Friday, September 26, 2014

Westmoreland Marcellus Citizens’ Group Updates September 25, 2014


*  For articles and updates or to just vent, visit us on facebook;
*  To view past updates, reports, general information, permanent documents, and                meeting information
* Our email address:
*  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:      

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, April Jackman, Kacey Comini, Elizabeth Donahue, and Bob Schmetzer.
Thank you
To Stephanie Novak from Mt. Watershed Assoc., Carol Cutler, and the Milburns for tabling and offering TDS water testing at the Latrobe Farm Market. We had the opportunity to again talk to many interested people about fracking.
To Jack Milburn, Lou Pochet, and Dr. Cynthia Walter for their efforts in working on the application for our grant from the Mt Watershed Assoc.

A little Help Please --Take Action!!

 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.    Email Jan for directions.  All are very welcome to attend.

***The Great March for Climate Action –Event in Butler

 How about this? Can you help make it happen?
 The Great March for Climate Action
               Coming to Monroeville October 16 On March 1, 2014, hundreds of everyday Americans set out from Los Angeles, CA, on a 3,000-mile walk to Washington, D.C., with a goal of inspiring others from all walks of life to take action on the climate crisis. The march has delivered to thousands of Americans the message that urgent action is needed on climate change. Dozens of newspaper and television reports have resulted. Thousands have marched for at least a day, with a core group of 25-35 persons walking the entire distance. Thousands of one-on-one conversations between Americans concerned about our future have taken place. Songs around the campfire and sermons in church sanctuaries and coalition-building gatherings have reverberated across the country.
 Take a look at the website to learn more:
               The march will enter Pennsylvania on October 10, with stops in Bessemer on Oct 10 at Maggie Henry's farm, Darlington (Oct 11) [with an excursion that day to Butler, PA for a Global Frackdown rally], Freedom (Oct 12), Ben Avon (Oct 13), Pittsburgh, (Oct 14-15), Monroeville (Oct 16), South Greensburg (Oct 17), Ligonier (Oct 18) and five other stops in PA before exiting to Maryland on October 25th.
               . The marchers want nothing more than to be helpful in adding their voices and bodies to the fights we have on our hands.
 If you are interested in helping this march amplify its impact as it comes through Pennsylvania, then let me know and I will try to connect you with events along the Pennsylvania rout.
 CONTACT: Stephen Cleghorn, Paradise Gardens and Farm or 814-932-6761

Butler is Hosting Having An event for the Climate March-Oct 11
Save the Date:
 Western PA’s Global Frackdown is set for Saturday Oct 11 at Diamond Park in Butler, 2-5 PM. 
               Here is link to the website Be there to welcome the Great March for Climate Action on the Pennsylvania leg of its journey from LA to DC. 
 Here is link to Bill Moyers’ interview of one of the marchers:
               Be there for the launch of Pennsylvanians Against Fracking.
 Bring your signs.  Bring your banner.  And BE THERE!
(More details to come.  Contact if you want to carpool to attend this event)

***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,         
Or call 1-800-61-SHALE (800-617-4253)

***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
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:

***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

***- Pittsburgh’s Air At Stake- Please Comment-Time is Almost Up For Submitting Comments
Send Statement/Comment To Restrict Carbon From Existing Power plants

Everyone Should Submit a Written Statement
               We need to send a strong message to the EPA and Big Coal that there’s overwhelming public support for national climate action –NOW! Big Coal and their climate-denying allies are already trying to weaken the EPA’s historic climate protection efforts.
Comments on the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule must be received by October 16, 2014. You do not have to write a long statement. Any statement of support for Carbon reduction is helpful and there’s lots of data, just google climate change—flooding, storms, effects on health, plant and animal adaptation, etc.
Send Your Comments To:
A: Comments on the EPA’s new rule covering the carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants may be submitted via Email to:
With docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602 in the subject line of the message.
Be sure to reference Docket ID: 
For information about the carbon reduction plan:
Opposition to the New EPA Rules
The Obama Administration clearly anticipates strong opposition to the new rules, and the fight will take place on several grounds. Despite strong public support for the EPA’s proposed rules, the climate change deniers were quick to claim the rules were unnecessary. The national Chamber of Commerce said the costs were exorbitant, but Nobelist Paul Krugman dismisses their argument. But it is the legal challenges that will perhaps slow-down the implementation of the EPA’s rules, a delay we cannot afford.
And From Public Citizen
See the top 10 FAQs on the carbon pollution reduction plan.

*** Tell EPA: Our Ocean's Not a Dump for Fracking
From: "Center for Biological Diversity" <>
               The agency charged with protecting our environment is failing to do its job, and we need your help to right this wrong. Off California's coast the EPA has been letting oil companies dump up to 9 billion gallons of toxic fracking wastewater directly into the ocean every year.
               Many of the nearly 250 chemicals used in fracking wells are toxic to people and to wildlife like whales, dolphins and sea otters. Some chemicals are known carcinogens; others cause immune and nervous-system damage. Still others hover in the shadowy category called "unknown" -- oil companies say their contents are trade secrets, and the EPA blindly agrees to assume they're harmless.
               We can't let this dumping continue. If you wouldn't drink well water tainted by fracking fluids, surely no animal should have to live in such water.
Act now to tell the EPA to do its job and bring an immediate ban to the discharge of toxic fracking chemicals off the coasts of Southern California and the Gulf of Mexico. Click here to take action and get more information.
If you can't open the link, go to

***For Health Care Professionals—Tell PA Dept of Health to Stop Ignoring Fracking Health Complaints

***Saving Pittsburgh Parks-
Needed: Registered voters in Allegheny County Who Will Help
Please read the message below and call me today to talk about this more:
 Protect Our Parks submitted 5000 signatures to County Council on May 6, calling for a no vote on drilling under Deer Lakes.  Unfortunately, council voted anyway to go ahead with County Executive Fitzgerald's proposal to drill under Deer Lakes Park.
 Although we lost that battle, we have a new campaign to protect the other 8 county parks.  And we need your help!!
 This is basically a citizen’s initiative to require Council to vote on an ordinance -- not a resolution, but an ORDINANCE --which WE write. We've written an ordinance, to put a hold on activity in the other parks --which we believe will be attractive to some of the council members who voted yes last time.  We need signatures on a petition from 500 (really 750) registered voters in Allegheny County.
 Council will be required to hear public testimony and vote within 60 days.
 For this campaign to be successful we need registered voters ( i.e. YOU) to circulate this ordinance/petition between October 17 and Nov. 4.  And we need signatures from all over the county.
 This petition is similar to the ones for elected officials -- if you've ever seen those. The signers must be registered votes in Allegheny County.  And you must get your petitions notarized.
 Please give me a call today if you will participate. October 17 is coming up soon.
 Joni Rabinowitz

***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!
Best Regards,  Amy Nassif

***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.
               If that wasn’t enough, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale also released his much anticipated audit
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.
Best,   Steve Hvozdovich - Campaign Coordinator

***Toxic Tuesdays –Tell DEP’s Abruzzo--Do not approve paving pads and access roads 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

***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:
 Gilbert Mears
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
412-653-4328 (Direct)
412-897-0569 (Cell)

Frack Links
**Democracy Now!  Naomi Klein discusses fossil fuels
She criticizes Nature Conservancy for drilling on “preserved” land. 

