Saturday, July 31, 2010

As water worries mount, researcher says Marcellus Shale poses risk to air

Protecting watersheds in the Marcellus Shale region and forcing driller disclosure of fracking chemicals are the foremost demands of those concerned about potential environmental harm from natural gas activity.

The focused attention leaves out potentially greater threats, said Conrad "Dan" Volz, Ph.D., director and principal investigator of University of Pittsburgh's Center for Healthy Environments and Communities. The region's air could face a so far undetected threat, he said.

While a spill at a natural gas drilling site that contaminates water is catastrophic, air pollution can be a more insidious problem - one he said he feels is being overlooked.

While environmental groups and citizens scour lists of chemicals added to hydraulic fracturing fluid used to break up the shale formation, the greater threat may come from toxins that come to the surface as flowback, said Mr. Volz. He said state air-monitoring stations tend to be located in urban areas, away from rural areas where much of the drilling would be taking place.

He said the flowback is a slurry that can contain naturally-occurring benzene, strontium and arsenic. The flowback is often stored in uncovered fracking ponds where volatile organic compounds evaporate into the air. Condenser stations, wells and pipelines also discharge VOCs.

VOCs, both manmade and naturally occurring, are emitted into the air by certain liquids and solids. Some can adversely affect health in cases of chronic exposure, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

VOCs emitted by a single well pad may not be that significant, and Dr. Volz said there's debate over the risk to air quality and health. But as drilling intensifies, however, air quality will become an issue, he said.

Dr. Volz delivered his comments at a rollout of his group's Marcellus Shale website,, to a group of stakeholders that included economic development officials, environmental groups and academics in Danville on Thursday.

He hopes will help inform policymakers on issues such as where to place permanent air-monitoring stations.

Compounding air quality unknowns is the lack of state Department of Environmental Protection air-monitoring stations in many parts of the Marcellus Shale region. The stations tend to be in urban areas with historically high industrial activity. Stations are in Swiftwater, Peckville, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Nanticoke. None are in Wayne, Wyoming, Susquehanna or Bradford counties, where drilling activity is more common.

The DEP has a mobile air-quality lab collecting data around natural gas activity. The data has not been released, said DEP spokesman Mark Carmon. But Mr Carmon said it can provide a snapshot of the impact of natural gas activity on air quality.

Chris Tucker, spokesman for Energy In Depth, an oil and gas producers' association, said open fracking pits are increasingly being replaced by closed loop systems such as one being used by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., reducing the release of VOCs.

He also said that unlike natural gas in Southwestern Pennsylvania, natural gas coming from the Northeast is so- called "dry gas," nearly pure methane, with fewer condensates and VOCs.

University of Scranton chemistry professor Michael C. Cann said thousands of different chemicals come out of the earth in fracking fluid, but without research or testing, it's hard to assess the impact of the process.

"Certainly there are dangerous, naturally-occurring volatile organic compounds, but without research and testing, there's no way to know the risk," Dr. Cann said.


Fracking With Food: How the Natural Gas Industry Poisons Cows and Crops

by Byard Duncan
July 30, 2010

Scientists, too, are grappling for information. Though there exists an increasingly comprehensive catalog of knowledge about water problems related to fracking, little work has been done to determine how the practice affects animals and crops.

“I see very little research being done on cows,” said Theo Colborn, founder of the non-profit Endocrine Disruption Exchange. Because animal testing with many chemicals known to be involved in fracking has historically failed to deal with instances of a) limited exposure and b) prolonged exposure, no one really knows what the potential health effects are – for cows or humans.

“It’s very difficult to deal with this problem,” Colborn said. “Who has the money? Who can perform the tests?”

Certainly not the federal EPA. Earlier this year, it announced plans to launch a two-year study of hydraulic fracturing’s effects on water. According to an EPA spokesperson, no part of that study will deal with plants or animals.

And yet, there is significant anecdotal evidence that suggests fracking can seriously compromise food. In April 2009, 19 head of cattle dropped dead after ingesting an unknown substance near a gas drilling rig in northern Louisiana. Seven months before that, a tomato farmer in Avella, Penn. reported a series of problems with the water and soil on his property after drilling started: he found arsenic levels 2,600 times what is recommended, as well as dangerously high levels of benzene and naphthalene – all known fracking components. And in May 2009, one farmer in Clearview, Penn. told Reuters he thought that gas drilling operations had killed four of his cows.

Occurrences like these aren’t just limited to the eastern U.S. In Colorado, a veterinarian named Elizabeth Chandler has documented numerous fertility problems in livestock near active drill sites, including false pregnancy, smaller litters and stillbirths in goats; reduced birth rates in hogs; and delayed heat cycles in dogs.

In another case, Rick Roles, a resident of Rifle, Colorado, reported that his horses became sterile after three disposal pits were installed near his home. Like those in Chandler’s study, Roles’ goats began yielding fewer offspring and producing more stillbirths. Roles himself suffered from swelling of the hands, numbness and body pain – symptoms, he said, that subsided when he stopped eating vegetables from his garden and drinking his goats’ milk.

Actual scientific studies are few and far between, but what’s out there paints a pretty damning picture. One, titled “Livestock Poisoning from Oil Field Drilling Fluids, Muds and Additives,” appeared in the journal Veterinary & Human Toxicology in 1991. It examined seven instances where oil and gas wells had poisoned and/or killed livestock. In one such case, green liquid was found leaking from a tank near a gas well site. The study’s authors found 13 dead cows, whose “postmortem blood was chocolate-brown in color.” Poisoning cases involving carbon disulfide, turpentine, toluene, xylene, ethylene, and complex solvent mixtures “are frequently encountered,” the study concluded.

Another study, this one conducted in Alberta, Canada in 2001, investigated the effects of gas flaring on the reproductive systems of cattle near active gas and oil fields. Its conclusions: “One of the most consistent associations in the analysis was between exposure to sour gas flaring facilities [as opposed to “sweet” ones, which contain more aromatic hydrocarbons, aliphatic hydrocarbons and carbon particles] and an increased risk of stillbirth. In 3 of the 4 years studied, cumulative exposure to sour flares was associated with an increased risk of stillbirth.”

