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Contributors To Our Updates
Thank you to contributors to our Updates: Debbie Borowiec, Lou Pochet, Ron Gulla, the Pollocks, Marian Szmyd, Bob Donnan, 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.
Tenaska Air Permit http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol44/44-51/44-51.pdf
The action to Tenaska and State Reps: http://tinyurl.com/stoptenaska
The hearing request to DEP: http://tinyurl.com/tenaskahearing
*** WMCG Group Meeting We usually meet the second Wednesday of every month at 7:30 PM in Greensburg. Email Jan for directions. All are very welcome to attend.
***Ligonier Twp. Hearing with stenographer-March 26,
6:00 pm Ligonier Valley High School
Due to the activity in Ligonier Township , I am getting out the Updates less frequently. They are therefore longer- but with many townships working on the same issues, I wanted to share the information so we all have access to what each of us are doing. Jan
***Ligonier Supervisor Wade Thomas Asked to Bring the Industry to Ligonier in 2014
From the minutes from the 12.9.2014 Township Supervisors meeting notes:
"Wade Thomas asked the Supervisors to consider setting aside $10,000.00 of the Act 13 money to use for campaigning to bring gas company businesses to Ligonier.
A motion was made by Timothy Komar and seconded by Scott Matson to approve the minutes of the November 10, 2014 meeting. Motion carried.
***It’s About the Courts-Not a popularity poll
“What the drilling advocates fail to realize, with their number of petition signatures, number of leases, number of dollars, etc. ... is that once you get lawyers involved, the "popular vote" is out the window. Ultimately the only opinion that's going to matter is that of the courts: either they will apply the PA Supreme Court's ruling on Act 13 zoning to local ordinances, or they won't. Here's hoping they do. Hooray for Chris and Angelo, Jordan and Aaron, John Smith and all the other courageous lawyers taking on the gas industry on behalf of our communities! May they be victorious!!!
Joseph P. McMurry
***An Attorney’s Reminder- Research Judges Before You Vote
“Your thoughts stirred me to remind all involved to recognize that it is the judiciary who will ultimately decide all of these issues. That being said, all should be mindful of the historic election this year as 3 openings are up for grabs on the Pa Supreme Court that can and will tip the balance of future oil and gas decisions. Of the 6 justices who participated in the Act 13 case 4 went our way, but 2 of the 4 are no longer on the bench leaving the original voting members who are left at 2-2. Also, all municipal decisions that make their way up and out the local County Courts will end up at the Pa Commonwealth Court. For too long the citizens of Pa did not realize the importance of this court and most candidates who get elected are unknown to the general public. The Commonwealth Court has openings to fill this election cycle as well. The oil and gas industry receives favorable treatment in Texas not only because of the favorable legislature and Governor's office, but also because the of the Court and its members. I encourage all to investigate candidates and their prior rulings on other courts so we all do our best to keep or at least try to elect, the Judges and Justices who will follow the law and especially the Constitution. We all know the industry will be and are supporting their favorite candidates. All of the attorneys that are working to keep drilling in proper zoning areas with real oversight greatly appreciate your constant and unwavering support. Your efforts at attending meetings and court proceedings, voicing concerns, staying on your elected officials and publicizing your concerns are important and effective. Keep it up and thanks!!”
“We submitted an amicus brief on behalf of small landowners in a PA case, in which Cabot attempted to extend its lease term after an unsuccessful lease challenge by landowners it had duped.
The case was filed in federal court, but the Third Circuit certified the question to the PA Supreme Court, which today rejected the claim that the lease should be “equitably extended.”
Hooray for the PA Supreme Court, which continues to push back against oil and gas industry overreaching.”
Earthjustice Northeast Office
48 Wall Street, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10005
***Ligonier Zoning Meeting
“With more than 100 people filling the Ligonier Valley High School auditorium, the Ligonier Township supervisors and planning commission listened to more than three hours of comments from the public Tuesday night on a proposed zoning ordinance and map.
Thirty-one people signed up to speak. Comments were limited to about five minutes per person.
Like other recent township meetings, Marcellus shale drilling provisions in the ordinance were the principal point of concern for residents. Several of them presented slide shows and submitted research regarding the industry's adverse potential effects on health and environment.
“Gentlemen, this industrial process has no business destroying the health of this valley,” said resident Elizabeth Donohoe.
“You are duty-bound to read what we are presenting to you,” she said. “You are also, by law, bound to protect this valley's air, water and the quality of life here. Anything less is self-serving dereliction of duty.”
Citizens to Preserve Ligonier Valley, a grassroots organization of people against fracking, provided informational handouts at a table in the foyer of the auditorium, with signs posted stating “Don't Frack Ligonier,” in bold, capital letters.
Some people from outside of the township came to speak on the industry, including Andy Pollack, a former resident of Washington County who discussed his firsthand experiences with negative effects of drilling and Raina Ripple, the director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, which researches the effects of the industry's impact on health.
In the interest of making sure residents would be able to speak, solicitor Michael Korns said non-township residents would speak last.
The change in order upset some residents, including Jan Milburn, who said some speakers had traveled several hours to attend.
“Let them speak,” said Jack Milburn. “You're going to learn something.”(The reporter failed to note that residents were upset because we had previously been told that there was no time limit. Expert speakers were already signed up at the beginning of the speakers list as permitted by the township. Then, that night, the township again changed the rules. Jan)
Residents spoke on numerous aspects of drilling, such as potential air pollution, water contamination, decreases in property value for homes near gas wells, damage to roadways from truck traffic and noise.
According to the ordinance and map drafts, unconventional drilling would be a conditional use in the agricultural and industrial zoning districts. The majority of the township has been zoned agricultural in the proposed maps.
Korns and township manager Terry Carcella have repeatedly said the proposed ordinance provides more restriction on the industry because the former ordinance allowed drilling in all zoning districts, but Jack Milburn said, “That's a hollow argument.”
Residents also expressed frustration that the most updated versions of the ordinance and map had not yet been posted on the township's website.
Some suggestions posed by residents included splitting the drilling portion of the ordinance off to allow further review and adding natural resource protection overlays to more water sources.
The public will have another opportunity to be heard 6 p.m. March 26 at the high school auditorium during a public hearing on the ordinance and map.
Written input is still being accepted by the township.
The Westmoreland County Planning Division is in the process of reviewing the zoning ordinance.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/7789449-74/township-ordinance-ligonier#ixzz3SFG2UdZI
***Pulaski Zoning Challenge Begins
“Zoning hearing board members Goodge, Sikora and Sniezek each read a statement prior to the hearing stating they had a financial interest in a Hilcorp Energy Corp. gas and oil lease. They said they were nevertheless participating in the hearing on the advice of the zoning solicitor and under provisions of the Pennsylvania Ethics Act, which allow them to vote in the matters despite a potential conflict of interest because no decision could be rendered if they all excused themselves.”
By Mary Grzebieniak
Spectators crammed into the municipal building Monday to hear the first part of a challenge to Pulaski Township’s zoning ordinance.
