Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Green Alternative to chemical-based hydraulic fracturing, or fracking for shale gas drilling...

Cavitation Hydrovibration

Walter Derzko
Smart Economy
December 28, 2009

Gas gas drilling firms such as Shell, Hallibuton or Schlumber may be interested in this alternative green technology to chemical-based hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," for shale gas drilling” which is called called Cavitation Hydrovibration-- in light of the proposed ban on fracking (NYC urges ban on shale gas drilling)

One of my clients, the Institute of Technical Mechanics in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and the National Space Agency of Ukraine, have developed a technology called a cavitation hydrovibrator, which is designed to fracture rock, using a pressurized water pulse action on rock stratum to increase its degree of fracturing.

The cavitation hydrovibrator is a proprietary green technology that operates using pure water, without the use of any chemicals that damage the environment and contaminate water tables. The cavitation hydrovibrator is mounted in a drilling line and inserted into a vertical or horizontal borehole at the appropriate stratum level. Pressured water is fed to the cavitation hydrovibrator inlet through the drilling line using a drill pump. Then the water passes through the hydrovibrator flow passage and enters the borehole where the gas-saturated stratum is located.

Due to the pressure differential across the hydrovibrator, the regime of periodically detached cavitation is set up in its flow passage. In this regime, the steady water flow is transformed into a high-frequency pulsating flow.The pulse-repetition frequency can be variable, from 100 to several thousands Hz. This frequency is governed by the geometry of the hydrovibrator and the pressure differential across it which can be precisely controlled. The water pressure pulse acts on the gas-bearing stratum and increases its degree of fracturing, with the radius of action being relatively large. This enhances gas liberation.

Contact info for interested parties, and further information: CLICK HERE.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Caution Required in Gas Drilling

MY TURN By Joe Sestak

Pike County Courier: Opinion
Published: December 24, 2009

I believe in the responsible development of Pennsylvania’s energy resources, including natural gas, as part of the transition to a cleaner, more renewable and more secure energy supply. In Pennsylvania alone, there are several hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas -- enough to supply this country’s demand for decades to come. Natural gas can boost our economy and cut our dependence on foreign oil. And it also causes less than half the carbon emissions of coal, allowing us to reduce our impact on climate change in the near term.

Our abundant natural resources are a blessing for our Commonwealth. We should never have to sacrifice our health and safety, clean air and water, natural lands, and communities to companies seeking access to our natural wealth. Clear regulations and strict accountability for violators can protect us from abuse and carelessness. Reasonable fees can offset the cost of these protections and provide a sustainable investment in Pennsylvania.

Done improperly, drilling can seriously harm our health and safety, environment, and land values. It should be done only with clear and transparent reporting and strong oversight. That’s why I have written to the Secretary of DEP urging the Department to make its reports on the oversight of the drilling operations readily available to the public.

It’s also important that Pennsylvanians know that this drilling, called hydrofracking, falls under the so-called “Halliburtron Loophole” that was slipped into President Bush’s energy bill in 2005 and allows energy companies to ignore the rules of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. These protections exist for a reason. Fracking involves using huge amounts of water laced with chemicals, and it has already contaminated drinking water in seven counties across Pennsylvania. That’s why I co-sponsored the FRAC Act to close this loophole. I also helped pass legislation calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to look into threats this drilling method poses to our water supply.

Right now, the Pennsylvania legislature and the Department of Environmental Protection have the power and responsibility to protect the people of Pennsylvania from potential harmful effects of drilling. Wastewater regulations that have been proposed by DEP are a start, but much more needs to be done.

New regulations should not favor, by grandfathering, the use of older, less capable treatment processes at the expense of encouraging use of state of the art facilities. Regulations should cover all major components of fracking wastewater so that harmful substances don’t end up in our streams and rivers. Furthermore, the Commonwealth owes it to this, and future, generations to make sure drilling does not cause irreparable harm to our natural resources, especially our protected state lands.

I believe the state legislature and DEP must establish clear and effective regulation prior to further expansion of drilling in order to decide how best to protect our citizens and our natural resources. There is no doubt in my mind that if proper forces come to bare this can be done, and done quickly, so that we can move into a new era of economic prosperity for the Commonwealth while ensuring Pennsylvanians that their health and natural resources are adequately protected.

I am not convinced we currently have strong enough environmental, health, and property safeguards -- and I am not satisfied that people will have the access to just compensation should even the best safeguards fail.

Let’s take a lesson from an earlier generation of energy development. Acid mine drainage is the legacy of abandoned coal mines. It has left 2,500 miles of deteriorated streams and 250,000 acres of contaminated land in Pennsylvania at an expense of $15 billion to clean up.

We have a real opportunity in Pennsylvania to benefit from the resources of Marcellus Shale, one of the largest natural gas reserves on the planet. There is no reason to allow this bounty to ultimately turn out to be a net harm for our state and our families.

Let’s not cash in on our resources today in a way that causes disproportionate harm, brings little lasting benefit, and results in a greater cost in the future. This is our state, these are our resources. Let’s utilize them in a way that is best for all the people of Pennsylvania and the generations that follow.

Note: This statement was delivered by US Senate candidate Rep. Joe Sestak (D-7-PA) At an Environmental Quality Board Public Hearing on the Proposed Wastewater Treatment Requirements Regulations.


In New Gas Wells, More Drilling Chemicals Remain Underground

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - December 27, 2009 8:12 am EST
(co-published with Politico)

A hydraulic fracturing operation in Bradford County, Pa. It's possible that for each modern gas well drilled in the Marcellus and places like it, more than three million gallons of chemically tainted wastewater could be left in the ground forever.(Photo courtesy of the New York State Environmental Impact Statement)
A hydraulic fracturing operation in Bradford County, Pa. It's possible
that for each modern gas well drilled in the Marcellus and places like
it, more than three million gallons of chemically tainted wastewater
could be left in the ground forever. (Photo courtesy of the New York
State Environmental Impact Statement)

For more than a decade the energy industry has steadfastly argued before courts, Congress and the public that the federal law protecting drinking water should not be applied to hydraulic fracturing, the industrial process that is essential to extracting the nation's vast natural gas reserves. In 2005 Congress, persuaded, passed a law prohibiting such regulation.

Now an important part of that argument -- that most of the millions of gallons of toxic chemicals that drillers inject underground are removed for safe disposal, and are not permanently discarded inside the earth -- does not apply to drilling in many of the nation's booming new gas fields.

Three company spokesmen and a regulatory official said in separate interviews with ProPublica that as much as 85 percent of the fluids used during hydraulic fracturing is being left underground after wells are drilled in the Marcellus Shale, the massive gas deposit that stretches from New York to Tennessee.