'Rare Cases'

When questioned about fracking and food, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, an organization composed of the nation’s leading gas production and exploration companies, neglected to get into any specifics. Instead, it offered this response:

“In rare cases where incidents have occurred, companies have worked with the appropriate regulatory authority to identify, contain and correct the issue, and to implement measures to ensure they don’t recur. ANGA member companies understand and respect people’s concerns about the safety of their water and air, and we are committed to engaging in dialogue with community members, policymakers and stakeholders to talk about the safety of natural gas production and the opportunities natural gas offers communities across our country.”

Environmental groups have a markedly different perspective on the issue. “There’s a lot of violations that happen out there that are never documented,” said Wes Gillingham, program director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

When we talked, Gillingham took out an enormous aerial photo of a drill rig. One disposal pit was surrounded by gray blotches of moisture: leaked fracking fluid. “The stuff that’s coming up – this stuff is getting into the environment,” he said, pointing at the blotches. “You’ve got heavy metals and normally occurring radioactive materials, all of which bioaccumulate in a grazer. That stuff is coming up in the grass where the grass is growing.”

So what sorts of concerns should people have about eating animals that have themselves ingested xylene, benzene, heavy metals, radioactive material? Gillingham, like so many farmers, federal officials and industry reps, can’t say for sure.

“It’s a serious issue in terms of potential contamination getting to market and nobody knowing about it,” he said. “It’s an important piece of research that needs to be done.”


Friday, July 30, 2010

UN General Assembly passes historic Human Right to Water and Sanitation resolution

Council of Canadians E-Newsletter
& Media Release
July 30, 2010

On July 28, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly agreed to a resolution declaring the human right to “safe and clean drinking water and sanitation.”

After over a decade of hard work, the global water justice movement achieved a major victory today as the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognizing water and sanitation as human rights. The resolution – put forward by Bolivia and co-sponsored by 35 states – passed overwhelmingly with 122 states voting in favour and 41 abstaining.

For more than a decade the water justice movement ... has been calling for UN leadership on this critical issue. Right now nearly 2 billion people live in water-stressed areas of the world and 3 billion have no running water within a kilometre of their homes. Every eight seconds, a child dies of water-borne disease – deaths that would be easily preventable with access to clean, safe water. ...

While the resolution is a solid victory for water justice for people around the world, the battle is not entirely won.

“This resolution has the overwhelming support of a strong majority of countries, despite a handful of powerful opponents. It must now be followed-up with a renewed push for water justice,” says Anil Naidoo, Blue Planet Project organizer. “We are calling for actions on the ground in communities around the world to ensure that the rights to water and sanitation are implemented.

Governments, aid agencies and the UN must take their responsibilities seriously.”

As a result of this vote, the human right to water and sanitation is now explicitly and formally recognized at the UN.


Shale's Shameless Shill

A Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial
July 30, 2010

Former governors can choose many career paths. Some of them become college presidents. Some go on the lecture circuit.

And then there's Tom Ridge, who is set to become a paid shill for the natural-gas drillers swarming his native state.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents natural-gas companies, has been negotiating to hire Ridge's lobbying firm. The industry wants the ex-governor's help with a campaign to educate the public about the benefits of drilling.

It's unclear how much Ridge will be paid, but he doesn't come cheap. The tiny impoverished nation of Albania, for example, reportedly paid Ridge nearly $500,000 per year to lobby for its membership in NATO.

Ex-governors are free to enrich themselves however they choose. But there's something obnoxious about a former governor talking up an industry that poses serious environmental risks, and has already spent millions on lobbying to forestall paying its fair share of state business taxes.

The industry does have a positive story to tell as well. It provides jobs at a time when jobs are scarce. Landowners have become financially secure from leasing to drillers. Natural gas is a relatively clean fuel, and the vast deposits beneath Pennsylvania should help this nation become less reliant on foreign oil.

Those factors argue in favor of proceeding with drilling in Pennsylvania. But the potential environmental hazards associated with hydraulic-fracture drilling, or "fracking," require a robust array of regulations to protect drinking water supplies. The state, which had outdated laws governing oil and gas drilling, is still trying to catch up.

In a new energy bill in Washington, Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) has included a needed provision that would require drillers to disclose the chemicals used in fracking.

The oil and gas industry's safety record certainly needs improving. Pennsylvania ranks sixth with 114 significant accidents in the past decade, according to a new report by the National Wildlife Foundation. Most of them weren't caused by Marcellus drillers.

But fracking does carry risks, such as the methane pollution of 14 drinking wells in January 2009 in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. Cabot paid a $360,000 fine. And the state temporarily banned Cabot from fracking after three chemical spills at a site in Dimock polluted a wetland and killed fish.

So as the former governor prepares to tell a story for hire, let's all start on the same page: This industry bears greater oversight, not less.



Thursday, July 29, 2010

Drilling Accountability Bill Would Regulate Fracturing Too

by Abrahm Lustgarten
July 29,2010

Tucked inside the Senate bill aimed at cracking down on oil drillers after the Gulf spill is a long-sought measure to protect groundwater from natural gas drilling.

The bill, called The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Company Accountability Act, would require that drilling companies make public a complete list of chemicals injected underground in proprietary formulas to break up rock deep underground and extract natural gas, a process called hydraulic fracturing.

It would not, however, reverse the exemption that prohibits the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the fracturing process like other forms of underground injection, another important regulatory change that was initially proposed in House and Senate bills last June along with the chemical disclosure.

That bill, called the Frac Act, was sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who pushed for its inclusion in the accountability bill now being considered.

(See flaming Splashdown sidebar at left. Write letters now!)

"Proper regulation is another essential element in protecting drinking water and public health. That is a battle that we still need to fight," Casey told ProPublica in an e-mail. But he emphasized that disclosing the chemical names "is an important step toward informing the public and building accountability for oil and gas companies."