Many stood throughout the four-hour hearing, which still was not long enough to complete testimony. The hearing will be continued at a date to be announced.
About 65 people heard the father-and-son legal team of Angelo and Chris Papa present the challenge that had been brought by two township couples.
Timothy Chito and his wife, Elizabeth Kessner, of 650 Cheriwood Road and Ivan and Cathy Dubrasky of 5439 Old Pulaski Road are petitioners.
They say the ordinance is unconstitutional because it allows unconventional oil and gas drilling or “fracking” as a conditional use in agricultural and residential zoning districts. They claim this is a heavy industrial use that ruins the character of those areas. Both couples have a Hilcorp Energy Co. well pad development across the street from their homes. Chito and Kessner live in a residential district and the Dubraskys in an agricultural zoned area.
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT TESTIFIES
Steven Victor, a licensed landscape architect and partner in Victor Wetzel Associates in Sewickley, testified as an expert witness on zoning and land use for the petitioners.
` Victor showed slides of seven township zoning districts superimposed with the township’s six wellpads and one compressor station locations. Quoting from the zoning ordinance, he said zoning is supposed to support and encourage “order and beauty in development” and protect and maintain integrity of residential areas, protect property values and insure harmonious development of commercial and industrial uses.
He pointed out that the 2002 ordinance was written before hydraulic fracturing came to the area and said fracking should be classified as a heavy industrial use.
Victor explained that while light industry is defined in the ordinance as one in which no larger than a 10 horsepower motor is used, heavy industry is defined as “any manufacturing process that is not included in the definition of light assembly... .”
The ordinance also describes heavy industry as “Any process which produces noise, light, vibrations, air pollutants, fire hazards, or emission, which are not contained within any structure...” and “any establishment engaged in the mechanical or chemical transformation of mass quantities of materials or substances into new products, including the assembly of component parts, the creation of products and the blending of materials.”
He said heavy industry is allowed in the ordinance only as a conditional use in the industrial district, but fracking has been allowed in Pulaski Township as a conditional use in residential and agricultural areas. The ordinance allows mining and mineral extraction as a conditional use in agricultural areas, but Victor said that in 2002 when the ordinance was written, unconventional gas drilling had not come to this area and the ordinance spoke to traditional mining.
ORDINANCE CALLED CONFUSING
Victor said the ordinance is confusing, explaining that after defining zoning districts, it speaks to “oil and gas operations” without defining them and “excavation” instead of the earlier mentioned mining and mineral “extraction.”
Compressor stations have been allowed in the township but are not defined under the regulations, he said adding that compressor stations are “doing more than extraction.”
He said oil and gas wells are not included in the definitions given under “Mining and Mineral Extraction” and said under supplemental regulations, a section on oil and gas operations “opens the door” to oil and gas drilling in zoning districts even though it is not on the list of allowed uses. He called it “confusing” and a “defect in the ordinance.”
Another part of the ordinance, called “Performance Standards,” states that no land use can cause any condition “that may be dangerous, injurious, or noxious to any other property or person in the Township” or erect lighting devices that produce objectionable direct or reflected glare on adjoining properties or thoroughfares.”
Victor objected to the ordinance’s failure to require a site plan and said setback requirements from wells are insufficient. He called the township’s noise ordinance “unenforceable” because of it vagueness.
Chito also testified, stating he has lived at his address 23 years and adding that what used to be a quiet, rural neighborhood is now noisy with bright lights day and night. He said his well water now has sediment and an occasional foul odor, and his basement has started flooding. He said 20 to 40 workers live in a mobile home on the well site and said he was solicited by a prostitute while there.
“I can’t sleep ... I can’t concentrate. I can’t think,” he said. “I used to love my life,” he said but added he now tries to spend as much time as possible away from home.
“No sane, rational person says ‘I want to live next to a fracking site’,” he said, adding “My goal is to have my life back.”
SIGNED A LEASE
Chito said he signed a lease with Hilcorp and has received $4,000 from the company. He said although he initially refused, he signed once he realized the well was coming and also because he believed it would give him some insurance protection if there were damage to his property.”
Attorney Steve Silverman, representing Hilcorp, asked Chito if he intends to return the $4,000 to Hilcorp if he prevails in the case.
“I’d gladly give you $4,000 if you would go away. Yes, I would gladly give it back,” Chito said.
***Consol Contractor Airlifted-Well Fire In Derry
By Joe Napsha Staff Reporter
“A contractor for Consol Energy Inc. was burned on his face and arms in a fire and explosion while tending to a gas well off Route 22 in Derry on Sunday, Consol and fire officials said.
The victim, whose identity was not released, was flown by an emergency medical helicopter around 5:40 p.m. to the West Penn Hospital burn unit in Pittsburgh, Blairsville Fire Chief George Burkley said.
` The site was secured Sunday and an investigation is underway, Consol spokeswoman Kate Donovan said.
The worker had been dispatched to the gas well along Apple Lane. The explosion and fire was reported at 5:07 p.m. and the fire was extinguished quickly after the company shutoff natural gas service to the building, Burkley said. The building was not extensively damaged, the chief said.
The Blairsville Fire Department in Indiana County serves as the first responder in that section of Derry Township because its department is closer than the Derry Township fire departments, a Westmoreland County Department of Public Safety spokesman said.
Blairsville firefighters were assisted by units from Derry, New Alexandria and Tunnelton, Burkley said.
***Allegheny Twp. -Drilling In Ag and Residential Areas
By Liz Hayes Staff Reporter
Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, 1:06 a.m.
“John Slike told the Allegheny Township Zoning Hearing Board that a 235-unit housing development is a possibility for his property if he's blocked from leasing it for natural gas drilling. Slike and his wife, Ann, own 330 acres of farmland in the township.
That includes a Willowbrook Road parcel leased to CNX Gas Co. for a well pad proposed to host six unconventional gas wells that would use hydraulic fracturing to tap the Marcellus shale.
Neighbors Dee Frederick, Beverly Taylor and Patricia Hagaman have asked the zoning board to revoke CNX's drilling permit and to declare invalid the township's allowance of drilling in residential-agricultural zones.
Speaking during the third day of testimony on the appeal, Slike said his property, which he began acquiring in 1976, is an active farm growing hay and grain that is sold to local horse farms.
He said a landscape architecture firm he hired in 1996 indicated a subdivision with 235 single-family houses and condominiums would be an allowed use on his land, which he described as the largest contiguous property in the township.
Under questioning from Christopher and Angelo Papa, the attorneys representing the objectors, Slike said he couldn't say what his compensation from CNX has been for the lease. He said he's paid for the number of acres disturbed, not royalties on gas extracted.
“It's not thousands upon thousands of dollars, I guarantee you that,” Slike said.
Slike questioned previous testimony that the CNX wells will be as close as 700 to 1,000 feet from the objectors' homes, but he acknowledged their homes are much closer than his own home along Watson Road.
Larry Loperfito, the zoning board's attorney, said the hearing will continue on March 5 with the attorneys involved making their final arguments.
