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WMCG Thank Yous
Contributors To Our Updates
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, Computer Training, Merton Society
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 to Jim Rosenberg for computer training on understanding DEP search sites and permitting.
Thank you to Lou and Dorothy Pochet for representing our group at the Thomas Merton meeting.
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.
Yough River Comments Needed Now-Due August 27
Tenaska Plant Seeks to Be Sited in South Huntingdon, Westmoreland County
We have learned that comments on water are separate from air comments. They are handled by two separate DEP offices. The Mountain Watershed has created a sample letter on water that you can copy and send in. So please, if you have already signed the air petition, email or send in water comments. jan
From Mountain Watershed:
Tenaska is seeking to construct a gas-fired power plant in Westmoreland County that will discharge toxins directly into the Youghiogheny River, and that will use 5 million gallons of water per day from the Yough. Comments on their NPDES permit are due on Wednesday, August 27, 2014. Your action is needed!
Clean Water Program, PA DEP
400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Subject: Water Pollution Discharge (NPDES) Permit # PA0254771
For more information on this proposal or its potential impact please contact Nick.
I am concerned about the environmental impacts from Tenaska’s proposed gas-fired plant on the Youghiogheny River. Each year the plant will release thousands of tons of harmful air pollutants. I am also concerned about the impacts this plant will have on water quality. Tenaska Energy plans to withdraw 5 million gallons of water per day from the Youghiogheny River. They also plan to discharge 2.5 million gallons of wastewater per day from the power plant into the Youghiogheny River, a major source of drinking water and recreational activities. Listed below are some of my specific concerns
A plain language summary of this proposal and its impact should be provided.
The published DEP permit announcement listed important pollutants such as chromium, zinc, oil, and grease, but the numbers set forth are confusing and preclude many citizens from making an informed comment.
The high value of receiving streams warrants open public discourse on the permit.
The designated uses of the watershed were stated by the DEP as “drinking water” and “recreation,” uses with high economic and social impacts.
Combined impacts of adding Tenaska pollutants must be analyzed and presented for public comment.
The receiving streams still receive many other pollutants. I am concerned about overburdening the already impacted streams. Also, these pollutants accumulate over time, which calls into question the long term negative influence this plant will have.
A site specific study is needed.
The receiving streams are beginning to regain aquatic life as a result of positive stewardship efforts by the community. The DEP is not likely to know the extent of newly arrived fish and other important organisms.
Constitutional rights must be protected.
Actions of the Department must comply with Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which restricts the Department from issuing permits that allow “degradation, diminution, or depletion of our public natural resources.” Robinson Twp., Washington Cnty. V. Com., 83 A.3d 901, 957 (Pa. 2013). As a trustee of our natural resources, the Department must (among other obligations) consider and account for, prior to acting, how its action will impact the right of present and future Pennsylvanians to enjoy public trust resources. Without further study and public participation, the DEP will not be giving adequate consideration to my constitutional rights.
Please hold a hearing to allow for increased public input and the opportunity to express our opinions and concerns about the Tenaska gas -fired power plant. There are serious issues with the permit that need to be addressed before any decision should be made on this matter.
And Tenaska Air Petitions—Please sign if you have not done so:
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.
Some people have had problems with the link. Here is the Mt Watershed link
If you know of church groups or other organizations that will help with the petition please forward it and ask for their help.
*** 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.
***Conference-Shale and Public Health Features Dr Paulson, Dr McKenzie, Dr Panettieri- Oct. 26/27
The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania's Straight Scoop on Shale initiative will hold a conference "Shale and Public Health: Days of Discovery" on Sunday afternoon October 26 and Monday October 27 at the Pitt University Club.
Featured speakers on Monday October 27 include Dr. Jerome Paulson, Director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment (MACCHE), and Dr. Lisa McKenzie of the Colorado School of Public Health.
On Sunday afternoon October 26, Dr. Reynold Panettieri of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine will present new research on the health impacts of shale gas development.
The conference is open to the public and free (with a small charge for lunch on October 27), but pre-registration is required.
For more information and to register, please visit our website, http://shale.palwv.org
***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:
*Join the People’s Climate March in New York City, Sept. 21. ACTION: Register now for a seat on one of the Pittsburgh buses. http://alleghenysc.org/?p=19091
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
***For Health Care Professionals—Tell PA Dept of Health to Stop Ignoring Fracking Health complaints
***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!
***Clean Air Council--- Take the survey. Health Impact Assessment of the proposed Shell ethane cracker plant.
Health Impact Assessment: Ethane Cracker
Royal Dutch Shell has proposed a new natural gas and chemical processing station in Monaca, PA, outside Pittsburgh. The proposed site is currently held by Horsehead Corporation which owns the inactive zinc smelting facility. The proposed facility, known as a “cracker”, will separate natural gas and chemical feedstocks into different compounds used primarily in the manufacturing of plastics. Increased hydraulic fracturing and natural gas collection has led to increased ethane available for “cracking”.
The ethane cracker is one of a number of large projects that Shell is considering. Although, Shell has already secured feedstock agreements with multiple companies, and has bought other land near the site of the proposed “cracker”. Shell signed an additional option agreement with Horsehead, will pay for the demolition of the existing buildings, and be allowed to take more time before making a final decision. Considering these factors, and the fact that Shell recently scrapped plans for a similar cracker in the Gulf Coast that was competing for Shell’s capital resources, the likelihood of this project coming to fruition appears relatively high. Even if this particular project does not come to fruition, most industry experts agree that a cracker will be built in the region eventually.
In partnership with community residents, industry professionals, and academics, Clean Air Council is conducting a Health Impact Assessment of the environmental, social, public health, and economic impacts of such a facility.
Please take our anonymous public survey about the proposed cracker: www.surveymonkey.com/s/WZC3WX5
***Sign On To Letter To Gov. Corbett-- Urge Him to Implement De Pasquale’s Recommendations For DEP
“I know you are as concerned as I am about the recent news out of Harrisburg regarding the protection of our drinking water from the dangers of natural gas drilling. Then join me to take action now.
It started with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) acknowledgment that there have been 209 known cases of water contamination from oil and gas operations since 2007. http://powersource.post-gazette.com/powersource/policy-powersource/2014/07/22/DEP-Oil-and-gas-endeavors-have-damaged-water-supply-209-times-since-07/stories/201407220069
If that wasn’t enough, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale also released his much anticipated audit http://www.auditorgen.state.pa.us/reports/performance/special/speDEP072114.pdf of DEP’s ability to protect water quality in the wake of escalated Marcellus Shale drilling. The report shows how the explosive growth of shale development caught the DEP flat footed, how the agency is underfunded, and slow to respond to monitoring and accountability activities. Some of the more alarming findings where:
DEP would rather seek voluntary compliance and encouraging industry to work out a solution with impacted homeowners instead of issuing violations for cases where industry impacted a water supply.
There is no system in place for frequent inspections of drilling pads, especially during critical drilling operations much less during the lifetime of the well.
DEP relies on a voluntary system of reporting where and how fracking waste is disposed, instead of using a system, where regulators can see how waste is handled from well site to disposal.
DEP’s system to track complaints related to oil and gas development is “woefully inadequate.”
In addition to his findings, Auditor General DePasquale made 29 recommendations, 18 of which require no additional funding, for how DEP can address these issues and improve operations. Email Governor Corbett today and urge him to have DEP implement all 29 of the Auditor General’s recommendations.
