Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The PA legislature has heard our calls for a severance tax on gas drilling! The tax is up for a vote tomorrow, so contact your reps tonight!

HB 1489 would levy a severance tax on natural gas extraction and bring in significant revenue for the state this year, and an estimated $632 million by 2013-2014. Supporting this bill would provide much needed funds to balance the state budget and counter the effort to open up our precious state forests to drilling. A severance tax would likely make it unnecessary to tax arts and culture groups or small service organizations.

This is our chance to help balance the budget and save our forests, arts, and social service agencies. Please contact your legislators right away and ask them to support the gas severance tax.

Thanks to Penn Future for all their hard work in getting this story out to Pennsylvanians who care about our natural resources, our artists, and our social service organizations.


Is Hydrofracking for Natural Gas Worth the Risk?

A controversial drilling technique uses and pollutes lots of water.

By Jonathan Walters | October 2009

Russia and the Middle East have, by far, the largest proved reserves of natural gas on the planet. But the Marcellus Shale Play, a mile-deep, rock-bound reservoir stretching through New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, is the closest approximation this country has. Experts have described it as “the most drilled but least explored” natural-gas basin in America. They say it could yield 400 trillion gallons of natural gas—20 times the current national annual output.


However, to get at the Marcellus gas, drilling companies have to employ a controversial boring technique that involves mixing water with a cocktail of sand and toxic chemicals and then injecting that at high pressure into shale more than a mile underground in order to fracture the rock and release the gas.

This process, known as hydraulic fracturing or “hydrofracking,” has been utilized before in several states. But environmentalists claim that it causes everything from earthquakes to above-ground explosions, that it can irredeemably pollute groundwater, and that it drains streams of the water that in many places is a resource as precious as the gas it’s helping to recover.

While the industry disputes that hydrofracking is the cause of such mayhem, nobody disputes that setting up wells is an intensive industrial procedure, and that the drilling process itself uses and pollutes huge amounts of water. A single well requires between 1 million and 5 million gallons of water. About 40 percent of what’s injected into the wells is pumped back out, and it comes out dirty and salty and needs to be treated before it is discharged back into public waterways. Pennsylvania already has reported incidences of unacceptably salty water from hydrofrack wells being discharged into rivers.

That is why the Marcellus Shale wars have been fully engaged, as the irresistible search for energy resources and riches collides with arguments over environmental disaster. The battle pits neighbor against neighbor, full-time residents against weekend homeowners, elected officials against elected officials and states against localities (some Upstate New York localities have enacted moratoria on drilling, something the natural-gas industry claims they don’t actually have the authority to do). Although the fracas over Marcellus Shale is regional, it serves as a cautionary tale for any place that encounters an unexpected energy boom.

As the conflict over hydrofracking rages, one question above all has surfaced: Who is responsible for ensuring environmental protection and public-health safety in the face of an avalanche of drilling-permit applications?

The answer to that question is complicated by two realities: Water does not respect jurisdictional boundaries, and the regulatory framework for hydrofracking is both fragmented and overlapping. Under such circumstances, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency could provide clarity. However, in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, Congress exempted hydraulic fracturing from federal oversight.

So are states equal to the job? Some are scrambling just to catch up. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), the agency that reviews and approves drilling permits statewide, has been caught at least a little flatfooted on Marcellus and hydrofracking. Governor David Paterson signed an industry-supported law last year related to the spacing of wellheads. Rather than evaluating the environmental impacts on a well-by-well basis, as is normally required under state law, NYDEC is studying the collective impacts of hydrofracking though what’s called a “generic environmental impact statement.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) seems more prepared, at least when it comes to regulating individual drill sites. PADEP already has received 450 applications for drilling permits, and is in the process of hiring nearly 40 new regulators, paid for in part by a significant increase in permit fees on hydrofrack wells.

But the New York and Pennsylvania regulators are not the only players with skin in the game. Powerful watershed compacts, including the Delaware River Basin Commission and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, have their own permitting processes. Those kick in whenever anyone wants to draw significant amounts of water out of their watersheds or dump significant amounts back in.

Even New York City is claiming a role, because a huge portion of its internationally renowned source of sweet drinking water originates in the Catskill Mountain watershed, which sits hard by—and in some cases directly over—the Marcellus Shale Play.

“The reality is that the city has no power in this matter,” says Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “But that doesn’t mean that a borough president or residents can’t be mobilized and create a buzz.” As part of his effort to create that buzz, Stringer’s office has produced a report that lists examples from all over the country of disasters—from earthquakes to exploding houses—blamed on hydrofracking.

New York City Councilman James Gennaro, a trained geologist who heads up the council’s environmental committee, believes that the surface impacts of drilling alone represent a prima facie case for an outright ban on drilling in any environmentally sensitive area. “Even if you didn’t inject one drop of ‘fracking fluid’ into the ground, just setting up the wellhead, with the drilling pad and all the trucking involved, are activities that will lead to the degradation of the city’s water supply,” says Gennaro. NYDEC, for its part, says that it won’t permit drilling in any watershed unless that watershed can be “fully protected.”

Scott Roberts, who heads up mining regulation in Pennsylvania, does not discount the challenge that his division faces. In particular, he says, cleaning up the polluted water “is the 800-pound gorilla here. Just pumping it back out and impounding it is not dealing with it.”

There has been some discussion in the industry of pumping the brine back underground, a solution that Carol Collier, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission, describes as “a little squirrelly.” Pennsylvania’s Roberts is similarly skeptical of a back-to-the-ground solution and thinks that ultimately industry itself is going to have to take the lead in building facilities to clean up the discharge water.

While Pennsylvania regulators and the river-basin commissions debate these issues, New York continues to work on its draft generic environmental impact statement. However, those both inside and outside of New York State government worry about NYDEC’s capacity to regulate drilling in the Marcellus Shale Play. The NYDEC division that oversees mining and drilling is one of the agency’s smallest sections. A request for 30 new staff members was stripped out of this year’s budget in the face of New York’s abysmal fiscal situation.

NYDEC refutes the characterization that it’s not up to the task of regulating hydrofrack wells. In an e-mail response to questions, an agency spokesperson noted that one out of 10 wells currently operating in New York were hydrofracked, and that so far there have been no adverse environmental impacts associated with any of them. As for the manpower shortage, NYDEC notes, “There have not been and will be no shortcuts in permitting—every well application will get all due scrutiny and oversight. The only impact of more staff would be that more permits could be processed in a given time period.”

It’s not a statement that inspires confidence among hydrofracking’s opponents, who would prefer that new staff be devoted to regulation rather than to pushing permits through the system. But given the fiscal realities, it will probably have to do. Even NYDEC’s critics agree that the Marcellus Shale Play is going to be extensively tapped one way or the other. The trick is going to be finding a way, despite budget shortfalls, to do it without compromising the environment or public health.

“When you look at it, we’re trying to walk a line,” says the Delaware River Basin’s Collier. “Clearly, there’s an economic benefit to the gas, and there’s value from the standpoint of national energy policy. But it is only going to be beneficial if it is done wisely and minimizes the impact to all natural resources.”

CLICK HERE for the complete artcle.


