Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Speaking of Juice... Some Food for Thought

excerpted from NYTimes article: Despite Recession, High Demand for Skilled Labor
Just as the recession began, Chris McGrary, a manager at the Cianbro Corporation, set out to hire 80 “experienced” welders. Only now, 18 months later, is he completing the roster.
With the unemployment rate soaring, there have been plenty of applicants. But the welding test stumped many of them. Mr. McGrary found that only those with 10 years of experience — and not all of them — could produce a perfect weld: one without flaws, even in an X-ray. Flawless welds are needed for the oil refinery sections that Cianbro is building in Brewer, Me.
...and doubtless for gas pipelines as well.
Click HERE to link to the Bluedaze post "List of Pipeline Explosions"
and HERE to link to "Government Warning: Substandard Materials Used In Gas Pipelines!", also on Bluedaze.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?

The Latest Report from Calvin Tillman, Mayor of DISH, TX

When taking over as mayor of DISH, the first question that was asked by the local media outlets was to respond to the fact that our property values as a whole had decreased considerably from the past year. This is where small towns and cities get the bulk of their funding, through taxes on these property values. Therefore, if the taxable value goes down, naturally the revenue for the town does as well. Now I must say that I am opposed to unnecessary taxation, and therefore have done everything I can to make the taxes here the lowest in the area, and succeeded. However, the town has doubled in size over the last couple of years, yet the taxable value continued to drop. This baffled me how essentially the total value of the town drops every year, while were experiencing massive growth.

Not only did it baffle me, but it concerned me. As most small towns do, we use the county tax assessor’s office to perform the tax collection service for us, so they were my first call. When they explained the mineral values were the cause of this drop, and that was sixty percent of our tax base, I was again stunned. As you know we are located in the middle of the Barnett Shale, and have had a great deal of exploration in this area. So what would cause the values to continue to drop? This was also during the timeframe when natural gas prices were climbing to all time record highs.

As I investigated the source of the decline in my town it all started to become apparent. The property values not tied to minerals have continued to drop. I believe this is mostly due to the massive natural gas compressors, pipelines and metering stations. They have all but made the surface property here worthless; however, that does not account for the minerals which is over half of our taxable values. I then found that on average, each well drilled loses fifty percent of its production after the first year. That is a huge drop in production in only one year. So that tells me that the only way to maintain the same mineral value is to drill fifty percent more wells every year. So if you have ten wells this year, you would need to drill five more next year just to maintain the same production.

Many of the local cities have went on a sort of spending spree with the new found wealth from the natural gas minerals, and are now finding themselves in a financial crunch. The facts that I taught myself through this simple question from an intui tive reporter has made a world of difference on how I approached this problem here in DISH. We are frugal at best here, making the most of every dollar we get. We have cut the town debt in half, built a massive park, a library, repaved roads and performed substantial upgrades to town facilities and done this while lowering taxes and not dipping into the emergency fund we have in only two years.

To the real point, is what do minerals play into all of this? As previously mentioned we have over half of our tax dollars that come from the minerals, more specifically the revenue we received in 2007 was made up of 56% mineral values, in 2008 that number jumped to 64%. We have not gotten the completed numbers for 2009, but they will likely be similar. The dollar figures for this are 14,500,000 in 2007 and 22,277,000 in 2008 in property values from mineral.
On the surface the benefit from this industry seems huge. We are a small town and they double our value. But I also compare this to the drug “heroin”, due to seeing the other towns which have gotten addicted to the drug and when the drug goes away, (when they price of natural gas goes down 75% as it has), they find themselves in a financial crisis. Also, most people do not take into account how much it costs to have this activity going on. I can only explain what goes on in DISH, TX, but will attempt to explain the drug's side effects.
First and foremost this exploration destroys roads, which are very expensive to maintain and replace. None of the existing roads were designed to withstand the constant pounding from an 80,000 pound waste-water truck. Nor were they designed to handle the larger equipment that is used to drill and refracture the wells. To build roads to handle this traffic can cost millions of dollars.
If the municipality owns the roads, they can force the companies to sign a road use agreement, which forces them to pitch in and help the roads. Most of the cities in the area have agreements like this in place. If they do not, then they are foolish, and are likely costing their taxpayers a great deal of money by not forcing the companies to pay. However, the drilling companies are going to take whatever measures they can to keep from paying damages to the roads. The City of Argyle found out the hard way when they were sued by XTO over road work.
Here in DISH many of the roads are not owned by the town. This is both good and bad; it is good because we don’t have to pay for the major upkeep of these roads. However, if we don’t own the road we don’t have much control either. For example, we have implemented a weight restriction on all of the roads that we do own, but we can not enforce this on roads that we do not own. Unfortunately, the county does not have the capability to force these companies to have road agreements and pay for what they destroy. Therefore, the replacement and repairs come from the general taxation, or bond elections, not directly from the gas companies. So as you might guess it is a juggling match for the counties to keep the roads drivable for the average vehicle.
One example of that is Eakin Cemetery Road, which goes through part of DISH, but is owned by the county. A pipeline was being installed in this area, and the equipment used in this process is massive. Please note that the pipelines must be included in the cost of this exploration, even though they contribute little to the towns or property owners, and take a lot in return. I will discuss how bad they hurt the towns later.
When this line went in the companies used Eakin Cemetery Road to access the route. They completely destroyed this road and virtually made in impassible for the average vehicle. You could literally see the grooves where the truck tires that hauled massive equipment went. The pavement was cracked and torn from this equipment and the pipeline companies did nothing to prevent or repair this. And though the county does work hard to keep the roads in reasonable shape, when something like this happens in takes a while to plan the repair; therefore, the citizens here were forced to drive on the impassible road for quite a while until repairs were made.
There is another impact that can be recognized quickly, and that is the affect that the exploration has directly on surface values. I am sure that there are some who believe the propaganda and are fine with having a well or pipeline in their front yard. However, regardless of what you may have heard, they are the exception not rule, especially if you have a small population of mineral owners in your community. The average person will not purchase the property right next to a well site or compressor, providing they are made aware of it. Unfortunately, most of the mineral owners in this area have kept the minerals and moved on to someplace else. However, when they have tried to sell their property with wells and pipelines on them, it has not been successful.
Although you may see a boost in your tax rolls for the short term, you will pay in the long run with the drop in property values. For a small growing community like DISH it especially provides an obstacle for quality growth. There have been four large tracts of property for sale in DISH for several years with no real interest in purchasing the property. If you do manage to get some interest in the property, it will likely be something like a pipeyard or something else that continues to devalue the surrounding property. So getting quality growth in an area that has a large amount of exploration proves to be a large hurdle if not impossible.
The above paragraph dealt with the exploration of the mineral, now we must consider the pipelines, and appurtenances to these pipelines, such as compressors or metering stations. These facilities have dealt us a very harsh blow without giving much in return. This is highlighted by a previous illustration of the pipeyard. The gentleman who unfortunately lives next door to this compressor site sold off a piece of property to a developer who built 18 homes that average around $200,000 each. However, after the compressors were there, he has not been able to give his property away. He was only able to lease some of it to a company that stores pipe. That is the best he can do now, and that in itself is very low quality growth and makes the area even less desirable.
Another illustration that has been used by me before is the gentleman who has had 63 acres for sale now for several years. He purchased the property as an investment, and now has three pipelines and an above ground valve. He can not give this property away. As he reaches retirement age his retirement has been stolen from him. This is no different than Enron or any other scandal, only it has been made legal thievery. There are two other pieces of property that have been for sale for several years, one of which is a large parcel of about 70 acres and the other is about 10 acres.
The above examples are heart wrenching when you look at how much it has cost the property owners, and only one of the above mentioned owners has any substantial mineral interest. Therefore, they others are merely victims of circumstance. However, as this gets to the point of whether this all is really worth it, I believe that if all of these property were sold and developed it would add somewhere around $20,000,000 in property values, which is more than the average in mineral values over the last few years. I also believe this is a very conservative estimation, it could be more.
So would you rather have homes than minerals? Homes in theory will increase in value over the long term while minerals will drop. Although, this has not been case the last couple of years, in the long term this has held true. Also, natural gas is a commodity, and its prices are much more volatile than housing. For example in the last couple of years the lowest price of natural gas is about 25% of the highest; therefore, you have seen a 75% drop in prices in a little over a year.
In DISH we have focused on overcoming the boom and trying to get quality development. We have worked with a number of developers to annex their property into the city. All three of the major annexations we have had since I became mayor, have been solely to protect them from the development of the minerals and total destruction of the surface values that accompany it. This is not saying that we do not allow drilling; we just force the companies to do it responsibly. We have a pad site that is right in the middle of one of these subdivisions and it really does not look that bad. It is lined with an eight foot concrete fence and most of the stuff inside including the tanks is not visible beyond the fence. However, the companies will only do this when they are forced too, they will not volunteer it.
So how about all those mineral owners who have gotten filthy rich? Here in DISH there have been some folks who have made a great deal of money on the minerals. However, most of them had lived here their whole life, and had property handed down over the generations, otherwise they only have a small portion of the mineral rights. Therefore, there are only a few that are still alive that have a major portion of the mineral rights, and as previously stated most of them have moved away to someplace that they do not have to deal with the mess that is left behind.
This area was the beginning of the Barnett Shale, if I am not mistaken the first gas producing well in the Barnett Shale, was within 20 miles of DISH. Therefore, the minerals were purchased several years ago, and the leases were quite low in comparison to the massive leases signed last summer. The lease here is somewhere around 16% royalties with anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 per acre, not the 25% and $25,000 per acre that have been publicized.
So what does the 16% royalty get you? From what I understand, for someone who owns four acres and has a quarter of the mineral rights, they average less than a $100 a month. Therefore, if you have one acre with 100% of the minerals you would get something similar. Therefore, unless you have a massive amount of land with 100% of the minerals, you are not going to get much money. If you are part of the lease, you must also consider the truck traffic, odor, noise, and you just might be fortunate enough to have a high pressure gas pipeline run through your front yard. All of these things accompany the hundred bucks a month. I do not have any mineral rights, if anyone has another illustration please add it to this posting.
So to the point of, is the juice worth the squeeze? From my perspective as a small town mayor and a property owner, I say no! Not in the manner in which it is being done in Texas. I think that with minor regulation it could both provide the natural resources that we need as well as not totally destroying the surface values and destroying the growth of these areas. For example, there is no process in Texas for the laying or routing of pipelines. The pipeline companies can literally put them anywhere they want without concern for surface owners and other natural resources. Municipalities do have some limited control over the placement of the wells, but not the pipelines.
The items that were discussed were only the things that are easily recognized. I am still learning the affects on air and water quality and to explore the possible health of affects of this exploration. Although I have recently learned that the companies with the compressor site have learned a loophole that allows them to virtually go without regulation in regards to the air emissions they produce. I will share more on this subject as I figure out the specifics. I have the documents; I just have not digested everything yet.
This also does not include the tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees it takes to offer the citizens some minor protection from these companies. Nor does it take into account the hundreds of hours of my time spent researching and campaigning for more regulation for no pay. So you must ask yourself; is the juice is worth the squeeze? I can support any statement that was made in this posting; therefore, if you have more specific questions, please let me know and I will clarify it for you. To those of you who have visited DISH, I doubt you have any questions in regards to the impact the Barnett Shale has had on us.