These types of events shake the confidence Pennsylvanians like you have in our government’s ability to protect our drinking water. However, they also serve as a call to action. DEP owes it to you to do everything it can to protect water supplies and public health, Contact Governor Corbett TODAY and tell him to have DEP take steps to improve the protection of our drinking water from natural gas drilling.
Steve Hvozdovich - Campaign Coordinator
Pennsylvania Office, Clean Water Action http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2155/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=16207
***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/
*** To See Water Test Results of the Beaver Run Reservoir
IUP students test for TDS, pH, metals- arsenic, chromium, and strontium.
A group member who has checked the site did not see testing for other frack chemicals including the BTEX group or cesium for example. Here is a link to the IUP site:
***Video of a Flare at a Pumping Station
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWKye3OA90kSunoco Pipeline/Sunoco Logistics flare at a high pressure pumping facility along the 3500 block of Watkins Road in Medina, Ohio. This video was from an approximate distance of 900 feet. The gas was being flared from ground level without a tower of any kind. They have since moved the flare to between the buildings. This video link below will show you just how loud and powerful the flaring of this product can be. Local residents say, “it sounds like a jet engine running.”
All articles are excerpted and condensed. Please use links for the full article. Special Thanks to Bob Donnan for many of the photos.
Beaver Run Reservoir-Photo By Bob Donnan
Another Spill At Beaver Reservoir
Violation Code 78.56(1) - Pit and tanks not constructed with sufficient capacity to contain pollutional substances.
Violation ID 702606
Permit API 129-28811
Municipality Washington Twp
Inspection Type Incident- Response to Accident or Event
Inspection Date 2014-08-11
Comments Inspection the result of a spill reported by the Operator on 8/10/2014 at 21:45. The Operator reported a unknown amount of flow back water spilled into containment, however the containment was compromised, which resulted in a spill to the ground. At the time of inspection the department observed a frac tank inside containment, The Operator pulled back the containment in the area of concern. The Operator excavated to remove approximately two 50 gallon drums of impacted material. The excavated area was already backfilled at the time of the inspection. No waterways appear to be impacted at this time. The Department suggests the Operator take samples of the contents of the frac tank located onsite, the impacted soil before and after excavation and a background sample to ensure the affected material has been removed.
***Fracked Gas Well Impacts Water Wells In Donegal
Posted by Nick Kennedy on Jul 9, 2014 in Indian Creek, MCSP, Posts
“A recent Post-Gazette article highlights the plight of several families affected by a leaking impoundment at the Kalp well site located in Donegal Township, Westmoreland County. MWA has been assisting by making sure affected individuals know their rights under the law and ensuring that the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) has been adequately addressing the contamination. It is important that this story has finally come to light because the DEP and WPX, the operator of the site in question, have not properly addressed the contamination.
For the Kalp site, WPX received its first violation on September 18, 2012 when a DEP inspector found holes in the impoundment. As a result of that leak, three families have filed complaints with the DEP regarding their well water. In its investigation of the complaints, DEP has exceeded legal time requirements for investigations, delayed in ordering WPX to replace impacted water, and failed to account for existing water data in the case of the Geary family. As noted in the article, DEP determined that there was no conclusive link between the leaking impoundment and the changes to the Gearys’ water. That conclusion is unacceptable because the contaminants that show up in increased levels in Gearys’ water match those found in the impoundment and the water of their neighbors.
For its part, WPX has been issued two more violations—one on July 10, 2013 and one on June 17, 2014. Those violations concern WPX’s failure to replace the water of two families despite a conclusive finding of contamination by the DEP.
If the delays in fully addressing the Kalp situation are actually the result of an ongoing investigation, as DEP spokesperson John Poister claims, then the DEP should not have issued another drilling permit to WPX, as it did on January 27, 2014, until such an investigation is concluded. Furthermore, how can WPX with “three strikes” against it at the
Kalp site alone be able to continue with operations when it has shown a pattern for not addressing its impacts? DEP needs to invest the time necessary to fully investigate the extent of the contamination from the Kalp site, and halt the operations of WPX while it does so and until WPX takes the safety of Pennsylvanians seriously.
For more information or if you have been affected please contact me.
***New Sewickley Supervisors Approve Gas Compressor Station
“The New Sewickley Township supervisors have approved a Marcellus Shale gas compressor station near the Kretschmann Family Organic Farm, one of the region’s oldest and most successful Community Supported Agriculture operations.
Don Kretschmann and his wife, Becky, who started the 80-acre organic farm 35 years ago, opposed the siting of the Cardinal Midstream compressor station in the agricultural area because of the risks from air emissions and spills to their farm and its produce and its impact on the rural and largely agricultural community.
The supervisors voted, 4-0, Thursday evening to approve the Cardinal Midstream application for conditional use of the agriculturally zoned land for the four-unit Pike Compressor Station, 25 miles north of Pittsburgh in Beaver County.
Mr. Kretschmann said the supervisors’ decision can be appealed within 30 days to the Beaver County Common Pleas Court, and that the family is “strongly considering” doing so.
“Our farm is transitioning to the next generation, and we don’t want to have this big cloud hanging over us,” he said. “We know it could be a long slog with an uncertain outcome, but the gas industry has had its way everywhere, and somewhere, sometime, somebody has got to stand up.”
Mr. Kretschmann said the family would probably meet this weekend to decide about the appeal.
“I feel the decision was very well thought out and followed the letter of the law. The ordinance and everything was handled very well,” said Duane Rape, the supervisors board chairman, who abstained from the deliberations and the vote because of potential conflict-of-interest concerns.
Mr. Rape and 677 other landowners in the township have leased the shale gas under their property. Those leases, which PennEnergy Resources LLC holds, comprise 15,517 acres, or 71 percent of the township.
Casey Nikoloric, a Cardinal spokeswoman, said the Dallas-based company is “reviewing those conditions in detail to ensure that we are rigorous about meeting them.”
She said the compressor station could be operating by May if it receives needed state Department of Environmental Protection permits.
It will initially house four 1,340-horsepower compressors that would operate 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.
Cardinal has said it plans to eventually double the number of compressors at the site to eight.
Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are building blocks of ground-level ozone, the principal component of smog, which can cause a variety of breathing and lung problems and interfere with plant growth and development.
The permit decision capped a tumultuous, emotional process that included township zoning commission recommendations limiting the compressor’s footprint and nine and a half hours of public hearings that hundreds of people attended.
Prior to the vote, a 13 page “Findings of Fact” document was read, laying out 25 conditions for development of the 46-acre site in the middle of the rural community.
In an email after the vote, Mr. Kretschmann said siting of the “heavy industrial use in a ... top agricultural district is what rips at our hearts.”
In the weeks before the vote, Mr. Kretschmann said the compressor station threatened the future organic certification of his business, which now supplies weekly boxes of vegetables, herbs and fruit to more than 1,000 customers in Allegheny, Beaver and Butler counties.
More than 200 of those customers sent letters to the supervisors asking them to deny the permit.
James Marino, one of the Kretschmann’s customers, said in an email the supervisor’s action puts all 1,000 “farming partners” subscribed to the CSA at risk.
“It boggles my mind that the township doesn’t see the risk,” Mr. Marino wrote.
“Forget the letter of the law. If this family farm is lost, was it worth the amount of gas pumped out of there?”
