Saturday, May 30, 2009


1. Energy Independence
2. Energy Security

Oklahoma State University Energy Symposium Presentation by Matthew R. Simmons
2 Energy Oxymorons 1. Energy Independence 2. Energy Security

Gas drilling critics welcome move by U.S. regulator DRBC

By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA, May 29 (Reuters) - Opponents of natural gas drilling in the U.S. northeast on Friday welcomed new restrictions by an interstate regulator requiring prior approval for any new projects in the Delaware River basin.

Energy companies and their trade association criticized the new regulations and said they would need to study the ruling to determine what impact it would have on plans to exploit gas reserves that form part of the massive Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania and parts of surrounding states.

The Delaware River Basin Commission said on May 19 that energy companies must obtain its approval before beginning extraction.

There is no current gas development in the area covered by the measure, although the commission has received about 100 applications from energy companies, said Clarke Rupert, a spokesman for the organization.

The action -- which precedes a formal rulemaking -- may slow development of the Marcellus Shale which is said to contain enough gas to meet U.S. needs for a decade or more.

The commission, representing Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and the federal government, said its action reflects concern about the potential for damage to water quality in a 197-mile, non-tidal stretch of the river from Hancock, New York to Trenton, New Jersey.

DRBC Executive Director Carol Collier "determined that as a result of water withdrawals, wastewater disposals and other activities, natural gas extraction projects in shale formations may individually or cumulatively affect the water quality of Special Protection Waters by altering their physical, biological, chemical, or hydrological characteristics," the organization said in a statement.

The measure was hailed by critics of gas drilling who say the new "hydraulic fracturing" technique for gas extraction is contaminating groundwater with a cocktail of chemicals, some of them carcinogenic.

Activists have been particularly concerned about the possibility of pollution in the Delaware River watershed which supplies some 15 million people.

People living near drilling sites in Pennsylvania and other states have suffered from rashes, vomiting, and discolored water, while animals have died and some wells have been polluted with escaping methane, critics say. ...

Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper, a nonprofit environmental group, said the commission's action goes beyond the rules imposed by individual Pennsylvania or New York regulators, who activist accuse of treating energy companies too leniently.

"We think there should be some positive trickle-down on other agencies," Carluccio said.

Click HERE for the complete story.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pennsylvanians, ACT NOW!

Copy, Print, Sign, Stamp and Send!

Reprinted here is an appeal from Williamsport resident, Jon Bogle, and a letter of petition to our DEP. Please do your part...


Dear All,

Below is a letter to DEP opposing the granting of a permit to operate a waste water discharge plant at Water Tower Square. In total, there are ten plants in the works which will dump four million gallons of the gas drilling industry’s waste water, containing millions of pounds of dissolved salts, into the West Branch Basin every day.

The thirty day period DEP has set to comment on this permit ends on June 1st. A strong response is needed.

This is the first issue where the gas industry will try to transfer our quality of life to their bottom line. We need to send a clear message that we won’t stand for it. The Gas industry will do what is necessary to get to the gas. If we demand the state of the art treatment of our landscape and environment we will get it. If we don’t--they will treat rural Pennsylvania as a third world country. Our quality of life is not their concern.

You can simply print out this letter, add your name and address and send it in. Or, you can modify it in any way you want, add to it, or write your own. It is your letter and each person, not just each address, is entitled to send one.

Many of us believe that DEP is under political pressure to grease the way for the gas industry. A strong public response will help to counteract that pressure and loosen the bonds of DEP’s better angels.

If you have persons on your e-mail list who may be willing to help, please send this on to them.


Jon Bogle
201 E 3rd St.
Williamsport PA


TO: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Water Management Program, Permit Section
208 West Third Street, Suite 101
Williamsport, PA 17701-6448

RE: Opposing the granting of a NPDES permit to operate, PA0233650,
Industrial Waste, TerrAqua Resource
Management, LLC, 1000 Commerce Park Drive, P. O. Box 487,
Williamsport, PA 17703-0487.
Also opposing NPDES permits for the nine other similar facilities in
the West Branch Basin which DEP
has knowledge of that are preparing to submit NPDES permit
applications or have already done so.


