Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Marcellus drillers want "forced pooling" to accompany severance tax

Monday, June 28, 2010

According to an APNewsBreak: Strong chemicals used in Pa. drilling

This week state environmental officials will publish, online, the first complete list of chemicals being used to hydraulically fracture natural gas wells in Pennsylvania.

The list was compiled using information drilling companies are required to provide.

Compounds associated with neurological problems or other serious health effects are on the list.

Environmentalists are concerned the chemicals are poisoning underground drinking water sources, while industry officials say the chemicals pose no threat because they are handled safely.

LINK to Marc Levy's AP article.


Friday, June 25, 2010

State Enforcement Blitz Focuses on Trucks Hauling Drilling Waste Water

Dept. of Environmental Protection

Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120


Lt. Myra A. Taylor

250 Vehicles Put Out of Service Due to Violations

HARRISBURG -- The Pennsylvania State Police placed 250 commercial vehicles out of service during a three-day enforcement effort last week that focused on trucks hauling waste water from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling operations across the state, Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski announced today.

Pawlowski said state troopers worked in partnership with personnel from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as part of Operation FracNET. In total, 1,137 trucks were inspected from June 14-16.

“Pennsylvania has experienced significant increases in heavy truck traffic in areas where Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling operations are taking place, particularly in Bradford, Clearfield, Susquehanna, Tioga and Washington counties,” Pawlowski said. “The process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, requires significant amounts of water to be delivered to the sites and later trucked away.”

He said the enforcement effort centered on identifying commercial vehicle safety deficiencies that could lead to crashes.

Pawlowski said 131 of the 250 vehicles placed out of service were trucks hauling waste water. He said 669 traffic citations and 818 written warnings were issued as the result of waste water truck inspections. In addition, 23 of the 45 drivers placed out of service during the operation were waste water vehicle operators.

“As activities at natural gas sites continue to increase, it is important that everyone involved, including the waste transportation industry, understands Pennsylvania’s environmental and traffic safety laws and complies with them,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger.

The enforcement effort was conducted in areas covered by Pennsylvania State Police troops B, C, F, P and R.

For more information, visit www.psp.state.pa.us or call 717-783-5556.

Media contact: Lt. Myra A. Taylor, 717-783-5556

Editor’s Note: The following is a breakdown, by state police troop area, of the number of inspections conducted, number of vehicles placed out of service, and number of citations issued during Operation FracNET:

• Troop B (Allegheny, Fayette, Greene and Washington counties), 227 inspections; 57 vehicles placed out of service; 241 citations issued;
• Troop C (Clarion, Clearfield, Forest, Elk, Jefferson and McKean counties), 260 inspections; 29 vehicles placed out of service; 111 citations issued;
• Troop F (Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Union and Tioga counties), 239 vehicles inspected; 33 vehicles placed out of service; 205 citations issued;
• Troop P (Bradford, Sullivan, Wyoming and part of Luzerne counties), 166 inspections; 66 vehicles placed out of service; 358 citations issued;
• Troop R (Lackawanna, Pike, Susquehanna and Wayne counties), 142 inspections; 25 vehicles placed out of service; 141 citations.


Methane concerns felt in Terry Twp.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wastewater recycling poses risks of odors, leaks and spills

by laura legere (staff writer)

Range Resources dug a pit the size of a football field in the grassy acres just beyond June Chappel's property line last year, yards from the pen where she keeps her beagles and past the trees that shade the porch on her family's small southwestern Pennsylvania home.

Range used it, at first, to store the fresh water needed to produce gas from the seven Marcellus Shale natural gas wells it drilled next door.

But when the company began to fill it with the salt- and metals-laden waste fluids that came back up from the wells, Chappel found odors like that of gasoline and kerosene forced her inside. The rising dew left a greasy film on her windows, she said, and one November day a white dust fell over the yard.


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She called the company to complain about the smell and workers came to skim booms across the pit, sopping up odor-causing residue and bacteria.

Throughout all of it, her husband, David, was inside the house, sick with and later dying of cancer at age 54.

"We've gone without," she said in January, standing by the pit with a hood over her head and her beagles nearby in coats. "We don't have a lot here. Now, I feel like it's ruined."

Like the wastewater pits increasingly used by the gas industry in Pennsylvania - the largest of which can hold the equivalent of 22 Olympic-size swimming pools full of contaminated fluid - the problem of what to do with the liquid waste from Marcellus Shale drilling is enormous.

