in areas with gas drilling.
Pare began searching for guidelines and practical tips that could help her patients.
If someone comes in with a skin problem that could be linked to drilling, what medical tests should she run? What experts should she turn to, and which specialists would be willing to see her patients, many who are on Medicaid? But she found few satisfactory answers, despite contacting everyone she could think of—poison control, her state legislators, national representatives, the Pennsylvania medical society, the Pennsylvania health department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"There's no one doing research on this. No one's testing what's going on," she said. "I'm not against oil and gas drilling. I'm a Republican…I just think you need to do it safely, and you need to know what you're doing, and I don't think either of those things is happening right now."
Pare said EHP would have more of an impact if it went door to door collecting urine samples and tested them for exposure to fracking-related compounds. "The Heinz [Endowments] puts a lot of money into this, but not a lot has changed…The people that run [EHP] need to be more courageous. You've got to go out and test people."
Kelly, the EHP media liaison, said that kind of research is beyond the scope of EHP, which has an annual budget of about $750,000. Instead, the peer-reviewed research the group publishes is usually an outgrowth of its public health service.
In March, four EHP scientists published a paper explaining that the air monitors used by most state regulators rarely detect toxic emission spikes in shale fields. Some of the data for that study came from simple air monitors EHP developed with scientists at Carnegie Mellon University. Local residents used the monitors to track concentrations of particulate matter—a respiratory irritant—inside their homes. The results showed dramatic but fleeting spikes throughout the day.
EHP has also analyzed data from 27 patients whose symptoms were likely caused by shale drilling activity. Rippel said the patients were screened to eliminate other probable causes, and that the results could help other health professionals working with patients in drilling regions. EHP presented the cases at a science conference last summer and is preparing the data for peer-reviewed publication.
A blog post by Energy in Depth—an outreach arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America—challenged the usefulness of drawing conclusions from just 27 patients. But Barry Johnson, a former assistant administrator at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of the CDC), said the type of case series EHP produced is "very common and useful in the practice of public health," because it can serve as a precursor to larger epidemiological studies.
As an example, he pointed to the evolution of the science that documented the appearance of AIDS.
It began with a few reports of people who were seriously ill and dying from a new collection of symptoms, said Johnson, now an adjunct professor of public health at Emory University. "These in effect became case studies, and you started putting together these kinds of cases, and asking questions [like] 'how widespread it this problem? Where is the origin?'
"I don't know what, if anything, can be caused by fracking,” he said. “But I think we should find out."
This report is part of a joint project by InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity
7. Air Monitors for Residents
“Mickey Gniadek remembers the exact day when he stepped outside his Finleyville home and felt like a fish out of water. It was Dec. 4, 2013.
Gniadek, who had no pre-existing conditions, gasped for air and nearly collapsed from what he believes was a suffocating mix of gases in the atmosphere.
“When I came out the door I noticed there was a heavy white cloud that just hung across (the property). … It smelled very acidic,” said Gniadek, who lives on Cardox Road.
Gniadek never learned what caused the incident, but he hopes to glean new findings from an air-quality monitor placed inside his home. More than 100 people in Washington County have received an air monitor, free of cost, from a public health and research group, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project.
Ryan Grode, environmental health educator with the McMurray-based SWPA-EHP, said ongoing research focuses on residents who live near natural gas wells and compressor stations in Washington County and, to a lesser extent, Greene County and Morgantown, W.Va.
“The important thing to know with our organization is that we’re not an activist group. … We’re actually just a public health organization,” Grode said.
Monitoring the air
The group uses Speck air monitors, which were built in Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE lab and provided to SWPA-EHP for distribution. Once an air monitor is plugged into an outlet, it takes a reading of particulate matter concentrations every second of the day for two to four weeks.
Those readings are displayed on the monitor in real time and then are transferred to a database for analysis. The results, which are provided to participating residents, show any major spikes in particulate matter and contain graphs with 30-minute and hourly averages.
Larger particles, or a higher concentration of particulate matter, can cause health problems when the particles enter the lungs and even the bloodstream.
Any reading above a 5,000 count for particulate matter is considered “very unhealthy” on the Speck monitor. Some participants with air monitors had results with spikes above 14,000, but Grode acknowledged that “just because it’s a spike, (it) doesn’t mean that we’re saying it’s from the industry.”
Indoor pollutants – such as cooking with oil, or vacuuming – also could be contributing factors. Grode said the group is more interested in the prolonged spikes, especially ones that occur overnight when most people are sleeping. He said, for example, a spike above 4,000 that lasts for six hours likely indicates an outside pollutant.
