* 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/
* 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-
WMCG Thank You
Contributors To Our Updates
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.
The action to Tenaska and State Reps: http://tinyurl.com/stoptenaska
The hearing request to DEP: http://tinyurl.com/tenaskahearing
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 usually meet the second Tuesday of every month at 7:30 PM in Greensburg. Recently we have adjusted this schedule. Email Jan for details and directions. All are very welcome to attend.
***Rally to Clean Up Fracking in PA- Nov 18, 12:00
Join local activists in and the newly created coalition ‘Pennsylvanians Against Fracking’ at a rally to be held in Harrisburg:
Noon to 2:00 pm, Tuesday, November 18
N. 3rd Street Harrisburg, PA 17120
Contact Diane Sipe at < firstname.lastname@example.org > to get plugged into carpools with Marcellus Outreach Butler and Marcellus Protest.
“Tom Wolf just won the election to be Pennsylvania’s next Governor. As Governor, Wolf will have the power to halt fracking. However, we know it is going to take a lot of pressure to win a statewide moratorium.
“That pressure starts November 18th in Harrisburg. We’ll use a big box of cleaning supply to show the next Governor how to clean up our state. Please also bring your own cleaning tools- brooms, mops, sponges- get creative! We’ll also bring some homemade solar panels to shine sunlight- the best disinfectant- on the Capitol.
Sponsors include Berks Gas Truth, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Marcellus Outreach Butler, Marcellus Protest, PennEnvironment and Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air
***Program to document impacts of Fracking Near National Parks- Nov 12, Phipps Conservatory
Next week, NPCA will unveil a new initiative focused on protecting our parks in Pennsylvania. They have teamed up with FracTracker Alliance on a new smartphone app that enables citizens to document the impacts "fracking" has had in their communities and near our national parks. We'll also discuss opportunities created by the change in the governor's office.
We started documenting many impacts of fracking occurring near our beloved Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, and now we are bringing those photos and videos, along with expert panelists, to Pennsylvania to raise awareness about the potential impacts fracking could have on our parks.
Act now to join us in Pittsburgh on November 12 and learn from the experts, see bird's-eye views of landscapes affected by fracking, and discuss how the practice could affect national park communities in Pennsylvania. We'll also share ways citizens like you can help protect our parks.
Will you join us? Time is running out, so RSVP now to email@example.com.
WHAT: An expert panel and group discussion about protecting our parks from the impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
WHO: Brook Lenker, executive director, FracTracker Alliance; Nick Lund, landscape conservation program manager, NPCA; Valerie Naylor, National Park Service (retired), superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (2003-2014); Jan Swenson, executive director, Badlands Conservation Alliance.
WHEN & WHERE:
Wednesday, November 12, from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, One Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. We'll be meeting in Botany Hall.
Thursday, November 13, from 6 - 8 p.m. at The Hub, CityView, 30 S. 17th Street, #1410, Philadelphia, PA 19103. We'll be meeting in the "Sky" room.
RSVP: Please RSVP to Matt Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215.327.2529.
OTHER DETAILS: Events are free, and light refreshments will be provided. Parking is available at both locations. For Pittsburgh, metered parking (free after 6 p.m.) is available along Schenley Drive; parking is also available at the nearby Carnegie museums. For Philadelphia, Liberty Place garage is located at 44 S. 16th Street. The nearest SEPTA stop is Suburban Station.
I hope to see you there!
Sincerely, Matt Elliott
Pennsylvania and Delaware Program Manager
***Boston Art Show Uses 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
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. ***
***Comment Period Ends Nov 18 on DEP's Marcellus Violation Standards
The DEP has taken much flack for "inadequate inspections" of the oil & gas industry. That policy is now under review. The Public Comment Period will end on November 18
That is your last chance to weigh in regarding their policy of identifying, tracking and resolving violations.
See comments on DEP's proposal at
We feel that DEP must "follow the book". Their guidelines should be followed in actual practice, not just as "aspirational goals".
You can find many "talking points" in the newspaper article. The Auditor General's comments are excellent and should be mentioned. We feel that as a minimum there should be at least one inspection prior to drilling and a clearly- mandated minimum total of at least six inspections per well. The ability of DEP to inspect wells must not be overwhelmed by the number of permits issued.
For more information, file://localhost/see http/::cogentpa.org:2014:10:25:action-alert-public-comment-period-standards-guidelines-identifying-tracking-resolving-violations:
Many thanks to Emily Krafjack and C.O.G.E.N.T. for providing this information.
Submit your comments via e-mail: email@example.com
Comments on Standards for Identifying Tracking and Resolving Violations
You may want to CC your State Senator and Representative.
John Ryder, DEP
PO BOX 8467
Harrisburg PA 17105-8467
Be sure to include your full name and address.
p.s. Do not sign on to any form letters; they will be ignored by DEP
***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
***Cool Video--Colbert and Neil Young Sing About Fracking
***Link to DEP’s Water Violation List
“The link lists 250 water supplies across PA compromised by fracking...the tip of the iceberg, since the DEP can't be depended on to know about or report on the actual number of spills. The spread of fracking across the state is reflected in when and where these spills occur, so you'll find the arrival of fracking (and the inevitable spills) here in Westmoreland County on page six, with spills in Donegal in 2013 and 2014.”
***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 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. http://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com/the-list/
There is so much going on right now with our Ligonier Township zoning code being completely revised that I am getting the Updates out every 2 weeks instead of weekly. That means the Updates will be longer. It also means I need the info about events you want to be shared with the group to be submitted a little earlier. Thx, jan
Comment by Area Councilman
“These folks are still treating the decision as to if and where to allow drilling as a purely policy decision. It is not. Allowing an industrial operation in a zoning district in which it is a use incompatible with existing and permitted uses is a constitutional violation. It is not a decision in which the Supervisors have any discretion. There’s no “balancing” to be done. The zoning either does or does not permit drilling. Conditional use does not change or modify the underlying zoning.”
***Parents Fight For Schools Safe From Fracking
“Locals say their health concerns over wells and waste pits are ignored by oil and gas companies and state authorities
Amy Nassif thought petitioning her Pennsylvania school board to vote against drilling near her two children’s school would be enough — but even without the board’s approval, the DEP approved the permits.
“I was completely shocked at the total disregard for the safety of the community,” she said. “They have active-shooter drills at the school, they have drug free zones, but we can’t protect our kids from this.”
In March the Pennsylvania-based company Rex Energy proposed drilling for gas under the Mars Area School District’s campus, where about 3,200 elementary, middle and high school students attend.