The average Marcellus Shale well requires 4 million gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals to break apart - or hydraulically fracture - the rock formation and release the gas.

About 1 million gallons of that fluid, now saturated with the salts, metals and naturally occurring radiation that had been trapped in the shale, returns to the surface to be treated, diluted, reused or pumped underground in deep disposal wells.

There has been significant progress in determining what exactly is in the waste and how to reuse it over the last two years - from when the state's environmental regulatory agency belatedly discovered that drillers were sending the fluids to publicly owned sewer systems incapable of treating it, to last week, when the state Independent Regulatory Review Commission endorsed strict restrictions on how much of the waste can be discharged into Pennsylvania's streams.

There has also been a surge in entrepreneurial activity from companies proposing to treat the waste, which can be up to 10 times saltier than sea water.


But even as the state tries to push the stricter treatment standards into law, there are not enough treatment plants in Pennsylvania to remove the salt from the more than a half-million gallons of wastewater that is produced from Marcellus Shale drilling every day.

Those challenges raise what Conrad Dan Volz, director of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities at the University of Pittsburgh, said is the most obvious of the unanswered questions about the current scale of Marcellus Shale gas production in the state: "Why would we ever start doing this drilling in this kind of intensive way if we didn't have some way to handle and properly dispose of the brine waters?"

Promise and problems with recycling

The problematic pit behind Chappel's home was also part of a pioneering development in the early life of Marcellus Shale gas extraction.

In October, Range Resources was the first company in the commonwealth to claim to be able to reuse all of the waste that flowed back from a well after it was hydraulically fractured. Using the pits, called centralized impoundments, Range discovered that it could dilute Marcellus Shale wastewater with fresh water and reuse it in the next well.

The seemingly simple solution had a dramatic impact: As Range doubled the number of gas wells it drilled between 2008 and 2009, it cut the amount of water it needed to discharge in half because of its reuse program, a spokesman said.

The company shared the information with the other Marcellus operators, and now 60 percent of the wastewater produced in the state is being reused, according to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a cooperative of the state's Marcellus drillers.

But recycling alone will not cure the industry of a need to dispose of the waste.

In defining the need for strict discharge rules for Marcellus Shale wastewater in April, the Department of Environmental Protection wrote that even with recycling and reuse, "it is clear that the future wastewater return flows and treatment needs will be substantial."

Because the gas development is so new, it is still unclear how much wastewater will be created immediately and over time by the 50,000 new wells that are expected to be drilled in the next two decades.

The waste that flows back slowly and continuously over the 20- to 30-year life of each gas well could produce 27 tons of salt per year, the department wrote. "Multiply this amount by tens of thousands of Marcellus gas wells, and the potential pollutional effects ... are tremendous."

Recycling using centralized pits also has its downsides, from the intrusive to the dangerous:

- Chappel and her neighbors lived with the noxious odors from the pit behind their homes until they hired an attorney and Range agreed to remove it.

- Two of the Marcellus Shale violations for which Range has been cited and fined by the DEP have been for failures of the lines that transfer the waste fluids, sometimes up to seven miles between a wastewater pit and a well site.

- And the potential for the pits to emit chemicals or hazardous elements called volatile organic compounds into the air has been cited in studies in other states and is being monitored by DEP at sites throughout Washington County.

Matt Pitzarella, a Range Resources spokesman, admitted the decision to put the pit behind Chappel's house was "not a good choice" and the company has worked hard to correct it, including removing the pit, reclaiming the hill and even painting Chappel's house.

The company's eight or nine other impoundments in Washington County were built for longer-term use, he said, in areas farther away from people's homes.

Another Range spokesman at an April meeting with neighbors upset about the pit's smells said the impoundments hold "a lot of hydrocarbons," brine, and bacteria "from the water just sitting out there" and that can create odors.

"The warmer it gets, the more putrid it's going to get," he said.

The smell is "not dangerous or harmful. It's annoying."

But complaints of odors from pits helped spur DEP to conduct an air quality study around gas well sites in the region that is expected to be completed this month.

And in its review of the environmental implications of Marcellus Shale gas drilling, New York state determined that the threat posed by the pits may go far beyond annoyance.

An environmental impact statement under review there describes a "worst case scenario" for hazardous air pollutants - especially methanol used by drillers in fracturing fluids and as an antifreeze - escaping from large wastewater impoundments.

