* 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/
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* To contact your state legislator:
For the email address, click on the envelope under the photo
* For information on PA state gas legislation and local control: http://pajustpowers.org/aboutthebills.html-
To read former Updates please visit our blogspot listed above.
WMCG Thank You
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.
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.
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. This month we are meeting the third Tuesday, Sept 16. Email Jan for directions. All are very welcome to attend.
***Free TDS Water Screening Legion Keener Park, Farm Market Sept 9, 12:00-3:30 WMCG will be handing out information on fracking and screening for TDS with our new TDS meter thanks to Marc Levine. If you can give an hour or two to work the booth please let Jan know. It would relieve others. Bring water sample in clean plastic baggie.
***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
***Toxic Tuesdays –Tell DEP’s Abruzzo--Do not approve paving with radioactive drill cuttings
“The next 4 Tuesdays, starting 8/26, are Toxic Tuesdays. They're the days we're going to call PA DEP Secretary Abruzzo to tell him that his agency should NEVER have approved Range Resources' permit to experiment with using drill cuttings as a paving material for well pads and access roads! We're going to tell him to reverse their decision.
The DEP gave Range Resources permission to experiment with using radioactive drill cutting to pave well pads and access roads. We have 30 days to appeal.
Call Sec Abruzzo to reverse the decision 717- 787- 2814”
From: Karen Feridan
***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!
***Food and Water Watch Asks For Your Story About Fracking Health Complaints Earlier this summer, StateImpact Pennsylvania reported that the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) has been willfully ignoring the health concerns and complaints connected to drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations.
In response, Food & Water Watch and our coalition partners, including Berks Gas Truth, initiated a statewide listening project to collect the stories of impacted Pennsylvanians who have personally contacted DOH to report their families' health concerns. We have collected nearly a dozen stories from around Pennsylvania thus far, but we know we are just scratching the surface.
Have you been directly impacted by hydraulic fracturing? Did you reach out to DOH? Please let us know by filling out the survey
Tell us about your experience contacting Department of Health with a fracking-related health complaint. Please share as many details about your story as possible: When did you contact Dept. of Health? Why did you contact Dept. of Health? How did you contact Dept. of Health? Did you contact them once, or multiple times? Do you have any documentation of your attempts to contact?
***Clean Air Council--- Take the survey about 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
***TRI (Toxic Release Inventory) Action Alert-Close the Loophole:
“We need your help!! Please send an email to the US EPA urging them to "Close the TRI Loophole that the oil and gas industry currently enjoys".
We all deserve to know exactly what these operations are releasing into our air, water and onto our land. Our goal is to guarantee the public’s right to know.
Please let the US EPA know how important TRI reporting will be to you and your community:
Mr. Gilbert Mears
Docket #: EPA-HQ-TRI-2013-0281 (must be included on all correspondence)
Some facts on Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) – what it is and why it’s important:
What is the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)?
Industrial facilities report annually the amount and method (land, air, water, landfills) of each toxic
chemical they release or dispose of to the national Toxics Release Inventory.
Where can I find the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)?
Once the industrial facilities submit their annual release data, the Environmental Protection Agency
makes it available to the public through the TRI’s free, searchable online database.
Why is this important?
The TRI provides communities and the public information needed to challenge permits or siting
decisions, provides regulators with necessary data to set proper controls, and encourages industrial
facilities to reduce their toxic releases.
Why does it matter for oil and natural gas?
The oil and gas extraction industry is one of the largest sources of toxic releases in the United
States. Yet, because of loopholes created by historical regulation and successful lobbying efforts,
this industry remains exempt from reporting to the TRI—even though they are second in toxic air
emissions behind power plants.
What is being done?
In 2012, the Environmental Integrity Project filed a petition on behalf of sixteen local, regional, and
national environmental groups, asking EPA to close this loophole and require the oil and gas
industries to report to the TRI. Although EPA has been carefully considering whether to act on the
petition, significant political and industrial pressure opposing such action exists.
What is the end goal?
Our goal is to guarantee the public’s right to know. TRI data will arm citizens with powerful data,
provide incentives for oil and gas operators to reduce toxic releases, and will provide a data-driven
foundation for responsible regulation.
What can you do?
You can help by immediately letting EPA know how important TRI reporting will be to you and your
Send written or email comments to:
Toxics Release Inventory Program Division, Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20460
Docket #: EPA-HQ-TRI-2013-0281 (please be sure to include in all your correspondence)
From: Lisa Graves Marcucci
Environmental Integrity Project
PA Coordinator, Community Outreach
***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 checks the site still does 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=IWKye3OA90k Sunoco 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.”
***Video of Pipeline Incidents since 1986
All articles are excerpted and condensed. Please use links for the full article. Special Thanks to Bob Donnan for many of the photos.
***Letter To the Editor
By Michael Bagdes-Canning
“It can what only be described as a mighty blow against industry hubris and governmental malfeasance, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has rescinded a permit it had previously issued to XTO for a proposed well site in Franklin Township. It would be wonderful if this act of sanity could be attributed to corporate conscience or governmental due diligence, but that is not the case. This amazing turn of events came about because a mighty band of residents pooled their pluckiness, their resources and their expertise and felled Goliath - XTO is a subsidiary of the richest company on the planet - ExxonMobil.
Time and again, XTO assured the residents that they knew Franklin Township better than the folks that live there. Time and again, XTO, its apologists and sock puppets crowed about meeting or exceeding DEP's "stringent" regulations. Time and again, governmental bodies soothed the concerned residents, "DEP will take care of you."
XTO's permit application failed to address, didn't even fill out, important parts of the application. Other parts were merely boilerplate, failing to address facts on the ground. This put the Lake Arthur watershed in harm's way, it endangered the drinking water supply of Harmony Borough and the private wells of nearby residents. And how did DEP respond? It approved this woefully inadequate and dangerously deficient plan - living up to a moniker many of us now use to describe the agency, Don't Expect Protection.
Using thousands of dollars of their own money, Save Lake Arthur Watershed (SLAW), the aforementioned mighty band, mobilized. These, mostly retired, residents did what XTO and DEP should have done. They poured over maps, studied run-off patterns, read regulations, examined documents, read research, and implored company and government officials to pay attention. All to no avail. Finally, they filed suit - at great cost. And then, XTO and DEP took notice.
The system is broken. We, the residents of the Commonwealth, pay taxes to fund an agency that doesn't do its job. Worse, that agency is held up as an impediment to business and, contradictorily, a protector of the Commonwealth. It's neither. DEP is a sham. Residents of the Commonwealth shouldn't have to pay more money just so DEP will pay attention to us.
If XTO can't fill out paperwork properly, even when it knows that people are watching, how can we trust them to do infinitely more complex things when no one is watching? And how do we know that no one is watching? Because DEP rubber stamps documents that leave entire critical sections blank.
A while ago, a Butler County resident found that a driller located a well too close to his house (the driller was XTO). He told me that he notified DEP and was told, "XTO would never make a mistake like that." The homeowner insisted that DEP measure and, sure enough, the well was too close.
If XTO and DEP can't take care of the little things, they have no business conducting or regulating big and complex things.
What would we do without plucky residents?