The TerrAqua proposed facility at Water Tower Square is clearly a transfer of the Susquehanna Riverʼs water quality to the financial bottom lines of the gas industry and to the facilityʼs owners. It will put hundreds of thousands of pounds of dissolved salts into the river at Williamsport-- every day.
It will not remove most of the dangerous chemicals in the water from gas well fracturing operations.
As is the case with the other nine plants being proposed for the West Branch basin, it will be little more than a dilute and dump operation. Pennsylvaniaʼs rivers and environment deserve the same state of the art treatment for this waste water that the gas industry has available and uses in other places. Our rivers havenʼt yet recovered from the damage inflicted by the coal industry over a hundred years ago. We need DEP to protect them from being used as a chemical dump.
Pennsylvaniaʼs DEPʼs new policy statement, Permitting Strategy for High Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) Wastewater Discharges April 11, 2009 clearly describes the damage of continuing to dump dissolved solids (salts) into our rivers. The new strategy, which goes into effect on January 1, 2011, will not permit new large volume dischargers of dissolved salts. It also clearly states that any facilities seeking a licence until then must show they will possess the technology to remove salts from the discharge. A capability TerrAquaʼs application doesnʼt have. The April 11th Strategy policy is cited below:
(a) DEP will not issue permits for new sources of High-TDS industrial waste unless the applicant proposes to install adequate treatment for TDS on or before January of 2011.
TerrAqua, which is still at the conceptual, approval seeking stage, will begin discharging large quantities of dissolved solids into the Susquehanna river almost exactly when DEPʼs new policy goes into effect. It is difficult to understand why TerrAqua would go forward with this application unless they are expecting to be granted an exception to the new regulations when they go into force.
It is also clear that TerrAquaʼs facility isnʼt a critical component of the new gas exploration industry because at a 400,000 gallon maximum capacity it doesnʼt begin to address the volumes of anticipated waste water from this industry. Indeed, even if all ten of the new high-salt dischargers on the Susquehanna were approved, they would only account for 20% of the needed capacity.
Estimates from the industry indicate that demand for brine water treatment in Pennsylvania will reach approximately nine Million Gallons per Day (MGD) in 2009, 16 MGD in 2010, and 19 MGD in 2011.
Estimates from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission are 20 MGD for that same timeframe.
The April 11th report makes clear that the Susquehanna, like other rivers in Pennsylvania, is already challenged from discharges and acid mine drainage.
Many of the areas where the drilling for natural gas is proposed have a history of mining activity and are affected by Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD). Brine and fracturing wastewater have high concentrations of dissolved solids, and considering the already elevated levels of dissolved solids in the AMD-affected surface waters, the need to stringently control these dissolved solids likely will prevent other pollutants from exceeding water quality standards on a cumulative basis.
...watershed analyses conducted by DEP of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River watershed has documented that it is also severely limited in the capacity to assimilate new loads of TDS and sulfates.
Local biologists have estimated that several million fresh water clams live in each mile of the Susquehanna River. These serve to filter the nutrients out of the water which are
so harmful to the Chesapeake Bay.
Without this natural filtering our local cost of reaching acceptable nutrient levels for the Chesapeake Bay will be higher. Again below, from the April 11th policy:
The major concern associated with high TDS concentrations relates to direct effects of increased salinity on the health of aquatic organisms.
It is clear that TerrAquaʼs NPDES permit application, and the other nine possible facilities, are in direct opposition to the strategic intentions of DEP for maintaining water quality in Pennsylvaniaʼs rivers and streams.
There is no ethical or logical reason why this permit should be granted.

Monday, May 25, 2009

‘Clean’ Energy and Poisoned Water

Posted on May 25, 2009 on Truthdig
AP Photo / Keith Srakocic

A drilling rig used to bore thousands of feet into the earth to extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale deep underground is seen on the hill above a Pennsylvania farm.

By Chris Hedges

In the musical “Urinetown,” a severe drought leaves the dwindling supplies of clean water in the hands of a corporation called Urine Good Company. Urine Good Company makes a fortune selling the precious commodity and running public toilets. It pays off politicians to ward off regulation and inspection. It uses the mechanisms of state control to repress an increasingly desperate and impoverished population.

The musical satire may turn out to be a prescient vision of the future. Corporations in Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and upstate New York have launched a massive program to extract natural gas through a process that could, if it goes wrong, degrade the Delaware River watershed and the fresh water supplies that feed upstate communities, the metropolitan cities of New York, Philadelphia, Camden and Trenton, and many others on its way to the Chesapeake Bay.

“The potential environmental consequences are extreme,” says Fritz Mayer, editor of The River Reporter in Narrowsburg, N.Y. His paper has been following the drilling in the Upper Delaware River Valley and he told me, “It could ruin the drinking supply for 8 million people in New York City.”

Trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are locked under the Marcellus Shale that runs from West Virginia, through Ohio, across most of Pennsylvania and into the Southern Tier of New York state. There are other, small plates of shale, in the south and west of the United States. It takes an estimated 3 million to 5 million gallons of water per well to drill down to the natural gas in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The water is mixed with resin-coated sand and a cocktail of hazardous chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, nitrogen, biocides, surfactants, friction reducers and benzene to facilitate the fracturing of the shale to extract the gas.

The toxic brew is injected with extreme force deep within the earth. The drilling is vertical for about 5,000 to 7,000 feet. The technology, developed by Halliburton, allows drills to abruptly turn sideways when they reach these depths. The lubricant and biocides propel the sand on a horizontal axis for as far as half a mile. The fissures created are held open by the sand, and the natural gas flows to the surface through steel casings. Feeder lines run from the grid of wells to regional pipelines.

About 60 percent of the toxic water used to extract the natural gas—touted in mendacious commercials by the natural gas industry as “clean” energy—is left underground. The rest is stored in huge, open pits that dot the landscapes at drilling sites, before it is loaded into hundreds of large vehicles and trucked to regional filtration facilities. Such drilling has already poisoned wells in western Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Kansas, Montana, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming. Those whose water becomes contaminated, including people living in towns such as Dimock, Pa., must have water trucked in to provide for their needs. Farm animals that have drunk the toxic mixture that has leeched from gas drilling sites have died. Cattle ranchers in Colorado, where drilling is occurring in close proximity, have reported that their livestock birthrates have gone down and animals are bearing deformed offspring.

“The single biggest concern is the release of poisons into the environment and its impact on all that live in proximity to the drilling activity,” the River Reporter’s editorial this week read following a visit to local drilling sites. “Large pits, lined with sagging black plastic, did not instill confidence that it couldn’t escape into the environment. And we wondered how migrating birds would know the difference between this body of fluid and an area pond. Ironically, the effect on animals became very real that afternoon when, upon our return, we received the news that in Caddo Parish, LA, 17 cows died after apparently ingesting fluids that escaped from a nearby gas pad.”

The New York City watershed lies within the Marcellus Shale. This watershed provides unfiltered water to more than 14 million people in New York City, upstate New York, Philadelphia and northern New Jersey. It is the largest unfiltered drinking water supply in the United States. And if the federal government does not intervene swiftly, it could become contaminated. The nonprofit group NYH2O has begun organizing in New York City, calling for a statewide ban on natural gas drilling to protect not only the city’s fresh water drinking supply, but everyone else’s. But New York’s notoriously corrupt state Legislature and feeble governor seem set to permit the drilling.

