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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, April Jackman, Kacey Comini, Elizabeth Donahue, and Bob Schmetzer.
Get Involved --- Contact People for Local Groups:
Ligonier Township –Jan Milburn firstname.lastname@example.org
Penn Trafford- email@example.com
Murrysville- Alyson Sharp firstname.lastname@example.org
Hempfield Twp. - Stephanie at Mt Watershed email@example.com
***Grassroots Summit-Mt. Watershed June 12-14
This year’s 2nd annual Grassroots Summit will be held June 12-14th, 2015 at the Laurelville Mennonite Church Center in Mount Pleasant for grassroots organizations and individuals advocating for change on shale gas issues.
The theme of this year’s summit is “Embrace diversity, discover commonality, achieve solidarity.”
Due to the activity in Ligonier Township, I am getting the Updates sent out less frequently. They are therefore longer- but with many townships working on the same issues, I want to share the information so we all have access to what each of us are doing. Jan
***South Fayette Working on Revisions to Drilling Ordinance
April 24 “Revisions to the current South Fayette oil and gas well ordinance are underway.
Solicitor Jon Kamin cited a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling as the reason for the updates.
“The state Supreme Court stated that drilling is an industrial use. We agree with that characterization,” Mr. Kamin said. “In terms of classifying the use, drilling should only be permitted in industrial areas.”
If the revised ordinance is accepted, it means drilling development, compressor stations and processing plants would be permitted in only industrial areas. Currently, the ordinance permits drilling development on land zoned commercial, business, industrial or planned economic development.
Mr. Kamin distributed the revised ordinance draft April 15 to commissioners. The board voted 4-1 to forward it to the planning commission.
Commissioner Jessica Cardillo-Wagenhoffer was opposed. She defended landowners, calling the proposed changes unfair.
“This is taking away the rights of property owners to explore the minerals they own because of how they are zoned,” she said.
Commissioner Raymond Pitetti wants to find balance between the rights of property owners and the health and safety of residents.
“I have yet to find a credible long-term study that clearly proves there are no long-term negative health impacts,” said Commissioner Lisa Malosh. She said the current ordinance was adopted prior to any Act 13 legislation and wants to bring it into compliance.
Commissioner Joseph Horowitz shared a similar sentiment. “It is our duty to bring it into compliance with the state Supreme Court’s ruling,” he said.
Commissioner Deron Gabriel wants to restrict drilling to industrial areas.
“The [Supreme Court] case holds that industrial activity is not to occur in residential areas, as that would be incompatible with our requirement to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents,” he said.
Every commissioner made similar statements about protecting the well-being of residents.
Although not required to do so, the planners will have a public hearing, Mr. Kamin said. Another hearing will take place at a commissioners’ meeting before they vote on the ordinance, he said, adding that he anticipates there will be changes as part of the process.
“I am looking forward to hearing the public comments,” said Mr. Horowitz, who favors drilling in nonresidential locations.
***Middlesex Case Challenges Zoning That Favors Gas Development
May 18, 2015 |
“Local rights to zone for oil and gas development in Pennsylvania are being tested by a Butler County case in which plaintiffs claim a township has acted unconstitutionally by failing to protect residents from the effects of a sharp increase in industrial activity.
Middlesex Township, about 35 miles north of Pittsburgh, approved an ordinance in August last year that allows industrial development on about 90 percent of its land area, up from about 30 percent before the ordinance was passed.
The measure has been challenged by two environmental groups, Clean Air Council and Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and four township residents, partly on grounds that it violates citizens’ rights to health and safety under Article 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution.
The plaintiffs also argue that Ordinance 127 violates the state Constitution’s Environmental Rights Amendment, under which government has a responsibility to maintain environmental quality for its citizens.
The challenge, which will be reviewed at the township’s Zoning Hearing Board on Wednesday, May 27, attempts to build on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s landmark Robinson Township ruling in December 2013 that, among other things, established local responsibility to zone in a way that protects the health and safety of local residents.
`In the Robinson ruling, the court ruled as unconstitutional three parts of Act 13, Pennsylvania’s wide-ranging 2012 gas law, which pre-empted municipalities’ ability to set their own zoning for oil & gas development; required local ordinances to allow for “reasonable” oil and gas development, and gave gas companies the right to obtain waivers of state rules designed to keep wells and rigs a certain distance from natural water sources.
Now, the Middlesex plaintiffs hope to establish the principle that municipalities must take residents’ health and safety into account when making industrial zoning decisions.
“We see it as a logical outgrowth of the Robinson Township decision, providing opportunities to further develop the Environmental Rights Amendment jurisprudence and establish that municipalities have a responsibility to zone for unconventional natural gas development in a manner that is protective of the health and safety of local residents,” said Aaron Jacobs-Smith, Philadelphia-based Managing Attorney for the Clean Air Council.
If, as expected, the local zoning board rejects the plaintiffs’ arguments at its upcoming meeting, Jacobs-Smith said he expects the case to be appealed to the Butler County Court of Common Pleas, and then to the Commonwealth Court.
Township manager Eric Kaunert declined to comment, and referred an inquiry to the township’s attorney, Mike Hnath, who did not return two phone calls seeking comment.
Crystal Yost, a township resident, said she supports the lawsuit because the new zoning allows a compressor station to be built on a site about 1,000 feet from her home. Yost said she was unaware of any plan for such a plant but fears she and her three children could be exposed to noise and pollution if it is built.
She also fears that a nearby compressor station would erode the value of her property.
“If I do find out they are going to put one in, I don’t want to live here,” she said. “So will I be able to sell my house then? Will someone want to buy my house?”
Plaintiff David Denk, who lives with his wife and two daughters less than a mile from a potential well pad, said that in considering the effects of gas-well development near his home, he is most concerned with the possibility of air pollution and explosions.
“I understand that the risk is relatively low, but when it comes to the safety of my kids I don’t see why any risk is acceptable,” he said. “I live just over 1,000 feet downwind of a proposed well pad and my kids attend the Mars Area School District which is approximately half a mile from the well pad. This means that my kids will be exposed to these hazards 24/7, which is not acceptable to me.”
If the courts uphold the township’s zoning change, Denk said he and his wife will consider moving away from the township where they had expected to live permanently.
“I still can’t understand why township officials, or anyone for that matter, would think that allowing dangerous industrial activity immediately adjacent to schools and heavily populated housing communities is considered responsible zoning,” he said. “It’s not.”
The plaintiffs note that all three township supervisors and all four members of the Zoning Hearing Board have leases with gas companies, and stand to gain financially from the zoning change.
“If the ordinance takes effect, those leased lands stand to benefit,” Jacobs-Smith said.
Butler County documents show that three zoning board members signed leases with R.E. Gas Development, the parent of Rex Energy, between 2010 and 2012, and that one signed with Huntley & Huntley Energy Exploration in 2013. The three township supervisors signed leases between 2008 and 2014.
None of the supervisors returned a phone call to the township seeking comment.