Loperfito did not indicate whether the board will make a decision that night.
Representatives of Western Pennsylvania Gas Leasing Consultants LLC indicated the Slikes are far from the only township residents poised to benefit financially from gas leases.
Attorney Ed Bilik, a company founder, presented the zoning board with a petition purported to have more than 100 signatures from township landowners supporting the current zoning that allows drilling in residential-agricultural zones.
Ted Szalewicz, a land agent and consultant with the company, said his research found 400 leases involving 4,000 acres of township land were signed in 2014 alone.
Szalewicz said those leases have paid out a total of $12 million to landowners in fees and could reap an estimated $60 million to $90 million in royalties.
Christopher Papa was quick to point out the royalty estimates use an industry standard that includes a rate about 40 percent more than current natural gas prices.
Kyle Stefancik, a senior land agent for CNX, estimated about 60 percent of township land and 75 percent of residential-agricultural zones has been leased to gas companies.
He said there are about 240 conventional, shallow gas wells in Allegheny Township; the CNX well on Slike's property, known as the Porter 1K well, is the only unconventional deep well permitted.
Stefancik showed photos and maps of existing shallow wells and gas pipelines in the area of the objectors' properties, including several that are closer to the objectors' houses than the proposed CNX well. A pipeline already crosses Taylor's property.
Slike said at least one shallow well already existed on each of his two adjacent parcels when he bought them and four more shallow wells have been drilled since.
Daniel Bitz, a general manager for gas permitting at CNX, also testified on the permitting process the company went through with the state and township.
Public support for drilling
Wednesday's hearing ended with public comment from four township residents, all of whom voiced support for drilling.
Upper Burrell resident Ron Slabe, also spoke, saying he was concerned about water and air quality and “rural industrialization” if drilling is allowed to continue in residential-agricultural zones. “
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
***Penn Trafford Hearing
Youtube video from Bob Donnan: (THANKS BOB!)
Penn Township officials hear from residents, experts on fracking plans
“Penn Township commissioners heard hours of comments about their plans to regulate Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
Lasting about three hours in the Penn Middle School auditorium, the meeting included about three dozen speakers, including experts such as geologists, representatives of environmental groups and gas drilling companies, and residents supporting and opposing plans for hydraulic fracturing in the township. Their remarks were limited to five-minute windows.
Critics cited research suggesting environmental and health risks for those living close to fracking operations, from possible radiation and groundwater contamination to neurological and respiratory effects, along with a decrease in property values.
“It definitely affects your quality of life,” resident Dan Begg said in an interview.
While he acknowledged that the township is proposing an outright ban on ponds to treat wastewater from fracking operations, he said that would not prevent disturbances from trucks hauling away fracking fluids, let alone spills or other drilling-related accidents.
“I don’t think it’s something that fits well in a residential community,” said Mr. Begg, who lives about a mile from where a drilling company has received state approval to begin operations, in the Level Green area of the township.
Supporters contended that the effects of fracking have undergone adequate environmental review, arguing that the township should not tighten its proposed drilling restrictions based on concerns raised by residents.
“Making the use of our land or our development rights subordinate to the desires, wishes of others is not equal treatment,” Anthony Marks, who owns about 20 acres in the township, told the commissioners.
Having signed two leases with two different drilling companies, he later said that for many township landowners, leasing their properties to drilling companies is a “huge incentive” for them to avoid handing it over to developers.
For local governments themselves, such revenue from fracking can also be significant.
Over the past few years, the township has received some $150,000 in fees paid by drilling companies for digging wells, according to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Westmoreland County has received nearly $5 million in such fees over the same period.
Those fees are required under the state’s Marcellus Shale gas drilling law, Act 13, and have gone toward infrastructure improvements such as road repairs.
For their part, township leaders are finalizing a formal review of a draft ordinance that would further restrict such operations in residential and commercial areas.
“We wanted to give the people a say,” said Paul Wersing, chairman of the board of commissioners,, referring to Thursday's special meeting. But, he added, “Our decision has to be made on the rule of law, and not on speculation and assumptions.”
The township is requiring that drilling companies obtain a conditional use permit before beginning unconventional drilling operations, and officials have said none will be issued until the proposed regulations are agreed on and adopted. A township zoning board will hold public hearings on any applications for those permits.
That could come as early as April, with the possibility of commissioners scheduling a public hearing at a work session next week.
In addition to prohibiting treatment ponds, the township is proposing a ban on fracking operations within 600 feet of homes, schools and businesses on properties less than 10 acres. It also is proposing a 1,000-foot buffer around water supply intakes.
But a recently formed citizens group says that would prove “too close to too many people in our community.” The group, Protect PT, is calling for a 2,000-foot buffer around buildings.
Also speaking at the meeting were elected officials from neighboring municipalities including Trafford. which is considering developing its own ordinance to limit any drilling activity in the borough.
Some residents there are concerned about the planned drilling operation at the Level Green site, which is less than 2,000 feet from a subdivision of dozens of homes.
The drilling company Apex Energy LLC has received approval from the state DEP to begin operations there and at another site, near Monroeville. The Wexford-based company also has submitted an application for a nearly 90-acre site near Delmont, near the William Penn Care Center, a senior living facility, and it is seeking several more permits, said Mark Rothenberg, its chief executive.
Also, the land acquisition arm of another drilling company, Huntley & Huntley, which is based in Monroeville, has purchased about 220 acres off Pleasant Valley Road, near Murrysville.
Bernard Goldstein, professor emeritus of environmental and occupational health at the University of Pittsburgh whom Protect PT requested to speak at the meeting, said research of the effects of fracking remain inconclusive.
“We really don’t know what the health effects are,’ he said in an interview, citing New York’s ban on high-volume fracking. “They haven’t really been studied.”
As a result, Mr. Goldstein said, “There’s a reason to delay” as much as possible drilling in the township. “What’s the rush?”
***North Strabane Township Fire
“An equipment malfunction may have sparked a large fire at a gas drilling location in Washington County .
The fire broke out at the Jeffries drilling site in North Strabane Township.
“That piece of equipment ruptured. There was a failure and it discharged some of that lubricant. That ignited and caught fire along with some plastic liners at the location,” said Matt Pitzarella, of Range Resources. “The well itself was not on fire and not a cause of concern.
Heavy flames were seen at the scene and large plumes of black smoke rose over the area.
Joe Waldrop lives on a hill overlooking the site. He called 911 once he realized what had happened.
“As I continued to listen and looked out the back window, we saw all this black smoke, we heard numerous booms after that, and we went back and the whole well was like engulfed in flames,” said Waldrop.
In their statement, Range Resources went on to say, “These investigations can take weeks or months in some instances to fully recognize what exactly occurred. Importantly, we have trained crews to manage these situations and have prepared for these unfortunate incidents with area first responders over the years.”
There were no reports of any injuries. Three homes are within a half-mile radius of the site, but no one had to be evacuated.
“They just said everyone roll up your windows or go inside; we don’t want you guys to breathe it in,” said Rachel Rettinger, a neighbor.