The natural gas companies, not surprisingly, insist that the millions of gallons of poisoned water left underground or collected in huge open pits pose no threat to watersheds. Let us hope they are right. The truth is, no one knows. And these corporations, in a move that suggests the drilling may not be as benign as they contend, had their lobbyists ensure that the natural gas industry was exempted by Congress in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 from complying with the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, which is designed to regulate groundwater.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a congressional hearing on Tuesday that the agency would consider revisiting its official position that this drilling technique does not harm groundwater. A 2004 study conducted by the EPA under the Bush administration concluded that hydraulic fracturing causes “no threat” to underground drinking water. The study was used to support the provision in the 2005 energy bill that exempted hydraulic fracturing from federal regulation.

We do not know, because there is no federal oversight, the exact formula of the chemicals added to the water. We do not know, because the industry has been greenlighted through state regulatory agencies, what the millions of gallons of poison underground will do to our drinking water. We are told to trust the natural gas industry, as we were told to trust Wall Street. And if our drinking water becomes contaminated, then expect corporations to profit from the desperation.

Corporations like Bechtel have been buying up water reservoirs around the globe in anticipation of future water shortages. And what they will do when they control our water was illustrated in Bolivia a decade ago. The World Bank forced Bolivia to privatize the public water system of its third-largest city, Cochabamba. It threatened to withhold debt relief and other development assistance if the city did not comply. Bechtel, which was the only bidder, was granted a 40-year lease to take over Cochabamba’s water through a subsidiary called Aguas del Tunari.

“Urinetown” was visited on Cochabamba in 2000 within weeks of the privatization. Aguas del Tunari imposed massive rate hikes on local water users of more than 50 percent, according to the Cochabamba-based Democracy Center. Families living on the local minimum wage of $60 per month were billed up to 25 percent of their income for water. The rate hikes sparked citywide protests. The Bolivian government declared martial law in Cochabamba and deployed thousands of soldiers and police to restore order. More than 100 people were injured in the rioting and a 17-year-old boy was killed. The Cochabamba project was abandoned, but Bechtel and other corporations are not done. Bechtel’s control of the water supply in Guayaquil, Ecuador, a few years later resulted in water shutoffs, contamination, and a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. Water in a world of scarcity will be very profitable. And Bechtel is preparing for the bonanza at home and abroad.

Profit, even if it results in widespread human suffering, is the core of America’s ruthless unregulated corporate capitalism. Our health care industry profits from sickness and death by excluding those who most need coverage. Our financial industry created perhaps the largest speculative bubble in human history and trashed our economy as well as looting our treasury. Our oil and gas industries, whose profits are obscene, wreck the environment and poison our water. And the worse it gets for us, the better it gets for them. You may not need to travel to a theater to see “Urinetown.” It could soon be coming to you.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

EPA to restore scientific review process resulting in more protective clean air standards.

In a bid to restore the primacy of science in setting air-pollution standards at the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced yesterday that she was reestablishing key internal review procedures regarding harmful pollutants.

• Jackson said the EPA would resume a process in which agency scientists issue "staff papers" outlining options for policymakers to consider in establishing air-quality levels for ozone, particulates, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.

• Jackson also "reaffirmed" the critical role of the congressionally mandated Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), a panel of outside scientists, in helping the agency make sound scientific decisions on air quality.


Jackson's reversion to earlier regulatory practices was seen by environmentalists as part of a wider campaign by her and the Obama administration to hew more closely to scientific evidence when regulating the environment in all areas.

In a letter yesterday announcing the changes, Jackson said it was "essential that the best science and the greatest transparency inform air quality standards that prevent illness and save lives."

She added that the changes "will help us bring greater rigor and openness to our standard-setting process and improve the scientific basis for our standards."

The moves ... [herald] the reversal of a steady decline under the Bush administration of the influence of hard science in setting air-quality standards.

Traditionally, the "staff paper" process was rigorous, bluntly expressing the opinions and conclusions of the EPA's scientific staff on what levels of pollutants they consider safe without undue regard for cost and industry considerations.

"This is very good news," said John Balmes, a California physician who studies ozone and served on the panel when the EPA under George W. Bush set ozone levels in 2008.

Balmes was highly critical of the decision and testified before Congress in 2008 about how the decision ran contrary to widely accepted science and the need to reinstate the staff paper.

"Politicos in the Bush administration wanted to do away with the staff paper because it gave them less opportunity to maneuver," Balmes said.

Jonathan Samet, who now chairs the seven-member science panel, welcomed the changes.

"It's a strong reaffirmation of the importance of the science committee," said Samet, who teaches at University of Southern California. He said the changes would guarantee a more open process, adding that how the EPA made some previous decisions was not clear to the public.


"It is just common sense to let these scientists again play a key role in shaping our nation's air-quality standards," said Sen. Thomas Carper (D., Del.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee's subcommittee on clean air and nuclear safety.

The restoration of the staff paper and support for the science panel come at a critical time in the review of the criteria for air pollutants.

As part of the Clean Air Act, the EPA must review and set safe levels every five years for six pollutants: ozone, particulates, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.

The pollutants can be dangerous at high levels and are commonly found in the ambient air across the country.

To help make those decisions, Congress established CASAC to advise the administrator on setting safe levels.

Currently, reviews for nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide are underway, said Balmes, who sits on both review panels.

Balmes said that science panel members in April were supposed to review the derided policy paper for setting nitrogen oxide levels, but the meeting was canceled.

"That was the first sign to us that they were going to change things," said Balmes said.

John Walke, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's clean-air project, said the changes greatly diminished the role politics and power can play in interfering with science.

"The bottom line is, it will ensure more protective clean-air standards for the public," Walke said.


Friday, May 22, 2009

DRBC stiffens control over gas drilling

By Steve McConnell
Wayne Independent
Thu May 21, 2009

Stringent regulations that currently protect water quality in a large area of the Delaware River Basin, encompassing most of Wayne County, will also apply to natural gas drilling operations, according to an order issued by the Delaware River Basin Commission’s executive director on Tuesday.

