* For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
* To view past updates, reports, general information, permanent documents, and meeting information http://westmorelandmarcellus.blogspot.com/
* Our email address: email@example.com
* To discuss candidates: http://www.facebook.com/groups/VoteProEarth/
* To contact your state legislator:
For the email address, click on the envelope under the photo
* For information on PA state gas legislation and local control: http://pajustpowers.org/aboutthebills.html-
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.
***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
***Join the People’s Climate March in New York City, Sept. 21. Peoples Climate March: http://peoplesclimate.org/march/
On September 21 in New York City a quarter million citizens are expected to demand that the world's leaders take immediate action on climate change.
The Peoples Climate March will be held just before President Obama and his Chinese counterpart attend the UN Climate Summit, http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/.
The Sierra Club and Thomas Merton Center have hired two buses to leave early on the Sunday morning and return late on Sunday night. If you are interested in reserving a seat on the bus, please contact Peter Wray with CLIMATE on the Subject line … firstname.lastname@example.org.
ACTION: Register now for a seat on one of the Pittsburgh buses. http://alleghenysc.org/?p=19091
***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:
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 By Doug Shields
"All this conflicting data raises questions about” the integrity of those running these companies engaged in drilling. I have found them to be untrustworthy since we began to focus on the issue of fracking in city council in 2009.
They lied to people leasing land. They lied about waste water being dumped into our rivers. They lied about contamination of water supplies. They lie about the poisons they pump into our air. They have lied about their critics. They have promoted unconstitutional laws, based upon lies, in our state assembly. They lied on permit applications and waste disposal forms.
They are like “catfish” on the Internet, posing as something you might find attractive while hiding their ugliness behind a mask of lies and deception.
I have never seen such a corrupting force in our society operate with such impunity. I have never seen so many who claim to be in love with fracking and deny the truth in their ardor.
"Love's best disguise is the pretense of truth. And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be. And the lies we tell each other help us forget our respective faults.” W. Shakespeare, Sonnet 138
***Robinson Residents Challenge Zoning amendment
“ Six Robinson Township residents are challenging the validity of the township’s zoning amendment, passed last month, which opened up more areas to drilling companies.
The challenge, filed Thursday with the township, will require Robinson’s zoning hearing board to review the validity of the amendment and make a determination. If the hearing board rules against the residents, they can take the matter to court.
Residents named in the challenge are Cathy and Christopher Lodge of Meinrad Drive, Bulger; Brenda and Nolan Vance of Maple Grove Road, Bulger; and Irene and Richard Barrie, also of Maple Grove Road. The challenge was filed by Wexford attorney Dwight Ferguson, with support from the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit organization founded by former Environmental Protection Agency attorneys.
Alan Shuckrow, solicitor for Robinson Township, criticized the Environmental Integrity Project’s involvement.
Robinson supervisors approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance in a 2-1 vote Aug. 7. The amendment replaced the special exception process for considering oil and gas applications with a permitted use or conditional use process, depending on the zoning district.
As long as oil and gas companies meet a list of uniform requirements outlined by the township, they can drill land in the interchange business development, industrial, rural residential and agricultural zoning districts.
A conditional use process, which involves a hearing before the board of supervisors, will be used for applications in commercial and special conservation districts.
The challenge alleges that these changes are in violation of the Environmental Rights Amendment in the Pennsylvania Constitution, which provides for the “preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”
The complainants allege the amendment created entirely new zoning districts because it “completely changed the comprehensive zoning scheme and disregarded the current Comprehensive Plan by converting the expressly-intended purposes of the affected zoning districts to radically different purposes.”
The challenge also alleges that the amendment violates property rights and contradicts previous case law.
Adam Kron, an attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, said this is “a novel case,” especially in light of the state Supreme Court decision in December that struck down parts of Act 13 that pre-empted local zoning rules.
“Our claim under the Environmental Rights Amendment ... that’s pretty new because the Supreme Court opened that up as much more of an actionable claim in the Act 13 case,” Kron said. “There’s both old law at play and new law.”
***PennFuture Scores Big Victory for Local Governments And Citizens’ Rights
Judge Lovecchio Rules
“On Friday, Judge Marc F. Lovecchio of the Court of Common Pleas of Lycoming County decided in favor of local residents by vacating and setting aside a conditional use permit that would have allowed Inflection Energy, LLC to build and operate an unconventional shale gas pad in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Fairfield Township. The case is believed to be the first decision testing the role of local government to regulate natural gas developments in the post-Robinson Township world.
The Supreme Court in Robinson Township relied on Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment to strike down portions of the state's Oil and Gas Law (Act 13), which compelled local government to allow gas operations across all zoning districts, including residential districts. Otherwise, the state threatened to penalize local governments by withholding any "impact fees" intended to address harm caused to local communities by the industry. I know, nice guys.
In this case, Inflection applied for a conditional use permit for its proposed gas well pad. A number of residents spoke out against the well pad before the Fairfield Township Board of Supervisors, testifying to concerns about air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, traffic congestion, and the impact of the operations on their property values and general well-being. The company introduced the testimony of two witnesses, neither of whom were experts in land-use matters. Often, their testimony consisted of nothing but conclusions, such as that the operations were compatible with existing uses authorized for residential districts, without any explanation of how the witness reached those conclusions.