***Link to Shalefield Stories-Personal stories of those affected by fracking

***To sign up for Skytruth notifications of activity and violations for your area:

*** List of the Harmed--There are now over 1400 residents of Pennsylvania who have placed their names on the list of the harmed when they became sick after fracking began in their area.

*** 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   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

Frack News
All articles are excerpted and condensed. Please use links for the full article.  Special Thanks to Bob Donnan for many of the photos.

*** Grant Awarded  WMCG was very pleased to be awarded a $2,000 grant from the Mt Watershed Association which will allow us to further our efforts to educate the public about the harmful effects of fracking and to provide TDS and radioactivity screening for interested homeowners.

***Why We Must Fight Gas-fired Power Plants-(Coming to Westmoreland County-Tenaska-A Permanent Source of Pollution, Jan)

               “Obama administration’s “Clean Power Plan” moving us away from coal in order to mitigate climate change. The story won’t be told that this plan will do more harm than good, mainly by ignoring methane and enabling a huge move from coal to gas-fired power plants.
               The plan also does more harm than good by not regulating CO2 from trash incineration (2.5 times as bad as coal for the climate) and biomass incineration (50% worse), thus encouraging a large-scale conversion to burning everything from trash to trees. Other EPA deregulation efforts allowing waste burning to escape regulation by calling waste a “fuel” are also clearing the way for this toxic, climate-cooking disaster.
               A leading researcher for a major fracking corporation recently confided in me that this move from coal to gas will spell disaster for climate change, confirming that if only about 3% of the gas escapes, it’s as bad as burning coal. Actual leakage rates are far higher (4-9% just at the fracking fields and more in pipelines and distribution systems), but it was most interesting to hear this person admit that the industry will never get below that level of leakage to become less harmful than coal.
               We now know that methane is 86 to 105 times as potent as CO2 over a 20-year time-frame -- we’re in real trouble if we keep using the outdated “20 times over 100 years” figure EPA maintains, and permit this new generation of gas-burning to be built.
Why is it strategic to focus on the power plants?  Read on…
1) Gas burned for electricity is the largest source of gas demand since 2007. From 1997 to 2013, it more than doubled and is poised to keep growing.
2) Stopping power plants is more winnable than fighting fracking, liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, pipelines or compressor stations. Stopping fracking one community at a time isn't a winning strategy when the industry has thousands of communities targeted, and rural neighbors pit against neighboring landowners desperate for lease money. State and regional bans and moratoria have been effective so far, but LNG terminals, pipelines and compressor stations have federal preemption aspects that make them hard to fight through local or state government.
               Fighting proposed LNG export terminals also has the "weak link" problem.  Ten years ago, when we were fighting LNG import terminals, there were 40 proposals throughout the U.S., but the industry and government officials admitted they only needed six – two each on the east, west and gulf coasts. Now that they're planning export terminals, there are nearly 30 proposals, and the same dynamic is at play, where the industry has stated in their conferences that they only need two on each coast, after which they'll toss out the rest of their proposals and "let environmentalists take the credit." Cynical as that is, it's not a strategy we can defeat if we're trying to attack gas demand, since it's unlikely we can beat enough to prevent the planned export volumes -- especially due to federal preemption and the clustering of most proposals on the oil- and gas-dominated Gulf Coast, where it's far harder to stop them.
               Each gas-fired power plant blocked is a certain amount of gas burning and fracking prevented, while we can stop over 20 LNG terminals without putting a dent in planned export volumes. While work against the LNG export terminals is commendable, it should not be prioritized over stopping the rush to build hundreds of gas-burning power plants.
3) Attacking proposals can only be done in a certain time window, or we're doomed to roughly 30 years of power plant operation and gas demand. Although coal power plants are dirtier to live near, all of the funding and resources being put into closing coal plants while ignoring (or endorsing) new gas power plants, is misguided. Existing power plants can be tackled at any time, but proposals have to be fought when they're proposed, or it's too late. Also, coal production has peaked in the U.S., prices are going up, and gas is undercutting coal. It's effectively illegal to build new coal power plants and the industry is already moving quickly to shut and replace coal. The question is:  will we allow a switch from coal to gas, or force a change to conservation, efficiency, wind and solar?
               So, if there are plans for gas-burning power plants in your area, whether it’s a new plant, an expansion or conversion of an existing plant, or reopening of a closed plant, please be in touch so we can plug you in with others who are fighting these. There is strength in numbers!”

***Consol Energy Might Be Fined For Spill - But Maybe Not
The Spill Might Have Occurred At Beaver Run Reservoir- But Maybe Not (Because DEP Isn’t sure)
Consol Might Test Soil- But Maybe Not-  (Because DEP only                recommended it)
               “Consol Energy may be fined for an accidental, small spill of flowback water from a Marcellus  gas well in Washington Township in August, a spokesman with the DEP said Tuesday.
               The spill happened on the evening of Aug. 10 when workers were draining a storage tank, spokesman John Poister said.
               An unknown amount of water, which came back up from the well, leaked from the tank into a containment area.
               The containment area is intended to catch spills, but there was a hole in its liner and some water seeped into the soil.
               The affected soil, filling about two 50-gallon drums, was removed and replaced with clean soil, Poister said. He said the cleanup work was completed before inspectors visited the site the following day.
               Poister could not say exactly where the well site was located, or its proximity to the Beaver Run Reservoir.
               No waterways were affected by the spill, he said.
               Poister said DEP estimates less than 10 gallons of water leaked through the containment into the soil. The storage tank can hold 500 barrels of frack water.
               “This was not a large spill. It was cleaned up very promptly,” Poister said. “They responded correctly.”
               Consol acknowledged that the incident happened as the DEP described.
               “On Aug. 10, less than 10 gallons of rainwater and produced fluid escaped from a hole in a containment liner at a well site in Westmoreland County,” spokeswoman Kate           O'Donovan said in an e-mail. “The appropriate agencies were immediately notified and the impacted soil was excavated and removed. No further environmental impacts occurred.”
               The agency has suggested Consol test samples of the soil to ensure all the contamination was removed, Poister said.
               Poister said the company violated DEP regulations related to failure to contain residual waste resulting in a release to the ground.
               DEP officials will determine whether a civil penalty will be imposed. “
Read more:

***PA Parents Want Buffers Zones For Schools
          6 Wells planned within ½ mile of Mars School
               “The lights and noise of the drilling process, the truck traffic, the air pollution and concerns about water contamination have affected the quality of life of many residents. Some are drawing the line at their children’s exposure to fracking while at school. A group called Protect Our Children has united groups of parents around the state to call for no fracking within a one-mile radius of school campuses.
               Penni Lechner is 36-years-old and has lived her whole life around Summit Township. She says she fought to stay there and raise her four kids away from the city, but she’s living now in an industrial zone. Her three teenage boys attended Summit Township School, which now has a well pad 900 feet from the school and 500 feet from the playground.
               Sitting on a bench on the grounds of Summit Township School, she describes what happened over the past couple of years when XTO, a subsidiary of Exxon, set up shop nearby.
               They put the drilling rig up, then they put a bigger drilling rig up and that went on for almost a year, and then they fracked it,” Lechner recalls. “They put a bunch of chemicals into the ground. And then they flared it off. Last school year the first two days of school they flared it. They didn’t even wait for the kids to not be here, they just flared it. There was methane shooting up 250 feet into the air. There’s an impoundment pond back there, and that holds chemical water. There’s no fence there; the kids can just walk right up there if they want to.”
               The proximity of the fracking operation to the town’s school confirmed Lechner’s decision to continue to home school her 8-year-old daughter – who had leukemia as a toddler – because she worries about how exposure could affect her daughter’s compromised immune system. Lechner says she and her family have experienced many health problems since fracking came to town, namely nosebleeds, headaches and rashes.
               Parent activists Crystal Yost and Penni Lechner want at least a one-mile buffer zone between fracking facilities and schools
               Crystal Yost  twin 11-year-old daughters are sixth graders in the Mars School District. After the local school board rejected a proposal by Rex Energy to lease the school grounds for sub-surface drilling, the company announced its plans to put six wells within a half-mile of the school.
               “We are worried about health effects on the children from air emissions, the air pollution, the VOCs,” says Yost, who along with other parents has organized against that plan as well, and so far the state Department of Environmental Protection has not issued drilling permits. “We are worried about an accident, specifically if there were to be an explosion, in some other cases in PA specifically, they have a one to two mile radius of evacuation. So if this well pad exploded within a half mile of the school, theoretically the entire school district would be in an evacuation zone, and we just felt it’s not using common sense to put your school district in an evacuation zone.”
Yost says after researching the matter, the Mars Parent Group thinks a two-mile buffer is a better plan.
               A new peer-reviewed study conducted by a researcher at Yale University shows that people living within about half a mile of a working well reported upper respiratory or skin problems more than twice as often as those living more than two miles away. David Brown is a toxicologist who works with the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, which has identified many residents with health problems.
               “They were seeing effects in 30-40 percent of the people who were reporting, and there were a dozen or more different health effects,” Brown says of another study from Earth Works that showed similar results to the Yale study. “They ranged from rashes to difficulty breathing to heart problems to confusion; a lot of cognitive effects; headaches, and an intense sense of fatigue. There were differences between those people who were within 1,500 feet of a facility and those that were outside 1,500 feet of a facility. You shouldn’t interpret that beyond 1,500 feet there weren’t effects, because there were effects even there. We would expect you’d have to be out a minimum of a mile, and maybe two miles.
               Neither study concluded definitively that the health impacts resulted from fracking, and researchers called for further investigation. Supporters of the buffer for schools note that although their campaign calls for no drilling infrastructure within a mile, it will be hard to put the genie back in the bottle where it already exists, but they are adamant about keeping future gas industry development away from their kids.”

Parents Resist Rex Energy's Plan To Drill Near Mars Area School
               “Rex Energy Inc. is planning to begin site development near a large school campus students where more than 3,200 students in grades K-12 attend school. The company has been met with staunch opposition from a group of parents concerned about the health and safety of students.  The Mars Area school directors refused to lease the land to Rex, prompting a group of parents to band together to research fracking and they later asked township officials in nearby Adams and Middlesex to establish a ban on drilling within two miles of the school, which was rejected.
               Last Friday, Rex received a permit from the DEP to drill five horizontal Marcellus wells in Middlesex at the site in question, which Rex spokesman Patrick Creighton said is about two-thirds of a mile from the school campus.
               The Mars Parent Group, though, isn't buying what Rex has to say about responsible development. They've enlisted attorney Jordan Yeager to work on their behalf and have continued to raise money to fight Rex's plan and despite the DEP's permit, the group has vowed to continue fighting, with members recently telling local news media that they are organizing to determine their next move.
               In an undated letter recently posted to the group's website, and addressed to Rex General Counsel Jennifer McDonough, parents highlighted concerns that ranged from air pollution and increased truck traffic, to inadequate air monitoring and children's enhanced susceptibility to environmental hazards.
               Before ever bringing unconventional natural gas extraction close to where people go to school, play, work and live, there should have been studies showing there are no harmful effects to people's health," the letter continued. "The onus of proof lies on those who profit from the activity."
               In a letter to the group, the DEP said it had no legal right to deny Rex's permit for the site. Regulations provide for a 500-foot setback from schools. Creighton said Rex operates two other pads, with three wells each, near two other schools in Butler County that are currently in production.
               In response to local concerns, Rex plans to construct sound abatement walls, use green-completion techniques, and it has agreed not to flare gas at the site, he added.
                In a recent decision in northeast Pennsylvania a common pleas court judge threw out a conditional-use permit issued to an operator by a municipality there (see Shale Daily, Sept. 4). In his decision the judge cited the Act 13 ruling and local concerns said to have been overlooked.
               Middlesex officials recently modified the township's zoning laws to accommodate drilling in residential-agricultural zones, in a move similar to factors in the northeast Pennsylvania case. Creighton said access roads and pad development at the site near the school would take between four and six weeks to complete.”

***Organic Farmer Appeals Gas Compressor Station-          Incompatible Use
NEW SEWICKLEY TWP. – “The owners of an organic farm have appealed the township supervisors’ decision last month to allow a natural gas compressor station in an agricultural district near their property.
They’re just noncompatible with one another,” said attorney Brendan O’Donnell with the Canonsburg law firm Smith Butz, which Kretschmann Family Organic Farm owners Don and Rebecca Kretschmann have retained.
               O’Donnell that the township failed to consider the impact of the compressor station on the Kretschmanns’ property and business as well as their neighbors.
“The board’s decision runs counter to well-established zoning law,” he said.
               Citing the Act 13 decision several times, O’Donnell said supervisors did not take into account the impact of the compressor station on the air, land and water as set down in the Act 13 decision.
               New Sewickley solicitor Philip Lope did not return a call seeking comment.
               The Kretschmanns also filed a challenge with the township zoning hearing board over its zoning ordinance and an oil-and-gas amendment. They have requested a hearing before the zoning hearing board, O’Donnell said.
               To meet township demands for the conditional-use permit, PennEnergy agreed to reduce noise levels, construct the main building so that it resembles a barn, upgrade Teets Road and plant trees.
               Those allowances, though, did little to soothe Don Kretschmann’s concerns that the compressor station’s mere existence in the agricultural zone near his farm would decimate the organic business he and his wife have run at 257 Zeigler Road since 1978.
               “The Kretschmanns’ customers rely on the farm’s status as a certified organic farm and the integrity of the food being produced there,” the appeal states.
               Kretschmann said his customers have encouraged them to fight the decision, as have his two daughters who could take over the farm. “The next generation thinks it’s important,” he said.

***WPX Appeals DEP Order
 Will Not Take Responsibility For Polluting Donegal Water
               “WPX Energy Appalachia LLC will appeal a DEP order that found the company responsible for polluting the underground water well of a Donegal Township family and ordered the company to provide an alternative water source.
               “In an Aug. 19 ruling, the DEP said that “WPX is responsible for the pollution of the water supply” at Ken and Mildred Geary's home along Route 711, and failure to provide an alternate source constitutes “a public nuisance and unlawful conduct.”
               The Gearys, who are using a large outdoor water tank provided by the company, are the third family to receive a report from the state that their well water was contaminated by a leak in WPX's impoundment, or surface-level water holding pond, on the Kalp well pad at its natural gas drilling site. The impoundment has been closed.
               DEP ruled the impoundment contaminated the water of Joseph and Sonja Latin, who live next door to the Gearys, and of Ralph and Sonya Brown, who live on Montana Lane, a private drive off Williams Road.
               WPX had previously appealed a similar order from the DEP concerning the Latins' water.”
Read more:

***Hearing Continues in Haney vs. Range Resources Case
            Health Problems Near Yeager Well Pad
               “Range Resources again argued in Washington County Court that it released a list of all chemicals used in fracking operations at an Amwell Township well site. The hearing, held before President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca, was a continuation of a two-year-old lawsuit involving three families who allege they suffered health problems from living near the Yeager well pad.
               Several Range attorneys argued the plaintiffs – Stacey Haney and her two children; Beth and John Voyles and their daughter; and Loren and Grace Kiskadden – know enough information about the products and additives Range used in fracking to conduct tests of their water supply. Range’s counsel said the “chemical families” were released for all proprietary products that were not named by manufacturers, and thus the families could determine whether or not chemicals in their water match those found in Range’s products.