*** 6 Frack Wells Within 3,000 Feet Of Schools
“MIDDLESEX, PENNSYLVANIA — If you stand beside Bob and Kim Geyer’s farm on Denny Road at 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, it is mostly quiet, except for the faint sounds of the local high school’s flag team band practicing in the distance.
That’s because the farm, where as many as six unconventional gas wells are waiting to be placed by Rex Energy, sits just half a mile from the Mars School District, a campus of 3,200 children. If Rex Energy’s permits for the wells are approved by the PA DEP, residents say the school buildings could be within the radius of a possible explosion.
At a township public meeting Wednesday night, Rex Energy came one step closer to having those permits approved. Middlesex supervisors Michael Spreng, Donald P. Marshall, and James Evans voted unanimously to approve changes to the town’s zoning laws that would legally open up residential and agricultural lands for drilling, despite the protests of concerned parents and residents.
In essence, the ordinance opens up most of the township to drilling.
That zoning law change has wider implications for the town in the long run, but at the moment, it has everything to do with the schools.
“In essence, the ordinance opens up most of the township to drilling,” said John Neuhror, communications director at Keystone Progress, who also lives in a development adjacent to the well site. “But it’s pretty clear to an objective observer that the ordinance was written to make it very clear that the Geyer farm’s wells are allowed in the township.”
The issue of the proposed Geyer wells has caused a palpable divide in the community between those who are worried about how fracking in the immediate proximity of their children could impact their health and welfare, and landowners who believe it is their right to do what they want with their property.
Sitting about 2,000 feet from the proposed well site on her back patio, with her five-year-old daughter on her lap, Jennifer Chomicki explained: “It’s twelve years of her life that she’ll be in that [school district] … we just don’t know enough about what it could do.”
Aside from the risk of an accident, the possible health impacts of living near a well are a large concern to Chomicki and those in the Mars Parent Group, which is mobilizing to oppose the Geyer wells. They cite the recently-observed link between proximity to natural gas wells and prevalence of congenital heart defects and neural tube defects, in addition to increased air pollution from gas leaks and truck traffic and the possibility of well water contamination.
“I’m a nurse and I have a lot of concern about what it means for the health of the girls,” Chomicki, who also has a three-year-old daughter, said. “Being this close, and reading the findings about what is linked — there’s not enough information out there yet. But there’s enough out there to be concerning, and I just don’t want it anywhere near my home.”
I’m a nurse and I have a lot of concern about what it means for the health of the girls.
At the public meeting, though, residents were not uniformly in opposition to the proposed wells. Multiple people spoke out in favor of unmitigated fracking, saying the parents were making a big deal out of a small thing.
“You’re scared of drilling rigs? Well let me tell you, I’ve been on thousands of them,” one resident said. “It’s not as bad as you think.”
Kim Geyer, whose property would house the Rex Energy wells, confirmed to ThinkProgress that the ordinance was important for the project, but mostly spoke about the need for Pennsylvania to get all of its energy from within the state.
“We need energy independence in the United States,” she said. “For that to happen, people have to allow unconventional drilling.”
Asked if she had anything to say to opponents concerned about the health and safety of the children in the Mars school district, Geyer — who up until 2011 served as president of the Mars school board — said no.
“The drilling industry is well-regulated,” she said.
The issue also extends to the supervisors themselves. Though they said nothing during the meeting except their “yes” votes to the ordinance at the end, all three men were chatting amicably with the pro-drilling group before meeting took place. Town supervisors Evans and Spreng both own gas leases, Evans owning one with Rex itself.
In what initially appeared to be a positive move for the parent community, town solicitor Mike Hnath officially deemed those leases a conflict of interest, and ordered that both Evans and Spreng abstain from voting.
However, in a truly Monty Python-like twist, Hnath then said that because a majority could not be reached with just the remaining supervisor, Evans and Spreng were allowed to vote. All three supervisors declined ThinkProgress’ request for comment following the meeting.
Conflict of interest or not, the Middlesex township supervisor’s decision to approve the zoning ordinance effectively puts the permits in the state DEP hands. That’s a controversial notion among residents, as some believe the DEP under current Gov. Tom Corbett (R) has done a dismal job protecting residents from harmful impacts of fracking.
“The DEP is not going to protect us,” said Kathleen Wagner, whose Derry Road home would be 300 feet from the well site.
Indeed, a recent report from the state DEPs auditor found that the agency had failed to adequately protect Pennsylvania’s drinking water supply from drilling. It also said the DEP routinely waited too long to inform the public about the results of investigations during the height of the fracking expansion.
A DEP representative did not immediately return ThinkProgress’ request for comment on what the next steps would be for the Geyer well site. A look at recent campaign contributions, however, shows Rex Energy has close ties to the current administration. Lance T. Shaner, former Rex Energy CEO and current Chairman of the company, is currently the ninth largest donor to Corbett’s re-election campaign. Shaner also contributed $155,550 to Corbett’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010.
It’s not just Corbett, either — Shaner’s reach spans the entire Republican Party. The Republican Party of Pennsylvania’s headquarters is actually called The Shaner Republican Center, named after the Rex CEO for his large contributions.
“As we head towards November and are just months away from securing major Republican wins for our candidates Pat Toomey, Tom Corbett and countless other Republicans up and down the ballot, I am honored that The Shaner Republican Center will serve as the foundations to those critical victories,” he said in 2010.
At the time of Shaner’s first $100,000 donation in 2010, the company had budgeted $66 million to drill natural-gas wells over 60,000 acres in four counties, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. In Middlesex, Rex Energy already has 8,300 acres of land leased for drilling.
The company had even tried to get the school to participate in the drilling process, offering the school board $1 million if they agreed to lease their underground land for horizontal drilling. But in March, the Mars Area School board rejected the lease offer.
Rex Energy said in a statement that it was disappointed by the vote, and that it respected the board’s decision. But company representative Michael Endler said it plans to continue their drilling plans near the school regardless.
“If they choose not to participate, that’s unfortunate,” he said. “But we will be moving forward with the project without them.” http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/08/14/3470363/middlesex-pennsylvania-fracking-schools/
***Radiation Alarm Triggered At Yukon Facility
Supervisor Finds levels Higher than MAX Env. Co.
“State officials are investigating a load of hazardous waste that set off radiation monitoring detector alarms last week at MAX Environmental Technologies Inc.'s hazardous waste treatment and storage facility in Yukon.
DEP inspectors received “inconsistent readings” from the industrial waste pile last week and planned to return to remeasure the material, said John Poister, a spokesman at the department's Pittsburgh office. Environmental regulators have taken samples of the waste and will test those, Poister said.
“We're determining what needs to be done,” Poister said.
The company said it is working with the state to determine the source of the radioactive material, but it believes the waste that triggered the radiation detector alarms is a sludge from the treatment of wastewater from oil and gas drilling operations.
MAX Environmental, based in Upper St. Clair, maintains that there is no threat to human health or the environment from the material, which is at the company's Impoundment No. 6.
“We have the material isolated and covered so that it is not disturbed,” Susan Z. Forney, a company spokeswoman, wrote in an email response to questions.
The amount of waste that triggered the radiation detector alarms is less than a roll-off box and contained in a 6-foot by 6-foot area, MAX Environmental said.
South Huntingdon Supervisor Mel Cornell, who serves as the township inspector, said he was concerned that dust from MAX Environmental, which has blown from the waste pile onto neighboring homes on Spring Street, could contain traces of radioactive material that will affect the health of local residents.