IT'S HERE! DEC Proposes New Safety Measures, Mitigation Strategies to Govern Potential Marcellus Shale Drilling

Expanded Generic Environmental Impact Statement Released for Public Comment
News from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The SGEIS addresses the range of potential impacts of shale gas development using horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing and outlines safety measures, protection standards and mitigation strategies that operators would have to follow to obtain permits. Natural gas drilling presents economic development and job creation opportunities, and can help achieve state energy policy goals. As there are also potential environmental impacts, Governor David A. Paterson directed DEC to prepare the SGEIS. Among the highlights:


  • Disclosure of Fracturing Fluids: Every applicant must include disclosure of the "frac" fluid compositions and the percentages of chemicals to be used for each well.
  • Water Well Testing: Prior to drilling, private wells within 1,000 feet of the drill site will be tested to provide baseline information and allow for ongoing monitoring. If there are no wells within 1,000 feet, the survey area will extend to 2,000 feet.
  • Water Consumption: Companies will not only have to follow Susquehanna River Basin Commission and Delaware River Basin Commission protocols for water withdrawl where applicable, but also must complete a more stringent and protective streamflow analysis in regards to water withdrawal plans – whether inside or outside the Susquehanna or Delaware basins.
  • Technical Compliance: Prior to hydraulically fracturing a well, operators must complete a new "Pre-Frac Checklist and Certification Form" to ensure technical compliance with the permit and to provide information regarding final well-bore construction and hydraulic fracturing operations.
  • Mitigation planning: All operators are required to prepare plans for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, visual impacts and noise impacts prior to commencing operations. In addition, if a drilling company has not reached a road-use agreement with the local government, a trucking plan containing the estimated amount of trucking, approach for avoiding peak traffic hours, appropriate off-road parking/staging areas, and routes must be submitted.

Drilling and Post-Drilling

  • In primary and principle aquifer areas: a) state inspectors must be present when operators commence cementing well-bore casings; b) more stringent drilling and casing requirements are applicable; c) special requirements are imposed to expeditiously remove fluids from on-site reserve pits or well pad tanks. This last requirement also applies in the NYC Watershed.
  • Flowback (wastewater) handling on-site: Operators choosing to store flowback on-site must use steel tanks to protect the environment.
  • Centralized flowback storage: If an operator proposes using a centralized impoundment (centralized flowback storage) to serve multiple sites, it must use a double-liner system similar to those required for landfills, provide fencing and off-sets to prevent public access and employ measures to protect wildlife. In addition, state solid waste landfill requirements and dam safety regulations will apply to construction of any centralized storage impoundments.
  • Centralized flowback impoundments are prohibited within boundaries of public water supplies (including the New York City Watershed).
  • Tracking flowback disposal: Before a permit is issued, the operator must disclose plans for disposal of flowback. Further, a new "Drilling and Production Waste Tracking" process (similar to the process for medical waste) will be used to monitor disposal. Full analysis and approvals under state water laws and regulations will be required before a water treatment facility can accept flowback from drilling operations.
  • NYC Watershed and other sensitive areas: The SGEIS contains a number of mitigation measures aimed specifically at protecting the NYC Watershed. Among them, the SGEIS defines buffer zones around reservoirs and other water bodies in the Watershed. Wells proposed within a 1,000-foot corridor of water tunnels or aqueducts will require special approvals – including a site specific Environmental Impact Statement and review by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. Consistent with the requirements for primary and principle aquifers, fluids may not be kept on-site more than 7 days. In addition, as in other sensitive areas, centralized flowback impoundments are prohibited.
  • Floodplains: On-site reserve pits are banned in floodplains – closed-loop tank systems are required instead to protect against potential spills.
  • Stormwater control: Drilling operations will be subject to a comprehensive, multi-sector general permit for industrial activities as well as special permit conditions.

The SGEIS, available at, expands on the comprehensive Generic Environmental Impact Statement, adopted in 1992, that has prescribed the requirements for the drilling of thousands of oil and gas wells in New York State.

The public comment period on the draft will be open until November 30. DEC will accept comments in writing, either via e-mail, regular mail, direct online submissions or delivered at public-information sessions. The SGEIS web page will contain detailed instructions for submitting comments.

In addition, DEC soon will announce times and locations for a series of public-information sessions. For additional information regarding the draft SGEIS and background material regarding the Marcellus shale formation and gas drilling in New York State, please visit the Marcellus Shale webpage at For information about the long history of oil and gas drilling in New York, the more than 13,000 currently active wells and production data, go to DEC's oil and gas web page,\


LTE: Gas Drilling
September 30, 2009

The recent chemical spills at natural gas drilling sites in Susquehanna County and subsequent enforcement taken by the Department of Environmental Protection against Cabot Oil & Gas Co. underscores the need for a smart approach to drilling in Pennsylvania. As drilling activity continues to ramp up, more staff is needed to adequately monitor and enforce environmental laws.

DEP did the right thing in taking strong action, but the damage to local streams and wetlands has already been done. A severance tax on natural gas production would provide the state with additional revenue to conduct necessary monitoring, enforcement, and restoration. Yet politicians negotiating the state budget are scrapping the severance tax in favor of opening up more State Forest Lands to drilling.

This is simply the wrong approach.

As these spills show, environmental harm from the drilling will be felt. It is only fair to ask the industry to pay its fair share to help offset environmental and local community impacts from drilling. The environmental scars left by historic coal mining in Pennsylvania are well documented. This time, we need to be wiser in the development of our energy resources.

We cannot afford to leave our children with another costly legacy of environmental damage. Enacting a severance tax, keeping our State Forest Lands off limits to wholesale drilling, and requiring the revenues generated from natural gas taxes and leasing to be invested in conservation are smart ways to balance the budget and protect our natural heritage.

Matt Ehrhart
Pennsylvania Executive Director
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation


Monday, September 28, 2009

Natural Gas Drilling Threatens Communities in Northeastern United States

by Nastassja Noell | 09.28.2009
originally published at:

Natural Gas Drilling is forcing residents in West Virginia to put spikes in the roads to stop drilling trucks from destroying their land, water, and air. In Pennsylvania rural folks are trespassing in order to document toxic natural gas production waste spills. New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia's drinking water are at risk of contamination.

This week while protesters at the G-20 are getting beaten by police and soaking their bandannas in vinegar to protect their lungs from tear gas,
some folks in neighboring counties and states are putting spikes in roads to stop the drilling trucks, and taking down street signs so that truck drivers can't find their way to drilling sites. Others are documenting ecological devastation, and raising their voices in unison against the officials who purport to protect them.

In Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and New York folks struggle with local officials and corporate media, bringing national attention to the victims of peak-energy's destructive frenzy. Numerous incidents involving road accidents, water contamination, and unresponsive government officials have pushed Pittsburgh's neighbors in Wetzel County, West Virginia to place spike strips along RT 89, a road heavily trafficked by Chesapeake Energy's trucks traveling to drilling sites. (1)

"They ruined my life and they've created a new world for you to deal with" said Ron Gulla, a rural resident who lives about 30 miles from Pittsburgh. Mr. Gulla has been speaking at meetings throughout the region, helping landowners make informed decisions before leasing their land to natural gas companies. "This is the defense of your life and property, we're fighting for our f#cking lives!"

The Marcellus Shale is a fossil fuel rich rock bed that ranges from the middle of Ohio east to the Catskill Mountains, from upstate New York down south through Kentucky. Drilling waste water may contaminate the drinking water of New York City, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. Officials in New York City have been pushing legislation to ban natural gas drilling in the Catskill Mountains, which feed the city's drinking water reservoirs. Washington DC gets its drinking water from the Potomac River, whose tributaries are threatened by the toxic liquid wastes produced during natural gas drilling.

The oil and gas industry calls the Marcellus Shale an "unconventional natural gas source"; mining this area was uneconomical until this decade, where the price of oil has been skyrocketing. The Marcellus Shale is the 3rd largest natural gas field in the world, expected to generate enough natural gas for 2 to 10 years of US consumption. The process is being advertised as a local clean energy source, bringing in jobs and economic growth. The mining of the Marcellus Shale is projected to continue to pollute the soil, streams and aquifers in the Northeastern United States for 5 to 30 years. After the Marcellus is depleted, oil companies will work on the Utica Shale, which rests thousands of feet beneath the Marcellus.