Since 1992, the federally mandated commission has designated a substantial portion of its jurisdiction as “special protection waters” - rivers, streams and creeks within it cannot be ruined or exhausted through unnatural means.
The designation covers almost all of Wayne County, besides a small slice on its western edge, since its waters drain into the Delaware River, a federally recognized “wild and scenic river.”
And although it has long been known that the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) would regulate and require permitting for drilling activity in its jurisdiction, the order lets it be known that drilling activity cannot cause a “measurable impact” to water quality and that a myriad of regulations within the “special protection waters” area must be abided by.
This includes preventing site runoff, or other contamination that degrades waterways.
DRBC Spokesperson Clarke Rupert said the order clarifies the commission’s position in regards to how it would regulate natural gas drilling.
The commission has been mulling over its regulatory framework for this new industry in the Commonwealth over the past year.
The intent of the order is not to stop the natural gas industry from burgeoning here, he noted, but rather to ensure that it does not negatively impact a watershed that provides drinking water to nearly 15 million people.
“This isn’t a stop sign that the drilling can’t take place,” said Rupert in a phone interview with The Wayne Independent on Wednesday. “Our intention is not to put up road blocks.”
Representatives of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association were not available for comment.
A representative of the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, a large property owners group that is seeking to have its land drilled, was also unavailable for comment.
The order would apply to both horizontal and vertical hydraulic fracturing - a process that busts open rock with fluid to release natural gas - in any shale formation where natural gas may reside.
Essentially, it raises the bar to ensure that “high water quality” remains as is.
Other industrial activities have also fallen under this designation and its rules since 1992.
“The DRBC is closing a loophole drillers could use ... as there are often shallower natural gas formations above the Marcellus Shale,” said Brady Russell, a director with Clean Water Action, a state environmental advocacy group. “This is an important determination by DRBC and will help to fill the gap in regulations related to gas drilling activities and their impact on water usage and water pollution.
New methods of drilling for natural gas use large volumes of water, along with the use of chemicals, to extract natural gas.
The order is temporary, however.
“The commissioners intend to adopt regulations ... after public notice and a full opportunity for public comment, but this rulemaking process can be lengthy,” said executive director Carol R. Collier in a statement. “In the meantime, DRBC will apply this” order.
It would additionally cover all aspects of natural gas operations, including proper permitting for water withdrawals and sewage treatment facilities that accept wastewater from natural gas operations.
Natural gas companies operating in Pennsylvania also must attain drilling permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The commission is currently reviewing two permit applications in Wayne County: a natural gas drill site in Clinton Township and a water withdrawal request from the West Branch of the Lackawaxen River in Clinton Township.
There appears to be no producing natural gas wells in Wayne County, as of Wednesday, according to agency records.
Any person affected by this decision can request a hearing by submitting a request in writing to the commission secretary within 30 days of the date of the order.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

EXTRA! EXTRA! Read All About It!!!

Congress Should Close the Halliburton Loophole

Hydraulic fracturing should be regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Only one industry in the U. S. can legally inject known toxins directly into sources of drinking water without federal regulation, but as early as this week, legislation may be introduced in Congress to overturn the exemption granted to Big Oil by the 2005 Congress at the urging of Dick Cheney, former Halliburton CEO.

For the entire comprehensive post, click HERE to read it on Bluedaze.
to read it on the Daily Kos, or HERE to read it on epluribusmedia, or buzzflash or the burntorangereport, or Texas Kaos.


The Heat Is On


DeGette targets controversial form of natural-gas drilling

By David O. Williams

May 15, 2009 — U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette is leading the charge to increase federal oversight of the nation’s natural gas industry, reintroducing a bill that specifically targets a process called hydraulic fracturing. ...

DeGette, a Denver Democrat who unsuccessfully championed the cause on Capitol Hill last year, is poised to reintroduce legislation that would remove an exemption for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act that was granted in the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

“As this is an important issue for Congresswoman DeGette, she is expecting to introduce the bill soon,” DeGette spokesman Kristofer Eisenla said. “We are currently just finalizing language and talking to the chairman about the direction of the legislation,” he said, referring to U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who control’s the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee’s gavel. “While we are planning to introduce it, no decisions have been made yet on how it will move,” Eisenla said.

The bill could be folded into Waxman’s American Clean Energy and Security Act, which is currently being bandied about in committee and includes such lofty goals as a national renewable energy standard and a carbon cap. DeGette also sits on the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The exemption was granted in 2005 because of a controversy stemming from an Alabama case in which it was alleged that fracking was directly responsible for groundwater contamination. The Environmental Protection Agency studied the case and did not conclude there was a direct correlation between the process and methane found in drinking water.

So to prevent further attempts to enforce a layer of federal oversight, the exemption was granted.

“Right now it’s a technology that has allowed us to increase natural gas supplies in the country to an incredible extent, and it’s a technology that’s been in use over 60 years with no documented cases of groundwater contamination from fracking,” said Kathleen Sgamma, director of government affairs for the Denver-based Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States. (see Wells comment below, among many other sources)

Sgamma says all the fluids used in fracking, which are 99.5 percent water and sand but include small percentages of chlorine, food additives and thickeners, are regulated by state and federal agencies and contained in steel and concrete casing.