               Range attorneys reaffirmed the position that no operations at that site led to any adverse effects on human health.
               John and Kendra Smith, husband-and-wife counsel representing the families, said chemicals were detected in their clients’ water supplies that could potentially match the products Range used, but they can’t know for sure unless a full list is disclosed.
               O’Dell Seneca said if Range is correct about disclosing the chemicals, all parties have “wasted a lot of time and resources” through countless hearings. The judge ruled in June, along with an Environmental Hearing Board judge, that Range was responsible for providing a full list of products and chemicals used at that site.
               Range since appealed that decision to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, and it is awaiting a court date. John Smith questioned why Range needed to file an appeal if the company contends it released all chemicals.
               Range’s attorneys also demanded to know whether a third party was footing the Smiths’ attorney bills. Range’s counsel, citing case law, said that information should be made available to Range for its pretrial discovery, and also claimed the “integrity of the jury” could be jeopardized if a member of the hypothetical party backing the Smiths were to sit on the panel, unbeknownst to them.
               O’Dell Seneca said it was an “offensive” question, but entertained Range’s explanation. John Smith said he and his wife felt underprivileged residents in Washington County deserve representation, and he called Range’s questions “baseless” and “defamatory.”
               O’Dell Seneca granted John and Kendra Smith the ability to move forward with their depositions and submit additional testimony. John Smith said this will take at least six months, which would push back the tentative trial date in January.”

***EQT Pitches North Versailles
“EQT personnel tried to make a case for drilling in North Versailles Township to a skeptical audience at the township's community center and a golf course owner's efforts to round up support for drilling in a neighboring community brought out angry residents from North Braddock and parts of North Versailles.
Grand View Golf Club owner Bob Beam wants to drill on his property in North Braddock and is hoping to collect mineral rights from other property owners. Beam didn't attend, but some of his opponents did. “He claims he has (owners of) 800 some acres signed, which is not true,” said Nina Vecchio, a North Braddock businesswoman who was president of borough council.
She said her landlord and others “turned him back” when he came for signers.
Her group, North Braddock Residents For Our Future, was called for help by Crestas Terrace residents in North Versailles.
 “We believe the favorable geology exists in North Versailles,” EQT landman William Balog told a gathering of approximately 40. “We are in the very early stages of our planning for the area.”
They sound like a good, reputable company,” said township Commissioner Sam Juliano, who along with Commissioners George Thompson and Frank Bivins met with EQT a month ago. “I'm a little disappointed with the lack of a turnout.”
“My goal was that people would see the other side,” township resident Valerie Rodman said as she passed out literature from the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center. It cited DEP data in claiming, “there have been more than 4,400 environmental violations by the gas drilling industry,” including 90 by EQT in 2012 and 2013.
The center quoted an AP report published in Trib Total Media papers on Aug. 28 that cited “243 cases in which companies prospecting for oil or gas were found by state regulators to have contaminated private drinking water wells. Those cases were found after a thorough review of paper files stored among its regional offices, DEP posted online.
The focus is on the northwestern part of the township, though EQT has had discussions with East Allegheny School District officials about a location near Logan Middle School in the township's southeastern corner.
“You don't want something up there that adversely affects them,” said Paradine, a former East Allegheny school director.”

***And You Wonder Why You Can’t Find Violations On DEP’s Computer System
DEP’s Online Violation Data Inaccurate
“Six years into the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom, the state DEP’s online data on Pennsylvania well sites is a study in incomplete data and inaccurate information.

The DEP acknowledges that the online Compliance Report, which was supposed to provide clear and accessible information on everything from spills to driller performance, is so error-ridden that it is virtually impossible to get an accurate picture of how drilling is being regulated.
The Post-Gazette analyzed every paper record for every Marcellus well incident that resulted in fines through June 1, 2014, and compared those to the information on the online Compliance Report.