Natural gas drilling waste water -- which includes radium, uranium, mercury, and lead -- is suspected to be responsible for the deaths of the 161 species of life which were found killed along 38 miles of Dunkard Creek in Pennsylvania.(2) The Natural Resource Defense Council has reported that livestock have been dying after drinking drilling waste water.(3) The Oil and Natural Gas Industries are officially exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, the Natural Resource Recovery Act and other federal regulations.(4) These exemptions have made the federal government complicit in Coloradan Laura Amos's adrenal cancer(5), and Pennsylvanian Pat Farnelli and her children's violent stomach pains and diarrhea.(6)(7) Benzene and radioactive waste from a WWII military dumping site are suspected of having caused a childhood cancer cluster in Clyde, Ohio, torturing 20 children(8); these toxic contaminants are also produced as wastes during natural gas production(9) and stored in open pits on drilling sites.(10)

At the center of the struggle is the new process of natural gas drilling called horizontal hydrofracking, also known as "fracking."

Natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale involve two stages which each introduce toxic contaminants into our environment. Producers must first drill the well and then they "frack" the well. The first process, drilling, dredges uranium, radium, mercury, and lead laden shale rocks to the surface (11) to make way for a pipe used in the fracking process. These toxic shale materials are stored in open pits on the site for long periods of time, and the liquid wastes are eventually brought to municipal water treatment plants for filtration. Municipal water treatment plants are already so overburdened and unable to filter out toxins from our drinking water that on September 12, the New York Times reported "the nation’s water does not meet public health goals, and enforcement of water pollution laws is unacceptably low."(12)

The second stage of natural gas production, the "fracking" process, is very expensive: each fracking job requires 2-9 million of gallons of water to be extracted from local water sources and creates 1-4 million gallons of toxic liquid waste, which must be brought to a hazardous waste dump or extensively filtered before entering the public watersheds.(13) This amount of waste is generated numerous times per well, as each well can be fracked up to 10 times. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection allows 800,000 gallons to be taken from Cross Creek Lake every day; Range Resources, a Texas based oil and natural gas company, is the recipient of that permit.(14) This wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7pm, a public hearing in Williamsport , PA will be held for a waste water treatment facility requesting permission to pump 400,000 gallons of minimally treated drilling waste water *every day* into the Susquehanna River.(15)

Throughout the nation State Parks and Public Schools have leased their mineral rights to oil and gas companies in an attempt to balance budgets.(16) And this school year, kids at Elk Lake School in Dimock, PA may get to play in radioactive sludge during recess.(17)

Residents throughout the nation have complained that their wells, soils and streams have been contaminated with the heavy metals and radioactive tailings dredged up from the shale along with the gas.(18) The numerous chemicals used in the fracking process are also a concern. As the natural gas is pumped away from the site through pipelines, the hazardous fracking waste fluids are usually stored on site in open pits for long periods of time.(19) These open pits are often only 100 ft from a persons home or a creek or critical migration corridor, and are sometimes surrounded by a flimsy 3 foot high plastic fencing in a feeble attempt to protect the kids, dogs, livestock, wildlife, and downwind neighbors from the toxins.(20)

Some citizens have been concerned that workers may be poking holes into the plastic sheets that line the bottom of the liquid waste pits, allowing the liquids to drain into the soil and saving the company the expense of disposal at expensive hazardous waste facilities. A landowner told Indymedia that he has watched the levels in waste water pits steadily decrease after they were filled up. In Garfield County, Colorado, a resident videotaped bulldozers burying liquid waste pits with soil, the videotaper reported that the natural gas company Encana owns that drilling pad.(21) Hundreds of miles north of this contamination site, two of Encana's natural gas pipelines were bombed, distraught Canadian citizens are suspected to be responsible.(22)

Recently, residents in Dimock, Pennsylvania were able to voice enough concern to get the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to temporarily stop fracking activities by Cabot, a natural gas producing company that has been spilling toxins into wetlands and a creek.(23) Cabot's fracking activities will be halted for two weeks, but the company may still drill and bore holes for pipelines through wetland areas. Cabot's drilling activities underneath wetlands has been a source of contention for citizen groups due to documented footage of bentonite spills along Cabot's Cranberry Pipeline, a pipeline which currently is being horizontally drilled underneath a wetlands area in Susquehanna County.(24)

Pennsylvania DEP's oil and gas investigation unit is understaffed, and individual citizens are having to monitor drilling activities. Craig Lobins, DEP Northwest Regional Manager for the Oil and Gas Program recently explained to citizens at a meeting in Forest City, PA how the department is unable to fully monitor all drilling sites:

"Lets be realistic about it, they drill 24-7, and I don't think anyone expects someone to stand on a rig 24 hours a day 7 days a week." Mr.Lobins explained to the crowd of over 100 concerned citizens who attended the meeting hosted by the group R.E.S.C.U.E. " And if we did expect them to stand there all day, imagine how expensive that would be."(25)

At a meeting of the Oil and Gas Advisory Technical Board on October 30 of 2008, official notes state that Mr. Lobins "expressed the need for more Oil and Gas Inspectors. He said even if there is no projected increase in permitting, DEP is still understaffed in this area."(26)

But, when Mr. Lobins was asked at the recent Forest City meeting on Sept 16, if he supported a moratorium on drilling until the DEP had enough staff and local oversight of drilling activity, he responded "No." Instead of hiring more investigators, Lobins told the citizens at the Forest City meeting that local residents should be "the eyes of the DEP". Citizens who followed Mr. Lobins suggestion were subsequently told by agents of the DEP that they can't be trespassing onto gas leased land to monitor these sites for illegal activity.

Joanne Fiorito, acting as the eyes of the DEP, recently discovered a waste spill at a drilling site just off RT 29 and upon reporting the spill was warned not to trespass. "If the DEP can't monitor these sites on their own," said Ms. Joanne Fiorito "and then the DEP tells us that we cannot trespass after we found a spill on the Grimsley well pad site that wasn't reported to the DEP by Cabot, well then, where does this leave the citizens of PA who are dependent on the DEP doing its job? It has gotten to the point where I and others will have to do it ourselves, and I personally don't care if they arrest me for civil disobedience, because this land, air and water is what keeps us all alive."

Vera Scroggins, 58, a public broadcast reporter for Binghamton's Open2Everyone TV filmed the Grimsley well pad site discovery spill as well as Cabot's Cranberry Pipeline's bentonite spills with Ms. Fiorito. Her video will be broadcast in the Binghamton, NY region on Channel 4 on September 28 and October 5, 2009. You can request a copy for your local public broadcast channel by contacting Open 2 Everyone TV Binghamton << >>.

The following states are threatened by natural gas drilling: AL, AK, CO, FL, ID, IL, IN, KY, KS, LA, MI, MO, MT, ND, NM, NY ,OH, OK, PA, UT, TX, WV, WY, VA...

Clean Water Action
Susquehanna Citizens for Clean Water
Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition
Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
ShaleShock and the Listening Project
Allegheny Defense Project

(1) Chesapeake Energy reports that citizens in Wetzel County, West Virginia have placed spikes along RT 89 --

(2) Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that 161 species found killed along 38 miles of Dunkard Creek -- "Sudden death of ecosystem ravages long creek 'Everything is being killed': 161 aquatic species have died along Dunkard Creek" by Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; September 20, 2009.

(3) NRDC states that there have reported deaths of livestock may be associated with drilling waste -- "Are Gas & Oil Operations Harming Livestock?" By the Natural Resources Defense Council, May 06, 2009.