Crews managed to put the fire out by 6:15 p.m.
Range Resources officials say they used specialty foam, used to extinguish oil and grease fires, to put out the blaze.”
***Mark West Wants Rezoning --Builds Compressor Station In Robinson
“MarkWest could proceed tomorrow with plans to build a natural gas compressor station in Robinson Township, but the company wants officials to rezone its land first.
The company submitted an application to classify 252.3 acres in the southwestern part of the township as industrial-zoned land. The property, owned by MarkWest, is currently situated in the commercial and interchange business development districts.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Rodger Kendall said compressor stations are a permitted use in that area, and MarkWest could start constructing the compressor station as long as the facility meets a uniform set of criteria outlined in the zoning ordinance.
Kendall said the board planned to discuss the matter , but tabled the item because MarkWest spokesman Robert McHale showed up late at the Monday meeting. The township’s website inaccurately stated that board meetings begin at 7 p.m., but they typically begin at 6 p.m. unless advertised differently.
Robinson currently has an industrial zone in the eastern part of the township, but McHale wrote in a letter to the township that there is an “economically justified need” to create a second industrial zone in the southern part of the township. He addressed the recent challenge to the township’s zoning ordinance, which was lodged by three families and later dismissed by the zoning hearing board, and said a successful appeal of the zoning board’s decision would “severely constrain” natural gas development.
“Natural gas would, essentially, be landlocked, potentially jeopardizing substantial investments in natural gas interests within the township, as well as impacting numerous landowners who earn royalties in return for permitting and encouraging the responsible development of the natural gas upon which all of us depend,” McHale wrote.
To date, the parties involved in the zoning ordinance challenge have not filed an appeal of the zoning board’s decision in Washington County Court.
*** Municipalities File Act 13 Briefs In Supreme Court
By Emily Petsko, Staff Writer
“More than a year after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that major provisions of Act 13 were unconstitutional, other provisions of the state law governing oil and natural gas development are returning to the high court for review.
The parties that first challenged the law in 2012 are now appealing a Commonwealth Court decision last summer that upheld parts of the law pertaining to eminent domain, notification of spills and what they call a “physician gag rule.” The appellants, which include an environmental group, a physician and seven municipalities, argue those provisions are unconstitutional, as well. The municipalities – including South Fayette, Peters, Cecil and Mt. Pleasant townships – submitted a brief Tuesday in support of their appeal.
After the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of Act 13 in December 2013, it also remanded several provisions of the law back to Commonwealth Court for review. The petitioners in the case considered it a victory when the lower court ruled municipalities cannot be subjected to zoning reviews by the Public Utility Commission and, subsequently, to revocations of impact fee money. The PUC since appealed that decision.
But the municipalities disagreed with the court’s decision to uphold other provisions of the law they had challenged. One of those provisions requires the state DEP to notify a public drinking water facility if a spill occurs that could affect water supplies. The problem is that the law does not expressly protect those who use private wells or springs, the parties argued in their brief.
The municipalities argued there is a greater need to notify residents who have private drinking water of a spill because drilling primarily occurs in rural areas where public water may not be available. They said the DEP and the industry are taking a reactive rather than a proactive stance by waiting for a complaint to surface regarding the quality of a private water source before investigating whether a spill occurred.
They say the provision is a “special law” that unjustly creates a distinction between public and private water sources.
“The only reason for the different treatment is clear – a desire to mask the true effects of the oil and gas industry on rural communities, which are experiencing the brunt of shale gas development,” the parties wrote.
They also challenged a provision granting the power of eminent domain to corporations that transport, sell or store natural gas. The municipalities argued this provision allows companies to take property for the injection, storage or removal of natural gas with no guarantee of a direct benefit to the public.
The third provision in question states that a health professional requesting chemical information related to oil and gas operations in order to diagnose or treat a patient must verbally acknowledge that the information will be kept confidential. The law states that the vendor providing the chemical information may ask the health professional to provide a written statement or sign a confidentiality agreement.
The municipalities argued this provision interferes with physician-patient relations and restricts the ability of a physician to communicate with specialists such as epidemiologists and toxicologists.
“Act 13 restricts health professionals’ abilities to disclose critical diagnostic information necessary for medical treatment solely because the natural gas industry deems such information ‘proprietary’ or a ‘trade secret,’” they wrote. “No other law is so restrictive in the use of trade secret information – not federal work protection rules, and not federal and state chemical disclosure provisions that apply to other industries.”
One physician is a party in the ongoing Act 13 case. Mehernosh Khan worked as a primary care physician for more than 30 years in the Pittsburgh area, according to StateImpact Pennsylvania.
The DEP, PUC and attorney general will soon be filing briefs in response to the appeal, according to attorney John Smith, who represents the appellants.
***Huntley Reconsiders Plans to Drill In Harmar Twp
By Jodi Weigand
“Huntley & Huntley Energy Exploration says it is reevaluating its leasing efforts in Southwestern Pennsylvania because of Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed severance tax on natural gas extraction.
The company cited the uncertainty generated by the proposal and potential “economic barriers” in a letter to Harmar Township withdrawing a subsurface lease offer for about 90 acres of township-owned land.
Burke said the Harmar lease is the only one proposed with a public entity. Most of the company's leases are with private landowners.
However, a lease proposal from Huntley & Huntley and Range Resources is still being considered in West Deer. Supervisors have scheduled a public hearing on the lease for March 11.
Township Supervisor Bob Exler said it's unfortunate the township is losing the opportunity. He wants the state Legislature to impose a 5 percent severance tax on the value of gas that drillers extract and a levy of 4.7 cents per thousand cubic feet.
Wolf wants to use the revenue to fund public schools.
The industry pays an impact fee on Marcellus shale natural gas wells. It has generated $630 million in three years.
The money goes to counties and municipalities. Wolf has said under his proposal, municipalities would receive a share of the severance tax revenue.
Because of low oil and natural gas prices, many companies have slowed operations.”
Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourallekiskivalley/yourallekiskivalleymore/7803752-74/tax-township-harmar#ixzz3SDD0DI73
***Action time –Letter to Editor
By Elizabeth Donahue
“Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, The battle against fracking in Ligonier Township has been going on for three years, led by a growing group dedicated to our collective right to maintain the township we currently have. They have worked tirelessly to educate the supervisors and their efforts have been about everyone's land, everyone's future here.
On the night of Jan. 22, the township planning commission showed its cards ( “Ligonier Township zoning map advances”). Despite township officials' known conflicts of interest, despite having stacks of fact-based concerns about this industrial process presented to them, they are poised to transform Ligonier Township into another industrial gasland. Our land, our future.
At this critical point, inaction on the part of everyday Ligonier Township residents will help to destroy the township. Sitting back passively right now will guarantee that in 10 years' time, the township will have ceased to be the tourist destination it now is, and few will want to live here.