“We knew the benefit of the drilling would be money for the school district, and that’s a great thing, but at what cost?” Nassif said. “The chemicals, the VOCs [volatile organic compounds], the diesel exhaust … Distance is really the only thing you can provide as a buffer.”
She petitioned her school board to vote against the drilling, but before the school board voted on the proposal, Rex went ahead and began the permitting process to get six wells drilled less than a mile from the school. The DEP issued a permit for Rex Energy’s facilities last month.
The natural gas formation under the schools won’t be accessed, but the gas from surrounding properties will.
“DEP conducted an extremely thorough review of the permit, considering all public comments, and is confident that the proposed well pad does not pose any threat to the health or safety of local residents,” DEP spokeswoman Morgan Wagner said in an email. “There is no legal basis for dismissing the permit application.”
Rex Energy declined to comment for this story
Stories like Nassif’s are increasingly common as fracking infrastructure expands across the U.S. into places once largely untouched by the oil and gas industry, where many proposed wells, waste sites and compressor stations are running into community opposition.
That opposition is strongest where oil and gas infrastructure abuts places children congregate — schools, family-friendly neighborhoods and playgrounds. From Pennsylvania to Texas, Colorado to Ohio, parents and other concerned citizens are banding together to voice concern about the potential health impacts of drilling and its associated processes.
Scientific data about the potential health effects of fracking is limited, but a growing body of studies points to decreased air quality and an increased presence of carcinogens near gas wells and infrastructure.
But there’s often little local citizens and their municipalities can do to ameliorate their concerns about this ever-growing web of wells, pits, pipelines and compressor stations as they grapple with outdated zoning laws and underfunded and understaffed environmental protection departments.
“Maybe what we need is more coordinated oversight of these types of operations,” said Patty Robertson, the chief prosecutor for statewide environmental crimes in Texas, where many communities are pushing back against drilling. “You’ve got one agency saying, “We don’t regulate that” and one saying, “Well, we do what we can,” and nobody is taking the bull by the horns and running with it. So we fall back on the EPA and rely on them, but they’re hampered also.”
That lack of coordination was on display this year in Nordheim, Texas, a town of about 300 people 75 miles southeast of San Antonio where a local waste company, Pyote Water Systems, is planning to build three solid-waste disposal pits that will store fracking waste less than a mile from Nordheim's school. The waste pits will take up as much space as nine city blocks — nearly the size of Nordheim itself — and can hold 720,000 cubic yards of waste, according to the investigative nonprofit the Center for Public Integrity, which originally reported on the controversy last month.
Pytoe Water Systems did not return calls for comment for this story.
In 1988 oil and gas companies successfully lobbied to protect most kinds of oil and gas waste from the federal government's hazardous waste regulations. That has enabled companies to dispose of fracking waste — mostly dirt and rock mixed with leftover chemicals and traces of gas — in open-air pits essentially wherever the companies can find enough land to build them. In 27 states (including Pennsylvania, Texas and Colorado) air monitoring isn’t required at the sites.
In an email EPA spokeswomen Rachel Deitz said the agency is reviewing a petition from the National Resources Defense Council to revoke the oil and gas waste exemption.
One study from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013 found fracking waste to contain barium, strontium, bromides and benzene — which can cause cancer. A study from the University of Missouri in 2013 found that groundwater near hydraulic fracturing sites in Colorado had elevated levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which can cause birth defects. Another Colorado study, released this year from the Colorado School of Public Health, found an association between the density of fracking wells and congenital heart defects in infants.
In communities close to fracking sites in Pennsylvania, the state’s DEP found in 2013 that levels of carbon dioxide as well as nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants in the air were several times higher than the state’s average. Higher levels of those compounds can cause respiratory issues. And in Utah a 2014 study from the University of Colorado at Boulder found high levels of benzene, toluene and other volatile organic compounds in the air in communities with active fracking.
Denton, Texas, a city of about 100,000 just north of Dallas, is surrounded by oil and gas operations. The city has the worst air quality in all of Texas, and the area’s childhood asthma rates are six to nine times higher than the state average, according to the nonprofit organization the Center for Children’s Health.
One playground in Denton is just 520 feet from a drilling site. There benzene, ethyl acetate, n-hexane and toluene — all of which can cause various health effects, from vision problems to muscle weakness — were found coating playground equipment in a recent lab test by the nonprofit organization ShaleTest.
Denton residents found there was little they could do at the state level to fix the problem. Realizing state zoning and environmental protection laws would be of little help, residents formed the Denton Drilling Awareness Group and gathered enough signatures to get a city fracking ban placed on this November’s ballot.
Rhonda Love, one of the members of the group, said that she’s not against oil and gas drilling but that they had no other option but to push for the ban.
Even if the ban passes, it probably won’t apply to wells already in Denton, and Love says it will likely be challenged. But after years of worry, even the prospect of the ban’s passing has given residents some hope.
“We would travel to Austin to pressure them, but they said there’s nothing they can do,” Love said. “So instead of driving up and down I-35 forever, we focused here.”
From: Amy Nassif, Mars Parent Group To DEP
Subject: PA DEP studies
Through continued research, the Mars Parent Group is now aware that the PA DEP studies referenced in your letter to the group on September 15, 2014 are inaccurate, incomplete, and do not consider vulnerable populations like children. These studies were referenced to justify your position on granting the Geyer site well permits near the Mars Area School District.
As a parent, it is alarming that you clearly stated to me, "this is safe", during your courtesy call prior to issuing the Geyer permits. When you are referencing 3,200 children and "safety", please be properly informed on the accuracy and relevance of the research you use to justify your decisions regarding permitting well sites.
I will also point out a recent incident at a gas well site that mandated a two mile evacuation. In this instance, the local high school was outside the 2-mile zone and was closed for a day to accept evacuees. In our local case, all 3,200 children in the Mars Area School District are clearly now within an evacuation zone of your permitted Geyer well site. As a parent, it is disconcerting that the PA DEP does not consider this information.
Our group focus remains on safety and quality of life for our children in school and in the community as shale development encroaches on our schools and densely populated areas.
The Mars Parent Group requests that this also be a primary focus for the PA DEP.
Mars Parent Group
And the GOOD NEWS:
***Legal challenges Result in Stay On fracking near Middlesex Township Schools
“Rex Energy will not proceed with drilling operations on their Geyer well pad, a controversial cluster of six wells located about a half mile away from 3,200 students at the Mars Area School District campus. Rex Energy recently sent gas leaseholders a letter explaining how the stay will prevent the company from further development of the Geyer well pad during the time that the legal challenges are heard.