(4) Oil and Natural Gas Industries are officially exempt from many federal regulations protecting water, air, and communities, these exemptions listed and explained -- "Free Pass for Oil and Gas: Environmental Protections Rolled Back as Western Drilling Surges: Oil and Gas Industry Exemptions" by The Environmental Working Group; March 26, 2009.

(5) Laura Amos gets adrenal cancer from EnCana contaminating her drinking water with 2-BE -- "Family's water well was contaminated after hydraulic fracturing near their home" by Laura Amos; EarthWorks Action.

(6) Pat Farnelli and her children suffer from contamination of their drinking water -- "U.S. energy future hits snag in rural Pennsylvania" by Jon Hurtle, Reuters; March 13, 2009.

(7) Pat Farnelli's drinking water is contaminated and there is a the drilling rig in her backyard -- "Officials in Three States Pin Water Woes on Gas Drilling" byAbrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica; April 26, 2009.

(8) 20 children in Clyde, Ohio tortured -- "Questions outweigh clues to cancer cluster in Clyde: 20 of the town's children fall ill over the last 8 years" by Tom Henry, Toledo Blade; February 1, 2009.

(9) Toxins in natural gas production waste pits include benzene, uranium, radium, mercury, lead, toulene, and other carcinogens -- "Chemicals in Natural Gas Production: Pit Chemicals" by The Endocrine Disruption Exchange; November 15, 2007.

(10) Drilling waste fluids in open pits in Texas;

(11) Uranium, Radium, Lead and Mercury are brought to the surface during drilling of the Marcellus Shale -- "Shale Gas: Focus on the Marcellus Shale" by LisaSumi for the Oil and Gas Accountability Project/Earthworks; May 2008.

(12) New York Times reports that the nation's drinking water does not meet public health goals -- "Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering" by CharlesDuhigg, New York Times; September 13, 2009.

(13) Hydrofracking requires 2-9 million gallons of clean water and creates 1-4 million gallons of hazardous industrial waste water -- "Drilling 101" byShaleshock Citizen's Action Alliance.

(14) The PA DEP has permitted Range Resources to extract up to 800,000 gallons of water every day -- DEP File No. 141142-WMP7-004, WUDS Primary Facility ID # 59795. DEP Oil and Gas Program, Southwest Regional Office; July 15, 2009. document accessed from

(15) The Department of Environmental Protection will conduct a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 30, to accept testimony on an industrial waste discharge permit application submitted byTerrAqua Resource Management LLC to treat and discharge 400,000 gallons per day of gas well drilling wastewater to the West Branch of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport. The hearing will be held at the DEP Northcentral Regional Office, 208 West Third St., Suite 101, Williamsport, PA --

(16) State Parks throughout the nation are leasing their mineral rights to natural gas companies to offset budget problems; Arkansas' Woolly Hollow State Park, Pennsylvania's Goddard State Park, New York's Allegany State Park, Ohio's Salt Fork State Park, New Mexico's Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park -- "State park drilling controversy increasing" by the AP, Observer-Reporter; August 30, 2009.

(17) Elk Lake School in Dimock, PA has leased land for natural gas drilling -- "Accounts opened for SCCTC expansion funds" by Michael J. Rudolf, Susquehanna County Independent;
July 29, 2009.

(18) "EPA says wells in Wyoming show possible pollution from frac'ing: Scientists have found methane gas, hydrocarbons, lead and copper" by John Colson, Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado; August 28, 2009.

(19) Open pits at an Encana drilling site in Garfield County, CO -- "This is EnCana's hydraulic fracturing operations on the F11E pad on April 22, 2009".

(20) Open waste pits present dangers to wildlife migration corridors -- "Drilling in the Rocky Mountains: How Much and at What Cost" by Pete Morton,Ph .D, Chris Weller, Janice Thomson, PhD, and Nada Culver, for The Wilderness Society; March 2009.

(21) Bulldozers cover drilling waste pits with water and remove plastic liner -- "EnCana Buries Hydraulic Fracturing Pit Sludge in Unlined Pit" May 14, 2009.

(22) "Second bomb blast hits Encana pipeline" by Allan Dowd, Reuters; October 16, 2008.

(23) "DEP orders driller to stop all hydraulic fracturing in Susquehanna County" The Times-Tribune; September 26, 2009.

(24) Bentonite spills in wetlands along Cabot's Cranberry Pipeline -- Susquehanna County Citizens for Clean Water video documentary by VeraScroggins, and "We are the Eyes of the DEP" video documentary by the Spore Collective.

(25) Forest City meeting was rebroadcast on WHRW Binghamton Radio 90.5, "The Point" September 22, 2009; 11:30-1pm. see the archives of

(26) "Minutes of the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board Meeting" Marriott Spring Hill Suites, Washington, PA; October 30, 2008.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Farm family’s nightmare: ‘Gas drillers cut corners from day one’

This powerful first person landowner/leaseholder's account
by Candace Mingis offers up lots to think about.
It is reprinted with permission from the author.
Thank you Candace!

In 1971, when my husband’s family bought its farm in Van Etten, there was an abandoned Oriskany formation well on the property. There were, indeed, abandoned wells all over the neighboring hills — some of which were providing neighbors with free gas.

A small pipe and tank seemed innocuous enough. So when a neighbor came by in 1999 with his friend, an oil and gasman who owned a small company in Pennsylvania, we signed a ten-year lease.

It was a community-held belief in Van Etten, based on past experience, that gas wells were “no big deal.” Nearly all our neighbors signed. There were no informational forums back then, nor attorneys who knew what was coming.

Five years later, after the lower rights to our lease were assigned to a multinational corporation, we realized something bigger was happening and finally sought an attorney’s help. The first attorney we saw was knowledgeable but was interested in helping us only if we exercised a sale clause we had put in the lease, and sell our land to a friend of his who invested in oil and gas. His fee would be 33% of the additional royalties gained from the transaction.We were not comfortable with this.

The second attorney willingly assisted us with the high-pressure, eleventh-hour negotiations with the gas company, which now wanted to drill a well on our farm. But it soon became clear he knew nothing about the industrial gas drilling coming. Finding a reliable attorney was nearly an impossible task. We didn’t even know what questions to ask.

We scrambled to come up with last-minute protections, mostly from bits and pieces of information we were now learning from neighbors.

The gas company was willing to negotiate, as they had not yet gotten us to sign an amending agreement they needed. We forged an agreement to make sure our beautiful, gravelly loam field would be restored.

The well was drilled in the Trenton/ Black River formation. It was a conventional well that went nearly two miles down and one mile horizontally under the village. It was a huge industrial operation — a far cry from the old Oriskany wells on our hill.

From day one, the gas company began to cut corners. What was to be “just a couple of acres” was actually seven acres (we measured it.) We asked that the access road run along the edge of the field, and they cut it diagonally through the field. The landman who had been negotiating with us had actually helped us flag where the road was to be, and he argued for us to get them to re-do the road. It just went on and on. The holding ponds were supposed to have two layers of plastic. They had only one. The brine was supposed to be hauled out more often than it was. We felt we had to constantly be checking, taking pictures, and calling the gas company.

Of course, the operation was an industrial site we never could have imagined: 24-hour-a-day drilling, ramming noise, lit up all night. It went longer than they said it would, taking three months to prepare the site and drill. When the well was flared (for three days and nights) and the whole valley was lit up like a stadium, it began to feel like something terrible had been unleashed.

When it was time to restore the larger/outer area of the well site, the gas company cut corners once again, even though the procedure was spelled out clearly in the written agreement. They used a bulldozer to remove the plastic and large rocks, hauling much of our precious topsoil with it. My husband furiously tried to get them to stop, and subsequently to bring us more topsoil to fill in the depressions. Rude employees argued with him. They also never loosened the subsoil before filling in.