A push for disclosure and stricter regulation of the fracturing process began in earnest last year after a series of articles by ProPublica reported more than a thousand cases of ground and surface water contamination in drilling areas where the process was being used. The articles examined drilling records in more than seven states, and found both a consistent pattern of water contamination in drilling areas, and a gap in scientific knowledge about the way hydraulic fracturing affects underground layers of rock and aquifers.

Problems were severe in Casey's home state, where fast-paced development of the Marcellus Shale natural gas deposit quickly led to dozens of reports of drinking water well contamination in places where hydraulic fracturing had been employed. Residents reported flammable tap water, and state investigations found that methane had seeped into water supplies underground as a result of the drilling activity.

Investigating the cause of such incidents has been difficult in part because the EPA does not have the jurisdiction to regulate fracturing the way it does other injection processes, and because the chemical makeup of the fracturing fluids has been guarded as a trade secret.

Several states, including New York, Colorado and Wyoming, have recently passed disclosure laws of their own, and industry representatives have begun to support the notion. But the language of the Senate bill is the most specific, and would apply to all of the states where oil and gas is produced.

The disclosure proposed today would still allow companies to withhold the exact recipes they use, meaning they wouldn't have to disclose the concentrations to the public. But they would -- in case of emergencies -- be required to share that information on a confidential basis with doctors and hospitals responding to an accident.

It's not clear how far the bill will get in the face of Republican opposition. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who added the disclosure component to the accountability bill, has said he hoped to bring the bill to a vote next week. Even if it passes, it will need to be reconciled with a House version that does not include the fracturing disclosure language.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RED ALERT! Bad Water in Paradise!

Cain Chamberlin
July 29, 2010

Mike Phillips holds the contaminated water that he discovered in his well on July 12 in his left hand, and in his right hand a sample of bottled water. Phillips is concerned that the disturbance in his well is due to gas drilling operations that have taken place near his home.
Photo by Cain Chamberlin

Bad Water in Paradise? Terry Twp. Residents Await Answers

Click here for video of gas igniting from bathroom sink faucet at Phillip's neighbor, Scott Spencer's home.

When Michael and Jonna Phillips woke up on Monday, July 12, they expected it to be like any other day…until they turned on their water.

They noticed that it was an odd, murky, brownish color. For obvious personal safety and health reasons, they decided against tasting it to figure out why.

Since the Phillips’s home, located along Paradise Road in Terry Township, was built in 2002, they have never had any trouble with their water. Their well is approximately 140 deep. They had their water tested in April of this year, and the results came back clear of any contamination, so the sudden change seemed extremely peculiar to them.

The Phillipses were aware that their next-door neighbors, Jared and Heather McMicken, had the same disturbance in their water, although the discoloration of their water started in early June when no one else had the problem, making them think it was just bad luck. The McMicken well is at approximately the same depth as that of the Phillips’s. Soon after the McMickens started having water trouble, Scott Spencer, another nearby resident, made a major discovery in his water as well; he could light it on fire.

“Spit and Sputter”
“All the faucets started
to spit and sputter, so we were curious as to what was going on,” said Spencer.

A Chesapeake drilling site no further than a quarter-mile away from the three homes struck the curiosity of Phillips. Even though all three residents have signed on to lease their land to gas companies, none of their properties has been subject to any operations so far. It made Phillips wonder if the nearby drilling was the culprit.

Phillips finally reached Greg Garrison, an Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Field Specialist for Chesapeake Energy, after several attempts. Garrison brought a couple of cases of water to their home and looked at the problem for himself. Phillips said that after Garrison saw the disturbance with his own eyes, he told them that they should keep all their receipts dealing with any water purchases or testing and repairs to the well; if the DEP could prove that Chesapeake was at fault, they would be reimbursed.

“He told us that he or someone from Chesapeake would be back on a daily basis,” said Phillips. They have not seen nor heard from anyone at Chesapeake in over a week, while the McMicken family has only seen a Chesapeake representative twice since reporting their water problems.

A representative of the DEP ran a test in the water systems on both the Phillips and McMicken properties on July 15 and again on July 21. According to the DEP, the full results will not be available for about 40 days, but they immediately found rising levels of methane in the water. The reports show the Phillips’s water had minima
l amounts of methane in the first test, but rose to three percent six days later. The McMickens’ level rose from three percent to four percent in the same time period.

DEP Offers Advice
DEP advised them, as well as Scott Spencer and his family, not to drink the water. Heather McMicken, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease, had been drinking close to 25 glasses of tap water per day since the spring until her family’s water problems began. Her children were drinking several glasses every day as well, which concerns her deeply.

“Our kids’ health is number one priority,” she said.

Phillips contacted Thomas Dunn, a local water well specialist, who almost immediately after removing the well cap on July 18 told them that there was gas in the water. Once again, they were advised not to drink the water and told that there was a definite disturbance. According to Mrs. Phillips, who is due to have their second child in October, Garrison told her that she could bathe in the water, although the family doctor advised her not to.

She now has to take her twice-daily showers at a friends’ house about two miles away. Mrs. Spencer, who is also pregnant with their second child, has been bathing in the water because she has no other option. The DEP told the Spencers that the water did contain some effervescence but appeared to be fine, although they shouldn’t drink it, just as a precaution. According to Spencer, the DEP claimed that they would be stopping by on a weekly basis to run water tests but have yet to come back.

“Chesapeake told us that it could be from something five or six years ago that we didn’t realize was happening,” said Spencer, “Basically that the problem was just natural causes.”

Alternate Sources

The Phillipses have purchased a water cooler system, while the Spencers and McMickens are buying bottled water on a regular basis. The children in each family are getting very impatient wondering when they will be able to drink their own water or swim in their plastic kiddie pools again during the current summer heat.

“We don’t know if it will end soon or not, we don’t know what to expect,” Spencer said.