Cornell said meter readings from the waste pile measured from 240 micro Roentgens to 260 micro Roentgens in varying spots when he conducted a routine inspection of the hazardous waste treatment facility on Aug. 12. Cornell said the meter he used, which was purchased by the township, found radiation levels much higher than those found when MAX Environmental's employees measured the same waste.
“It was bad enough for me to alert the rest of the township,” Cornell said.
Poister said he was not certain whether the readings the DEP inspectors received were higher than MAX Environmental's permitted level of 140 micro Roentgens, plus a background reading of 10 micro Roentgens.
MAX Environmental said its employees, the state inspectors and township officials found varying measurement readings from less than 140 micro Roentgens to about 250 micro Roentgens.
Until the investigation is done and any necessary corrective actions are completed, MAX Environmental said it will not accept any waste containing naturally occurring radiation levels above background levels — that is, any waste that would trigger the entrance portal alarm, Forney said.
That naturally occurring radioactive material refers to rocks, minerals and soil that contain small amounts of radium, thorium or uranium. When those soils or rocks are exposed, processed or concentrated, they are considered “technologically enhanced,” she said.
MAX Environmental is trying to determine which firm sent the waste to MAX by reviewing its waste tracking and shipment paperwork, Forney said.
The investigation takes place at a time when MAX Environmental plans to seek a 10-year renewal of its hazardous waste management permit from the state. Its permit expires in February 2015.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/6616018-74/waste-max-environmental#ixzz3AsWTcgPL
***Grant Twp Sued For Banning Frack Wastewater
"Natural gas producer Pennsylvania General Energy Co. LLC has sued a western Pennsylvania municipality in federal court, alleging that a local ordinance banning the disposal of fracking wastewater violates the U.S. Constitution. The company said in a complaint filed Friday that Grant Township, located in Indiana County, has stepped on its constitutional rights with the June ordinance, which declares that corporations can not dispose of oil and gas waste within the municipality."
It also says that the ordinance violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by treating corporations differently that it does individuals. And it claims that the ordinance violates the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments by limiting the company's ability to redress the infringement of its rights.
PGE additionally says that the ordinance is preempted by the state's Oil and Gas Act, which it says gives DEP the exclusive authority to regulate oil and gas development.
The company seeks to have the ordinance declared unenforceable and unconstitutional.”
***Companies Fracking into Drinking Water Aquifers- Stanford Research Study
Fracking Sometimes Done At 700-750 Feet
“Energy companies are fracking for oil and gas at far shallower depths than widely believed, sometimes through underground sources of drinking water, according to research released Tuesday by Stanford University scientists.
Though researchers cautioned their study of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, employed at two Wyoming geological formations showed no direct evidence of water-supply contamination, their work is certain to roil the public health debate over the risks of the controversial oil and gas production process.
Fracking fluids contain a host of chemicals, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins. Fears about possible water contamination and air pollution have fed resistance in communities around the country, threatening to slow the oil and gas boom made possible by fracking.
Fracking into underground drinking water sources is not prohibited by the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which exempted the practice from key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. But the industry has long held that it does not hydraulically fracture into underground sources of drinking water because oil and gas deposits sit far deeper than aquifers.
The study, however, found that energy companies used acid stimulation, a production method, and hydraulic fracturing in the Wind River and Fort Union geological formations that make up the Pavillion gas field and that contain both natural gas and sources of drinking water.
“Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel and millions of gallons of fluids containing numerous inorganic and organic additives were injected directly into these two formations during hundreds of stimulation events,” concluded Dominic DiGiulio and Robert Jackson of Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences in a presentation Tuesday at the American Chemical Society conference in San Francisco.
Scientists cautioned that their research, which is ongoing and has yet to be peer-reviewed, “does not say that drinking water has been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing.” Rather, they point out that there is no way of knowing the effects of fracking into groundwater resources because regulators have not assessed the scope and impact of the activity.
“The extent and consequences of these activities are poorly documented, hindering assessments of potential resource damage and human exposure,” DiGiulio wrote.
Underground sources of drinking water, or USDWs, are a category of aquifers under the Safe Drinking Water Act that could provide water for human consumption.
“If the water isn’t being used now, it doesn’t mean it can’t be used in the future,” said DiGiulio, a Stanford research associate who recently retired from the Environmental Protection Agency. “That was the intent of identifying underground sources of drinking water: to safeguard them.”
The EPA documented in 2004 that fracking into drinking water sources had occurred when companies extracted natural gas from coal seams. But industry officials have long denied that the current oil and gas boom has resulted in fracking into drinking water sources because the hydrocarbon deposits are located in deeper geological formations.
“Thankfully, the formations where hydraulic fracturing actually is occurring…are isolated from USDWs by multiple layers and often billions of tons of impenetrable rock,” said Steve Everley, a spokesman for the industry group Energy in Depth.
Industry officials had not seen the Stanford research.
Digiulio and Jackson plotted the depths of fracked wells, as well as domestic drinking water wells in the Pavillion area. They found that companies used acid stimulation and hydraulic fracturing at depths of the deepest water wells near the Pavillion gas field, at 700 to 750 feet, far shallower than fracking was previously thought to occur in the area.
“It's true that fracking often occurs miles below the surface,” said Jackson, professor of environment and energy at Stanford. “People don't realize, though, that it's sometimes happening less than a thousand feet underground in sources of drinking water.”
Companies say that fracking has never contaminated drinking water. The EPA launched three investigations over the last six years into possible drinking water contamination by oil and gas activity in Dimock, Pa.; Parker County, Texas; and Pavillion, Wyo. After initially finding evidence of contamination at the three sites, the EPA shelved the investigations amid allegations by environmentalists and local residents that the regulator succumbed to political pressure.
Jackson said the Stanford study’s findings underscore the need for better monitoring of fracking at shallower depths. “You can't test the consequences of an activity if you don't know how common it is,” he said. “We think that any fracking within a thousand feet of the surface should be more clearly documented and face greater scrutiny.”
The Stanford study focuses on Pavillion, in part because of DiGiulio’s familiarity with the area when he served as an EPA researcher in the latter stages of the Pavillion water study. Industry and the state of Wyoming questioned the EPA’s methodology after its 2011 draft report found the presence of chemicals associated with gas production in residents’ well water. In June 2013, the EPA turned over the study to Wyoming regulators, whose work is being funded by EnCana, the company accused of polluting the water in Pavillion.
The EPA study looked at whether chemicals migrated upward from fracked geological zones into people’s well water. The Stanford research does not explore the possibility of migration, focusing instead on the injection of fracking chemicals directly into geological formations that contain groundwater.
EPA does not keep track of whether underground sources of drinking water have been hydraulically fractured as part of oil and gas development, said Alisha Johnson, a spokeswoman. “EPA does not maintain a database of all the wells being hydraulically fractured across the country,” she said in an email.
In their presentation, DiGiulio and Jackson noted that the EPA considers the Wind River formation and the Fort Union stratum below it to be underground sources of drinking water. The conventional image of tight geological formations where fracking occurs is that they are monolithic stretches of rock. But the scientists say the geology of the two formations is mostly sandstone of varying permeability and water.
“People think these formations are impermeable, and so they wonder, ‘Why are you worrying about water?’” DiGiulio said. “But it is an extremely heterogeneous environment, with areas of low and high permeability mixed together and with many lenses conducting water.”