We had a retired Ag & Markets consultant come in and shoot some grades and write a recommendation. This appeared to really annoy the gas company.

They sent us a “without prejudice” letter stating they had done all they had to do until final restoration (10 years or so hence). The “friendly” landman who had worked on our behalf was told to stop talking to us.

We then knew that if we ever wanted to have that field restored as per the signed agreement, we would have to get an attorney. Attorneys tell us now that only rarely can you get industry to pay for your legal fees.

Having a multinational corporation in your life is extremely stressful. It’s a “contractual relationship,” but it is vastly unequal. Corporations are protected under the law, and are ultimately not liable, responsible or responsive. Their sole job is to make money for their shareholders, and they will do what they want. Oil and gas companies are essentially in the game of “gotcha!” Once you sign, it’s up to you to watch them, call them, sue them. It’s your problem now. They are obliging only until they get what they want from you. Phone calls, e-mails, letters, lawyers all become routine.

Signing a lease with a multinational corporation is like inviting a very rude, unscrupulous, uncaring (dare I say criminal?) person to live in your home. It is extremely stressful. However, this well, we were assured, would have a lifetime of only about 10 years, and then they would be “out of there—all cleaned up, like [we] didn’t know [they] had been there.” We thought we could live with that. (Of course, at this point we had no choice.) At this time our daughter and her husband decided to go ahead and make plans to move their farm/ winery business to the family farm.

And we were “lucky” ones. The well was successful. In fact, it was the most prolific well in New York, and in 2006 produced 4 billion cubic feet of gas — enough to heat 57,000 homes for a year. Organizations and 133 families receive royalties from this well, including the town, school and church. Who couldn’t use more money? Folks could finally repaint their houses and replace roofs. They could start retirement savings and donate to charities. We were able to finish our house and install solar panels, buy a tractor and pay off some college loans.

There is no denying that the people could use the money. But the question began to emerge: at what cost?

In the spring of 2008, we began hearing talk of the next big gas “play” — the Marcellus shale — and, at first, thought nothing of it. But the more we learned, the more alarmed we became, and then it hit us: we were “held by production” with a producing well, and that meant that lease expiration was irrelevant. And while we are held by production, more wells may be drilled on our property in different formations, which in turn could hold us by production longer.

In essence, we had “sold” our land forever. The night I realized this, I had a dream that our house had been robbed, and it was from the inside.

Now, our daughter seriously doubted they could move to the farm. How could they move here when there could be a lifetime of drilling, drastic change in our rural landscape, and potential contamination and pollution? We had “sold” the land out from under our children and their children. No amount of money is worth that.

Unconventional shale gas drilling is a nasty business. And I venture to guess there are hundreds, maybe thousands of leased-landowners out there who, as they learn what this new gas drilling really entails, wish they had never signed a lease.

A contract between an individual and a multinational corporation is never on an even playing field. The power imbalance is staggering. Attorney Jane Welsh, of Hamilton, believes gas leases should actually be commercial lease transactions, which include the legal concepts and protections found in any commercial lease, and “the only reason they are not is that the parties to a gas lease are woefully mismatched in terms of negotiating power, experience, sophistication and financial clout.” New York, she concludes, is sorely remiss in not regulating these leases.

But this is not merely a leasing issue (though the Attorney General’s Office, Cooperative Extension and many landowner coalitions seem to believe it is).

For one, it’s a community issue. As Herb Engman, Ithaca town supervisor, said recently (and I’m paraphrasing): Towns go through all the time, trouble and expense to generate comprehensive plans and protect community resources, and then gas companies can destroy all planning.

The scale of proposed shale gas drilling in the area will affect our entire landscape and rural way of life.

Leases cannot protect us from plummeting real estate values or the inability to obtain mortgages or sell our property; leases cannot protect us from a decline in tourism or other negative economic effects; leases cannot protect us from the increased difficulty in obtaining insurance or the increased cost of doing so. And unless gas companies are willing to post billions of dollars in bonds, leases cannot ultimately protect us from personal liability.

But above all, this is a public health issue. Emerging studies on air pollution and reports of water contamination make it very clear that the negative affects of unconventional gas drilling cannot be contained by property boundaries.

Whether you are leased, leased in a coalition or compulsorily integrated; whether you are un-leased living down the road, downwind or downstream of gas wells or deep injection disposal wells; or whether you simply use roads traveled by frack-water trucks — we are all at increased risk.

Our communities need full disclosure of the risks we will be exposed to before we can decide if we, as a community, want to take those risks. We do not want to be unwilling participants in a grand experiment, because that’s what this is.

And the truth is, no one even knows what all the risks are.

There have been no comprehensive, long-term, systematic studies of hydrofracking. Nor have there been comprehensive, long-term, systematic studies on deep injection disposal of toxic wastewater. But the high-pressure injection of contaminants into the ground appears to be liinked to unpredictable migration of fluids, aquifer contamination and possibly earthquakes.

Have we mapped our entire area for natural faults? How do we know that the fracking fluid left behind won’t eventually migrate upward and contaminate our water? Maybe not this year, but what about in five years or 50 years? While the gas companies and the DEC assure us that these activities are perfectly safe, they will not guarantee it, because there is no science backing those claims. And in fact, more and more evidence is mounting to the contrary —at the expense of people’s health and safety.

I am haunted by the specter of some day turning on my tap for a glass of our clear, cold, sweet water and wondering if chemicals left underneath us have migrated into it.

Do I test my drinking water once a year? Once a month? Every week? How can I live (how can we live) with the unending uncertainty that this glassful might be poisoned?

Do I drink it?

Do I offer it to my granddaughter?


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gas-extraction chemicals dangerous
Candy S. DeBerry, Ph.D.
North Franklin Township

The identity of many of the chemicals and the proportions in which they are used in gas extraction from Marcellus shale are not really known. Of those that have been reported, the Endocrine Disruption Exchange ( states that 73 percent are known to be damaging to human health. Of the damaging chemicals, 95 percent affect the respiratory system - and remember that Washington County and Allegheny County [PA] already are among the 35 counties in the entire United States with the lowest (worst) air quality.

Furthermore, 44 percent of the potentially harmful chemicals are endocrine disruptors that effect development and reproduction. Think bis-phenol A and hard plastic water bottles; think lowered sperm counts in males and increasingly early puberty in boys and girls; think about the mounting evidence for a connection between endocrine disruptors and autism.

Other of these chemicals affect the brain and nervous system, the heart, the liver and the immune system. Approximately 30 percent are known to contribute to the development of cancer. Most of the effects are long-term and the extent of damage to human health won't be apparent for years or even decades after gas drilling has stopped.

Will the gas company clean all of the chemicals out of the water they use? They regularly dump enormous amounts of dissolved salt and other dissolved solids into the Monongahela River as brine water from fracturing operations. That's not counting the leaks and spills such as the one that killed salamanders, crayfish and other aquatic life in Cross Creek Park in May.

Not near the drilling operation? Don't breathe a sigh of relief - 45 percent of the chemicals known to harm humans are volatile. They'll get into the air and blow over everyone's property, well or no well.

And that $40-per-month that is a realistic average estimate for the amount you'll get for the gas they extract from under your property? Better think about saving it for future medical bills.

To read this letter in its originally published site, CLICK HERE.


More Pa. House Democrats opposing plan to expand natural gas drilling in state forests

Associated Press
09/25/09 3:40 PM PDT

HARRISBURG, PA. A top state House Democrat said Friday that more than two dozen of his colleagues signed a letter to caucus leaders expressing grave concerns over a plan to expand gas drilling in Pennsylvania forests.