*** 3 Articles On The Zoning Win
Lycoming County Judge Lovecchio Rejects Approval For Frack Well Pad In R/A Zone
“Last December, the supervisors of Fairfield Township, a mostly rural and residential area in eastern Lycoming County, approved a zoning application from Inflection Energy to put in a fracking well pad. On Friday, county Judge Marc Lovecchio handed down a decision that rejected that approval - no drilling will happen there, for now.
The supervisors of Fairfield Township decided last December that putting a fracking well in their township within a quarter-mile of some 125 homes was acceptable.
In a decision handed down Friday, Lycoming County Judge Marc Lovecchio told the supervisors they were wrong.
The Fairfield supervisors had ruled that an application submitted by Inflection Energy to put in a fracking well pad near the Pines Development, on land owned by Donald and Eleanor Shaheen, was consistent with the “residential-agricultural” zoning of the area. “
Court ruling: Local government has a constitutional charge to protect the environment and quality of life for its citizens
Gorsline case rejects gas operations in residential neighborhood
“On Friday, August 29, Judge Marc F. Lovecchio of the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County decided in favor of local residents in vacating and setting aside a conditional use permit that would have allowed Inflection Energy, LLC to build and operate a natural gas pad in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Fairfield Township. The case was an early test of the Robinson Township decision, where the Supreme Court used Pennsylvania's Environmental Rights Amendment to strike down parts of Act 13 that sought to compel local government to allow gas operations across all zoned districts, including residential districts.
Dawn Gorsline, one of the local residents represented by PennFuture, expressed her joy at hearing of the decision. Said Mrs. Gorsline, "We prayed so hard and long. Like many persons, we purchased our home in a residential neighborhood with the expectation that we would raise our children in a healthy environment. We are so grateful to PennFuture for their efforts to protect my family, home and neighborhood. The residents of Fairfield Township would, without a doubt, be in a 'much darker' place without them."
"We are pleased that the court supported the rights of citizens to rely on local zoning to protect their property values and way of life," said George Jugovic, Jr., chief counsel for PennFuture. "Robinson Township recognized that local governments have a constitutional obligation to protect the environment and quality of life of their citizens and this decision affirms that principle."
Mark Szybist, staff attorney and co-counsel for PennFuture, praised the work of the Court. "It is plain from the decision that Judge Lovecchio took extraordinary care to meticulously review the record. His decision is a wake-up call to all municipalities that after Robinson Township, local government cannot ignore their Article I, Section 27 responsibilities. Pennsylvania courts get it."
Judge Lovecchio ruled that Fairfield Township's zoning ordinance only permitted gas drilling as a conditional use in its Residential-Agriculture district if the proposed land use was "similar to and compatible with" the residential and other low-impact uses authorized as a right in the district. In holding that the Township's findings were not supported by substantial evidence, the Court stated that the constitutional right of citizens to a healthy environment "cannot be ignored and must be protected." The Court found that the company had failed to provide the township with any evidence to support the conclusion that the proposed use was similar and compatible, while the citizens had "presented substantial evidence that there is a high degree of probability that the use will adversely affect the health, welfare and safety of the neighborhood."
“There is a long-held tradition in Pennsylvania that citizens can, through their local governments, endeavor to maintain the character of their communities," said Cindy Dunn, president and CEO of PennFuture. "With this decision, the court affirmed citizen rights with respect to land use."
The full decision is here: http://www.lycolaw.org/Cases/opinions/2014/Gorsline082914L.pdf
PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998 with offices in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre. The organization's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy.
Contact: Elaine Labalme, firstname.lastname@example.org, 412.996.4112
Residents Beat Gas Co. In Zoning Fight
Not in residential and agricultural zone
“Lycoming County residents prevailed in a zoning fight with a gas company, one of the first such battles since the Supreme Court overthrew portions of the state’s oil and gas law.
After their township zoning board granted Inflection Energy LLC a conditional use approval to build a well pad in a district zoned for residential and agricultural use, four Fairfield Twp. residents appealed the decision to the Lycoming County Court.
In his Friday opinion and order, Judge Marc Lovecchio based his decision to deny the permit on local zoning law.
In public hearings held in October and November, neither Inflection Energy nor the township supervisors could convincingly explain how natural gas drilling fit into the zoned residential district, Judge Lovecchio wrote.
George Jugovic, one of the attorneys for environmental group PennFuture who argued the residents’ case, put it this way: “Why is storing 5 million gallons of water and hazardous chemicals and waste and lighting a site 24 hours a day for six straight months the same as putting a fence up in your backyard and playing stickball with your kids?”
Mr. Jugovic stressed that residents must testify in a public hearing if they plan to appeal zoning matters to county court. Those hearings will, in most circumstances, form the evidence a judge uses to make a decision, he said.
“Whenever local government has a hearing, it’s important to go and testify about what concerns you,” he said.
Judge Lovecchio’s decision included several significant references to the Supreme Court decision, Robinson Twp. v. Commonwealth.
“Fairfield Twp. has a substantial and immediate interest in protecting the environment and the quality of life within its borders,” he wrote. “This quality of life is a constitutional charge that must be respected by all levels of government.”
In the Robinson Twp. decision, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional a portion of Act 13 that prohibited local governments from regulating oil and gas development.
The Supreme Court found these sections violate the state’s Environmental Rights Amendment, which affirms the citizens’ rights to a clean environment and the commonwealth’s duty to maintain it.
“While the Court understands the constraints that the (zoning) board may have been operating under as a result of Act 13 and the litigation regarding its constitutionality, our Supreme Court has now ruled with respect to such, the citizens’ rights cannot be ignored and must be protected,” Judge Lovecchio wrote.
Mr. Jugovic said it’s the first zoning battle over natural gas extraction he’s aware of that referenced the Robinson Twp. decision.
Before the December decision, the Environmental Rights Amendment, or Article 1, Section 27, languished in obscurity. Two Supreme Court decisions in the early 1970s had effectively buried it, said John Dernbach, a law professor and director of the Environmental Law Center at Widener University in Chester.
“For many lawyers and local officials, it is as if Act 1, Section 27 appeared in the Constitution for the first time last December,” he said.
It’s not clear if Inflection Energy will resubmit its application or appeal the decision. Efforts to reach its attorney and a company spokesperson were not successful.”
***Butler Township Commission Refuses To Vote On Gas Wells Near Homes
“BUTLER TWP — Rex Energy’s proposal to build a gas well pad on the property of Krendale Golf Course advances to the township commissioners but without a recommendation from the township planning commission.
After hearing the plans , the planning commission refused to vote in favor or against the project.
Planning commission members did not even make a motion to take a vote. Afterward, some of the members declined to comment, while others said their actions — or lack of actions — were intended to send a message:
They agree with the township engineer, solicitor and zoning officer that the plan meets the zoning ordinance requirements. They just don’t like it.
“It’s too close to residential houses,” said planning member Ernie Oesterling.
A half-dozen representatives of Rex Energy described their intentions to the planning commissioners and to about two dozen people who attended the meeting at the township municipal building.
The well pad, they said, would be accessed from Route 68 near its intersection with Eberhart Road and would be capable of housing up to 9 wells. It would be on a portion of the 239-acre lot that is zoned multifamily residential and is not used by the golf course itself.
The proposal calls for two storm water retention ponds, but no ponds for retention of fracking water.
About a half-dozen people who live nearby spoke against the well pad, citing threats to water, safety and air quality as well as potential harm to their property values.