Calvin Tillman
Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

"Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it"


A Call for Caution: Safety and Responsibility vs. Gas Rush Fever

by Chris Burger, former Broome County legislator, chair of Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition.

Everything about gas drilling cries for caution, due diligence and patience. Its monetary benefits seem obvious, but the costs and risks are far from fully identified, much less comprehended. If there ever is a time for a serious, hardnosed cost-benefit analysis, this situation surely qualifies. It is hard to understate the disastrous consequences if we get it wrong. It is extremely difficult and expensive to address negative health, socio-economic and environmental impacts after the fact.
No one is volunteering to do the socio-economic cost-benefit analysis required for good decision making. ... As important as looking at individual gas wells is, no one is looking at the impact of a "gas field," which is the more relevant question from a community perspective.
One does not need to be against gas drilling to ask these basic questions:

• What well density do we consider acceptable?

• What damage will our drinking water sources sustain?

• How will we dispose of the toxic wastewater generated by the drilling and fracturing?

• What are the effects on agriculture, hunting, and fishing?

• What are the effects on our wildlife in general?

• How will this affect tourism?

* How will it affect our ability to attract young people to our area?

• What air quality and noise levels do we consider acceptable?

• What are the effects on our infrastructure?

• What are the effects on our ability to control flooding?

• How will the many natural faults in our geography impact the safety of the technology?

* How can we eliminate liability for the landowner?

• What regulation is needed to hold the industry fully accountable for all costs associated with drilling?

These questions need to be answered in the context of a fully developed gas field, not a single well.

The saddest refrain emanating from our neighbors just to the south is "if only we knew what we were getting ourselves into." Families have lost water wells to pollution, there have been gas explosions, and home values have plummeted. We need to ask hard questions because drilling will not be restricted to rural areas. It can occur in our suburbs and cities, just as it is happening now under downtown Fort Worth, Texas. A fully developed gas field will affect us all.
Click HERE to read this article in its entirety.
Click HERE, or in the DON'T MISS column (right sidebar) to watch Chris Burger's excellent video overview on drilling for gas in Essential Dissent: Marcellus Shale Play.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

HOME... A Film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand

Scientists tell us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, avert the depletion of natural resources and the catastrophic evolution of the Earth's climate. The stakes are high for us and our children. Everyone should take part in the effort, and HOME has been conceived to take a message of mobilization out to every human being. For this purpose, HOME needs to be free. ... HOME is a non-profit film. HOME has been made for you : share it!
And act for the planet.
Yann Arthus-Bertrand, GoodPlanet Fundation President
HOME is a carbon offset movie
Click HERE to view the entire 1.5 hour film on YouTube.
Website: http://www.home-2009.com

Friday, June 26, 2009


Who Does Dougie Drillbit Represent?

While industry proponents say a severance tax (i.e., anything that would present a hurdle to the unbridled pursuit of natural ga$) would fetter an industry in its infancy here in Pennsylvania, according to a report in today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 87% of PA residents strongly or somewhat favor using a severance tax to protect our land, water and wildlife.
In fact, 39 states now tax the extraction of natural resources, making Pennsylvania (one of the gas wealthiest states in the nation) in the minority when it comes to charging industry with responsibility for reparations necessitated as a result of their activities, and putting McLinko clearly in the minoritiy too.

Whose interests is Dougie Drillbit representing protecting? Are Bradford Countians so out of step with their fellow Pennsylvanians that they want to shelter the profits of commercial drillers (for the sake of lease holders???) at the expense of all residents who will be forced to dig into their pockets to bear the cost of the reckless pursuit of those profits?

Jan Jarrett, CEO of Penn Future, sees the severance tax as a way of balancing the great opportunity the Marcellus shale play offers with the "tremendous risk to the land, water and wildlife that makes Pennsylvania so special."

A well-structured severance tax on natural gas production will protect Pennsylvania taxpayers from shouldering the public costs that come with increased drilling, according to a Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center report.

The report, “Responsible Growth: Protecting the Public Interest with a Natural Gas Severance Tax,” examines the potential costs of increased natural gas drilling on taxpayers and the environment, how severance taxes are structured in other states, and what lessons Pennsylvania can learn from them. It can be accessed HERE.

As guest columnist in the Delaware County Times last week, Jan Jarrett made the following observations:
(To read Jarrett's complete statement, click HERE.)

• The tax proposed by Gov. Ed Rendell is identical to the tax paid by the industry in West Virginia. If this tax is onerous, we would expect that Pennsylvania would be the drilling capital of the nation. But it isn’t. Pennsylvania is 15th out of 32 gas-producing states.