Finance Committee Chairman David Levdansky said he did not want to release a copy of the letter or disclose who signed it. He said the letter was signed by 28 representatives, including himself, and three other House Democrats added their signatures after the original was sent.

"Raping our state forest system is not a wise fiscal or environmental choice, and we're sending the message that it needs to be fixed, and it can be," Levdansky said.

The week-old deal struck by Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and leaders of three of the Legislature's four caucuses includes leasing more land in state forests to gas drilling companies to help fill a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall.

The agreement anticipates $115 million in revenue from leasing land over two years.

Combined with House Republican opposition to the budget, Levdansky said the letter's signers represent enough votes to defeat the still-evolving budget proposal. There are 104 Democrats in the House, which has 203 seats.


Levdansky said the letter's signers oppose the idea of ordering the state's forests department to come up with a set amount of money from leasing land, saying that ignores sound science and forestry conservation practices.

He also said the signers oppose the use of the land-leasing money for the state's general budget needs, instead of putting the money toward state forest and park improvements, as has been the practice for decades.

The signers prefer to see the state impose a severance tax on the exploration companies that are flocking to Pennsylvania to drill into the potentially lucrative Marcellus Shale formation, Levdansky said.

Rendell proposed a natural gas severance tax but backed away from it after Senate Republicans, who control the chamber, rejected the idea on grounds that a tax would hurt the growth of the industry.

Pennsylvania is one of the biggest — if not the biggest — natural-gas producing states that does not tax the methane drawn from its ground.

For the complete report, CLICK HERE.



DISH, TX has been surrounded and taken over by the gas industry. Formerly a peaceful rural, residential area, it is home to 200 inhabitants, many of whom are horse breeders, whose lives have been negatively impacted by gas wells, condensate tanks, metering, and particularly, large gas compression stations. While the town has ordinances regulating drilling and production of gas wells, as is often the case, the gas industry has located several compression stations just outside town boundaries to avoid regulation. Numerous complaints have been made to the town regarding the constant noise and vibration emanating from the compression stations and the foul odor hanging over the town. Young horses have become gravely ill and there have been several deaths over the past 2 years.

The owners of the compressor site performed a "Natural Gas Leak Survey of the Dish Texas Area", using a mobile leak detection unit to monitor for methane, hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide. Their report, which stresses the extreme sensitivity of their equipment, showed negligible results. Concentrations were all at levels lower than regulatory limits.

DISH Mayor Calvin Tillman has worked ceaselessly to protect his town, it's people, their quality of life and environment in the face of environmental disregard and degradation by the gas industry. Finally, the Town of DISH spent a great deal of time and money to have an independent air study performed around the large natural gas compression facility in their community. Contrary to the industry's survey, the results of the independent study confirmed the presence, in high concentrations, of carcinogenic and neurotoxin compounds in ambient air near and/or on residential properties. The report, a valuable resource as many similar sites are undoubtedly spewing the same harmful chemicals, says Tillman, further indicated that many of the compounds in the air exceeded the Short-term and Long-term Effects Screening Levels (ESLs) according to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulations.

For an extensive analysis of the report by Wilma Subra, MacArthur Award winning chemist, CLICK HERE to read the important findings on Bluedaze.


Friday, September 25, 2009



WILLIAMSPORT – The Department of Environmental Protection has ordered Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation to cease all natural gas well hydro fracking operations in Susquehanna County until the company completes a number of important engineering and safety tasks.

“The department took this action because of our concern about Cabot’s current fracking process and to ensure that the environment in Susquehanna County is properly protected,” DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell said.

Cabot voluntarily shut down fracking operations at the Heitsman well in Dimock Township on Tuesday afternoon following three separate spills there in less than one week. The company is currently drilling seven new wells in the county that will require fracking.

The order requires Cabot to develop within 14 days an updated and accurate Pollution Prevention and Contingency Plan and Control and Disposal Plan for all permitted well pad sites in Susquehanna County.

The company must conduct an engineering study of all equipment and work practices associated with hydraulic fracturing at all well sites in the county within 21 days.

The engineering study must include a detailed evaluation and explanation of the causes of the three spills that occurred in the past week and establish corrective measures Cabot will use to prevent similar releases.

Within 21 days of DEP’s approval of the Pollution Prevention and Contingency Plan, the Control and Disposal Plan, and the engineering study, Cabot must fully implement all of the recommendations and requirements in those documents.

The company also must place the approved Pollution Prevention and Contingency Plan and Control and Disposal Plan in a conspicuous location at each permitted well site and provide a copy to each contractor and subcontractor working at any well site. Contractors and subcontractors cannot begin work at any well site until they receive the two plans.

In a separate enforcement action, DEP issued a notice of violation to Cabot for the third spill at the Heitsman well that occurred Tuesday morning. The violations noted are nearly the same as in DEP’s Sept. 22 notice of violation issued to Cabot for the two spills last week.



Thursday, September 24, 2009


Kate Winston
Inside EPA – 9/18/2009

Key federal courts are backing activists in suits under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to review the impacts of natural gas drilling fluids on underground aquifers, rulings that activists hope will bolster pending bills to restore EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) authority to oversee hydraulic fracturing -- a controversial gas drilling procedure that requires injection of chemicals into wells.

Activists also say such precedent will likely spur other groups to use NEPA to challenge the use of chemicals in gas drilling, a practice that is expected to increase as more electricity producers switch to the fuel to comply with upcoming climate change regulations.
While environmentalists continue to push Congress to remove exemptions for the natural gas industry under the SDWA and other laws, activists are also pursuing other strategies block or increase scrutiny of natural gas drilling. For example, one group is trying to permanently block drilling in 10 areas in Wyoming and one group is challenging Marcellus shale drilling permits in Pennsylvania before the state environmental board.
The efforts to oppose drilling are significant because environmental groups are increasingly concerned that political leaders are pushing natural gas as a “clean” fuel that could decrease carbon emissions while ignoring the negative environmental impacts of natural gas extraction.

In particular, the judge dwells on the hazardous materials in drill mud, drilling fluid and construction materials and finds that activists are likely to succeed on the merits of their arguments that the EA failed to assess the impacts from the chemicals and failed to address mitigation of possible contamination.
The judge also highlights activists’ evidence that the aquifer in the area is highly complex and that there is a risk of breaking subterranean barriers and concludes, “This suggests that the impact of the drilling and use of drilling fluids are uncertain or involve unique or unknown risks, which again could demonstrate significance.”
In particular, the judge dwells on the hazardous materials in drill mud, drilling fluid and construction materials and finds that activists are likely to succeed on the merits of their arguments that the [Environmental Assessment] failed to assess the impacts from the chemicals and failed to address mitigation of possible contamination.
The judge also highlights activists’ evidence that the aquifer in the area is highly complex and that there is a risk of breaking subterranean barriers and concludes, “This suggests that the impact of the drilling and use of drilling fluids are uncertain or involve unique or unknown risks, which again could demonstrate significance.”
And other groups are pursuing administrative challenges to natural gas drilling permits. For example, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation last month appealed two Pennsylvania water permits for drilling operations and pipeline construction to the state environmental appeals board. The challenges, which apply to drilling in the massive Marcellus shale, argue that the state did not adequately analyze the damage caused by construction and post-construction runoff.

To read this article in its entirety, CLICK HERE to access the .pdf file.


Natgas execs seek disclosure of Marcellus drilling chemicals

Chesapeake, Range Resources call for disclosures

Matt Daly
Thu Sep 24, 2009 5:42pm EDT

Editorializing by Splashdown in red.