According to the report, a centralized impoundment that holds the wastewater from 10 wells could theoretically release 32.5 tons of methanol into the air each year - meaning it could qualify as a "major" source of toxic air pollutants under federal rules.

Because of the risk of leaks and other failures, New York also proposed to ban the use of such centralized impoundments within the boundaries of its most productive aquifers, which underlie about 15 percent of the state.

Broken pipes

The sheer volume of the wastewater and the number of trucks, pits, pipes and people necessary to move it over often long distances, has also increased the probability of leaks and spills, which have already occurred in Pennsylvania. Accidents described in DEP documents reviewed by The Times-Tribune show that the above-ground lines used to pipe the wastewater to and from impoundments and tanks are susceptible to leaks, even when companies take care to prevent them.

In October, an elbow joint came unglued in a PVC line carrying diluted wastewater from one of Range's pits and spilled about 10,500 gallons into a high-quality stream, killing about 170 small fish and salamanders.

According to Range, the company successfully tested the line with fresh water in the week before the wastewater transfer to make sure it could hold the pressure. It was the second transfer line failure for the company in five months.

In a separate incident, a water transfer line used by Chesapeake Appalachia in Bradford County failed five times in five places over five days in December. On one occasion, the pipe burst where it had been weakened from being dragged on the ground. Another time it failed because of a faulty weld, and another because bolts were loose on a valve.

In correspondence with DEP, Chesapeake said it was its policy to transfer only fresh water in its above-ground lines and to use only a more expensive "fused poly pipe" to minimize the risk of spills.

But an estimated 67,000 total gallons of the water did spill and DEP tests of the water found that it was not fresh. Instead, it had elevated levels of salts, barium and strontium - indicators of Marcellus wastewater that the company suspected may have mixed with its fresh water in one of its contractor's tanks, which may have been improperly cleaned between uses.

Brian Grove, Chesapeake's director of corporate development, said the incident did not pose a threat to the public and it did not result in any negative environmental impact. The company has since adopted new procedures for handling, storing and transporting water, he said, and held a meeting with all of its employees and contractors to reiterate its "commitment to safety and environmental stewardship."

Scott Perry, the director of the Department of Environmental Protection's Oil and Gas Bureau, said the above-ground pipelines might be addressed in upcoming revisions to the state's oil and gas regulations, which may also include an evaluation of the construction standards for centralized impoundments and other elements of the industry's handling of wastewater.

The current regulatory standard for the pipelines is that they cannot leak, he said.

"Maybe that's good enough," he said. "There's an absolute prohibition against getting a single drop of it on the ground."

He emphasized that the regulatory agency has to find a way to permit the pipelines so it both protects the environment and encourages their use in order to remove excessive truck traffic from rural roads.

"In a practical sense, if you want to eliminate 100,000 trucks, this is the way to do it," he said.

Radisav Vidic, chairman of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, said a better way to minimize the risk of environmental damage is for companies to stop moving the wastewater so much.

Current industry practice for recycling the waste is to fracture a well and then drive or pipe the water to an impoundment or tanks, over and over, he said, "until they move 6 million gallons of water back and forth" to fracture multiple wells on one pad, creating an opportunity for spills with each trip.

Dr. Vidic is studying how to take the wastewater from one well, mix it with acid mine drainage, and use it to fracture subsequent wells on the same multi-well pad - research that is being funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

He has found that the sulfates in acid mine drainage - one of the biggest sources of pollution in current and former coal mining regions of the state - interact with problem metals like barium and strontium in the wastewater and turn them into solids that can be discarded.

An obstacle to research, though, is how little some gas companies are willing to collaborate, both with him and each other to solve the wastewater problem, he said.

"Every company thinks they know it best, and they keep it to themselves, and they think they're going to get a competitive advantage," he said.

"I'm thinking, who cares? We can all sink together because we're hiding the information, or we can all swim together and everybody's going to get a little bit rich in the process, not filthy rich."

Contact the writer: llegere@timesshamrock.com.