• But while this tax will do no harm to the industry, it can do a great deal of good for our state. Natural gas development will bring jobs, investment and money into Pennsylvania’s rural communities, but environmental officials admit that drilling will inevitably result in some damage to our natural resources and communities.

• Careful permitting and oversight can reduce, but not eliminate, the environmental harm. We must have a severance tax that reserves a portion for the environment so taxpayers are not left holding the bag for industry’s damage.

• Without a severance tax that has a portion reserved for local governments, rural areas will have no money to accommodate the influx of workers, their families and additional businesses that drilling will bring.

• Without a severance tax, our state agencies will have no money to protect and enhance the parks, forests, fishing and game areas that are likely to be harmed.

• Without a severance tax, our citizens will lose the natural resources being removed, with no compensation for this permanent loss.

• Without a severance tax, our battered state budget will continue to suffer, with our citizens having to pay larger taxes to cover all the needs of our state.

It's almost a no brainer isn't it?

Heh. What's that say about Doug McLinko?
Call him first thing Monday morning at 570.265.1727 x2700!
Tell him you're not satisfied with the way he's representing you!


Predictably, McLinko says gas severance tax, greenhouse bill will hurt Bradford County

“We have a gas industry that’s going to employ hundreds of thousands of people throughout the state—and yet we’re going to punish them before they even get started with (a severance) tax,” said Doug "Drillbit" McLinko.

Interestingly, in a Daily Review reader comment yesterday re: Fortuna spending over $200M here on expansion, sickandtired wrote:
" The public would really like to know, how many permanent, fulltime jobs have been created by this gas endeavor and are being held by local employees??? Seems every time that question is asked it is "unknown".
I pass the Armenia Mountain Windmill Project home station on the corner of Dewey and State every morning. There are many truck there everymorning, but I have seen no Pennsylvania license plates there. Tx, Wy,Wi, Ky, NY Ut, and others, but NO PA. Where are all the jobs we were told would result from these companies? "

TXsharon replies: An answer to the question of how many can be, at least, partially answered by watching Barnett Shale: An Aerial View. As you look down on all the drill sites, drill rigs, compressor stations, etc., count the number of cars and trucks parked around those sites. You won't find many or any.
Published: Friday, June 26, 2009 2:29 AM EDT
TOWANDA — The proposed state severance tax on gas drilling and an energy bill that is scheduled to be voted on today in the U.S. House of Representatives will both hurt Bradford County, Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko said.

McLinko said he opposes the severance tax on gas drilling, which he says will place such a large financial burden on gas drilling companies that the smaller companies will stop drilling in the area and the large ones will slow down the pace of their drilling.

In Pennsylvania, gas drilling companies already face the highest corporate net income tax in the nation, McLinko said at the Bradford County commissioners’ meeting.

The Pennsylvania House Energy Committee earlier this week approved legislation which would create the severance tax and which would distribute less than 2 percent of the tax revenue to local municipalities, said Eric Matthews, chairman of the Bradford County Republican Committee.

Sixty percent of the revenue from the severance tax would go to the state’s General Fund to bail out the state from its budget problems, McLinko said.

While the other 40 percent is to be spent “locally”, “a lot of that is for social spending programs,” and only a fraction of the “local” spending would be directed to municipalities, he said.

Pennsylvanians won’t see the severance tax money used for things like creating parks or expanding hospitals, McLinko said.

Greenhouse bill

McLinko said the federal energy bill, which includes cap-and-trade provisions and is aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions, will “crush” industries in the county, which are heavily dependent on electricity.

The greenhouse gas legislation will drive up the cost of electricity, home heating fuel and other energy costs, he said.

Bradford County is particularly vulnerable to the price of electricity because, due to its large industrial plants, the county “consumes as much electricity as the city of Baltimore, save one steel mill.”


Thursday, June 25, 2009


One More Threat to Clean Water

New York Times editorial
Published: June 24, 2009

Thanks to the Bush administration’s industry-friendly rulings and a Supreme Court determined to ignore the plain language of the Clean Water Act, America’s waterways are at risk of becoming industrial dumps.

The latest indignity was a 6-to-3 decision on Monday that will allow an American gold mining company to discharge 210,000 gallons a day of potentially toxic mining waste into a 23-acre lake near Juneau, Alaska. A joyous Sarah Palin, Alaska’s governor, called the ruling a “great victory” for Alaska and, astonishingly, “a green light for responsible resource development.”

What it is, rather, is a green light for the extinction of every fish in the lake. The mining company says it will pretreat the waste and restore the lake’s vegetation down the road, but we’re not betting on it.

The decision was based in part on a 2002 Bush rule that cleared the way for the dumping of mining waste in previously protected waters. Until that rule, the Clean Water Act had stipulated that the Army Corps of Engineers could place “fill material” in waters when it was building bridges and levees. The Bush administration enlarged the definition of fill material to include contaminated mining waste, in clear violation of the law’s intent. This is the same regulatory trick the corps relies on to allow coal mining companies in Appalachia to dump the waste from mountaintop mining into the valleys below — a practice that has obliterated 1,200 miles of streams.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that the court had little choice but to “accord deference” to the corps’ reading of the law. To which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg replied, in effect, what about paying deference to the Clean Water Act?

The act, she rightly argued, states plainly that waterways cannot be used for waste disposal. The court’s job, she suggested, is not to take refuge in ambiguities but to reaffirm the clear purpose of the law.

Fortunately, the ruling does not have to be the last word. The Obama administration can save that Alaskan lake — and other threatened water bodies — simply by reversing the Bush “fill” rule. Congress could also step in; a House bill that would reverse the rule already has 151 co-sponsors. Before any more damage is done, a way must be found to protect America’s vulnerable waters.


Senate moves to restore the Clean Water Act protections for nation's lakes, streams
- America's waters are closer to again having the comprehensive Clean Water Act protections that Congress intended


WASHINGTON, D.C. - ...Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and the members of the Environment and Public Works Committee ... voted recently to restore Clean Water Act protections for all of the nation's lakes, streams and wetlands.

The Committee voted 12 to 7 to advance an amended S. 787, the Clean Water Restoration Act to the full Senate.




(See sidebar left for contact info.)


"America's waters are closer to again having the comprehensive Clean Water Act protections that Congress intended," said Jan Goldman-Carter, wetlands and water resources counsel, National Wildlife Federation.
"This bill restores critical protections for our nation's increasingly precious fresh water resources while respecting private property rights and continuing longstanding Clean Water Act exemptions for agriculture and forestry."
The Clean Water Restoration Act would clarify Congress' intent to extend Clean Water Act protections to all the nation's wetlands, streams and other waters.
CLICK HERE to read the complete report in the White Mountain Independent.

To read more about the Clean Water Act, including a link to the entire text, CLICK HERE.


(I just did!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Drilling in Marcellus Shale needs Scrutiny

Contamination of Drinking Water Feared

By Stacey Shackford • sshackford@gannett.com

Staff Writer • ithacajournal.com

June 24, 2009

The woman who has helped the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency review and monitor state oil and gas drilling policies warned that New York is seriously lacking oversight and is long overdue an assessment.

Speaking Tuesday at the Museum of the Earth, with the skeleton of giant prehistoric creature looming above her head, Wilma Subra said now is the time for the state to take a hard look at its current and future drilling policies, with the specter of large-scale hydrofracking of natural gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale looming over its head.

Subra, a chemistry expert and recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship Genius Award for her work as a community organizer, has gone into several states to assess oil and gas exploration policies as a member of the EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. New York was last assessed in 1994, she said.

"We need to go in and do another review because this is the only oversight we have," she said.

Around 60 people crowded into the museum, most of them furiously scribbling in notebooks as they were bombarded with information.

Horizontal hydro-fracking - pumping a mixture of high-pressure water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground to fracture shale and capture the natural gas there - continues in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, but has paused in New York while the DEC writes a supplement to its environmental impact statement on gas drilling.

