* 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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* To contact your state legislator:
For the email address, click on the envelope under the photo
* For information on PA state gas legislation and local control: http://pajustpowers.org/aboutthebills.html-
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.
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 now meet the second Wednesday of every month at 7:30 PM in Greensburg. Email Jan for directions. All are very welcome to attend.
***Penn Trafford Commissioners Meeting
Monday, December 15th at 7:00 pm
2001 Municipal Court, Harrison City
***Ligonier Township Planning Commission Meeting
Tues. Dec 16, 7:30, Municipal Building, Oak Grove, 711 North
***County Commissioners’ meeting January 8, 2015 at 10:00 am, Westmoreland County Court House to express your concerns about the Tenaska Gas Plant,
***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. ***
***Tenaska---LIKE This Page On Facebook-- Stop Tenaska Westmoreland Project
***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
***Stupidity of Pink Fracking Fully Exposed on The Daily Show
Even Susan G. Komen’s own website shares the chemicals from fracking that are linked to breast cancer, but it didn’t stop them from partnering with oil and gas giant Baker Hughes, which donated $100,000 to Komen in October for the “Doing Our Bit for the Cure” campaign where 1,000 fracking drill bits were painted pink.
The viral post on EcoWatch, written by breast cancer survivor and fracking activist Sandra Steingraber, exposed the hypocrisy of this campaign. Now, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart takes this outrageous partnership to new heights.
Watch this hilarious segment where The Daily Show‘s Samantha Bee meets Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, to fully uncover the stupidity of pink fracking.
***Dangers of Willful Blindness
***Fracking's Wide Health Impact: From the Ozone to Ground Water and All Those Living in Between, a Science Update
• CHE Blog
Speaker presentation slides:
Dr. Brown: UNGD and Health: What Needs to be Looked at Next? - Download the PDF
Dr. Helmig: Air Quality Impacts of Oil and Gas Development - Download the PDF
Dr. Bamberger: Health Impacts of Unconventional Fossil Fuel Extraction - Download the PDF
***Video: Middlesex Zoning Case-Geyer Well Near Schools
“The video is about 3 minutes long. Parents in Butler approach supervisors when fracking threatens the health and safety of their rural community. The proposed Geyer Well Pad is 1/2 mile from the Mars District schools and even closer to homes in a nearby sub-division.
Any community in PA on the radar of the oil and gas industry will need this kind of resolve and organization to protect their land base: "The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Clean Air Council and a local parents group Protect Our Children, are challenging the ordinance that will allow six gas wells to be developed on a site close to a school campus.”
A few excerpts:
Jordan Yeager for Delaware Riverkeepers- “townships cannot put the interest of one set of property owners above the community as a whole”
Tom Daniels-U of Penn Land Use Expert – the ordinance allows heavy industrial use in agricultural areas permits haphazard oil and gas development which is contrary to protection of public health safety welfare
Acoustic Expert Kayna Bowen states Rex acoustic assessment is incorrect
***Gas Density -Google Earth
Dr. Ingraffea of Cornell has pointed out that the industry can only be profitable if they achieve density. That’s why leased regions are honeycombed with hundreds or thousands of wells.
This video is of photo shots of Texas, Arkansas- You only need to watch the first few minutes then jump to other areas to get the gist. But everyone should watch at least part of this.
***Cool Video--Colbert and Neil Young Sing About Fracking
***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/
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.”
***Tenaska Power Plant Issue Heating Up
“The gas fired 900-megawatt Tenaska power plant would be a permanent source of air pollution in Westmoreland County and of discharge into the Yough River. For example, 600,000 pounds of carbon monoxide, 800,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, and 660,000 pounds of small particles will be released into our already polluted air each year. These pollutants are strongly linked to health problems.
Residents from the Smithton area, the Mt. Watershed Assoc., and WMCG are working to protect air and water and property values.
What you can do:
*LIKE the Facebook Page set up by Bill Catalina. -- Stop Tenaska Westmoreland Project
*Sign the Tenaska Petitions-See links at the top of Updates
* Attend the County Commissioners’ meeting January 8, 2015 at 10:00 am to express your concerns. Westmoreland County Court House, Greensburg.
***PA Gas Drilling Permit Issued in Penn Twp Township
Gas permit issued on 2014-11-18 00:00:00 to APEX ENERGY (PA) LLC for site DRAKULIC PAD 1H in Penn Twp township, Westmoreland county
Tags: PADEP, frack, permit, drilling, Gas
PA Gas Drilling Permit Issued in Penn Twp Township
Gas permit issued on 2014-11-18 00:00:00 to APEX ENERGY (PA) LLC for site DEUTSCH PAD 1H in Penn Twp township, Westmoreland county
Tags: PADEP, frack, permit, drilling, Gas
***Update From Jan-- Ligonier Township
Meeting Dec 16, 7:30 at Ligonier Township Municipal Building
“The Ligonier Township ad hoc zoning committee charged with working on the gas ordinance has been working for months to keep the frack zone in Ligonier Township limited to a small area. According to zoning law, you must have an industrial area set aside in every township. Our industrial zone is very small so Mr. Carcella, township manager, believes that in order to avoid being sued, it should be larger.
He introduced a concept of allowing parcels of frack zones in various areas of the township. He is referring to these parcels of frack zones as an overlay. We do not have the details. This process would chop up the zones and result in endless debate about whose property should be a frack zone and whose should not. It would also result in more toxic chemical exposure in what are now residential or RA areas because the fracking would be more spread out.
The planning commission meets December 16. The draft will be presented that night-both the new zoning code and the map of the frack zones. We need to be there. (There will then be a hearing a few weeks after the presentation, probably in January.) I do not know if we have any opportunity to speak after the presentation on the 16th but we need to have people present to show that there is concern about this issue. People wanting to frack their property will let their voices be heard and already are heavily lobbying the supervisors.
This is a political issue-pro fracking vs. property protection rights. Those who have the most people present and speaking out will have a clear advantage when it comes to the vote. Supervisors need to hear from us. This is the most important issue to confront Ligonier residents in many decades. If water wells are contaminated, our property is not worth much, if anything. Air contaminants have been linked to cancerous and non- cancerous diseases and birth defects. And fracking brings with it pipelines, compressor stations, frack pits, and other gas operations.