It found vast discrepancies between the field reports of the incidents and the electronic accounting of them. Among the findings:
Of the 568 incidents at a Marcellus well that resulted in a fine, only 380 are listed online.
• Of those 380 listed incidents, a comparison with paper records showed that in 48 cases at least one violation was obscured because a generic code was used, in 44 cases an incorrect code was used, and in 102 cases at least one violation was completely dropped.
• In all, 256 violations were dropped. For example, in a Washington County case, Rice Energy was fined $85,000 for 10 violations, but the online record showed only one violation.
• Of the 188 fines not found online, 172 were for less serious administrative violations of filing late well records (149) and failing to obtain a state permit (23). Sixteen were for spills, sediment-laden water running off a site, or other potentially serious incidents that could directly impact the environment.
Scott Perry, a DEP deputy secretary in charge of the oil and gas management office, said the problems are evidence of a fact that the state concedes: “We recognize we’re not transparent enough. We have to do better.”
The Post-Gazette analysis provides detail on issues discussed in a scathing state auditor general review of the Department of Environmental Protection’s oversight, issued July 22. The audit described the agency’s shortcomings, including lack of enforcement and data problems.
Post-Gazette found that the core problem with the violation discrepancies is that the system for entering data electronically doesn’t include all of the state violation codes, so inspectors can’t accurately transfer data from paper records to the online system. The result has been that sometimes inspectors don’t enter violations, sometimes they enter under a code that is not an accurate reflection of the violation, and sometimes they enter a generic code that doesn’t give a specific idea of what the violation was.
The data problems can obscure specific cases.
For example, only two of four violations issued in one of the worst incidents in the Marcellus era — a March 2010 fire and spill at an Atlas Resources well site in Washington County that resulted in an $80,000 fine — appear in the DEP database, making it look like a less serious event.
The incident occurred after more than a year of complaints from the landowner and neighbors about the well site in Hopewell.
A drill pit filled with thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing flowback fluid, mixed with condensate gas, ignited when a nearby generator backfired, creating a massive fireball that burned the drill pit and a holding tank. The fire also resulted in a fluid spill when it burned the pit’s plastic liner.
State officials issued the fine based on four violations issued the day of the incident: failure to maintain 2 feet of “freeboard,” or space between the top of the fluid in the pit and the sides of the pit where it might overflow; failure to properly implement the Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency Plan; and two separate violations for improper disposal of fluids.
Only the failure to maintain required freeboard and failure to implement the PPC plan were listed online; the two most important violations — for improper disposal of fluids — were not. The state inspector noted in the comments section found in the Compliance Report, “78.57a and 78.54 not in efacts.” Those were codes for the two citations for improper disposal of fluids.
Similarly, only two out of four violations are listed for a Somerset County spill that resulted in Chief Oil & Gas being fined $180,000 — one of the largest fines in the state’s history. The two most significant violations were the two that were not entered online.
That incident began on June 10, 2010, when a state inspector found an oily substance on a corner of a well pad on a family dairy farm in the Laurel Hill Creek special protection watershed.
It took Chief five months, with repeated prodding by the state, to properly clean up the site.
The paper inspection report shows that the inspector initially cited Chief for failure to maintain 2 feet of freeboard in a drill pit; discharge and improper disposal of industrial fluids; failure to dispose of residual waste properly; and failure to properly report a release.
The only violations listed online are the freeboard violation – which could be issued in a non-spill case where the pit was merely too full – and a version of the violation for failure to report a release. The Post-Gazette analyzed incidents that led to fines, but since there are thousands of violations that do not lead to fines, the high percentage of unrecorded violations — more than a quarter of fined incidents had violations dropped — translates into a vast number of unrecorded violations in the DEP data. Even if the percentage of unrecorded violations among all those the state has levied is lower, the data issue means there is no way to accurately assess the regulation of the industry.
In addition, at least 600 more violations in the incidents analyzed are obscured because inspectors used generic codes when they entered the data, instead of a specific violation.
And hundreds of additional violations are altered by the time they are entered online, sometimes to the point that the incident they describe is dramatically different from what actually happened according to the paper files.
All three problems are because inspectors have never had all of the state violation codes to choose from in the eFACTS “dropdown box” when they enter violations online.
Inspectors frequently have to choose one of three “work-arounds” to enter the violations: drop it altogether, use a generic code, or enter a different violation code as similar as possible to the one that was intended.
The result of that system was that DEP staff developed sometimes widely divergent, regional methods to handle the same dilemma.
In the DEP’s Northcentral and Northeast districts, the work-around when the appropriate code is not available is to use generic codes. Those districts use the generic code so often it is the second-most-cited violation against drillers statewide among online violations.
In the Southwest, the work-around is to drop the violation. Three-quarters of the dropped violations in the Post-Gazette analysis were in the Southwest.
In the Rice Energy case in Washington County, for example, paper records show 10 violations: one for not having an erosion and sedimentation plan on site; another for not obtaining permits; a third for failure to prevent runoff; a fourth for failure to notify the state of a pollution event; and six more for erosion and sedimentation controls.
But online, this incident has only one violation — for the failures with the erosion and sedimentation controls — and there is no explanation why the other violations were dropped.
Another regional difference was brought to light two years ago when drillers complained about disparities in how inspectors in the two busiest drilling areas — the Southwest region and the Northcentral and Northeast regions — handled erosion and sediment violations on well pads. A driller in the Northcentral region might receive the same violation in connection with every well that had been drilled on the pad, while a driller in the Southwest region would receive only one violation no matter how many wells had been drilled.
The state has tried to stop that disparity by issuing just one violation, no matter how many wells were drilled, Mr. Ryder said.”
(There is much more information in this article. Please see:

“Pennsylvania doctors, nurses, and health policy experts are calling for a statewide investigation into claims that the state Department of Health has a policy of telling its employees never to talk to residents who complain of negative health effects from fracking, according to letter sent to state Gov. Tom Corbett and other elected officials on Tuesday.
The letter — spearheaded by the groups Physicians for Social Responsibility, Alliance of Nurses for Health Environments, and PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, and signed by more than 400 individual health professionals — says doctors and nurses statewide are “very concerned” about a story published in NPR’s StateImpact Pennsylvania this June. In that story, two retired employees of the health department said they were instructed not to return phone calls from citizens who said they may be experiencing sickness from fracking and other natural gas development.
The letter calls for an independent investigation into the claims, and reform of the health department’s response procedures.

When it comes to fracking, the DOH has done little to prevent exposure or lead policy development,” Dr. Julie Becker, board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said in a statement. “The PA DOH does not provide accurate data to address the health needs of fracking communities, thereby hindering research, and permitting poor decisions to be made based on inaccurate information.”
According to the groups’ letter, the DOH has not done enough since StateImpact’s revelations that the agency may be mishandling citizen complaints. In response, the agency originally said it would improve its policies for handling environmental health complaints, and updated its website to provide a better explanation on how to file them.
In addition, the groups are asking the DOH to make public all past and future health complaints that citizens make to the agency through a public health registry. “This will allow local officials, medical providers, researchers, public health experts, and others to determine how oil and gas operations are impacting people’s health in Pennsylvania, including both residents and industry workers,” the letter reads.
As StateImpact noted, past health-related inquiries are maintained by the health department’s Bureau of Epidemiology, but have not been made public because they contain private health-related information.
Both the state DEP and the DOH have said through spokespeople that they continuously followed the rules when responding to health complaints. But if the allegations are true, damage may already have been done. Pennsylvania has had more than 6,000 wells fracked within the last six years, and zero state studies on their health impacts. It’s been increasingly hard to prove that families can be sickened by drilling — in Colorado, legislators tried to commission a study on the health effects, but fossil fuel advocates ensured its demise. Doctors want more data on the health effects of fracking, but the interests of the drillers usually win out.
Meanwhile, natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania has skyrocketed under Gov. Tom Corbett. He has expanded gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s state parks and forests, and in 2012 implemented a controversial state oil and gas law, known as Act 13, which severely restricts the ability of local governments to have control over drilling in their area. Multiple portions of the law have since been ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.
Since the story broke in StateImpact that the state Department of Health may be ignoring health complaints, the issue has received more attention — not only about whether the misconduct occurred, but also whether it’s criminal. Earlier this month, officials from the Pennsylvania state Attorney General’s office said it they would begin contacting and interviewing residents who say they reached out to state health officials about symptoms with no response. The interviews are not indicative of a formal criminal probe, however.”

***Google Chairman Says Climate Change Deniers Are Lying
“Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt today said it was a “mistake” to support the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that has said human-created climate change could be “beneficial” and opposes environmental regulations. Schmidt said groups trying to cast doubt on climate change science are "just literally lying."
Google’s membership in ALEC has been criticized because of the group’s stance on climate change and its opposition to network neutrality rules and municipal broadband. Earlier this month, Google refused to comment after 50 advocacy groups called on the company to end its affiliation with ALEC.
That changed today when Schmidt appeared on The Diane Rehm Show and was asked by a listener whether Google is still supporting ALEC. The listener described ALEC as “lobbyists in DC that are funding climate change deniers.”

***What's PA Hiding About Fracking Contamination?
By Karen Feridun
               “DEPs recent revelation of at least 243 confirmed cases of water contamination from fracking  may just be   the tip of the iceberg.
               Buried deep within the DEP's website is the long-awaited list of letters of determination telling property owners that their water wells have been contaminated as a result of fracking.
               The agency recently announced the list's addition to their site, six years after the drilling boom began in Pennsylvania and more than a decade after the first unconventional well was drilled in the state. That's where, for the first time, the agency is admitting that 243 private water sources have been contaminated by fracking.
               This comes after years of denying any contamination at all from fracking
The list is just the first stab at transparency in some time for an agency still reeling from a scathing review by the Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale. His July report concluded that the DEP was "woefully" unprepared to monitor and regulate shale oil and gas development.
               And this new attempt at transparency comes only after a Scranton Times-Tribune reporter got a court order to review letters to residents informing them whether or not oil and gas drilling was responsible for contaminated water wells.
The reporter revealed in her investigation into water well contamination that at least 161 positive letters of determination had been issued, not 25 as the Department had previously claimed.
               A link to an incomplete list of water contamination cases buried several pages in on a website that is presented in no particular order in a format that can't be searched says something about the sorry state of affairs at the DEP.  It is clear that the DEP only bothered to compile this list following the auditor general's report put the agency in the spotlight.
               But critical questions remain about the comprehensiveness of the list. Nearly 1,000 letters were turned over to the Times-Tribune reporter last year, with many claiming that results were inconclusive so other families' water contamination could actually be related to oil and gas drilling.
Despite recent attempts at partial transparency, it seems the Department of Environmental Protection remains unprepared to monitor and regulate fracking, and Pennsylvania families have and will continue pay the price.”
Karen Feridun is the founder of Berks Gas Truth.