Subra warned of depletion of water aquifers, the contamination of groundwater, soil and air with potentially toxic materials, the possibility of radioactive scaling in drill wells and pipes and the inability of local wastewater treatment facilities to dispose of the amount of waste involved in large-scale drilling. She also noted that other formerly drilled, uncapped wells in the area could pose serious risks if fracking fluids find their way into them as they could then easily flow into the groundwater supply.

Wes Gillingham, of event organizers Catskill Mountainkeeper, also showed aerial photos of a rural Pennsylvania drilling site that confirmed many of their fears - drilling sites and gravel pits popping up in a seemingly random pattern alongside houses, farms and churches; pipelines and access roads zigzagging across the landscape; holding ponds overflowing its potentially chemically contaminated waste water; and dozens of large freight trucks lined up in fields.

Subra urged those gathered to educate themselves and get involved, and pointed out that citizen outcry in her native Louisiana successfully led to the phasing out of drilling pits in favor of a more environmentally sound "closed-loop system."

"You have a large amount of work ahead of you," she added.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All the News that's Fit to Print in a Nutshell!

How Neutral Is The Potential Gas Committee?

by Adam Federman, Contributing Writer, Earth Island Journal

The NYT Tells Only Half The Story

An article published last week in the New York Times (“Estimate Places Natural Gas Reserves 35% Higher”) extols the potential virtues of a natural gas boom and, in particular, new technologies that have made it possible to profitably extract that gas from shale formations in the United States. The article reads like an industry power point presentation (which is why you didn't read it here) and, though it mentions environmental concerns (“Some environmental groups fear that hydraulic fracturing will pollute drinking water”), does not quote a single critic of the industry, glosses over the details of hydraulic fracturing, and trumpets the line that natural gas is a clean alternative to fossil fuels. While natural gas is relatively clean burning compared to coal and oil, the process of removing it from the earth is far from what most would consider clean or environmentally sound. Moreover, the impact of hydraulic fracturing on the environment remains highly controversial.

According to Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, a small environmental organization in New York State, “Gas extraction, particularly shale gas extraction, is a dirty and destructive business that degrades our environment. It's a daunting task, but somehow we have to make both the public and the politicians aware that the environmental damage wreaked by gas extraction is an important part of the equation that has to be considered as we chart our energy course for the future.”

The New York Times, rather than present the arguments of those who are opposed to opening up certain areas to natural gas drilling, relies almost entirely on industry insiders and those connected with the Potential Gas Committee (PGC), a group of “academics and industry experts” supported by the Potential Gas Agency at the Colorado School of Mines. Created in the 1960s, the Potential Gas Committee issues a review of the nation’s gas reserves every two years. This year they’ve made headlines with the estimate that the United States has 35 percent more natural gas reserves than previously thought. The Times article ran the day before the Committee’s report was released and fails to explore its connections to the gas industry, identifying it simply as “the authority on gas supplies.”

According to their website, the Committee currently has 105 members who contribute their time pro bono (“typically after work and on weekends”). They are primarily geologists and engineers “engaged in exploration for and development of natural gas.”

Though sales from the Committee’s reports cover some internal costs, the rest of the group’s funding comes in the form of “strings-free” contributions from a “diverse array of companies, organizations, and individuals that for whatever reason are interested in the Nation’s future supply of natural gas.” Given the actual makeup of the Committee’s sponsors, the phrase “for whatever reason” is rather telling.

Here are a few of the organizations that provide “strings-free” funding: Chesapeake Energy Corporation (one of the big players drilling in the Marcellus Shale), The Houston Exploration Company, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (also involved in Marcellus Shale drilling), Wolverine Gas and Oil Corporation, The American Gas Association, Duke Energy Field Services, GASCO Energy, Black Diamond Energy, White Eagle Exploration Inc., among others. Committee volunteers are affiliated (or have been affiliated) with many of the big industry players such as Halliburton, Schlumberger, Chevron, Shell, and Cabot Oil & Gas. Other organizations represented include the American Gas Association, The American Association of Professional Landmen, the World Petroleum Congress, and the World Energy Council.

Not surprisingly, on the day the report was released, the American Petroleum Institute issued its own statement arguing that the Committee’s work, “underscores the vital role of hydraulic fracturing, a production technology needed to develop shale gas,” even though the report has little to say on the issue of hydraulic fracturing. “Without hydraulic fracturing,” the API continues, “these crucial American-owned natural gas resources would likely remain in the ground.

Although the API is listed as a member affiliated with the Committee on the Committee’s website (http://geology.mines.edu/pgc/members.html), API Media Relations Manager Karen Matusic said in an email that they are “not a member of the Potential Gas Committee.” According to the PGC the API has been affiliated in the past but is not currently a member. In their statement, the API goes on to note that access to closed federal lands and offshore federal waters could help address global warming.

Times reporter Jad Mouawad echoes that argument, writing that, “The finding raises the possibility that natural gas could emerge as a critical transition fuel that could help to battle global warming.” He then briefly mentions the role hydraulic fracturing has played in opening up shale formations and describes the process as one in which “water is injected at high pressure into wells to shatter rocks deep underground, helping to release trapped gas [italics added].” Of course, that is only part of the story.*
*Time and again, it's the only part industry and vested interests like to tell.

Hydraulic fracturing involves not only injecting millions of gallons of water into wells but sand and hundreds of chemicals, many of which have not been made public. The industry’s insistence that the chemicals used remain a trade secret has only contributed to skepticism among critics and environmentalists. If the process is clean and does not pose a threat to drinking water supplies, then what does the industry have to hide? If, as the industry claims, contamination of ground water and wells has not occurred why not release the list of chemicals it uses in fracking for public review?

Beyond the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing there are many other environmental issues that often go unmentioned. The massive wells required for hydraulic fracturing can stretch for over a half-mile in every direction. In the Catskills (where part of the Marcellus Shale is located) this is of particular concern because forests and farmland stand in the way of gas extraction. The region, much of which is designated forever wild, is mountainous and prone to flooding. Wetlands, the New York City Watershed (the largest unfiltered drinking water supply in the country), and the Upper Delaware Scenic area and Recreational River are also at risk.

Each time a well is fracked, between two and nine million gallons of water are needed. Each well may be fracked up to 6 or more times. The question of where the water will come from and where the wastewater (or produced water) will be stored is also an issue that must be addressed. There have been several cases of water contamination from poorly stored wastewater, which contains not only the chemicals injected into the well but also radioactive materials and heavy metals.
A U.S. Geological Survey document, Water Resources and Natural Gas Production from the Marcellus Shale, by Daniel J. Soeder and William M. Kappel concludes:
"Because of questions related to water supply and wastewater disposal, however, many state agencies have been cautious about granting permits, and some states have placed moratoriums on drilling until these issues are resolved. At the same time, gas companie$, driller$, and landowner$ are eager to move forward and develop the re$ource.
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."
The New York Times article also leaves out what may be the most important development surrounding natural gas exploration in recent weeks: the possibility that the EPA will review its policy on hydraulic fracturing.
Click HERE to Read: Safe Drinking Water Act Should Cover Hydraulic Fracturing
Prepared by
Earthworks/OGAP and Environmental Working Group
EPA head Lisa Jackson recently told NY Rep. Maurice Hinchey that she thinks it would be a good idea for the agency to review environmental risks associated with hydraulic fracturing. Colorado Representatives Diana DeGette and Jared Polis, along with Hinchey, have recently introduced a bill (the FRAC Act) that would close a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2005 (the Halliburton Loophole) that exempted hydraulic fracturing from regulatory oversight. A matching Senate version has been supported by Bob Casey and Chuck Schumer.
Urge your Senators and Representatives to vote in favor of the FRAC Act, removing exemptions for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act! WRITE TODAY! For contact info, see sidebar on the left.