Last week, Phillips wrote several letters in order to address the situation of his family and neighbors. He contacted Chesapeake’s Director of Corporate Development Brian Grove, Sen. Gene Yaw, State Rep. Tina Pickett and Congressman Chris Carney, as well as an environmental lawyer from Washington, DC. Phillips says that he is determined to find answers and to make sure that his drinking water is restored to its original condition.

“No one is immune to this and this is ruining our beautiful place to live,” said Phillips, “All we wanted was a nice, peaceful community. These are young families in new homes, and we just want this problem taken care of.”

(Editor’s Note: Brian Grove, Chesapeake Energy’s Director of Corporate Development, responds to concerns expressed in this article in a statement released on Wednesday, July 28. That statement is published in this issue of the Rocket-Courier.)

Click here for video of gas igniting from bathroom sink faucet at Phillip's neighbor, Scott Spencer's home.

to article.
(BULLSHIT image for Splashdown post courtesy of Google.)


DEP has proposed tougher standards for Oil & Gas drilling

From the FORESTcoalition:

The Public Comment Meetings are finished and there are only about ten days to get in your comments by e-mail.

These regulations call for more stringent standards for O&G drilling operations.

These regulations are vital. They upgrade requirements for testing, well casing, welding, cementing and other steps to prevent blowouts, migration of gas and release of fluids which could contaminate our waterways and aquifers.

The public comment period will end on 8/09/10.

If you missed the hearings, please submit your official written testimony via

or via USPS at:
Environmental Quality Board
P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg PA 17105-8477

• Be sure to use subject heading “CH 78 Regulations”
and include your full name and address.

Talking points – Choose the topics most important to you:

• Safety - Marcellus depths and pressures are so far beyond what was “normal” in the 1980’s, we must upgrade the Oil & Gas regulations to ensure safety.

• Prevent stray gas migration [ contaminating local waterwells]

• Cementing – Use Texas standards
DEP’s definition for cement sets a 24-hour compressive strength standard of at least 500 psi; however, other states, such as Texas, have found that standard insufficient to prevent vertical migration of fluids or gas behind pipe. Texas requires an additional 72-hour compressive strength standard of at least 1,200 psi across critical zones of cement.

• Cementing – Upgrade the details
Ensure better cementing by documenting the chemical composition of the mixture. Expand the “cement ticket” definition to include:

(a) a requirement for the operator to test the mixing water pH and temperature and note it on the cement ticket (this is standard industry practice and aids in determining cement quality);

(b) a record of the Waiting on Cement [WOC] time, which is the time required to achieve the calculated compressive strength standard before the casing is disturbed in any way. Allow no shortcuts.

• Protection of Water Supplies -

DEP must clarify §78.51 to explain what constitutes an adequately restored or replacement water supply for homeowners. There should be a set timeframe for acting upon a complaint filed by a landowner.

Revise §78.51(c) to read: Within 24 hours of the receipt of the investigation request, the Department will send a technical team to the field site to examine the situation and determine whether immediate action is needed to shut down operations.

• Blowout Preventer –
Blowouts are very serious work safety, and environmental situations. Blowouts may result in human injury, fire, explosion, oil spills and gas venting. Suggestion: Require all wells to be drilled with a Blow-Out Preventer once the surface casing is installed and cemented. No exceptions.

§78.72 (c) requires BOP controls to be accessible during an emergency; this is logical. However, the regulation should also require that the operator to place the BOP controls on the rig itself. BOP controls need to be accessible both on the rig and at a location a safe distance away from the drilling rig. Recent accidents show the need for this.

“Safe” = absence of risk. While it is not possible to eliminate all the risks inherent in drilling, we have to ensure that the standards are as bullet-proof as we can make them. There should be no “weasel clauses” that allow misinterpretation, no omissions, no compromises because of industry arm-twisting or whining that DEP is “unfriendly”.

Your statements are needed so the IRRC can see strong public support for the new DEP CH 78 regulations.

Remember, it is the Department of Environmental Protection.


DEP’s proposed regulations are at:


Shale Report: PA considering new casing regulations

Current regulations set in 1989, state says industry is meeting expectations

July 28, 2010

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing blame it for spoiling water supplies. Proponents say the technology is separated from drinking water supplies by thousands of feet of impermeable rock. One possible link between those contradictory statements is well construction. In a poorly designed well, gas from below escapes into water from above.

That’s not the only way gas can migrate into water supplies, but it’s the main one the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is targeting with proposed changes to the regulations for oil and gas wells, recently released for public comments.

Many of the current regulations haven’t been updated since July 1989, according to the state. While Pennsylvania isn’t new to drilling — in fact, it’s been producing oil and gas longer than any other state — the current drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale is new.

The revisions would change how wells are constructed and inspected, and set guidelines for responding to gas migration and replacing water supplies spoiled by drilling.

“It was determined that many, if not all, Marcellus well operators met or exceeded the current well casing and cementing regulations,” the DEP said in its proposed regulations. “However, it was also determined that the current regulations were not specific enough in detailing the Department's expectations of a properly cased and cemented well.”

The new standards would bring Pennsylvania in line with other producing states, like Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, particularly for the amount of pressure allowed on surface casing, the shallow length of pipe that protects underground drinking water sources.

The standards require operators to inspect wells for pressure, corrosion and signs of escaping gas every three months and report the results to the DEP for five years.

If gas were believed to have migrated into nearby soils and waters, the proposed regulations would require the operator to immediately notify the state and begin an investigation, filing a report by phone within 12 hours and in writing within three days.

The proposed regulations also codify current case law on water supplies damaged by drilling. The regulations would require drillers to replace polluted water supplies to safe drinking water standards, unless the supplies didn’t meet those standards in the first place. It also requires drillers to pay for any increased operations and maintenance costs.

The Environmental Quality Board, an agency within the DEP, held five public hearings across the state on the proposed regulations and is taking comments through Aug. 9.