Last month, parents in Middlesex Township, along with environmental groups Clean Air Council and Delaware Riverkeeper Network, filed multiple challenges related to the Geyer well. The parents and groups filed a substantive validity challenge to an overhaul of Middlesex Township’s zoning, which opens up the Township to drilling and related facilities. The challengers appealed the land use permit issued by Middlesex Township, and the well permits issued by the PA DEP. The challengers argued that the amendment and related permits violate the people’s right to pure water, clean air, a healthy environment, and fail to protect public health, safety, and welfare. The challenge to the ordinance and land use permit automatically imposed a stay on further site development. According to area residents, Rex Energy violated the stay shortly after October 10th.
Rex Energy had planned to begin drilling the Geyer wells as early as January or February 2015, but the legal actions require that Rex Energy halt all well pad development. Rex Energy petitioned Middlesex Township to allow it to complete the well pad under the pretext that full cessation could cause soil erosion. The Township agreed to allow Rex Energy to finish constructing the well pad, but barred it from pursuing any further development at the site, including drilling and fracking.
Amy Nassif leads the Mars Parent Group, a local group of Mars Area School District parents concerned about the proximity of drilling near the school. "Speaking as a parent, it is extremely disappointing to learn that industry is allowed to make their own rules and break the law,” said Nassif. “Their actions further erode confidence in their procedures and operations as they encroach on schools and densely populated areas," Nassif added.
Joseph Otis Minott is Chief Counsel and Executive Director for Clean Air Council. “While it’s a win for residents and school children that Rex is not allowed to drill during the course of the legal hearings, it is a major blow to the community that Rex began substantial earth disturbance when they knew full well that the permits would be challenged, and continued construction of the well pad once the stay was in effect,” said Minott. “Rex Energy claimed that stopping construction would pose imminent peril to the environment, but Rex was solely responsible for any alleged peril. Rex ignored the stay, caused further earth disturbance that would heighten the peril, then lobbied Middlesex Township to receive special permission to proceed with construction of the well pad,” added Minott.
“Rex Energy is not above the law,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. “Sadly their blatant violation of the stay on construction of their well pad is a sign of the times in Pennsylvania — the drilling industry seems to have been given license by local and state officials to inflict whatever harms they want on our kids, communities and environment. That is why the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Clean Air Council and members of the Mars Parent Group are pursuing our legal action — because clearly if we don’t enforce our rights to a healthy environment and safe communities, no one will,” added van Rossum.
Clean Air Council is a member- supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air. The Council has over 8,000 members and works in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey on public education, community advocacy, and legal oversight and enforcement of environmental laws. The Council is a founding member of Protect Our Children, a coalition of parents, concerned citizens, and advocacy organizations, dedicated to protecting school children from the health risks of shale gas drilling and infrastructure.
Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN) is a nonprofit membership organization working throughout the entire Delaware River Watershed including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York. DRN provides effective environmental advocacy, volunteer monitoring programs, stream restoration projects, public education, and legal enforcement of environmental safety laws. The Delaware Riverkeeper Network’s Generations Project was initiated in response to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision the organization helped secure, Robinson Township, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al. v. Commonwealth, 83 A.3d 901. (Pa. 2013), in order to advance the Constitutional Environmental Rights of people in Pennsylvania, in states across the nation and at the federal level.
Clean Air Council
Community Outreach Director
215-567-4004 ext. 121
Website: www.cleanair.org, www.protectourchildrencoalition.org
Facebook: Clean Air Council
Twitter: @cleanaircouncil, @cleanairmatt
***Letter To Rep. Dunbar and Penn Township Officials
From A Group Member
“Representative Dunbar and PENN Township elected officials,
In the current Dominion ROW that runs through our PT neighborhoods, wherein Dominion installed a 24" line, we also have the Sunoco Logistics LNG line running parallel with talk of two more Sunoco lines to be installed within that same ROW. I personally believe part of Sunoco's second line has already gone in since Sunoco has been securing more ROW's to nearby lands and they were recently reworking the same grounds. Now we have this in the works!!!
What with the our recently proposed PT Ordinance and more notifications such as in this article, our Penn Township grounds will be forever changed into one big fracking industrial zone with accompanying condenser stations and whatever additional facilities the companies need to operate.
Who, among you is providing oversight as we residents are kept in the dark???
Penn Township Resident”
***Subject: Donegal Township Meeting
An Unholy Experiment-That Should Be Illegal
“At the regularly scheduled Nov. 12 Donegal Township, Washington County, Board of Supervisors meeting, Range Resources Local Government Spokesperson and two Range Resources employees, one from the Land Division and one from Finishing, addressed the Board to inform them of the scheduled flaring of Claysville Sportsman’s Club Unit 11H on Hicks Lane, Donegal Township.
The flaring is to begin December 7, will burn 24/7 and will last 7 to 10 days.
According to Range, the stack will be 100’ high, the flame 60’ to 80’ high and would be visible for about 10 miles. A 95 decibel noise level at the pad is anticipated for the duration of the burn, and the sound would be heard for about 2 miles.
This flaring is considered a “big burn” and according to Range is necessitated as this is Range’s first experience with a Utica well in Washington County. It was stated that the burn is to determine the size of the gas reservoir; and as this Utica is a “dry” gas, it will be a “clean” burn with no other products of combustion.
Range stated that they will close Hicks Lane, except to local traffic, and close the Sportsman’s Club, but club members will be able to use the shooting range. Range has also alerted 911 and County Emergency Response of the dates of the flaring and will post signs on Route 40.
It was noted by members of the audience that 95 decibels is the noise level of a fire siren, that there are homes within a ¼ mile of the flare site, and the high elevation of the site will make it visible over a greater area. “ Submitted by Group Member
***Trout Unlimited Selects Laurel Highlands As One of 10 Special Places
“Crowned by three ridges along southwestern Pennsylvania’s skyline, the Laurel Highlands is home to eight of the state’s 10 highest summits, including the highest, Mt. Davis, at 3,200 feet above sea level. From mountain laurel thickets, cool headwaters percolate through more than 200 square miles of mostly state parks and forestlands. Class A Wild Trout Streams, such as Camp Run and Laurel Run and dozens of other popular fisheries, form the Laurel Highlands Trout Trail, a 70-mile region attracting anglers from nearby Pittsburgh and neighboring states to fish for trout and take in the scenery.