(That small percentage of chlorine, food additives and thickeners, according to the Pennsylvania DEP, includes 2-butoxyethanol, Monoethanolamine, Ethylhexanol, Dazomet, Formaldehyde, Acetic Anhydride, Glutaraldehyde, Isopropanol, Boric Acid, Propargyl Alcohol (Prop-2-yn-1-01), Ethane-1,2-diol (ethylene glycol), 5-chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazotin-3-one, Ethylene Glycol, Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3), Methanol and Diesel. There are 54 chemicals identified by the DEP in fracking fluids. The ones listed here are those known to have negative impacts on health including skin, eye and sensory organ irritation and toxicity, followed by respiratory effects, gastrointestinal and liver effects. One category includes such effects as death, teeth effects, etc. The most often cited effect in this category is the ability of the chemical to cause death. -Splashdown)

“There have been cases where an operators have made mistakes and the casing that is done for a well has not been done correctly, and when that happens the state is the regulatory agency, and they ensure that the operators take corrective measures, so that’s already being regulated,” Sgamma said.

But a study conducted for Garfield County and released in December showed elevated levels of methane in groundwater supplies in the gas-rich mountain area: “There is a temporal trend of increasing methane in groundwater samples over the last seven years coincident with the increased number of gas well installed in the study area,” the report concluded.

Methane can occur naturally and is not considered toxic, but it can be flammable and noxious to breath once it evaporates out of the water supply. In some cases it can cause accidental explosions.

DeGette’s latest efforts to regulate the industry at the federal level have triggered a massive lobbying effort designed to raise the alarm about the potential for lost tax revenues and jobs.

According to a recent New York Times article, the industry campaign is predicting DeGette’s bill could shut down a third of the nation’s gas wells and half the oil wells, costing state treasuries $785 million. Environmentalists called such predications baseless scare tactics.

At home in Colorado, economic fallout was the same tactic the industry took in trying to stall or derail hard-fought and more environmentally stringent oil and gas drilling regulation recently implemented by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Some opponents of those regulations are still blaming them for a downturn in natural gas drilling on the Western Slope — ignoring the larger effects of the global economic crisis that caused oil and gas commodity prices to drop substantially.

(In a comment posted May 15, 2009 to this article, Carolyn Wells of Dimock, PA wrote: Thank you so much for writing about this; there are poisoned wells three miles down the road due to fracking so that line stating there is no water contamination is a bold faced lie. Twenty wells in my area have been poisoned and the family who leased their land to Cabot Oil now uses their food stamps to buy water. So my tax dollars pay for exploitation of pristine areas by the gas industry.)


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hinchey Gets EPA Administrator Jackson to Acknowledge Agency Should Review Hydraulic Fracturing Impact on Drinking Water

Contact: Jeff Lieberson
202-225-6335 (office)
202-225-0817 (cell)

Washington, DC -
- Continuing his efforts to close a legal loophole that exempts hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas exploration and drilling from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) used a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior hearing today to ask U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson to conduct a review of her agency's policy on the risk that fracturing poses to drinking water supplies. Jackson told Hinchey that she believed her agency should review the risk that fracturing poses to drinking water in light of various cases across the country that raise questions about the safety.

"It's imperative that we protect our drinking water supplies from harmful chemicals that are being pumped into the ground by oil and gas companies looking to produce on more and more land in New York and across the country," Hinchey said. "I was extremely pleased that EPA Administrator Jackson recognized the need for the EPA to reexamine the Bush administration's misguided views on the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. We are in a much stronger position to protect our drinking water now that we have an administration in place that is committed to environmental protection. While there is value in drilling for natural gas, it's imperative that we do so in a manner that doesn't have long-term environmental consequences on our drinking water -- a resource that is critical to human health and survival."

In the now infamous 2005 Energy Policy Act, which Hinchey strongly opposed and voted against, Congress shockingly exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which was designed to protect people's water supply from contamination from toxic materials. This loophole, which some have called the Halliburton Loophole, has created an extremely dangerous set of circumstances.

Hydraulic fracturing -- also known as “fracking” -- involves injecting fluids into a well at extremely high pressure to crack open an underground formation and then prop open the new fractures in order to facilitate the flow of oil and gas out of the well. More than 90 percent of oil and gas wells in the U.S. undergo this treatment with many undergoing it more than once over the life of the well.

More than 1,000 cases of contamination have been documented by courts and state and local governments in New Mexico, Alabama, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. In one case, a house exploded after hydraulic fracturing created underground passageways and methane seeped into the residential water supply.

A 2004 EPA study, which was haphazardly conducted with a bias toward a desired outcome, concluded that fracturing did not pose a risk to drinking water. However, Hinchey noted that the more than 1,000 reported contamination incidents have cast significant doubt on the report's findings and the report's own body contains damaging information that wasn't mentioned in the conclusion. In fact, the study foreshadowed many of the problems now being reported across the country.


Monday, May 18, 2009



Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gas wells on DuBois' reservoir watershed?

(This Week's Contradictions)

5/16/09 Dena Bosak,
Tri-County SUNDAY Courier-Express

DuBOIS - The City of DuBois is still exploring the option of drilling gas wells at the Anderson Creek Reservoir.
In December, the city council approved a proposal with Carizzo of Houston, Texas, to drill Marcellus Shale depth gas wells on the watershed at the reservoir located in Union Township. The proposal included a title search at no cost to the city.
"We are still moving along," Mayor and acting Manager John "Herm" Suplizio said.
Suplizio said the title search has been completed and the city is starting to look at possible spots for drilling.
"We are looking forward to this venture because it will help the city out financially," he said, "but there is much more work that has to be done first."
Suplizio said there are still many state Department of Environmental Protection regulations that must be met.
"And of course, the city council's and my number one concern, now, and the whole way through this project, is the watershed," Suplizio said.
Suplizio said the city owns gas and oil rights to 2,000 acres. He said the city could lease all 2,000 acres and receive $500 per acre, which translates into $1 million.
The city could also receive 15 percent in royalties for the gas.
Regarding where the water source would come from if the drilling would take place, Suplizio said the city would be willing to sell the company the necessary water if it were asked.
"If they do it at the right time of the year, and we have the extra water," he said. "Also they have to ask us.
"They may also just decide to drill a well," he said. "They have a lot of options."
The city is still pursuing its quest for an alternate water source.
In December, the council approved a proposal with Moody and Associates of Meadville to evaluate the potential for developing a groundwater supply for the city.
Suplizio said the city has been working very hard at this. He said Steve Swope, public works superintendent; Scott Farrell, city technical engineer; Ben O'Shane of the water department and Chris Nasuti of Lee Simpson have been assisting Moody in the process.
Suplizio said the other water source will be wells. He said a possible location for the wells is near the transmission line next to the water filtration plant.
"We will keep moving forward with this project," he said. "Progress is essential to the city and the entire area to have an alternate water source, which may someday turn into our main source of water."
"The city council and myself realize how important water is now and how important clean water is in the future," Suplizio said. "This is a No. 1 priority we are looking into."