***PUC Wants To Control Zoning Of Fracking
“Pennsylvania’s PUC has appealed a recent Commonwealth Court decision, which stripped the agency of its authority to review local zoning ordinances regarding Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling. The state’s drilling law, enacted in 2012, gave the PUC authority to decide whether or not a municipality’s zoning ordinances complied with the state constitution and the new rules regarding natural gas drilling.
Act 13, the comprehensive legislation that amended the state’s oil and gas law, had implemented statewide zoning rules that the municipalities had to follow. It also allowed those who disagreed with the ordinances to bypass local zoning hearing boards, and appeal directly to the PUC or the Commonwealth Court. Several municipalities sued the state over this controversial law, and the case eventually made its way up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The high court ruled in December that these restrictions on local zoning for natural gas development were unconstitutional.
But the Supreme Court sent some decisions in the case back down to the Commonwealth Court to decide. Among these included whether or not the Public Utility Commission’s authority superseded local zoning boards when it came to challenging a municipality’s zoning decision.
Last month, the Commonwealth Court ruled that given the Supreme Court’s ruling, it made no sense to have challenges to local zoning ordinances bypass the current process, and go directly to either the PUC or the Commonwealth Court. The July decision effectively removed the PUC from the new role created for the agency by Act 13.
But the law had also given the PUC and the Commonwealth Court power to withhold a municipality’s share of the Marcellus Shale impact fee if a local ordinance was found to be in violation of the law.
Part of the appeal seems focused on this issue. A spokesperson for the PUC says the agency continues to administer the law regarding impact fees.
“We are questioning the Commonwealth Courts order that prevents us from doing any sort of review of ordinances,” wrote PUC spokeswoman Denise McCracken in an email. The PUC also says it has authority over other aspects of Act 13 that the Supreme Court did not rule unconstitutional and the Municipalities Planning Code.
Jordan Yeager, who represents the local municipalities in the case, says he’s not surprised by the Commonwealth’s appeal.
“This is an effort by the General Assembly and the Corbett Administration to carve out special rules for the gas industry that no other industry has,” said Yeager. “The PUC doesn’t have a role in reviewing zoning ordinances in any other context. This is just special treatment for the gas industry.”
Yeager says the Public Utility Commission has played no historical role in the state’s local zoning. Yeager says he is considering a cross-appeal of other aspects of the Commonwealth Court’s July ruling.
***PA Health Dept. Changes Policies for Frack Related Health Complaints
BY KATIE COLANERI
The Pennsylvania Department of Health announced it has updated its policies for handling complaints related to Marcellus Shale drilling.
All those who file a complaint with the department’s Bureau of Epidemiology will now receive a letter acknowledging their concerns and outlining the agency’s findings.
The changes follow a recent investigation by StateImpact Pennsylvania in which two former employees said they were told not to speak with their colleagues or the public about drilling-related health concerns.
A working group convened by Secretary Michael Wolf in the wake of these allegations found that some people who complained did not receive a formal response from the department.
“What we found was, there wasn’t a standard procedure,” said spokeswoman Holli Senior. “Everything was on a case-by-case basis.”
The department also updated its website to explain the procedure for filing an environmental health complaint. The explanation includes guidance for when to contact the Department of Health or the Department of Environmental Protection.
Senior said high-level officials with both agencies will meet twice a month to discuss all environmental health concerns and have shared contacts to increase their collaborative efforts.
“I believe by implementing these straightforward changes, Pennsylvanians will be better informed about what the department does and how we can be of assistance,” Wolf said in a statement.
While the department is billing the changes as improvements, some environmental groups and public health advocates say the state needs to address the agency’s past practices.
In a letter to legislators this week, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Physicians for Social Responsibility and PennEnvironment are calling for an investigation by the state’s Auditor General into allegations employees were discouraged from returning calls from people who complained about drilling. Last month, the Auditor General’s office faulted the DEP’s for mishandling public complaints about water contamination and natural gas development.
“This practice could have limited the [Health] Department’s professional staff from accurately monitoring and responding to health problems related to our state’s unconventional gas industry,” the letter says.
The groups are also asking the department to make public all drilling-related health complaints.
Senior said the secretary’s working group has discussed it, but the department’s legal team has concluded it cannot release the information to the public. The department says it has logged 57 complaints since 2011. According to Senior, they fall into three categories: water quality, air contamination and “physical symptoms.”
“Our working group is going to continue and we understand that there’s always room for improvement,” she said. “We’ll certainly be considering a lot of different options moving forward.”
Correction: The most recent figure for the number of drilling-related health complaints on file with the Department of Health is 57, not 51. High-level officials will meet twice a month, not twice a week to discuss environmental health issues.
***Say No to Sunoco-Pump Station Video
Subject: Sunoco's Ohio Pump located
We must remain focused on the end goal of keeping our community safe from the relentless incursion by pipeline companies that want to force their pipes through Chester County. Keep up the good work and keep spreading the message to "Say NO to Sunoco!"
During the past few months many questions have gone unanswered by Sunoco. One question in particular was the location of their supposed pumping station in Ohio. They stated this many times during their few meetings here in West Chester. But they would never answer where it was located. We were able to obtain its location, as well as speak with the residents in the area about what happened to them. The story is very similar to ours except that we were able to catch them at the very beginning and raise important questions about this project. Without the quick thinking of some local residents what happened in Ohio would have happened here.
The location of the facility is Medina, Ohio. Some of you may have already seen the video we put on YouTube, but for those that have not seen it yet we are including a link. The site and sound of what Sunoco wants to put at the Rt. 202 and Boot Rd. site is completely unacceptable in a densely populated area. This does not belong within 100 yards of somebody's deck. Please share this video with everyone you know to show them that this is truly a serious matter for not only West Goshen, but for every community from here to Pittsburgh.
Flare Video Link
The Team at 3cCoalition.org”
***Well Fire In Mercer County
JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WYTV) – Fire crews worked for several hours Friday night to contain a fire at a gas well in Mercer County.
One witness said smoke from the fire could be seen for miles. Mercer County officials said two half-tankers caught fire containing about 200 barrels of oil.
Pew Road and Golf Road were shut down at crews battled the fire.
Online reports from the DEP name the well as the Jefferson McGhee site, owned by Hilcorp Energy.
Initial drilling and operating permits were issued in 2013. Violations at the well site were noted as early as March 2014 http://wytv.com/2014/08/16/explosions-and-heavy-smoke-at-mercer-co-gas-well-fire/
***Gas Co. Takes Control Of Public Land
By Marie Cusick
“After a few minutes of taking photos of the drill rig from the public road, a man appears and asks for our names. We tell him who we are and what we’re doing.
The man won’t identify himself but says he’s copying down Deering’s license plate. I was told you have to have permission to photograph,” he says.
“From whom?” Deering asks.
“I was just told,” the man says. “I’m just asking you if you have permission.
He leaves, and a few minutes later another security guard arrives. We ask him if it’s OK to take photos from the road. He doesn’t answer. He uses his phone to take photos of us and walks away.
The security firm, Gas Well Security, didn’t respond to several requests to comment for this story. PGE declined an interview request but sent a statement saying its focus is on the safety of workers and visitors:
“Any effort by contracted personnel to engage people near our operations is focused on these goals of safety and security and not intended to impede use of public lands.”
As Deering took us along the public roads near his home over the next several hours, two security guards continually trailed us. None of them mentioned safety or security concerns.