Moratorium on new drill permits sought

Mundy proposes pause
By Andrew M. Seder aseder@timesleader.com
Times Leader Staff Writer
June 22, 2010

LEHMAN TWP. – State Rep. Phyllis Mundy on Monday told a cadre of natural gas drilling opponents that she would introduce two bills and one resolution later this week to help protect public water supplies and strengthen laws governing gas drilling during a proposed moratorium on the issuing of new drilling permits. ...

click image to enlarge

State Rep. Phyllis Mundy, right, announces co-sponsorship of three pieces of legislation intended to ‘better protect the public health and safety’ in regard to Marcellus Shale drilling at a press conference Monday morning in Lehman Township. BILL TARUTIS/for the times leader

Mundy told a crowd of about 75, many holding signs and wearing shirts with slogans advocating for a freeze on drilling and urging Harrisburg to take regulatory action, of her intentions. They cheered and applauded at what they heard.

“As a representative of the people and longtime advocate for the environment, I am deeply concerned about the potential for harm from drilling and the hydraulic fracturing process,” Mundy said. “While I certainly recognize the benefits that Marcellus Shale drilling is bringing to landowners and to our local economy, I also recognize the threat of irreparable harm that it poses without appropriate legislative, regulatory and monetary safeguards in place.”

One bill would amend current law to prohibit companies from drilling wells within 2,500 feet of a primary source of supply for a community water system, such as a lake or reservoir. The current state restriction is only 100 feet.“Thousands of my constituents rely on Huntsville and Ceasetown reservoirs for drinking water. Contamination of one or both would equate to a serious public health crisis,” Mundy said. “This bill seeks to protect our community water supplies to prevent such a disaster from taking place.”

A second bill calls for establishing a one-year moratorium on the issuance of new natural gas drilling permits. Mundy also is working on a resolution that calls on the U.S. Congress to repeal a provision in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act that exempts oil and gas drilling industries from restrictions on hydraulic fracturing operations located near drinking water sources, a provision known as the “Halliburton Loophole.”

The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act also would require oil and gas industries to disclose all hydraulic fracturing chemicals and chemical constituents. That information currently is considered proprietary to the company.

Mundy’s bills are in the process of garnering co-sponsors, and she said they should be introduced later this week.

“Given the speed and breadth of the industry, government is currently at a severe disadvantage to fully evaluate the implications of dangerous drilling so close to home,” Mundy said. “This package of bills will help us begin the long overdue task of properly regulating Marcellus Shale drilling in our state.”

Mundy said that “for some, it’s all about the money, the jobs, the economic development. For me it’s about the quality of life. Go to Dimock and tell me that jobs and money are the most important thing.” The reference to the small Susquehanna County community was understood by those listening, as it has become the poster child in the region for problems in gas drilling.

Gas seepage spread into nearby water wells in Dimock, affecting drinking water for about a dozen homes, and in 2008, methane buildup caused a water well to explode.

The state Department of Environmental Protection earlier this year ordered Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. to close and remove an earthen pit that holds drilling fluids. The black water had impacted a private unused drinking water well, a wetland and two springs, DEP said.

Mundy said 3,100 well permits have been issued statewide, and while her proposal would not halt operations at those sites, it would temporarily stop new permitting and give the General Assembly more time to enact regulatory protections.

“The moratorium would provide us with the time we need to better understand and address scores of unresolved issues,” she said. But she said many representatives and senators have been “very slow to react” and are worried about curtailing an industry that shown signs of creating jobs, generating work in areas that desperately need it and bringing money to property owners.

“Many of my colleagues see this as a job issue,” Mundy said, raising a warning that she will need help getting a majority of state House and Senate members on board.

Michelle Boice, of Harveys Lake, spoke up from the back of the crowd, and urged those who could hear her to “get busy and contact every state official and start yelling and demanding for a moratorium.”

This means YOU, Pennsylvania! -Splashdown

One of Mundy’s colleagues who heard the message loud and clear and said he favors all three of Mundy’s measures is state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre Township.

Pashinski, who was in the crowd Monday, said the Legislature has a chance now to do something that in hindsight it perhaps should have done earlier.

“No one knew of the dangers involved in the fracking process,” Pashinski said. He said that until very recently he was unaware of just how many permits had been issued and how close well sites are to drinking water supplies.

“What happened is the floodgates opened,” he said. “I don’t think any of us knew how many well sites were leased out. The oil companies had a head start. What we’re trying to do is pull back the reins … put a hold on this. Let’s evaluate wherever we’re lacking and let’s address it.”

Dr. Tom Giunta, a podiatrist from Lehman Township and founder of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, said “legislation is too little too late” and called for a complete end to drilling, not just a moratorium on additional drilling. John Nowak Sr., of Lake Township, held up a sign asking motorists to “honk your horn to stop the gas drilling.” Quite a few drivers heeded his plea during the 45-minute event. He said about half of those gathered around him were new faces to him at events. He said it shows the message is getting out, the public is becoming better educated and residents were finding their voice.