For those who are property owners but do not live nearby, the January hearing and supervisors meeting are probably the more important meetings to attend if you can’t make them all this busy season.
Our ad hoc zoning committee has worked very hard on this issue. We need your support. Please help us spread the word by asking friends, neighbors, and family to these meetings. We will need to be at the January meetings as well.
***Penn Trafford Update
Background: The DEP has approved permits for wells at two sites (Drakulic & Deutsch) in Penn Township. Apex, the operator, will soon be requesting Penn Twp. zoning approval. The Twp. is currently in the process of making dramatic changes to its zoning regarding how and where fracking will be allowed. These changes will mean significant health, financial, environmental, and safety impacts on residents of the Township and neighboring communities. On November 17, 2014, concerned residents presented a list of questions to the Penn Twp. Board of Commissioners to gain a better understanding of the Township’s decision-making process. The answers to these questions are vitally important and have yet to be received.
Please attend the next Commissioners' meeting to speak about your personal concerns and to connect with other concerned local residents
Monday, December 15th at 7:00 pm
2001 Municipal Court, Harrison City
***Residents Challenge Legality Of Drilling-Allegheny Township
By Liz Hayes
“Allegheny Township's Zoning Hearing Board on Dec. 3 will be asked to consider whether permitting Marcellus shale gas wells in residential zones is legal.
Three Willowbrook Road residents challenged the “substantive validity” of township zoning that permits oil and gas wells in all districts, including residential neighborhoods.
Their challenge was triggered by horizontal drilling permits issued by township Zoning Officer Susan Teagarden and the state DEP. The permits were issued Oct. 6 to CNX Gas Co., a subsidiary of Consol Energy Inc., for the “Porter 1K” well site. The site is on farmland owned by John and Ann Slike.
The neighbors — Dee Frederick, Beverly Taylor and Patricia Hagaman — said they didn't know about plans for a natural gas well next door until July when a CNX representative gave them paperwork indicating their water wells would be tested in case problems occur later.
“We bought this house 22 years ago figuring we'd retire there and we'd have peace and quiet,” said Taylor, noting a nearby horse farm, the Willowbrook Country Club and Northmoreland Park.
The women estimate in excess of 20 acres have been cleared of trees as CNX performs grading and site preparation work less than 2,000 feet from their properties.
“Who's going to want to buy the house now and move in next to that?” Taylor said. “Nobody.”
Christopher Papa, the attorney representing the women, argues the industrial processes that accompany unconventional gas well sites — namely hydraulic fracturing (fracking), heavy truck traffic, noise, odor, potential pollution and long work hours — are not compatible with the intended character of a residential-agricultural zone as described in township ordinances.
The written challenge notes the zone permits farms, single-family homes and church-related facilities, and “jarringly, oil and gas drilling, a heavy industrial use permitted to the exclusion of all other commercial and industrial uses, and not compatible or safe in that zone.”
“If my clients wanted to set up a fruit stand in the front yard or open a basement beauty shop, they'd have to go before the board,” Papa said. But drilling “is just permitted as a right. It's permitted as maybe a shed in your backyard.”
Since the state Supreme Court overturned significant portions of Act 13, the state law that limited municipalities' ability to set local restrictions on drilling, Papa said several lawsuits have sprung up relating to where gas wells can go.
“We think it's logically incoherent to permit this stuff in residential zones,” Papa said.
However, Township Manager Greg Primm said officials felt farmland, with its large tracts of open space, was appropriate for drilling sites since they would be farther from houses.
The majority of the township is zoned residential-agricultural.
The only industrial zones are limited largely to property along the Allegheny and Kiski rivers, plus a section along Route 356.
As Marcellus wells began to proliferate in 2010, supervisors amended their ordinance to regulate some aspects of drilling, such as noise, lights, fencing, road maintenance and some safety issues.
Although the board considered limiting where wells could be located — and the township's environmental advisory committee later recommended wells be prohibited from residential zones — supervisors ultimately maintained the status quo and continued to allow drilling in all zones.
Willowbrook resident Penny Rode said her biggest complaint is where on the Slikes' property the well is being drilled. Westmoreland County deeds records indicate gas leases were signed in July 2013 for Slike property totaling about 300 acres. Rode said she'd prefer the well to be more centrally located on Slike land, rather than so close to neighbors.
“It's as far off his property as it could possibly be,” she said.
John Slike said his attorney had advised him not to comment until the hearing: “We'll have plenty to say there.”
Rode believes the location violates a section of the township's ordinance that indicates wells should be located to minimize disruption on others.
She said CNX officials previously told neighbors the well location was chosen by the Slikes, a contention the company's attorney denies.
“CNX evaluated a number of factors in determining where to place the Slike (Porter) well pad. Mr. Slike did not dictate the location,” attorney Blaine Lucas said. “The objectors' homes range anywhere from 1,000 to almost 2,000 feet from the nearest well bore at the Porter pad, which is two to four times the state requirement of 500 feet.”
The neighbors also are upset the township did not force CNX to stop working while their challenge is under way. Several vehicles, construction equipment and a large trailer loaded with felled trees were visible at the site Monday.
Primm said the township's attorney advised him that since the well activity is a permitted use, there was no justification to force CNX to stop.
“CNX has complied with all township ordinances, and the filing of the appeal does not require it to cease work,” Lucas said. “Halting site work on the property would leave it in a disturbed state and prevent completion of the pad before adverse winter weather sets in.”
John Poister, a spokesman for the state DEP, said the department is not involved in local zoning issues and does not have authority to stop work. He said CNX met all state requirements when the permit was issued.
Papa said he believes he has grounds to seek a court injunction forcing work to stop but has held off since his clients may have more expensive legal battles ahead.
Taylor said she expects an unfavorable outcome from the zoning hearing board: “I'm sure we're going to lose. We're going to have to go to court. We're prepared for that.”
` Rode isn't hopeful, especially since she noted Slike is an alternate member of the three-person zoning board.
Primm said Slike acts as an alternate only if another member is absent, which Primm doesn't believe has ever happened.
He said Slike would not be involved in making a decision on the drilling issue.
Hagaman said she wishes the issue of where drilling can occur could go before Allegheny Township voters in a ballot referendum. Noting the prolonged cleanup from past nuclear operations along the Kiski River, she fears the long-term environmental impact of drilling.