Calling the plan “madness” and “ridiculous,” residents noted the proximity of stores, houses, a nursing home and more than 50 condominiums.
Resident Rosemary Smith questioned why this is allowed in her neighborhood. She said during her 30 years of living on Judson Avenue, she asked the township for permission to open a car painting business and a beauty salon in her home. She said she was turned down both times because she was told the traffic and fumes a business might create are not permitted in a residential neighborhood.
“I don’t want this in my neighborhood,” she said of the well pad.
No one from the golf course attended the meeting.
The plan will come before the township commissioners at their Sept. 15 meeting.
Commissioner Sam Zurzolo is a member of the planning commission. Two commissioners, Charles Nedz and Joseph Hasychak, attended the planning commission meeting and heard the proposal and residents’ objections to it.”
***DEP Says Cecil Officials Must Meet With Them In Private
“CECIL – Groundwater test results at Cecil Township 23 impoundment will be released soon, but Cecil officials must first meet in private with the state DEP to get the details.
Township Manager Don Gennuso said supervisors asked for a copy of the test results prior to a meeting with the DEP – tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday – and requested that it be a public meeting. Gennuso said DEP officials would meet only in private with supervisors and would not provide test results beforehand.
“To me, it’s troubling,” Gennuso said. “It should be troubling to all of Pennsylvania.”
DEP spokesman John Poister said test results are still being analyzed, and that the DEP prefers to meet in person to explain results related to any potential chemicals detected in groundwater at the wastewater impoundment on Swihart Road.
“It’s important that we be there to answer any questions and give a complete picture of what we found,” Poister said. “I think it would be probably not in the best interest of everybody, and particularly the community, to put (test results) out and not have any explanation for what people are seeing.”
Cecil officials already had been planning to meet with the DEP to ask questions about the structure of the Cecil impoundment, formerly called Worstell, in light of recent leaks at Range Resource’s Jon Day and Yeager impoundments in Amwell Township.
The meeting became even more timely when the DEP started conducting tests at the Cecil impoundment after Range reported in July that it had been seeing chloride spikes in a groundwater monitoring well since January.
Supervisors and the DEP faced criticism last September for holding a private meeting to discuss the Worstell impoundment. State Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, criticized the DEP’s handling of the Cecil impoundment at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting and urged the board not to accept a private conference.
“I would urge the board of supervisors to refuse to accept anything less than the complete and total truth from the DEP,” White said. “No more private meetings behind closed doors. No more half-truths and blatant lies.”
Board Chairman Andy Schrader and Vice Chairwoman Cindy Fisher disagreed with the nature of the private meeting and inability to review data prior to the meeting, but ultimately agreed to move forward.
Fisher expressed concerns that a difference of opinion on the board would affect the information that supervisors relay to residents. The board discussed bringing a court reporter to Monday’s meeting, but Poister said that should not be necessary at an informal meeting.
“We don’t see the need for a court reporter for this meeting,” Poister said. “We expect to have a free and open discussion and a question-and-answer session with the supervisors.”
Gennuso urged any residents with questions about the impoundment to submit them to the township via phone, email or letter before Monday’s tentative meeting.
***Research Study: Fracking Workers Could Be Exposed To Dangerous Levels Of Benzene
“A new study out this month reveals unconventional oil and natural gas workers could be exposed to dangerous levels of benzene, putting them at a higher risk for blood cancers like leukemia. Benzene is a known carcinogen that is present in fracking flowback water. It’s also found in gasoline, cigarette smoke and in chemical manufacturing. As a known carcinogen, benzene exposures in the workplace are limited by federal regulations under OSHA. But some oil and gas production activities are exempt from those standards.
The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) worked with industry to measure chemical exposures of workers who monitor flowback fluid at well sites in Colorado and Wyoming. A summary of the peer-reviewed article was published online this month on a CDC website. In several cases benzene exposures were found to be above safe levels.
The study is unusual in that it did not simply rely on air samples. The researchers also took urine samples from workers, linking the exposure to absorption of the toxin in their bodies. One of the limits of the study includes the small sample size, only six sites in two states.
Dr. Bernard Goldstein from the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health says the study is the first of its kind. Goldstein did not contribute to the study’s research, but he has conducted his own research on benzene. And he’s treated patients exposed to the carcinogen.
“These workers are at higher risk for leukemia,” said Goldstein. “The longer, the more frequently they do this, the more likely they are to get leukemia particularly if the levels are high.”
The study looked at workers who use a gauge to measure the amount of flowback water that returns after a frack job is initiated. A spokeswoman for NIOSH says none of their studies draw any conclusions about exposures to nearby residents, but focus specifically on workers.
But Dr. Goldstein says it shows that there could be potential risks to residents as well.
“We’re not acting in a way to protect the public who are at high risk,” said Goldstein. “And we can’t even tell you who is at high risk. Yet we’re rushing ahead in a situation where all of the data are telling us that there are risks.” He urges a similar study should take place in Pennsylvania.
“These are the kind of studies that should be done,” said Goldstein. “It should have been done a long time before this. They’re first being done now. They must be done in Pennsylvania.”
A spokeswoman for an industry group says there is always room for improvement if toxic exposures exist.
“[The study represents] a small sample size,” said Katie Brown with the group Energy In Depth. “It is limited in that respect. I think that’s the whole reason for this partnership is to study it and see how [drillers] can improve.”
Authors of the NIOSH benzene study said that more research with larger sample sizes should be done, especially since there was so much variation in the levels observed at different times and well sites. The researchers also listed a number of recommendations for industry to take to reduce benzene levels on the job site. These include changing tank gauging procedures, training workers, limiting exposure times, carrying gas monitors, using respiratory and hand protection, and monitoring exposure levels.
***Drill Cutting Records Don’t Match DEP’s On Landfill Tonnage
21 tons versus 95,000 tons
“Data submitted by oil and gas operators on the amount of drilling cuttings and fracking fluid sent to Pittsburgh-area landfills don’t match up to reporting required of landfills. The DEP has opened an investigation into drillers’ under-reporting of the landfill waste.
EQT Corp. told the DEP that it sent 21 tons of drill cuttings from its Marcellus Shale wells to area landfills in 2013. But landfills in southwestern Pennsylvania told a different story.
Six facilities in this part of the state reported receiving nearly 95,000 tons of drill cuttings and fracking fluid from the operator last year.
The landfills’ records are the correct ones, said Mike Forbeck, waste management director with the DEP. He said the agency has opened an investigation into drillers’ under-reporting of landfill waste.
The EQT case — 21 tons vs. 95,000 tons — may be the most dramatic example of how data submitted by oil and gas operators don’t match up to reporting required of landfills. The DEP said it has been aware of the problem for “a number of months” and is looking into why the different reporting channels aren’t yielding the same results.
When the EQT figures were brought to its attention, the DEP launched an investigation into the company’s reporting practices, said John Poister, a spokesman for the agency.
“We don’t understand why there’s that discrepancy,” Mr. Forbeck said.
Asked for comment on inconsistencies in waste sent to landfills by Range Resources last year, the DEP started another investigation and found that Range’s numbers were off by 22,000 tons compared with what landfills reported receiving from the driller in 2013.
“We’re also having discussions with the company to try to find out what’s going on there,” Mr. Forbeck said.