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pennsylvania DEP secretary answers complaints

by Tom Kane, The River Reporter Online

HARRISBURG, PA - John Hanger has spoken.

Responding to a cascade of complaints from every sector of state and local governments for instituting a measure curtailing the role of local community conservation districts (CCD) in monitoring gas well drilling, Hanger, the newly appointed Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary, sent a generic letter to all conservation district managers defending his early spring action.

On March 18, DEP summarily made a decision to transfer responsibility for reviews and permit functions associated with oil and gas drilling and related activities from the CCDs to the DEP Regional Office Oil and Gas Management Program. The decision was arrived at without consultation of any conservation district, which was unprecedented.

The letter detailed various reasons the action was taken. In summary, some of the reasons given were that combining the permit and inspection function to one agency “should lead to more protective and efficient regulations” and that by taking on these CCD functions, DEP inspection staff will be responsible for all aspects of gas operations, which would “create a more efficient and effective process that will better protect water resources.”

The statement said that the creation of a new regional office staff will make even stronger oversight and that this “cradle to grave responsibility will provide greater consistency for gas operators, as well as DEP’s overall regulatory responsibilities to safeguard the people’s right to clean water.”


The letter ended with this closing statement: “While Pennsylvania’s natural gas reserves could increase the supply of a clean burning fuel, with very important climate and air benefits and yield billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs for our communities and families, we will not compromise the state’s environmental regulations in the production of gas.”

For the complete story, including commissioner responses, click HERE.

Mr. Hanger appears to be making a clear statement of accountability on behalf of the environment here. We need to monitor the progress of drilling in the state of Pennsylvania carefully!


Thursday, May 14, 2009


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

USGS report drills into Marcellus Shale concerns

The "gold-rush" pace set by energy companies purchasing property rights and drilling for natural gas in areas of Pennsylvania New York atop the Marcellus Shale formation slowed when the economy hit the brakes.

Since the drilling fever broke, more attention has been paid to the potential environmental consequences of the high-pressure drilling methods used to extract natural gas from underground layers of shale.

A new fact sheet published by The United States Geological Survey addresses what many consider to be the number one environmental challenge facing the development of the Marcellus Shale - water supply protection.

It identifies the three important concerns related to Marcellus Shale gas production as:

• supplying water for well construction without impacting local water resources,

• avoiding degradation of small watersheds and streams as substantial amounts of heavy equipment and supplies are moved around on rural roads, and

• determining the proper methods for the safe disposal of the large quantities of potentially contaminated fluids recovered from the wells.

The document discusses each of the three concerns in some detail and concludes:

"While the technology of drilling directional boreholes, and the use of sophisticated hydraulic fracturing processes to extract gas resources from tight rock have improved over the past few decades, the knowledge of how this extraction might affect water resources has not kept pace. Agencies that manage and protect water resources could benefit from a better understanding of the impacts that drilling and stimulating Marcellus Shale wells might have on water supplies, and a clearer idea of the options for wastewater disposal."

(This article reprinted from the EnviroPolitics Blog:


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Obama's Expensive Energy Economy Is Totally Unnecessary

by Dan Holler, deputy director of U.S. Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation.

*Read Around the Spin for the Good News*...

"On this Earth Day," President Obama declared April 22, "[I]t is time for us to lay a new foundation for economic growth by beginning a new era of energy exploration in America."

Sure, the current era of energy exploration -- oil, gas, coal and nuclear -- has been marred by lousy government policy and radical environmentalists. But it's hardly over. America's ability to harness affordable, abundant and reliable energy sources created a strong foundation for the world's largest, most dynamic economy.

If the energy of the "past" were scarce or prohibitively expensive, starting a new chapter would make sense, but that isn't the case. Rather, the President's desire to scrap our economy's current foundation in favor of expensive, unproven technologies is colored by his stated belief that human activity is causing global warming.

...[I]n his Earth Day address, the President said, "We still need more oil, we still need more gas." Although Obama seems to recognize the essential role carbon-based fuels play in our economy, he clearly wants to see them phased out as quickly as possible. His $3.6 trillion budget request makes seven significant changes in the tax code and essentially declares war on domestic oil and natural gas production!

The most outlandish is a tax on production in the Gulf of Mexico, from which the nation produces significant quantities of oil and natural gas ... . Several tax deductions are targeted for elimination. If the desire is to move away from oil and natural gas quickly, those economically damaging policies make sense. But can he convince the American people his vision is worth their sacrifice? ...

It's important to note that nearly 85% of our nation's energy is carbon-based, so dramatic tax increases alone won't usher in a new energy economy. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is doing his part to reduce energy by shutting off access to many of our nation's most promising energy reserves. One of those reserves, the Green River Formation, contains an estimated 1.2 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels of shale oil. Saudi Arabia's official reserves pale in comparison, with a mere 289 billion barrels of oil.

Killing 'Old' Energy Sources

Why does Salazar believe more R&D into this vast resource is unnecessary? Again, the answer is simple: He realizes we cannot have a new energy economy if the "old" is nowhere close to being depleted. Salazar has also repealed valid leases in Utah without a hearing and constructed hurdles that could prevent natural gas exploration in Colorado and oil exploration on Alaska's North Slope.