“Our township could become all industrial,” she said. “It can never go back.”
Frederick also fears what will happen in her neighborhood.
“I remember the first time I drove down Willowbrook Road and saw the property I was destined to live in. It was beautiful,” she said. “There's a place for this. It's not in a residential area.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourallekiskivalley/yourallekiskivalleymore/7229848-74/township-drilling-gas - ixzz3KEVsCfpY
***Range Resources Sued-Water Contamination
Mc Donald PA- Christopher and Janet Lauff of McDonald in southwest PA allege water contamination from gas drilling and leaks from a drilling wastewater pond near their property.
The Lauffs have sued Range Resources, contending they had to forgo well water and connect to a public water line, for which they’ve not been compensated by Range Resources Corp. which was still evaluating the lawsuit but had “not seen any evidence of health or environmental impacts,” its spokesman Matt Pitzarella said.
The Lauffs contend they lost use of their well water in 2010 after Range began fracking, at several wells within 1,000 feet of their property. The Lauffs said a wastewater pond next to their property amounted to “a regional toxic waste dump site for over 190 wells.”
The Lauffs said there were collateral problems from the nearby drilling operations ranging from excessive truck traffic and noise to flooding and erosion they blame on stormwater runoff from the drilling complex.
The wastewater pond, also known as a drilling impoundment, is one of several that prompted a consent decree with the DEP under which Range agreed to pay $4.15 million in fines. The Lauffs contend the impoundment that affected their property was built incorrectly and too close to a creek.
The lawsuit also targets some property owners who leased their land to Range and several other companies connected to the drilling or a pipeline that carries gas from the Range drilling site.
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/28/couple-sues-range-resources-over-drilling-water/#ixzz3LSoydmnr
***Fracking on Trax Farm At Christmas –Neighbors Will Deal With Noise, Odors, Bad Air Quality
“Gary Baumgardner, who lives next to a well pad operated by EQT on Cardox Road in Union Township, wants the company to cease operations for a day so he can host a family dinner.
Baumgardner and other residents have complained about noise and odors emanating from EQT’s well site, located on property owned by Trax Farm. During a Union Township Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, Solicitor Dennis Makel asked EQT to give the township their test results on noise and air quality at the site.
Baumgardner said it’s a tradition to host a Christmas dinner at his home, but his 9-month-old granddaughter is not permitted to come near active drilling sites, per doctor’s orders.
Stephanie Paluda, an EQT spokeswoman who attended the meeting, said the company will most likely continue fracking operations on Christmas. She said the site is an around-the-clock operation.
Baumgardner complained of plumes of white smoke, a sulfuric odor and booming noises. He questioned why those activities were louder at night, which kept him and his wife up past 2 a.m. during the weekend.
“In the day, everything’s quiet. There’s a drumming going on, but at night, all hell breaks loose,” he said. “What are we trying to cover up?”
EQT spokeswoman Linda Robertson said Tuesday afternoon they received no formal complaints, and the company “cannot confirm any difference between what is heard during the day or the night.”
“Throughout the various development and production stages at Trax, we’ve hired independent consultants to cover as much of a broad spectrum as possible – air, land and sound concerns. “To date, those studies found EQT’s operations to be in compliance with the noise requirements set forth in the township’s ordinance.”
Baumgardner said there is a constant “rotten egg” smell on Cardox Road and questioned if hydrogen sulfide is being released into the air.
Paluda said the company has monitors to test for H2S, or hydrogen sulfide, and “if there was actually H2S, all the alarms would have gone off.”
Makel asked Baumgardner if any of his neighbors complained. He said they haven’t, but argued some accepted a $50,000 offer from EQT to resolve claims involving the gas company’s operations, including damages, annoyance, inconvenience, nuisance and pain and suffering. Baumgardner said he had attorneys review the offer and decided not to sign for fear of having his freedom of speech suppressed.
“Unfortunately, EQT, with throwing the $50,000 out and everybody signing away their right to complain, they can’t complain about their health, they can’t complain about the noise, so what are they doing? They’re not complaining,” he said. “And they know I didn’t sign.”
Mickey Gniadek, who also lives on Cardox Road, attested to Baumgardner’s account and said his house was vibrating since EQT started fracking the wells again.
“He’s not giving you baloney here,” he said of Baumgardner.
Board Chairman Larry Spahr said the township is in the process of revisiting its noise ordinance, a step he said is “a result of the activity at the well sites.”
He said, for the most part, the township has a good working relationship with EQT. The board in September approved EQT’s application for a freshwater impoundment, despite some pushback from residents.”
***Cabot Fined for Tank Explosion and Waste Spill
2800 Gallons Spilled
DEP is fining Houston-based Cabot Oil and Gas $120, 000 for a storage tank explosion and wastewater spill. The incident had occurred in January at its Reynolds well pad in Susquehanna County.
Officials say vapors in the headspace of the wastewater tank ignited and caused the explosion, rupturing the tank. Inspectors found that a worker checking the level of fluid in the 21,000-gallon wastewater tank ignited the vapors while using his cell phone as a flashlight.
The department says an employee was injured and more than 2,800 gallons of wastewater spilled, contaminating the soil beyond the well pad.
It says Cabot cleaned up the spill.”
***Study Links Fracking to Infertility, Miscarriages, Birth Defects
Researchers: Webb, Bushkin
Fracking may pose potent risks to children and pregnant women.
A new study links shale oil/ gas development to a host of developmental and reproductive health risks, and says fracking poses a particularly potent threat to what researchers called "our most vulnerable population."
“Children, developing fetuses, they’re especially vulnerable to environmental factors,” says Ellen Webb, the study's lead author and an energy program associate at the Center for Environmental Health. “We really need to be concerned about the impacts for these future generations.”
The risks from exposure to toxic chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials include a parent's worst nightmares: “infertility, miscarriage or spontaneous abortion, impaired fetal growth, and LBW,” the study found, referring to low birth weight. The report also sounded an alarm about possible birth defects and long-term chronic conditions the, symptoms for which may not emerge for years.