“When it comes to protecting the public’s health, it’s not unreasonable to require these companies to disclose the chemicals they are using in our communities – especially near our water sources,” said DeGette in a June 9 statement. “Our bill simply closes an unconscionable Bush-Cheney loophole by requiring the oil and gas industry to follow the same rules as everyone else.”
Urge your Senators and Representatives to vote in favor of the FRAC Act, removing exemptions for hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act! WRITE TODAY! For contact info, see sidebar on the left.
In just a year the industry’s hopes have taken a sharp turn. As congress moves to increase oversight, the price of natural gas has plummeted from record high levels last summer when the rush was at its peak. Today the price of gas per thousand cubic feet is just above $4. For extraction to be profitable the price needs to be somewhere between $4 and $6. A year ago it was hovering around $13.

“The best thing in our favor is the economic downturn because this is not a cheap process,” Bruce Ferguson, a member of Catskill Citizens, told me a couple of months ago. “Hydraulic fracturing is a very expensive way to extract gas. You're not putting a straw into the ground and sucking out the gas. If the price of gas remains low enough, if alternative technologies come online quickly, the incentive to go ahead with this could diminish. In the meantime public awareness is growing by the day.”

Even as public awareness grows, however, the gas industry is pushing hard to convince Americans that natural gas is the solution to our energy problems and that closing the Halliburton Loophole will have potentially devastating consequences. It’s clean, they say, and it’s ours. We reduce our dependence on foreign oil and at the same time “battle global warming,” as the NYT puts it in rather grandiose fashion.

In the light of day however, extracting does contribute to global warming and is already having devastating consequences.
This hydraulic fracturing stimulation on a Marcellus Shale gas well shows
the amount of diesel powered and storage equipment involved.

Rather than explain to its readers why the Potential Gas Committee (or its member volunteers) might have a vested interested in encouraging hydraulic fracturing as a new energy policy is hashed out in congress, the paper of record simply states that for “advocates of the gas industry, the report vindicates the potential of natural gas in the economy.” Then they close by quoting the managing director for policy analysis at the American Gas Association, Chris McGill, failing to mention that it is one of the institutions listed among the Committee’s volunteer members. Not only that but McGill himself, according to Committee program assistant Linda D’Epagnier is an observer with the PGC and, in his role (he’s been involved for several years), handles all press releases and acts more or less as a PR official for the organization. He’s also a Director on the board of the Potential Gas Agency. That’s a fact the Times should have pointed out.
(Red italic editorializing by Splashdown.)


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Investigation into animal deaths re-opened... Drilling won't hurt water (!#@$&*)

There's a big dichotomy between the FACTS being exposed every day on blogs like this one and the ones listed in the sidebar, and the NONSENSE being touted by industry propagandists, which is sadly often reported in the well greased media as news.
For example, the following industry propaganda appeared in several places today, beginning, I believe, with the Schenectady, NY Daily Gazette.
The assertions are intrinsically NONSENSE, posing as FACTS. Despite ALL the reports of harm caused by hydraulic fracturing, from Colorado and Wyoming, down to Texas and Louisiana, on up into Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania, there are still professors of wisdom who imperil folks still uninformed enough to swallow this kind of hogwash whole and possibly make decisions experience will cause them to regret when it is too late.
Shame on the author for being so wreckless with the truth. And shame too on the Daily Gazette for presenting their readers, who might be expecting facts, with nonsense.

"Drilling Shale for Natural Gas Won't Hurt Water" the expert says.

My career aspirations, he begins, led me to study petroleum engineering in the 1950s. Upon graduation, I was employed by an energy company in the Southwest. It took years to develop an understanding of the problems concerning oil and gas production. Eventually, I became fairly proficient, and was involved in designing and performing fracture treatments of oil and gas reservoirs in order to increase production.

A Viewpoint column by Patricia O’Reilly Rush, on June 14, suggests that hydrofracturing of the Marcellus Shale for development of natural gas resources would endanger water supply resources.

This simply would not occur*

*UNBELIEVABLE! The arrogance of this statement flies in the face of all manner of fracking related accidents, in which contaminated water has caused illness and/or death.

Need for facts, NONSENSE VERSION!

Since very few people in the Northeast have had experience with well stimulation, he goes on, I believe your readers should have a better understanding of the facts before forming an opinion on this aspect of energy development.

Despite the fact that diesel fuel spent extracting natural gas is causing severe air pollution:
Natural gas burns very cleanly and we are producing about 87 percent of our needs, with the remainder coming from Canada.

We must continue to develop additional gas reserves. Therefore, the vast gas reserves locked into the “tight” Marcellus Shale must be developed. Directional drilling into this massive shale formation exposes additional length of this gas-
bearing reservoir to production and improved fracturing techniques opens up this valuable resource for decades of reliable production.

Rush’s recent Viewpoint column suggests fracture treatments of this resource will threaten water supplies, and she urges that development of this needed resource be terminated. The possibility of “frac” fluids contaminating water supplies is simply zero. I have never heard of a “frac” treatment ever adversely affecting another formation — let alone reaching the surface to pollute a stream!

For starters, Mr. Wege, you need to read the story of the toxic leak into Divide Creek, Colorado. (http://www.journeyoftheforsaken.com)

What happens after a huge injection of water into a well is a backflow of water following the treatment. The backflow may last for weeks but it will end. The chemicals that concern Rush reduce pipe friction and carry the propping agent, such as sand, that keeps the fracture open.

The chemicals that concern people who care about protecting safe drinking water and the environment from contamination are TOXIC.

Care for a glass of water, Mr. Wege?

No reason to stop

Beware the language of the argument in this next sentence!
Treatment of the backflow should be a permit condition and not a reason to condemn the effort to develop this resource. Finally, well treatments that involve the use of millions of gallons of water may be a concern to regulators and riparian interests, but can be addressed through the well permit system issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Sure, and they'll be able to manufacture the water on back order too...

(Red italic editorializing above by Splashdown)

Need for facts, NO-NONSENSE VERSION!

The most heartwrenching article I've come across recently is an update on the cows that died in their own pasture in Caddo Parish, Louisianna back on April 28th.

Investigation into animal deaths re-opened

Posted: May 19, 2009 08:53 PM

Updated: May 26, 2009 04:59 PM

KSLA News 12 Headlines

CLARIFICATION: The Department of Environmental Quality has not confirmed the cause of death of the 20 cows that shared the pasture with the Chesapeake Energy Branch 2 H-1 well site on April 28th. While the Regional Manager of the Northwest Regional Office of the DEQ has confirmed there was a chemical spill on the site, and that they have found elevated levels of potassium chloride in the soil there, no conclusion as to the exact cause of the cattle deaths has been officially determined. Test results on the cows themselves and what may have caused their deaths have not been released.

KEITHVILLE, LA (KSLA) - Neighbors of a South Caddo Parish well site insist the 20 cows that died three weeks ago after a chemical spill weren't the only victims, "Because of them letting poisons go," says Nancy Howard. Otis Randle is the Regional Manger of the Northwest Regional Office of the Department of Environmental Quality. He says elevated levels of potassium chloride were found in the soil, but DEQ investigators are waiting on final test results before revealing their official findings and who should be held responsible for the spill. Chesapeake operates the well. Schlumberger was contracted for completion services at the site. The contractor was in the process of 'fracking' the well on April 28th, when the cattle began collapsing in the pasture in which the well sits. Howard and others insist those cows weren't the only victims. "Not only cows but squirrels, birds, cats, dogs, fish," says Howard.

Randle says his office had an inspector out at the site on April 30th, the day a resident called in to report the additional animal deaths. "We found no indication, no evidence that there was ever any additional livestock or animal kills in the area." Randle says the caller was not an owner of any of the affected animals, and was not able to provide names and addresses. But he says his investigator went anyway, and canvassed the length of Keatchie-Marshall Rd. between Preston and Amy Lynn. That investigator's report shows that either there was no one home at the time, the home was gated and locked, or the resident reported no problems.

If they had turned down Amy Lynn street and around the corner to Loretta, they might have found gamecock breeder Warren Jordan. He says he lost more than 120 chicks the day those 20 cows died. "Every one of 'em, within four hours, they were all dead, the same day. I didn't even know the cows were dead."