The hunting heritage runs deep in the Laurel Highlands region. With an ample supply of public hunting grounds, including more than 138,000 acres of state forest and parks, and more than 25,000 acres of state game lands, the Laurel Highlands provide ample deer, bear, turkey, ruffed grouse and small-game hunting opportunities.
Natural resource extraction is not new to the Laurel Highlands. Coal mining’s legacy lingers. After decades of restoration work by anglers and conservation groups, many of the region’s streams are on the road to recovery from pollution caused by coal mining. Today, the energy industry is seeking to develop gas resources that lie beneath some of the few remaining public hunting and fishing lands in southwest Pennsylvania — premier recreation areas for hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Ohiopyle State Park, Forbes State Forest and other state parks, forests and game lands within the Laurel Highlands region sit atop some of southwest Pennsylvania’s more productive shale gas areas.
Well pad construction, gas transportation lines and access roads will require additional land disturbances, much of which is expected to occur in the intact forest stands and the very areas where stream restoration efforts have taken place to correct the damage caused by previous resource extraction. Among the many impacts of shale gas drilling on Pennsylvania’s streams, impacts from road sedimentation is often the most pronounced in steep terrain, such as the Laurel Highlands.”
For the PDF: http://www.tu.org/sites/default/files/Laurel_highlands_report.pdf
***Dominion Submits Request To FERC
“Dominion submitted a pre-filing request to FERC, asking regulators to begin an environmental review of its proposed $500 million Supply Header project in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The project also calls for modifications and upgrades at two existing Dominion compressor stations in Pennsylvania (JB Tonkin Station in Westmoreland County and Crayne Station in Greene County), and two in West Virginia (Mockingbird Hill Station in Wetzel County and Burch Ridge Station in Marshall County). The modifications will result in approximately 75,000 hp of additional compression.
A Dominion subsidiary, Dominion Transmission Inc., would build and operate the Supply Header project, which would provide an additional 1.5 Bcf/d of firm transportation. One of the project’s main customers would be Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, a joint venture of Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources.”
By Charles Passut, Natural Gas Intelligence, November 5, 2014
***PA Full of Frack Pits-529
DEP Can’t Provide The Data On Pits
“In 2005, Pennsylvania had 11 frack water pits. Just eight years later, aerial maps show that number has jumped to 529. It’s unclear how many of these sites store fresh water used for fracking, and how many store the toxic wastewater that results from oil and gas drilling operations. The DEP could not provide the data to public health researchers working with Geisenger on an NIH funded health impact study. So the researchers turned to the nonprofit data sleuths from SkyTruth, who have documented the impoundments with the help of NASA’s satellite imagery and citizen scientists from around the world. Smithsonian.org recently reported on how the project was initiated by public health researchers from Johns Hopkins:
Brian Schwartz, an environmental epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and his colleagues have teamed up with Geisinger Health System, a health services organization in Pennsylvania, to analyze the digital medical records of more than 400,000 patients in the state in order to assess the impacts of fracking on neonatal and respiratory health.
While the scientists will track where these people live, says Schwartz, state regulators cannot tell them where the active well pads and waste pits are located. Officials at DEP say that they have simply never compiled a comprehensive list.
A spokesman for DEP told the Observer-Reporter that the department can’t produce a list of impoundments that include smaller wastewater storage sites because they have a different classification. The DEP sent the reporter to another nonprofit that tries to fill the state’s data and information gap – FracTracker.
Since state regulators have no reliable knowledge of where these sites are located, volunteers from across the globe studied the aerial images from 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2013. The accuracy of the data was carefully vetted by SkyTruth’s methodology, which included training on how to distinguish a frack pond from a duck pond. But the organization has not yet figured out how to distinguish the toxic from the non-toxic fresh water holding ponds.
“It is an important distinction that we’re looking into,” wrote SkyTruth’s David Manthos in an email, “but not one we were ready to make yet.”
“Between the backlog of reporting, and these smaller impoundments that also hold toxic chemicals but which DEP classifies differently, the location of these features is effectively a mystery to the general public and researchers who are trying to measure the potential health impacts of [those] living near drilling sites and drilling-waste impoundments.
Skytruth researchers also documented the increase in the size of these impoundments over the last eight years.
From 2010 to 2013 the median area of drilling impoundments more than tripled, and the average area (which also includes small fluid reserve pits located right on the wellpad) more than doubled. As of 2013, the total impoundment surface area measures nearly four million square meters, scattered across the Commonwealth. (New York’s Central Park measures 3.4 million square meters.)
Many of these impoundments are reclaimed after a period of time. For example, the 2010 maps showed 581 frack water storage facilities, while in 2013, Skytruth documented 529. The data is now searchable through an interactive map on the Skytruth website. The project was conceived to help Hopkins researchers link possible health impacts to the wastewater ponds, which contain toxic chemicals that can emit dangerous air pollutants.
The DEP has also documented leaks from these sites. In October, the DEP fined EQT corporation a record $4.5 million dollars for a leaking impoundment. The Attorney General has also filed criminal charges against the driller. In September, DEP handed Range Resources a $4.15 million fine for violations at six wastewater impoundments in Washington County.
Open storage pits containing gas drilling waste water have to be double-lined in Pennsylvania, and include a leak-detection system. The industry standard advocated by the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, whose members include the recently sanctioned shale driller EQT, says hydrocarbons should be removed from the wastewater before storage.”
***Voters Approve Bans
San Benito County, CA
San Benito County voters appeared to be backing a groundbreaking ballot measure that would outlaw the controversial oil extraction technique known as fracking.
In early returns, county voters were supporting Measure J by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin.
The North Texas town of Denton is the first city in the Lone Star State to outlaw the oil and
gas extraction technique behind the U.S. energy boom.
The vote in the city of 123,000 was highly symbolic because fracking, is widely used in Texas, the top crude producer in the United States.
Issue 7, which will ban the process of fracking, in Athens, received 2,245 votes, versus the 623 votes against it.
The Athens Bill of Rights Committee, which was behind the initiative, believes that the chemicals used in fracking can be harmful to water sources and air quality, which in turn, could negatively affect resident health.
Thank you Veronica Coptis, Maggie Henry, Diane Sipe and All the Others Who Stood for Our Environmental Rights
By Ted Glick who was one of the organizers of Beyond Extreme Energy, representing the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and at twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.
“The people gonna rise like the waters,
Gonna calm this crisis down.
I hear the voice of my great granddaughter Saying shut FERC down right now.”