On appeal, PennFuture made three arguments: (1) that the language of the ordinance expressly authorized gas operations in the industrial zoned district, and it was therefore inappropriate to use a conditional use permit to allow it in the residential zoned district; (2) that the township's decision was not supported by substantial evidence on the record; and (3) that the township had violated the residents' substantive due process rights and failed to comply with its obligations under Article I, Section 27 by authorizing the gas well operation in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
The Township and Company argued that the citizens had waived their rights to raise their various challenges, that the Township properly used its conditional use process, that the Township's findings were supported by substantial evidence, and that no constitutional violations were committed.
Even though the Court "saw merit" in PennFuture's first argument, Judge Lovecchio rejected the idea that the ordinance expressly allowed gas operations only in industrial districts. Instead, the Court vacated the conditional use permit on the basis that the Township's findings were not supported by substantial evidence. The Court stated that the company 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."
Deciding the case on the basis of substantial evidence relieved the Court of the need to address PennFuture's constitutional arguments. Nonetheless, the Court made plain that the Township had an obligation to protect the constitutional rights guaranteed to its citizens under Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The rights of citizens to a healthy environment, the Court said, "cannot be ignored and must be protected.”
In so ruling, the Court adopted both the rationale and express language of the Supreme Court's decision in Robinson Township.
The case is Gorsline et al. v. the Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township and Inflection Energy, LLC et al.
George Jugovic, Jr. is chief counsel for PennFuture and is based in Pittsburgh.”
Judge Lovecchio Uses Act 13 Ruling to Deny Drilling Project
Max Mitchell, The Legal Intelligencer
“Relying on the state Supreme Court's recent interpretation of Act 13, a Lycoming County judge has denied an energy company's bid to construct an oil and gas well pad in the county.
Judge Marc F. Lovecchio ruled late last month in Gorsline v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township that a zoning ordinance prohibited Inflection Energy's proposed project to build a well pad containing multiple wells. Lovecchio determined the township board, which had approved the project, failed to prove it would not be "detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare of the neighborhood," which is a requirement under the zoning ordinance.
"As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently noted, the technique used to recover the natural gas contained in Marcellus Shale 'inevitably' does 'violence to the landscape,'" Lovecchio said, citing the high court's December 2013 decision in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth.
Lovecchio went on to quote the opinion, written by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, which states: "'By any responsible account, the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children and future generations ... perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.'"
George Jugovic of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, who represented Brian Gorsline and three others opposing the project, said the decision signals that courts should be using Robinson Township to take a hard look at whether the evidence considered by a municipality supports a board's findings.
"It sends up a red flag for townships that when it comes to these decisions, the courts are going to take a hard look," Jugovic said.
Energy and environmental compliance attorney Kenneth Komoroski of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, however, said the decision relied on the strongest language from the Supreme Court's decision.
"It's troubling to see a respected trial court take that provision when it's actually well established that nowhere in the record was it established that shale 'inevitably does violence to the landscape,'" he said. "That really wasn't the essence of what the court decided. That was more of a drive-by commentary. To see that pulled out was disappointing."
According to Lovecchio, Inflection Energy applied for a permit to use property located in a residential and agricultural zone district, and two public meetings were held on the issue.
Lovecchio noted that while there was only one home within 1,000 feet of the proposed well pad site, a large residential development and several individual homes were located within 3,000 feet of the proposed site.
The township board approved the permit, but Gorsline and others appealed.
Lovecchio considered whether the use of the well pad would be similar to other uses allowed in the zone.
Lovecchio said the board had argued that the operation would be similar to public services facilities, such as power plants, substations and sewage disposal plants.
However, Lovecchio noted that Inflection Energy did not conclusively indicate how many wells would be drilled, how much water would be needed for the construction, what type of energy would be used, how long construction would last or whether the company planned to continue drilling after it went through the Marcellus Shale. Although testimony from Thomas Irwin, a field operations manager for Inflection Energy, fell short of meeting the burden of proof, numerous "concerned individuals provided contrary proof," Lovecchio said.
"[Gorsline and the appellants] persuasively argue that the uses permitted in the [residential and agricultural] district do not involve the use of industrial machinery and chemicals, do not entail thousands of round trips of heavy truck traffic, do not cause loud noises at all hours of the day, do not impose threats to human health and safety and do not have negative impacts on the environment," Lovecchio said. "Their concerns went beyond mere speculation, bald assertions, personal opinions or perceptions. Their concerns were factually based and supported by cogent arguments and evidence."
Lovecchio also considered whether the proposed operation conflicted with the purpose of the zoning ordinance, particularly the protection of the health and safety of the residents. He noted that although the burden of raising the issues fell on the objections, sufficient concerns were raised during the public hearings.
Along with traffic and lighting issues during construction, Lovecchio noted that the company did not indicate whether background checks would be mandatory for all construction workers.
He said the residents also raised concerns about whether the deep drilling would increase the levels of radium in the water supply by citing a study from Duke University. A health and safety director for Inflection Energy contended that the study challenged a practice that the DEP has permitted, but Lovecchio found the argument unpersuasive.
"Stating that the process is already permitted by the DEP begs the question. Merely because hydrofracking is regulated by DEP certainly does not mean the activity should occur in this particular residential area," he said.
Lovecchio concluded that, since the Supreme Court's ruling in Robinson Township, municipalities have a "substantial and immediate interest in protecting the environment and the quality of life within its borders."
"This quality of life is a constitutional charge that must be respected by all levels of government," Lovecchio said. "While the court understands the constraints that the 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."
Komoroski said the decision will likely be an outlier and that it went further than is typical for a court considering a board's zoning decision.