LINK to complete article.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Most speak out against shale gas production at Pennsylvania forum

Jim Magill
Pittsburgh, PA
July 23, 2010

Highlighting concerns over its possible effects on groundwater, most of the 150 speakers at a US Environmental Protection Agency forum in southwestern Pennsylvania spoke out against shale gas production in the state.

The meeting Thursday night in the small town of Canonsburg, which drew 1,200 people, was the third in a series of four to be held by the EPA in shale gas-producing basins across the US to gather public input ahead of a two-year study it plans to examine the impacts of hydraulic fracturing could have on groundwater.

The Pennsylvania meeting site sits in a region that in recent years has seen a boom of gas drilling targeting the Marcellus Shale.

While a handful of speakers -- most identifying themselves as being currently or formerly employed in the gas industry or representing pro-industry organizations -- defended the use of fracking as a safe and efficient technology for unlocking the gas trapped in shale, the vast majority -- mostly area residents, scientists and conservationists -- demanded greater regulation or, in some cases, an outright ban on the practice.

Many of the latter group called on the EPA to expand the study beyond just looking at the impacts of fracking and to study what happens to the water and chemicals used in fracking before, during and after the work is done. Others wanted the study to be expanded still further, to include impacts of gas drilling on air quality, vehicle traffic and quality-of-life issues such as crime.


Although a definite link has never been established between fracking and contamination of groundwater, dozens of speakers claimed to be victims of such a link. One woman who said her family buys drinking water because her well became contaminated with styrene, which she blamed on nearby gas drilling.

Another speaker, representing a local environmental group, Clearville Citizens for Sustainability, said it tested groundwater quality prior to the onset of gas drilling and found the water to be of good quality. "After drilling we have pollution," she said.

A member of the Steel Valley Trail Council, said when the gas industry came into the Marcellus Shale, drillers touted the benefits of clean-burning natural gas and "identified oodles of jobs" for local residents. "The jobs have gone to Texans," he said. Many of the speakers said they thought that a moratorium should be imposed on new in the Marcellus drilling in Pennsylvania, similar to the one called by the state of New York as it develops new drilling guidelines.

Several pro-industry speakers dismissed the complaints of the anti-fracking speakers as alarmist and called for the EPA study to "focus on science, not emotion." A speaker who identified himself as a Halliburton employee said the agency should limit the scope of the study to what Congress asked it to focus on and to "avoid wasting time" in expanding the scope beyond that congressional mandate.
"The EPA will find that fracking poses no significant threats to health," he said.


Lou D'Amico, president of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, said fracking was "neither new nor controversial." He cited a study the EPA undertook during the Clinton administration on the impacts of fracking in coalbed methane wells, which found "no negative effects of fracking from coalbed methane drilling."

D'Amico added that most CBM wells are drilled to much shallower depths than Marcellus Shale wells, placing them that much closer to groundwater aquifers. The EPA should avail itself of the "huge database" of information available through industry players and state regulatory agencies in pursuing its study, he said.

EPA plans to continue the scoping process through the end of the year and begin the study itself in early 2011, the EPA officials said. Preliminary results of the study should be available by the end of 2012, they said.


E.P.A. Considers Risks of Gas Extraction

Published: July 23, 2010

CANONSBURG, Pa. — The streams of people came to the public meeting here armed with stories of yellowed and foul-smelling well water, deformed livestock, poisoned fish and itchy skin. One resident invoked the 1968 zombie thriller “Night of the Living Dead,” which, as it happens, was filmed just an hour away from this southwestern corner of Pennsylvania.

The culprit, these people argued, was hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas that involves blasting underground rock with a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals.

Gas companies countered that the horror stories described in Pennsylvania and at other meetings held recently in Texas and Colorado are either fictions or not the companies’ fault. More regulation, the industry warned, would kill jobs and stifle production of gas, which the companies consider a clean-burning fuel the nation desperately needs.


The Environmental Protection Agency has been on a listening tour, soliciting advice from all sides on how to shape a forthcoming $1.9 million study of hydraulic fracturing’s effect on groundwater.

With the steep environmental costs of fossil fuel extraction apparent on beaches from Texas to Florida — and revelations that industry shortcuts and regulatory negligence may have contributed to the BP catastrophe in the gulf — gas prospectors are finding a cold reception for their assertions that their drilling practices are safe.

“The industry has argued there are no documented cases of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater,” said Dencil Backus, a resident of nearby Mt. Pleasant Township, at Thursday night’s hearing. “Our experience in southwestern Pennsylvania suggests that this cannot possibly be true.”

Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range Resources, a Texas-based natural gas producer, acknowledged that the gulf spill had increased public concern about any sort of drilling activity. “However, when people can review the facts, void of the strong emotions the gulf elicits, they can see the stark contrast between high-risk, deep offshore oil drilling and much safer, much lower risk onshore natural gas development,” he said by e-mail.

In this part of the country, the potentially enormous natural gas play of the Marcellus Shale has many residents lining up to lease their land to gas prospectors. Estimates vary on the precise size of the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from West Virginia across much of Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio and into the Southern Tier of New York. But by any estimate, the gas deposit is huge — perhaps as much as 500 trillion cubic feet. (New York State uses a little over 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year.)

An industry-financed study published this week suggested that as much as $6 billion in government revenue and up to 280,000 jobs could be at stake in the Marcellus Shale region.

Fracking has been around for decades, and it is an increasingly prominent tool in the effort to unlock previously unreachable gas reserves. The oil and gas industry estimates that 90 percent of the more than 450,000 operating gas wells in the United States rely on hydraulic fracturing.

Roughly 99.5 percent of the fluids typically used in fracking, the industry says, are just water and sand, with trace amounts of chemical thickeners, lubricants and other compounds added to help the process along. The cocktail is injected thousands of feet below the water table and, the industry argues, can’t possibly be responsible for growing complaints of spoiled streams and wells. But critics say that the relationship between fracking fluids and groundwater contamination has never been thoroughly studied — and that proving a link has been made more difficult by oil and gas companies that have jealously guarded as trade secrets the exact chemical ingredients used at each well.