Range’s spokesman Matt Pitzarella said: “It appears as though, through basic human error perhaps, that we only submitted the paperwork for one landfill vendor and not the rest, which makes up the majority of our gap,” Mr. Pitzarella said.
He added the company has “reaffirmed that all materials were safely disposed of and in compliance with regulations and properly manifested.”
The DEP would not say if other companies are being investigated as part of the agency’s probe into the issue.
Across the board, nine southwestern Pennsylvania landfills analyzed for this story reported accepting three to four times the amount of waste that operators said they sent there.
Two landfills that accept a lot of Marcellus Shale waste — Yukon in the Westmoreland County community of the same name and Burger in Washington County — aren’t required to file quarterly reports with the DEP as part of a consent agreement.
However, their manager, Carl Spadaro, said Yukon took in 135,980 tons of oil and gas waste last year. Oil and gas drillers reported disposing of 26,485 tons there.
Some landfills, such as Imperial — named after its host community in Allegheny County — reported accepting waste from a handful of operators that never indicated the facility as a destination in 2013. Drill cuttings and fracking fluid waste from Range Resources, Royal Dutch Shell, Consol Energy, Rex Energy and Energy Corp. of America ended up at the landfill last year, but only Denver-based Energy Corp. of America listed Imperial as a disposal target.
Landfills also are required to report more types of waste than oil and gas operators. For example, a Marcellus driller doesn’t have to say how much construction trash was taken off the well site. Landfill reports — which are more detailed — indicate that’s a small fraction of incoming oil and gas waste.
Landfills are just one destination for Marcellus Shale waste, which includes drill cuttings, fracking water and brine, flowback sand and other liquid streams.
The majority of liquid waste that operators don’t recycle onsite goes to a centralized treatment facility. Another large chunk is pumped into injection wells. Both of those disposal destinations have to report to the DEP — on paper — how much waste they receive, but the agency said it isn’t looking into whether their numbers match what the operators say they’re sending to those facilities.
The Post-Gazette analysis examined landfill records from 2013 only. The DEP said its investigation showed discrepancies between operator and landfill reporting have actually narrowed over the years.
Some companies appeared better able to match their numbers to landfill figures, while others had far larger gaps.
Mr. Poister and Mr. Forbeck said the discrepancies are a concern, but DEP uses landfill numbers in decision-making about the waste program, not operator-submitted figures.
“We know the number. We know the amount [of waste]. We know it’s accurate at the landfill level,” Mr. Poister said. “The area of discussion is going to be why the discrepancy and why under-report it.”
Anya Litvak: email@example.com or 412-263-1455.
By the Editorial Board Of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“To say that the records of Marcellus Shale well waste disposal are riddled with gaps and discrepancies doesn’t begin to describe the scale of the problem.
A Post-Gazette review found that differences between the amount of waste that drillers said they delivered to landfills and the amounts the landfills reported receiving varied enormously. At the receiving end, nine southwestern Pennsylvania landfills analyzed by reporter Anya Litvak reported accepting three or four times the waste that drillers said they sent them.
All this conflicting data raises questions about DEP’s oversight. Although the agency said it has been aware of the problem for “a number of months,” it didn’t launch an investigation into EQT’s or Range’s reports until the Post-Gazette told the government what it had learned.
After-the-fact inquiries by the agency are not reassuring, and neither is DEP’s assertion that the landfill numbers are accurate and those are the ones it uses in making policy decisions.
DEP says it is trying to figure out why there are such huge discrepancies and why the drillers seem to be consistently low. If the agency expects the public to have confidence in its work, it’s going to have to do a much better job of reconciling the numbers.”
***Study: Arsenic in Water Wells Near Drill Sites
30% of wells within 1.8 miles
“North Texas water wells within two miles of active gas drilling sites contain higher concentrations of arsenic and other carcinogens, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
In the study, University of Texas at Arlington biochemists measured 100 wells across the Barnett Shale, and compared the results to a similar study undertaken before hydraulic fracturing technology .
Some 30 percent of the wells within 1.8 miles of gas drilling sites showed an increased amount of arsenic and other heavy metals, the study said, and 29 wells exceeded the EPA s maximum arsenic limits of 10 parts per billion.
One of the researchers, UTA biochemist Zacariah Hildenbrand, told The Denton Record-Chronicle that "to find that high of arsenic concentrations was alarming."
"This is indirect evidence that drilling does affect the water," he said.
Researchers believe the wells were contaminated when shaking caused by fracking knocked rust off old pipes and into fresh water. But Texas Alliance of Energy Producers spokesman Alex Mills called the theory "a little farfetched."
An industry veteran, Mills said natural gas wells are drilled so deep that vibrations from drilling would never reach far shallower water wells.
Researchers also said in the study that higher concentrations of heavy metals could alternatively be the result of the lowering of the water table or faulty casings around gas drilling operations, which would allow contaminants to flow up through the well bore and into aquifers and other supplies of drinking water.
Fracking produces millions of gallons of chemical-laced wastewater. The liquid, called brine, is a mix of chemicals, saltwater, naturally occurring radioactive material and mud, and is considered unsafe for ground water and aquifers.”
***Grant County, PA Fights Frack Waste Injection Well
“Grant Township, Indiana , 26 square miles south of Little Mahoning Creek
It's what one company wants to put back into the ground that has people fighting back with an ordinance that's the subject of a federal lawsuit. Township supervisors must decide this week whether to defend their stance in court, despite case law that favors the company's side.
“Basically, we're afraid for the water. We just want to be in control of our own community, instead of letting a corporation come in and say, ‘You don't have rights. We're the ones with the rights,' ” said resident Judy Wanchisn, 71, who led the charge against a Pennsylvania General Energy Co. plan to place an injection well for disposal of drilling waste.
The well would hold waste generated by fracking.
“It's their junk, their waste, and they should take care of it and not dump it on us,” Wanchisn said.
She organized a group that appealed PGE's federal permit to convert a production well to a disposal well, and with an environmental group's backing, she convinced township leaders to pass an ordinance banning such wells.
PGE this month sued the township, saying the ordinance violates federal laws. Through its attorney, Blaine A. Lucas of the Downtown firm Babst Calland, PGE declined comment because of the litigation.
The company’s lawsuit claims that The Community Bill of Rights that Grant supervisors passed in June illegally tries to trump federal law that regulates injection wells.
John Yanity, who owns the land on which the PGE well sits, said he does not oppose its conversion to a disposal well. He declined further comment.
Opponents worry that wastewater — laden with brine from drilling and injected 7,000 feet underground — will make its way to Little Mahoning Creek. The well is about 7 miles south of the creek. It provides popular spots for fishing and a home to the giant eastern hellbender salamander, the inspiration for the name of Wanchisn's group.
Generations of families in Grant have gathered in the swimming hole known as Big Rock. Runs and springs feed miles of the creek that provides Grant's northern border.
“It would be a crying shame to ruin all of this,” Supervisor Fred Carlson said.
The Government Accountability Office in July said the EPA should do more to monitor injection wells but noted “few known incidents of contamination” from them. Earthquakes linked to injection wells in Ohio have increased federal scrutiny of them.
Wanchisn and Carlson don't oppose the drilling industry, just the waste wells.