Jordan, who until last summer raised the gamecocks for fighting, now breeds them for show. Cockfighting became illegal in Louisiana last August. But the family business passed down over 70 years is still a potentially profitable one for Jordan, which makes the loss of so many future roosters a painful one. "Out of the 120 little babies I lost, I would say probably a good 80 of them were roosters, so you're looking at about $500 times 80," Jordan explains, "I don't get no less than $500 apiece."

Jordan says he thought the chicks' deaths were connected to the arrival of a flock of blackbirds that had touched down in the yard. When the flock had gone, one dead blackbird remained. But when the chicks started keeling over, Jordan says, "I panicked! I thought, "My God,' what's goin' on here, I've never had anything like that. All I could think was just burn 'em! Keep 'em from catchin' a parasite or something like that!" And that's just what he did. A few chick-sized wishbones are all that remain in the ashes where Jordan says he piled them up and incinerated the little birds.

Back up on Keatchie-Marshall Road, down past Amy Lyn Street a short distance, Rachel Sepulvado was watching her newly acquired calf deteriorate quickly. "He kept his tongue out," remembers Rachel. "He looked pitiful, he wouldn't stand up...I have never seen a cow bleed from his eyes, only 5, 6 days old and blood out of his eyes." The young animal was also bleeding from the rectum and panting heavily, symptoms that have been described as similar to those of the ill-fated cows in the pasture shared with the Chesapeake well where the chemical spill occurred. Tammy Sepulvado says the young animal was dead in a matter of hours. "The way we're figuring how he got it is with it being in the air, because when we bought him from a friend down the road, they come right by that site with a horse trailer."

"Anything is possible, but the material that we've seen was contained to that one site," says Otis Randle with the DEQ. Randle says there was no indication on the site that the potassium chloride (a chemical compound commonly found in well completion operations) leeched any further than the topsoil, and was never airborne. "I heard 'em sayin that," responds Warren Jordan, "But yet I had 120 dead chickens!"

As a result of News 12's investigation, the DEQ has re-opened their investigation into reports of additional animal deaths.


Bamboozled in Good Faith!

A Susquehanna County PA Resident Speaks Out

Fortuna was the company that was under scrutiny in NY for the
unethical tactics used in obtaining leases– best and safest? What
people do not seem to understand is that this industry comes with a
multitude of "nasty surprises"even when everything goes as expected!
Out here in Dimock when we are looking for some comic relief, we joke about the landman telling us there'll just be a metal "christmas tree" "you'll never know we were even here".
What they did not tell us– we would never drink our water again, diesel fuel would be spilled on a fairly regular basis, traffic would be non stop, loud and dangerously fast, drilling would last for months on a site, there would be 30plus wells in a 4 mile walk, venting fumes would fill our valley, flaring would light our nightsky, pipeline would crisscross the hills and forests would be removed, a compressor station would be built and now the 30 inch pipeline will plow through here next year taking more land and bringing more traffic and heavy equipment, also wells would be refracked if deemed viable.
Best and safest?
Just the other day fracking fluids were sprayed on a well site.
What doesn't get reported?
Understand that NE Pennsylvania is now on the verge (although here in Dimock we are over a year into it) of becoming one huge industrial zone– poorly regulated and operating with few safeguards for the environment. You can have what you think is the greatest lease and
believe me there are pretty impressive leases out there now– but no lease prevents the inevitable spills and leaks or worse.
Clean fuel?
Not clean in its extraction and at the expense of water, water, water.

-Victoria Switzer


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Doug McLinko, Gas and the Family Farm

A Bradford County PA Resident Speaks Out

Dear Editor,

Normally, when I open up The Daily Review I find the usual dose of local news. However, every so often I am confronted with a passage containing quotes from some of our elected officials. On Wednesday June 10, 2009 I opened up to a small article in the “local and state” section in which Doug McLinko stated, “If you believe in agriculture preservation and preserving the family farm, this gas play has done more than any government program could ever do.” It took me awhile to put my brain back together because a statement that devoid of sense can really blow ones mind. Let’s begin with the obvious logical fallacy in McLinko’s statement, how on earth does he expect the preservation of agriculture and the family farm if land used for farming and other agricultural enterprises is being leased and used for drilling? These operations require heavy equipment that isn’t easy on land, exploratory practices that are definitely not easy on land, and pipelines through land, not to mention the effect on roads and water, more on water later. Why doesn’t he just go ahead and say, “I’m lobbying for the gas companies in order to line my own pockets, and I’m not nor was I ever, interested in working with the current or past commissioners to serve the citizens of Bradford County.” It would be a lot easier for him to say that, because I feel like I may not be the only one who can see right through his intentions. The PA Dept. of Agriculture is a part of the PA state government, Doug, and it provides numerous services to farmers in PA. These are services that actually contribute to the preservation of LAND that farmers use to produce, annual reports and publications, and right-to-know services. Many bureaus also lobby on their behalf in Harrisburg, one bureau being the aptly named Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. PA Conservation Districts as well as programs like the Penn State Agricultural Extension help shape agricultural policy within the commonwealth. Do the gas companies provide that for the 58,000 farming families in Pennsylvania? Or are they too busy lobbying for every tax break possible for themselves? I believe it is quite clear that the gas companies do not lobby for anyone but themselves and no one else, save for the minority of landowners who sit on land rich with natural gas. The gas companies have no interest in the preservation of land either; quite the opposite if you paid any attention while you visited Texas, Doug.
You know you’re really in trouble, Doug, when Tina Pickett actually introduces legislation aimed at the interests of her constituents while you are off vehemently defending gas companies who serve no one but themselves and irresponsibly wreck the pristine environment of Bradford County. That’s right folks, Tina Pickett introduced constructive legislation! It only took her 8 years to find an issue in which she could shape policy in, granted its an issue that covers 75% of the earth. I’m speaking of course about water in reference to an article printed the very same day in the Review. Interestingly enough Tina Pickett is an elected official, in a government whose purpose is to SERVE its constituents. I think Doug McLinko could learn a lesson from such behavior. It is my belief that the majority of farmers in the state, and perhaps the county, would agree that an instrument of government in the form of the PA Dept. of Agriculture, and groups like the PA Farm Bureau, The Conservation Districts throughout PA, and programs like the Penn State Agricultural Extension PA serves their interests in preservation of agriculture far more than both the gas companies and Doug McLinko ever has.

Christopher S. Bradley


Thursday, June 18, 2009

H.R. 2766 The House bill to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Rep. Diana DeGette [CO]
Cosponsors: Rep. Michael A. Arcuri [NY], Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey [NY], Rep. Rush D. Holt [NJ], Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich [OH], Rep. Eric J.J. Massa [NY], Rep. John M. McHugh [NY], Rep. Jared Polis [CO], Rep. Bobby L. Rush [IL]

Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 (Introduced in House)

HR 2766 IH

1st Session

H. R. 2766

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


June 9, 2009

Ms. DEGETTE (for herself, Mr. HINCHEY, and Mr. POLIS of Colorado) 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,


    This Act may be cited as the `Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009'.


    (a) Hydraulic Fracturing- 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 and gas production activities; but
        `(C) excludes the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage.'.
    (b) Disclosure- Section 1421(b) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(b)) is amended as follows:
      (1) In subparagraph (C) of paragraph (1) insert before the semicolon `, including a requirement that any person using hydraulic fracturing disclose to the State (or the Administrator if the Administrator has primary enforcement responsibility in the State) the chemical constituents (but not the proprietary chemical formulas) used in the fracturing process'.
      (2) Add the following new paragraph at the end thereof:
      `(4) The State (or Administrator) shall make the disclosure of chemical constituents referred to in subparagraph (C) of paragraph (1) available to the public, including a posting of the information on an appropriate Internet website. In addition, whenever the State or the Administrator, or a treating physician or nurse, determines that a medical emergency exists and the proprietary chemical formulas or specific chemical identity of a chemical used in hydraulic fracturing is necessary for emergency or first-aid treatment, the person using hydraulic fracturing shall immediately disclose the proprietary chemical formulas or the specific chemical identity of a trade secret chemical to the State, the Administrator, or that treating physician or nurse, regardless of the existence of a written statement of need or a confidentiality agreement. The person using hydraulic fracturing may require a written statement of need and a confidentiality agreement as soon thereafter as circumstances permit.'.