Who would have thought it? On Friday morning, November 7th, for 2 ½ hours, the determined and courageous nonviolent activists of Beyond Extreme Energy shut down the DC headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC.
All three entrances to the building were successfully blockaded, and virtually no one was getting in.
By 9 am there were about 150 FERC employees massed on the sidewalks in front of FERC, waiting for the police to clear away five fracking fighters who had successfully locked down at 7 am with lock boxes across the driveway into the FERC parking garage. The driveway had been the route used by police to funnel FERC employees into the building for the four days previous when BXE activists had successfully blockaded the two pedestrian entrances.
For short periods of time during those four days, no more than for maybe 20 minutes at a time, we had been able to prevent pedestrian use of that driveway (we prevented car use for the entire week). We did so by forming a long enough line of people to prevent anyone getting through, until the cops moved in and made arrests after their required three warnings. About 70 people were arrested over the course of the week.
But Friday morning was different. And because of the successful lock box action and total blockade, it was different in a way none of the BXE organizers had even thought about.
Friday was the day for additional fracktivists and extractivists from the severely fracked-up state of Pennsylvania to join BXE. So as those
150 FERC employees waited to get into the building, we organized a teach-in on the front sidewalk, right in the midst of the employees.
For fifteen or twenty minutes people like Maggie Henry and Veronica Coptis spoke from the heart, shedding tears but fighting through them, to let the silent and listening FERC employees know the human toll that their support of the gas rush has caused. There were no catcalls, no boos, no one publicly questioning the truth of what was being said.
It was a very special moment.
We had been talking with and distributing material to FERC employees and others passing by all week. The leaflet we distributed to FERC employees said, in part:
“We apologize for any disruption to your work day, but that’s what we’re here for—to disrupt the workings of FERC, which continues to approve gas infrastructure projects that threaten the health and quality of life for millions of Americans and the whole planet through increased greenhouse gas emissions.
“Many of you work at FERC because you think it does a good job of balancing the needs of industry and economic development with the health and environmental challenges of impacted communities. But the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ strategy is condemning us to runaway climate chaos while condemning families in fracking’s path to a hellish existence. FERC should be prioritizing the emergence of renewable energy as a growing sources of our electrical power.”
We found surprisingly little hostility from the close to 2,000 people we distributed our flyers to. We even found, to our surprise, indications of support from some of the Federal Protective Services and DC Metro police who were doing their best to keep FERC open despite our blockading. Going into the week, our lawyer had said to us that he expected that they would get more aggressive as the week went by, but that turned out, in general and with exceptions, not to be the case.
Exceptions included a couple of people tasered on Friday (including Diane Sipe of MOB) after we heard talk of it earlier in the week, several people falsely charged with “assault” for standing their nonviolent ground as part of a blockade and some police assistance to a small number of aggressive FERC employees who tried to push through us.
Central to the success of this action were the sisters and brothers from the Great March for Climate Action who were there for all, or most, of the week. The decision to do this action during election week had a lot to do with the plan of the Great March to arrive in DC on November 1, ending on that day their eight month walk across the United States. Many of us not part of that march were impressed by the depth of commitment and soulful strength and organizing smarts they collectively brought to the November 1-7 week.
We received more than a little bit of criticism about our decision to do this week during election week, and we understood why. We were not doing this to make a statement about how messed up our electoral system is and that people should forget voting—not at all. In our call to action we said, right up at the top, “vote we must, but we must also do more.” If the Great March had not been arriving on November 1 we probably would have moved things back a week or two.
But as it turns out, it was very timely that Beyond Extreme Energy did happen during election week, during a week when the Republicans took back the Senate and Democrats generally did pretty badly—in large part because of the willingness of far too many, once again, to be Republicans-lite.
It is time, in 2015 and 2016, for many, many more of us to “vote” with our whole lives through massive, serious, strategic nonviolent direct action campaigns that are as coordinated as we can make them.
Investors in the fossil fuel industry, Democrats and others who want our votes, members of the mass media and the American people generally need to get it that the climate justice movement, increasingly aligned with other movements for progressive social change, refuses to accept “all of the above” and “business as usual.” We know what time it is—there is little time left—and we are the leaders we have been waiting for. Now must be, has to be, our time to rise up in large numbers and with a spirit of love, a nonviolent discipline and a willingness to sacrifice that cannot be ignored.”
Ted Glick was one of the organizers of Beyond Extreme Energy, representing the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and at twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.
***Convent May Become Frack Boarding House
“The businessman who wants to convert a former convent into a boarding house for Marcellus Shale workers will argue in court next month that Washington officials are illegally blocking his development.
Lawyers for Robert Starr of Phive Starr Properties filed a brief in Washington County Court last month appealing the city’s decision earlier this year to reject proposed changes to the zoning code that would allow a boarding house at the convent on North Franklin Street formerly owned by Immaculate Conception Parish.
The proposal by Starr to renovate the aging building so it could house up to 28 people temporarily working in the area was met with stiff resistance from parishioners who said they were concerned about the transient nature of those tenants.
“Their testimony was entirely anecdotal, based on vague speculation, and unsupported by any facts,” the brief reads. “Such testimony cannot be credited as establishing a basis for justifying the total exclusion of an identifiable form of housing throughout the city.”
Oral arguments between the two sides before Judge Katherine Emery are scheduled for Dec. 5.
In Washington’s counterclaim against Phive Starr filed Oct. 28, city solicitor Jack Cambest writes there is nothing restricting a boarding house, but the city rejected Starr’s development because it had specific concerns in the application. The city also claims it has no reason to tweak its ordinance.
“An ordinance is not required to provide for every conceivable subcategory of potential use,” the city’s brief states.
The city also called Starr’s contention that his plans to run a boarding house is similar to an apartment complex “a desperate analogy at best.”
***Fracking Brings Pipelines and Compressor Stations
The Mid-Atlantic region is facing an expansion of gas transport infrastructure that threatens communities' health, safety and homes. With increased “fracking” and plans to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), the gas industry needs supporting infrastructure. Beyond drilling wells, energy companies are building compressor stations and laying thousands of miles of pipelines.
The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America has estimated that from 2011 to 2035, the industry must build nearly 15,000 miles of subsidiary lines — each year.
It is hard to ignore the compressors and pipelines extending quickly through the region. Last month, Dominion Power gained the approval of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a plan to convert a dormant LNG import facility at Cove Point on the Chesapeake Bay into a major exporting facility for fracked gas. With the FERC's green light, Dominion will start exports from the facility in Lusby, Md., in 2017.