That means that for each modern gas well drilled in the Marcellus and places like it, more than three million gallons of chemically tainted wastewater could be left in the ground forever. Drilling companies say that chemicals make up less than 1 percent of that fluid. But by volume, those chemicals alone still amount to 34,000 gallons in a typical well.

These disclosures raise new questions about why the Safe Drinking Water Act, the federal law that regulates fluids injected underground so they don't contaminate drinking water aquifers, should not apply to hydraulic fracturing, and whether the thinking behind Congress' 2005 vote to shield drilling from regulation is still valid.

When lawmakers approved that exemption, it was generally accepted that only about 30 percent of the fluids stayed in the ground. At the time, fracturing was also used in far fewer wells than it is today and required far less fluid. Ninety percent of the nation's wells now rely on the process, which is widely credited for making it financially feasible to tap into the Marcellus Shale and other new gas deposits.

Congress is considering a bill that would repeal the exemption, and has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to undertake a fresh study of how hydraulic fracturing may affect drinking water supplies. But the government faces stiff pressure from the energy industry to maintain the status quo -- in which gas drilling is regulated state by state -- as companies race to exploit the nation's vast shale deposits and meet the growing demand for cleaner fuel. Just this month, Exxon announced it would spend some $31 billion to buy XTO Energy, a company that controls substantial gas reserves in the Marcellus -- but only on the condition that Congress doesn't enact laws on fracturing that make drilling "commercially impracticable."

The realization that most of the chemicals and fluids injected underground remain there could stoke the debate further, especially since it contradicts the industry's long-standing message that only a small proportion of the fluids is left behind at most wells.

But while the message has not changed, the drilling has.

The Marcellus Shale, denoted in brown, primarily cuts across large swaths of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. (Map by Jennifer LaFleur/ProPublica)
The Marcellus Shale, denoted in brown, primarily cuts across large swaths of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. (Map by Jennifer LaFleur/ProPublica)
In the nation's largest and most important natural gas fields, far more chemicals are being used today than when Congress and the EPA last visited the fracturing issue, and far more of those fluids are remaining underground. Drilling companies say that as they've drilled in the Marcellus they've discovered that the shale rock -- which is similar to many of the nation's largest natural gas projects in Louisiana, Texas and several other states -- holds more fluids than they expected.

During hydraulic fracturing, drillers use combinations of some of the 260 chemical additives associated with the process, plus large amounts of water and sand, to break rock and release gas. Benzene and formaldehyde, both known carcinogens, are among the substances that are commonly found.

If another industry proposed injecting chemicals -- or even salt water -- underground for disposal, the EPA would require it to conduct a geological study to make sure the ground can hold those fluids without leaking and to follow construction standards when building the well. In some cases the EPA would also establish a monitoring system to track what happens as the well ages.

But because hydraulic fracturing is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, it doesn't necessarily have to conform to these federal standards. Instead, oversight of the drilling chemicals and the injection process has been left solely to the states, some of which regulate parts of the process while others do not.

As the industry was lobbying Congress for that exemption -- and ever since -- the notion that most fluids would not be left underground continued to emerge as a recurring theme put forth by everyone from attorneys for Halliburton, which developed the fracturing process and is one of the leading drilling service companies, to government researchers and regulators.

"Hydraulic fracturing is fundamentally different," wrote Mike Paque, director of the Ground Water Protection Council, an association of state oil and gas regulators, to Senate staff in a 2002 letter advocating for the exemption, "because it is part of the well completion process, does not 'dispose of fluids' and is of short duration, with most of the fluids being immediately recovered."

In May, ProPublica heard a similar explanation from the industry-funded American Petroleum Institute.

"Hydraulic fracturing operations are something that are done from 24 hours to a couple of days versus a program where you are injecting products into the ground and they are intended to be sequestered for time into the future," said Stephanie Meadows, a senior API policy analyst who has been closely involved in fracturing legislation issues. "I don't see the benefit of trying to take that sort of sequestration type activity and applying it to something that is temporary in time."

Asked how much fracturing fluid can remain underground, and whether it could be as high as 30 percent, the figure that was still being included in government reports earlier this year, Meadows said: "I guess I didn't know that the statistics are that high."

Neither the American Petroleum Institute nor the Ground Water Protection Council responded to requests for further comment.

EPA officials maintained in 2005, and say now, that the volume of fluids left underground had little to do with its opinion that hydraulic fracturing for gas wells is not the same as underground injection. They say that distinction is because the primary function of the two types of wells is different: Gas wells are for production processes, while most EPA-regulated underground injection wells are intended for storage.

But Stephen Heare, director of the EPA's Drinking Water Protection Division in Washington, said that both the circumstances and the drilling technology have evolved. When asked to explain how hydraulic fracturing today is different from other forms of underground injection, he said the bottom line was simple.

"If you are emplacing fluid, it does not matter whether you are recovering 30 percent or 65 percent of it, if you are emplacing fluids, that is underground injection," Heare said. "The simple explanation for why hydraulic fracturing is different from other injection activities," he added, is that hydraulic fracturing "is exempt from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act."

Continue reading HERE.


Sunday, December 27, 2009


By Wire News Sources on December 25, 2009
by Joaquin Sapien and Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica

After months of warning signs, New York City officials have called for a ban on natural gas drilling within the city’s 2,000-square-mile upstate watershed and urged Albany to withdraw its controversial draft environmental review for drilling across the state.

The move follows the completion of a yearlong study by a private consulting firm commissioned by the city, which found that “gas drilling poses unacceptable risks to the unfiltered drinking water supply for nine million New Yorkers.” It sets up a confrontation between the city, which says any degradation of its unfiltered water supply could cost upwards of billion to fix, and Gov. David Paterson, who has said the drilling would be an important part of the state’s economic recovery.

The city announced its position following the release of a consultant’s report, commissioned by city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which found that the chemicals injected into the ground as part of the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing could make their way to groundwater and contaminate water reservoirs. It cautioned that the wastewater produced from the process posed a similar risk.

Gas development, the report said, could mean 6,000 wells drilled in the watershed and brings a “risk of exposing watershed residents and potentially NYC residents to chronic low levels of toxic chemicals.”

The report also found that the fracturing process, which happens under very high pressure, could spread subsurface contamination and alter the natural flow of deep groundwater. It raised concerns that the disruption from the process could damage the tunnels that bring drinking water to the five boroughs.

The city’s investigation as well as a statewide environmental review follow a lengthy investigation by ProPublica, which found that state environment officials may not be prepared to handle the effects of the drilling, and raised early questions about how drilling development could impact New York City’s water supply.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had declined to take a firm stance on the issue until the report was completed, but has now submitted the city’s comments to the state Department of Environmental Conservation in time to meet Albany’s Dec. 31 deadline for public review of the drilling plan.