Several other concerns linger over fracking, as well as other aspects of gas drilling — including the design and integrity of well casings and the transport and potential spilling of chemicals and the millions of gallons of water required for just one fracking job.

The recent string of accidents in the oil and gas industries — including the gulf spill and a blowout last month at a gas field in Clearfield County, Pa., that spewed gas and wastewater for 16 hours — has unnerved residents and regulators.

“There is extraordinary economic potential associated with the development of Marcellus Shale resources,” said Representative Joe Sestak, Democrat of Pennsylvania, in a statement Friday announcing $1 million for a federal study of water use impacts in the Delaware Water Basin. However, “there is also great risk.” He said, “One way to ensure proper development is to understand the potential impacts.”

Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the scrutiny was long overdue. “I think it’s all helping to shine a spotlight on this entire industry,” she said. “Corners are sometimes cut, and regulations simply aren’t strong enough.”

Fears of fracking’s impact on water supplies prompted regulators overseeing the Delaware Water Basin to curtail gas exploration until the effects could be more closely studied. New York State lawmakers are contemplating a moratorium.

At the national level, in addition to the E.P.A. study, a Congressional investigation of gas drilling and fracturing, led by House Energy and Commerce Committee, intensified last week with demands sent to several companies for details on their operations — particularly how they handled the slurry of water and chemicals that flowed back from deep within a well.

A renewed, if unlikely, push is also under way to pass federal legislation that would undo an exemption introduced under the Bush administration that critics say freed hydraulic fracturing from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Last month, Wyoming introduced some of the nation’s toughest rules governing fracturing, including provisions that require companies to disclose the ingredients in their fracturing fluids to state regulators — though specifically not to the public.

Gas drillers, responding to the increased scrutiny and eyeing the expansive and lucrative new gas plays in Appalachia, are redoubling their efforts to stave off federal oversight, in some cases by softening their rigid positions on fracking-fluid disclosure. Last week, Range Resources went so far as to announce its intent to disclose the contents of its fracking fluids to Pennsylvania regulators and to publish them on the company’s Web site.

“We should have done this a long time ago,” said Mr. Pitzarella, the Range spokesman. “There are probably no health risks with the concentrations that we’re utilizing. But if someone has that concern, then it’s real and you have to address it.”

Environmental groups welcomed that, but said that clear and broad federal jurisdiction would still be needed.

“Any one accident might not be on the scale of the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Ms. Mall. “But accidents are happening all the time, and there’s no regime in place that broadly protects the health of communities and the surrounding environment where drilling is being done.”

That was a common theme at the meeting Thursday night.

“I can take you right now to my neighbors who have lost their water supplies,” Mr. Backus said to the handful of E.P.A. regulators on hand. “I can take you also to places where spills have killed fish and other aquatic life.”

“Corporations have no conscience,” he added. “The E.P.A. must give them that conscience.”



Friday, July 23, 2010

Tragic Gas Well Explosion TODAY Kills Two People

Kate Sinding's Blog
Natural Resources Defense Coucil
July 23, 2010

Tragically, two people were killed on Friday when a gas well exploded in Indiana Township, Pennsylvania. Black smoke belched from the well for hours, and firefighters are still at the scene trying to salvage the area. The well is situated in a rural, wooded area-albeit only 15 miles northeast of Pittsburgh-keeping the human toll of this tragic accident thankfully low.

But this explosion is not an anomaly. Rather, it is the third explosion of the summer in the Marcellus Shale, and only one incident in a long list of accidents, spills, leaks, and unexplained health complaints. On June 3, a gas well in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, erupted into a 75-foot geyser of gas, wastewater, and sludge. It could not be controlled until after the well had spewed 35,000 gallons of waste, over the course of 16 hours. The company didn't install an appropriate pressure-control system-a basic safety requirement. Four days later, a Marcellus gas well in West Virginia, just southwest of Pittsburgh, exploded and severely burned seven people.

The gas industry is expanding voraciously in Pennsylvania, drilling more and more wells every day. Well pads, condensate tanks, waste pits, pipelines, and access roads are often placed only a few hundred feet from residential homes. A single well pad can contain 16 wells, spaced as little as 10 feet apart - shale gas drilling has industrialized countless acres of rural landscape and is already starting to encroach upon neighborhoods and schools. Reports of air pollution, water contamination, fish kills, livestock deaths, and health problems are piling up in Wyoming, Ohio, Colorado, West Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, and right (here) in Pennsylvania.

... The BP Gulf disaster serves as a potent reminder of the risks associated with unchecked, unregulated fossil fuel extraction. When drillers screw up, tragedies ensue.

CLICK HERE to read more.


New DEP Marcellus Shale Examiner Newsletter

The Department of Environmental Protection is launching a new weekly e-newsletter on Marcellus Shale natural gas issues called the Marcellus Shale Examiner. The following is from the sign-up webpage just put online--
In the past three years, Pennsylvania has become the epicenter of natural gas exploration with dozens of companies seeking to capitalize on the abundant natural resources in the Marcellus Shale formation. The consequences of this rapidly growing industry affect us all.
In the coming months, policy makers will be working on important issues related to drilling in Pennsylvania. From enacting a severance tax so large drilling firms pay their fair share, to writing laws that could affect landowners’ rights when it comes to drilling on or under their property, there will be a tremendous amount of focus on drilling-related issues.
To follow all of these developments, register now for the Marcellus Shale Examiner. This weekly e-newsletter will chronicle the latest news on Marcellus Shale activities, including:
-- How county and local governments and emergency responders are handling the drilling rush taking place in their backyards;
-- How state agencies are working to protect Pennsylvania's natural resources and keep communities safe;
-- How the public and landowners are responding to pressures to lease their land or tracts in their neighborhoods for drilling;
-- How drilling companies operating in Pennsylvania have received billions of dollars from foreign nations and large multinational corporations that are anxious to get a piece of the action; and
-- How state officials are addressing the issues associated with drilling.
Whether you are a citizen, public official, business leader, environmentalist or emergency responder, it's important that you understand the impact drilling into the Marcellus Shale has on our communities today and what it will mean for our state tomorrow.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

State rule targets chloride levels

Posting and Bonding: PennDOT’s Solution to Protecting Roads

photo: Splashdown!
by Wes Skillings

You may have noticed all the secondary state roadways posted with weight restrictions in this area. In Bradford County, there are sections of 112 different state roads ranging in length from a quarter of a mile to more than 17 miles. That’s more than 600 miles of state roads with restricted weight limits, and PennDOT claims about 515 miles of posted roads in Susquehanna County.