***Methane Contamination Is Methane Contamination By Any Name
We've known for a while that fracking wells have serious integrity issues.  A couple of years ago Anthony Ingraffea reported on extensive well failures in Pennsylvania's Marcellus shale.  In June Ingraffea and a team of researches at Cornell followed up with a study estimating 40% of Marcellus wells will fail over time.  Newer wells appear to show higher leakage rates than older ones, so structural integrity is an increasing risk.  Since there is no financial or regulatory incentive to build them well, they are getting less and not more reliable.  The team also noted that the oil and gas industry was not exactly forthcoming on this topic:
Due to the lack of publicly available structural integrity monitoring records for onshore wells from industry, more recent studies have used data from state well inspection records to estimate the proportion of unconventional wells drilled that develop cement and/or casing structural integrity issues.
This is terrible, but at this point it is not news.  So it was a little surprising Monday to see a new study about the structural integrity of fracking wells getting lots of play.  Not that I'm complaining - better late than never - but it just seems like something to be treated as further confirmation of what we already knew, not some startling new discovery.

Some reports really missed the mark, and for this reason: an industry-friendly framing of the scope of fracking.
Silica sand mining in Minnesota is fracking.  Its transport to sites is fracking.  The drilling of the well is fracking, the extraction from the well is fracking, the transport of the gas is fracking, and the storage of the toxic byproducts - until the last molecule goes inert - is fracking.  Calling just the extraction of natural gas fracking is misleading at best and deceptive at worst, because that thing could not exist without all those other things.  For anyone who cares about the entire impact of the process, it is absurd to characterize one part as the entirety.
Yet that is just what Matt McGrath of the BBC did, in an article headlined "Weak wells not fracking caused US gas leaks into water."  His article largely gives a pass to the industry, at one point flatly stating: "In none of the investigated wells was there a direct link to fracking."  As though those with contaminated water will be relieved the reason was shoddy practices by the industry and not something intrinsic to drilling.  Ben Geman's piece similarly leads with that framing: "They found that problems with gas-well construction, not fracking itself, is letting gases escape and reach drinking-water wells in some cases."
Geman does a good job including caveats, and towards the end argues against exactly the framing he uses at the top: "the issues of water quality and fracking can't be considered in isolation regardless of what's allowing contaminants to escape."  But it's damned frustrating to see what most people will take away - the headline and the start of the article - make the opposite point.”

***Industry Deceives With Their Definition Of Fracking
               “Ask oil and gas industry advocates, environmentalists and regulators about the biggest issues facing shale gas development, and none are likely to cite the possibility of fracking fluids traveling up thousands of feet of rock into groundwater aquifers as their top concern.
               There’s surface spills, transportation accidents, leaks in holding tanks and impoundments — all of these have much more potential to pollute groundwater.
Yet blaming — or exonerating — fracking for this method of groundwater pollution seems to lead reports of new shale studies, even if those studies say little about actual fracking.
               “Faulty well integrity, not hydraulic fracturing deep underground, is the primary cause of drinking water contamination from gas extraction in parts of Pennsylvania and Texas, according to a new study by researchers from five universities,” began a press release last week from Duke University, former home of Rob Jackson, one of the scientists involved in the study.
               The study, one of several for Mr. Jackson dealing with groundwater contamination from shale development, used noble gases and more traditional gas fingerprinting techniques to trace the origin and pathways of methane traveling into groundwater.
It suggested that leaks in either the steel pipes that carry gas to the surface or in the cement that envelopes those pipes allowed methane to escape into shallower depths, causing changes to well water supplies in Pennsylvania and Texas.
               The study did not examine whether the pressure exerted on the well’s layers during hydraulic fracturing contributed to or caused the casing to become compromised.
               Many in the oil and gas industry are irked when people use “fracking” synonymously with professionals, the difference between fracking or well integrity causing contamination matters. It points to a different set of solutions,” said the researcher, now at Stanford, whose new study was at once heralded as further proof of fracking’s benevolence by the industry-run website Energy-in-Depth and refuted for other reasons.
               “For people whose water has been contaminated, though, they don't care what step caused it. All they know is that they're afraid to use their water,” he said.
And those in the business shouldn't just shrug that off because affected citizens use imprecise language, he said.
               “I think industry has a tin ear sometimes with ‘fracking never causes contamination.’ The entire process is enabled by fracking and horizontal drilling. Peoples’ water has been contaminated. They should acknowledge it and work to keep it from happening elsewhere,” Mr. Jackson said.
               The focus on fracking can distract from other, perhaps more relevant, concerns with shale gas extraction, such as waste disposal, surface spills, radioactivity and emissions, experts say.
               Air emissions take top rank among EDF’s concerns for shale gas extraction, said Scott Anderson, senior policy director of the organization’s climate and energy program.
               Then there are well integrity issues, waste management, community impacts and enforcement to be concerned with.
“The environmental footprint of the industry goes far beyond the question of whether, how and how often frack chemicals get loose,” he said.
               But laypeople get annoyed when they are told fracking has never been proven to contaminate anything, arguing hydraulic fracturing doesn't occur in a vacuum but is inextricably linked to every other part of the gas extraction process.”
Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-ga

***Rockefellers Divesting From Fossil Fuels
               "The Rockefeller family is divesting some of its massive fortune from fossil fuels, the New York Times reported. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the family's charitable arm, will announce the landmark move in a video conference on Monday along with 49 other foundations. According to USA Today, the 50 groups will divest from 200 major oil and gas companies. The Rockefellers are especially noteworthy given their family history. Patriarchs John D. Rockefeller and William Rockefeller amassed their fortunes while working in their oil industry. The Rockefeller brothers were co-founders of the Standard Oil Company, the world's largest oil refiner at the time.
               The Rockefellers were also celebrated for their philanthropic work.  The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has been a major supporter of environmental advocacy. Last year, the charity gave over $6 million in grants to sustainable development projects. The fossil fuel divestment movement has gained many other high-profile supporters in recent months, including actor Mark Ruffalo. "It's a snowballing movement," Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. According to the Washington Post, the Rockefellers plan to first divest from coal and tar-sands mining."
 ***Frack Chemical Secrets Kept During Emergency
From Natural Resources Defense Council
           “In June there was a raging fire and more than 30 explosions at a Halliburton frack site in Ohio. Two families lived within 600 feet of the well pad. Fortunately no one was injured.          But toxic chemicals including benzene, acetone, and toluene spilled into a tributary of the Ohio River which provides public drinking water for resident downstream. Some 70,000 fish were killed by the spill, and thousands of people were left to agonize over the safety of their tap water and the potential health effects. I’m sure you can imagine their distress.
           So image this: the US EPA and the Ohio EPA had to wait five long days before they were given a full list of the chemicals used at the site by Halliburton. The company was not required to provide that list to the EPA. Lets face it. Something is terribly, fatally wrong when our health and safety take a back seat to the interests of corporate polluters.
           What’s worse, fracking related disasters are occurring around the country with frightening regularity: fires explosions, spills –even earthquakes triggered by the underground injections of frack waste.
           More than 15 million Americans now live within one mile of a fracking site. And in the absence of tough regulations, facking companies have run wild.”