“The mayor very clearly said that if our analysis were to determine that [drilling] should be prohibited – and now it has – we would fight it,” said Marc LaVorgna, a spokesman for Bloomberg. “It’s clear that it’s a risk that cannot be taken and drilling cannot be permitted.”

At a press conference held yesterday, Gov. Paterson said that his office was aware of the mayor’s position, and that his comments would be considered during public comment period for the state’s draft environmental review on drilling released in September. The public comment period was extended from November to the end of December in response to uproar from environmentalists, politicians and concerned residents, and to allow New York City the time to complete its review.

“This is the time when the public, the mayor and any other advocate can try to persuade us that this decision needs to be reversed,” said Paterson.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Proposed Wysox recycling plant for gas industry would not discharge into sewer system

Marcellus Shale: Pipe dreams in Pennsylvania?

A region is discovering that the price of the economic boom from natural gas drilling may be irreversible environmental damage and peace of mind.

By Rona Kobell
Bay Journal
December 2009

When the natural gas companies descended on Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale two years ago, it felt like a Gold Rush. And everyone seemed to be hitting pay dirt.

Landowners, many in long-depressed regions, rushed to lease their property, betting the promised royalties would better their lot. Mayors rejoiced that restaurants and hotels were full after decades of barely hanging on. Legislators talked of thousands of new jobs.

Even some environmentalists were pleased-natural gas burns clean, it's plentiful and it's local. Finally, it seemed, an energy source had come along that would wean Americans off their foreign oil addiction, fight climate change and boost the economy.

But now, with nearly 700 Marcellus wells drilled throughout the state, the environmental costs of drilling are becoming clear. The gas in the Marcellus "play" may ameliorate the United States' energy needs, but the technique to extract it has damaged streams, water supplies and Pennsylvania's famous forests. It has transformed some of the state's most beautiful landscapes into industrial zones and brought hardship to some who thought it was their lifeline.

No agency has tallied drilling's toll. But many environmentalists, legislators and citizens believe that, in its rush to drill, Pennsylvania was unprepared and unable to adequately review applications or inspect in the field. And in the end, it is not only the people in the watershed who will struggle, but the water itself.

"I don't have confidence that the state of Pennsylvania is where it needs to be," said Bernie McGurl, executive director of the Lackawanna River Corridor Association. "They're tripping over themselves to get well heads installed. We're going to have holes all over the northern tier of Pennsylvania. What is the implication of that long-term? They're going too far, too quick, with not enough oversight."

John Hanger, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the main agency overseeing drilling, said the state was prepared. He dismisses criticism that the gas companies have too much influence on his agency as "absolutely crazy."

"We have an important responsibility here," he said, "and we're doing it every day."

Hanger acknowledged that natural gas drilling, like all energy production, has environmental costs. But, he noted, compared to coal and oil, natural gas releases fewer greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and less nitrogen oxide that contributes to air and water pollution.

"If done right, (gas production) will produce much more good than bad," he said.

Three Problems

To reach the gas in the Marcellus, drillers must bore through dozens of geological formations. Then, workers pump into the well millions of gallons of water mixed with sand, salt and a cocktail of chemicals to fracture the gas-bearing rock. This process, known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," was pioneered by energy giant Halliburton in the 1940s. The gas flows from the broken rock out of the well to a compressor.

With it comes about one-fifth of the water that was pumped in, bearing the chemicals used in fracking and radioactive elements that occur naturally in the rock. The remainder of the water stays deep in the formation-well below drinking water aquifers, according to regulators and energy companies.

The drilling and fracking process presents three water-related problems.

The first is withdrawals. Gas companies need about 5 million gallons to frack each well. They pull the water from streams, and because nearly three-quarters of the Marcellus is in the Susquehanna River basin, much of that water has and will come from those feeding the Bay's largest tributary. The companies have occasionally pulled water from small headwater creeks that are slow to refill, which can change temperatures and oxygen levels and endanger fish.

The second is the fracking wastewater, called flowback, which is usually stored in a plastic-lined impoundment before it can be trucked to a treatment plant. Critics worry that the wastes could spill during transit or operations and run into waterways or seep into groundwater.

Earlier this year, Texas-based Cabot Oil Co. spilled 8,000 gallons of fracking waste into Stevens Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River in the northeast Pennsylvania hamlet of Dimock.

Because fracking waste can have five times as much salt in it as ocean water, groups such as Trout Unlimited worry that accidents like that will forever change the ecology of fresh, coldwater streams.

The third problem is groundwater contamination from methane accidentally released through the drilling. Today, at least 13 families in Dimock, home to more than 63 of Cabot's gas wells, can't drink their well water because it contains methane. Methane contamination has been reported in other states where drilling has occurred, and critics worry it could become a bigger problem in Pennsylvania.

The DEP has fined Cabot nearly $200,000 in connection with both the spills and the well water contamination.

"How big is this thing?"

Gas company executives had long been aware of the Marcellus, which sprawls across parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia and small sections of Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, but weren't excited about it. At close to 8,000 feet deep, extraction was difficult and costly.

But in the 1990s, workers in Texas' Barnett Shale began using a technique called horizontal drilling coupled with hydraulic fracturing. In this process, workers drill down until just above the target layer. Then they turn the drill to the horizontal so the well runs parallel through the gas-bearing layer, yielding significantly more gas than a vertical well.

Range Resources drilled the first horizontal Marcellus well in western Pennsylvania in 2003. By 2007, when Range released results from three horizontal wells, the industry stirred. The next year, two geologists-Penn State University's Terry Engelder and State University of New York-Fredonia's Gary Lash-published a paper showing that the Marcellus had enough natural gas to supply the whole country for two years.

"That's when the whole world said, 'Whoa, how big is this thing?'" recalled Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella. "And that's when the land grab occurred."

Since the original estimates were made, new estimates, based on the success rate of the wells so far, put the amount of gas available much higher.

A Rush for Leases

Landmen, gas company representatives intent on negotiating leases, fanned out across states in the Marcellus Shale offering signing bonuses and royalties. Typically, companies assemble a large area and then decide where to put wells, well pads and other infrastructure.

In Maryland, some landowners in Garrett and Allegany counties signed leases, and while a drilling company has requested permits for four wells, none have been drilled.

Drilling did begin in New York. But last year, as concerns grew about treating the waste and protecting New York City's water supply, Gov. David Patterson announced an overhaul of the state's environmental laws. He declined to issue any more Marcellus permits, leading to a de facto moratorium.

Pennsylvania, in contrast, ramped up. Last year, 451 companies applied to drill-almost five times more than all of the applications between 2003 and 2007.

In April, the agency took the soil and erosion control permitting away from the county soil conservation districts to make the process more efficient and, Hanger said, more effective.

Water Withdrawal

As drilling began, the water grab followed the land grab. Trucks backed up to small streams, sucking out thousands of gallons at a time.