According to Komoroski, officials usually work with those proposing projects to establish what will be needed to address a municipality's concerns. Lovecchio, Komoroski said, went beyond those findings by the board.
"This is a really inappropriate second-guessing by the court of common pleas," Komoroski said, adding that if a court is going to expand the scope of it's review, attorneys must first be put on notice. "Where's the due process here?"
However, Jugovic said the opinion implemented the core aspects of the Robinson Township decision, and that Lovecchio did not overreach or make findings on the validity of the zoning ordinance.
"It's the real-life application of the Robinson Township scenario," Jugovic said. "He took a measured approach to deciding the case, which does justice for all parties."
Fairfield Township Solicitor J. Michael Wiley declined to comment, and Inflection Energy's attorney, Kevin M. Walsh of Donald G. Karpowich, Attorney-at-Law, did not return a call for comment.”
(Copies of the 27-page opinion in Gorsline v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfield Township, PICS No. 14-1398, are available from Pennsylvania Law Weekly. Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 800-276-PICS to order or for information.) •
The study itself is in the attached file.
***Union Township Supervisors Refuse to Allow Water Impoundment At Trax Farms
(I don’t have a citation for this article. It was submitted by a group member. Jan)
“Last night the Union Township Supervisors in Washington County, PA refused to vote to allow a water impoundment pond on Trax Farms. EQT drilled 11 wells there and was to begin fracking on Oct. 2, and now they have no water for fracking. Could this be the end of frack ponds in PA?”
***Research: Yale Study Cites Health Risks
by Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Washington County residents living near Marcellus Shale gas drilling sites reported having significantly more health problems, including upper-respiratory illnesses and skin rashes, than those living farther away, according to a study released today by Yale University researchers.
The study, which randomly surveyed 492 people in 180 households with private water well supplies in the county south of Pittsburgh, found twice as many people -- 39 % -- reported upper-respiratory symptoms if they lived within a kilometer, or a little more than half a mile, from a shale gas well site, compared to the 18% who reported such symptoms and lived more than a mile away.
Those living within a kilometer of a shale gas drilling and fracking site were four times as likely to suffer from skin problems as those living more than 2 kilometers away, although the percentages -- 13 percent and 3 percent -- were lower.
The researchers noted that the “association study” did not look at or establish causation, and the survey of self-reported medical conditions was done by university researchers who visited the respondents in their homes during the summer of 2012.
“Our study suggests that natural gas drilling may increase the risk of health symptoms in people living near the wells,” Meredith Stowe, a researcher at the Yale Occupational and Environmental Medicine Program and the study’s senior author, said in a release from Yale News. “We believe our findings support the need for further research into the health and environmental implications of this form of natural gas extraction.”
Travis Windle, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry organization, issued a written statement questioning the objectivity of the researchers and noting that state air monitoring tests in 2010 reported emissions from individual wells in southwestern Pennsylvania posed no public health concerns.
The study, funded by the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments and three other foundations, was published online today in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institutes of Health
Washington County is a hot spot for Marcellus Shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” with 624 shale gas wells drilled and 95 percent of them fracked at the time of the survey, according to DEP records.
Ms. Stowe, in a phone interview, said the survey is important because it is the first to move beyond individual health cases that allegedly are attributable to shale gas development operations.
While the survey found higher rates of skin and respiratory problems nearer to shale gas development sites, the study reported “no equivalent correlation” between well proximity and other groupings of respiratory, neurological, cardiovascular or gastrointestinal conditions.”
Don Hopey: email@example.com or 412-263-1983. First Published September 10, 2014 12:44 PM
Here's a link to the abstract of the Yale Study.
***Fracking Air Pollution Should Receive More Attention
By Leigh Paterson & Jordan Wirfs-Brock
“If you live right next to a drilling rig, or your kids go to school beside a fracking site, or your county is suddenly littered with well pads -- are there health risks?
Is frac fluid safe?
Industry representatives will tell you that 99.5 percent of frac fluid is just water and sand, and the rest is common household chemicals. To prove it’s safe, they’ll even drink it.
Lisa McKenzie, an epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health, said, “That other 0.5% is important from a health perspective.”
Why? “Chemicals can have very negative effects in extremely small quantities,” McKenzie said.
There’s another - more serious - concern that hasn’t caught public attention the way flaming tap water has: Air pollution.
Air pollution from oil and gas development is a real risk
John Adgate, a researcher at the Colorado School of Public Health, said water contamination is of less concern than, "the traffic and the noise and air pollution that are around these sites.”
Trucks and construction equipment - in addition to causing traffic accidents - bring diesel exhaust and dust to communities. Extracting and transporting oil and gas can release pollutants like benzene and ozone. Although scientists - including those on Ryan’s team - are still learning how these pollutants move through the atmosphere and interact with the environment, we know they can be dangerous to humans. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) has issued a hazard alert to oil and gas workers about dust inhalation, and recently announced results of a study that showed cancer-causing chemical benzene is present in worker’s urine at unsafe levels.
Because oil and gas drilling is happening in residential areas, people who don’t work at well-sites may need to worry about these air pollutants, too.
When it comes to oil and gas drilling, our track record of using scientific research to make policies and regulations hasn’t been great.
For example, how far do oil and gas wells need to be from homes and schools? This is called set-back distance, and in Colorado, when new rules were decided in 2013 increasing the distance to 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools, Ryan said, “It was freely admitted that no scientific information went into the current choice.”