The entire state of New York banned fracking, but not without a struggle; it took many hands to haul that life-affirming decision over the finish line. Whether you are a “conservative,” a liberal or unaffiliated, roll up your sleeves right now and find ways to keep your Ligonier Township from turning into an industrial zone. The clock is ticking.”
The writer owns property in Ligonier Township.
Read more: http://triblive.com/opinion/letters/7642626-74/township-ligonier-industrial#ixzz3QokkNIZK
***ACT 13 & Local Ordinances Dilemma
Why is it so hard to write municipal ordinances? Councilman Dave Ball responds:
"Does the Municipal Planning Code (PA law) really envision requiring that we violate the Constitution by allowing drilling in a residential or Light Industrial area? Does the MPC require we rezone property to allow drilling when the rezoning may well constitute spot zoning and not be in the furtherance of the public good, another requisite of zoning, both of which would be constitutional violations? Redefining light industrial to include heavy industrial operation is rezoning and has the same problems as noted above. Then, assuming for the moment, that some property could be found to rezone, how does allowing drilling in the designated area comport with the requirements of Section 27, the Environmental Rights Amendment? Considering the population density of <insert your community here>, is there any area in which gas drilling would not violate Section 27?"
The full text of this message was sent by Peters Twp council chairman Dave Ball with his permission to make it public. ( I note that these are Mr. Ball's opinions and perspectives only. Other Council members or legal practitioners may have other views.):
"The legal challenge to Act 13, to which Peters Township was a party, was successfully concluded with a landmark Supreme Court decision over a year ago. Several issues were remanded to the Commonwealth Court where, for the most part, we prevailed again. The PUC has appealed this latest Commonwealth Court decision to the Supreme Court. That appeal is likely to be heard this spring. This should write finished to the Act 13 litigation.
While we won an incredible victory for the citizens of this state, the actual application of that decision is still evolving. The decision is termed a “landmark” decision because it breaks new legal ground, ground that has not yet been clearly defined. Clarity will only be achieved after a number of cases wind their way through the legal system. We, like many townships, are trying very hard to bring our zoning ordinances into compliance with the principles enumerated in the Supreme Court decision. This is not as easy as it might sound because what constitutes compliance is still not well defined.
In short explanation, we are trying to balance several issues; the Municipalities Planning Code (603b and 603i) requires that a township provide for all legal uses and provide for mineral extraction. The Supreme Court said that zoning requires that only compatible uses be included within one type of zoning district and that the Constitutional Amendment in Article 1, Section 27 requires that citizens have a right to clean air, pure water and a healthy environment. This amendment does not confer a right to the citizens but, rather, prohibits the government from interfering with that right. Section 27 requires, according to the court, that all governing bodies, state, county and municipal, have a trustee responsibility to assure this for both current and future generations. That’s a huge requirement and one that begs a great deal of definition.
Clearly, the court ruled that gas drilling is an industrial operation and that it does not belong in a residential zone. If the MPC requires that we need to provide for gas drilling, where does the MPC propose it go? The only open land in the township is residential with a small amount of Light Industrial. The definition of Light Industrial does not include heavy industry, such as gas drilling. Does the MPC really envision requiring that we violate the constitution by allowing drilling in a residential or Light Industrial area? Does the MPC require we rezone property to allow drilling when the rezoning may well constitute spot zoning and not be in the furtherance of the public good, another requisite of zoning, both of which would be constitutional violations? Redefining light industrial to include heavy industrial operation is rezoning and has the same problems as noted above. Then, assuming for the moment, that some property could be found to rezone, how does allowing drilling in the designated area comport with the requirements of Section 27, the Environmental Rights Amendment? Considering the population density of Peters Township, is there any area in which gas drilling would not violate Section 27?
The Council decided at its last meeting (see video link below) to form a working team composed of two Council members and two Planning Commission members to propose a process to study what can be done. Part of the process may well include expert opinion from land use planners and public health experts.
This is not an easy situation to resolve. If you have any questions or comments along the way, please contact me.
VIDEO: Council Meeting & Planning Meeting:
***Alyson Holt- On 600 Foot Setbacks
“I was just thinking about this 600-ft setback issue. Do you think PT folks know how far 600 ft actually is? It might be worth mentioning some easily known PT landmarks and how far they are away from each other:
1.In Harrison City, the pond is 680 ft from the library on the same site .
2. Penn-Trafford high school building is 615 ft long.
3. The athletic field at PT (including the track) is 600 ft long.
4. For a neighborhood with a typical 70-ft wide front yard, 600 ft would be about 8 1/2 houses away.
5. In most cities, a standard city block is 660 ft.
6. If someone walks a leisurely 20-minute mile pace, it takes about 2 minutes to walk 600 ft.
7. Any Penn Twp downtown block that's famous that you could cite? (maybe the distance between 2 favorite restaurants?)
600 ft is SHORT. And ridiculous.”
(This would make a great letter to the editor for any township, jan)
***Fracking in Harmar Twp
“Plans are under way to drill in Harmar Township near the Allegheny River and the communities of Fox Chapel, Indianola and Cheswick.
Wells would be drilled just upriver from the Pittsburgh Water Treatment Plant that provides drinking water to 300,000 residents. Drilling operations will be in close proximity to homes, schools, parks, churches and businesses.
Fracking has been tied to birth defects, air and water contamination, and radiation and community disruption.
Harmar Township has streams, wetlands and one of only three American Bald Eagle nests in the region. We can’t afford the risk to our community.”
***Mt Pleasant –Range Resources Withdraws
Conditional uses were formally withdrawn by Range Resources for the Yonker uchida and Patsch well pads in Mt Pleasant Twp, Washington County .
Jonathan Kamin and George Yugovic helped with this case. The company asserts financial reasons due to market prices.
***Middlesex Drilling Debate Continues
Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015,
“Pennsylvania, in the eyes of New York officials, is a guinea pig for the long-term public health impacts of hydraulic fracturing, a public health physician told Butler County residents.
“When I'm asked in New York about the health effects of fracking, the implication of my answer is, ‘Wait and see what happens in Pennsylvania,' ” said Dr. David Carpenter, director of the school of public health at the State University of New York at Albany.
Carpenter — who studies human health effects of environmental contaminants, including metals and organic compounds, and is a onetime New York State health official — testified last month against Middlesex's zoning ordinance.
The ordinance would allow drilling on property owned by Kim and Bob Geyer, who live in adjacent Adams. Drilling is on hold because of the appeal.
Opponents have said that the Middlesex site is too close to Mars Area School District property, about three-quarters of a mile away.
“It would be unwise and unsafe to allow development of natural gas drilling in over 90 percent of Middlesex, especially in locations in close proximity to schools and residences,” Carpenter testified.
Area proponents of drilling cite the boost to the local economy and say drilling can help preserve farmland that is often not profitable.
Kim Geyer declined to comment but has said she and her family are persuaded of the safety of fracking.
Officials at Rex Energy, the company whose project is being challenged, referred comment to Travis Windle, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group.
“Pennsylvania has a world-class regulatory framework and enforcement programs that are enabling the safe development of clean-burning natural gas.