“Our heartfelt concern is that if the oil and gas industry continues to develop more wells, then the problem is going to be exacerbated greatly before we finally have answers,” says Dr. Sheila Bushkin-Bedient, one of the study’s co-authors and a member of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany-State University of New York. “In terms of chronic diseases and in terms of finding out the developmental problems of babies, we might not know that for a decade or two. We might not know about cancers for a couple of decades, and by that time, it would be too late.”
Thousands of trucks a day drive the country roads of Northeast Pennsylvania, serving the hundreds of oil and gas sites that dot the area, but also spewing noise and air pollution.
And yet, studies also have found that shale oil and gas development can prove poisonous, releasing potent toxins into the air and water around fracking, drilling, well, flaring and compression sites.
The toxins include volatile organic compounds like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene and formaldehyde, as well as heavy metals like cadmium and lead and certain naturally occurring radioactive materials.
Webb, Bushkin-Bedient and four co-authors studied more than 150 papers from 1970 to 2014 that analyzed those compounds and metals, looking at how they affect humans as well as animals. Some of the studies were done in labs, others in nature, and a few by local residents who collected the data themselves.
The results, Bushkin-Bedient says, provoked serious “worry.”
One study published in April, for example, found a higher rate of birth defects within 10 miles of natural gas wells in rural Colorado, most notably congenital heart and neural tube defects – both of which can occur from maternal exposure to benzene.
Another 2002 paper found that women who were exposed to toluene had unusual menstrual cycles and were unable to conceive. And still other studies discovered some of the chemicals were apparent endocrine disrupters that can dismantle hormone functions.
The studies corroborate other efforts, including one study published in September by researchers from Yale University and the University of Washington that found residents within a kilometer of a well had up to twice the number of health problems as those living at least 2 kilometers away.
Industry groups have vigorously fought against many of the health studies. For example, after an October study showed that oil and gas wells were spewing carcinogens into the air, posing “a significant public health risk” that made an “elevation in cancer … almost certain to happen,” according to lead researcher David Carpenter, the industry trade group Energy in Depth dismissed it as “scientifically dubious.”…..
Part of the challenge lies in federal loopholes: A law passed in 2005 that includes what's commonly known as the “Halliburton loophole” exempts shale oil and gas companies from federal regulations involving the monitoring and disclosure of fracking chemicals.
“Given the lack of study and understanding of all the chemicals that are being used, we can’t know the extent of the risks,” Webb says.
Yet, she adds, the research is mounting. And residents who live near shale oil and gas operations, she adds, aren’t exposed to just one or two substances – they absorb many at once, through the air or water or both.
“These materials work together additively or synergistically,” Webb says. “They potentiate the effect of each other.”
Moreover, many of those who still live near shale oil and gas sites lack the money to move away, leaving them few options for reducing their exposure to toxins. Webb and Bushkin-Bedient avoided making any specific policy prescriptions, but they did emphasize two points.
"People really near unconventional oil and gas and fracking sites and those who work in the fracking industry have the right to know the chemicals that are being used that may pose health threats, especially to vulnerable populations like women and children," Webb says. "More studies need to be done, and biomonitoring needs to be done, assessing the body burden of chemicals."
***Gas Pipeline Developer Threatens to Seize Land
Cabot and Williams Corps
“The developer of a $750 million natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania into New York has threatened to seize land from reluctant landowners through eminent domain.
A letter sent from the law firm Saul Ewing and obtained by the Albany Times Union tells landowners who have refused to sell rights- of -way for the Constitution Pipeline that they have until Wednesday to accept offered prices. After that, developers will take them to court to force such sales for possibly less money.
Project opponents filed a complaint against the letters with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. His office declined comment
Lawyer Daniel Estrin of Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic said the letter is meant to "bully landowners ... into waiving their property rights."
Asked about the legality of invoking eminent domain prior to meeting conditions outlined in the FERC approval, Constitution Pipeline Company spokesman Tom Droege told the Times Union, "We continue to communicate with landowners along the route to seek easement agreements ... We continue to work closely with other state and federal permitting agencies and remain optimistic that we will receive necessary clearances."
U.S. energy regulators approved the pipeline project last week. It's designed to bring cheap shale natural gas from Pennsylvania into high-priced markets in New England and New York.
The 124-mile pipeline could be operational by next winter if it gets the remaining regulatory approvals from various state and federal agencies in a timely fashion. It would run from Pennsylvania's Susquehanna County through New York's Broome, Chenango and Delaware counties to connect with the existing Tennessee and Iroquois pipelines in Schoharie County.
The lead partners are Williams Partners LP and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. Williams will operate the pipeline, while Cabot and Southwestern Energy have long-term agreements to supply the gas.
***Studies: Hazardous Compounds in Frack Fluid
Researchers: Stringfellow, Shaeffer
“Perhaps the most comprehensive look to date at fracking chemicals was presented at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
William Stringfellow, a professor in environmental engineering at the University of the Pacific, lead author of the report, The team of scientists presenting this work said that out of nearly 200 commonly used compounds, there's very little known about the potential health risks of about one-third. However, they concluded eight of the known compounds are toxic to mammals. Chemicals such as corrosion inhibitors and biocides are being used in "reasonably high concentrations that potentially could have adverse effects," said Stringfellow.
"Biocides are inherently toxic by design," he told Truthout. "They need to be evaluated even if used in small amounts because of their toxicity."
"Produced water can have benzene, which can get into groundwater or volatilize into air. . . . It's not good to either drink or inhale it."
A study released by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) found that despite a federal ban on the use of diesel fuel in fracking without a permit, several oil/ gas companies are exploiting a Safe Drinking Water Act loophole pushed through by Halliburton to frack with petroleum-based products containing even more dangerous toxic chemicals than diesel. For example, a drilling company in West Texas injected up to 48,000 gallons of benzene into the ground in September.
Over about two months, Eric Schaeffer, Executive Director of the EIP and former Director of Civil Enforcement at the EPA, studied more than 150 records in the industry-sponsored database of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, called FracFocus.
Fracking with fluids containing benzene (a carcinogen), ethylbenzene (a probable carcinogen) and other highly toxic chemicals is a potential threat to drinking-water supplies and public health, but, it appears to be common practice, according to the EIP's review of product descriptions available online and company disclosures in FracFocus, an online chemical disclosure registry.