In much of Pennsylvania, such withdrawals are regulated by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, while the DEP regulates water quality. The commission is an independent agency, with representatives from New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the federal government, created to guide the conservation, development and administration of the vast basin's water resources.

The withdrawals "took us by surprise," said Paul Swartz, the commission's executive director. "Frankly," he added, "It has taken some time to get on top of it."

Under the commission's nearly 40-year-old rules, companies could take less than 100,000 gallons of water per day without a permit. Some were taking close to that amount daily. And even if they took less, the commission would have a hard time checking. So, it changed the rules. If a company took as much as one gallon, it needed permission.

Next, the commission sent letters to the nearly two dozen gas companies operating in the basin, warning them to get withdrawal permits or face steep fines. They meant it. Cabot had to pay $75,000. Another company, Chief Oil and Gas, paid $250,000. Range was fined a whopping $475,000 for its violations, which Pitzarella attributed to "a lack of knowledge."

"We fixed it," said Pitzarella, whose company now has 900,000 acres under lease in the Marcellus Shale. "We want to make sure that never happens again to us."

The commission has been inundated with withdrawal applications, processing as many as four times the number it did a year ago even as the commission's budget has been slashed. To cope, it raised the application fees and added staff.

While they've approved nearly every permit, officials say they do a lot of negotiating, steering drillers away from headwater streams that do not easily replenish.

"There are a number of concerns about where we are today," Swartz said. "And where we are is not where we need to be, from an environmental perspective."

The commission has been monitoring sites along the Susquehanna for nitrogen and phosphorus since the 1980s, providing their analyses to the DEP so the agency can enforce environmental laws. It now wants to expand that network into smaller streams in the drilling area and to test for fracking chemicals. To do that, it's seeking $750,000 in government or other grant funding.

Water as Waste

The chemical mixes that make up the fracking fluids break up the rock, keep the fractures open and protect the well from corrosion and bacteria buildup. They include carbonates, methanol, hydrochloric acid and anhydrides, as well as high concentrations of salts. The mixes vary from well to well, depending on the nature of the shale beneath. The gas companies say their specific nature is proprietary.

A 2-decades-long effort to require the companies to reveal more about the fracking compounds and impose broader controls on their use continues. It began in 1989, when some Alabama residents filed a lawsuit alleging that gas drilling contaminated their well water.

In 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to regulate fracking fluids under the Safe Drinking Water Act. But the industry, led by Halliburton and its then CEO, Dick Cheney, pushed back. By the time the EPA began studying the issue, Cheney had become vice president of the United States and taken a lead role in crafting energy policy.

By 2004, the EPA had decided that fracking fluids were not of sufficient concern to regulate. The following year, Congress exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Since then, environmental groups have been lobbying Congress to close what they call the "Halliburton loophole," pointing to cases of rare cancers popping up in areas of intense drilling and other serious health concerns. In October, Congress passed, and the president signed in November, legislation ordering the EPA to re-examine the impacts of fracking on drinking water.

U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-PA, and Charles Schumer, D-NY, have introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, known as the "FRAC Act," which would regulate the practice under the Safe Drinking Water Act and require disclosure.

So far, no action has been taken, although a handful of CEOs -Range's included-have suggested that the industry voluntarily disclose that information.

Stephen W. Rhoads, the longtime president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, said the fracas over fracking is overblown, and some regulators agree.

"We asked the companies what was in it on day one, and they told us on day two," said Michael Brownell, chief of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission's water resources management division.

The DEP's website provides a three-page list of chemicals found in fracking fluids. Asked to identify which were worrisome, DEP spokeswoman Teresa Candori said, "All chemicals are of concern."

Knowing what chemicals are in the fluid is one issue; treating them is another.

Currently, no wastewater plant in Pennsylvania can adequately treat the mix of chemicals and minerals that come from the drilling operations.

Earlier this year, after high levels of chemicals associated with fracking turned up in the heavily industrial Monongahela River, the DEP ordered that, by 2011, any plant that takes fracking waste must be able to clean it well, and that it would not issue new permits until the plants could. But it let the plants that had been taking the waste continue to do so while they improved their capabilities-so long as they didn't increase their amounts. Two of those plants-Williamsport and Sunbury-are in the Susquehanna watershed.

Asked for a measurement of the volume of water treated, Candori said, "At this time the department does not have an accurate accounting as to what wastewater is being received by existing facilities for treatment."

A few companies want to build new facilities to treat the chemicals. One would discharge directly into the Susquehanna at Tunkhannock, and another just north of it in Messhopen Creek. But some scientists say the treatment technology is untested. And residents and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission say the river can't take more stress.

"I am totally against the discharge of pollutants into the Susquehanna River or any of its tributaries," said Richard Fitzsimmons, a former Wyoming County commissioner. "It does not belong in the streams of Pennsylvania."

Further complicating the issue is uranium, which has long been known to occur naturally in the Marcellus Shale. According to ProPublica, a public interest news organization, recent tests in New York showed that levels of radioactivity in the fracking fluids that returned to the surface were 267 times higher than the limit for safe discharge into the environment. New York health officials said handling radioactive wastewater "could be a public health concern," and many plants wouldn't be able to accept it. One gas company official told ProPublica that, if plants declined to treat their water, they would have to shut down.

The DEP tested shallow gas wells for radioactivity in the 1990s and found only two sites that might be of concern, according to an agency report. The DEP is continuing to study the issue, Candori said.

The industry is looking at options beyond treatment plants, such as recycling the water or storing it in deep-injection wells.

"The concern now is with the volume," Rhoads said. "It's true there will be a need to manage those water flows."

A Well in Pieces

On New Year's Day, Dimock resident Norma Fiorentino left her trailer to visit her ailing daughter. When she returned, her water well was in pieces, blown apart by methane that had seeped into her well. From her faucets, orange water bubbled.

Down the road, Victoria Switzer's water looked like orange Alka-Seltzer. Well by well, Fiorentino says, neighbors lost what had long been pristine drinking water.

DEP tests confirmed elevated methane levels. It declared Cabot was responsible, faulted the company for poor record-keeping and polluting the groundwater, and required that it install methane detectors in several homes-although Fiorentino never got one. The DEP also said the gas in the water didn't pose a danger.

Still, Fiorentino wasn't going to drink it. A widow on a fixed income, she begged Cabot to bring her bottled water. They refused.

Cabot lawyer and spokesman Ken Kamoroski said the company declined because "the water supply was determined to be safe by the appropriate regulatory agencies."

The New Year's Day explosion galvanized residents and environmentalists, who had long been distrustful of both the state and the gas companies and who worried that the mistakes in Dimock could be repeated as the drilling boom spread.