(*NOTE New #: HOUSE BILL 2766*)

See sidebar left for House and Senate contact info.


S.1215 The Senate bill to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal a certain exemption for hydraulic fracturing, and for other purposes.

Sponsor: Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. [PA]
Cosponsor: Sen. Charles E. Schumer [NY]

Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act (Introduced in Senate)

S 1215 IS

1st Session

S. 1215

To amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal a certain exemption for hydraulic fracturing, and for other purposes.


June 9, 2009

Mr. CASEY (for himself and Mr. SCHUMER) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works


To amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to repeal a certain exemption for hydraulic fracturing, and for other purposes.

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


    This Act may be cited as the `Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act'.


    (a) Underground Injection- Section 1421(d) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)) is amended by striking paragraph (1) and inserting the following:
        `(A) IN GENERAL- The term `underground injection' means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection.
        `(B) INCLUSION- The term `underground injection' includes the underground injection of fluids or propping agents pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations relating to oil or gas production activities.
        `(C) EXCLUSION- The term `underground injection' does not include the underground injection of natural gas for the purpose of storage.'.
    (b) Disclosure- Section 1421(b) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(b)) is amended--

      (1) in paragraph (1)(C), by inserting before the semicolon the following: `, including a requirement that any person using hydraulic fracturing disclose to the State (or to the Administrator in any case in which the Administrator has primary enforcement responsibility in a State) the chemical constituents (but not the proprietary chemical formulas) used in the fracturing process'; and
      (2) by adding at the end the following:
        `(A) IN GENERAL- The State (or the Administrator, as applicable) shall make available to the public the information contained in each disclosure of chemical constituents under paragraph (1)(C), including by posting the information on an appropriate Internet website.
          `(i) IN GENERAL- Subject to clause (ii), the regulations promulgated pursuant to subsection (a) shall require that, in any case in which the State (or the Administrator, as applicable) or an appropriate treating physician or nurse determines that a medical emergency exists and the proprietary chemical formula or specific chemical identity of a trade-secret chemical used in hydraulic fracturing is necessary for emergency or first-aid treatment, the applicable person using hydraulic fracturing shall immediately disclose to the State (or the Administrator) or the treating physician or nurse the proprietary chemical formula or specific chemical identity of a trade-secret chemical, regardless of the existence of--
            `(I) a written statement of need; or
            `(II) a confidentiality agreement.
          `(ii) REQUIREMENT- A person using hydraulic fracturing that makes a disclosure required under clause (i) may require the execution of a written statement of need and a confidentiality agreement as soon as practicable after the determination by the State (or the Administrator) or the treating physician or nurse under that clause.'.

See sidebar left for House and Senate contact info.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A DEMOCRATIC ROLE MODEL: Blaine Township's Corporate Rights Ordinance

An Ordinance by the Second Class Township of Blaine Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, Eliminating Legal Powers and Privileges from Corporations Doing Business Within Blaine Township to
Vindicate the Right to Democratic Self-Governance

Ordinance No. _______ of 2006

Section 1. Name. The name of this Ordinance shall be the “Blaine Township Democratic Self-Government and Local Control Ordinance.”

Section 2. Authority. This Ordinance is adopted and enacted pursuant to the inherent authority of the residents of Blaine Township to self-government, and to authority granted to Blaine Township by all relevant state and federal Constitutions and laws, including, but not limited to, the following:

The Declaration of Independence, which declares that the people of Blaine Township are born with “certain unalienable rights” and that governments are instituted among people to secure those rights;

The Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 2, which declares that “all power is inherent in the people and all free governments are instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness;”

The Pennsylvania Constitution, Article 1, Section 26, which declares that “neither the Commonwealth nor any political subdivision thereof shall deny to any person the enjoyment of any civil right;”

The provisions of The Second Class Township Code, as codified at 53 P.S. § 65101 et seq., which authorizes the Board of Supervisors of Blaine Township to provide for the protection and preservation of natural and human resources, to promote, protect, and facilitate public health, safety, and general welfare, and to preserve and protect farmland, woodland, and the recreational uses of land within the Township;

The provisions of The Second Class Township Code, Article XV, as codified at 53 P.S. § 66506, which authorizes the Board of Supervisors of Blaine Township to enact ordinances necessary for the proper management, care, and control of the township and its finances and the maintenance of peace, good government, health, and welfare of the township and its citizens, trade, commerce, and manufacturers;

The provisions of The Second Class Township Code, Article XV, as codified at 53 P.S. § 66527, which empowers the Board of Supervisors of Blaine Township to adopt ordinances to secure the safety of persons or property within the township; and

The provisions of The Second Class Township Code, Article XV, as codified at 53 P.S. § 66529, which empowers the Board of Supervisors of Blaine Township to prohibit nuisances on private and public property and the carrying on of any offensive manufacture or business.

Section 3. Findings and General Purpose. The Blaine Township Board of Supervisors recognizes that:

(1) A corporation is a legal fiction created and operated by the express permission of the people of Blaine Township as citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania;

(2) Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution by unelected Supreme Court justices to include corporations in the term “persons” has long denied the peoples’ exercise of rights by endowing corporations with constitutional privileges intended solely to protect the citizens of the United States or natural persons within its borders. Enforcement of those corporate “rights” by courts and governments has long wrought havoc on the peoples’ democratic process;

(3) Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution by Supreme Court justices to afford corporations the protections of the Commerce Clause (Article I, §8 of the Constitution of the United States) and the Contracts Clause (Article I, §10 of the Constitution of the United States) has prevented communities and governments from securing the health, safety, welfare, and rights of citizens and natural persons;

(4) This illegitimate judicial bestowal of civil and political rights upon corporations prevents the administration of laws within Blaine Township and usurps basic human and constitutional rights guaranteed to the people of Blaine Township;

(5) The illegitimate judicial designation of corporations as “persons” and the bestowal of constitutional rights upon corporations empowers corporations to sue municipal governments for adopting laws that violate corporate “rights”;

(6) The illegitimate judicial designation of corporations as “persons” requires that municipal governments recognize corporations as legitimate participants in public hearings, zoning hearing board appeals, and other governmental matters in Blaine Township;

(7) The illegitimate judicial designation of corporations as “persons” gives corporations First Amendment rights and unfettered access to elections. Those powers enable corporations to deny outright peoples’ First Amendment rights to debate and establish public policy on important issues;

(8) Buttressed by those constitutional rights, corporate wealth enables corporations – and the few who run corporations - to wield the coercive force of law to overpower citizens and communities, thus denying the peoples’ exercise of their constitutional rights;

(9) Democracy means government by the majority, with citizen rights secured to all. Only citizens of Blaine Township should be able to participate in the democratic process in Blaine Township and enjoy a republican form of government therein;

(10) Usurpation of the democratic process by corporations – and the few who run them - denies the rights of human persons to participate in their democracy in Blaine Township and enjoy a republican form of government therein;

(11) The ability of citizens of Blaine Township to adopt laws to protect the health, safety, and welfare of township residents has been denied by the wielding of constitutional “rights” by corporations. The ability of the Blaine Township Board of Supervisors to guarantee to residents a republican form of governance has been, and will be, denied by the wielding of constitutional “rights” by corporations.

Section 4. Specific Purpose. The specific purpose of this Ordinance is to guarantee to the residents of Blaine Township their right to a republican form of governance by refusing to recognize the purported constitutional rights of corporations. By doing so, the Board of Supervisors seeks to remedy current and future harms that corporations have caused - and will continue to cause - to the people of Blaine Township by the exercise of such “rights.”

Section 5. Statement of Law. Corporations shall not be considered to be “persons” protected by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania within the Second Class Township of Blaine, Washington County, Pennsylvania.