"Produced water can have benzene, which can get into groundwater or volatilize into air," Schaeffer told Truthout. "It's not good to either drink or inhale it."
From the FracFocus database-- In one of the first disclosure reports, a well operated by Citation Oil and Gas Corp. in Carter County, Oklahoma, had more than 90 gallons of ethylbenzene present in "hydraulic fracturing fluid product."
"That's a lot," Schaeffer said. "Five gallons of ethylbenzene can pollute a billion gallons of water."
According to EPI, even the limited data available on FracFocus shows at least 153 wells in 11 states were fracked with fluids containing ethylbenzene between January 2011 and September 2014.
Between May 2013 and February 2014, another firm, Discovery Operating Services, reported injecting solvents containing nearly 1,000 gallons of benzene into 11 wells in Midland and Upland counties in Texas.
Sharon Wilson, Texas organizer for Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project, said: "Texas is in a record-breaking drought where private water wells and even wells for entire towns are going dry. Every drop is precious so we cannot risk polluting any water with toxic fracking chemicals."
A gap in the Safe Drinking Water Act - often called the "Halliburton Loophole" - requires permits for fracking with diesel fuel, but allows companies to inject other petroleum products even more toxic than diesel without any permitting requirements or safeguards for underground water supplies.
This is exactly what happened shortly after the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) released its findings in October. A month earlier, a Texas-based oil and gas company called BlackBrush O&G, LLC, reported injecting a mix of crude oil, butane and other fluids containing up to 48,000 gallons of benzene into a well in Dimmit County, Texas. After BlackBrush was listed in a press release summarizing EIP's finding, information in the FracFocus database disappeared. The information showing that up to 48,000 gallons of benzene had been used was deleted.
"They removed the line that showed that they used up to 9 percent benzene" in the fracking fluid," Schaeffer told Truthout.
As of press time, the revised entry in the database lists how much "crude oil" was used, and there is no mention of benzene. Schaeffer used the analogy of a syrup company deleting carbohydrates and sugar from the label after some customers said the syrup had too many calories. So instead, the company just says the product contains "up to this much syrup."
"To protect public health, Congress should repeal the Halliburton Loophole and the EPA should broaden the categories of fracking fluids that require Safe Drinking Water Act permits."
In addition to legally required disclosure, operators of wells that show a high level of hazardous compounds, such as compounds belonging to the group called BTEX - an acronym that stands for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes - should have to get a permit under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Schaeffer proposes. Precautions, including groundwater monitoring, should also be required for those wells, Schaeffer said.
"To protect public health, Congress should repeal the Halliburton Loophole and EPA should broaden the categories of fracking fluids that require Safe Drinking Water Act permits," said Schaeffer. "Without these reforms, we are perpetuating a loophole that allows the unregulated injection of unlimited quantities of highly toxic pollutants into the ground."
Stringfellow's team found that most fracking compounds will require treatment before being released.
They're also looking at the environmental impact of the fracking fluids, and they are finding that some have toxic effects on aquatic life.
"Preliminary results show that there is a significant use of surfactants, which can be harmful to aquatic life and therefore may present a risk if there is an exposure pathway such as a spill," Stringfellow told Truthout.
Some scientists have been calling for use of some type of tracer device, such as a color or a chemical, to follow fracking fluids through the environment.
In light of recent research that reveals details about hazardous compounds in fracking fluid, such a tracer would be a useful way to help companies, communities, overseers and policy makers understand how chemicals flow deep underground, especially when multiple companies are drilling in one area. This solution, however, wouldn't track the leaching of natural gas through old mines or fissures. Such tracers would hold companies accountable to the environment, to landowners and to stakeholders.
In an interview with Truthout, environmental scientist Vanessa Lamers, pointed to another option for trying to track fracking fluids that enter the environment. Recent research has shown how guar gum, a gelling agent frequently used in fracking fluid, could be used as an "indicator compound."
If the presence of guar gum is found in a creek, for instance, scientists could conclude the water was exposed to fracking fluid at some point, said Lamers, who, during her graduate studies at Yale, spent about a year in Washington County studying the impacts of fracking on water. "Unless someone has a guar gum Factory near their house," the gelling agent is not something found commonly in ground or drinking water, Lamers explained.
One drawback to this method of detection, however, is that even if guar gum is detected, it would be hard to pinpoint which company's well led to the contamination.”
***Ohio Residents File Class Action Lawsuit Against State and Fracking Corporations
Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Rights Organizer
“Residents of Broadview Heights, Ohio, filed a first-in-the-state class action lawsuit against the State of Ohio, Governor John R. Kasich, and Bass Energy, Inc. and Ohio Valley Energy Systems Corp. The lawsuit was filed to protect the rights of the people of Broadview Heights to self-governance, including their right to ban fracking.
In November 2012, residents of Broadview Heights overwhelmingly adopted a Home Rule Charter Amendment – proposed by residents – banning all new commercial extraction of gas and oil within the City limits. The Amendment establishes a Community Bill of Rights – which secures the rights of human and natural communities to water and a healthy environment. The Bill of Rights bans fracking and frack waste disposal as a violation of those rights.
In June 2014, Bass Energy and Ohio Valley Energy filed a lawsuit against the City of Broadview Heights to overturn the Community Bill of Rights. The corporations are contending that the community does not have the legal authority to protect itself from fracking, and that corporations have the constitutional “right” to frack.
Residents involved in drafting and proposing the Community Bill of Rights attempted to intervene in the lawsuit, to defend the community’s right to self-governance, including the right to say “no” to fracking and other threats. However, in September, the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County denied the motion to intervene, ruling that the residents did not have a direct “interest” in this case.
With the court’s denial of intervention, residents decided to move forward with the class action lawsuit. In filing the lawsuit, Broadview Heights residents argue that the Ohio Oil and Gas Act, known as HB 278, and the industry’s enforcement of the Act, violate the constitutional right of residents to local self-government.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) assisted residents of Broadview Heights to draft the Community Bill of Rights. CELDF is providing its support and expertise to the residents of Broadview Heights with the filing of the class action lawsuit.