Now, residents are engaged in battles to protect their families and neighborhoods: Until 2012, Lusby was a peaceful town of more than 20,000 people who happily raised children in a safe and quiet environment. Dominion's plans will turn their lives upside down, threatening quality of life, health, safety and property values.
Families are distraught. About 360 homes lie within 4,500 feet of the site, to which large trucks will regularly haul heavy equipment and construction will generate noise. While an increase in pollution is undisputed, Dominion has easily satisfied the FERC's pollution-abatement requirement by buying clean-air credits from elsewhere in Maryland — which will not alleviate the toxic conditions around the facility.
Moreover, the possibility of an explosion is undeniable. Homeowners
know that, unlike with oil-based fires that burn locally, an LNG fire could trigger an explosion that could race along the pipeline.
In Myersville, Md., citizens learned in 2011 that Dominion Transmission Inc. (DTI) proposed to build a noisy compressor station less than a mile from the town's only elementary school. The 16,000-horsepower compressor is expected to emit 23.5 tons of nitrogen oxide and 53,892 tons of greenhouse gas every year.
Myersville's residents and officials have been battling to stop the compressor. The town's council rejected DTI's request for a zoning variance, but the FERC authorized the project.
Communities must mobilize to protect themselves. If your home or town lies in the path of pipelines or near a planned compressor, you will have little warning: Lusby's residents did not see the notice of Dominion's application in the Federal Register, and it allowed parties only two weeks to intervene. To be sure, corporations have rights, and businesses may pursue profits. But the playing field should be level for homeowners.
Communities must wrest back local control. They must demand that states repeal laws that enable the gas industry to invade private property and challenge state laws pre-empting local lawmaking. They should pass bills making sure people's rights trump corporate privileges. Unless we rise up and are vigilant, this might be in our own backyards soon.
Marcia Greenberg, a lawyer, has worked on U.S.-funded democracy programs and local economic development in Eastern Europe.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/opinion/featuredcommentary/6994697-74/gas-dominion-compressor#ixzz3HbQOnAK1
***Frack-Well Blowout in Eastern Ohio
By Laura Arenschield
The Columbus Dispatch
“From his fishing boat on a rural Jefferson County pond, Mike Poole could see the natural-gas wellhead owned by American Energy Parners, less than a tenth of a mile away.
Poole, who lives above the Mingo Sportsmans Club less than a mile from the well, was one of about 400 families to be evacuated after the well ruptured spewing natural gas and methane into the air.
Jefferson County’s emergency-management officials worried about what those gases could do to people and homes. Methane can become explosive in small amounts and can cause headaches and dizziness.
“What if I had been out there fishing and this thing had blown up?” Poole asked. “I’d have been instantly dead.”
the company brought in Boots and Coots, a well emergency-response company owned by Halliburton and based in Texas, to shut down the well and stop the gases from leaking into the air.
Poole spent the night with family in a nearby village. The experience left him worried for his home and for the woods and lakes where he likes to hunt, hike and fish.
“They’re telling everybody, ‘Oh, this is perfectly, 100 percent safe, it’s safe safe safe safe, it’s not hurting the water, it’s not hurting the air,’ ” he said. “Well, why were we evacuated last night?”
He questioned why American Energy Partners hadn’t trained emergency responders in Ohio, rather than relying on a team that had to be flown in from Texas.
In Ohio alone in the past year, residents near fracked wells and injection wells — the wells where fracking waste is dumped — have experienced earthquakes and have been evacuated because of fires. Chemicals have spilled into streams and rivers, in some cases killing fish for miles.
Tuesday’s incident was the third in three days tied to fracking operations in eastern Ohio. On Sunday, a worker at a fracking site in Guernsey County was burned in a fire. On Monday, a pipeline carrying natural-gas condensate ruptured in Monroe County, igniting several acres of woods.
“We need a moratorium on drilling in Ohio until the state and the industry can figure out how to prevent these things from happening,” said Teresa Mills, an environmental activist and Ohio organizer with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. “It seems like the more they’re drilling, the more accidents and incidents that are occurring. Maybe the state needs to seriously look at the laws and figure out how to prevent these accidents from happening.”
Shawn Bennett, senior vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said in an email that a moratorium is extreme.
***12 People Blockade Entrance to NY Compressor Station Protesting Methane Gas Storage Project
“A dozen people put their bodies on the line in a last-resort protest to stop a major gas storage expansion project that has been authorized to begin construction on the shore of Seneca Lake, the largest of New York’s Finger Lakes. The protesters formed a human blockade in front of the Texas-based Crestwood Midstream company gate, shutting down the Finger Lakes facility from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today.
The “WE ARE SENECA LAKE” actions are taking place to protest the methane gas storage expansion project that will store highly pressurized, explosive gas in abandoned salt caverns on the west side of Seneca Lake.
“Seneca Lake is a source of drinking water for 100,000 people and a source of economic prosperity for the whole region, not a gas station for fracking operations,” said renowned biologist and author Sandra Steingraber, PhD, one of the residents participating in the human blockade. “It’s a place for tourists, wineries, farms and families. Speaking with our bodies in an act of civil disobedience is a measure of last recourse to protect our home, our water, and our local economy—with our bodies and our voices, telling Texas-based Crestwood to go home!”
This proposed project has faced unparalleled public opposition due to unresolved questions about geological instabilities, fault lines, possible salinization of the lake and public health concerns. Even though Capital New York investigation revealed this month that Gov. Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) excised references to the risks of underground gas storage from a 2011 federal report on methane contamination of drinking water and has allowed key data to remain hidden, Crestwood still received federal approval to move forward with the construction of this methane gas storage project.
Protestors are outraged that Crestwood was given approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to store two billion cubic feet of methane (natural gas) in the caverns along the western shore of Seneca Lake where the New York State DEC temporarily halted plans to stockpile propane and butane (LPG) due to ongoing concerns for safety, health and the environment.
The project is opposed by more than 200 businesses, more than 60 wineries, 11 municipalities (including neighboring Watkins Glen) and thousands and thousands of residents in the Finger Lakes region who are concerned about the threat it poses to human health, drinking water and the local economy, including the tourism industry. A recent report on the state’s grape and wine industry showed that it contributes $4.8 billion to the New York State economy every year and generates more than 5.2 million wine-related tourism visits.