In their 64-page complaint, presented to the Zoning Hearing Board last October, the plaintiffs argue that the ordinance allows gas development in areas previously zoned for residential, agricultural, and commercial uses.
“The ordinance injects industrial uses into non-industrial zones…upending established expectations, conflicting with the very purposes of the non-industrial districts, and making the districts themselves irrational,” the complaint says.
It cites five zones where oil and gas development was previously banned but where it may now take place.
In three of the areas, zoned for residential and/or agricultural use, the township’s board of supervisors made no provision for public hearings from any residents who might object to the changes, the case says.
It claims the township has created a “false equivalency” between oil and gas development and non-industrial land use. “In sum, the township has premised the changes to its zoning on the unexamined and erroneous assumption that industrial shale-gas development is as innocuous as a single-family home,” the document says.
The threat to the local environment is illustrated by development of a well pad on a previously residential/agricultural parcel in the town of Mars where Rex Energy has obtained state and local permits to drill and operate six wells, the complaint said.
The company did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Elsewhere in western Pennsylvania, challenges to zoning ordinances have been brought against Pulaski Township in Beaver County; Allegheny Township in Westmoreland County, and against Robinson Township, which recently elected a board of supervisors who are more friendly to the gas industry than their predecessors who successfully challenged Act 13, Jacobs-Smith said.
He argued that the Middlesex challenge is further advanced than the others and so is being watched as an indicator of whether zoning ordinances will be able to control oil and gas development statewide.
In a reply brief to Rex Energy and the township on May 8 this year, the plaintiffs argue that the township has a legal duty to protect residents’ “health, safety, morals and general welfare,” which they say would be endangered by more oil and gas development.
People living near unconventional natural gas development are at increased risk of health problems ranging from birth defects to cancer, the plaintiffs argue, and townships have a responsibility to protect their residents from those effects. Supervisors may not violate residents’ constitutional right to health and safety any more than they may violate their right to bear arms, the plaintiffs say.
They accuse supervisors of ignoring the health concerns of its citizens in the zoning decision.
The township’s proposed findings barely mention health and in fact ask the board to believe that public health is not even “relevant to the issues pending before the ZHB,” the document says.
***MarkWest Grants Cecil 30-day Extension
Judge Anne Covey writes that the compressor is unlikely to trigger air related health problems
“Christopher L. Rimkus, managing counsel for MarkWest, who proposed the construction of a natural gas compressor station in the township in November 2010, let the zoning hearing board off the hook by granting them a 30-day extension to grant a special exception.
After the state Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal in April, the zoning board was prepared to grant the exception.
“Be advised, we do have a court order saying we must grant this,” said chairman George Augustine at the onset of the meeting. “It’s over.”
After almost five years of lawsuits and court hearings, it did appear to be over for those who vehemently oppose the construction of the facility. The extension by MarkWest likely will not prevent the compressor station from being built, but will give the board more time to compile a list of terms and conditions.
The board denied MarkWest’s request in March 2011, saying it was not in the same character as other permitted uses in Cecil’s light industrial district.
MarkWest filed an appeal in April 2011. Washington County Court affirmed the zoning hearing board’s decision in January 2013.
MarkWest and Range Resources, acting as property owner or tenant, again appealed, which led to the September 2014 Commonwealth Court decision that stated the board erred in its denial.
The board wrote the facility would cause carcinogenic materials and other hazards to be expelled into the air, “creating a greater hazard than the emissions from the manufacturing uses permitted by right in the I-1 District.”
In the Commonwealth Court decision, Judge Anne E. Covey wrote MarkWest provided documentation indicating the DEP found the facility was “unlikely to trigger air-related health issues.”
Many of the approximately 100 residents in attendance Monday were skeptical the plant would not give off harmful emissions. Other concerns included proximity to Cecil Intermediate School, noise, truck traffic and decreased property values.
Jonathan Kamin, an attorney representing about six Cecil residents, outlined 25 conditions he and his clients believe should be placed on the facility, including electric engines, air and water studies and a noise limit.
“This is your one chance to get it right,” he said to the board.
Board attorney Jeffrey D. Ries stressed to residents the board can only impose conditions that are compliant with the township’s unified development ordinance and that were originally discussed during the three public hearings held in 2011.
The site of the proposed facility, which would include up to eight engines and sound structures, piping, dehydration facilities, tanks and a vapor recovery unit, is located about a half-mile north of the intersection of Route 980 and Route 50.
“Hopefully, MarkWest will do the right thing to minimize their impact,” said Kamin after the extension was granted.
A zoning hearing board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 15.
***Anne Covey Who Ruled In Favor Of Act 13 Makes Republican Ticket
Anne Covey is now a Republican nominee on November's election for PA Supreme Court, even though in 2013 as a commonwealth court judge she ruled in favor of Act 13 (a decision overturned by the PA Supreme Court in 2013). Here's how she's recently been diminishing local control via zoning and the consequences Cecil now has to deal with:
In Sep 2014, she overturned Cecil Twp commissioners' denial of a permit for a proposed compressor station and now Cecil has no choice but to ask for some conditions and allow the compressor station:
"The board denied MarkWest’s request in March 2011, saying it was not in the same character as other permitted uses in Cecil’s light industrial district.
MarkWest filed an appeal in April 2011. Washington County Court affirmed the zoning hearing board’s decision in January 2013.
MarkWest and Range Resources, acting as property owner or tenant, again appealed, which led to the September 2014 Commonwealth Court decision that stated the board erred in its denial.
The board wrote the facility would cause carcinogenic materials and other hazards to be expelled into the air, 'creating a greater hazard than the emissions from the manufacturing uses permitted by right in the I-1 District.'
In the Commonwealth Court decision, Judge Anne E. Covey wrote MarkWest provided documentation indicating the DEP found the facility was 'unlikely to trigger air-related health issues.'"
MarkWest grants Cecil 30-day extension
***Penn Twp Baseline Testing
Baseline testing (pre-drilling) of the levels of methane at 5 sites will be done as part of a PixController/CSE partnership. This technology also allows for constant air monitoring of methane.
***Penn Twp-Apex Site
From Alyson Holt
“IMPORTANT update on Quest from the front page of Penn-Franklin which reports that Penn Township will only allow drilling on the Apex site to proceed when the current legal appeal is resolved. Very good and reasonable step by their commissioners.
The approval came with conditions. "Perhaps the most important is the one that stipulates they must show evidence of compliance with the township's zoning code before they can proceed. This includes the expiration of any and all appeal periods related to the zoning hearing board decision handed down April 14.
In other words, the appeal currently in court must first be resolved."
"In addressing the issue prior to the vote, Leslie Mlakar, township solicitor, said issuance of a permit is not considered compliance as long as it is under appeal. 'The commissioners can set reasonable requirements and this is a reasonable requirement,' Mlakar stated."
"If you allow them (Apex) to proceed and the appeal is pending, they could have a well drilled and producing before the appeal is decided," said Mlakar.”
***Penn Twp. Adds Conditions to 2 Proposed Gas Well Sites
“Apex Energy has spent the last several months pursuing gas well sites in Penn Township, and after Monday's township commissioners meeting, the company will have to wait a little longer.
Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution that requires Apex to meet additional conditions before the company can begin drilling within the township. This reverses an April 9 decision by the township zoning board, which had given Apex the go-ahead to begin construction on two unconventional gas wells near the William Penn nursing home and senior residence off Walton Road.
Residents group Project PT filed an appeal on April 27 in Common Pleas Court requesting that the zoning board's decision be vacated and requiring Apex to submit a site-specific emergency response plan, air-quality modeling and hydrogeological studies before beginning construction.
On Monday, Dan Begg spoke at the meeting to speak on behalf of Project PT. Begg urged commissioners to pass the resolution.
He was followed by two Apex attorneys, Robert Wratcher and Jeff Wilhelm. Both asked the commissioners to reject the resolution, stating that Apex already had fulfilled the zoning hearing board's requirements.
“The courts have the ability to stop us if they want to,” Wratcher said. “The only body that should be able to stop us at this point is the court, not the township.”
Wilhelm, a land-use litigator at Reed Smith, echoed Wratcher's comments. He said the township was violating the planning code and could be deemed liable for any delays to the project.
“If you impose a stay, you may be damaging a client,” Wilhelm said. “I would point out that there may be damages to a client, and so in addition to the fact that it might be an illegal condition, it may be opening up this township for liability.”
When it came time for the commissioners to make a decision, township solicitor Les Mlakar advised the board to approve the resolution. Mlaker argued that the township was within its rights to establish additional regulations and that Apex had the obligation to fulfill these new requirements. Mlakar noted that the conditions received approval from the zoning board's solicitor.
“The threat of a damage action by the township should be ignored,” Mlakar said. “I don't believe that because somebody threatens you with a lawsuit that you should cower and not follow the dictates of our ordinance.”
Mlakar said that if the commissioners allowed Apex to proceed, there would be a chance that the wells would be drilled and producing before the court decides on Project PT's appeal, which could leave Penn Township with illegal gas wells.
He also went on to say that if the commissioners tabled the issue, the 90 days since the application was filed would expire, and Apex would be given approval without the conditions.”
***Texas Bans Fracking Bans
“The Texas state legislature voted to ban fracking bans. Ever since the people of Denton, Texas voted to ban fracking last November, state lawmakers in cahoots with the oil and gas industry and the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, have attempted to strip municipalities like Denton of home rule authority to override the city’s ban.
Approved by the Texas House and Senate, the bill banning fracking bans is expected to be signed by Governor Greg Abbott.
In response, citizens banded together to form Frack Free Denton to fight for home rule. The group has put together a powerful film,, documenting their fight to ban fracking within city limits in the heart of oil and gas country. The vote comes despite recent findings by a team of researchers from Southern Methodist University that linked the earthquakes in one area of Texas, which did not have earthquakes prior to the fracking boom..
…..“The bill would provide what’s called state preemption and that is state law here would trump anything that local jurisdictions, cities and towns pass,” says Trang.
A similar bill, in Oklahoma, passed one chamber. “The sponsor of that bill said he wants to ‘get ahead of what we’re seeing in other states,'” reports Trang. Ryssdal asks if there is a group connecting all these state lawmakers. Trang’s response? You guessed it: ALEC.”
***Wake Up & Smell The Coffee
More wells = More compressor stations = More air pollution
We now realize those early Marcellus Shale compressor stations in Washington County, which averaged 6,000 to 7,000 compression horsepower, were the smaller compact size, even though some of them grew in size from two to five compressors. Here is a look at the Fulton Compressor Station near Hickory:
Three of the latest compressor stations built by Colorado-based Markwest in our county are the new JUMBO models! Enter the new shale age of 18,000 to 19,000 compression horsepower models, 3-times the size of their predecessors!!!”
***Denmark Suspends Fracking Over Unauthorized Chemical Defoamer
“Denmark has suspended the first exploratory drilling for shale gas which lasted only one day after it discovered that French gas-giant Total, in charge of the project, had used “unauthorized” chemicals.
"They used a product that was not part of those authorized" for the procedure, Ture Falbe-Hansen, a Danish Energy Agency spokesman told AFP.
The type of defoamer known as Null Foam is used in fracking to extract shale gas and is considered hazardous to the environment, according to Danish public broadcaster DR.
Environmental committee chairman of Frederikshavn Council Anders Brandt Sørensen said Total’s use of the non-approved product “makes [him] very mad”.
“We will simply not accept this kind of violation of our EIA [environmental impact assessment],” he told broadcaster DR.
***Gas Industry’s Campaign Donations Rose 47% in 2013- 2014
"The biggest spender on lobbying was Range Resources Appalachia, which spent some $3.8 million between 2011 and 2014. Range, which has the largest number of active wells on the top-20 list, was the fourth-largest donor of campaign gifts, with a total of $242,985 during the period, the report said."
Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry donated 47% more to state political campaigns in 2013-14 than it did two years earlier in an effort to weaken regulations and minimize taxation, according to a new report from Common Cause Pennsylvania.
The advocacy organization issued an updated report on , showing that the industry spent $2.8 million on political campaigns in the latest period, and increased its lobbying expenditure by $2.1 million to $17.9 million.
Of the lobbying total, $12.9 million was paid by the 20 companies with the largest number of environmental violations between 2011 and 2014. Those companies also spent $2.1 million on campaign gifts, the report said, citing data for that part of the report from the nonprofit Environment America Research & Policy Center.
Cabot Oil & Gas, the dominant operator in Susquehanna County, topped the list with 265 violations over the period, spending $575,913 on lobbying and $58,614 in campaign contributions, according to the Common Cause report, titled Marcellus Money.
Neither Cabot, nor Range, responded to requests for comment.
Former Republican Governor Tom Corbett attracted almost $795,000 in campaign contributions from the gas industry in 2013-14, the report said. It accused Corbett of giving away the state’s natural resources by signing the wide-ranging Act 13 which allowed energy companies to continue to operate without a severance tax on gas production, which is levied by all other gas-producing states.
By successfully lobbying for an impact fee rather than a severance tax, the industry has paid between $200 million and $300 million a year based on its gas production, or less than half of the $600 million to $800 million that would have been raised by a 5% severance tax, the report said, citing research by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center.
“The consistently high levels of gas industry investment in political contributions and lobbying should worry all Pennsylvanians,” said Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause PA. “These political investments were made for a purpose – to ensure the industry could hold sway over public policies and government officials.”
The report, which was based on data from the Pennsylvania Department of State, also published details on the amounts donated to state lawmakers. They include State Rep. Brian Ellis, a Republican sponsor of Act 13, who received $62,650 from the industry between 2007 and 2014, and Rep. Jeff Pyle, also Republican, who was paid $97,868 over the period.
In 2013-2014, the industry donated some $2.2 million to 197 Republican candidates and PACs compared with about $520,000 to 127 Democratic candidates and PACs, the report said.