Section 6. Statement of Law. Within Blaine Township, corporations shall not be “persons” under the United States or Pennsylvania Constitutions, or under the laws of the United States, Pennsylvania, or Blaine Township, and so shall not have the rights of persons under those constitutions and laws. In addition, within the Township of Blaine, no corporation shall be afforded the privileges, powers, and protections of the Contracts Clause or Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, or of similar provisions from the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Section 7. People’s Right to Self-Governance and Right of Separation. The foundation for the making and adoption of this law is the people’s fundamental and inalienable right to govern themselves, and thereby secure our rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. Any attempts to use county, state, or federal levels of government – judicial, legislative, or executive - to preempt, amend, alter, or overturn this Ordinance or parts of this Ordinance, or to intimidate the people of Blaine Township or their elected officials, shall require the Board of Supervisors of Blaine Township to hold public meetings that explore the adoption of other measures that expand local control and the ability of residents to protect their fundamental and inalienable right to self-government. Such consideration may include actions to separate the municipality from the other levels of government used to preempt, amend, alter, or overturn the provisions of this Ordinance or other levels of government used to intimidate the people of Blaine Township or their elected officials.

Section 8. Severability. The provisions of this Ordinance are severable. If any court of competent jurisdiction decides that any section, clause, sentence, part, or provision of this Ordinance is illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect, impair, or invalidate any of the remaining sections, clauses, sentences, parts, or provisions of the Ordinance. The Board of Supervisors of Blaine Township hereby declares that in the event of such a decision, and the determination that the court’s ruling is legitimate, it would have enacted this Ordinance even without the section, clause, sentence, part, or provision that the court decides is illegal, invalid, or unconstitutional.

Section 9. Effective Date. This Ordinance shall take effect five days after enactment by the Board of Supervisors of Blaine Township.

Section 10. Repealer. All inconsistent provisions of prior Ordinances adopted by the Township of Blaine are hereby repealed, but only to the extent necessary to remedy the inconsistency.

ENACTED AND ORDAINED this ___ day of __________, 2006, by the Board of Supervisors of Blaine Township, Washington County.









Monday, June 15, 2009

Pennsylvania Town Fights Big Coal on Mining Rights

A small Pennsylvania town is trying to ban coal mining in a battle being played out across the state as rural communities try to assert control over mining, gas drilling and other businesses. Blaine Township, a community of 600 about 40 miles (65 km) southwest of Pittsburgh, hopes to trigger a legal battle that could determine the rights of municipalities throughout the United States to control corporate activity.

by Jon Hurdle
Published by Reuters, June 15, 2009

TAYLORSTOWN, Pennsylvania – A small Pennsylvania town is trying to ban coal mining in a battle being played out across the state as rural communities try to assert control over mining, gas drilling and other businesses.
[Attilia Shumaker, an environmental activist, stands on the porch of an abandoned house that she said was abandoned because coal mining caused the land beneath it to shift, cracking the house's foundation and basement in Blaine Township, Pennsylvania May 12, 2009. A small Pennsylvania town is trying to ban coal mining in a battle being played out across the state as rural communities try to assert control over mining, gas drilling and other businesses. Blaine Township, a community of 600 about 40 miles (65 km) southwest of Pittsburgh, hopes to trigger a legal battle that could determine the rights of municipalities throughout the United States to control corporate activity. Picture taken May 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Jon Hurdle)]Attilia Shumaker, an environmental activist, stands on the porch of an abandoned house that she said was abandoned because coal mining caused the land beneath it to shift, cracking the house’s foundation and basement in Blaine Township, Pennsylvania. Picture taken May 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Jon Hurdle)

Some legal experts say the township is highly unlikely to win that fight. For now the dispute is in federal district court, where major energy companies have sued the township over three ordinances that would ban coal mining and require companies in any business to disclose their activities to local officials.

Penn Ridge Coal LLC, a unit of Alliance Resource Partners, and Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal Co., a unit of Allegheny Energy, say Blaine’s laws violate their corporate rights.

The companies say the ordinances would prevent them from mining 10.6 million tons of recoverable coal beneath the township — enough to supply electricity for 2 million people for a year.

The township has gone further than any of the 120 U.S. municipalities — most of them in Pennsylvania — that have passed ordinances to curb corporate activity such as factory farming or spreading sewage sludge, said its lawyer, Tom Linzey of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

Of three townships sued by corporations over their ordinances, only Blaine has refused to back down, Linzey said.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, towns are resisting efforts by energy companies to extract natural gas from the massive Marcellus Shale formation amid fears that toxic chemicals used in drilling are contaminating ground water and endangering human health.


In Blaine, residents are seeking to prevent coal mining — which they expect to begin there in 2011 — because they fear it will ruin their houses and disrupt water supplies, as they say it has in surrounding areas.

They want to block longwall mining, a technique that rips tons of coal from underground without putting anything in its place, causing the land above to sag. The practice, which has been used in coal-rich southwest Pennsylvania since the 1970s, has cracked the walls, roofs and basements of homes and opened fissures in the land, diverting or draining creeks and ponds.

In neighboring Morris Township, Tammy Bowman pointed to a pile of broken wood and concrete — all that’s left of an outbuilding she said was destroyed by shifting ground from mining beneath her 19th century farmhouse.

“It just started to drop and drop,” she said. “It got so bad, you couldn’t even walk in the door.”

One section of her house is held up with mechanical jacks.

Near the village of Graysville, the 62-acre (25-hectare) Duke Lake, once used for fishing and boating, now sits empty after the shifting ground opened a crack in its retaining wall, environmentalists say.

Blaine’s three ordinances, passed in 2006, 2007 and 2008, also assert that communities have a right under the U.S. Constitution to control business within their boundaries and that corporations do not have constitutional rights as “persons” to sue municipalities for passing laws that would hurt corporate interests.

“This illegitimate bestowal of civil and political rights upon corporations prevents the administration of laws within Blaine Township and usurps basic human and constitutional rights guaranteed to the people of Blaine Township,” says the township’s Corporate Rights Ordinance of 2006.

To implement the ordinances, township supervisors are now campaigning for “home rule,” a legal code that transfers some powers from state to local control and is commonly used to raise taxes or increase the number of supervisors on a board.


Blaine supervisors want to use home rule to establish what they say is the township’s constitutional right to control corporate activity. Voters on May 19 approved a plan to set up a commission to study the proposal and recommend whether to adopt it.

A third lawsuit has been brought by Range Resources, a natural gas company, asking the court to invalidate Blaine’s demand that corporations disclose their activities.

Penn Ridge Coal and Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal are asking U.S. Judge Donetta Ambrose of the Western District of Pennsylvania to declare Blaine’s ordinances invalid and unenforceable.

In April, Judge Ambrose denied the township’s motion to dismiss the case. She is expected to rule late this year.

Linzey predicted the case will eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court because it pits energy companies who want to exploit one of America’s richest coal seams against residents who are determined to resist what they see as rapacious mining.

He conceded the court is unlikely to overturn more than 100 years of established law that gives corporations rights as “persons” under the constitution, but he said the expected outcome would become a springboard for a popular campaign for a constitutional amendment to strip corporations of those rights.

Blaine’s supervisors said they want to establish a principle of local self-government that will inspire other communities.

“Who dictates how we are going to live here?” asked Board spokesman Michael Vacca. “Should it not be us?”

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Cynthia Osterman)

© 2009 Reuter



Natural gas development in Colorado, the impacts on communities, environment and public health. A primer for public servants and residents of counties that care for their lifestyles.

Drilling for Gas in Bradford County, PA ... Listen!

Cattle Drinking Drilling Waste!

EPA... FDA... Hello? How many different ways are we going to have to eat this? ... Thank you TXSharon for all you do! ... Stay tuned in at http://txsharon.blogspot.com


A film by Txsharon. Thank you Sharon for all you do. Click HERE to read the complete article on Bluedaze: Landfarms: Spreading Toxic Drilling Waste on Farmland

SkyTruth: Upper Green River Valley - A View From Above