‘It's unfortunate that some out-of-state activists, who cannot accept these clear facts, continue to peddle an out of the mainstream agenda,” said Windle.
Carpenter received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School.
He's a former director of the Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research of the New York State Department of Health, the third- largest public-health laboratory in the United States.
More than half of Pennsylvania's counties have drilling for natural gas. Butler County has 277 wells, the seventh-highest county concentration in the state, according to the DEP.
Carpenter was one of many health professionals who last month signed a letter urging New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking, which the governor did.
The state cited Carpenter's research in a December report issued at the time of the ban.
The New York Heath Department report said the public-health impact of drilling in Pennsylvania was inconclusive.” http://triblive.com/news/butler/7651749-74/health-drilling-york#axzz3SErSMcF8
***Who Sold us Out?
Letter To Editor
“As a resident of Washington County, I am outraged that somebody has allowed the beautiful rural neighborhood in which I live to become an industrial zone.
I can see two gas wells from my living room window and can hear the droning of a third. I’ve watched 100 trucks drive past my house in a single day. I see a half-dozen derricks, lit up like NASA launchpads, on my commute to work.
Who is responsible for this? Who sold us out? I thought government was supposed to protect the people from this sort of thing?
All I can think is that the politicians of Pennsylvania must be in the pockets of the energy companies, which are running roughshod over us Southwestern Pennsylvanians, destroying our environment, lowering our property values and jeopardizing our health.
I can’t believe there is such a desperate shortage of natural gas in this country that it was deemed necessary to allow gas drilling companies to come into neighborhoods where people live and work. To me, the mantra that “America needs to become energy independent” is just corporate propaganda.
Let’s be honest – the only reason this is being done is so that money can be made.
If a politician votes for this sort of thing, they should be willing to live near one of these industrial operations and drink the same water and breathe the same air as some of my neighbors.
This experiment has gone on long enough and the science is now in. We need to follow New York’s lead and put an immediate stop to fracking gas in Pennsylvania.”
***Drilling In Ag Areas –Allegheny Twp
Residents opposed to drilling, Consol subsidiary make cases in Allegheny Township
“A zoning hearing that was continued Wednesday concerning the validity of Allegheny Township's natural gas-drilling regulations drew testimony from experts on land use, agricultural and shale development law and a handful of residents.
The township's ordinance for gas and oil operations was first challenged last year by three Willowbrook Road residents opposed to a Marcellus shale gas well permitted on neighboring property. Permits were issued in October by Allegheny Township and the state Department of Environmental Protection for the surface well site belonging to CNX Gas Co., a subsidiary of Consol Energy Inc.
Nearby residents — Dee Frederick, Beverly Taylor and Patricia Hagaman — not only want the township's zoning hearing board to revoke the permit to drill off Willowbrook, but to rule against the township's ordinance, which allows drilling in all zoning areas, including residential. The well site is in an R-2 residential-agricultural zone, which covers about 85 percent of the township.
Christopher Papa, the attorney representing the residents, was able to present only two witnesses when testimony began before the zoning hearing board Jan. 7. The first witness at that hearing, a Duquesne University professor specializing in environmental research and education, had his testimony limited to general information regarding the process of drilling after his credentials as an industry expert were called into question by the opposition.
The second witness was Steven Victor, a Sewickley landscape architect and land-use planner whom Papa hired to review the township's zoning regulations on gas and oil drilling.
Victor testified that the township's ordinance didn't regulate oil and gas development in residential areas enough to “adequately protect the safety, health and welfare of the township's residents.” His primary concerns with the ordinance centered around the lack of regulations surrounding noise level, notification to residents, setbacks and water testing.
When the hearing resumed Wednesday, Victor was cross-examined by the attorneys of three other parties involved.
Blaine Lucas, representing CNX, contended that the gas company gave ample notification to all affected residents and adhered to all DEP requirements.
Allegheny Township Solicitor Bernard Matthews objected to Victor's claims of natural gas development being sometimes incompatible with residential or agricultural zoning by citing the large number already in existence in the township. He also questioned the township's right to deny a resident the right to benefit from the extraction mineral rights under their property.
Ed Bilik, an attorney who formed Western PA Gas Leasing Consultants to assist landowners with leases, challenged what Victor said was the township's lack of proper regulations for noise levels by comparing the sound of drilling operations to a farmer's tractor.
After Victor's testimony, Papa called each of the three Willowbrook residents to the stand. The well site, which is being built on the fringe of farmland owned by John and Ann Slike, sits between 700 and 1,200 feet from their homes.
Each of the women voiced concerns regarding the potential environmental hazards, impact on property values, increased traffic and higher noise levels that could come with the well site.
Taylor, who has owned her house there for 22 years, said she and her husband bought the property as a “quiet, bucolic place to spend their retirement in the country.
“Now, they're clearing the land, and their trucks are always coming up and down,” she said. “I think we'll have to move if it all goes forward. I don't know how we'd sell, though. I don't know who would want to buy there now.”
None of the witnesses was cross-examined.
Steven Silverman, also representing CNX, then called his first witness.
Ross Pifer, a Penn State University law professor with a specialized degree in agricultural law, testified for roughly an hour on the interplay between the oil and gas industry and agricultural or rural communities in Pennsylvania.
After Silverman submitted as evidence 55 zoning ordinances that, like Allegheny Township's, allow for drilling operations in rural areas, Pifer responded to a series of questions from the attorney.
His answers focused primarily on the ability for oil and gas operations and agriculture to coexist, the frequency with which well sites are built in rural areas, how farmers and landowners benefit from drilling and laws designed to conserve land that explicitly allow for natural gas operations.
After a brief cross-examination by Papa, the zoning hearing board recessed the hearing.
It will be continued Feb. 11 in Kiski Area North Primary School. “
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or email@example.com.
***Alyson Holt on Dept of Health Setbacks, Maryland
(This is an excellent assessment by Alyson. Jan)
Alyson Holt's Response to Maryland's Recommendations Document, released in November 2014:
“The Maryland Recommendations Document is long, but helpfully divided into sections. One of the most pressing issues for any community is to determine a reasonable setback from well pads to occupied buildings. On this issue, I find significant problems with the final draft of the Maryland Recommendations document. A close reading of this long report shows that setbacks are addressed numerous times in the final report and on page 96, the final list of recommended setbacks includes a setback of 1000 ft from a well pad edge to any occupied building. How did the Maryland Recommendations Report arrive at 1000 ft for a blanket setback recommendation statewide?
On page 12 of the Maryland Recommendations document, we also read that The Maryland Dept of Health issued a report in July 2014 that "included a baseline health assessment, a hazard evaluation for air quality, impacts related to flowback and produced water, noise, earthquakes, social determinants of health, occupational health, and healthcare infrastructure." The Maryland Dept of Health report is available here:
The Maryland Dept of Health July 2014 report recommended 2000 ft setbacks from occupied buildings, (not 1000 ft setbacks,) based on air quality concerns (page 26):
"Based on our evaluations of the limited but emerging epidemiological evidence from UNGDP impacted areas and air quality measurements as well as epidemiological evidence from other fields, we conclude that there is a High Likelihood UNGDP related changes in air quality will have a negative impact on public health in Garrett and Allegany Counties. Should Maryland
move forward with UNGDP, the following recommendations should be implemented to prevent or minimize potential negative impacts on public health.