A nurse practitioner on staff visits any participating residents with medical concerns. The group also recommends the use of air purifiers to keep homes free of pollutants.
David Brown, a public health toxicologist with SWPA-EHP who works in Connecticut, said he is comparing particulate readings near different Marcellus Shale facilities, and also analyzing variables such as proximity to industry activity and the time of day spikes occur.
“There are clearly exposures to people living near the wells, and certain well types seem to be causing more health effects than others,” Brown said.
It’s not uncommon to hear residents at township meetings complain of a “rotten egg” smell, difficulty breathing and gas flarings that release black smoke into the air.
Gniadek and his wife, Sabine, never received a definitive answer as to what transpired that day in December. Gniadek lives directly across from the Trax Farm well site operated by EQT that he said has caused him and his neighbors grief in the past.
Gniadek and others on Cardox Road were offered $50,000 from the company to resolve claims involving the gas company’s operations, including damages, annoyance, inconvenience, nuisance and pain and suffering. Gniadek said he believes it was an effort to silence them.
Gniadek refused the money, and he and his wife continue to monitor and document the air conditions along their road. A video, taken by his wife, shows black smoke coming from the well site last month.
At a January township meeting, EQT officials said their next rig would be a dual natural gas rig that would run on 70 to 80 percent natural gas, fitted with a catalyst unit, to reduce emissions.
Gary Baumgardner, who also lives on Cardox Road and has an air monitor, said the smell of diesel fuel has been most problematic.
“In the middle of winter, it got into our house where it was so bad that I called the fire department, and they wanted to put fans in our house and open the windows and (air out) our house,” he said.
Residents living near the MarkWest natural gas processing plant in Chartiers Township also have complained of “routine” flarings that release thick black smoke into the sky.
Dan Bykens, who lives next to a MarkWest compressor station, went to the hospital last week because of respiratory problems and said he was recently diagnosed with asthma.
“Everyone out here seems to be having more issues than in the past,” Bykens said, but he acknowledged he can’t prove his health problems are directly related to industry activity.
His daughter, Hayley Martin, also has an air monitor in her home, located next to Allison Park Elementary School.
Martin’s air monitor results just came back, and she said a string of spikes appeared in the results for last week, culminating in a spike of 23,653 particulates the day before her father was hospitalized. She said nearby road construction could be a factor, but many spikes occurred late at night when road work was halted.
“I can’t tell you that’s the direct result (of industry activity),” Martin said. “I can’t tell you, the doctor can’t tell you, but it’s kind of weird.”
8. Mars Parents Write to PA Assembly Members and DEP
“To: PA Assembly Members and DEP Officials
A direct quote from the PA Auditor General to Governor Corbett regarding the performance audit of the DEP on July 21, 2014:
"In conclusion, as evidenced by this audit, DEP needs assistance. It is underfunded, understaffed, and does not have the infrastructure in place to meet the continuing demands placed upon the agency by expanded shale gas development. Shale gas development offers significant benefits to our commonwealth and our nation, but these benefits cannot come at the expense of the public’s trust, health, and wellbeing."
I am well aware that changes have been made at the PA DEP since the report's conclusion in 2012. It is clear that the changes have not kept pace with the expansion of shale gas development. You have allowed for the citizens of Pennsylvania to become the collateral damage for development of shale gas. Our water is contaminated at an alarming rate. Millions of gallons of residual waste are accumulating rapidly. Gas wells continue to encroach on schools and densely populated areas, thereby increasing health and safety risks to the community.
Yet, despite this report and many others, the DEP continues to issue unconventional well permits "according to the law".
Each and everyone of you now has this report and the plethora of research and information that The Mars Parent Group and numerous additional health and environmental groups have shared with you over the past four months and past 10 years respectively.
Each of you will be held accountable and are responsible to now act on this information immediately. In whatever capacity and responsibility you have in the Pennsylvania government, you each have the duty to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania first. Developing shale gas is a far distant second. Monetary gains will no longer hide the harm and risk that communities have endured.
Do not issue another unconventional well permit. Corrective action needs to take place. The DEP needs the proper resources to oversee and regulate what has already been allowed prior to adding to that burden.
I expect a response to this email, including what action you will be taking to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania and the children in the Mars Area School District.
Mars Parent Group”
9. Sample Letter for Sewickley Compressor Station
(Or any compressor station)
Please see last week’s updates at our blogspot for the article about this proposed station. jan
Nancy Downes wrote this letter to New Sewickley Twp. She said it can be used for thoughts to create your own letter.