As if that weren't enough, the President's chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Jon Wellinghoff, believes coal and even nuclear may be things of the past, saying, "We may not need any, ever." Combined, those two sources provide nearly 70% of our nation's electricity supply. At least Wellinghoff acknowledges, "Natural gas is going to be there for a while, because it's going to be there to get us through this transition that's going to take 30 or more years."

Enter House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). He's on a back-door mission to stop natural gas production in the Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania. A process known as "hydraulic fracturing" is necessary to gain access to the trillions of cubic feet of natural gas there. The state has regulated that process for the past 60 years, but Waxman would like to use the Safe Drinking Water Act to regulate it, thus giving the finally authority on its use to the anti-carbon Environmental Protection Agency.

'Renewable' Dreams

In less than four months in office, the President has laid the groundwork to transform our energy infrastructure by making "clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy."

For the Holler's complete commentary, click HERE


Williamsport Proposed Site for Wastewater Treatment Plant

A discharge permit for a gas well wastewater treament plant on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River has been published by the PA DEP. It was published on May 2, 2009, for a 30-day public comment period. The permit is the first for the DEP. Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell said:

When approved, this permit will establish specific treatment parameters for gas well drilling wastewater, which includes frac water, brine water and drill water.

The permit would allow between 54,412 and 522,245 pounds per day of total dissolved solids to be discharged to the river. A maximum of 400,000 gallons a day of typical well-drilling wastewater would be treated and discharged from a facility to be constructed on the Water Tower Square property in Williamsport. Ten more permits are in the works for the West Branch of the river, all of which will be published by the end of June 2009.

An article in the Williamsport newspaper, The Sun-Gazette, reports:
"The DEP has adopted a strategy for allowable dissolved solids entering the river. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, an average monthly limit of 500 parts per million of total dissolved solids, and 250 parts per million of chlorides and sulfates will be allowed to be discharged into the river.

In the meantime, the river's assimilative capacity - its ability to take in toxic materials without harming aquatic life or humans who consume the water - will be divided among 10 proposed dischargers, including Terra-Aqua Resource Management LLC."

Discharging treated frac water into the river is a troubling proposition. Will the treament process remove all toxins? Doesn't the phrase "assimilative capacity" mean that it will be acceptable to pollute the river as long as the fish don't die or develop tumors and people don't get sick after swimming in the water?


Sunday, May 10, 2009

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Need the e-mail address or phone number? Click here.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Industry campaign targets 'hydraulic fracturing' bill

Published: May 7, 2009

Fearing a push by House Democrats to regulate a controversial form of natural gas production, an industry coalition launched a campaign yesterday arguing that new rules would kill jobs and batter the economy.

The coalition of independent oil and gas companies says a Democratic proposal to allow new oversight over hydraulic fracturing would slash domestic oil and gas production and cost the Treasury $4 billion in lost taxes, royalties, rents and other payments. But environmentalists and an aide to a Democratic lawmaker backing regulation say the claim amounts to "scare tactics."

The industry group says hydraulic fracturing, which uses high-pressure injections into the ground to force oil and gas to flow more freely, has a track record of safety and is regulated sufficiently by the states. Environmentalists and some congressional Democrats argue it threatens groundwater. In addition to adding oversight, they want companies using the process to reveal what chemicals are used -- information that is now considered proprietary.

The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Water Drinking Act. But Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) proposed a bill last year to repeal that exemption. DeGette is now talking with Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) about either inserting her bill into pending climate legislation or reintroducing the measure on its own.

"We're hoping to move this forward shortly," DeGette spokesman Kristofer Eisenla said. Without federal oversight, he said, there is no way to really track whether the process is safe.

The possibility of new regulations triggered the industry's public relations campaign.

"The key question is how vulnerable lawmakers are going to be to being persuaded" by the data the coalition is sharing, said Kevin Book, managing director at ClearView Energy Partners, an energy market analysis firm. With the next election still 19 months away, he said, lawmakers "may not be as persuadable."

In addition to sending its data to the press, the group Energy in Depth delivered its information to "key oversight committees" in Congress.

"This campaign is designed to dispel some of the myths and showcase some of the technologies" used by companies in the hydraulic fracturing business, said Brian Kennedy, spokesman for the Energy in Depth coalition. "We've got to make the point that federal policy should be fostering more domestic energy production, not less."

Despite Democratic majorities on Capitol Hill, "if we're successful in communicating the facts," Kennedy said, the odds of defeating a legislative move for federal regulation "are quite good." ...

"As these things are playing out now on the Hill, obviously these industries remain very powerful," (Sierra Clubspokesman, Josh) Dorner said. But with the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress opening the door to more regulation, he said, "clearly the days of the Dick Cheney energy policy have passed."

To read more CLICK HERE.

Defend Our Water Now! Write to your congressmen today! Urge your representative to vote FOR H.R.7231, repealing exemptions for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act.



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gas drillers battle Pennsylvania pollution concerns

This Week's Contradictions

Though scientists have yet to find definitive evidence that drilling chemicals have seeped into ground water, there are dozens of anecdotal reports from around the state that water supplies in gas-production areas have been tainted.

The public outcry threatens to impede exploitation of the 44-million-acre (18-million-hectare) Marcellus Shale, which geologists say might contain enough natural gas to meet U.S. demand for a decade.

People in gas-drilling areas say their well water has become discolored or foul-smelling; their pets and farm animals have died from drinking it; and their children have suffered from diarrhea and vomiting.

Bathing in well water can cause rashes and inflammation, and ponds bubble with methane that has escaped during drilling, they say. ...

Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Texas-based Range Resources Corp. said, "There are zero reports of chemical contamination of groundwater."