***Penn State Proposes Industrial Waste Be Used As Proppants For Fracking
“UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Industrial and domestic waste materials are viable alternative sources of raw materials for proppants -- particles used to open rock fractures -- for use in fracking, according to Penn State material scientists John Hellmann and Barry Scheetz.
               In the American Ceramic Society Bulletin, the researchers describe approaches for using ceramic proppants from waste including mixed glass cullet, mine tailings and even drill-cuttings from shale gas wells themselves.
               “Silica sand is relatively inexpensive, available and has a long track record of use as a proppant," said Hellmann. "However, sand particles are quite angular and tend to pack. It also typically exhibits lower crush strengths and results in lower permeabilities relative to synthetic proppants, like the ones we are researching. Spherical particles, characteristic of the synthetic proppants, flow better, require less water and chemical additives for placement, and maintain higher permeability for longer periods of time than angular sand particles.”
               According to Industrial Minerals, a market leading resource for minerals intelligence, each year more than 30 million tons of proppants are used in fracking. “

***Mark West Facility -Again
Mark West Fined $150,000 for Flaring.
                “Flaring at MarkWest’s gas processing plant in Chartiers Township that sent flames and thick plumes of smoke into the air from an unpermitted fractionator on multiple occasions last year will cost the company more than $150,000 in fines.

               DEP reached two separate consent agreements with MarkWest earlier this year because of the smoky flaring and for accusations by regulators that the company did not have approval to run the system.
               The flaring incidents at the facility near Houston began with one event in November 2012 but became a bigger issue in July and August 2013, when nearby residents reported thick smoke pouring from a fractionator stack after workers installed a new de-ethanizer. The DEP said it received another complaint that October and on two occasions this January.
The consent agreement reached April 7 for the flaring found the black smoke registered more than 60 percent opacity Aug. 22, 2013, and Jan. 6 and 14.
               “What makes it complicated for us is that we have to personally witness the smoke, but we encouraged people to send us pictures so we know where it’s coming from,” DEP spokesman John Poister said. (Really? Send in pictures? How about on site air monitors. Jan)
               MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale previously said the incidents were caused by a safety system that redirected natural gas liquid to be burned off in the flare, and that it performed as designed.
               As part of the consent agreement, MarkWest was required to modify the “thermosyphon reboiler piping” to reduce the chance of smoke releases that came from a vapor lock in the system. The company also installed a specially designed “flare tip” to minimize any smoke coming from the burn-off of butane.
               If there is another flaring event, the company must have a certified worker begin taking opacity readings within 15 minutes and continue to do so for its duration. Workers also must notify DEP within one hour and provide readings to environmental regulators.
               The other agreement reached Aug. 4 is in response to the DEP’s assertion that MarkWest constructed and began operating the system in 2011 without first obtaining regulatory approval. The company submitted its application to the DEP by a Sept. 15 deadline, and environmental regulators are now reviewing that document, which Poister said could take “a few months” to be approved.
               MarkWest was fined $80,000 for that violation.
               “In 2011, MarkWest installed a new process control device intended to enhance the operational safety of the plant and the surrounding community,” McHale said by email Monday night. “In implementing this improvement, MarkWest inadvertently omitted the newly configured flare from the permitting process.”
               McHale said the consent order was meant to “correct that oversight.”
Poister said the system fractionator will not be put back into production until after DEP approves the application.
               The plant was the site of a lightning strike in May that forced the evacuation of nearby homes for several hours. The two consent agreements between the DEP and MarkWest do not involve that situation.”

***Frack Companies in Texas Using More Recycled           Wastewater
               “With a drought depleting water supplies across prime drilling areas in Texas, pressure on oil /gas companies has been ramping up. It seems the industry is slowly turning toward recycling its own wastewater, along with highly salty and undrinkable brackish water.
Estimates are that in places like the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin, 10 percent to 20 percent of the water being used now comes from recycling. And that number is expected to at least double over the next decade, said Marcus Gay, a water analyst at research firm IHS who has since left the company.
               Through an elaborate process that involves electrodes, chemical treatments and simple gravity, impurities are removed and what was once wastewater is piped into a holding pond the size of six football fields. Jimmy Davis Jr., who runs the oil and gas operations at Fasken, said it might be more expensive than buying fresh water, but not by much. And the Fasken family, which bought the land in 1913, is worried about how much water is left.
               For now, though, wastewater recycling simply doesn’t make economic sense for a lot of companies.
               The infrastructure costs, in terms of pipelines and treatment equipment, are considerable. And they multiply exponentially when wells must be hooked in across other property, requiring negotiations over right of way. That essentially limits recycling to large companies that can afford to lease large blocks of land or own it already.
                Mintz, spokesman for Apache, said that the decision to recycle in Barnhart was based on economics but that it does not yet make sense at most of the company’s operations in Texas.
               “You can’t do this everywhere,” he said. “Water availability is a very local issue. There are places in the Permian, fresh water is readily available. But in the Barnhart area, fresh water is scarce, so if we could get it, it would be more expensive.”

*** East Pipeline Drilling Mud Spill in Local Creek
        “Last Thursday, Precision Pipeline of Waynesburg, Pa was drilling under the Little Mingo Creek on behalf of Sunoco Logistics when the drill bit hit something solid that stopped the bit and led to drilling mud, often called bentonite, to leak into the Little Mingo Creek causing a gray “sludge” to travel down the creek in Nottingham and Union townships (Washington County), PA.  Bentonite is used to lubricate drill bits and carry drill cuttings out of the ground. While labeled non toxic by the industry, bentonite in the water can suffocate fish and cause problems for wildlife that happen to drink it…”

***My Job? Overseeing 4,050 wells...Piece a Cake
And Comment by Group Member
        "Currently, DEP’s oil and gas management section has funding for 202 employees; about 83 of them have some kind of field inspection responsibilities, Mr. Perry said. They are either oil and gas inspectors, water quality specialists, solid waste inspectors, environmental trainees, or supervisors for all these categories. Oil and Gas Management had 45 employees in 2008 at the beginning of the Marcellus era."
"In 2008, there were 1,262 inspections of 377 active, unconventional, well sites, in addition to 10,058 inspections of 7,143 conventional, shallow wells in Pennsylvania. By 2013, those figures had grown to 12,391 inspections of 5,559 active, unconventional wells — nearly 15 times the number of wells in 2008 — and 11,713 inspections of 7,808 conventional, shallow wells. Inspectors also have to try to monitor the 330,000 other oil and gas wells — some active, many abandoned and dry — that have been drilled around the state over the last century and a half."