PennDOT was burned this spring, as were local motorists who found themselves trying to negotiate roads that, through the combination of excess gas well traffic, oversized trucks and the spring thaw, were virtually impossible to drive. That doesn’t even count the many miles of township roads affected in the various counties.

“What happened last winter/spring will not happen again this year,” vowed PennDOT engineers in District 4-0, which includes Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties, in recent presentations to gas drillers.

(See Splashdown post: "PennDot Websites Offer Gas Drilling-related Road Info")

The options for those oversized vehicles that have been bonded for posted roads are simple, according to PennDOT: rebuild the roads or don’t use them between November and April. That sentiment is no doubt echoed in District 3-0, which includes Bradford and Sullivan Counties.

The sprouting of literally hundreds of 10-ton weight limit signs has some local residents and business owners confused. The gas drillers and their contractors know the story and are familiar with both posting and bonding and the road maintenance agreements preferred by some municipalities. The gas companies prefer the latter and many townships are happy to rely on that option. However, PennDOT relies strictly on posting and bonding for its roads and bridges.

The good news is that there is a “local traffic” provision under PennDOT’s Rules & Regulations Governing the Use of Weight Restricted (Posted) Highways. The applicable chapter and section of the Vehicle Code states it thusly: “Over-posted-weight local traffic may exceed posted weight limits unless the posting authority determines that an over-posted-weight vehicle or vehicles being driven to or from a particular destination or destinations are likely to damage the highway.”

Unfortunately, there is some subjectivity involved in this assessment, but it seems unlikely that a backhoe on a flatbed, for instance, would be deemed as likely to damage the highway.

Prove You’re Local

You may need to provide proof of local traffic status if your load exceeds 10 tons, and that may require a shipping order or bill of lading which shows a destination on a posted highway. The business or company that is contracting the hauler might have to certify “the local traffic nature of the activity” on paper with the company letterhead for the hauler to exhibit if stopped by state or local police.

If your vehicle does not comply with the definition of local traffic, you will require a permit as an over-posted-weight vehicle. There are various types of permits covering specific roads and destinations to multiple roads and destinations. There is also the excess maintenance agreement, which requires a response within 24 hours from written notification. That means maintenance or restoration must begin within 24 hours of that notification or the permit may be revoked. This has already happened to gas drillers in this area, as has the closing of roads until they are adequately repaired.
PennDOT has informed gas drillers in this region of the following expectations: of all outstanding roadway damage; 2. “development and implement a process” in which they can respond to “necessary road repairs” within 24 hours, and 3. a written plan must be submitted to PennDOT by Oct. 1 of this year “addressing how the user will prevent road damage and facilitate necessary repairs in the winter.”
And what, besides excess maintenance, permit revocation, base repair, “rough road” signage and a permitting and revocation process is regarded as the “standard of care” for a bonded road? It is known as the Safe and Passable Road Criteria, and here are the main questions PennDOT asked to determine if that standard has been compromised:

Will the road condition cause an accident?

Is road condition likely to cause damage to vehicles or personal property?

Does the roadway meet driver expectations?

Does a driver have to decrease speed or travel in the opposite lane to avoid road damage?

Can a passenger car or motorcycle traverse the state route?

Local Posted Roads

... The posting of roads is a way of requiring heavy haulers to be responsible for excess maintenance of roads that were not designed to support that kind of traffic. As for the bonding part, it is essentially a performance bond through an insurer, letter of credit, certified or cashier’s check that will ensure that excess maintenance costs will be paid.

The amount of security required depends on a number of factors, but it is generally $12,500 per linear mile of paved highway and $6,000 per linear mile of unpaved. Township roads may be posted and bonded, too.

Exempt from posting and bonding are emergency vehicles, school buses, government- and utility-owned vehicles and vehicles owned by their contractors when constructing or maintaining a posted highway. Then there are “vehicles including farm trucks and implements of husbandry, traveling to or from a residence, commercial establishment or farm located on a posted highway or on a route which can be only reached by using a posted highway… unless they cause excess damage to the highway.”

Most of the information for this article came from PennDOT sources, including Title 75 Vehicles (Vehicle Code) under Chapter 49.

CLICK HERE for complete article.



Thank you Elizabeth Burns,


Friday, July 16, 2010


PEC Releases Report on Marcellus Shale Development
Recommendations and Findings on Environmental Policy Needs for Pennsylvania

July 13, 2010- The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) released a report calling for swift action on new regulations and greater oversight of drilling and extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation, a major gas field that lies deep beneath much of Pennsylvania.

Called "Developing the Marcellus Shale," the report challenges state government and the natural gas industry to adopt more stringent standards for drilling and extraction to prevent the kind of environmental impacts that have occurred throughout Pennsylvania's industrial past.

The report also includes a number of specific legislative and regulatory changes that PEC believes should be made to minimize the risk of accidents, environmental damage, and public health hazards stemming from drilling operations.

DOWNLOAD Developing the Marcellus Shale


Beneath the Surface: A Survey of Environmental Risks from Shale Gas Development | Worldwatch Institute

Washington, D.C.-
Improved drilling techniques have unlocked vast new reserves of shale gas, a resource that could be large enough to displace significant amounts of coal, and an energy source that emits less than half the carbon dioxide. But growing shale gas development has raised both environmental questions and public controversy. A new independent assessment by the Worldwatch Institute concludes that improved adherence to drilling best practice and better regulatory oversight are essential to assure environmental and public protection as shale gas production continues to expand.