CELDF Executive Director, Thomas Linzey, Esq., stated, “This class action lawsuit is merely the first in Ohio, and expected to be one of many filed by people across the United States whose constitutional rights to govern their own communities are routinely violated by state governments working in concert with the corporations that they ostensibly regulate. The people of Broadview Heights will not stand idly by as their rights are negotiated away by oil and gas corporations, their state government, and their own municipal government.” The residents of Lafayette, Colorado, filed a similar lawsuit in August of this year.
Through grassroots organizing and public interest law, CELDF works with communities across the country to establish Community Rights to democratic, local self-governance and sustainability. CELDF has assisted nearly 200 communities to ban shale gas drilling and fracking, factory farming, water privatization, and other threats, and eliminate corporate “rights” when they violate community and nature’s rights. This includes assisting the first communities in the U.S. to establish Rights of Nature in law, as well as the first communities to elevate the rights of communities above the “rights” of corporations. “
***On Water Testing: Public Herald
(I am re-printing this information -- the issue did not receive a lot of media publicity but was presented in the film Triple Divide. A pre -test was deemed insufficient by Chesapeake due to the fact that the homeowner had mentioned an occasional salty taste to their water. Thus, Chesapeake claimed a series of pre- tests should have been conducted. Jan)
Joshua B. Pribanic-Public Herald- provided this information:
EPA can require 4 tests in a determination: one for each season. Triple Divide has the RW04 case from the ATGAS Blowout in Leroy Twp. which dismissed the one pre drill test saying it was inaccurate due to the homeowner’s opinion. The full file set for ATGAS is on #fileroom http://publicfiles.org/gmi/atgas-2h/ — you can keyword search all the docs.
A ‘Gas Migration Investigation’ (GMI) is conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental...
***Dr Ingraffea on Spatial Intensity
“The single most significant element of shale gas development that seems to just not be understood by many is its spatial intensity. It is an extreme form of fossil fuel development because of the very large number of very big wells, total vertical and lateral length and volume of the frack fluid, that have to be drilled throughout a shale play [“play” is the engineering and industry term for “formation.”]
So what do I think is the largest threat to humans posed by the unconventional development of natural gas from shale formations around the world? And if I wanted to be more specific as an engineer, strictly speaking, what is the greatest threat from clustered multi-well pads, using high-volume hydraulic fracturing from long laterals? That’s the problem.
Because it’s a spatially intense, heavy industrial activity which involves far more than drill-the-well-frack-the-well-connect-the-pipeline-and-go-away, it results in much more land clearing, much more devastation of forests and fields. There’s the necessity of building thousands of miles of pipelines which again results in destruction of forests and fields. There’s the construction of many compressor stations, industrial facilities that compress the gas for transport through pipelines and burn enormous quantities of diesel. [They make] very loud noise and emit hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. Then, there’s the necessary construction of waste pits, and fresh-water ponds which again require heavy earth movement, heavy construction equipment, the off-gassing of waste products from the waste pits, and tremendous amount of heavy truck traffic which again results in burning of large quantities of diesel, increased damage to roads, bridges and increased risk to civilian transportation in the midst of the traffic.”
.Interview with Dr. Ingraffea of Cornell U. by Ellen Canterow
Dr. Anthony Ingraffea—Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow at Cornell University and president of Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, Inc. Among his teaching awards are the Society of Women Engineers’ Professor of the Year Award in 1997 and the 2001 Daniel Luzar ’29 Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Engineering. He organized and directed the Synthesis National Engineering Education Coalition
Eagle Ford , Texas Gas Pads—This is Spatial Intensity
***Beaver Run Reclamation a Failure
Letter to Editor
“Consol Energy has established an extensive network of Marcellus gas wells in the Beaver Run watershed on Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County property. MAWC has made public reports regarding the continued high water quality of Beaver Run Reservoir despite the drilling — and that's great.
What Consol does not make public is the very poor land reclamation at the aforementioned Marcellus sites.
In April 2013, Consol distributed a press release praising its work done on the 60-acre Aikens Pad adjacent to Beaver Run Reservoir. Craig Neal, a Consol employee, boasted, “Consol Energy aims to reclaim land post-energy development back to its original or better condition ... we have already planted 2,300 trees on two different sites.”
I challenge anyone with the most basic understanding of the environment to inspect the “reclaimed” sites. They will find tree mortality on about 90 percent of both unprotected young spruce trees and hardwoods planted in tubes.
Of those tubed hardwoods (oaks), many of the few survivors have limbs twisted into a non-viable limb-ball because the netting on the tubes was never removed. Since the day of planting, which was a big media event, these trees have not been tended — a guarantee for failure.
Millions of dollars in profit from gas exploration has come out of Beaver Run. Why can't Consol put money, time and effort into a viable and sound reclamation?
If what Consol says differs so greatly from what it does regarding reclamation, why should we trust anything the company says about gas exploration?
Jeffrey R. Pope
Read more: http://triblive.com/opinion/letters/7200018-74/consol-beaver-run#ixzz3KtLvZ7bJ
***Sen. Scarnati Turnaround: No drilling In His Watershed
….Remember when Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, the largest fracked gas producer in the U.S., decided to sue the frackers because he didn’t like their activities in his Texas backyard?
Now in a similarly contradictory move, PA State Senator Joe Scarnati, Republican from Jefferson County, has announced — proudly — on his own website, on August 11th, 2014, that the watershed in his own backyard will be protected from water contamination from fracking:
Flatirons Development, LLC, has agreed to discontinue Marcellus drilling operations of the Brandon-Day well which is located upstream of the Brockway Borough Municipal Authority Rattlesnake Reservoir. The existing bore hole will be abandoned, sealed and reclaimed to eliminate the possibility of watershed contamination.
This is a huge turnaround for a Pennsylvania state senator who has denied the possibility of water pollution from drilling and fracking for the past five years, frustrating the bejesus out of his constituents. Scarnati, the PA Senate’s President Pro Tempore, is a powerful and controversial figure.
Sen. Joe Scarnati actually authored the highly anti-democratic Act 13 — the law that imposed a gag order on physicians and which, if not overturned, would have stripped municipal rights from towns all across Pennsylvania, preventing them from protectively zoning or regulating any aspect of shale gas operations. That includes well pad construction, drilling, and fracking right through compressor stations, waste impoundments, and pipelines.