That’s what the Air Water Gas project aims to change. In the case of the Colorado set-back rule, policy-makers couldn’t use science to drive regulations because at that time it just didn’t exist.
From a health perspective, there’s very little evidence of the distance wells should be located from homes,” said McKenzie. She is part of Ryan’s research team and looks at health effects - like the rate of birth defects in babies born to mothers living near wells - that can help fill in that knowledge gap.”
***DEP Issues Notice Of Violation For Cecil Impoundment ‘Leak’
“CECIL – The DEP has issued a notice of violation to Range Resources for “leaks of fluids” that impacted groundwater at the Cecil Township No. 23 impoundment.
The notice, dated Monday, was filed the same day DEP officials attended a private meeting with Cecil supervisors to discuss the department’s groundwater test results from the wastewater impoundment on Swihart Road, formerly called Worstell impoundment. Those tests results were made public, but results are still being analyzed by the DEP.
DEP spokesman John Poister said they can’t say for sure what has been contributing to high chloride levels – a key indicator of leaks – in one of the four groundwater monitoring wells at the impoundment.
“We don’t know yet exactly what it was,” Poister said. “We know that it is something that would come from the impoundment, but we don’t know the full characterization.”
Poister said a fine will likely be issued, but Range has until Sept. 24 to respond to the notice of violation. He said Range will be required to hire a company to conduct more extensive tests to determine the chemicals or minerals in the soil, as well as the extent of the affected area. Range then must provide a site reclamation plan to the DEP.
The impoundment was drained in June and has not been used since. Range self-reported July 11 the company was seeing chloride spikes at the impoundment since January, and the DEP conducted its own tests Aug. 7.
Poister said the DEP also tested well water at the two properties closest to the impoundment, and results showed no impact.
According to data sent from Range to the DEP, one groundwater monitoring well registered between 300 and 600 milligrams per liter of chloride between January and July – 250 milligrams and up is a concern, according to Poister.
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the company does not know what caused the chloride spikes.
“We don’t know what happened at Cecil 23. We don’t know what the issue was, and we may never know,” Pitzarella said. “It’s the same thing with the (Jon Day impoundment). You just might not be able to figure out what had happened.”
High chloride levels were also recently detected at Range’s Jon Day and Yeager impoundments in Amwell Township. Pitzarella stressed there was no adverse impact to residents’ drinking supplies near the Cecil impoundment.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Andy Schrader said he felt Monday’s meeting with the DEP was productive. He said department officials validated the board’s concerns about potential leaks or spills at the impoundment.
“I think we’ve been concerned about the safety of the residents out there, and basically this shows that there was some need for our concerns,” Schrader said.
Vice Chairwoman Cindy Fisher said she hopes the DEP will continue to monitor the impoundment.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that the DEP is going to take this seriously and is going to take into consideration the township’s stand on this and the impact on our residents,” Fisher said, “and that they will be true stewards of the environment and do what they’re supposed to do.”
Leaking Impoundment Prompts DEP Citation
Pittsburgh Business Times
“The DEP has cited Range Resources Corp. over leaks at its Wortsell water impoundment in Cecil Township, Washington County.
In a notice of violation issued Monday, the department said leaks were detected by groundwater monitoring wells around the impoundment and by water sampling at the well sites.
“These test results indicate that the groundwater around the impoundment has been impacted by leaks of fluids from this centralized impoundment,” the department stated in the notice.
But what exactly leaked isn’t yet clear, according to DEP spokesman John Poister.
“We would expect the next step for Range would be to conduct a complete characterization—analysis—of the soil at the impoundment,” Poister said.
“That would provide information on exactly what leaked into the ground. As part of the characterization, we would expect Range to determine the extent of the contaminant plume and to implement the appropriate remedial response to address the release.”
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said of the four monitoring wells at the site, elevated levels of chloride were found at one. The impoundment has been drained and has been out of use since June, he said. The company is investigating the cause, he said.
"Importantly, no drinking water sources have been impacted. Chlorides do not present a health or safety risk. However, during our pre-construction testing we did find higher than usual levels of chlorides in drinking water wells within 3,000 feet of the location. This was before any of our work took place," Pitzarella said.
In August, Range began removing another Washington County impoundment, which it decided to close following the discovery of leaks into the surrounding soil.
In that case, the company said low levels of chlorides were found beneath the impoundment liner and at monitoring wells. Nothing was found at levels exceeding health-based concentration limits, the company has said.”
Range has until Sept. 24 to respond to the new notice.”
***Rep Jesse White: “I'm not saying I told you so, but... well, I told you so.”
On The Cecil Impoundment Pits
“Not only has the Worstell Impoundment in Cecil been leaking and contaminating the soil and groundwater for quite a while, Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella admits, "We don’t know what happened at Cecil 23 (Worstell). We don’t know what the issue was, and we may never know."
So, let's recap the facts here.
1. Range Resources doesn't know what happened at the Worstell impoundment.
2. Range also doesn't know what chemicals are in their frac fluid that leaked from the Worstell Impoundment.
3. Range doesn't know how much soil or how many other water sources are contaminated from the chemicals they can't identify.
4. The Worstell Impoundment has shown high levels of chlorides (an indicator of a bunch of other chemicals from drilling) for years now.