Other residents have similar stories. Attorney Mark Givler lives at the bottom of the mountain, along the Pine Creek. He’s an avid hiker and says the gas industry has changed his way of life. When the drilling boom first began, guards blocked him from getting to some of his favorite scenic vistas in the Tiadaghton State Forest.
“When I first tried to get to the scenic views back in 2007, I was arrested in my progress by these security people,” says Givler. “They absolutely denied me access to these public vistas.”
Angered by his experience, Givler wrote letters to then-Governor Ed Rendell and other state officials including the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which manages public forests.
The agency responded saying it has neither the personnel, training, nor budget manage security. Dan Devlin heads the department’s Bureau of Forestry and says things have gotten better.
“I would be the first to admit that very early on, we had a lot of overaggressive security folks that were making things more difficult than they should have been.”
Devlin says the state still leaves security up to gas companies and safety is important, but complaints about public access have dwindled in recent years.
It’s true that things have changed.
Hikers, like Cindy Bower, can go to those vistas again.
She parks her car a quarter-mile away—the road is closed to traffic now—although industry vehicles are allowed. The path takes her past construction equipment and a fenced-off impoundment pond.
Bower looks out over the Pine Creek Valley. These scenic vistas were temporarily closed to the public due to gas development.
In the past, she could drive up to the views with her family. They can’t join her anymore.
“None of my immediate family can walk here,” she says. “For various reasons of mobility having to do with replacement joints, arthritis, and age.”
Bower is a member of the Lycoming County Planning Commission and has watched the gas industry grow in the state forest system.
“Sometimes when you come down a road like this, you’ll get stopped by a vehicle with a person that says, ‘Well what are you doing here?’ I shouldn’t have to be asked what I’m doing on public land.”
Bower is also a board member of the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation—the group suing Governor Corbett to prevent further gas leasing on public land.
A ruling is expected this winter.
Meanwhile, with more development planned near his home, Bob Deering and his wife are thinking of moving.
“She wants [to get] out of here period,” he says of his wife. “Because she deals with the traffic every day. She just doesn’t feel safe anymore.”
***Commissioner Courtney Permitted to Be Banker, Stockbroker and Insurance Agent to County Municipalities
Commissioner may do business with municipal governments
Westmoreland County Commissioner Tyler Courtney can serve as an investment banker, stockbroker and insurance agent to municipalities in the county, according to a state ethics commission opinion issued this month.
Courtney, a first-term Republican, said on Wednesday that he sought the finding to ensure that his current and future private business dealings were within bounds of state law.
“I don’t want to cross any lines,” Courtney said.
When Courtney took office in 2012, he continued to operate RTC Financial Services, a financial planning business he formed in 2000. The company offers financial advice and planning, and sells stocks and insurance, according to its website.
He also owns Natural Resource Placement, a business that advises natural gas drillers. Courtney said that company has not operated since he assumed office.
Courtney, who earns more than $75,000 a year as a commissioner, declined to reveal how many clients his private business has but said none is a municipality. He said he does work for the business on nights and weekends.
“I don’t think taxpayers should be concerned at all. I put in a lot of time at the courthouse,” Courtney said.
The commissioners and other elected county officials have no minimum work hour requirements for their day jobs. Courtney has attended most public meetings that have been held since he was elected.
Courtney disclosed his outside business dealings on a statement of financial interest on file at the courthouse. Commissioners Charles Anderson and Ted Kopas disclosed no second jobs on their filings.
The ethics commission concluded that Courtney can market his services to municipalities within Westmoreland County, provided he abstains from any votes involving their financial dealings with the county and doesn’t personally benefit from any deals his clients have with the county.
Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, an advocacy group that promotes government accountability, said there appear to be no improprieties with Courtney’s moonlighting.
“As long as he keeps a red line between official business and his outside duties, I think that’s OK,” Kauffman said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 firstname.lastname@example.org .
***Auditor General De Pasquale Faults DEP
“State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale-D released his year-and-a-half-long audit of the DEP on July 22. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale found a few issues with the state DEP’s oil and gas programs that went beyond poor record-keeping.
The first issue DePasquale found in his year-and-a-half-long audit, released July 22, was that DEP did not routinely issue administrative orders after it determined a well operator’s activities had damaged a water supply.
Auditors reviewed 15 cases when DEP found operators had damaged a water supply and DEP issued an order to restore or replace it just once. In these cases, operators made agreements with affected residents.
“The problem that we had was threefold,” DePasquale said. “One is the law, we believe, is very clear; an administrative order is required. Two, if there’s a bad driller, you want to have a paper trail so if they do it a couple of times, you can hold them fully responsible. Third, is that yes, that landowner may know, and they’re negotiating with the well owner ... but what about anything that may have impacted downstream, impacting neighbors?”
But in those 15 cases, DEP had not yet determined whether it was oil and gas production that had damaged the water supply, Secretary Christopher Abruzzo said.
“In all of those instances, the operators had already contacted the landowner and arrived at an agreement before we even made a determination,” he said.
Groundwater quality varies across Pennsylvania. Sometimes, DEP takes months to determine the cause of contamination or flow reduction, particularly if the case involves isotopic testing to determine the source of methane in a well.
“When issuing an order is unnecessary because compliance has already taken place, that is an unnecessary case of bureaucracy,” Abruzzo said.
Abruzzo thinks DEP should mark each incident in some way, but a more appropriate method might be a notice of violation instead of an order. He said he has left this up to Deputy Secretary Scott Perry, who heads the Office of Oil and Gas Management.
“It’s important for us to keep a record of founded water well contamination incidents,” he said. “It does create some perspective.”
DePasquale also took issue with the agency’s well inspection policy, drafted long before the shale gas boom.
“The inspection policy still has not been revised — that’s a 25-year-old policy,” he said. Abruzzo said the outdated policy does not reflect the agency’s current practice, in which operators must notify DEP of all critical stage of well development — drilling, cementing casing strings, conducting pressure tests of production casing, hydraulic fracturing, and plugging or abandoning a well. DEP inspectors use this information to track a well’s progress and plan inspections.
“Scott Perry has recognized that our outdated policy should be updated,” he said. “Like any policies, they should reflect current practice.”
***Center for Sustainable Shale Development Receives More Criticism For Bias
A nonprofit watchdog group has released a new report criticizing the Center for Sustainable Shale Development for continuing to maintain what it perceives as questionable links to the oil and gas industry, but the center said the criticism is unfair.
A report by the Public Accountability Initiative, said in the year since it last issued a study on the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, the Downtown-based organization “appears to have doubled down on its energy industry ties” because of connections it has to energy concerns through one of its philanthropic funders, staff members and a board member.
While credibility may be CSSD’s aim, the direction the group has taken in the past year does little to diminish the group’s appearance as an oil and gas front,” the Buffalo, N.Y.-based nonprofit said in the new report.
The Center for Sustainable Shale Development was launched in March 2013 as an effort between energy companies and environmental groups to find best practices for tapping the energy resources of the Marcellus Shale region.
One of the environmental groups that helped to found the center, PennFuture, is no longer a “strategic partner” with the organization, according to the PAI report.
Responding to the report, Susan LeGros, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, said the center “is about collaboration so we work with groups and individuals with different viewpoints on the shale gas topics.”
In its June 2013 report, the Public Accountability Initiative blasted the Center for Sustainable Shale Development and the Heinz Endowments, one of the center’s original partners and funders, for not disclosing that Robert Vagt, former president of the endowments, sat on the board of directors and owned stock in Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based natural gas pipeline company.