Current Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, received $59,500 in campaign contributions from the gas industry in 2013-14, while his chief of staff, Katie McGinty, received $72,500, the report said. “
***Fracking Chemicals Detected in Pennsylvania Drinking Water
“An analysis of drinking water sampled from three homes in Bradford County, Pa., revealed traces of a compound commonly found in Marcellus Shale drilling fluids. The paper, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Brantley said her team believed that the well contaminants came from either a documented surface tank leak in 2009 or, more likely, as a result of poor drilling well integrity.
The nearby gas wells, which were established in 2009, were constructed with a protective intermediate casing of steel and cement from the surface down to almost 1,000 feet. But the wells below that depth lacked the protective casing, and were potentially at greater risk of leaking their contents into the surrounding rock layers, according to Dr. Brantley.
In April 2011 the three homeowners in Bradford County sued the drilling company, Chesapeake Energy Corporation, over reports of finding natural gas and sediment in their drinking well water. In May of that year, the Pennsylvania DEP cited the oil and gas company for violating the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act and Clean Streams Law by letting natural gas enter the drinking wells, though the company admitted no fault. In 2012, the homeowners settled the lawsuit and the company bought the three households.
As a result of that suit, the DEP recommended that the drilling company require that their wells extend what are known as intermediate casings beyond 1,000 feet.
Dr. Brantley described the geology in northern Pennsylvania as being similar to a layer cake with numerous layers that extend down thousands of feet to the Marcellus Shale. The vertical fractures are like knife cuts through the layers. They can extend deep underground, and can act like superhighways for escaped gas and liquids from drill wells to travel along, for distances greater than a mile away, she said.
Garth T. Llewellyn, a hydrogeologist with Appalachia Hydrogeologic and Environmental Consulting and the lead author of the report, said that when his team sampled water wells that were farther away from the drilling sites, they did not find any of the compounds found in the three households. “When you include all of the lines of evidence, it concludes that that’s the most probable source,” he said.
Victor Heilweil, a hydrogeologist from the University of Utah who was not involved with the study but reviewed its details, said it was noteworthy for showing “the detailed geologic fabric explaining how these contaminants can move relatively long distances from the depth to the drinking well.”
An environmental scientist from Stanford University, Rob Jackson, who also reviewed the paper, said it “clearly shows an impact of oil and gas drilling on water quality.” But he emphasized that this instance was an exception.
Study Links Foam In Water Wells to Shale Well Sites
“White foam in northeastern Pennsylvania water wells likely was caused by Marcellus gas well sites that have already been blamed for causing natural gas to infiltrate residential water supplies, a paper published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported .
Environmental consultant Garth Llewellyn and researchers with Penn State University used a novel method to identify low levels of organic compounds that they said likely explain foaming from three water wells in Bradford County between 2010 and 2012. Test results from commercial laboratories during investigations at the sites had not picked up on what was causing the foaming — they reported no unsafe levels of compounds other than natural gas in the water, while other compounds, like glycols and surfactants, had appeared inconsistently or at barely detectable levels.
The same or similar organic compounds that the researchers traced in the water, including 2-n-Butoxyethanol, or 2-BE, are known to be used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing additives or to appear in waste fluids from oil and gas operations.
The researchers said it is impossible to “prove unambiguously” that the contaminants in the water came from shale gas-related activities because they were unable to secure samples of fluids that were used at or near the well site. But they said that multiple strands of evidence, including timing, well construction problems and the presence of matching compounds in both shale fluids and the water wells, make shale activity “the most probable source.”
The researchers do not suspect that fracking chemicals traveled upwards from the Marcellus Shale. Rather they said the most likely explanation is that the compounds were driven about 1 to 3 kilometers along natural underground fractures to the aquifer. The trigger might have been drilling, fracking or the leaking pit, the researchers said, but a particular point of weakness identified was an uncased section of the well deeper than 300 meters underground that intersected with an existing fault.
Pennsylvania regulators have since strengthened drilling rules to require additional strings of cemented steel casing in shale gas well bores to keep gas and fluids from escaping.
Mr. Llewellyn, the paper’s lead author, and his firm Appalachia Hydrogeologic and Environmental Consulting, provided litigation support and environmental consulting services to the impacted households, the paper disclosed.
Mr. Llewellyn said that the state’s investigation and the private case focused on natural gas contamination, but he remained puzzled by the foam, which he likened to dishwashing suds.
Penn State researchers used a tool called 2D gas chromatography coupled to time-of-flight mass spectrometry, which allowed them to identify classes of contaminants, like hydrocarbons, without pinpointing individual chemicals one by one.
The researchers said their results raise questions about the sufficiency of conventional analytical techniques to explain water impacts in some cases.
Normally, very low detections of compounds could be dismissed, but the persistent foam indicated something was wrong, Penn State geosciences professor Susan Brantley said.
The study is not the only time shale gas activity has been implicated in causing thick suds in drinking water or groundwater in the state.
Last May, the DEP found 2-BE and other chemicals in a Susquehanna County water well after a resident complained of rank, foamy water. DEP said the chemicals were consistent with the surfactant Air Foam that was used to drill a natural gas well 1,500 feet away.”
In 2011, DEP fined Pennsylvania General Energy Co. $28,960 for discharging Airfoam HD from a Marcellus Shale well bore to a spring and into Pine Creek in Lycoming County.
***PAH Pollution from Frack Operations
Environmental Science & Technology's-Kim Anderson
“People living or working near active natural gas wells may be exposed to certain pollutants at higher levels than the EPA considers safe for lifetime exposure, according to scientists from Oregon State University and the University of Cincinnati.
The researchers found that hydraulic fracturing emits pollutants known as PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), including some that are linked with increased risk of cancer and respiratory ailments. The rural area Carroll Ohio has more than one active well site per square mile.
"Air pollution from fracking operations may pose an under-recognized health hazard to people living near them," said the study's coauthor Kim Anderson, an environmental chemist with OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences.
The study, appears in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Haynes got in touch with Anderson and Kincl, and together they designed the study to include citizen participation. They placed air samplers on the properties of 23 volunteers living or working at sites ranging from right next to a gas well to a little more than three miles away.
The samplers picked up high levels of PAHs across the study area. Levels were highest closest to the wells and decreased by about 30 percent with distance.
Even the lowest levels -- detected on sites more than a mile away from a well -- were higher than previous researchers had found in downtown Chicago and near a Belgian oil refinery. They were about 10 times higher than in a rural Michigan area with no natural gas wells.
By looking at the ratios of individual PAHs detected by the samplers, Anderson and her team were able to discern whether they came directly from Earth -- a "petrogenic" source -- or from "pyrogenic" sources like the burning of fossil fuels. The proportion of petrogenic PAHs in the mix was highest nearer the wells and decreased with distance.
The team also accounted for the influences of wood smoke and vehicle exhaust, common sources of airborne pyrogenic PAHs. Wood smoke was consistent across the sampling area, supporting the conclusion that the gas wells were contributing to the higher PAH levels.