5. Range knew about the contamination for months (if not years) before telling the public.
6. Range has been denying there was a leak at Worstell for years now, and aggressively went after anyone who said otherwise. (Anyone remember the "Leaking Impoundment that Isn't Leaking" propaganda piece from Energy in Depth? You can find it at http://energyindepth.org/marcellus/the-leaking-impoundment-thats-not-leaking/)
How exactly does any of Range Resources' conduct here fall under anyone's definition of "responsible drilling"? These open air wastewater impoundments need to be banned in Pennsylvania, which is exactly what my House Bill 1542 would do.
I give the DEP credit for finally stepping up and taking some action here. Hopefully they will continue the investigation and monitor the remediation in a fair and objective way to ensure public safety.”
By Jesse White
***Radon Gas In Flowback Water
“As part of our collaboration with MSNBC, Vocativ (an on line news website, jan) went to central Pennsylvania, which is adding fracking wells to its landscape at a rate three times faster than the national average. There we found executives and politicians campaigning on behalf of hydraulic fracturing by drinking fracking fluid—the liquid that miners pump into the ground—in front of large crowds to prove its safety.
At a recent fracking convention, energy industry consultant Phil Grossweiler insisted that these attempts to sway public perception are nothing but publicity stunts. “The point of seeing executives and politicians drink fracking fluid was deception,” he tells us. “It was an attempt to convince the public that there is no harm from fracturing a shale oil well. It was deceptive in the sense that it’s the least of the problems. What goes down the well is not nearly as important as what comes up.”
Most relevant to Grossweiler and other critics are the ingredients of the fracking fluid that returns to the surface—referred to as “flowback water”—as radon-laced toxic waste. Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America. Yet there are no federal regulations limiting radon in flowback water.
To measure the amount of radon gas actually present in water found in the proximity of fracking sites, Vocativ tested flowback from a stream near Trout Run, Pennsylvania, an area lined with upwards of 15 wellheads. “We are now 15 minutes into this test for radon,” Andrew Nelson, a scientist at the University Iowa, explains as he tested our flowback sample. “We can say that the amount of radon in this vial is thousands of times higher than the allowable standards for drinking water based on the EPA limits.”
Still, locals in the nation’s fracking capital are enjoying the economic spoils. Hydraulic fracturing is expected to add $30 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy over the next two decades. “ Cassidy, a waitress at Fry Bros. Turkey Ranch in Trout Run, is also experiencing the financial benefits that the fracking industry tows behind it as it rolls into town. “Sometimes we get gas workers in here and they get very large to-go orders,“ she says. “They leave us really big tips.” Here’s another tip: Don’t drink the water.
Radon is not limited in flowback water. “
Go to about 2min 45 sec mark
***Research: Tiny Doses of Chemicals May have Serious Health Effects
Low dose endocrine disruptors can be toxic
Tufts U. - Laura Vandenberg lead researcher
“The higher the dose, the more dangerous the toxin—that principle is the basis for most regulatory chemical testing in the United States. But a new report shows that even low doses of some toxins can be harmful, and that finding could have implications for the long-standing debate over the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.
The toxins surveyed in the report affect the endocrine system, which produces hormones, the small signaling molecules that control reproduction, brain development, the immune system and overall health.
Although the report doesn't specifically mention hydraulic fracturing, a separate peer-reviewed study released in September identified 649 chemicals used during gas production and found that at least 130 could affect the endocrine system. They include petroleum distillates, methanol and other, more obscure compounds like dibromoacetonitrile and ethoxylated nonylphenol.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals have been linked to a variety of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, fetal development and infertility. Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable, said Laura Vandenberg, a postdoctoral research fellow at Tufts University and lead author of the new report. It was published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Endocrine Reviews.
"I can't think of a single tissue in the body that isn't affected in some way by hormones," she said.
Many of the chemicals in question are manmade. The food-packaging additive BPA, which mimics estrogen, is probably the best-known example. Dozens of cosmetics, pesticides and industrial chemicals found in the environment also affect the endocrine system.
The earlier study, which identified potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals used in natural gas production, was led by Theo Colborn, an environmental health analyst who also co-authored the new report. Colborn began studying endocrine disruption in the 1980's and has spent the past eight years researching the health effects of natural gas drilling.
It has been difficult for endocrinologists to research fracking-related health risks, because much of the information about fracking chemicals isn't available to the public, said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that advocates for public health. At least nine states have passed chemical disclosure laws, but all the regulations have loopholes that allow natural gas companies to keep the names or concentrations of certain chemicals as trade secrets.
Without an accurate understanding of how and where chemicals are used, "we don't know nearly enough ... to figure out the magnitude of human exposures and concerns," Lunder said.
The new report confirms what scientists like Colborn have known for years—that small amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals can have big health impacts. Although the overall conclusion isn't new, the paper—which cites more than 840 research articles—is significant for its scope, said Louis Guillette, a doctor and endocrinologist at the Medical University of South Carolina who was not involved in the study.
"It's a monster review—it really has looked at a very large amount of literature out there," he said. The research cited came from laboratories around the world and includes experiments performed on cell cultures, animals and human epidemiologic studies. "This paper is critical because it's showing that there's a legacy, a history demonstrating that these are real effects, from many different labs."
Some endocrine-disrupting chemicals are already present in the environment at similar concentrations as naturally occurring hormones in the body. Since hormones function at concentrations of parts per billion or parts per trillion, "you can imagine that anything affecting it in a small way can have a drastic effect on health," Vandenberg said. She compared one part per trillion to a single drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Yet the importance of low-dose testing has been slow to catch on in regulatory agencies. Researchers generally test chemicals by giving lab animals large doses of a particular compound to see if it kills them, Vandenberg said. The scientists then calculate a smaller dose that's considered safe for human exposure—but they rarely test the lower doses to see whether they, too, might cause health effects.