R14. Require a minimal setback distance of 2000 feet from well pads and from
compressor stations not using electric motors."
If we return to the Maryland Recommendations Document which referenced the Maryland Dept of Health report on page 12 and read through the section entitled "Air Pollution" beginning on page 17, not once is the 2000 ft setback recommendation from the health department report mentioned. In fact, setbacks are not mentioned in the "Air Pollution" section at all. Table 2 on page 21 indicates that the "chronic hazard quotient" for residents within ½ mile of fracking activity to be twice as high as beyond ½ mile. And in the conclusion to the air pollution section, the Maryland Recommendations Report wrote, "Air pollution from operations at the pad and from traffic is a concern. Implementation of the best practices… should significantly reduce ambient levels of pollutants emanating from the pad area. If monitoring does not confirm the effectiveness of these measures, additional controls may be necessary."
The 1000-ft setback from occupied buildings recommendation comes from the section on "Noise" beginning on page 26. In the Noise section, the 1000-ft setback appears for the first time. (In the "Methane Migration" section, a 2000-ft setback from a private drinking well is recommended, also on page 26.)
As it pertains to Murrysville (and other townships, jan), the 1000-ft setback for Noise issues is interesting, but does not address the more concerning issue of air pollution and its potential for adverse health effects. It's important to realize that the 1000-ft setback the Maryland Recommendations Report suggests simply did not take into account the data on air pollution nor the Department of Health's recommendation when it arrived at the 1000-ft setback. The Maryland Dept of Health recommends a 2000-ft setback from occupied buildings based on its study of air pollution data.
I highly recommend reading the Maryland Department of Health's report on Air Pollution, section 10.3.1, beginning on page 26 and running to page 39. If you are limited for time, the tables and recommendations are discussed on page 39 in the "Assessment" sub-section: "Effectiveness of setback was assigned a score of 1 because evidence from traffic-related air pollution studies indicated that the concentrations of traffic-related pollutants drop to the background level beyond 500-700m (1640-2296 feet). Likewise, a study from Colorado reported air pollution levels significantly higher within 0.5 miles (2640 feet) of UNGDP facilities compared to >0.5 miles. Based on this, we concluded that an adequate setback from the corner of a UNGDP facility to the corner of a residential property (2000 feet) can minimize exposure."
If any community is serious about protecting residents from the expected risks associated with fracking, including air pollution, it should enact a setback of 2000 ft, not 1000 ft from occupied buildings.
For reference, a full list of the Maryland Recommendations Report suggested setbacks are on page 95.
***Bill For 8 Year Ban in Maryland
By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Law360, New York
“A group of Maryland legislators this week will introduce a bill that would enact an 8year ban on hydraulic fracturing in the state, the latest state lawmakers to weigh in against the controversial practice.
Maryland Del. David FraserHidalgo, DMontgomery County, and Sen. Karen Montgomery, DMontgomery County, along with 46 other state General Assembly members, said on Thursday they will introduce the Protect Our Health and Communities Act, a bill to enact a longterm, statewide moratorium on fracking. Maryland would follow the lead of New York, which banned fracking in December due to health concerns.
“Almost every week a new study emerges pointing to the alarming health and environmental effects of fracking. To open up Maryland to fracking at this time would simply be reckless,” FraserHidalgo said in a Thursday statement. “New York’s health department looked hard at the facts and concluded that fracking just isn’t safe. Are New Yorkers’ health and safety more important than our own? Surely not.”
A statewide group of doctors, nurses and other health professionals, threw their weight behind the bill.
“Given the nature of the chemicals used in the fracking process, we may see increases in cancers, neurologic diseases, cardiac and respiratory diseases, and developmental disorders in coming years, but it will take time for these effects to show up,” Gina Angiola, a board member of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, said in a statement.
In December, the administration of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it would ban hydraulic fracturing because the potential health and environmental risks that emerged in a state review were too significant to allow the controversial drilling technique.
State health Commissioner Howard Zucker said there was too much documented concern about fracking’s health risks and not enough data minimizing them.
Other states like Colorado and California are struggling with how best to regulate the practice, while those like Pennsylvania and Texas count it as an asset. But even in those states, local governments like Denton, Texas, are seeing how far they can impose their will in the fight.
Additional reporting by Keith Goldberg and Jess Davis. Editing by Emily Kokoll.
***About Terry Greenwood
“Some of us knew Terry Greenwood, of Washington County? and heard him tell his story so all could learn from his experience. Not listed on the list provided, was that he lost his life too.
• Wellhead 285’ from pond on property
• Ground Water Contamination
• Surface Water Contamination: Frack fluid spilled into pond
• Animal Health Impact:
Lost 11 head of cattle, 10 of which were stillborn calves
• Industry Dishonesty / Disregard
Seized land with a lease from 1921
Removed six acres of hay fields for roads
Cut through fences to gain access to land
Buried frack pit liner on site
Took land owner to court
Littered and left garbage on property
• Loss of Property Value: 100% loss - $125,000 to $0
• Loss of Income:
$10,000 per year lost revenue due to loss of hay fields and cattle
Oversight Failure: DEP & EPA contacted - not addressing problems"
Terry Greenwood died June 8, 2014 with malignant brain tumors
After Rancher's Death, Calls for Fracking Health Study Grow Stronger
Last month, Terry Greenwood, a Pennsylvania farmer whose water had been contaminated by fracking waste, died of cancer. He was 66 and the cause of death was a rare form of brain cancer.
His death drew attention from around the globe in part because Mr. Greenwood was among the first farmers from his state to speak out against the gas industry during the early years of the state's shale gas rush.
Mr. Greenwood went up against a company called Dominion Energy, which had drilled and fracked a shallow well on his small cattle ranch property under a lease signed by a prior owner in 1921.
In January, 2008, Mr. Greenwood had reported to state officials that his water supplies had turned brown and the water tasted salty. The DEP subsequently found that the company, whose gas well was drilled 400 feet from the Greenwoods' water well in 2007, had impacted the Greenwoods' water. State officials ordered Dominion to temporarily supply the family with drinking water.
Mr. Greenwood's death was mourned by environmentalists around the world. In London, for example, attendees at a fracking education event recorded video messages for the Greenwood family and raised over $500 for Terry's survivors.
“Terry Greenwood was one of the most compelling people you could ever listen to,” wrote filmmaker Josh Fox. “There was just something about the way he spoke, there was a decency and a positivity that shone through every word no matter how distressing or disturbing the subject matter was.”
But the story of Mr. Greenwood's fight against the drilling industry and lax oversight by state regulators does not stop there.