Lawyers involved in fights between drillers and municipalities say courts have ruled that communities cannot enact blanket bans against specific activities such as drilling. Recent court rulings on the state's oil and gas law, Act 13, upheld local authority to pass zoning rules but officials must allow for some drilling, lawyers said.
Towns still try to block related activities such as seismic testing, Gallagher noted. It's unclear whether disposal wells will become another front in the fight; Pennsylvania has only 10 such wells.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/news/indiana/6656277-74/township-disposal-wanchisn#ixzz3C7TKBGwG
***FEMA: No Flood Assistance For Property Owners With Gas Leases
“Paula Fenstermacher shows pictures of her parents' home along the Loyalsock Creek in Lycoming County. The home was damaged by flooding during Tropical Storm Lee.
The Scranton Times-Tribune reports that property owners with natural gas leases are no longer eligible for federal hazard mitigation assistance after a flood. The new policy, enacted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency on May 5, has affected eight households in Pennsylvania in Wyoming and Lycoming Counties.
It means that FEMA will not buy out flood-prone properties or pay to assist raising or relocating homes and other structures if the owner has signed a lease with a developer.
“We, right now, need to have some direction on what to do, how to get these mitigated,” Wyoming County emergency director Gene Dziak told Mr. Wright. “Next month is three years (since the flood). We need to get these people out of these properties.”
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency chief deputy director Robert Full told Mr. Wright he wished he had cleared all 21 households that applied for assistance after Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee before the May 5 rule. It will only apply for future acquisitions, not those already approved, Mr. Wright said.
FEMA told the Times-Tribune that the policy may only be temporary and that it is watching for the results of studies from other federal agencies on the environmental impacts of shale development, including the controversial process of fracking wells to release oil and gas.”
***Fracking Victims Flee Colorado's Toxic Air
And the Fracking is subsidized with tax dollars
“Natural gas is widely touted as a 'green fuel'. But fracking's anything but. Lives and health are being ruined by pollution from taxpayer-subsidized gas wells, flaring and refining plants, while property values collapse. Now a mass of environmental refugees are fleeing the ravaged state.
They sign nondisclosure forms or move away. Very few win lawsuits. Some sign gag orders, but more just move away, lose everything, and marriages crumble.
A general contractor in Colorado's Grand Valley, Duke Cox says the first time he became aware that drilling for gas might be a problem was back in the early 2000s when he happened to attend a local public hearing on oil and gas development.
A woman who came to testify began sobbing as she talked about the gas rigs that were making the air around her home impossible to breathe.
"There were 17 rigs in the area, at that time", Cox says. "And they were across the valley, so I wasn't affected. But she was my neighbor."
The incident led Cox to join the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, a group of activists concerned about drilling policies in his area on Colorado's Western Slope. Within months he became the group's President and public face.
And as fracking for gas became more common across the state, he has found more and more of his time taken up with the cause. "We are ground zero for natural gas and fracking in this country", he says.
His claim is not hyperbole in many respects. Scientists in Colorado are publishing alarming studies that show gas wells harm those living in close proximity, and dozens of stories stretching back over a decade have documented the ill effects of natural gas drilling on Colorado's citizens.
In response to public unease, the state has created a system to report complaints of oil and gas health effects. The subject has become so acute that it consumes Colorado's politicians and electorate, who have been squaring off on multiple ballot initiatives to limit where companies can drill, in order to provide a buffer between gas wells and people's homes.
Don't mention the tax subsidies!
But there's one fact the industry would like to hide from the public (but uses in its lobbying of Congress): much of the drilling activity in Colorado would never happen were it not for generous tax subsidies.
At the national level, the report shows over $21 billion in federal and state subsidies that taxpayers provided to the fossil fuel industry in 2013. The use and value of these subsidies have increased dramatically in recent years-a product of the 'all of the above' energy policy.
"They are profitable because of tax breaks", says Cox.
Studies published in leading scientific journals continue to document the potential harm to people living close to gas wells. In 2012, a Colorado nonprofit called The Endocrine Disruption Exchange published the results of gas well air samples tested for chemicals.
The study found several hydrocarbons at levels known to affect the endocrine system and lower the IQ scores of children exposed while they were fetuses.
Last February, researchers with the Colorado School of Public Health and Brown University released a study that discovered that children born close to gas wells had a 30% greater chance of congenital heart defects and a higher incidence of neural tube defects.
The study was met with criticism from Colorado's Chief Medical Officer ... a perhaps unsurprising reaction from a state official appointed by a governor with well documented strong ties to the oil and gas industry.
When a New York Times reporter went to Garfield County three years ago, the paper published a video on residents complaining of air problems caused by natural gas rigs.
"We're gonna pack up. We're leaving", said Floyd Green, a welder who had lived in the County for the past three years. "We're moving back East, and we're having to start completely over."
Green detailed several symptoms his family experienced, forcing them to leave the area. "We constantly smell the fumes from the condensate tanks which cause headaches, sometimes nausea. Diarrhea, nosebleeds, muscle spasms."
A link to the video can be found at Frack Free Colorado, which has a webpage devoted to "Colorado's Affected People". Green is just one of many people who allege problems from natural gas including Susan Wallace Babbs, of Parachute and Karen Trulove of Silt.
While these individuals were once actively speaking out about the dangers of fracking, their voices have fallen silent. Phone numbers have become disconnected and addresses no longer current.
"They sign nondisclosure forms or move away", says Tara Meixsell, who lives on a ranch outside New Castle. "Very few win lawsuits. Some sign gag orders, but more just move away, lose everything, and marriages crumble."
But this experiment of exposing people to toxics released by natural gas development would not occur without billions in subsidies from the federal and state governments. In a recent report,
Oil Change International has found that federal subsidies for production and exploration for fossil fuel subsidies have grown by 45%, from $12.7 billion to a current total of $18.5 billion. Much of the increase comes from intensified production.
"At a time when scientists are telling us that oil and gas production is unsafe for our communities and also our climate as a whole, it's simply irrational to continue pumping billions of taxpayer dollars to this industry via increased subsidies", says David Turnbull, Campaigns Director of Oil Change International.
The White House has estimated that the subsidy for accelerated depreciation of natural gas distribution pipelines was $110 million in 2013. This subsidy allows companies to deduct higher levels of pipeline depreciation costs upfront, providing a financial benefit to the companies.
Or, as the American Gas Association itself puts it, depreciation helps to "encourage the expansion and revitalization of the natural gas utility infrastructure."
Colorado also kicks in financial support. The state currently supplies additional gas production subsidies in the form of sales tax exemptions, allowing industry to escape Colorado's 2.9% sales tax.
"The rest of the country doesn't get it", says Cox. "[Natural gas] is not a clean fuel. But the word is getting out, and they are starting to lose the fight."
***Frack Pits Release Tons of Toxic Chemicals Into the air
These two articles out of Colorado discuss the problems with frack pits. Jan
“Evaporation ponds used to process contaminated water in Grand County have released tons of toxic chemicals into the air since April 2008.
But the Colorado company running the 14-pond facility operated without a Utah air-quality permit for more than six years while providing officials faulty data that underreported its emissions and exaggerated the efficiency of its emission-control equipment.
Danish Flats, located north of Cisco, at first avoided regulation by asserting its emissions were "de minimis," or too small to require a permit.