Mundy is the third local legislator this past month to announce she is preparing bills related to the gas drilling.

State Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, on Friday said she plans to introduce legislation that will provide additional protections for public drinking water supplies, as the natural gas drilling industry continues to grow in Pennsylvania. ...

“I am introducing this legislation to put additional safeguards in place for the drinking water sources we all share and on which we rely. As we have seen from the catastrophe in the gulf, once an accident occurs, it is difficult to restore our natural resources. I believe the best approach is to proceed with caution.”

State Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, announced she is preparing a trio of bills with the same intent as Boback.

In order to protect aquifers and determine any adverse consequences attributable to drilling, one bill would require testing at three times – before drilling, at the completion of drilling and six months afterwards – at three different depths. A second bill would rule out drilling at sites too close to drinking water sources such as reservoirs. A third bill would require DEP to ensure that the operators of wastewater treatment facilities are properly trained and sufficiently monitored to lessen the chances of human error creating a major problem.

LINK to complete article.


Monday, June 21, 2010

RED ALERT! Senate Plans to Scuttle DEP Regulations

Although IRRC voted 4-1 to approve the rules protecting HQ streams and limiting the salts & other dissolved solids allowed to be dumped in our rivers, there is one last hurdle.

The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee intends to pass a “Resolution of Disapproval”.

Lincoln said it best:
“Much good work is lost for the lack of a little more.”

So we have one last task to do.

Please write to Senators Pileggi, Scarnati and the Senate ER&E Committee, demanding that they allow the new DEP regulations to be enacted.

We should not allow the Senate to scuttle this – they are thumbing their noses at what their constituents have endorsed.

The members of the Senate ER&E Committee are listed at:

Senator Joe Scarnati [President of the Senate ] contact information is at:
http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/member_information/senate_bio.cfm?id=283 jscarnati@pasen.gov

Senator Dominic Pileggi [Majority floor leader ] contact info is at:
http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/member_information/senate_bio.cfm?id=974 dpileggi@pasen.gov

Talking points – choose 2 or 3 that are important to you, or add your own:
* Taxpayers can’t afford a repeat of a cleanup after the O&G industry like we were stuck with after the coal industry.
* The public overwhelmingly endorsed these DEP regulations. You must respect the wishes of your constituents.
* Our coldwater fisheries are at risk. We need stream buffers to protect our trout streams.
* This is not a partisan issue, this is preserving our fishing heritage.
* Even the industry representatives at the IRRC hearing admitted that the capacity of our streams to handle TDS is limited.
* These CH 95 and CH 102 regulations are reasonable.
* You do not want to be remembered as the legislator who allowed industry to pollute our streams.
* These regulations have been approved by the EQA, IRRC and endorsed by the PA Fish & Boat Commission.
* Fishing is a $4.7 billion dollar industry in Pennsylvania, supplying 43,000 jobs.
* Texas allows NO frackwater at all in their streams. 500 mg/L is a reasonable compromise.
* The solution for pollution is not dilution. If public water plants downstream have to remove TDS to make it drinkable, we end up paying for the removal via higher water rates.
* We should be encouraging the new PA industry of frackwater treatment plants to treat the TDS from O&G drilling.
* We cannot take the chance on trusting industry with caring for our streams – too much is at stake.

You do not have to put your address in the message. Some legislators will ignore your comments if they see that you are not in their home district. ...Leave them guessing.

This message is from Dick Martin, Coordinator www.PaForestCoalition.org


Hazards posed by natural gas drilling not always underground

Sunday, June 20, 2010

New case of benzene-contaminated drinking water linked to hydraulic fracturing in Texas

According to Amy Mall's Blog on NRDC's Switchboard:

The Scoma family in the Barnett Shale area of Texas is suing Chesapeake Energy, claiming the company contaminated their drinking water with benzene and petroleum by-products after hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells near the Scoma home. ...

Read more here: LINK


Fracking a danger to communities

Three incidents in one week
Published Jun 19, 2010 8:01 AM

Will the rapid, unregulated expansion of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas give way to the next major disaster in the oil and gas industry? Three separate accidents in just one week signify that this could happen.