In the weeks since his death, there has been a steady stream of further revelations about ineptitude by state environmental and health officials in protecting the public from the type of threats that may have killed Mr. Greenwood. These revelations are both a reminder of the importance of Mr. Greenwood's fight and a reiteration of how little has changed.
Last week, Dr. Eli Avila, formerly Pennsylvania's health secretary, made headlines when he told the Associated Press that the state had neglected health impact studies.
“The lack of any action speaks volumes,” Dr. Avila, now Orange County, New York's public health commissioner, told the AP. His perspective was shared by other health experts. “Pennsylvania is 'simply not doing' serious studies into possible health impacts of drilling, Dr. Bernard Goldstein, who has five decades of public health experience at hospitals and universities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania” said, the AP reported.
The lack of oversight and transparency has been endemic to Pennsylvania and its handling of fracking.
In 2011, Governor Tom Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommended that the state begin tracking health effects, through a registry that would monitor the health of people living within a mile of natural gas drilling or production sites, like well pads and compressor stations. The Commission called for “the timely and thorough investigation of and response to concerns and complaints raised by citizens, health care providers or public officials.”
But funding for the initiative — including $2 million originally included in the state's key drilling law, Act 13 — never materialized.
Meanwhile, requests for information about health risks from state officials often seem to hit a brick wall. In response, local organizers have resorted to published lists of hundreds of state residents who say that they've been harmed by the drilling rush.
This official silence comes against a larger backdrop of stonewalling. Retired state health officials recently alleged that the Department of Public Health barred them returning phone calls from residents with potentially fracking-related concerns and had circulated a list of buzzwords that might indicate a call was related to the shale drilling frenzy.
“We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” Tammi Stuck, who worked as a Fayette County community health nurse for nearly four decades, told StateImpact.
The state initially denied that a list of buzzwords existed. But after StateImpact obtained copies of the buzzword list, the agency confirmed that the documents were authentic, changing its story to say that their goal was not to suppress complaints but to ensure “that we are speaking with one voice.” Although state officials are supposed to coordinate between agencies to handle residents' concerns, locals described a frustrating process in which complaints were bounced from agency to agency.
Farmers have for several years said that, for all that is not known about fracking, one thing is certain: livestock are being affected. Mr. Greenwood knew this peril first hand.
“They was drilling and all the water was running into the field and the cattle was up there right in their pasture drinking the water,” Terry Greenwood told Josh Fox in footage from roughly 2009 that the filmmaker released as part of a video memorial. “And I called DEP and I says 'they [the cows] shouldn't be drinking that water,' I said, 'what's in that water?' Cause I didn't know nothing about all this at first, and they said 'there's nothing wrong with it.' My cows started having calves, there was 18 cows. Calves was starting to die. You know, 18 cows that were having calves, I lost 10 of them.”
“So what did DEP say?” Mr. Fox asked, referring to the state Department of Environmental Protection. “'That's a farmer's luck,'” Mr. Greenwood replied.
The DEP later attributed the deaths to e coli bacteria in the pond, but Mr. Greenwood remained skeptical that bacteria was the true cause of the deaths. “”I said, 'Them cows have been drinking out of that pond for 18 years and I never had this problem before,'” Mr. Greenwood told a local newspaper in 2010.
And the following year, things got worse. In 2011, not a single one of the Greenwoods' thirteen remaining cows gave birth to a live calf, Mr. Greenwood later said.
The symptoms Mr. Greenwood reported in his cows seem generally consistent with incidents tied to fracking wastewater across the country. Animals like cows and deer are particularly drawn towards drinking the toxic wastewater that flows back from natural gas wells after fracking because of the water's salty taste.
“Cattle that have been exposed to wastewater (flowback and/or produced water) or affected well or pond water may have trouble breeding,” veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and Cornell Professor Robert Oswalt wrote in a 2012 peer-reviewed paper. “Of the seven cattle farms studied in the most detail, 50 percent of the herd, on average, was affected by death and failure of survivors to breed.”
Scientists have called for greater attention to the effects on animals from drilling and fracking, saying that animal health could serve as warnings for effects on human health.
“As part of an effort to obtain public health data, we believe that particular attention must be paid to companion animals, livestock, and wildlife, as they may serve as sentinels for human exposures, with shorter lifetimes and more opportunity for data collection from necropsies,” Drs. Bamberger and Oswald wrote.
No one can say for sure whether fracking chemicals killed Mr. Greenwood or his animals. But advocates say that they have a right to know and they say one of their biggest frustrations is the state's silence on the matter.
But the lack of public health information has advocates calling for a full investigation into the state's investigatory failures.
“The legitimate questions of Pennsylvania citizens concerning their health or that of family members as a result of natural gas drilling activity cannot be discounted or dismissed outright,” a statement signed by five of the state's leading environmental groups said last week. “The fact that the DEP originally denied the existence of a “buzzwords” list, and the fact that Gov. Corbett has refused to weigh in with a forceful response, leaves us no choice but to call for a full investigation.”
Friends said Mr. Greenwood was one of the first people to speak out against the shale gas drilling rush in Pennsylvania and had made the phrase “water is more important than gas” his personal motto following his experiences with the shale gas industry.
“We had two springs, a well for drinking, and a pond,” Mr. Greenwood explained to film-maker Josh Fox in a video filmed roughly five years ago that Mr. Fox released as a memorial in June.
“The pond's no good, the well ain't fit to drink, original well's gone and the spring for the cattle is gone. There's a little spring for the house and that's all that's left on this property.”
“So I have a farm, and it's useless,” he added. “When they take this water buffalo, or whatever happens to this water buffalo, I don't know what's gonna happen.”
***New Frack Infrastructure Map—
The Clean Air Council’s new gas infrastructure map will make it easy to see compressor stations, dehydration stations, gas processing plants, natural gas liquid pumping stations, power plants, and pipelines in the state, You can also report pollution issues from nearby facilities directly to regulatory agencies—including the DEP and the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The map is now available online at: http://tinyurl.com/gasmapPA
Sincerely, Joseph Otis Minott, Director Photo by Bob Donnan
***Video--Registered Nurse Rebecca William –Sick in Azle,Texas
Registered nurse Rebecca Williams talks about the health issues she has witnessed in those living alongside gas wells and compressor stations in Azle, Texas- the sudden appearance of Nosebleed, headaches, rashes, respiratory infections when fracking starts.
Someone recommended --Start at about the 48-minute mark and watch till roughly the 1 hour, 15 minute mark.
**Video- What You breathe from gas operations-excellent 5 minutes
***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.
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 that Rex acoustic assessment is incorrect.
***John Smith Presents in Peters Township
Many of us attended this meeting, but for those who did not, it is a good discussion of questions surrounding the zoning of frack areas.
***How Much Land Does Fracking Encompass?
This article includes several good visuals.
***Fracking's Wide Health Impact: From the Ozone to Ground Water and All Those Living in Between, a Science Update
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
***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 presents photo shots of Texas, Arkansas- You only need to watch the first few minutes then jump to other sections of the video to get the gist. But everyone should watch at least part of this.
***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/