“As we literally put our bodies on the line, we once again call on President Obama, Governor Cuomo, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Reed to do what’s right and step in and stop this terrible project from ruining the heart of the Finger Lakes,” said Watkins Glen resident Lyn Gerry who participated in today’s blockade.
***Future of Fracking Not As Bright As Forecasted
Post Carbon Institute has published a report calling into question the production statistics touted by promoters of fracking. By calculating the production numbers on a well-by-well basis for shale gas and tight oil fields throughout the U.S., Post
The report, Drilling Deeper: A Reality Check on U.S. Government Forecasts for a Lasting Tight Oil & Shale Gas Boom, authored by Post Carbon fellow J. David Hughes, updates an earlier report he authored for Post Carbon in 2012.
“Hughes analyzed the production stats for seven tight oil basins and seven gas basins, which account for 88 percent and 89 percent of current shale gas production.
Among the key findings:
By 2040, production rates from the Bakken Shale and Eagle Ford Shale will be less than a tenth of that projected by the Energy Department. For the top three shale gas fields—the Marcellus Shale, Eagle Ford and Bakken—production rates from these plays will be about a third of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecast.
The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale oil basins measured for the report range from an astounding 60 percent to 91 percent. That means over those three years, the amount of oil coming out of the wells decreases by that percentage. This translates to 43 percent to 64 percent of their estimated ultimate recovery dug out during the first three years of the well’s existence.
Four of the seven shale gas basins are already in terminal decline in terms of their well productivity: the Haynesville Shale, Fayetteville Shale, Woodford Shale and Barnett The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale gas basins measured for the report ranges between 74 percent to 82 percent.
The average annual decline rates in the seven shale gas basins examined equals between 23 percent and 49 percent. Translation: between one-quarter and one-half of all production in each basin must be replaced annually just to keep running at the same pace on the drilling treadmill and keep getting the same amount of gas out of the earth.
The report’s findings differ vastly from the forward-looking projections published by the EIA, a statistical sub-unit of the U.S.Department of Energy (DOE).
The findings also come just days after Houston Chronicle reporter Jennifer Dlouhy reported that in a briefing over the summer, EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski told her it was EIA’s job to “tell the industry story” about tight oil and shale gas production.
“We want to be able to tell, in a sense, the industry story,” Sieminski told Dlouhy, as reported in the Chronicle. “This is a huge success story in many ways for the companies and the nation, and having that kind of lag in such a rapidly moving area just simply isn’t allowing that full story to be told.”
The independent story, though, opens up a window to tell a different tale.
“The Department of Energy’s forecasts—the ones everyone is relying on to guide our energy policy and planning—are overly optimistic based on what the actual well data are telling us,” Hughes—a geoscientist who formerly analyzed energy resources for over three decades for the Geological Survey of Canada—said in a press release about the reporting’s findings.
“By asking the right questions you soon realize that if the future of U.S. oil and natural gas production depends on resources in the country’s deep shale deposits … we are in for a big disappointment in the longer term.”
According to Hughes’ number-crunching, four of the top seven shale gas fields have already peaked: the Haynesville, Barnett, Woodford and Fayetteville. But three of those are actually doing the opposite and increasing their production: the Marcellus, Eagle Ford and Bakken, though the latter two are primarily fracked oil fields.
Further, the report points to the phenomenon first discussed in the original Post Carbon report back in 2012: that of the “drilling treadmill,” or having to drill more and more wells just to keep production levels flat. The report argues that drillers hit the “sweet spots” first to maximize their production, do so for a few years until production begins to decline terminally, and then start drilling in spaces with less rich oil and gas bounties.
A case in point: Post Carbon projects the Bakken and Eagle Ford Shale basins—the two most productive oil plays—will produce 730,000 barrels of oil per day in 2040. EIA, meanwhile, says 1.04 million barrels per day of oil will be pumped from the ground at that point.
“One of the keys to the so-called ‘shale revolution’ is supposed to be technological innovation, making plays ever-more productive in the face of the steep well decline rates and the move from ‘sweet spots’ to lower quality parts of plays,” wrote Post Carbon in an introduction to the report for members of the media. “But despite years of concerted efforts, average well productivity has gone flat in all the major shale gas plays except the Marcellus.”
The Bakken and Eagle Ford serve as Exhibit A and Exhibit B of the mechanics of how the “sweet spot” phenomenon works in action.
“Field declines from the Bakken and Eagle Ford are 45% and 38% per year, respectively,” wrote Hughes in the executive summary. “This is the amount of production that must be replaced each year with more drilling in order to maintain production at current levels.”
For gas, it’s the same story, centering around “sweet spots” and the “drilling treadmill.”
So where do the EIA’s rosy statistics originate? Post Carbon Institute posed its own questions directly to the EIA, while also saying one has to look at the difference between proven and unproven reserves to understand EIA’s data.
“Shale gas producers and the EIA report ‘proved reserves,’ a definition with legal weight describing hydrocarbon deposits recoverable with current technology under current economic conditions,” they write. “The EIA also estimates ‘unproved technically recoverable resources’ which have loose geological constraints and no implied price required for extraction, and hence are uncertain.”
Also implicit in the rosy numbers and figures is that cash will continue to be injected into capital-intensive shale gas and oil production operations.
So far, the industry and its financiers have received a blessing from the U.S.Federal Reserve: zero percent interest rates to obtain junk debt bonds to finance fracking since 2008. But with the Federal Reserve considering hiking rates, economics could change quickly on the feasibility of continued unfettered shale oil and gas extraction.
Hughes said his findings are based on “best case scenarios” and rule out external conditions that could reverse the drilling treadmill, including hiked interest rates.
“Other factors that could limit production are public pushback as a result of health and environmental concerns, and capital constraints that could result from lower oil or gas prices or higher interest rates,” he wrote. “As such factors have not been included in this analysis, the findings of this report represent a ‘best case’ scenario for market, capital, and political conditions.”
***Bob Donnan on Kiskadden Case
(Bob always includes details of a case that you probably won’t read in the newspapers. Jan)
“I’ve spent a half dozen days over the past month attending an Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) hearing in Pittsburgh: Kiskadden vs. Range Resources & Pa. DEP. Range and the DEP made a determination that denied Buzz Kiskadden replacement water, with them both concluding that Range Resources’ activities did not contaminate his water well. The volume of documented evidence is quite damning however. Judge Renwand stated yesterday that this is the oldest case on his docket, probably to illustrate it is moving much too slowly, as attorneys were going over water tests and documents dating back to 2010 and 2011, with June 2011 of special interest to the judge. No video or photography is allowed in the courtroom. The hearing schedule is sort of like ‘bankers hours’ with late starts (9:30am) and multiple breaks, over an hour lunch breaks, but in fairness, some hearing days have run late.