But a later, more reliable analysis indicated the company’s emissions were not negligible, but were instead tens and possibly hundreds of tons a year — revealing the site was a major emission source for hazardous air pollutants and volatile organic compound
There are 15 pond "farms" operating in the Uinta Basin to handle the liquid waste, known in the industry as "produced water." Six are on tribal land and under federal jurisdiction. Oil and gas operators prefer disposing of their produced water by injecting it back into the earth. But that’s not always possible, and millions of barrels wind up in evaporation ponds after equipment separates out hydrocarbon condensates — a light, valuable fuel.
The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, or DOGM, regulates the handling of this waste. But DAQ is now monitoring the air-quality impacts. Its permit for Danish Flats gives the company another 18 months to install a flare and related equipment to capture and burn pollutants.
Bird said DAQ believes the $50,000 fine is sufficient to secure compliance with state requirements in the future.
The largest single hazardous air pollutant emitted by Danish Flats came as a surprise. Instead of the usual petroleum-based suspects, it turned out to be methanol, a chemical the industry uses as antifreeze and a fracking agent.
Categorized as both a hazardous pollutant and a volatile organic compound, methanol is a form of alcohol. Unlike condensates, it is highly soluble in water, so it isn’t separated out by processing.
Some of the company’s estimates of its emissions were based on readings from summa canisters, perforated devices that contain activated carbon that absorbs volatile compounds. Summa canisters were placed on posts on berms separating the ponds. But the devices provide reliable measurements only in enclosed settings, according to Lee Shenton, Grand County’s field inspector.
"Using them on an outdoor evaporative facility was not the most accurate way to sample.
In updated filings, Danish Flats said the most methanol it emitted in one year would have been 55 to 177 tons, based on the content of the waste it received.
Measuring the precise emissions from a field of evaporation ponds the size of Salt Lake City’s Liberty Park isn’t feasible. But since little methanol can be removed by processing, most of the methanol dissolved in the wastewater arriving at the plant is ultimately released into the air.
So calculating the amount of methanol in the water allows more accurate assessments of how much Danish Flats emits of this single hazardous pollutant — which alone exceeds the de minimis standard.
Methanol may be toxic and volatile, but it evaporates slowly and microbes quickly break it down, so ambient levels of the gas are low outside the facility’s fence, according to Shenton.
"I’m not suggesting that the methanol has no impact," he stressed. "When these microbes consume methanol, the end product is carbon dioxide and water. The removal of the hydrocarbon makes it cleaner, but it doesn’t make the facility innocuous."
Danish Flats began accepting wastewater in 2008 with a 1.3-acre settling pond and eight five-acre evaporation ponds, each lined with thick plastic sheets and about eight feet deep.
The produced water is first pumped into separation tanks, where valuable hydrocarbon condensates, such as butane and propane, are recovered. Then the liquid is moved to concrete vaults for a second phase of separation.
The system was designed to then direct the water to a settling pond, where more hydrocarbons would be suctioned off.
However, one regulator noted in April 2010 that a waxy block had formed on the settling pond’s surface, and he doubted any hydrocarbons could be skimmed off.
Efforts to clean the tarry substances out of the pond failed, so the firm is using one of its evaporation cells as the settling pond, according to Shenton.
A system of pipes connects the ponds, and the water is moved between them as it evaporates.
In 2010, Danish Flats finished adding six deeper ponds, which reach a depth of 18 feet. It said in filings with the county that the expansion gave it the capacity to handle up to 2.7 million barrels a year at natural evaporation rates — pegged at 57 inches for that area, the company reported to DAQ.
But, in 2009, the company handled nearly twice that much water, about 5.2 million barrels, according to DOGM data. It used misting equipment that year to speed evaporation, which led to a citation for violating DOGM rules.
Castle Valley resident Pam Hackley saw the misting in September 2009, after she toured the site as a representative of a special services district. She didn’t see anything alarming during the tour, she said, and she left, driving north. An hour later, on her way back south, she noticed a plume coming off a Danish Flats pond and blowing over the surrounding land.
"I took pictures and drove through it and realized it was not water vapor. It was creating a gagging response," said Hackley, who later served on the Planning Commission that drafted the county’s first produced-water ordinance.
She reported the incident to county officials. DOGM shut down the misting operation and cited Danish Flats for allowing wastewater to escape the ponds.
—After the citation, DAQ and Grand County began pressing the company for data about its emissions and control equipment.
The last pond built remains empty because the county will not issue Danish Flats a permit to operate it until the company complies with the new produced-water ordinance and pays a new 10-cents-a-barrel monitoring fee, Shenton said.
The company’s business has plunged since it expanded by six ponds. Last year it handled a million barrels, about a fifth of the water it processed four years earlier, according to DOGM data.
The drop may be due in part to other facilities that have opened closer to the Colorado gas fields, including an injection well and a purification plant at Harley Dome, just inside Utah’s border.
Utah Highlights Frack Pit threat
“One way to dispose of frack waste is in massive surface ponds in which fracking water is stored until it can be recycled or buried or is left to slowly evaporate. Those ponds, which can grow to several acres in size, dot the landscapes of virtually every state that produces natural gas.
The scandal at Danish Flats Environmental Services, in Clark County, next to Colorado, began as soon as the ponds were developed in 2007. The facility, which consists of 14 ponds filled mainly with oil and gas wastewater from Colorado, had been allowing the water to evaporate without an air quality permit from the state. Until early August the state considered the facility — and every other wastewater pond in Utah — below the de minimis pollution standard, meaning it wasn’t emitting enough to be regularly inspected by air quality regulators or to need a permit.
But after an updated analysis of its emissions was conducted, regulators found that Danish Flats was allowing fracking chemicals like methanol and other volatile organic compounds into the air and fined the facility $50,0000 in early August.
“These places are the size of football fields, they’re all across the state, and none of them were declared above de minimis,” said Chris Baird, director of the Canyonlands Watershed Council, a western Utah environmental group. “They’ve just kind of resisted regulatory control.” Now the state is looking into the dozens of other wastewater facilities across the state.
But as Utah begins to clamp down on the facilities, environmentalists say the type of ponds that got Danish Flats in trouble is still an environmental concern elsewhere The fracking process requires thousands of gallons of water. There’s the fracking fluid, a mixture of water, sand and chemicals that’s used to break up rock thousands of feet below the surface. And then there’s flow-back water, which pours out of the well during the fracking process and includes some of the fracking fluid as well as the very salty water that’s naturally in shale rock.
As tens of thousands of wells are drilled each year, billions of gallons of contaminated water are left over. Environment America estimates 280 billion gallons of wastewater were produced by fracking wells in 2012 alone (PDF).
Increasingly, there seems to be no completely safe option for this water. Injection wells may prevent air quality issues, but they also might cause earthquakes. Treating the water and releasing it into the environment might save water, but it also might irradiate streams and rivers.
In the arid West, allowing the water to slowly evaporate is an attractive option for natural gas companies. But the ponds have environmental effects, including possibly leaching toxins into the air, water and earth. And they can be death traps for birds that confuse the ponds with fresh water.
It’s unclear how many wastewater ponds exist in the U.S., but experts believe the number is undoubtedly well into the hundreds. In North Dakota, Montana and Texas, almost 50 percent of all fracking waste is stored in ponds, according to industry publication WaterWorld.