Guillette said that's because "the whole belief system of toxicology, which is put up in every introductory class, is that 'the dose makes the poison.' There's a perception that as you increase the dose, things become more toxic."
While that's true for effects such as death, cancer and certain birth defects, endocrine-disrupting chemicals can act in more subtle ways. Some symptoms take years to materialize.
"There are effects at low doses you don't see at high doses," Vandenberg said. The high-dose tests don't look for the effects on brain development, for example, or prenatal exposure.
"During fetal development, if you don't have the right levels of [hormones] in the thyroid, you can have severe mental retardation. And the difference between enough and not enough is a very slim margin."
Because children and developing babies are particularly vulnerable, the endocrine-disrupting chemicals used during natural gas drilling may disproportionately impact local communities, said Lunder of the Environmental Working Group.
"In a community, you want to limit exposures…because someone's generally pregnant, or there are kids around. Those effects may be less for the healthy [adult] workers who are handling these products."
The chemical industry and some scientists say more evidence is needed about how low doses of endocrine-disrupting compounds affect human health. Last week, the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, issued a statement in response to the new report, saying it "has committed substantial resources to advancing science to better understand any potential effects of chemical substances on the endocrine system."
"We hear all the time that 'the dose isn't high enough to be toxic,'" said Guillette, the South Carolina endocrinologist. "We're trying to get physicians in the U.S. to be aware of how important environmental exposures are to health."
Some regulatory agencies are already on board. Last week, the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives ran an editorial by the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (part of the National Institutes of Health) that emphasized the importance of low dose testing. And in early 2011, a group of scientific associations representing 40,000 researchers wrote an open letter to the journal Science about "the growing recognition that currently accepted testing paradigms and government review practices are inadequate for chemicals with hormone-like actions."
Vandenberg hopes the new report can help regulators design better safety tests, and raise awareness of the importance of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
"BPA has been a way for people to understand how small amounts of a chemical…could be having an effect," she said. "But in general, the public probably doesn't realize how widespread the problem is.
***PA Blind To Fracking Oversight
BY JOHN NORBECK, PennFuture
IN A FRANTIC race to tap the vast natural resource under our feet - namely, natural gas - Gov. Corbett and state agencies are letting industry dictate the terms of the game. How else to explain the countless lapses in oversight and regulation that are allowing drillers to continually foul our air, land and water? Yes, the rush to drill absent foresight and proper planning could turn Pennsylvania's gas rush into a race to the bottom where environmental protection is concerned.
Signs that oversight as well as adequate resourcing of DEP professionals has not kept up with the pace of drilling have been piling up of late. The recent report by the state Auditor General's Office faults DEP with antiquated record-keeping systems, poor oversight of well inspections and drilling waste, and failing to track and respond to public concerns about drilling activities, including complaints that drilling has fouled water supplies.
"DEP is underfunded, understaffed and inconsistent in how it approaches shale-gas development," Auditor General Eugene DePasquale noted on the release of his office's report. "It's like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose."
We need more cops on the beat at DEP.
Equally concerning is the flip-flop routine at the state Department of Health, where two retired employees said that they were forbidden from talking to the public about health issues related to the Marcellus Shale. Instead, department employees were given a list of buzzwords that signaled which calls to avoid, a list that included "gas," "fracking" and "soil contamination." The department originally denied the existence of the list but later backtracked.
More backward logic permeated the decision by the Corbett administration not to fund a statewide health registry that would track the health of those in drilling areas, a registry recommended by the governor's own Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission and his first secretary of health.
Again, where are cops on the beat at the Department of Health?
In addition to the plentiful errors of commission regarding drilling activities in the state, there is also an error of omission that could be far more significant than the rest. The specter of fugitive methane emissions looms large and is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to natural-gas drilling and its impacts on global warming and climate change.
Methane is the main component of natural gas, but it is also an extremely potent, short-lived climate pollutant. Air-quality monitoring studies conducted at sites throughout the Marcellus Shale show that methane leaks from drilling, processing and distribution equipment. These leaks are not only a waste of a valuable resource, but they also contribute to current warming trends. What's more, when methane leaks, so do other air toxins, such as the compounds that create smog and related unhealthy air conditions. If you feel like you've been choking on hot, smoggy air during the last few Philly summers, well, you have.
The city recently received a failing grade in the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report.
So, where are the cops on the beat in the Corbett administration who should be demanding that methane emissions be addressed, controlled and regulated? These are the same folks who are obliged to protect our health, welfare and the environment as noted in Article 1, Sec. 27 of the Pennsylvania constitution: "The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment."
Natural-gas drilling is not likely to go away any time soon in Pennsylvania. But that doesn't mean that we should tap our shale-gas reserves blindly and without regard for the negative consequences with which we are already dealing. Improved accountability gives the industry clear rules to follow, ensures that citizens can express their concerns and puts the government in charge of guarding this finite natural resource.
Let's dispense with the pandering to industry and replace it with a solid blue line of cops on the beat who will look out for Pennsylvania and Pennsylvanians where our air, water and land are concerned.