The 2013 report set off a heated controversy that resulted in two endowments staff members being let go, Mr. Vagt’s departure from the charity earlier this year, and an effort by the endowments to distance itself from the center.
In its newest report, which can be viewed below or by clicking here, PAI said a new Center for Sustainable Shale Development sponsor, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, was “founded with oil money” and “maintains extensive ties to the oil and gas industry” through the Benedum family and some foundation board members who work in the energy industry in West Virginia.
The Downtown-based foundation was founded in 1944 by the late oil magnate Michael Benedum, a West Virginia native. The foundation joined the Center for Sustainable Shale Development in January as a “funder” and provided a grant of $25,000 to the organization, said Ms. LeGros.
Foundation officials could not be reached for comment.
PAI criticized the Center for Sustainable Shale Development for hiring Ms. LeGros in January because she was formerly an attorney with the energy practice at Philadelphia law firm Stevens & Lee.
In its report, PAI said the center downplayed Ms. LeGros’ industry ties “while stressing her environmental bona fides.”
Ms. LeGros’ career also includes work for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Also coming under scrutiny in the Public Accountability Initiative report were board member Jared Cohon, past president of Carnegie Mellon University; and Timothy O’Brien, whose public relations company works for the Center for Sustainable Shale Development.
PAI criticized Mr. Cohon’s past chairmanship of the Science Advisory Board of the Center for Indoor Air Research. That organization was founded by major tobacco companies to address public concerns about the health effects of secondhand smoke. The nonprofit cited studies that concluded the tobacco industry financed projects through the center “to enhance its credibility, to provide good publicity, and to divert attention from [secondhand smoke] as an indoor air pollutant.”
As a board member at the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, PAI said, “Cohon seems to serve a similar function” and, along with “the remainder of the purportedly independent CSSD are enhancing the credibility of and providing good publicity for the fracking industry while diverting attention from its ill effects on the environment and public health.”
Mr. O’Brien, who owns O’Brien Communications, was criticized by the nonprofit because his business website in the past noted that he has provided communications consulting for companies engaged in developing the Marcellus Shale.
“My only comment is that [energy] is one of the many industries I have served,” said Mr. O’Brien. “CSSD is my primary focus in this area. I don’t work with any energy companies right now.”
In response to the new report, the Heinz Endowments said it provided $95,000 to help launch the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, but that “we are no longer a funder of the group.”
It continued: “We disagree with the position suggested by the organization’s name that fracking can be made environmentally ‘sustainable’ and, given the pace of shale development, we do not believe that the goals of protecting environmental and public health are best served at this point by standards that are voluntary and unenforceable.”
***Shale Drilling Cannot be Done Responsibly-
Letter to the Editor by Steve Cleghorn
(Steve is a farmer from Reynoldsville, PA, jan)
“August 17, 2014 12:00 AM
Regarding the Post-Gazette’s Aug. 10 editorial “Sloppy Screed: A Report Faults a Group Seeking Better Shale Practices” about criticism of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development by the Public Accountability Initiative: Keep in mind that the Heinz Endowments and PennFuture distanced themselves from being part of CSSD. Yet even that should not be the real focus of your attentions.
The editorial, at its heart, is just an “inside baseball” controversy. For now shale gas drilling, as it is currently designed and conducted, cannot be done responsibly. It is causing too much harm with air and water contamination, sicknesses among humans and animals and destruction of communities. Its long-term consequences are essentially unknown. Significant vectors of fact (e.g., well casings that cannot hold up in perpetuity but must do so to protect aquifers, methane pollution that cannot be controlled and hastens climate change) point in the direction of widespread environmental damage in the future after the gas has been extracted and profits taken.
The editors should ask CSSD two basic questions instead of worrying about a nonprofit’s report that the PG sees as not constructive: 1) Could it happen that irreparable harm is done to Pennsylvania groundwater aquifers by drilling fluids and/or shale gases that find their way to aquifers via deteriorated well casings or as a result of fracking, and 2) has the gas industry proved that such irreparable environmental harm cannot happen? If the answers to these questions are “Maybe” and “No,” then the drilling cannot be considered responsible in any way and must be stopped.”
J. STEPHEN CLEGHORN
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/letters/2014/08/17/Shale-drilling-cannot-be-done-responsibly-Center-for-Sustainable-Shale-Development-Public-Accountability-Initiative/stories/201408170095#ixzz3AsYt3CrI
***PA Fines Gas Driller For Losing Control Of Well
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — State environmental regulators have fined a gas drilling company for allowing natural gas to escape a well in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The DEP said Tuesday it fined Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. more than $76,000 for losing control of a well at its Huston pad in Brooklyn Township, Susquehanna County.
Regulators say the well released natural gas for about 27 hours before it was brought under control on Jan. 6.
DEP says a Cabot subcontractor who was replacing equipment at the wellhead didn't follow procedures for working on equipment in cold weather, leading to a damaged valve that released the gas.
The DEP says the gas dissipated and there was no significant environmental impact.”
***Wake-up Call on fracking
By Helen Slottje
“In an age when the voices and concerns of average Americans often go unheard in our political system, two small towns in upstate New York recently won an underdog victory against the oil and gas industry that should serve as a wake-up call to government officials across the nation.
Dryden and Middlefield – passed municipal bans on fracking, despite threats of lawsuits from the oil and gas industry. Industry made good on those threats, but lost in two trial courts, and on appeal to the New York State Court of Appeals. The state’s highest court held that municipalities have the right to use their long-standing zoning laws to ban oil and gas operations, including fracking.
Unfortunately, fracking has spread throughout much of the nation with little if any honest consideration of the consequences. From the White House to Congress to most state governments, the oil and gas industry has successfully lobbied public officials to cave to their demands and have hired the same public relations consultants as the tobacco industry did to mire the facts about the harms of this violent drilling process.
Now independent science is beginning to catch up to this new practice and it’s all bad news. A rapidly expanding body of hundreds of recent scientific and medical studies shows that the impacts of fracking are significant, and with millions of Americans living within a mile of fracking sites, the potential exposure is alarming.
For example, based on three years of monitoring, a Colorado School of Public Health study found air pollutants near fracking sites at levels sufficient to raise risks of cancer, neurological deficits and respiratory problems. Among the chemicals was the carcinogen benzene, which separate air monitoring has found at dangerous levels at fracking sites in states including Colorado, Pennsylvania, Utah, Texas and West Virginia.
Many studies have linked drilling and fracking activities with water contamination. When you consider the hundreds of chemicals used in fracking operations, as well as naturally occurring radioactive materials and heavy metal in the shale, that’s disturbing. It’s even worse in light of recent research indicating that rates of cement failures in well casings – the only barrier between groundwater and disastrous contamination – are actually getting worse, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a Cornell University research team. Researchers analyzed more than 75,000 official state of Pennsylvania inspections of more than 41,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2000 and determined that over 40 % of shale fracking wells drilled after 2009 would leak into the groundwater or atmosphere, higher rates than for older, conventional wells.
As science has begun to catch up, air pollution and water contamination are just two of many harms from fracking. Others include earthquakes, high levels of radiation, noise and light pollution, significant contributions to climate change, threats to agriculture, increased crime rates and a range of health impacts.