It’s not as if Sen. Scarnati’s turnaround means he will become an approachable, community-oriented advocate for clean air and clean water. He shows no particular sign of caring about fracking-impacted communities beyond his back yard. In fact, he was furious when Act 13’s municipal rights-stripping clause was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Jenny Lisak of Pennsylvanians for Clean Water and Air (PACWA) reports:
“Several of us in his district happened to have a meeting with him right after the Supreme Court announced their decision, and he was angry.”
Nonetheless, Senator Scarnati’s public statement expresses only pride and self-satisfaction at his contribution to convincing a fracking company, Flatirons, not to drill the Marcellus Shale well that impacts the watershed Scarnati draws from at his home and at his office:
…He seemed like Teflon. A wall. A fortress of denial. A loyal servant to the fracking industry. So, how did this turnaround come about?
Clearly the work of Toby Creek Watershed Association President Bill Sabatose, whom Scarnati himself credits for sounding the alarm about Marcellus Shale fracking in the Brockway watershed, is critical. But a victory on this scale is never the work of just one person or organization. We notice three elements contributing to the turnaround.
First of all, turnout. Repeatedly, no matter the weather, no matter the frustration level, no matter the perceived hopelessness or powerlessness, people — ordinary people, smart people, dedicated and informed people — turned out to public hearings about Flatiron and the Brockway Watershed. Turnout continued to build. Residents in at least four counties within Scarnati’s district protested at two of his offices in July 2013, as part of a statewide call for a fracking moratorium:
Second of all, education: hard-hitting, specific, science-based, repetitive. Here, Jenny Lisak is among several voices commenting on the long-term process:
There may be good reason to keep sharing information and educating, even though most times we feel quite inefficient and unsuccessful in this fight.
I often send Scarnati the same information I am compulsive about sharing on our local listserve, prefacing with ‘I’m not sure you are seeing the same information as I am but as a constituent I am seriously concerned about …’
I have also sent him the “List of the Harmed.” I think we should all share the news we are so appalled by with our legislators. I suspect they don’t see the news we see.”
BACWA (Brockway Area Clean Water Alliance), whose members belong to Brockway’s municipal water authority (as well as others), have been very active in educating Brockway citizens about the risk and impacts to their water supply. Some of them are on our local listserve. Our group (PACWA) helped BACWA have a showing of Gasland 1 at the firehouse in Brockway a few years ago and a few months ago we showed Gasland 2 in Brockway with the help of Doug and Briget Shields and Elk County CARES (Scarnati did not attend either event).
Scarnati is also hearing from others in his district who are coming to him with their issues about traffic, fumes, noise, property rights, seismic testing, water contamination, injection wells, etc. Two injection wells (one in Elk, one in Clearfield County) in his district are being fought by his constituents….”
Third, attitude. If the folks in Scarnati’s district had given up or given in, history might be different and that well bore might not be being abandoned and sealed as you read this. But folks didn’t give up and didn’t give in. Folks kept their assertive attitude, individually and collectively. “
***Radioactive Waste-Dilution is Not The Solution
“A Marcellus Shale operator had a problem when trying to dispose of oil and gas waste at local landfills- the truck kept tripping radiation alarms.
The rejected trucks had to be sent back to the well pads or taken out of sate, both costly options. Leong Ying, at Thermo Fisher Scientific is marketing a new radiation detector that can instantly categorize the different types of radioactive materials present in waste.
Today the waste is most often diluted with non-radioactive materials such as soil then sent to a landfill.
“Its likely that many if not most trucks bearing loads with high radioactive readings never show up at local landfill. Alot of companies are surveying before they leave a drilling site,” said Carl Spadaro, of Max Environmental.
Landfill alarms sound when a truck carrying waste registers at or above a dose rate of 10 microrems per hour above what is naturally in the air. DEP gives landfills annual limits on how much they can accept.
Each load that sets off an alarm but comes in below 140 microrems per hour can probably still be disposed of in a landfill. It is subtracted from a landfill’s annual limit based on a formula that takes into account the amount of the waste and exact dose rate.
For anything above 140 the landfill operator has to contact the DEP and the waste will have to find a different home. Likely out of state. Anything below 10 microrem per hour is counted as if it were zero, raising some concerns about accumulation of this material over time.
There is no reliable mechanism for the DEP to keep track of how much oil and gas waste is going into state landfills. A Post Gazette analysis showed there is widespread underreporting and inaccuracy in waste data.
It is also impossible to know how much waste goes straight to out- of- state landfills because of these discrepancies.
Drilling and fracking waste are far and away the biggest TENOR triggers for radiation alarms at PA landfills. Drilling and fracking waste comprised more than 85% of radiation alarms tripped over the past years and a half.
Drilling and fracking dredge up uranium, radium, thorium, strontium, and barium buried deep underground and bring them to the surface along with drill cuttings, drilling muds, and flowback fluid, and brine.
The majority of loads tripping alarms are actually liquids that have been solidified into a sludge. They comprised more than ¾ of radioactive loads last year
A study of radioactive waste by DEP is to be released before the end of the years.”
***PA Rep. Cartwright Launches Frack Waste Investigation
“In a reflection of growing national concern about the disposal of oil and gas waste, a PA Rep. Matthew Cartwright-D launched an investigation into how PA regulates the discarding of the unwanted, often toxic material.
Cartwright said "preliminary reports indicate there are big gaps in protections and oversight that the federal government might have to fill."
Cartwright also has introduced legislation to repeal the exemption that allows oil and gas waste to escape regulation as hazardous material.
Cartwright sent a letter to Dana Aunkst, the acting secretary of PA (DEP).
"The Subcommittee minority is conducting this oversight to determine if state regulations and monitoring of fracking waste are sufficient to ensure accuracy, completeness and compliance with applicable environmental laws," Cartwright said in the letter.
Cartwright said this is a "significant first step in a comprehensive nationwide investigation." Cartwright called oil and gas waste disposal a national priority because of the huge amounts of waste being generated.
"We don't know very much about what happens to these wastes and what impacts they may have, and it's important for Congress to take a look at this issue that does not get the attention it deserves,"
The agency had also came under fire after revelations that it had improperly carried out fracking-related air studies in 2010 and 2011.
Among other concerns, Cartwright wants to determine whether Pennsylvania is adhering to the federal Clean Air Act, which mandates protection from airborne contaminants.