Ron Gulla, who said his land has been polluted by Range's gas drilling, was incredulous. "I have never seen such a bunch of liars in my life," he shouted at Pitzarella, to scattered applause. "You have put me through hell."

U.S. energy companies rushing to exploit Pennsylvania's massive natural gas reserves have launched a public relations campaign to calm fears the bonanza is contaminating water with toxic chemicals. Read all about it HERE.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Injection wells being proposed locally

This Article reprinted from The Daily Review, Towanda, PA
was written by JAMES LOEWENSTEIN

Published: Saturday, May 2, 2009 3:14 AM EDT
DUSHORE — Three exploratory wells are proposed to be drilled in Bradford County that could be used as injection wells, a Penn State Cooperative Extension agent said.

These wells, along with a few more proposed to be drilled in Sullivan County, will help determine if this section of the state is suitable for siting injection wells, Sullivan County Extension Agent Mark Madden said in a presentation he gave Friday in Dushore, which was titled “Natural Gas in Sullivan County: What to Expect.”

The geology may not be compatible in Pennsylvania for the widespread establishment of injection wells, which would be used to inject waste water from gas drilling underground for permanent storage, he told the 35 people who heard his presentation, which was given at the 2009 Sullivan County Extension Spring Breakfast at the Agricultural Resource Center in Dushore.

For many years, “it has been widely thought that there is not suitable geology in this state” to accommodate a large number of injection wells, although eight such wells do exist in Pennsylvania, he said.

However, there is now technology available that allows injection wells to be drilled more deeply than in the past, and there could be formations deep underground that would be very suitable for disposing of waste water from gas drilling, he said.

The exploratory wells in Bradford and Sullivan counties would be dug approximately 14,000 feet to the Oriskany sandstone formation, which is several thousand feet deeper than the Marcellus shale formation, he said.

After reaching the Oriskany foundation, the wells could produce natural gas, which would be extracted, he said. But if they don’t yield gas, the companies proposing the wells have said they may do testing “to see how much (fluid) they can take,” he said.

While the exploratory wells might be used as injection wells, each would require permits from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection before it could become operational, he said.

In an interview, Madden said that in Texas, one injection well is dug for every 100 gas wells.

If the geology in Pennsylvania is suitable for injection wells, there could be that number of injection wells dug locally, too, he said.

“A couple (of the exploratory wells) are proposed for the western part of Bradford County,” while one is proposed for the middle section of the county, he said.

Injection wells are one of the ways that gas companies are looking at disposing of waste water from hydraulic fracturing, which a process used to access the natural gas in the Marcellus shale.

Gas wells

The quality of natural gas that is produced from the Marcellus shale in this part of the state, including Bradford County, is “very good,” so it does not need to be processed through a treatment plant before it is shipped in a pipeline to market, he told those at the Sullivan County Extension breakfast.

“It is pipeline ready,” he said.

By contrast, in the southwestern part of Pennsylvania, where there has been a lot of drilling in the Marcellus shale, the gas must be processed by a treatment plant before it is sent to market, mainly to separate out some of the unwanted gas components, he said.

The reason why there has been a lot of drilling in the Marcellus shale in southwest Pennsylvania is that there is a large network of transmission lines in place there that had been built to transport gas from wells dug years ago, he said. So it has been feasible to extract the gas in that part of the state, even though gas companies have had to pay the additional cost of processing it, he said.

There are currently very few transmission lines in the eastern section of the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, although a Tennessee Gas interstate pipeline does run west to east across the middle of Bradford County, he said.

One person at the breakfast asked if an extension of the Tennessee Gas pipeline would be installed in Sullivan County.

Madden said he did not know if such an extension would be created, but said there is a proposal to install a connection to the Tennessee Gas line that would travel through Terry Township, across Colley Township, and into the southern section of Sullivan County.

Some of the other points made by Madden are:

— While gas wells have not been dug yet in Sullivan County, there has been a lot of seismic testing in the area, including Sullivan County, to determine where drilling would be suitable, he said.

— One problem is that local government bodies don’t receive any of the tax revenue that is generated from gas drilling, even though they “bear the brunt of the road damage” and must provide public services related to the gas drilling operations, he said.

— A study done in Sublette County, Wyo., showed that the more gas drilling activity that occurred in that county, the higher the number of arrests.

— One use that may be made of the huge amounts of natural gas in the Marcellus shale is the construction of gas-fired power plants to produce electricity, he said.

— Madden also said he expected the local dairy industry to continue despite the advent of gas drilling, since the local area is within a day’s drive of a large part of the United States’ population, he said.

— The very high wages offered in the gas industry are expected to draw workers away from other employers, he said.

— On the positive side, the gas drilling “may lead to the revitalization of some rural communities,” he said.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

WRITE NOW! Urge your Representative to Vote FOR H.R. 7231!

RED ALERT! The Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission
is Urging Congress Not to Remove Exemption of
Hydraulic Fracturing
from Provisions Of The Safe Drinking Water Act

Text of H.R. 7231 [110th]: To repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act...

This version: Introduced in House. This is the original text of the bill as it was written by its sponsor and submitted to the House for consideration. This is the latest version of the bill available on this website.


2d Session

H. R. 7231

To repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act, and for other purposes.


September 29, 2008

Ms. DEGETTE (for herself, Mr. HINCHEY, and Mr. SALAZAR) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce


To repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


Section 1421(d)(1) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)(1)) is amended by striking subparagraph (B) and inserting:

‘(B) includes the underground injection of fluids or propping agents pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities; but

‘(C) excludes the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage.’.

Introduced Sept. 29, 2008 by Rep. Diana DeGette [D-CO], this bill never became law. This bill was proposed in a previous session of Congress. Sessions of Congress last two years, and at the end of each session all proposed bills and resolutions that haven't passed are cleared from the books. Members often reintroduce bills that did not come up for debate under a new number in the next session.



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