The researchers then used a standard calculation to determine the additional cancer risk posed by airborne contaminants over a range of scenarios. For the worst-case scenario (exposure 24 hours a day over 25 years), they found that a person anywhere in the study area would be exposed at a risk level exceeding the threshold of what the EPA deems acceptable.
The highest-risk areas were those nearest the wells, Anderson said. Areas more than a mile away posed about 30 percent less risk.
Anderson cautioned that these numbers are worst-case estimates and can't predict the risk to any particular individual. "Actual risk would depend heavily on exposure time, exposure frequency and proximity to a natural gas well," she said.
"We made these calculations to put our findings in context with other, similar risk assessments and to compare the levels we found with the EPA's acceptable risk level."
The study has other caveats, Anderson said, the main one being the small number of non-random samples used. In addition, findings aren't necessarily applicable to other gas-producing areas, because PAH emissions are influenced by extraction techniques and by underlying geology.
***DEP Must Enact Strong Standards To Regulate Methane
Letter to the Editor
April 29, 2015
I was not surprised to learn that emissions from Pennsylvania’s under-regulated gas industry are on the rise (“Pennsylvania DEP Says Emissions Increased From Expanding Natural Gas Industry,” April 20). For years drillers have been coming to Pennsylvania in droves to take advantage of our state’s rich shale play knowing that rules requiring operators to manage their air pollution are few and far between.
It’s no surprise that the American Lung Association repeatedly ranks Pennsylvania’s drilling counties among the lowest in the state in terms of air quality.
But I was puzzled by the assertion that methane pollution is decreasing as a result of “strong state-based regulations,” according to the Marcellus Shale Coalition president. There are no rules in Pennsylvania that directly target methane pollution, yet the PG quotes a pro-gas lobbyist as saying they are delivering “meaningful environmental results.”
The fact is the only entity keeping an eye on methane pollution is the EPA, not our DEP and certainly not the drillers themselves. In fact in areas where EPA does not require emission reductions, methane pollution actually increased.
We can’t trust drillers to voluntarily take control of the methane pollution; we need DEP to enact strong methane standards to cut harmful air pollution from the oil and gas industry.
***Health, Safety, Trust-
Letter To Editor
May 4, 2015 12:00 AM
Recently, as a parent and advocate for my children and children across Pennsylvania, I spoke at a public hearing to report on mounting peer-reviewed research pertaining to unconventional gas drilling (“Members Representing Public Interest to Remain on Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Board,” April 23).
Because research concludes harmful health effects and safety impacts are within a two-mile radius of drilling sites, scientific-based regulations are imperative. All stages of drilling operations, which are not confined to industrial areas, emit toxic air pollutants that impact community health. Furthermore, incidents and accidents related to drilling continue to require up to a two-mile evacuation zone.
Although new regulations are proposed, and now include schools, they are unfortunately inadequate and have no scientific basis.
Alarmingly absent from proposed regulations is methane. This potent greenhouse gas permeates from thousands of existing well sites, the continued development and the sprawling pervasive infrastructure.
Immediate regulations are essential for the commonwealth.
Scientific and comprehensive drilling regulations are fundamental. Protection for our children and a safe and healthy environment are paramount. The proposed revisions to the state’s oil and gas regulations under Pennsylvania Code Chapter 78 are a positive beginning, but Pennsylvania leaders must do more to protect our health and safety. Utilize the research and data to make sound scientific-based regulations and heed the warnings of those most affected to restore community trust. Our leaders may be able to live with compromise, but future generations cannot.
Mars Parent Group
***Marcellus Waste Radioactivity In Water Leaching From Landfills-WVA
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Tests show that wastewater from gas field landfills contains radioactivity. That is raising concerns about the disposal of Marcellus Shale drill cuttings.
Bill Hughes, chair, Wetzel County Solid Waste Authority, said tests on water leaching from the Meadowfill landfill near Bridgeport show widely varying levels of radioactivity, sometimes spiking to 40 times the clean drinking water standard. The radioactivity occurs naturally in the drill cuttings and brine that comes from Marcellus gas wells, he said, so it is in the waste dumped in Meadowfill and other landfills.
"We are putting radioactive waste in a bunch of landfills in large quantities, and we don't yet know the long-term danger of doing this," Hughes said.
Water leaching from Meadowfill averaged 250 picocuries per liter last year. The clean drinking water standard is 50, Hughes explained, adding that at times Meadowfill spiked as high as 2,000 picocuries or dropped below 40. Wetzel - the other landfill taking large amounts of the waste - also showed radioactivity.
The drinking water standards are probably too tight to use on fluids leaching from a landfill, he said, but the solid waste authority is defaulting to the tougher standard, simply because the county is not set up to deal with radioactive waste in municipal garbage dumps.
According to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, landfills are a safe and appropriate place to put the drill cuttings.
Hughes said the entire process shows that the state is playing catch-up to a big, rapidly moving industry.
"We haven't normally been putting radioactive material in a municipal waste landfill. We're not set up to process, handle, test, dispose. We don't know what we're doing," Hughes warned.
Concerns about radioactive drill cuttings have prompted state lawmakers to increase monitoring - See more at: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2014-04-21/environment/marcellus-waste-radioactivity-in-water-leaching-from-landfills/a38864-1#sthash.Ejg7gNqD.dpuf
***DEP Wants 'Significant' Sunoco Fine For Drilling Mud Spills
“The DEP is negotiating a "significant" fine with Sunoco Pipeline for thousands of gallons of drilling clay that a subcontractor spilled into several western Pennsylvania creeks.
Poister says DEP officials are seeking the fine for erosion problems, and alleged failure to control the bentonite mud spills on a 53-mile natural gas pipeline that crosses Washington and Westmoreland counties.
About 5,300 gallons of the nontoxic mud leaked into Little Mingo Creek in Union Township, Washington County, on Sept. 18. It can kill fish if enough of it enters a waterway.
The fines also pertain to five other inadvertent mud spills that Poister calls "obvious clean stream violations."
***Toxic Vapors Kill Oil Gas Workers
(You can hear Mac Sawyer- truck driver- talk about health problems and the frack industry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSvMhmF4Myw)
“……But his March 2014 death soon became part of a mysterious puzzle that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is piecing together along with eight other oil field deaths over the past five years. All of the fatalities occurred at crude oil production tanks, and all the victims were either working alone or weren't being observed by anyone. Most of the death certificates listed natural causes or heart failure as the cause.
By late April, federal health officials had enough evidence to sound a national alarm over a dangerous trend in America's oil fields. The men died after inhaling toxic amounts of hydrocarbon chemicals after either tank gauging — measuring the level of oil or other byproducts in tanks coming out of wells — or from taking samples of oil for more testing.
The exposure happens when hatches on production tanks are opened manually and a plume of hydrocarbon gases and vapors are released under high pressure. The gases and vapors can include benzene, a carcinogen, as well as hydrocarbons like ethane, propane and butane.
Besides explosions and asphyxiation, high concentrations of hydrocarbons can cause disorientation and, in some cases, sudden death.