In spite of all this, the oil and gas industry’s influence is so politically significant that Obama, Congress and most state governments remain undaunted in supporting fracking. This undue influence is not new. FDR complained about it in the 1940’s: “The trouble with this country is that you can’t win an election without the oil bloc, and you can’t govern with it.”
What’s next for New York? A statewide ban that can help lead our country in the right direction - away from fracking – because air pollution, water contamination, and the health and other problems caused by fracking do not conform to municipal boundaries.
In New York, it’s heartening that most elected officials have not abandoned science and caution by yielding to the oil and gas industry’s propaganda and political influence. Governor Andrew Cuomo has kept our state’s moratorium in place and has firmly and rightly said he wants to let the science decide. Recently, the New York State Assembly overwhelmingly passed a three-year moratorium based on the call from hundreds of health professionals and medical organizations given emerging trends in the data showing harm and the need for more study.
Now it’s imperative that officials in Washington, D.C. and in other states– including Congress and Obama – wake up from the oil and gas industry-induced trance and provide true leadership on this issue. That means following the science, not the money. The health of communities across the nation and future generations is at stake. And that’s something worth fighting for.”
Slottje, Esq. is the 2014 North America recipient of The Goldman Environmental Prize for her legal work on behalf of New York communities enacting local fracking bans. She lives in Ithaca, N.Y. with her husband David.
***Michigan Takes Radioactive Frack Waste
Radioactive fracking sludge
“The waste, known as technologically enhanced, naturally occurring radioactive materials, or TENORM, is a waste byproduct of oil and gas drilling that accumulate the radiation that occurs normally in nature. Where does it come from? The radioactivity, usually from the metal radium, accumulates from drill cuttings, the soil, rock fragments, and pulverized material removed from a borehole that may include fluid from a drilling process. It also can be present in flowback water, the brine or other fluid injected into shale formations during fracking that makes its way back to the surface.
How radioactive is it? Usually only slightly more radioactive than the levels that occur in nature — though a shipment of tons of radioactive drilling sludge from Pennsylvania last week reached levels of 260 microrems per hour, according to Range Resources, the oil and gas developer disposing of it. The EPA says continued, long-term exposure over a period of months to up to 100 microrems of radiation can lead to serious health effects. Is there an environmental concern? Michigan’s Wayne Disposal landfill near Belleville is designed and licensed to take the TENORM material, but some residents and environmentalists say they are concerned over the long-term potential for leaks into waterways or groundwater. Other states such as Ohio and West Virginia have recently tightened their regulations on disposing of TENORM — and have even recommended using the Wayne Disposal landfill. Sources: U.S. EPA, Michigan DEQ, Wayne Disposal website
As other states ban landfills from accepting low-level radioactive waste, up to 36 tons of the sludge already rejected by two other states was slated to arrive in Michigan late last week.
Wayne Disposal landfill is one of the few landfills in the eastern and Midwestern U.S. licensed to accept the radioactive waste, which has been collected by a Pennsylvania hydraulic fracking operation.
As regulations tighten in other states, companies are turning to Michigan as the radioactive sludge’s dumping ground.
Though the radiation is considered low-level and the landfill licensed by the state to handle it, nearby residents and environmentalists still worry over its potential to leak into rivers, lakes or groundwater over long periods of time.
Anne Woiwode, Michigan director of the nonprofit environmental group the Sierra Club, is concerned that water is at risk. “We’ve got other states deciding they don’t want it, which is why it’s coming here,” she said.
Woiwode said she’s concerned about elevated radiation leaking into the Great Lakes, other waterways or groundwater.
“The question isn’t just what kind of waste is coming, but why is waste coming here at all?”
The radioactivity, usually from the metal radium, accumulates from drill cuttings, the soil, rock fragments, and pulverized material removed from a borehole that may include fluid from a drilling process. It also can be present in flowback water, which is the brine or other fluid injected into shale formations during fracking that makes its way back to the surface.
The radioactivity levels of the waste are typically low, often not much higher than naturally occurring, ambient radiation in the environment. But because the levels are elevated, special regulations for disposal of the material are in place.
Pennsylvania and West Virginia — two other states experiencing a fracking boom — require radiation detectors at local landfills in large part to avoid improper disposal of radioactive drilling wastes.
Range Resources accumulated the material from its drilling operations in Washington County, Pa. It was rejected from a landfill in western Pennsylvania earlier this year after heightened radiation was detected. The company then began taking the material to a landfill in West Virginia, but that state’s DEP halted the practice in May, as it sought more information and instituted new rules tightening the state’s management of radioactive drilling wastes.
“This is basically a load of sludge that came from storage tanks that were cleaned out and had accumulated over time,” said John Poister, spokesman for the DEP. “It comes from the water used in hydraulic fracturing, and when it’s stored, the solids tend to sink to the bottom and become a sludge.”
That also causes the natural radioactivity to accumulate, Poister said.
“It’s higher in radioactive readings than can be accepted in landfills in Pennsylvania,” he said.
Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range Resources, said the radioactivity levels in the sludge measured “between 40 and 260 microrems per hour” and were not detectable a few feet from the source. The sludge came in two containers capable of hauling 36 tons of material in total, though the boxes were not full, he said.
According the U.S. EPA, continued, long-term exposure over a period of months to up to 100 microrems of radiation can lead to health effects including changes in blood chemistry, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea and bleeding.
There is no firm basis for setting a ‘safe’ level of exposure above background” radiation, the EPA’s website states.
“Why can’t they dump it in their own states?” she said. “Why here?” http://www.freep.com/article/20140819/NEWS06/308190016/fracking-radioactive-waste-michigan
***At Least 10% Of Frack Fluid Is Toxic
BY ANDREW BREINER
“At least 10 percent of the contents of fracking fluid injected into the earth is toxic. For another third we have no idea. And that’s only from the list of chemicals the fracking industry provided voluntarily. That’s according to an analysis by William Stringfellow of Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, reported in Chemistry World.
The contents and makeup of that fluid have been a subject of controversy, largely because drilling companies are able to keep what’s in it a secret, and because the fluid has been known to leak and spill on a regular basis.
Stringfellow mostly used FracFocus’ voluntary registry of 250 fracking chemicals provided by the industry to check against existing toxicology information. He found that about 10 percent of the chemicals are known to be hazardous “in terms of mammalian or aquatic toxicology,” Stringfellow said at the a meeting of the American Chemical Society. But for almost a third of those 250 chemicals, there’s no publicly available information on their toxicity to humans or other life. And that’s not even counting the chemicals that the industry can simply choose to keep a secret.
FracFocus was in the news last week when drilling companies came under scrutiny for injecting diesel fuel into the earth to frack oil and gas, something for which they are supposed to have a permit. When that came to light, many companies simply went back and removed past mentions of injecting diesel.
Pressure is growing for companies to stop concealing the chemical mixtures they use for fracking. The companies Baker Hughes and Schlumberger chose to disclose their entire fracking formulas, and other companies may follow suit. “Industry knows what its problem compounds are, and they’re trying to replace those,” Stringfellow said. And until then, they’re likely to keep their formulas a secret.
A 1986 law passed by Congress set up the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory program, a publicly-viewable database of toxic chemicals released by various industries. It’s up to the EPA to decide who has to report to the database, and it hasn’t chosen to include the oil and gas industry in the TRI program. Environmental groups have been pushing for the EPA to add the industry since 2012, as oil and gas extraction continues to grow, and increased fracking exposes more Americans to hazardous chemicals.”