Date: July 16, 2014 at 4:17:34 PM EDT
I am writing to request that you reject the request for a compressor station to be built next to Kretschmann’s organic farm, a well established and highly valued resource to thousands of Pittsburgh-area families.
In making your decision, I urge you to consider the following:
1. what compressor stations sound like: http://dearsusquehanna.blogspot.com/2010/07/compressor-stations-noise-that-can.html
2. a recent Pittsburgh Business Times op-ed by former Pittsburgh Tom Murphy on the problems fracking causes for local municipalities:
3. the risks associated with compressor stations: http://fracdallas.org/docs/compressorstations.html
4. the health risks associated with all phases of hydraulic fracturing as stated by a board of nationally respected health experts (MDs, PhDs, engineers) who, after diligent and objective scrutiny of the evidence on the health effects of fracking operations stated: Our examination of the peer-reviewed medical and public health literature uncovered no evidence that fracking can be practiced in a manner that does not threaten human health. http://concernedhealthny.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CHPNY-Fracking-Compendium.pdf
5. a statement about NYS Supreme Court’s recent 5-2 decision in favor of “home rule” by towns and counties, a blow to natural gas production
5. how fracking damages local economies: http://ecowatch.com/2014/03/20/udated-fracking-vs-american-dream-resource-guide/
6. why banks and other mortgage vendors are steering clear of properties containing/near a fracking site:
file:///Users/nancydownes/Desktop/*INT*/NYTimes article on mortgages.webarchive
7. Article 27 from the PA Constitution, which states that citizens have "a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment.”
Thank you for considering this evidence.
Nancy Downes, Pittsburgh business owner, mother, technical editor, former medical writer for NIH
10. Author Anne Neumammn’s Response to Nasty Letters
(I printed Anne Neumanns op ed on the pipeline last week. You can visit our blogspot if you missed it. Jan)
“What a week! The response to my op-ed in last week’s New York Times Sunday Review has been overwhelming–and for the most part, phenomenal. People have written from all over the country to share their stories, strategies and encouragement. Thank you!
A few letters, however, and a segment on the Diane Rehm show on Tuesday, have convinced me that the framing of the conversation about natural gas is dangerously wrong. Here’s my response to a really nasty letter I received two days ago. I’m posting it because it pulls apart that erroneous frame (and because the letter pissed me off). I’ve edited it slightly.
Sorry it took me so long to respond to your letter, forwarded via the NYT and in response to my op-ed last Sunday about fracked natural gas infrastructure. I’m on book deadline and, as you can imagine, my inbox has been filled with op-ed responses (strangely, with most negative responses coming from angry men telling me what I don’t know, and positive ones coming mostly from women across the country who are engaged in the same work my sister is–preventing seizure of her property).
At first, I wasn’t sure your letter was legitimate. The tone, content and structure seemed somewhat incongruent with your credentials (listed in detail at the top of your letter). However, I’ve made the decision to respond to every email I receive.
My point is this: “Natural” gas is a ruse that distracts us from preferable (economic, ecological) methods of weening ourselves off non-renewable energy sources. We’re being sold the story that fracking is progress, the future, that it puts America back on top thanks to “Yankee ingenuity.”
I counter that frame, largely because it is developed by those who benefit (gas/oil corporations) and because it wrongly limits our thinking about alternatives. The benefits of natural gas are overstated and oversold. The job creation numbers are inflated and temporary; cheaper gas only further entrenches us in non-renewable systems; gas has a duration of only 35 years (less when manufacturing and exports kick in) and our investment in it is short sighted; co2 emissions should not be the only metric we use to determine clean (pipelines, post-fracking water, methane are pollution too); new gas infrastructure like pipelines and plants serve gas and oil corporations, not the citizens who are bearing their burden at the expense of clean water, air, soil, at the expense of public and private land, and at the bodily risk of leaks and explosions.
I reject your argument that my opposition to new natural gas infrastructure demonstrates support for coal. Minnesota is doing a fine job with solar and wind (and while it’s converting coal plants to gas, its example shows that new gas infrastructure is a short-sighted waste). I reject your argument that my opposition to natural gas infrastructure demonstrates support for the Keystone pipeline, nuclear power or any other non-renewable resource. I find your either-or argument to be too narrow for a conversation about the nation’s energy future. All renewable alternatives should be further developed and expanded.
As to your nimby comment, I oppose this pipeline, regardless of where Williams attempts to put it. To your inaccurate point that I prefer the development of public lands over private: this pipeline will pass through conserved/preserved property, which I oppose. And for the record, all NYT op-eds are rigorously fact-checked. Too, you would benefit from further research into the use of eminent domain in pipeline cases across the country.