“They’re usually in rural areas where not that many people see that they’re there or see the damage they can cause,” said Natural Resources Defense Council senior policy analyst Amy Mall. “No one really knows where all these places are.”
As of now, Utah has relatively lax regulations. There’s currently no requirement for groundwater monitoring, and companies aren’t required to present plans for how to remedy the effects of water and toxins released into the environment.
Other states are beginning to impose stricter regulations. Pennsylvania might be a sign of things to come for pond regulations. In 2010, after the state had a spate of high-profile fracking water spills, including one that spilled 50,000 gallons of wastewater at a drilling site, the state beefed up enforcement of environmental regulations regarding ponds and now has some of the most stringent regulations in the nation, including requirements for groundwater monitoring and environmental remediation.
. “Where there’s hydraulic fracturing, there’s going to be flow-back water, so you need a way to store it that’s environmentally friendly,” he said. “But these [ponds] are relatively expensive, they tend to leak, and regulations are getting more stringent, so the industry is starting to turn away.”
***Fired Reporter Says Newspaper Caved To Industry Pressure
“A veteran investigative journalist covering Colorado’s booming oil and gas industry says he was fired earlier this year largely due to pressure on his newspaper from local government and energy company officials.
“[Oil and gas companies] complained about me, the Garfield County commissioners complained about me, and [the Glenwood Springs Post Independent] took me off both those beats,” said John Colson, a hard-hitting reporter for various newspapers in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs since 1978. Ultimately, Colson said, publisher Michael Bennett fired him.
“[Bennett] told me he didn’t want me doing investigative reporting; he didn’t want me doing government reporting,” said Colson, who admits he clashed with management over corporate influence at the paper. “He wanted me doing features, nice features.”
Judges recently have sided with state and industry, but public health concerns have steadily increased along the state’s populous Front Range, where US Rep. Polis has been blasted by community activists for striking a deal with the governor that they say ignores drilling impacts.
“I focused to a large degree when I first started covering oil and gas on the people that it was affecting, the people who lived near oil and gas facilities and were getting sick and dying in one case,” Colson said.
“I, along with a couple of other industry folks, complained when John wrote an opinion piece in the Aspen paper that was harshly critical of the industry and questioned its ethics,” Doug Hock, a spokesman for Canadian oil and gas giant EnCana, said of a 2009 column Colson wrote in the Aspen Times about the documentary film “Split Estate.”
“I think John is a great guy,” Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky told The Colorado Independent. “I just think he editorialized instead of reporting. No, I did not call the paper and say, ‘You should get rid of this guy.’ I do know that there was [county] staff that talked to the paper, but [the commissioners] did not tell them to do that. It was more complaints about the quality of a piece.”
Judy Jordan, a former Garfield County oil and gas liaison who was fired after Jankovsky took office in 2011, said industry representatives had a direct pipeline to the county commissioners and often advised them on policy matters.
“My experience when I was at the board of county commissioners was that the industry wielded so much power, because they regularly called up the commissioners and told them what they wanted and what they should do, whereas regular citizens almost never do that,” Jordan said in a 2011 interview.”
***California Halts Injection of Frack Waste, It May Be Contaminating Aquifers
“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 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.
Those are the aquifers at issue today. Those exemptions and documents were signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown, who also was governor in 1981.
"We do not have any direct evidence any drinking water has been affected," wrote Steve Bohlen, the state oil and gas supervisor, in a statement to ProPublica.
Bohlen said his office was acting "out of an abundance of caution."
Among the issues, California and the federal government disagree about what type of water is worth protecting in the first place, with California law only protecting a fraction of the waters that the federal Safe Drinking Water Act requires.
The EPA's report, commissioned from outside consultants, also said that California regulators routinely failed to adequately examine the geology around an injection well to ensure that fluids pumped into it would not leak underground and contaminate drinking water aquifers. The report found that state inspectors often allowed injection at pressures that exceeded the capabilities of the wells and thus risked cracking the surrounding rock and spreading contaminants. Several accidents in recent years in California involved injected waste or injected steam leaking back out of abandoned wells, or blowing out of the ground and creating sinkholes, including one 2011 incident that killed an oil worker.”
Next Page >http://www.propublica.org/article/ca-halts-injection-fracking-waste-warning-may-be-contaminating-aquifers
***Hilcorp Withdrawing Application- Forced Pooling In PA
“Forced pooling refers to the ability to drill for gas or oil under a property without the owner's permission because enough other property owners in the area have signed leases. It's not legal in the Marcellus Shale, so it hasn't been the issue in Pennsylvania that it has been in other states. That changed when drillers set their sights on the even deeper Utica shale where, thanks to old oil and gas laws, forced pooling is legal.
The DEP first legal notice for the public hearing stated that the public was not invited to speak. In fact, the property owners who would be directly impacted were not considered "parties of interest". The DEP planned to hold the hearing during the day when most people wouldn't even be able to attend it and scheduled it for a room that seats eight, yes, eight. The notice itself was only published a couple of weeks before the hearing.
We pushed back. We demanded a fair hearing for our friends in Lawrence County. We wanted more time. We wanted the public to have the chance to comment. We wanted any hearing to be scheduled when the public could attend and held in a room that could hold them. More than anything, though, we wanted to buy time for the legal team representing the property owners.
Earlier this year, we won all of our procedural demands. Today, the outstanding legal team's efforts resulted in Hilcorp's decision. By signing and sharing the petition, you helped demonstrate to the DEP and Hilcorp that Pennsylvanians oppose forced pooling and oppose any attempt to deny the public its right to participate in the process, but you also helped buy the legal team the time it needed.
Thank you so much for speaking out!! Have a wonderful holiday weekend!!
Here is the legal team (maybe more attorneys are finally beginning to step up...)
Omar K. Abuhejleh (we understand that Omar did a large amount of the work on this one.)
429 Forbes Ave. Suite 450
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
2605 Nicholson Rd, Bldg II
Wexford, PA 15143
501 Smith Dr. Suite 3
Cranberry Twp, PA 16006
***I Wont Be Quiet Anymore-
Living A Nightmare in Gas Land
"We were lied to from the start." We’ve lived on our land since 1983. It was given to our generation by my father-in-law. I loved it here. It was quiet. If you saw more than one car all day something was going on. We could sit on our porch and be out in the yard, and only hear birds singing all the time. We never worried about what we were drinking or breathing. Our three children were born and raised here. Back then everyone got along with their neighbors. Everyone is family. We keep an eye out for everyone. You could count on people. Now there’s a division between people.
In 2014 we applied for a second mortgage. We wanted to update the furnace, the bathroom, and put in a pool for the grandchildren and my husband, Robert. The water therapy is good for him. He suffers from severe back pain and neuropathy that was caused when a tree fell on him in January of 1988. We applied for a $15,000 loan. Our credit was excellent and our home had recently been appraised at $125,000. We didn’t expect a problem. Our home and our credit is all we have. Robert doesn’t believe in credit cards. “If you can’t afford it, you don’t need it,” he always says. We had previously taken out a loan on the house to help pay for our youngest daughter to go to nursing school. We’ve never missed a payment on the house and we paid off our last car loan early.