Their list of grievances was long. Because of budget cuts, they charged that the DEP had become little more than a rubber stamp; it had taken the job of permitting for soil and erosion away from the county soil districts, but it lacked the expertise to do the job itself. Several DEP staffers had left the agency for gas company jobs, a fact the agency acknowledges. And, with a budget crisis and a prolonged recession, environmentalists feared the DEP was under pressure to cave to the gas industry.

DEP officials insisted they were doing their jobs. Candori, the DEP spokesperson, said agency employees make "frequent and unannounced visits" to drilling sites, and conducted 10,365 inspections this year. And Hanger said one of his first orders of business was to raise the permit application fees so he could hire more staff.

Matthew Royer, an attorney with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, decided to check their work. In September, he reviewed a batch of recently approved permits. One proposed building a pipeline across a wild trout stream. Another proposed a pipeline across high-quality trout streams in the Pine Creek watershed, which also includes Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon. The third asked to drill in the Tioga State Forest.

"They're not doing any on-site checking at all," Royer said. "You can catch some deficiencies by looking at the paperwork, but they weren't even doing that."

Despite the agency's claims of tough oversight, it revoked all three contested permits in late October, citing "technical deficiencies." In all three cases, the gas companies and their consultants had given incomplete or inaccurate information.

Royer wasn't doing a victory dance; the DEP also ordered the drilling companies to "halt earth disturbances"-meaning that some of the pristine areas had already been altered. And the agency wasn't budging on the larger issue of giving the authority for issuing permits back to the county soil conservation districts.

"This is environmental protection after the fact," Royer said. "I have not heard from DEP any indication where they're willing to do the reviews...so we will look at more permits. We will appeal more. This can go on and on."

Hanger calls the foundation's views misguided.

"I would be the first to say that the practices that were brought to our attention, in the field, were not appropriate...and we revoked the permits," he said, adding, "Let's be clear who has the greater ability to enforce. It's us. We want to get this industry to the point where they know they are being watched."

Drills in the Night

In Dimock, Victoria Switzer was watching something else-the rural hamlet where she and her husband were building their dream house had become an industrial zone. She lay awake at night as Cabot drilled. Water trucks trundled down dirt roads, while pickups with Texas license plates sped by. The great horned owls left, and her favorite hiking trails were marked with "no trespassing" signs and fluorescent ties.

And accidents continued. State records show a diesel spill in February and three subsequent drilling mud spills, two of which reached Burdick Creek.

Like Fiorentino, Switzer couldn't drink her water nor convince the gas company to buy her bottles. She said she felt like a tenant, with a very bad landlord. It was, she said, "just one nasty surprise after another."

On Sept. 16, Switzer organized a meeting to press Cabot for water. That same day, Cabot had two spills at its Heitsman well, and a third one there a week later. In all, 8,000 gallons of fracking fluid spilled into Stevens Creek, causing a fish kill.

Though he said the spills were at least least 99.5 percent freshwater, Kamoroski acknowledged that "three spills in the same area are completely unacceptable."

In October, the DEP fined Cabot $56,000 and ordered the company to temporarily halt fracking operations. By month's end, on the day the Scranton Times published an article on Switzer's and Fiorentino's woes, Cabot promised them bottled water.

Last month, DEP ordered Cabot to provide a permanent water solution to Fiorentino, Switzer and 11 other families. It fined the company another $120,000 and set up a tighter inspection schedule for well casings, pipelines and other infrastructure.

Kamoroski still questions whether Cabot caused the water problems. Nonetheless, the company signed the agreement accepting responsibility.

"We're aware the Dimock situation has not been helpful to our overall effort," he said. "We want to earn everyone's confidence and belief that drilling is safe, and we can build a track record that demonstrates that."

Norma Fiorentino and Victoria Switzer are not likely to become believers.

"The regular folk out here will never see the compensation they deserve, and their original water supply is forever gone," Switzer said. "I'm never going to make any money on this. All I've lost is my soul."


Just before Thanksgiving, 15 families in Dimock filed a lawsuit against Cabot for contaminating their drinking water and their land and causing illnesses of the digestive system, the nervous system and the skin.

Among the plaintiffs are Norma Fiorentino and Victoria Switzer. Cabot spokesman Ken Kamoroski told the local press last week that the claims had not merit and that he was ³disappointed² they had decided to sue. The suit was filed in Pennyslvania Middle District Court in Scranton.

Dimock residents have said the lawsuit was a last resort for justice, after failing to get the attention of their legislators or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Around the same time as the lawsuit was filed, another state agency stepped up to tighten enforcement and monitoring. Beginning this month, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will monitor natural gas wells that are close to wetlands and waterways. The commission will report this information to the DEP, which can take the proper enforcement action.

Until now, the commission only looked at Marcellus wells in response to complaints, and many citizens complained they were not being proactive.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the issue over whether to monitor Marcellus wells became so contentious that board members asked executive director Doug Austen to resign in part because of it. He's expected to leave early next year.



Friday, December 25, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tracer In The Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid: Accountability for Marcellus Shale Drillers

by John Laumer, Philadelphia
Business & Politics
, treehugger.com

Halliburton frac fluid on a tractor trailer near Buffalo, PA, The Haliburton Loophole.
Image credit:Marcellus-Shale.us

Groundwater, invisible, and ordinarily slower than a snail, rushes movement of the spillings and drillings of man when bedrock cracks are opened wider, and held that way through hydraulic fracturing or "fracing". Extraction of natural gas held tightly in Marcellus Shale rock, thousands of feet below the earth's surface, has until now been a hydraulic smash-and-grab operation. Gas wells are punched deep into the earth; layers of rock are then "cracked" by injecting sand- and chemical-filled water under great pressure - the so-called "fracing" process - allowing natural gas to escape to the surface via well head, and so it is feared, allowing contaminants ifrom fracing fluids to move into nearby water wells. Ironically, like putting a micrometer on a fog bank, measurement of contamination potential comes too late: when the measurer is fully enveloped. Now, a novel protection has been proposed - that tracer dye be injected into exploratory wells drilled into the shale formations - as a best management practice (BMP).
Ideally, the tracer would be red. A gas developer then either passes the 'red face' test or does not.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The National Alliance for Drilling Reform wishes you Happy Holidays, plenty of clean air and safe water for all!

Gathering Line
- a special pipeline that transports gas from the field to the main pipeline.

The Gathering Line is a round-up of oil & gas drilling news brought to you by National Alliance for Drilling Reform (NA4DR), a broad alliance of grassroots activists from states across the nation that are affected by drilling development.

Whodunnit? The New Mexico Environment Department reached a $5.1 million settlement over "alleged" air emission violations. Find out at Northern New Mexico Conservation Project.

BARNETT SHALE GAS THREATENS HUMAN HEALTH !!! TXsharon posted the Final Results of the DISH TX health survey at Bluedaze.