John Norbeck is vice president and COO of PennFuture, a statewide environmental advocacy organization. http://articles.philly.com/2014-09-10/news/53735691_1_drilling-methane-leaks-marcellus-shale-advisory-commission
***DEP Gives $150,000 To Industry Backed Group For Research
“The state DEP has approved a $150,000 grant earmarked in the state budget for “independent research regarding natural gas drilling” to an industry-backed nonprofit organization.
The funding was approved on a non-competitive basis– other groups were not able to apply for the money.
The Pittsburgh-based Shale Alliance for Energy Research (SAFER PA) was formed as a partnership between industry and academia. Its board includes two representatives from PA universities and five members from the oil and gas industry. SAFER PA’s president, Patrick Findle, heads the Pittsburgh office of the Gas Technology Institute– an Illinois nonprofit that conducts research for gas companies. In 2012 Findle also served as the research committee vice chair of the industry group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Reached by phone, Findle declined to comment and refused to even confirm that SAFER PA was working with DEP. He asked that all questions for this story be emailed to him and did not respond to the email.
The DEP did not respond to repeated requests to comment.
Barry Kauffman of the government reform group, Common Cause PA.:
“Hopefully that’s not the situation here because we need unbiased research. One would hope this group was not selected because it would produce a predetermined outcome.”
None of the university professors from the SAFER PA board– representing Penn State, Drexel, and the University of Pittsburgh– would comment for this story.
A Penn State spokeswoman says Dr. John Hellman, an engineering professor who is listed as the vice chair of SAFER PA’s board, left the group due to his busy schedule.
To date, SAFER PA has published one report on its website– a handbook for homeowners with private water wells. The booklet was written by Groundwater and Environmental Services, Inc. — an engineering company that does the majority of its business with oil and gas companies.
Scott Anderson of the Environmental Defense Fund, which is also part of the committee:
“We thought it was a good project,” he says. “We just told them we wouldn’t be able to devote more than a day or two a year to advising them.”
In a 2013 PowerPoint presentation, Findle described SAFER PA as having a “seasoned team conducting PA appropriations efforts,” with plans to raise $8-$10 million per year for shale research– to be funded by the state and other sources.
Last year the DEP received $150,000 in the state budget specifically for “independent research regarding natural gas drilling.” The agency awarded the entire sum in a sole source grant to SAFER PA.
Emails obtained by StateImpact Pennsylvania through an open records request show the DEP appears to be on the verge of signing a contract, but at this point it’s not entirely clear what SAFER PA will do for the agency.
The group says it intends to track the waste generated by shale development and study potential human health impacts. It also plans to create an online training tool about erosion and sediment control related to oil and gas activities.
The emails also show the governor’s office checking in with DEP on the status of the grant– once in March and again last month. Governor Corbett’s press secretary did not respond to requests to comment.”
***There Will Be No Fracking In Nova Scotia
“Energy Minister Andrew Younger announced that the Liberal government plans to introduce legislation in the fall prohibiting hydraulic fracturing in shale oil and gas projects in the province.
“Nova Scotians have indicated that by a wide margin they are concerned about hydraulic fracturing and they do not want it as part of onshore development of shales in Nova Scotia at this time,” Younger said during a news conference, to the loud applause of environmentalists in attendance.
“Nova Scotians have put their trust in our government, that we will listen to the concerns and not allow a process that most Nova Scotians are just simply not comfortable with at this time.”
***Flooding the Zone: Gas Industry Pours Millions into Lobbying PA
“Kauffman says the industry’s campaign spending and lobbying have helped the industry score key victories in Pennsylvania.
“Number one, we all know—it got them no severance tax,” says Kauffman. “So Pennsylvania is the only major drilling state in the nation that doesn’t have a severance tax.”
This began when former Gov. Ed Rendell decided not to pursue a severance tax, and continued under Gov. Tom Corbett, and the passage of Act 13.
The 2012 law established an impact fee on drillers. This is a flat, per-well fee—as opposed to a more commonly assessed severance tax on the gas that comes out of the ground. This fee has given the state and local governments more than $600 million, but not as much as a severance tax would have.
An investigation by the Allegheny Front and 90.5 WESA found the oil and gas industry spent heavily on lobbying while the state was writing regulations for shale gas.
The industry spent $34 million on lobbying in Pennsylvania since 2007, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State's lobbying disclosure database. That includes a high of $9 million in 2012, the year Act 13 passed. The money was spent by 27 companies that have drilled unconventional wells or are 'board members' of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, and five trade associations.
Compare that to the state’s largest environmental groups—who spent about $1.5 million dollars combined in that period—and $330,000 in 2012.
What did this lobbying accomplish? For starters, it appears to have gotten the industry face time with decision makers in Harrisburg.
Consider the meeting calendar for Patrick Henderson, Gov. Corbett’s Energy Executive, shown above . Henderson was involved with negotiations around Act 13, and helped put together the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Not surprisingly, the gas industry wanted to talk to him.
In his public calendar from late January 2011 to when Act 13 was signed in early February 2012, Henderson had over 130 meetings scheduled with industry executives or lobbyists registered with the oil and gas industry or affiliated business groups. In that same time period, he had 29 scheduled meetings with environmental groups. That information was obtained through a right-to-know request by The Allegheny Front.
Representatives for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Range Resources, and Chesapeake Energy met most frequently with Henderson. The lopsided tally on his calendar underscores what Joanne Kilgour has seen since she became director for Pennsylvania Sierra Club earlier this year.