On June 3 a blowout of a Marcellus gas well in Clearfield County, Pa., sent a gusher of natural gas and chemical-laced drilling fluid 75 feet into the air. The gusher leaked wastewater for 16 hours, spilling an estimated 1.5 million gallons of toxic fluid. Campers were evacuated when the fluid seeped into a small stream in Moshannon State Forest. The well was owned by EOG Resources Inc. — formerly Enron Oil and Gas Co.

Precious hours were lost because a blowout control team had to be flown in from Texas. A virtual media ban on coverage followed the incident; a reporter who attempted to take pictures of the toxic flow was told he’d be shot.

On June 7 seven workers were burned in an explosion caused when drillers hit a pocket of methane in an inactive deep mine near Moundsville, W.Va. The resulting fire flared 50 feet high for four days.

The drilling operations were under subcontract to Union Drilling, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. In the past five years, Union Drilling has had more than two dozen violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules and been fined a total of $226,000 at sites in five states.

A gas line explosion on June 7 in North Texas killed one person and injured seven more. The resulting blaze could be seen from 30 miles away.

These are just the latest incidents stemming from the questionable process of using a chemical mix to drive natural gas from shale levels deep below the surface. The mix used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, contains more than 85 toxic chemicals, including known carcinogens. Yet state and local government officials across the U.S. seem more interested in the money to be made from gas well leases than in implementing regulations to safeguard residents.

Pennsylvania state officials allowed EOG Resources to restart drilling June 11. Clearwater County Commissioner Mark B. McCracken said the county still wanted a share of the gas boom’s benefits. Commissioners acknowledged that more blowouts were to be expected.

The Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates industry in that state, has reported 102 blowouts of oil and gas wells since 2006, resulting in 10 fires, 12 injuries and two deaths. (Philadelphia Inquirer, June 13) Yet in Fort Worth, wells continue to be built in urban areas, often close to residential areas and even schools.

Upon investigating the natural gas industry, filmmaker Josh Fox encountered Pennsylvania landowners struggling for income in small, rural communities, who gave in to industry pressure and lived to regret their decisions. His investigation led to the documentary “Gasland,” which will air June 21 on HBO.

In western Colorado, Fox found a formerly rural area that had rapidly industrialized, with more than 5,000 wells drilled. Medical researchers from the University of Colorado conducted studies on the air and water and found acute problems as a result of toxic emissions from gas development.

In a March 27 interview, Fox described the pressure the natural gas industry has put on politicians to trade “a short term energy fix and money for the future of our water in America.” (NOW on PBS) More than 200,000 wells are proposed in Pennsylvania and New York state, with 50,000 in the New York City watershed alone, with no additional restrictions placed on drillers.

Fox noted: “I could take a car battery and throw it into a watershed and go to federal prison, but these guys can take the same chemicals and inject them by the thousands of gallons and they’re exempt.”

Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Gulf oil spill worsens -- but what about the safety of gas fracking?

Los Angeles Times
Margot Roosevelt
June 18, 2010


Imagine a siege of hydrocarbons spewing from deep below ground, polluting water and air, sickening animals and threatening the health of unsuspecting Americans. And no one knows how long it will last.

No, we’re not talking about BP’s gulf oil spill. We’re talking about hydraulic fracturing of natural gas deposits. And if that phrase makes your eyes glaze over, start blinking them open. Fracking, as the practice is also known, may be coming to a drinking well or a water system near you. It involves blasting water, sand and chemicals, many of them toxic, into underground rock to extract oil or gas.

"Gasland," a compelling documentary on HBO airing Monday, June 21 ( 9 p.m. ET/PT), traces hydraulic fracturing across 34 states from California to Louisiana to Pennsylvania. The exposé by filmmaker Josh Fox, alternately chilling and darkly humorous, won the 2010 Sundance Film Festival’s special jury prize for documentary.

It details how former Vice President Dick Cheney, in partnership with the energy industry and drilling companies such as his former employer, Halliburton Corp., successfully pressured Congress in 2005 to exempt fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws.

And it highlights the battle in Congress today over whether to repeal the provision that allows gas companies to conceal which chemicals they inject into the ground as "trade secrets." Each well requires the high-pressure injection of a cocktail of nearly 600 chemicals, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins, diluted in 1 million to 7 million gallons of water.

Some 450,000 wells have been drilled nationwide.

Coincidentally, a month before the blowout of the gulf oil well, Energy and Environment Daily, an independent publication, published a draft of proposed language to exempt fracking from chemical disclosure rules in pending Senate energy and climate legislation. The primary author? BP America Inc.