"Just breathing in these chemicals at the right amount can kill," said Robert Harrison, an occupational medicine physician at the University of California, San Francisco.
Harrison said medical examiners can sometimes miss signs of toxic inhalation during a routine autopsy, which is why some of the victims were thought to have died from natural causes.
"It's important that coroners run the right toxicology tests for those chemicals emitted from the tanks," said Harrison.
According to the CDC, inhalation victims can suffer cardiac arrhythmia — or irregular heartbeat — and have problems in getting enough oxygen. Exposure can also cause inadequate ventilation of the lungs.
The CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health signaled the hazards of tank gauging this spring. They, along with the oil and gas industry, recently issued recommendations to companies to limit exposure to hydrocarbons.
The recommendations include providing training of the proper use of respiratory protection and implementing engineering controls, including remote gauging and venting.
"We will do everything we can to get this information out as quickly as possible," said Kenny Jordan, executive director of the Association of Energy Service Companies.
The sudden hike in tank gauging deaths could be linked to the explosive growth of the oil and gas industry in the United States, which brought in younger, inexperienced workers, Jordan said.”
***Pipeline Critics Warn of Health Problems-Chronic Leaks
“Three years ago, federal regulators declared that a $43 million natural-gas compressor station proposed for Minisink wouldn't have a significant impact on humans.
The compressor station was built a year and a half ago. Now Pramilla Malick, a weekend resident of Minisink and one of hundreds who opposed the plan, says their fears are being realized. In March 2012, a 78-page report prepared by the staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) found the project "with appropriate mitigation, would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment."
Malick, who at the time called FERC's assessment "completely inadequate," says her experiences since have reinforced that judgment.
Malick’s house is three-eighths of a mile from the Minisink compressor built by Millennium Pipeline. She planned to have an organic garden, but she says she only visits Minisink occasionally now because of maladies that afflict her and her family there since the compressor began operation.
Malick says she has asthma attacks, and her adolescent daughter gets gushing nosebleeds. She says she and her daughter only have symptoms in Minisink, not where they live in Manhattan.
She says the same symptoms simultaneously began troubling some of her neighbors, along with rashes, neurological, and gastrointestinal problems.
Malick said several families have left; and others are now trying to sell their houses.
“We hoped to make compressor dangers known and jar some action, but they’re fed up and want to leave,” Malick said. “I’m getting close. If the CPV power plant is built in Wawayanda, there’s no way I’ll stay.”
Malick and members of the activist group Protect Orange County are trying to organize opposition to the 640-megawatt Competitive Power Ventures gas power plant planned for Wawayanda. While the $900 million project has support from town and county officials, CPV has yet to attain a power purchase agreement from the New York Power Authority.
In a presentation she gave before about 100 people at the Slate Hill Senior Center recently, Malick said power plants such as the one CPV plans to build have created public health problems elsewhere. The plant would include a gas compressor and produce the same emissions as Minisink’s compressor, but many times more, according to environmental scientist Wilma Subra, who consulted with Malick’s group.
“What worries me is not the nosebleeds, but rather the long-term implications and the cause,” Malick said.
Pipeline foes rally in Albany
With energy companies seeking to move gas from a hydrofracking boom in Pennsylvania to the Northeast for sale and potential export, opponents of the expanding network of natural gas pipelines went to Albany on April 27 to warn that chronic pollution leaks from the pipes would threaten public health.
Malick was a member of that contingent.
Opponents from 21 counties urged the state to delay air pollution permit approvals for hundreds of miles of new high-pressure pipes until after conducting a comprehensive health study of potential risks to people who would live near the projects.
"The most urgent problem in New York right now is the expansion of pipelines bringing Pennsylvania natural gas across New York to New England," said David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany
Pipelines require high-powered compressor stations every 30 to 50 miles to keep gas flowing. Carpenter said studies in other states have shown compressor stations leak dangerous gases, like formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, at higher rates than gas fracking wells.
Unsafe emissions can occur up to a mile or more from the stations or other parts of pipeline infrastructure such as metering and regulating stations, Carpenter said. Such pipeline components also leak methane, which can convert to formaldehyde when exposed to sunlight, he added.
Studies in other states are suggesting that people near pipelines suffer more health problems. Some pipeline neighbors experience symptoms like sudden nosebleeds, because breathing in formaldehyde is like "pickling your nose," Carpenter said.
Currently, air pollution emissions from natural gas pipelines are reported by energy companies, which project emissions based on formulas, but do not conduct continuous emissions testing.
Carpenter and pipeline opponents urged the state to begin a health study of people who live near current pipelines, and to gather air quality samples from areas where new pipelines are proposed, so that if projects are completed potential changes in air quality could be calculated.
"'We can't breathe, and our lives matter,” Malick said at the press conference. “We should not be turning large portions of our state into sacrifice zones."
***Why NY Banned Fracking? The Official Report Is Now Public
May 15 2015
“The massive study finds that health, safety and environmental uncertainties regarding fracking's dangers have 'grown worse over time.'
New York issued its long-awaited environmental assessment of fracking detailing a wide range of health and climate concerns that underpinned Governor Andrew Cuomo's decision last December to impose a statewide ban on the practice.
High-volume hydraulic fracturing "raises new, significant, adverse impacts not studied" in the state's last major analysis of oil and gas development in 1992, the 2,000-page report concludes. The negative effects that fracking could bring to the state include:
— Air impacts that could affect respiratory health due to increased levels of particulate matter, diesel exhaust or volatile organic chemicals.
— Climate change impacts due to methane and other volatile organic chemical released into the atmosphere.
— Drinking water impacts from underground migration of methane and/or fracturing fluid chemicals associated with faulty well construction or seismic activity.
— Surface spills potentially resulting in soil, groundwater and surface water contamination.
— Surface water contamination resulting from inadequate wastewater treatment.
— Earthquakes and creation of fissures induced during the hydraulic fracturing stage.
— Community impacts such as increased vehicle traffic, road damage, noise, odor complaints, and increased local demand for housing and medical care.
Issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation, the "Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement" took more than six years to produce, as public comments on drafts and the burgeoning literature on the various effects of fracking led to repeated revisions of the study.
The assessment notes that considerable uncertainty over the adverse environmental and public health consequences of fracking has "grown worse over time."
Industry, for example, has long asserted that fracking fluid has never migrated to or tainted underground drinking water, but documented cases have revealed drinking water contamination from fracking. A study this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the presence of chemicals used in fracking fluids in the drinking water of three Pennsylvania households. State regulators also detected methane in the families' water. Similarly, leakage rates into the atmosphere of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that could wipe out the climate benefit of natural gas, remain unclear as major studies only now get underway.
In New York, the resistance to fracking grew as residents saw the effects of the gas boom across the border in Pennsylvania. New York localities, such as the village of Dryden, created fracking bans that withstood court challenges adding momentum to activist efforts for a statewide prohibition.
New York is the first state with substantial natural gas reserves to ban fracking. Others, such as North Carolina, placed moratoria on the practice that they eventually lifted. Some, such as Vermont, have bans in place that are mostly symbolic as they have minimal oil and gas reserves.