I’m usually the only person in the hearing room full of suits not drawing a paycheck (and not wearing a suit), but it is cheap entertainment and sometimes makes for great theater. It’s both interesting and disturbing how the Pa. DEP attorneys and Range Resources attorneys work together as if joined at the hip, but after all, they are both defendants in the case. The lead showman for Range is John Gisleson, a flash and dash sort of trial lawyer who doesn’t hesitate to use extended arms, dipping legs, and ‘show & tell’ visual props such as Gatorade, Centrum Vitamins and a chunk of shale to dazzle Judge Renwand and his two assistants, as well as the courtroom. He projects loud enough for the deaf to hear, and if you sit in the front row you may get your toes stepped on as he spins, twists, dips and constantly moves away from the podium.
On the ‘white hat’ team representing Buzz Kiskadden we have soft spoken Kendra Smith with husband John at her side, worthy of recent note for his pro bono work on getting the onerous Act 13 disemboweled in Pennsylvania. Zoning actually means something again! They are backed up by a third attorney from the Smith-Butz firm, but Kendra is leading the charge for Buzz Kiskadden, who lives on Banetown Road, Amwell Twp, Pennsylvania, just south of Washington. Even though his water well is 2,500 feet down gradient from the Yeager site (drilling pad with gas wells, a former leaky drill cuttings pit and leaky 13 million gallon wastewater evaporation pit) in question, he also has laterals from the Sierzega Unit extending his way, perhaps even beneath his 200 to 400 foot deep water well, which has ended up with all sorts of freaky-fracking elements in it, both known and unknown.
You familiar with pH? If not, it is a basic number scale from zero to 14 with 7 as the middle number and representing “neutral.” I learned it in regards to soils, since certain plants we installed for clients over the past 40 years have specific pH requirements, namely acid-loving plants like Rhododendrons which prefer an acidic pH of 5 to 6. The interesting thing about pH for the uninitiated is that the pH scale is logarithmic, meaning that an increase in pH from 5 to 6 is a ten times (x10) increase, not just a 20% increase from 5 to 6. So long story short, while most water should be around 7 or slightly above, at least one water test the Kiskadden test results went over pH 9, which would be a 100-times (x100) change. A bevy of other elements showed up in his water, so many I won’t try to list or quantify all of them. Range’s attorney has been trying to pick apart individual elements in the water test reports, while expert witnesses testifying on Buzz’s behalf keep pointing out you have to look at the overall picture.
Paul Rubin, a hydro-geologist from New York with 30 years of experience and a Master’s degree from SUNY, was on the stand again yesterday as the Range attorney pounded on him all day. Countering testimony by earlier Pa. DEP witnesses, while agreeing with another Kiskadden expert, Paul Rubin has no doubt in his mind that the Yeager site contaminated Buzz’s water well.
His evidence is based on 3 main tenets, as I understood them to be: 1) a geological rock fracture network lines-up perfectly with Buzz’s down gradient water well, 2) gravitational forces, which would easily move contaminants 2,500 feet considering the 260 foot drop in elevation, and finally, the most tenuous concept 3) Marcellus Shale contaminants finding their way upwards over 6,000 feet into Buzz’s water well due to the extremely high pressures used in fracking and the fracture network in the Greene and Washington rock formations.( I think bob is saying #3 is highly unlikely, jan)
I learned a new term yesterday, “old water” with ‘old’ meaning hundreds of millions of years old, as would be the case with Marcellus Shale fluids. According to Paul Rubin, the ratio of Strontium 87 to Strontium 86 in the strontium found in Buzz’s water well is a perfect fingerprint (tracer if you will) for ‘old water’ from the Marcellus shale. It’s a ratio around .7122 if memory serves. A second key fingerprint for shale drilling contamination is the presence of both Boron and Lithium in the well water. So during one of the more comical segments of yesterday afternoon’s proceedings was when an drawing board easel was set-up facing the judge, and work began with a series of long numbers around .7122 it quickly became obvious that some of the sharpest minds in the room were not too great at basic math, as they tried to show that Kiskadden ratio was more likely to be related to younger water from upper layers like coal seams. Reference was also being made to the Voyles and Haney water tests, two of the families with civil suits due in court next year depending on the status of Range Resources appeal.
Other regular attendees in the courtroom included former head of O&G in the SW Pa regional office, Alan Eichler, as well as his recent replacement in that position whose name escapes me. I did learn from him that his first 17 years at the Pa DEP were in air quality, then he spent several years in brownfields work at the NW Pa regional office before taking over Alan’s job. He told me one of his main goals is to improve the paper records used in file reviews, but he was very skeptical about DEP documents being converted anytime soon to easily-accessible and searchable electronic documents.
I gave him a couple examples of problems I had recently experienced on E-Facts: No address or GPS listed for many sites, namely the Smith Compressor Station near Burgettstown (above), and also a shortage of gas well information which used to list each gas well. A friend tells me you now have to look under E&S permitting to find the individual well permits. While surfing eFacts I came across this document related to Range’s impoundments:
Range’s defense attorney has also been pounding on what he believes is a disconnect between chloride and sodium levels in water tests, with sodium levels being much higher. While talking to one of the Pa DEP lawyers I learned they are not from Harrisburg as I first thought, but from the SW Pa DEP regional office, which is apparently quite active on the legal front considering all the coal issues as well as everything else they cover.
While I don’t have a clue which way the EHB will rule on Buzz Kiskadden getting replacement water, all the evidence I have seen tells me his well was contaminated by that huge leaky impoundment and drill cuttings pit. Keep in mind these huge pits are all over our county and most of them seem to leak. Paul Rubin suggested anyone living in that Yeager-Kiskadden area, especially extending down to and beyond Banetown Road, should be testing their well water once a month to detect any future contamination from the contamination plumes, since the contamination will continue to move. As important as this case is, I find it surprising that the only reporter in the courtroom on a regular basis is Don Hopey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
As far as drill cuttings pits, these are the same ones Range has typically buried on drilling pads all over our county by using ‘Alternate Waste Disposal’ permitting from the DEP. Add some ‘Solibond’ then finish by wrapping the bundle in plastic and bury it below ‘plow depth’ on the drilling pad. I nicknamed them toxic teabags after learning they permitted burial of some in our country park, Cross Creek County Park.”