NEW YORK - Two top U.S. natural gas producers called on the industry to release data about the chemicals they use in the fast-growing Marcellus shale development to counter fears it was polluting water supplies ... [tapping] into rock deposits and [releasing] natural gas using a process called "hydrofracturing" that injects water and chemicals into the deposits.

The vast energy potential of the field has drawn interest from dozens of companies, including Chesapeake Energy ..., who says the process is safe and will turn the Marcellus into a lucrative source of natural gas for decades.

"We as an industry need to demystify (hydrofracturing)," Aubrey McClendon, chief executive and chairman of Chesapeake, told an energy conference this week.

"We need to disclose the chemicals that we are using and search for alternatives to the chemicals we are using," he said.

Scientists have yet to find definitive evidence that drilling chemicals have seeped into ground, but dozens of anecdotal accounts have emerged that water supplies in gas-producing areas have been tainted.

People in gas-drilling areas say their well water has become discolored or foul-smelling, killing pets and farm animals who drink it and causing children to suffer from diarrhea and vomiting.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvania regulators cited Cabot Oil & Gas for spilling chemicals at a natural gas well. [ID:nN22368094]

Umm... the spill got into wetlands and a creek, and you didn't need a scientist to tell you that some fish died.

Environmentalists have complained that the energy companies refuse to disclose the specific chemicals used in the fluids that are injected into wells and then later stored in pools before undergoing treatment.

That lack of disclosure prevents them from testing water and soil samples for specific incidents of pollution.

John Pinkerton, chief executive of Range Resources Corp ..., one of the first energy companies to enter the Marcellus, said producers' disclosures were limited by the oilfield service companies who do not want to release what they consider to be commercially sensitive information.

"We're under confidentiality contracts with the service companies," he told Reuters. "I've basically told them that this is not acceptable. It's a little silly to be honest."

Actually, when it proves lethal, as in the case of the 17 cows that died in a Louisiana pasture,
confidentiality is a bit more than silly.

Oilfield service companies such as Schlumberger Ltd (SLB.N), Halliburton Co (HAL.N) and BJ Services (BJS.N) all provide hydrofracturing services to the companies.

A spokesman for Schlumberger said it and the chemical companies that provide the fluids release lists of chemicals, acids and salts typically used in the process, but that the chemical companies will not give more details.

"When it comes down to the different chemical makeup of these compounds, that's where it gets into proprietary third party information," the spokesman, Stephen Harris, said.

Halliburton said 99 percent of its fluid was made up of sand and water, and the remaining chemicals complied with state and federal regulations.

Yes, and time and again with these 'kills' it's apparently that ±1% that's proving to be lethal...

"We make a significant investment in developing effective fracturing fluid systems and we are careful to protect the fruits of the company's research and development efforts," Halliburton spokeswoman Cathy Mann said in an email.

Are they saying nothing is more important?

Louis Baldwin, chief financial officer of XTO Energy (XTO.N), said the number of incidents of spills or leakage was "infinitesimally small" given the thousands of wells in which hydrofracturing had been used.

CLICK HERE for an incomplete list of "quiet [sic] rare" incidents in just the past 6 months.

For the complete Reuters article, CLICK HERE.


Concern and caution about leasing PA state forests for gas drilling is budgetary... not environmental!

-from reports in and

Citing the need to ensure that local governments and conservation districts are not left out of a plan she has co-sponsored called "Energize PA," Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) said Wednesday she needs more details about the state budget agreement before she can decide if it is the best deal for the people of her district and across Pennsylvania.

"I have serious concerns that the budget agreement could send all of the revenue to the state budget and ignore local governments and conservation districts," Pickett said, noting that in her legislation, a portion of the revenue from the leases would directly benefit residents of the Marcellus Shale area. This was designed to offset any increased costs that may accompany expanded natural gas harvesting on state forest lands or drilling in general.

"Any proposal to lease public land for drilling should at least set money aside to repair environmental damage that could occur," said State Rep. John Siptroth, D-Monroe/Pike at a Capitol news conference where he joined other lawmakers and environmentalists in expressing concerns about a plan in the tentative budget agreement to lease 200,000 acres of state forest this year and next year for natural gas drilling. "One needs to look no further than the areas of our state where coal was mined to see the possible consequences."

While communities will benefit from the increased economic activity, the new drilling will also increase the burden on local infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.

Lawmakers at the news conference said the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources should have final say on how many acres are leased for natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation and the location of those leases.

They also said the Oil and Gas Fund in DCNR's budget, which collects revenues from leases on state land currently used to reinvest in the park system and to fund DCNR, should not be eliminated. The budget agreement would redirect $145 million currently in the fund to the General Fund to help plug this year's budget shortfall, and it calls for eliminating the Oil and Gas Lease Fund and directing future state oil and gas royalties to the General Fund.

"Although I have been a strong advocate of the leasing plan," Pickett said, "I do not know if I can support a measure that does not consider the impact of the industry on local governments and conservation districts."

Meanwhile, we're wondering which of our legislators is worrying about the environmental impact of committing hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of acres of wild state forest land to heavily polluting industrialization??? This post shows how oil and gas drillers are transforming the Allegheny National Forest. It is PA's only national forest, already devastated by over 9000 gas wells, with 20,000 projected by 2020 and 3000 additional miles of roads! Increasing amounts of state forest stand to become degraded habitat for wildlife, endangered forest, endangered watershed, the entire balance of our ecosystem... deliberately put in harm's way...

Surely we can do better than this.

What's the real reason for abandoning the severance tax this year, Governor Rendell?

Siptroth said the proposal comes at a time when budget negotiators are considering cutting the state Department of Environmental Protection's budget from $229 million to $173 million. He said those cuts would impact the agency's ability to oversee increased drilling.

How many times is Pennsylvania going to look the other way while it gives a free lunch to freeloaders?

For more on this subject, CLICK HERE and HERE.

Editorializing by Splashdown in red.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Dept. of Environmental Protection
Northcentral Regional Office
208 West Third Street, Suite 101
Williamsport, PA 17701


Daniel T. Spadoni
Phone: (570) 327-3659

Company Must Properly Clean Up Susquehanna County Gel Spill

WILLIAMSPORT – The Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violation to Cabot Oil and Gas for two liquid gel spills last week at the company’s Heitsman natural gas well pad in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, which polluted a wetland and caused a fish kill in Stevens Creek.

“DEP is very concerned about spills at Cabot sites and will require Cabot to take all necessary actions to prevent them from recurring,” DEP Northcentral Regional Director Robert Yowell said.

The notice of violation cites Cabot for an unpermitted discharge of polluting substances, an unpermitted discharge of residual waste, two unpermitted encroachments on Stevens Creek, not containing polluting substances at the well site, and an unpermitted discharge of industrial waste.

These were violations of the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law, Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act, the Dam Safety and Encroachments Act, and the Oil and Gas Act.

Cabot must provide a written response within 10 days explaining any additional steps that will be taken to correct the violations, and what steps are being taken to prevent their recurrence.

DEP may assess a civil penalty for the violations once the cleanup is finished.

The two spills last week totaled about 8,000 gallons and involved a liquid gel called LGC-35, which is mixed with water and serves as a lubricant in the well fracking process. About 4.9 gallons of LGC-35 are mixed with each 1,000 gallons of water. Cabot informed DEP that failed pipe connections caused both spills.

The wetland was flushed with water late last week to remove the gel, and the mixture was then pumped to on-site storage tanks. No remediation was required in Stevens Creek. Some soil excavation may be required, depending upon sample results.