Using industry projections, the report estimated that New York could have received more than 1,600 applications a year on average from drillers to use fracking to develop gas reserves in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations. That rate of activity could have extended over a 30-year period, the report said.
Within ten days of the report's publication, by May 23, the state's Environmental Conservation Commissioner must issue the final decision on the fracking ban, according to New York regulations. The ban is not permanent, however, and could be reversed by a future administration.”
***Truck Driver Sues Range Resources Over Injuries
“A West Virginia truck driver is suing Range Resources over claims that company employees ordered him to keep working in wet clothes for hours after he was splashed with flowback water at a Buffalo Township well site.
Russell Evans of Triadelphia claimed he suffered chemical burns, blisters and rashes from the alleged incident May 21, 2013, at which time he was working for Equipment Transport LLC.
Evans was transporting “reused” water a distance of about five miles to a well site in Buffalo Township, he backed his truck up to a “sloppy pond” used to store reused frack water and noticed that water was leaking from the back hatch of his tanker truck.
He claimed he was doused with water when he attempted to stop the leak and was told by a Range employee the water would not harm him. He claimed he was ordered to stay on site until he was cleared to leave, which was about two hours later.
Range employees roped off and swept the area where the spill occurred and made no attempt to examine Evans or arrange for him to take a “chemical bath,” he alleged. He claimed an employee told him to “wash the water off at a nearby McDonald’s.”
“Due to the fact that Mr. Evans was told the reused water was harmless, he remained in his wet clothes for several hours….. the complaint alleged. “In total, Mr. Evans remained in these clothes for over four hours.”
Evans said he went to MedExpress when he developed a rash and blisters and claimed that physicians told him he could not be treated without knowledge of the chemicals he may have been exposed to. The complaint alleges Range “kept the chemical makeup of the fracking fluid a secret.”
He claimed he also was refused medical care at an emergency room in Wheeling a week after the alleged incident because of his inability to name the constituents of the water. In addition to skin ailments, he claimed he suffered nausea, shortness of breath, indigestion, vertigo and headaches, as well as potentially permanent skin discoloration and permanent sensitivity to sunlight.
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the company is still reviewing the complaint. He said the components of all industry materials, including reuse water, are disclosed by law.”
***Act 13 Issues Still To Be Decided
April 14, 2015 | Catalyst, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry Magazine
Matthew H. Haverstick and Andrew K. Garden
“This year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is expected to revisit Act 13 of 2012. In so doing, it will decide: 1. Whether the Public Utility Commission will keep its authority, established in Act 13, to police distribution of the “impact fee” paid by oil and gas producers; 2. Whether the DEP will continue to be able to inform local communities when oil and gas operations threaten the safety of a public water supply; 3. Whether Act 13 allows private corporations to take private property for private use; 4. Whether Act 13 prohibits doctors and other healthcare professionals from disclosing trade secrets they receive from oil and gas operators about the chemicals the companies use in their extraction technology; and 5. Whether the Court should revisit its 2013 interpretation of the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution.
The plaintiffs in Robinson Township originally claimed that various provisions of Act 13 were unconstitutional. In an earlier appeal to the Supreme Court, three of the plaintiffs’ challenges met with success: First, the plaintiffs objected to Act 13’s new statewide ban on local zoning ordinances regulating “where” oil and gas exploration could take place. Second, the plaintiffs went after Act 13’s requirement that the DEP grant so-called “setback waivers” upon request of a company prospecting for oil and gas. (A “setback” is the minimum permitted distance between an extraction site and a residential property.) Third, the plaintiffs objected to the fact that Act 13 did not permit a local government to appeal the DEP's decision to grant a well permit. Three of the four Justices in the 2013 Supreme Court majority cast their votes to invalidate these features of Act 13 based on a 1960s environmental rights amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution (the amendment is also known as “Section 27”.) However, this rationale did not command a majority of the Court. And although a new Justice (Correale F. Stevens) was a member by the time the case was decided, he did not vote on the outcome.
This year, Act 13 returns to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for a second time. Below, we identify some of the issues that the Court is being asked to resolve. Several of these issues should be of interest to the business community.
For example, one issue the Court is being asked to decide concerns the Public Utility Commission’s ability to police distribution of the so-called “impact fee” imposed on the oil and gas industry by Act 13. The impact fee is distributed to local governments in areas where oil and gas exploration takes place. Act 13 allows the Commission to withhold the impact fee from local governments not in compliance with various parts of Act 13 and other laws (for example, the Municipalities Planning Code, which sets a baseline for how local governments pass zoning ordinances). The problem is that some sections of Act 13 that local governments are required to comply with in order to receive the impact fee have been invalidated. The Court must decide whether the Commission’s ability to enforce the remaining provisions can stand. The Commonwealth Court decided that it could not. The Commission questions whether anyone can now enforce the standards local communities are required to meet in order to be entitled to receive the impact fee.
Another challenged section of Act 13 requires the DEP to inform local communities when oil and gas operations threaten the safety of a public water supply. The plaintiffs say that it is unconstitutional to not also require the DEP to make notifications about threats to private water supplies. This presents what is often called an “equal protection” challenge. Essentially, the plaintiffs claim that the government does not have a reason for treating two situations, which they see as similar, differently. The Commonwealth Court disagreed and decided that this provision of Act 13 was acceptable.
Also being challenged is Act 13’s provision that allows certain entities to exercise eminent domain (that is, to take private property—usually land—from private owners.) The plaintiffs believe that the section in question actually allows private corporations to take private property for private use. They argue that this is unconstitutional because the Pennsylvania and United States constitutions only permit the taking of private property for public use. Again, the Commonwealth Court was unconvinced by this argument.
Next, the Supreme Court will also be asked to pass on a section of Act 13 that prohibits doctors and other healthcare professionals from disclosing trade secrets they receive from oil and gas operators about the chemicals the companies use in their extraction technology. The plaintiffs contend that this prohibition jeopardizes public health and prevents doctors from treating patients effectively. In essence, they argue that doctors will be unable to consult with their colleagues as professional standards require. The Commonwealth Court also disagreed with this contention.
Finally, the Supreme Court will be asked to revisit its 2013 interpretation of Section 27. As summarized above, three members of the Supreme Court previously set out an expansive description of the purpose and function of Section 27. Now, the Public Utility Commission will ask the Supreme Court to revisit this plurality assessment and return to the traditional understanding of Section 27, which generally said that it was up to the General Assembly - and not local governments or the courts - to balance environmental protection and economic development.
***$50,000 Means No legal Responsibility for Gas Industry
“It didn't take long for the residents of Finleyville who lived near the fracking operations to complain – about the noise and air quality, and what they regarded as threats to their health and quality of life. Initially, EQT, one of the largest producers of natural gas in Pennsylvania, tried to allay concerns with promises of noise studies and offers of vouchers so residents could stay in hotels to avoid the noise and fumes.