Gasland faucetFox's HBO film shows rural residents in Colorado and other states flicking on cigarette lighters next to their kitchen faucets and watching their drinking water, infused with gas and chemicals, ignite in flames as high as 3 feet. Fox interviews scores of residents suffering from neurological damage and other ailments after their water went bad.

Many said they were pressured by drilling companies into signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for paltry settlements.

Policymakers often tout gas as a cleaner fuel than oil or coal, one that emits less pollution when burned, and thus a possible “bridge” to renewable energy. Gas companies say the fracking process is safe and has resulted in few contamination accidents. And they say that states have sufficient regulatory power over fracking, so federal oversight is unnecessary.

Gas companies are seeking drilling rights to the vast Marcellus Shale Field, dubbed “the Saudia Arabia of natural gas” below New York and Pennsylvania. But the field sits beneath the last unfiltered watershed in the U.S. serving tens of millions of residents of New York City, Philadelphia and the surrounding area. Fox, who grew up in rural Pennsylvania, was approached by a gas company to sell the rights under his family's land -- an offer that prompted his curiosity and ultimately his cross-country investigation, toting a banjo in his beat-up car and weaving his personal story through the documentary.

Contaminated drinking water isn’t the only issue. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, roughly 10,000 gas wells spew more pollution into the air than all the cars and trucks in the region, the film reports.

The Environmental Protection Agency in March announced it will conduct a comprehensive $1.9-million peer-reviewed study on the “potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on water quality and public health.”

Meanwhile, although BP's oil spill has pushed other energy issues off the public radar, this HBO film, also showing on June 24, 26 and 30, and July 5, is a reminder that offshore drilling is not the only energy-related hazard worth thinking about.

Photos: Scenes from "Gasland" by filmmaker Josh Fox. Water from faucets in homes near fracking sites ignite when touched by flame. Credit: HBO



Gas well incident injures two workers in Tioga County

This brief report, by Cheryl R. Clarke, just in from the Williamsport Sun-Gazette:

WATROUS - Two natural gas workers were reported injured as the result of a gas well incident this morning at an Ultra Resources well in Gaines Township.

At around 11 a.m. Galeton emergency personnel were dispatched to a reported gas well "explosion" on the Lick Run Road off the Elk Run Road in Gaines Township, directly south of here.

The 911 center dispatch reported two injuries.

A Guthrie Air medical helicopter was dispatched to the scene. The state Department of Environmental Protection officials said an inspector had been dispatched to the scene, but had no further information, other than the company reported everything was under control. ...


EPA Announces a Schedule of Public Meetings on Hydraulic Fracturing Research Study

August 12 Meeting to be Held in Binghamton, N.Y.

Contact: Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y. – June 18, 2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is hosting four public information meetings on the proposed study of the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on drinking water. Hydraulic fracturing is a process that drills vertical and horizontal cracks underground that help withdraw gas or oil from coalbeds, shale and other geological formations. By pumping fracturing fluids (water and chemical additives) and sands into rock formations, fractures are created in the formation from which natural gas or oil can be more easily extracted. The meetings will provide public information about the proposed study scope and design. EPA will solicit public comments on the draft study plan.

The public meetings will be held on:
• July 8 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. CDT at the Hilton Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas
• July 13 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. MDT at the Marriot Tech Center’s Rocky Mountain Events Center in Denver, Colo.
• July 22 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT at the Hilton Garden Inn in Canonsburg, Pa.
• August 12 at the Anderson Performing Arts Center at Binghamton University in Binghamton, N.Y. for 3 sessions - 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. EDT

Natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future and hydraulic fracturing is one way of accessing this vital resource. However, serious concerns have been raised about hydraulic fracturing’s potential impact on drinking water, human health and the environment. To address these concerns, EPA announced in March that it will study the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water.

To support the initial planning phase and guide the development of the study plan, the agency sought suggestions and comments from the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB)—an independent, external federal advisory committee. The agency will use this advice and extensive stakeholder input to guide the design of the study.

Stakeholders are requested to pre-register for the meetings at least 72 hours before each meeting.