I find directives from others that landowners and general citizens with concerns for their health, environment and well-being should quietly take installation of pipelines on the chin for the good for the country (or rather, for the good of gas corporations) to be paternal and naive. They’re also privileged: do you have a pipeline on your property?
I find your comment that I haven’t “given the matter much thought” to be demeaning. And I find your uninformed insinuation that I have not engaged in other energy activism to be irrelevant and illogical. You assert that, because this is a democracy and I am a citizen, I am in part responsible for our existing energy systems but, as you must know, the process that has created this current system was highly undemocratic (and in many ways unethically coercive), just as the process for approving new natural gas infrastructure is. (Besides, democracy is historically, notoriously inept at protecting minority rights.)
Your reference to global and worldwide needs implies that natural gas exports will be good for the US and the world. They may help us geopolitically, they may briefly boost the national GDP–but in the long run, they will put us behind by distracting us from developing alternative sources of energy. Currently, long-term natural resources (the environment we depend on) are being rampantly destroyed by natural gas industrialization; your letter only demonstrates the kind of short-sighted, narrow fervor that is fueling it.
You seem to misunderstand power in the US. Williams and other corporations, whose bottom line is profit, are claiming “public good” for extraction and transport of resources that they increasingly wish to export, via seizure of public and private property and endangerment of air, water and soil purity. Of course I blame Williams and other corporations for the use of eminent domain, as much as I blame complicit federal agencies, and our local, state and federal legislators. Building and/or expanding natural gas infrastructure in the US only ensures that we will pay most dearly for corporations’ gains for decades to come.
Thank you for reading and writing. Best,
11. CA Halts Injection of Fracking Waste, May Be Contaminating Aquifers
by Abrahm Lustgarten
ProPublica, July 18, 2014, 11:50 a.m.
“California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state's drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there.
The state's Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources on July 7 issued cease and desist orders to seven energy companies warning that they may be injecting their waste into aquifers that could be a source of drinking water, and stating that their waste disposal "poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources." The orders were first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, and the state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells.
The action comes as California's agriculture industry copes with a drought crisis that has emptied reservoirs and cost the state $2.2 billion this year alone. The lack of water has forced farmers across the state to supplement their water supply from underground aquifers, according to a study released this week by the University of California Davis.
The problem is that at least 100 of the state's aquifers were presumed to be useless for drinking and farming because the water was either of poor quality, or too deep underground to easily access. Years ago, the state exempted them from environmental protection and allowed the oil and gas industry to intentionally pollute them. But not all aquifers are exempted, and the system amounts to a patchwork of protected and unprotected water resources deep underground. Now, according to the cease and desist orders issued by the state, it appears that at least seven injection wells are likely pumping waste into fresh water aquifers protected by the law, and not other aquifers sacrificed by the state long ago.
"The aquifers in question with respect to the orders that have been issued are not exempt," said Ed Wilson, a spokesperson for the California Department of Conservation in an email.
A 2012 ProPublica investigation of more than 700,000 injection wells across the country found that wells were often poorly regulated and experienced high rates of failure, outcomes that were likely polluting underground water supplies that are supposed to be protected by federal law. That investigation also disclosed a little-known program overseen by the U.S. EPA that exempted more than 1,000 other drinking water aquifers from any sort of pollution protection at all, many of them in California.”
12. Governor Agrees to Delay any New Leasing of State Parks & Forests
The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation [ PEDF ] has prevented the Governor from new leasing of gas rights under DCNR lands for now.
Commonwealth Court has entered an order in which Governor Corbett has agreed not to lease any more State Forest or Park land until the Court has made a decision on the merits of PEDF’s big [eight-point] court case against him.
Since our current State Budget [ signed by the Governor last week ] made DCNR almost entirely dependent on the Oil and Gas Lease Fund to operate, PEDF will hold off on the issue of the illegal transfer of Oil & Gas Lease Fund money because that would leave DCNR without the ability to operate for the next year. PEDF is bringing this case to support DCNR’s ability to protect our Parks and Forests, not to shut them down.
With the fear of losing more Park and Forest land to new leases for gas extraction gone, PEDF is eager to get the main legal action case decided as quickly as possible.
[ See www.pedf.org for the details of the case].
The main part of PEDF's legal action v. Governor Corbett is on schedule to complete the briefing of the issues by September 14. Oral Argument will then be held before the court in October, 2014.
It's a reprieve for our State Parks and Forests.
Support PEDF's efforts by relaying this message to your local newspapers - and see below for supporting PEDF.
Yours in conservation,
Dick Martin Coordinator
www.PaForestCoalition.org Mission: Good Stewardship of our Public Lands