But then, in what experts say was a rare tactic, the company got more aggressive: it offered all of the households along Cardox Road $50,000 in cash if they would agree to release the company from any legal liability, for current operations as well as those to be carried out in the future. It covered potential health problems and property damage, and gave the company blanket protection from any kind of claim over noise, dust, light, smoke, odors, fumes, soot, air pollution or vibrations.
The agreement also defined the company's operations as not only including drilling activity but the construction of pipelines, power lines, roads, tanks, ponds, pits, compressor stations, houses and buildings.
"The release is so incredibly broad and such a laundry list," said Doug Clark, a gas lease attorney in Pennsylvania who mainly represents landowners. "You're releasing for everything including activity that hasn't even occurred yet. It's crazy."
***Letter to Editor
Frackers talk a good game in TV ads, but let's look at reality
As I listen to and watch the advertisements on the radio and television promoting the shale gas industry, I wonder why we can’t have an honest conversation about fracking. The spokesperson in the advertisement invariably tells us how they have looked into this activity and found it to be “safe.” The spokesperson goes on to say that fracking has been done for more than 60 years.
The real fact is that slick water fracking, which is what is being done in Pennsylvania, has only been done since 2004. And, as for “safe,” there have been hundreds of documented spills, accidents and fines levied by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Lawsuits are now increasingly common — against the drillers, against local officials who have refused to protect their residents and even against leaseholders who have leased their land and jeopardized their neighbors’ health, safety and property values.
The advertising spokesperson mentions none of this, but instead talks about energy independence for the USA, saying that wells will produce gas for 50 to 100 years. Actual data now shows that most wells produce for only three to five years!
How will this affect our future property tax base, since land that has been fracked is now unsuitable for any other activity? If more drill pads, compressor stations and processing facilities are built, how will they impact the livability of our region, especially the water and air quality?
Pennsylvania, unlike California, is blessed with plenty of water. But what happens if much of it becomes contaminated by the radioactive wastewater which is brought back to the surface after a well is fracked?
I can only conclude that the individuals in the fracking “infomercials” have not truly educated themselves on the facts about fracking. They are most likely paid actors, leaseholders or others who stand to profit from this industry.
***EPA Finds Plants That Flaring Emits 4 Times More Pollution
Gas Flares Are Probably Worse
April 27, 2015 12:00 AM
A new EPA formula for calculating the amount of pollutants released by flares at refineries and chemical plants nationwide shows that those emissions are four times higher than previously thought.
The EPA said last week that the court-ordered update of a decades-old method used by the government and individual industrial facilities to calculate pollution releases will provide more accurate estimates of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds released by the flaring or burning of waste gases at those facilities.
The change was triggered by a 2013 lawsuit against the EPA by Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington, D.C., environmental enforcement advocacy organization.
The EPA said the new formula does not apply to, and should not be used by, the expanding oil and gas development sector, a grouping that encompasses thousands of wells and compressor stations that occasionally flare gases, or gas processing facilities that regularly flare. An example of the latter is an ethane “cracker” that Shell Chemical Appalachia, a division of Royal Dutch Shell, is considering building along the Ohio River in Monaca, Beaver County.
The Environmental Integrity Project said it was disappointed by the exclusion of the oil and gas sector and is considering further legal action.
Calculations based on the new formula, according to Environment Integrity Project, indicate that an estimated 500 flares at approximately 100 refineries nationwide could be releasing up to 52,800 tons of volatile organic compounds annually instead of the 13,200 tons estimated by the EPA under the old formula. It also means that the public health toll from smog producing VOCs, which can cause respiratory problems and include carcinogens, is likely more than $120 million a year instead of the $30 million estimated under the old formula.
“The VOC air pollution plume from flares is four times larger than we thought, and that’s too big to ignore. It multiplies their contribution to health problems,” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project.
Mr. Schaeffer, a former head of the EPA’s enforcement division, said the new emissions estimates likely will mean that more refineries and chemical plants will be required to obtain air pollution control permits and limit emissions. He also said oil and gas facility flares could emit even more pollutants because of combustion inconsistencies.
“If the pollution released by petrochemical plants is four times higher, the flaring pollution from oil and gas operations is not going to be lower,” he said. “They’re going to be higher because they don’t get a clean burn.”
The EPA declined to say when it would establish a new emissions factor for the oil and gas industry. Bob Schell, who heads the EPA group that developed the refinery flare emissions factor based on field tests in Texas and Arkansas, said he is not aware of any oil and gas facility test data under consideration by the EPA.
According to the DEP, there are 182 industrial facilities in Pennsylvania classified as either chemical plants or refineries, and 68 industrial flares. Some of those facilities operate multiple flares.
According to the EPA, its emissions factors are used by industrial facilities to estimate and report their emissions, but facilities can also use actual emissions stack testing to report their emissions. The EPA, in turn, uses those industry emissions reports to calculate local, regional and national emission inventories that identify and quantify individual pollution sources and establish emissions control targets.
Emissions from flaring can contain carbon particles, also known as soot, unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sometimes sulfur dioxide and volatile organic compounds. How much of those pollutants are emitted depends on the degree of combustion efficiency. Properly operated flares achieve at least 98 percent combustion efficiency, but Mr. Schaeffer said petrochemical facility flares have an average combustion efficiency of 92 percent.
***Vera Scroggins Required to Stay 100 Feet From Cabot
“We need a map. We need to know where I can and cannot go,” Vera said. “Can I stop here, or can I not stop here? Is it OK to be here if I go to a business or if I go to a home? I have had to ask and check out every person I go to: ‘are you leased to Cabot’?
Vera Scroggins, a retired nurse’s aide living in the sacrifice zone of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. She wanted nothing more than to enjoy her home, her garden and her grandchildren. Then the natural gas industry came to her peaceful community.
What Vera saw made her put down her gardening tools and pick up a video camera. That action has the frackers shaking in their boots.
Armed with a video camera, Vera began documenting the natural gas industry activities in northeast Pennsylvania. Her short YouTube videos show what the industry doesn’t want you to see. She had led visitors, government officials, and journalists on tours of the gas fields, to rigs and well pads, pipelines, compressor stations, and roads damaged by the heavy volume of truck traffic necessary to build and support the wells. She introduces the visitors to those affected by fracking, to the people of northeast Pennsylvania who have seen their air and water polluted, their health impacted.
The big fracker in Susquehanna County is Cabot Oil & Gas.
***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
***Fracking 101- Sierra Club 2 minute video
Great info to share
***Chuck Hunnel of Isaac Walton League Testifies on Radiation in Green County Creeks
***South Fayette- Last ten minutes of meeting where revisions to O and G discussed
***Essential Pittsburgh-Rising Radon in Pittsburgh Air and Illah Nourbakhsh on Testing Indoor Air-- 90.5
*** Mac Sawyer, frack truck driver, talks about health problems and the frack industry
***Dramatic Photos of Gas Explosions – https://www.popularresistance.org/colorado-fracking-wastewater-injection-site-up-in-flames/
***Middlesex-Jordan Yeager’s Closing Argument
**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.
***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/