Comment By Group Member    So, 83 inspectors for 5,559 fracking wells (plus another 330,000 "other" ones) across this fracking state...we'll just skip the shallow ones and never mind the random spills into streams.
       Lessee now, calculator time: 5, 559 + 330,000 = 335,559. Divide the number of wells by the 83 neutral people in charge of monitoring them (why would we trust the inspectors paid by the guarding the henhouse). Answer: ...each DEP inspector has upwards of 4,050 wells to monitor.
What could go wrong that wouldn't see the light of day?
       Read farther into the PG article to see how the industry is further neutralizing the DEP by luring its most experienced inspectors away to work for the fracking companies, leaving the DEP inspections to lesser-trained, over-worked ones to protect us on their paltry government wages... .
Again, what could go wrong?  Biphenyls, or PCBs, a suspected cancer-causing agent.

***Abandoned Gas Wells Leak Methane-Laurie Barr,           Methane Tracker
And fracked Wells Are More Complex to Plug
               ‘I haven’t met a well that hasn’t leaked some amount,’ Laurie Barr says.
Laurie Barr spent a recent Saturday like she spends a lot of her weekends: trodding through the thorny and damp woodlands of rural north-western Pennsylvania, juggling a point-and-shoot camera, a GPS navigator, a cell phone, and, most importantly for the mission at hand, a methane detector.
“I found one!” Barr yelled from deep in the woods to her two friends – fellow abandoned oil and gas well enthusiasts who were decidedly more hesitant to walk off the pre-cut path.
               “Here’s the spot they killed the last abandoned well hunter,” Barr joked from somewhere deep in the woods. Then Barr did something she’s done hundreds of times in the last three years – she leaned over a foot-wide hole in the ground and waved around the gas detector until it began beeping. First the beeps were slow, then rapid.
               I haven’t met a well that hasn’t leaked some amount,” she said, taking a picture of the hole, marking the location on her GPS device, and walking back towards the path. “Some are high emitters, some are low emitters, but they all leak.”
The problem for a well hunter like Barr, and for the state of Pennsylvania, is that there are about 200,000 of them. The fragments of infrastructure from decades of unregulated industry might be – a pipe in the woods, a few bubbles under a lake.
               No one knows exactly how many abandoned oil and gas wells litter Pennsylvania or the US. The state’s DEP estimates the number is close to 200,000.
               . For decades, many of the wells have leaked methane into the air, soil and water. The old wells are posing an increasing threat. The more companies drill in the state’s Marcellus Shale, the more likely it becomes that the old wells will act as a pathways for newly-released gas to make its way into the earth, streams, and even people’s homes, with potentially deadly results.
               The state has launched a renewed effort into finding the wells, but no one, including state regulators, thinks they’ll be able to find most of the wells across the state anytime soon. And even if they did, regulators acknowledge it would cost untold sums and many decades to plug the wells with concrete to ensure the methane stays in the ground.
               Barr, who lives a few towns south of Bradford, has been hunting for oil and gas wells for three years. Until 2011 she was mainly a photographer and illustrator, and an anti-fracking activist in her spare time.
               But that year, a series of fires and explosions in northwestern Pennsylvania, including a house explosion in Bradford, were linked to abandoned wells. The explosion at 10 Helen Lane completely destroyed Tom Federspiel’s house. Luckily, Federspiel had decided to shovel snow that morning, and was outside when his house ignited. After an extensive investigation state regulators found that methane had migrated through an abandoned well and up through Federspiel’s basement. Three wells were ordered plugged by the state.
               Barr realized that while thousands of activists fought against the fracking boom, hardly anyone was paying attention to the threat posed by the oil and gas industry’s past.
               “There was a pipe in my yard but I thought it was just a pipe. Then I saw there were pipes sticking out of our neighborhood everywhere,” she said. “I realized I actually lived on an abandoned oil and gas field, and I didn’t even know what abandoned wells were.”
               Now Barr spends nearly all of her time as the sole operator of Save Our Streams PA. Often from early in the morning until late at night, and nearly every weekend she’s either finding, mapping, photographing or talking about abandoned wells.
               That involves driving around in her beat-up Jeep to libraries and local municipal offices and checking out maps so old they look like antiques. And sometimes it involves long treks into the woods or canoe trips in towns like Bradford.
               Barr lowered a camera into the Allegheny Reservoir to photograph methane bubbles from an abandoned well. Rotating between paddle, camera, and gas meter, Barr made her way toward the middle of the reservoir. After about 20 minutes, she and her friends spotted it: a steady stream of small bubbles coming to the surface that would disappear anytime the water rippled. The bubbles are one of the only remaining signs that there was once an entire industry beneath their feet.
               Some wells are easier to spot than others: often a small section of rusty pipe might be sticking out of the ground. But many wells are nothing more than holes in the ground, their casings removed by scavengers, oil companies, or dutiful citizens during the US’s drive to collect metal for the war effort during World War II.
               Wells were often drilled in specific patterns and often spaced only a few hundred feet away from each other, so once Barr finds a few, it’s easier for her to find more.
               In seemingly pristine places like the Allegheny forest the wells are so densely packed together and so prone to leaking that the EPA determined in the 1980s that the forest was essentially experiencing a slow-motion environmental disaster. The EPA spent millions to help plug some of the wells, but not without opposition from the industry and the local residents who support it. One EPA inspector even claimed he was shot at while walking through the forest.
               Like every effort to locate and plug abandoned wells, the EPA’s short-lived program only addressed a tiny fraction of the problem.
               Not knowing where the vast majority of the wells are obviously makes determining their cumulative effects difficult. Studies are scarce. But according to several experts, the wells could account for about 10% of the state’s total methane emissions. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, several dozen more times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
                “If emissions from abandoned wells are indeed a tenth of the methane emissions, that’s a real, substantive problem for global warming,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford University. “We could be setting ourselves up for a situation that lasts centuries.”
               Given their limited budget, the state and NETL researchers say they’re focusing their efforts mostly on public land where new gas wells are likely to be drilled.
               Once the NETL maps those wells, the idea is that either the state or fracking companies can plug them before new drilling begins. That way the state can at least help prevent new gas migration.
               But activists like Barr say the state’s limited plugging won’t be enough.
               Since 2007, Pennsylvania has issued nearly 45,000 new well permits. About a third of those are for “unconventional” wells. That means they’re often thousands of feet deep and hydraulically fracked, a process which requires myriad chemicals and leaves holes significantly more complicated to plug than traditional wells.
The problem, according to experts, is that hiring plugging companies and buying enough concrete to fill many thousands of feet will almost always costs more than the price of the state’s bonds, especially for unconventional wells. That may give companies disincentive to plug their wells, and the state with the bill.
“It’s definitely not $10,000. Even $50,000 is a very optimistic number,” said Austin Mitchell, a postdoctoral fellow in the engineering department at Carnegie Mellon University who co-authored a study on the economics of abandoned wells. “Usually you want either the carrot or the stick to be big enough, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Pennsylvania.”
“We could be leaving our future generations with the same problem we’re left with, only bigger,” Barr said. “We’re shoveling sand against the tide, and not doing anything to stem the tide.”

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Westmoreland Marcellus Citizen’s GroupMission Statement
               WMCG is a project of the Thomas Merton Society
      To raise the public’s general awareness and understanding of the impacts of Marcellus drilling on the natural environment, health, and long-term economies of local communities.
Officers: President-Jan Milburn
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