More information on the meetings: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/wells_hydrofrac.html


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Governor Rendell Praises Regulatory Panel Vote Protecting PA’s Stream, Rivers from Drilling Wastewater

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


Tom Rathbun, DEP
Gary Tuma, Governor’s Office

IRRC Also Votes to Enhance Erosion and Sediment Control, Stormwater Regulations

HARRISBURG -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today praised two votes by members of the Independent Regulatory Review Commission that he said will protect Pennsylvania’s streams and drinking water supplies against total dissolved solids pollution from Marcellus Shade drilling wells and other sources from stormwater runoff.

The new total dissolved solids, or TDS, rules the commission approved today will ensure that rivers and streams in Pennsylvania do not exceed the safe drinking water standard of 500 milligrams per liter, the Governor said. The rules also will protect businesses by grandfathering all existing discharges and allowing businesses to use a stream’s ability to absorb those discharges while not exceeding drinking water standards.

“Today’s IRRC vote is a great step forward in our efforts to protect one of the state’s greatest natural and economic assets—our waterways,” said Governor Rendell. “Millions of Pennsylvanians rely on the state’s rivers and streams for drinking water; countless numbers of our residents and visitors from out-of-state come here to fish these waters or use them for recreation; and some of our largest industrial employers wouldn’t be able to operate here if not for the clean, reliable supply of water they offer. So, we cannot allow new, heavily polluted sources of wastewater to contaminate them.

“That’s why these regulations are so important,” added the Governor, who noted the approved regulations now await review from the environmental resources and energy committees in the state house and senate.

“As the natural gas industry expands to access the Marcellus Shale reserves in Pennsylvania, the volume of wastewater returned to our streams could increase exponentially, and the only way to protect our water resources is to implement new wastewater treatment standards for the drilling industry,” said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger. “The National Association of Water Companies and many other individuals and groups across the state strongly support the adoption of this rule and I commend the Independent Regulatory Review Commission for taking this action. All other industries are responsible for the waste they generate and the drilling industry should be no exception.”

Hanger noted that drilling wastewater contains very high levels of total dissolved solids – chlorides and sulfides – that must be removed before discharging into surface waters. High TDS levels have damaged industrial equipment, caused drinking water companies to issue drinking water advisories and even led to a massive fish kill on Dunkard Creek. Some of Pennsylvania’s rivers are near their capacity to absorb and dilute additional levels of TDS.

The proposed regulations will require drillers to treat drilling wastewater to 500 mg/l or to drinking water quality at the discharge pipe if they choose to return drilling wastewater to rivers and streams. Drillers have several options to dispose of wastewater in Pennsylvania, including: reuse or recycling; disposal in deep caverns when permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; or full treatment to the 500 mg/l for TDS standard.

The last option will only work if polluted water is properly treated to reduce high TDS levels. Several states, including Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Iowa, Virginia, Arkansas and Tennessee, prohibit returning any drilling wastewater to streams.

The panel also approved new regulations to enhance existing rules governing erosion, sediment control and stormwater to protect streams from the effects of new development, reduce localized flooding during heavy storms, and cut sediment and nutrient pollution. The new rules, which also include an updated permit fee structure, bring Pennsylvania into compliance with federal requirements for:

• Erosion and sedimentation controls and post-construction stormwater runoff;
• Creating mandatory requirements for establishing and protecting existing streamside and riverside buffers in high quality and exceptional value watersheds; and
• Enhancing agricultural stormwater management provisions beyond plowing and tilling to include animal-heavy use areas.

For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us.


Drilling Poses Risk To Pennsylvania Water Supplies

"Gas drilling wastewater is exceptionally polluted.
It's nasty, nasty stuff," says DEP's John Hanger. ...
"The public's right to know should trump the business need of a company to keep something secret."
Listen Up!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Look at Bradford County, PA

(click to enlarge these images)

Just outside Towanda

Why these water tanks at a Spring Lake residence?

Why the video monitoring?

Word locally is that DEP has ordered the Otten Wells shut down and cleaned up. Note the black plastic covered soil. The road is closed down on either side of this site for no apparent reason, and as shown in the signage photo above, the site warns of video surveillance!
Why haven't we heard about this???

Thursday, July 16, 2009

SLUDGE PITS: Noxious, Toxic, Evaporating into the Atmosphere, Seeping into the Earth

From 5/18/09: Sludge pit at Otten Well Site, Asylum Twp. Bradford Co., PA
Note toxic water seeping into soil where liner has fallen into the pit.

7/8/09: Same Pit: Otten Well Site, Asylum Twp. Bradford Co., PA
Current Condition
Note partially exposed remnants of pit liner...



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