Cabot reported a third spill to DEP at the same site on Sept. 22 when a closed valve caused an increase in pressure and a hose ruptured. About 420 gallons of the same gel/water mixture spilled, with all but 10 gallons recovered from a catch basin. The remaining fluid is being cleaned up by Cabot contractors.

DEP's investigation is continuing and additional actions are being evaluated.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


(Or you should be!)

At last the scofflaw industry is revealing that YES INDEED! LGC-35 is carcinogenic.
Almost a full week after the fracing substance ...±8500 gallons worth... leaked into the real world due to industry negligence, it has leaked into the environment once again...

During that time, industry downplayed the seriousness of these events, while the DEP clearly didn't do enough:

From THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE in Splashdown 9/19 post, 'Real People Talk About THE FACE OF REALITY'...

"I found out there was a spill on Wednesday night at a meeting with Cabot- someone asked them about a spill and they acted, at first, like they did not know about one, and then they said yes there had been two that day but it was just harmless gel -nothing serious- they said nothing they use is harmful. The chemicals used are just a thimble full- 8,500 gallons is a pretty large thimble!!!
I questioned their water specialist what was this gel- "was it let's say safe enough to shave my legs with?" and he said "Why yes!"
What's more...
The owners of the land where the spills took place were not notified.
They asked "I own that land, shouldn't you have told me?"
I spoke (actually I yelled - I was so upset) to DEP this morning and Mark Carmen said "call the Governor- we can't do anything."



Executive Director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York (IOGA-NY), TELL THE PUBLIC THIS LIE:
"It is our understanding that the spill resulted from a decoupling of a water line, which contained "slick water". Slick water is comprised of 99.5 percent water and sand and is not considered a toxic substance."
"The incident in Dimock is indeed regrettable and unfortunate. It is important to note that this circumstance should not be viewed as representative of members' work and experience day-to-day. Such incidents as the spill in Dimock are quiet [sic] rare..."
(see Splashdown 9/19 EUREKA! post)


More on the Cabot/Halliburton~Dimock Spills

-from an Associated Press report:
DEP today said the agency is very concerned about the spills in Susquehanna County.
Today's THIRD spill involves the same fracing fluid as last Wednesday's Dimock spills.
Information provided by Halliburton Co., which supplies the lubricant, says the chemicals in the product called LGC-35 are potentially cancer causing.
In last week's spills the substance entered a wetland and creek.

RED ALERT! Third natural gas chemical spill reported in Dimock Twp.

By Steve McConnell
GateHouse News Service
Wayne Independent
Tue Sep 22, 2009, 05:24 PM EDT

Dimock Township, Pa. -

Make that three substantial chemical spills in less than one week at a natural gas drill site _ in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, The Wayne Independent has learned.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) confirmed that Cabot Oil & Gas, who is engaging in extensive drilling operations in the small community, spilled “hundreds of gallons” of the volatile chemical mixture Tuesday morning.
It is the same chemical - one that can cause skin cancer and a malady of other health issues - that spewed out of a pipe, twice, last Wednesday - amounting to more than 8,000 gallons of the harmful fluid entering the environment.
“This morning Cabot did report to us a third spill at the same site,” said DEP Spokesperson Dan Spadoni in a phone interview with The Wayne Independent.
DEP is expected to make the announcement in a press release on Wednesday, as the investigation continues into this third incident.
A message left for Cabot spokesperson Ken Komoroski was not returned by press time.
The first two spills, which reportedly discharged from a pipe connecting a fluid holding tank and one natural gas well, impacted a wetland area and flowed into Stevens Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. This latest incident was in the same area.

Spadoni also confirmed a “fish kill” in Stevens Creek, although the extent of how many or what kind of fish deceased is not known at this time by his department.
A call placed to the state Fish & Boat Commission, who is investigating the spill along with DEP, was not returned by press time.
The chemical that illegally entered the environment, off Troy Road, is a “liquid gel concentrate,” a “potential carcinogen” that is combustible.
Natural gas companies use an array of chemicals, sand, and millions of gallons of water to extract the energy commodity by busting open underground rock formations, located more than a mile beneath the surface. The procedure is typically called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracing.”
The chemical spilled is a fracturing fluid, according to interviews with DEP staff.
It can cause headache, dizziness, or other central nervous system effects, according to the material safety data sheet obtained by The Wayne Independent. Inhalation may “cause respiratory irritation ... chemical pneumonia ... slurred speech, giddiness and unconsciousness.”
The material safety data sheet, a document that details general chemical information and human-health hazards, lists Halliburton, a company often used by the industry to develop natural gas wells.
The spill was apparently a mixture of a majority of water and the chemical, said Spadoni.
Pending lab results, DEP may require that the soil in the area is excavated.
It is also not known, as of this report, whether the spill contaminated local groundwater.

This report, reprinted here in its entirety, can be viewed in the original HERE.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Frack Fluid Spill in Dimock Contaminates Stream, Killing Fish

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - September 21, 2009 4:09 pm EDT

Pennsylvania environment officials are racing to clean up as much as 8,000 gallons of dangerous drilling fluids after a series of spills at a natural gas production site near the town of Dimock late last week.

The spills, which occurred at a well site run by Cabot Oil and Gas, involve a compound manufactured by Halliburton that is described as a "potential carcinogen" and is used in the drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, according to state officials. The contaminants have seeped into a nearby creek, where a fish kill was reported by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP also reported fish "swimming erratically".


Neither Cabot Oil and Gas nor Halliburton immediately returned calls for comment on Monday. A Halliburton spokesperson sent an email referring any questions to information on the company’s website.

DEP officials were also unavailable for interviews, but said through e-mail that faulty piping is suspected and that they have not confirmed the exact cause of the spill. A press spokesperson said to expect an announcement and actions towards Cabot by Tuesday.

ProPublica interviewed state officials several months ago about drilling problems in Dimock [1]. "Cabot has definitely had their share of problems out there," Craig Lobins, a regional oil and gas division director, said then. "Some of them is just being a little bit careless… or sloppy, or maybe a little bit of bad luck too."

The drilling fluid spill Wednesday may be the most serious yet, because it involves chemicals that are known to pose a risk to human health and has spread into the area’s surface water system.

According to a Material Safety Data Sheet provided to the state this week by Halliburton, the spilled drilling fluid contained a liquid gel concentrate consisting of a Paraffinic solvent and Polysaccharide, chemicals listed as possible carcinogens for people. The MSDS form – for Halliburton’s proprietary product called LGC-35 CBM – does not list the entire makeup of the gel or the quantity of its constituents, but it warns that the substances have led to skin cancer in animals and "may cause headache, dizziness and other central nervous system effects" to anyone who breathes or swallows the fluids.


It is not yet clear exactly what led to or caused the spill. State officials report that at least 1,000 gallons of fluid were spilled Wednesday afternoon, and another 5,900 gallons about 10 that night. The substance was reportedly a clay-like mixture, with the Halliburton gel mixed at about five gallons per 1,000 gallons of water. A DEP spokesperson said in an e-mail that the spills appear to be the result of supply pipe failures. In one case a pressurized line may have broken, and in another a seal may have given way. State officials said the fluids had spilled into Stevens Creek.

The contamination incident comes as the state faces increasing scrutiny for its handling of a natural gas drilling boom and dozens of instances of spills and water contamination related to it across the state. Earlier investigations by ProPublica found that methane had leaked into drinking water supplies from gas wells in at least seven Pennsylvania counties. And earlier this month the DEP began investigating a suspected chemical spill in the northwestern part of the state, hundreds of miles from Dimock, which decimated aquatic life along a 30-mile stretch of pristine river. (see below) No determination has been made in that case either, but waste fluids from drilling are among the possibilities being investigated.

For the complete report from ProPublica, CLICK HERE.


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