Citizens for Environmental Clean-Up sets the record straight: The Exxon back out clause is purely industry spin aided by lazy journalism because there is nothing in the FRAC Act or anywhere else about banning hydraulic fracturing.

Flower Mound Town Council denies temporary suspension of Natural Gas Production until TCEQ and EPA releases their study results and recommendations. It appears Council members Dixon, Levenick, and Wallace aren't buying the recent concerns and results of the studies already conducted by the TCEQ, the Federal EPA, and Town of Dish! Read about it at stopthedrilling.blogspot.com.

Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope has been spotted traveling around the country promoting natural gas's environmental benefits with none other than Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Chesapeake Energy Corporation. Read more at Marcellus Effect

Peacegirl read a powerful blog post this week from Don Young of Texas who viewed the recent film "Flame and Citron," a true story about a pair of heroic resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Denmark. The film tag-line is haunting in light of what is happening when gas drillers come to your town: "Do you remember when they came?" Check out Peacegirl's post, Do you remember when they came? and visit her blog at Gas drillers are occupiers, and they are in charge. Do you see the parallels?


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Water central to new energy mix

By DUSTIN BLEIZEFFER Casper Star-Tribune
Posted: Saturday, December 19, 2009 11:55 pm

CASPER — Expect the issue of water conservation to gain more interest in discussions of energy development — be it green, black or somewhere between.

The arid West is likely become more arid with climate change, according to the world’s top scientists, and no longer will residents and municipalities yawn at the prospect of drilling a new well to cool a coal power plant or solar power facility.

And credit Exxon Mobil for bringing a new level of national attention to the practice of hydraulic fracturing, with its $31 billion bid for XTO Energy this past week.

Hydraulic fracturing is the practice of pumping sand and fluids — often diesel fuel — into natural-gas-bearing rock, creating fractures in the rock that allow the natural gas to flow to the production well.

EPA retains the authority to regulate the use of diesel fuel for the purpose of hydraulic fracturing if the agency considers such regulation necessary to protect underground sources of drinking water.

XTO Energy holds 280,000 acres in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Residents and environmental groups concerned about maintaining groundwater quality expect that Exxon Mobil, with its deeper pockets, will perforate and “frack” on a scale unseen even in Wyoming’s Jonah and Pinedale Anticline.

Already, a hearing has been called for by a congressional subcommittee regarding Exxon Mobil’s big leap into the unconventional natural gas play. Environmental concerns were listed as a key issue, as well as what seems to be an appetite to shift more of the nation’s base-load electrical generation to natural gas.

Hydraulic fracturing has increased the nation’s recoverable natural gas resource 35 percent in just two years. However, nearly all of that resource is intermingled with water.

State Rep. Jeb Steward, R-Encampment, told me recently that water conservation deserves to be a prominent part of any discussion about energy development.

And perhaps one of the biggest water-and-energy challenges in Wyoming will be carbon sequestration in the Rock Springs Uplift, where the state engineer expects liquefied CO2 will replace briny groundwater on a one-to-one basis.

Computer modeling has suggested that CO2 injections over a 75-year period in the Rock Springs Uplift could require pumping 1 cubic kilometer to the surface — about the volume of Boysen Reservoir.

“We’re going to be having produced water issues, I think, of a magnitude that will be significant,” Steward said.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

LNG and LIN can be Alternative Fracturing Methods for Shale Gas

December 18, 2009
Analysis by: Hans Linhardt
Analysis of: Exxon Can Stop Deal if Drilling Method Is Restrict
Published at: online.wsj.com

Exxon was very careful in formulating their deal to acquire XTO, one of the largest independent US shale gas developers. As a matter of fact, in anticipation of potential government interference in the sound and advanced hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") techniques underlying the shale gas plays Exxon put language in their deal to back out in case government (EPA. etc.) make hydraulic water fracking illegal and/or commercially impracticable.

Of course the successful shale gas developments are shredding the government energy plans and put the energy industry in the driver's seat. There is only one solution for the government but to call on Congress and/or the EPA to declare fracking environmentally dangerous to our drinking water supply and therefore illegal.

Well, the oil & gas industry has more advanced techniques in their pocket and can outplay the EPA with clean cryogenic fracturing. LIN (liquid nitrogen) has been used successfully in Texas EOR projects by Big Three, now part of L'Air Liquide. Nitrogen comes from the atmosphere and would return to the atmosphere without any environmental issues as the gas processing and industrial gas companies are experts in separating N2 from NG.

A more interesting and probably commercially attractive solution would be fracturing with LNG derived from the field shale gas. Cryogenic fracturing would tend to decrease the flow rates of the LNG injections when compared with water fracking due to the significant cryogenic fracking component. With LNG fracking there would be no environmental issues since nearly all the gas would end up in the pipeline. Considering overall investment costs, it may also be feasible - depending on the world LNG market- to truck imported LNG on the Gulf Coast and or the East Coast to the shale plays and inject the LNG for cryogenic fracturing whereby the LNG will in the end be vaporized and put in the pipeline as NG. The technology for LIN and/or LNG is proven and the industrial gas companies and oil & gas companies could unobstructed move ahead to develop our shale gas assets to meet more than 50% of our power demands.

In summary, hydraulic fracking was developed by U.S. inventors and LIN and LNG fracking can follow closely behind without any government interference.

Ooh la la!
Probably no radioactivity either!
Editorial comments in red by Splashdown.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Hydrofracking Regulation Would Kill Exxon’s XTO Acquisition

Posted by Gregg Gethard
December 17, 2009

An out clause exists for the Exxon in its merger with XTO Energy if Congress decides to regulate hydraulic fracturing, reported Russell Gold of the Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital blog on Wednesday. Exxon will spend $41 billion to purchase XTO, an energy firm known for its expertise in natural gas drilling and production. XTO has invested heavily in the Marcellus Shale, a region in western New York and northern Pennsylvania which is home to large reservoirs of natural gas. However, obtaining this gas is difficult and requires the use of hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, in which thousands of gallons of water are mixed with various fluids to fracture rocks holding natural gas. Critics maintain that hydrofracking causes water pollution, which could force Congress to look at the issue.

If Congress regulates hydrofracking to make it “illegal or commercially impracticable,” in the words of the merger agreement, Exxon can back out of its proposed purchase of XTO.



Erie judge ends drilling ban in Allegheny National Forest: Forest Service can't dictate forest's mineral-rights development

Erie Times-News
Thursday, December 17, 2009

Forest Service reached a settlement with environmental groups in which the Forest Service agreed to subject future development of oil and gas wells to more thorough scrutiny under the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act.

Most of the national forest comprises what are known as "split estates." The surface of the land belongs to the federal government, while 93 percent of the subsurface -- the rights to valuable crude oil and natural gas beneath that forest -- is owned by private citizens.