“That confirms the way it feels to be in the Capitol as an environmental lobbyist,” Kilgour says. “There are so many industry lobbyists that are always, always in the Capitol and in-district and have significant resources to pour into just their lobbying effort.”
What is the impact of this lobbying effort? On that question, those in the environmental community are mixed.
The setback limitations for the DEP were deemed too vague by a plurality of state Supreme Court justices, who helped overturn it. For some in the environmental community, the setback rule was emblematic of how Act 13 went too far in industry’s favor.
“Those setbacks weren’t worth the paper they were written on—they were a sham,” says John Quigley, former secretary for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. A Democrat, Quigley is volunteering for the campaign of Tom Wolf, who’s running for governor against the Republican Corbett. “Clearly, there was a big overreach in Act 13. And that didn’t just happen by itself.”
***Brine Firm Sues Over Billboard Against Injection Wells
(So, according to the industry, it’s ok for huge billboards to call environmentalists opposed to fracking “green slime”,jk but it’s not legal for a billboard that criticizes waste injection wells. Jan)
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man who uses a biblical reference and a statement against "poisoned waters" on billboards opposing wells for disposal of gas-drilling wastewater is fighting a legal threat from the Texas well owner on free-speech grounds.
Austin, Texas-based Buckeye Brine alleges in a July lawsuit that the billboards paid for by Michael Boals, of Coshocton in eastern Ohio, contain false and defamatory attacks against its two wells, which dispose of contaminated wastewater from oil and gas drilling.
The complaint by the company and Rodney Adams, who owns the land and operates the well site, contends the wells are safe, legal and meet all state safety standards. The parties object to statements on two billboards along U.S. Route 36, including one that "DEATH may come."
"The accusation that the wells will cause 'DEATH' is a baseless and malicious attempt to damage the reputations of the plaintiffs," according to the complaint. "The billboards are also defamatory because they state or imply that Mr. Adams and Buckeye Brine are causing 'poisoned waters' to enter the drinking water supply."
It's considered unsafe for ground water and aquifers, so Ohio regulations require waste liquid to be contained and injected deep underground. Ohio has recorded no aquifer contamination, but as the state grapples with some 16 million gallons of the wastewater a year, it's seen earthquakes linked to injection wells and a Youngstown-area businessman indicted in a federal dumping case.
Boals, a 55-year-old timber harvester, refuses to pull his billboards, which he said cost him more than $1,000.
He said the complaint misrepresents his statements, one of which is that injection wells "pump POISONED WATERS under the feet of America's Citizens." The second sign quotes prophecy from Revelation — on men dying from waters "made bitter."
"I think a lot of people hear the word 'injection well' and they don't realize they inject wastewater into the ground," he said. "I said the poisoned waters travel under the feet of all the people in the area. That's a true statement. 'Bitter' speaks about something not desirable, not something you'd ever want to drink."
After a cease-and-desist letter failed to get Boals to pull the signs, the legal fight escalated. Buckeye Brine directed its appeal for relief to the sign owner, and Boals enlisted the legal help of Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services.
Megan Lovett, an attorney at the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, said Boals' signs represent protected speech, especially in a rural, hilly region where billboards are one of the more reliable forms of mass communication.
"You can't defame someone with an opinion in Ohio," she said. "You can't control an idea. The way we control ideas is in the marketplace of ideas, not in a court."
Lovett also argues that oil and gas drilling, particularly fracking, can rightly be considered to "destroy" and "poison" water, as the billboards contend.”
***Airport Drilling Money Stays At Airport
“Any day now, wells on the 9,000 acres surrounding the airport will begin drilling the stores of shale under the airport. The deal is expected to bring more than $20 million a year to prop up the struggling airport.
When the drilling deal was first discussed, proper questions were raised about where the money would go; the airport is owned by Allegheny County. A decline in flights and the consolidation of airlines has the airport, which derives its income from retail and airline leases, faltering financially. Enter the frackers, and then the Federal Aviation
Administration, which claimed that income derived from the airport must stay at the airport. That ought to rankle the residents of the county, if not of the state.
This is just the latest in a series of dubious decisions and directions related to fracking in the state. Earlier in the year, Gov. Corbett moved to lift a moratorium on drilling on state lands, including game and park land.
One environmental group has sued to stop the drilling. Such drilling not only has the potential to alter the landscape, but nearly a million acres of state land is already subject to drilling and some claim it's already having a negative impact on wildlife populations.
The race to drill the state - Corbett says he also wants to drill under state prisons - is especially troubling given how little time is spent studying fracking's potential impact, and how little drillers pay the state for the privilege.
Just last week, a group of health professionals raised questions about the Corbett administration's handling of the health questions raised by fracking. They accuse the administration of directing state Health Department officials not to pay proper attention to calls from those with health problems or concerns.
Drillers pay only fees, not taxes, unlike all the other states in which fracking occurs. Public-health experts bemoan the lack of long-term health studies on the effects of fracking. And, most outrageously, a health registry that would record and analyze complaints that was part of recommendations of a governor's commission was abandoned because the $2 million it would cost was deemed too expensive.
When the state legalized gambling, it created a set of policies and regulations that involved high taxes for the gaming companies, with shares going to host cities and the bulk divided among a range of programs and tax deductions that benefited those throughout the state. Even more important, the Gaming Control Board was established to strictly monitor gambling as well as its impact.
Too bad the same approach wasn't adopted when the state went crazy for fracking - especially since there's potentially even more at stake. Corbett's fervor for drilling without proper controls is an increasingly bad gamble.”