We went straight to Hometown Bank of Pennsylvania. We have banked with them for the last 10 years. We filled out the paperwork and were initially approved. A few days later, Carol at the bank called us. She explained that the attorney had looked at the loan and it was too big of a risk for them. She said that since the water well was contaminated, the property wasn’t even worth the $33,000 we still owed on it. They said it was worth nothing. We tried three other banks, but the result was the same. At first they would approve us but as soon as they saw the tax assessment said “contaminated well” they turned us down.
Our water well was dug on September 15, 1989. It is a 118 ft. artesian well. When it was dug they tested the water. The test showed traces of sulfur and iron so we had a filter installed to filter them out. Once a year, our contractor, George comes out and changes the filter. Gas drilling started in our area around 2002. Pennsylvania General Energy Corp (PGE) drilled five production wells, 2002 being the first well. We were told these wells would last for 10 to 15 years. The one they drilled on our land, SR 6, only lasted 2 ½ years. We were lied to from the start."
Then PGE sold to this company Steckman Ridge, a spin-off of Duke Energy. Steckman Ridge has become a real life nightmare. This company has plans to put in 23 wells, for storage of gas, and built The Spectra Energy facility – known as Steckman Ridge – is a 12-billion cubic feet underground natural gas storage reservoir with a 5,000 horse power compressor station, 13 injection/withdrawal wells and related pipeline infrastructure in Monroe Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. The compressor station is LESS than 0.66 miles from our property, and the wells are, from our home, SR. 6 is 1,713.49 feet and 1663 is 4,402 feet. We are downhill from SR. 6.
In 2007 George came out to change the filter on our water well. I remember him telling us that the water “wasn’t right.” He recommended testing it. Two or three days later the lab called us and told us not to use the water to drink or bathe. The results showed arsenic levels of MCL = 0.034 mg/l. According to EPA, the maximum “safe” level is MCL = 0.010 mg/l. The PA DEP also tested the water and found similar levels. After that, water tests became a way of life.
In July of 2008 the DEP tested the water again. The level of arsenic was MCL = 0.0225 mg/l. Strontium was detected at 0.529 mg/l.
In December of 2009, the arsenic spiked at 0.0719 mg/l. Strontium was at 0.230 mg/l. Our water was also tested using methylene blue active substance (MBAS). MBAS detects the presence of man-made anionic surfactants (such as a detergent or foaming agent) in a sample of water. Our results showed 0.20 mg/l.
The DEP seemed indifferent to our plight. In November of 2010, Sam Jones of the DEP downplayed the high arsenic levels saying that the level wasn’t as high as it is rat poison. As you can guess, that didn’t make us feel any better. We he came to our house he told us that this would be last the DEP tests our water because we were wasting the taxpayers’ money. The results he sent us from the test didn’t even contain results for arsenic or strontium.
Others in the area have also had their water tested. Their water also had arsenic in it. Who knows how long we’d been drinking poisoned water.
In 2007, Spectra Energy/Williams built the Steckman Ridge compressor station 2/3 of a mile from our home. We have experienced numerous problems since then. There have been 40 blow-offs between 2009 and June 2011. A blow off is what they call it when they vent gas, benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals into the air. According to the Bedford Gazette, the local paper, Spectra Energy is legally permitted by the DEP to emit 50 tons annually of volatile organic compounds and 25 tons of hazardous air pollutants.
The first BIG emergency shutdown was in August 2009. The PA DEP) issued two Notices of Violation in 2009 for Spectra Energy’s “unlawful conduct” during the first year of operation at its Steckman Ridge compressor station in Clearville (Bedford County), PA. Spectra Energy’s “unlawful conduct” violated air quality and clean stream regulations of the Pennsylvania Code, according to the Pennsylvania DEP and received a $22,000 fine but they never came out to clean up our property. We were given $25.00 to go get something to eat. We really thought it was a joke after oil rained down on all of our property. We had oil all over our cars and garden.
We always had a garden and a small barn for beef cows, pigs, chicken, and turkeys. It was cheaper than the store and you knew what you were eating. Once the compressor station when in, it all went to crap. Our cows just dwindled away. The first one died within a few months. Then there was a second one. We’d never lost a cow before except during birth.
Not long after a blow-off in August 2009, I was working out back in the garden when I blacked out. It happened a second time one morning while my youngest daughter was getting ready for school. I was in the bathroom. When I fell, I landed in front of the door. It took my daughter five minutes to force the door open so she could help me. With time, they became more frequent and lasted longer. I’ve broken every rib except one from all the falls. For safety reasons, I lost my license for a while and I’m not allowed to shower. I’ve been to see specialists in Altoona, Johnston, and Pittsburgh and none of them can tell me for sure what is causing the blackouts.
Once, it happened while I was in the doctor’s office. My daughter was about to start nursing school and she needed a physical. The doctor told me that it was cataplexy as a result of toxic exposure. Now I’m on medication that makes it better and I will be for the rest of my life although it increases my risk for Parkinson’s disease.
On the evening of March 9, 2013 I was outside with the kids when we heard snapping and popping sounds. I thought they were firecrackers. Robert’s brother, who lives up the hill next to compressor station, called and said he could see smoke coming from the station. My bother was at our house that night. He was trained as an electrician in the Air Force and said it sounded like electrical fire. Soon the sound turned into a rush of air like a jet engine.
We called 911 and fire trucks from the nearby town of Everett were sent out. Robert and I have a scanner and were listening to the trucks coming in. I could tell by the radio chatter that they were heading the wrong way so I called 911 and helped them get here. About 3 hours later it was over. According to the newspaper the first responders couldn’t get in to the facility because no one had the key.
Initially Spectra said that only a small amount of air leaked out of the facility due to a faulty valve. Through our own efforts, however, we now know that Spectra Energy’s uncontrolled leak in this latest incident amounts to 431.5 thousand cubic feet of natural gas vented to the atmosphere over a two-day period. That is enough natural gas to power five homes in the Northeast for a year, according to the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy. Hardly a “small volume” as Spectra Energy officials claimed. Moreover, documents from the DEP reveal that the uncontrolled release was tied to a malfunctioning electronic level switch in a dehydration unit. Another lie.
My oldest daughter gave birth to our first grandson in 2011. She was 27 at the time. After he was born, she was diagnosed with pre-cancerous uterine and had a hysterectomy. She had never had any health problems before this. In January of 2012 she went in for surgery. I remember the surgeon telling us in pre-op that he was going to try to save her ovaries but that if he saw anything that looked suspicious he would have to remove them too. If the surgery went any longer than 2 hours we would know that he had found more. I kept up hope until 2 hours and 15 minutes in the surgery and then I knew. He had found more cancer cells on her ovaries.
In September of 2012, my husband was diagnosed with sterility. His testosterone levels were so low they didn’t even register on the test.
A few months later, my son turned 27. He and his wife were trying to have their second child. It had been 7 years since his first child was born. Previously healthy, he was tired all the time. After several test, they determined that he was sterile in February of 2013. The doctor said that someone his age and in his health should have testosterone levels around 1,000. His was under 200.
When it was just me, I could keep my mouth my shut. But now that my children are suffering too, I won’t be quiet anymore.
I don’t care what they do to me, but don’t mess with my kids.
It is frustrating to know that you worked you’re tail off your whole life and now your land is worthless. Robert’s brother is selling and leaving. They are robbing us of the land that Robert’s father left us.
Michele Beegle, PA Farmer, nurse, grandmother