Those whose livelihoods depend on the oil and gas rights in the 513,325-acre national forest asked McLaughlin to toss out the settlement and require the Forest Service to return the past practice of handling oil and gas-well proposals.

They predicted the Forest Service's review of oil- and gas-drilling plans would proceed at a creeping pace, wreaking financial ruin in an already economically distressed area.

In his ruling, McLaughlin agreed.

"There is substantial evidence that several oil and gas-related businesses that rely upon drilling in the Allegheny National Forest for their livelihood may be forced out of business," he wrote.

He said the Forest Service could meet its obligations to protect the surface of the forest without requiring stringent NEPA reviews of each project.

Fesenmyer said McLaughlin struck the right balance.

"We have always worked with the Forest Service in cooperation as good custodians of the land. At the same time, we were doing what we were legally entitled to do," he said.



Thursday, December 17, 2009

That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy

The New York Times TOXIC WATERS series about the worsening pollution in American waters and regulators' response
(So much for the Safe Drinking Water Act...)
Published: December 16, 2009

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.

Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times.

But not one chemical has been added to the list of those regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2000.

Other recent studies have found that even some chemicals regulated by that law pose risks at much smaller concentrations than previously known. However, many of the act’s standards for those chemicals have not been updated since the 1980s, and some remain essentially unchanged since the law was passed in 1974.

All told, more than 62 million Americans have been exposed since 2004 to drinking water that did not meet at least one commonly used government health guideline intended to help protect people from cancer or serious disease, according to an analysis by The Times of more than 19 million drinking-water test results from the District of Columbia and the 45 states that made data available.

In some cases, people have been exposed for years to water that did not meet those guidelines.

But because such guidelines were never incorporated into the Safe Drinking Water Act, the vast majority of that water never violated the law.


Drinking water that does not meet a federal health guideline will not necessarily make someone ill. Many contaminants are hazardous only if consumed for years. And some researchers argue that even toxic chemicals, when consumed at extremely low doses over long periods, pose few risks. Others argue that the cost of removing minute concentrations of chemicals from drinking water does not equal the benefits.

Moreover, many of the thousands of chemicals that have not been analyzed may be harmless. And researchers caution that such science is complicated, often based on extrapolations from animal studies, and sometimes hard to apply nationwide, particularly given that more than 57,400 water systems in this country each deliver, essentially, a different glass of water every day.

Government scientists now generally agree, however, that many chemicals commonly found in drinking water pose serious risks at low concentrations.

And independent studies in such journals as Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology; Environmental Health Perspectives; American Journal of Public Health; and Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, as well as reports published by the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that millions of Americans become sick each year from drinking contaminated water, with maladies from upset stomachs to cancer and birth defects.

Those studies have tracked hospital admissions and disease patterns after chemicals were detected in water supplies. They found that various contaminants were often associated with increased incidents of disease. That research — like all large-scale studies of human illnesses — sometimes cannot definitively say that chemicals in drinking water were the sole cause of disease.

But even the E.P.A., which has ultimate responsibility for the Safe Drinking Water Act, has concluded that millions of Americans have been exposed to drinking water that fails to meet a federal health benchmark, according to records analyzed by The Times. (Studies and E.P.A. summaries can be found in the Resources section of nytimes.com/water.)

“If it doesn’t violate the law, I don’t really pay much attention to it,” said Stephen Sorrell, executive director of Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, which serves Pensacola, Fla. Data show that his system has delivered water containing multiple chemicals at concentrations that research indicates are associated with health risks. The system has not violated the Safe Drinking Water Act during the last half-decade.


The Times examined concentrations of 335 chemicals that government agencies have determined were associated with serious health risks. The analysis counted only instances in which the same chemical was detected at least 10 times for a single water system since 2004, at a concentration that the government has said poses at least a 1-in-10,000 risk of causing disease.

That is roughly equivalent to the cancer risk posed by undergoing 100 X-rays. (More information on data sources is at nytimes.com/water-data.)


In a statement, the E.P.A. said that a top priority of Lisa P. Jackson, who took over the agency in January, was improving how regulators assessed and managed chemical hazards.

“Since chemicals are ubiquitous in our economy, our environment, our water resources and our bodies, we need better authority so we can assure the public that any unacceptable risks have been eliminated,” the E.P.A. wrote. “But, under existing law, we cannot give that assurance.”

Ms. Jackson has asked Congress to amend laws governing how the E.P.A. assesses chemicals, and has issued policies to insulate the agency’s scientific reviews from outside pressures.


“For years, people said that America has the cleanest drinking water in the world,” said William K. Reilly, the E.P.A. administrator under President George H. W. Bush. “That was true 20 years ago. But people don’t realize how many new chemicals have emerged and how much more pollution has occurred. If they did, we would see very different attitudes.”


Because some of the diseases associated with drinking water contamination take so long to emerge, people who become ill from their water might never realize the source, say public health experts.

“These chemicals accumulate in body tissue. They affect developmental and hormonal systems in ways we don’t understand, ” said Linda S. Birnbaum, who as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is the government’s top official for evaluating environmental health effects.

“There’s growing evidence that numerous chemicals are more dangerous than previously thought, but the E.P.A. still gives them a clean bill of health.”


Polluters Push Back

Earlier this decade, scientists at the E.P.A. began telling top agency officials that more needed to be done. Dr. Peter W. Preuss, who in 2004 became head of the E.P.A.’s division analyzing environmental risks, was particularly concerned.

So his department started assessing a variety of contaminants often found in drinking water, including perchlorate, an unregulated rocket fuel additive, as well as two regulated compounds, trichloroethylene, a degreaser used in manufacturing, and perchloroethylene or perc, a dry-cleaning solvent. Research indicated that those chemicals posed risks at smaller concentrations than previously known. Links to that research can be found in the Resources section of nytimes.com/water.

But when E.P.A. scientists produced assessments indicating those chemicals were more toxic — the first step in setting a standard for perchlorate and tougher standards for the other two substances — businesses fought back by lobbying lawmakers and regulators and making public attacks.

Military contractors, for example, said that regulations on perchlorate, which has been associated with stunted central nervous system development, would cost them billions of dollars in cleanup costs. In 2003, an Air Force colonel, Daniel Rogers, called an E.P.A. assessment of the chemical “biased, unrealistic and scientifically imbalanced.” Military officials told E.P.A. scientists they were unpatriotic for suggesting that bases were contaminated, according to people who participated in those discussions.

Property owners who had rented space to dry cleaners lobbied lawmakers and top E.P.A. officials to remove government scientists from research on perc, which has been associated with some kinds of tumors, according to interviews with lobbyists. (Trichloroethylene has been associated with liver and kidney damage and cancer.)

Soon, Dr. Preuss was told by some superiors that he might be dismissed if he continued pushing for extensive assessments of certain chemicals, he said.