Cartwright cites a 2011 minority staff report of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It identified 29 chemicals found in fracking waste that are possible human carcinogens, and are regulated under both the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act for their risks to human health.
An investigation published earlier this month by the Center found that in most states where fracking is taking place, air emissions from oil and gas waste are among the least regulated, least monitored and least understood components in the extraction-and-production cycle.
This lack of understanding can be traced to decisions Congress and the U.S. EPA made decades ago, when oil and gas producers successfully lobbied to get most of their waste exempted from federal hazardous waste regulations.
The exemption was granted in 1988 even though an EPA study from a year earlier concluded that 23 percent of the waste samples the agency had collected contained one or more toxic compounds – at levels 100 times higher than those considered safe for humans.
But that same EPA study also recommended granting the exemption because the authors determined that the expense of disposing of so much hazardous waste would likely slow domestic energy production and there weren't enough hazardous waste sites to handle the waste.
Cartwright cites a report by the Pennsylvania auditor general that concludes the state's system for oversight of fracking waste "is not an effective monitoring tool" and "is not proactive in discouraging improper, even illegal, disposal of waste."
The DEP has taken strong action against two waste handlers in the state in the last two months. In September, the agency issued a $4.15 million fine to operator Range Resources for four leaky impoundments. Earlier this month, the DEP announced it was pursuing an even larger fine of $4.5 million to EQT Production Co. for a major 2012 impoundment leak.
Cartwright's committee is seeking answers by Nov. 12 to more than a dozen questions about Pennsylvania's process for monitoring the handling and disposal of fracking waste.
Among the answers Cartwright wants from Pennsylvania's environmental regulators are:
*A description of the state's inspection procedures of oil and gas waste disposal facilities with respect to protecting human health and the environment from contamination.
*An explanation of the reporting requirements for producers, transporters and disposal site operators that handle fracking waste.
*An explanation of the process for receiving and investigating complaints regarding fracking waste handling or disposal.
*Details on how state regulators monitor the accuracy of reporting and compliance with reporting and certification requirements for the handling and disposal of fracking waste
The number of inspections or investigations of disposal facilities receiving fracking waste.
Cartwright, who campaigned on a promise to make sure that fracking doesn't pollute air and water, also has proposed legislation that has nationwide implications for the way oil and gas waste is handled.
His bill, introduced in 2013, would repeal the industry's hazardous waste exemption that allows the following materials to escape federal hazardous waste regulations: drilling fluids and cuttings; produced water; used hydraulic fracturing fluids; tank bottom sludge; and hydrocarbon-bearing soil
So far, Cartwright's bill — the Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations Act, or CLEANER — has gone nowhere. But in August, he scored a small victory when Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson became CLEANER's 70th cosponsor.
Cartwright said he hopes the investigation will help establish the importance of closing federal loopholes.
"If the investigation demonstrates a serious lack of accountability and regulations at the State level, it will only reinforce the necessity of passing the CLEANER Act," he said.”
(This article was updated in October)
***Gas Flare To Light Up Part of Washington County
“A massive, noisy gas flare will be in western Washington County, illuminating the first well that Range Resources Inc. drilled into the Utica Shale formation in five years. The flaring, an increasingly rare event in the Marcellus Shale gas play, is scheduled to begin Dec. 7 and will burn brightly for as long as a week at Range Resources’ well pad on property that the Claysville Sportsmen’s Club owns in Donegal Township, just east of Dutch Fork Lake.
The 60- to 80-foot-tall ridge top flare will shoot toward the heavens atop a 100-foot-tall stack pipe, lighting up the night sky. It likely will be visible in Washington, Pa., more than 10 miles to the east, and certainly to travelers on Interstate 70, a mile to the south.
Range representatives announced the flaring to Donegal Township supervisors Nov. 12, telling them it is considered a “big burn” and will produce a continuous noise of as much as 95 decibels at the well pad. Sustained decibel levels between 90 and 95 can result in permanent hearing loss, but workers will be equipped with ear protection.
“They told us the flare would be double the size of other well flares, and the noise will be like a siren on a firetruck,” said Doug Teagarden, a township supervisor. “There are houses within a couple of hundred yards of the well pad, and those folks are going to hear it.”
Decibel levels at the nearest homes, about a quarter mile from the well, will be lower, less than 65 decibels, according to Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella. Typical conversation in a restaurant measures about 60 decibels, and busy street traffic registers 70 decibels. Mr. Pitzarella said the flare noise would be inaudible on I-70.”
Bob Donnan on flaring
“Flaring is a bad practice all the way around; wasting energy resources, reducing royalty recipients income, and polluting everyone's air in the process. Our region still has serious air quality challenges. Range should have put the pipeline in first, but this is probably a cost-saving move as Range Resources continues to brag to investors about being a very 'low cost' producer.
Flaring unleashes airborne pollutants including the secret chemicals used to frac the wells, acetalhyde, acrolein, benzene, ethyl benzene, formaldehyde, hexane, naphthalene, propylene, toluene, and xylenes (BTEXs). Improperly operated flares put off black smoke, something we have seen from far too many Range flares in Washington County over the years.
Weekends and holidays don't limit this activity either, almost the contrary, they had flares going at 3 different Avella sites one recent 4th of July during 'ozone action days' and probably most memorable was their Labor Day 2009 flaring in Buffalo, Pa, when they caught their own impoundment liner on fire and the fire department had to be called in. A neighbor lady tells me she still has tinnitus from their 'jet engine' noise level flaring 800 feet from her house, where they initially used two flares.”
“The closest frac site to our house is now about 3-miles east as the crow flies, while most oil and gas patch activities are further to our west. When I brought the newspaper in this morning I commented to my wife, “Boy the air stinks outside!”
We live in a valley and it’s that “perfect” kind of day for holding down air pollution; overcast with no air movement. I would describe it as an ‘industrial odor.’ Another friend one mile away described it as “a very bad burning smell.”
This frac site is on a large multi-family-owned farm, farm market and nursery called Trax Farms. They have various events throughout the year like pick-ur-own strawberries, a pumpkin patch, hayrides and other similar events….”
Red squares represent compressor stations. A MarkWest representative told Bob that 3 high producing wells can require one compressor.