“It’s hard for me to describe the level of anger and animosity directed at us for trying to publish sound, scientific research that met the highest standards,” Dr. Preuss said. “It went way beyond what would be considered professional behavior.”


“We need action,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the Safe Drinking Water Act. “E.P.A. has the authority to set new standards, but it wasn’t used over the last eight years. There are people at risk.”


In May, Ms. Jackson, the E.P.A. head, announced reforms to protect agency scientists like Dr. Preuss from outside pressures. Dr. Preuss said he was an enthusiastic supporter of Ms. Jackson’s efforts, and believed the arsenic assessment would be published without interference.

“But there are still tens of thousands of chemicals we haven’t assessed,” he added. “If you don’t know what’s dangerous, you can’t write laws against it.”

Risky — and Legal

Water system managers say their water is safe. “If it wasn’t, the E.P.A. or the state would tell us to change,” said Gustavo Villa, general manager of Maywood Mutual Water Company No. 2. Before taking his job in 2006, Mr. Villa drove 18-wheeler trucks, and had no experience running a water system. He said the system was trying to install machinery to remove some manganese, but halted construction because of missing permits.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures have pursued options that could help Maywood and other cities. The California Legislature, for instance, this year passed a bill focused on Maywood that would revoke permits from the town’s water systems if they cannot “deliver safe, wholesome and potable drinking water.”


And the E.P.A. recently said it would analyze a host of chemicals — known as endocrine disruptors — that some scientists have associated with cancer and other diseases. Congress called for such tests in 1996, but the agency failed to meet deadlines for 13 years.

In the meantime, regulators struggle to explain to residents that even legal drinking water can pose risks. Some of them have recommended that people use home water filters.

Most people don’t comprehend the complicated scientific papers that describe cancer risks, Dr. Parekh said. “And if the law is working, they don’t have to,” he added. “But in this new world, where pollution is so much more common, they may have to learn to understand it.”

To read the complete, more extensive article, citing specific situations and locations, CLICK HERE.
Editorial comments by Splashdown in red.


PennEnvironment calls for stricter gas drilling rules

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Natural Gas: New Environmental Rules Could Cloud Prospects

Concerns about the impact of methods used to extract gas from shale deposits could lead to tough restrictions—and crimp output for some producers

By David Bogoslaw
December 15, 2009
Business Week

After years of talk about improved energy security for the U.S.—and a smaller carbon footprint for U.S. industry—natural gas seized the spotlight on Dec. 14 after ExxonMobil (XOM) announced a deal to acquire XTO Energy (XTO), one of the largest independent natural gas producers. The all-stock deal is worth $31 billion, plus the assumption of $10 billion in debt.

But could environmental concerns about the methods used to extract gas from its hiding place in the depths of shale deposits spoil the party?

Read the complete story HERE.


EQB Designates Seven Streams as ‘Exceptional Value,’ Increases Protection for 265 Miles of Waterways



Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120


Tom Rathbun
Phone: (717) 787-1323

Harrisburg – Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger announced today that 265 miles of streams in Pennsylvania will receive increased protection after being designated as “exceptional value” waterways by the Environmental Quality Board.

“Streams that are designated as exceptional value will receive the highest level of protection against pollution from point and non-point sources that could affect the quality and aquatic health of the watershed,” Hanger said. “This demonstrates the usefulness of maintaining a statewide water quality monitoring network that can accurately report the current health of our watersheds and determine if water quality in these basins is changing for the better or worse.”

The waterways receiving the new designation include Young Womans Creek in Clinton, Lycoming and Potter counties; Muncy Creek in Sullivan County; an unnamed tributary to Tunkhannock Creek in Susquehanna County; Spruce Creek in Union County; Blue Eye Run and East Hickory Creek in Warren County; and East Branch Dyberry Creek in Wayne County.

DEP recommended the new designations based on five years of data collected through Pennsylvania’s Water Quality Network, which provides long-term, fixed-location monitoring of watersheds’ chemical and biological quality.

Data collected through monitoring gives DEP a reference point from which to observe changes in water quality and to track the health of streams to see if human activity is affecting water quality or to determine if cleanup and pollution control efforts are improving conditions. The network also gives the state data to monitor the quality of water that Pennsylvania sends to or receives from neighboring states.

Surface water quality standards are mandated by the federal Clean Water Act, which requires states to designate uses for streams such as drinking water, recreation and fishing, and to set criteria to protect streams for those uses. In addition, an anti-degradation component of the act requires that streams designated as exceptional value or high quality must be maintained at existing quality.

For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: Water Quality.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Incredibly, Carney Thinks It's too Soon to Tell if FRAC Act is Needed !!!

U.S. Rep. Chris Carney said it's still too early to tell whether the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act is needed.

According to Carney's office, it's a bill that's in committee. The legislation would repeal a Bush administration exemption provided for the oil and gas industry and would require them to disclose the chemicals they use in their hydraulic fracturing processes, according to information on the Web site of U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. Currently, the oil and gas industry is the only industry granted an exemption from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Web site notes.

During a town hall meeting last month in Canton, Joan Gustin of Burlington Township had asked Carney about his position on the FRAC Act.

When asked for comment regarding his stance on the FRAC Act, Carney's office issued the following formal statement from Carney:

"Ensuring our community has safe drinking water in the midst of our natural gas boom is of significant* concern to me and my staff. I supported legislation this year that directs the Environmental Protection Agency to further study the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water and to determine whether the process requires federal oversight. I look forward to reviewing that analysis."

*Wouldn't you feel a lot more comfortable about Carney if he understood the VITAL need for safe drinking water, for all Americans... regardless of what else is happening???

Wouldn't you feel better represented by someone who understood that safe drinking water was more than a "significant" concern?

Write to Congressman Carney! Tell him safe drinking water is of the UTMOST concern. Tell him you want him to support the FRAC Act! Remind him of all the reasons it's not too soon to act on behalf of Life Itself! ...the contaminated wells, the methane in the water in Wyoming, the house that exploded in Ohio, the cows that died in a Louisiana pasture, the poisoned wells in western Pennsylvania, Colorado, Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Kansas, Montana, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming, the fish kills, stillbirths, birth deformities, the birds that died of exposure to hydrocarbons in sludge pits, the 2-BE and other chemical contaminants, used in drilling, linked to series of illnesses... the cumulative radioactivity...

"I am also working closely with the state Department of Environmental Protection to assure better oversight at the state level and ensure that the agency actively investigates complaints. The Marcellus Shale has provided our community with a tremendous economic opportunity, but the state must be more vigilant in establishing and enforcing its own regulations.

Tell him that's not good enough!

"It is too early to tell whether the FRAC ACT is necessary. We must work with the enforcement mechanisms already in place and not rush to add another layer of bureaucracy."

Use the link in left sidebar to contact Congressman Carney today!

Editorializing by Splashdown in red.



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