The report, Addressing Environmental Risks from Shale Gas Development, details what happens beneath the surface during horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in deep shale formations, evaluating the risks to local water quality and the environment, as well as the technologies and policies needed to overcome them.

"Microseismic data have shown us that a properly designed hydraulic fracture job stimulates gas production only within the shale formations, which are typically hundreds of feet thick and thousands of feet deeper than drinking water supplies," says Mark Zoback, a geophysicist at Stanford University and a report co-author. "For this reason, the risk of fractures propagating from deep shale formations to underground sources of drinking water, which has been the subject of much debate, appears to be extremely low."

The report concludes that faulty well construction, in particular poorly cemented steel casings needed to isolate the gas from shallow formations, as well as above-ground contamination due to leaks and spills of fracturing fluids and waste water, pose more significant risks to the environment. In addition, continued study and improved communication of the environmental risks associated with both individual wells and large scale shale gas development are essential for society to make well-informed decisions about its energy future.

"Although the technologies, best practices, and regulations that can help minimize these risks exist, they have not yet been universally adopted," says Worldwatch Fellow and co-author Saya Kitasei. "Experiences in Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and New York demonstrate that strong public pressure exists for stricter oversight."

The report, authored by Mark Zoback of Stanford University, Saya Kitasei of the Worldwatch Institute, and Bradford Copithorne of Environmental Defense Fund, is the second in a series of briefing papers from Worldwatch's Natural Gas and Sustainable Energy Initiative, which examines critical environmental and policy issues surrounding natural gas.

Download Addressing Environmental Risks from Shale Gas Development by Mark Zoback, Saya Kitasei, and Bradford Copithorne.



Thursday, July 15, 2010

$400,000 fine for Marcellus Shale blowout

By Andrew Maykuth, Staff Writer
The Philadelphia Inquirer
July 14, 2010

HARRISBURG - In the heftiest fine levied thus far against a Marcellus Shale natural-gas driller, state environmental officials socked a Texas company Tuesday with a $400,000 penalty for failures that caused last month's well blowout in central Pennsylvania.

John Hanger, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), sharply rebuked EOG Resources Inc. for failing to maintain control of the Clearfield County well, which erupted June 3 and spewed natural gas and toxic wastewater for 16 hours before it could be capped.

Hanger said that EOG had employed only one mechanism to keep the high-pressure gas well under control and that that measure had failed at the hands of employees who were not certified in well-control techniques.

He also said EOG, which is based in Houston, wasted valuable hours by failing to promptly notify officials about the blowout.

Rather than calling DEP's 24-hour emergency line, the driller left three phone messages at night with a DEP employee who was on vacation. Then, the Texans twice tried calling the county sheriff, who in Pennsylvania is not responsible for emergency response. Finally, three hours after the blowout, EOG called 911.

"This incident was preventable and should have never occurred," Hanger said at a news conference Tuesday at which he presented the findings of an independent oil-industry consultant.

John G. Vittitow Sr., a Fort Worth, Texas, petroleum engineer hired by the DEP to investigate the accident, blamed it on human error and procedures that fell short of the industry's best practices.

"I don't know any company that would cut corners like this, on this kind of well," Vittitow said.

The DEP, in addition to the penalties aimed at EOG and a contractor, C.C. Forbes L.L.C., also issued an industry-wide edict Tuesday setting stricter well-closure procedures aimed at preventing similar accidents.

Gary L. Smith, EOG's regional vice president, said in a statement that the company regretted the accident.

"EOG has worked cooperatively with the PADEP to resolve all issues," he said. "We will be implementing the new operational procedures as defined in the letter to all gas well operators and look forward to resuming our activities in the Commonwealth."
The DEP, after being criticized for accommodating the natural-gas industry as the Marcellus Shale frenzy took hold, has adopted a more stern tone this year as criticism has mounted about the industry's practices. About 1,600 Marcellus Shale wells are expected to be drilled this year.
The EOG fine surpassed the $240,000 penalty that the DEP levied in April against Cabot Oil & Gas Co., a Texas driller whose wells in Susquehanna County were blamed last year for polluting an aquifer supplying drinking water to at least 14 households in Dimock Township.

By contrast, the EOG blowout at a rural Clearfield County hunting club resulted in modest damage: There were no injuries; the well did not ignite; and the site has been cleaned up. Though some of the 35,000 gallons of wastewater that the DEP says gushed from the well contaminated a nearby spring, Hanger said that the pollution appeared to be dissipating and that he expected no permanent damage.

But Hanger, who repeatedly has called on the industry to adopt "world-class" standards to match the magnitude of the Marcellus resource, said he intended to send a strong signal to the industry with Tuesday's announcement.

"It's vital, in my mind, that this industry has strong oversight for its own good and for the good of the people of Pennsylvania," he said.

Vittitow, DEP's consultant, said the accident occurred during a well-completion phase, when a contractor - C.C. Forbes - took over the site to clean out obstructions left in the well after the drilling process was finished.

Rather than having multiple barriers to prevent high-pressure gas from escaping from the well, Vittitow said, EOG employed a blowout preventer that had only one fail-safe mechanism. That device, a pipe ram, is designed to clamp around the drilling pipe, sealing off the well bore.

As gas began to leak, the pipe ram was closed. But EOG's on-site supervisor ordered the drill pipe to be pulled up through the clamped closure, damaging the pipe ram's rubber seal. Over the next 90 minutes, the drillers lost control of the well. With no other backup, gas and wastewater shot as high as 75 feet into the air.

"This was just a bad decision, and it caught up with them," said Vittitow. "They were just doing what they've done in other places."

The DEP's order to the industry Tuesday includes a directive requiring operators to have at least two functioning barriers in place during completion operations.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group, said that most operators have already incorporated the new practices. "Our industry is committed to continuously enhancing and improving our operations, and leveraging the opportunities of the Marcellus in a manner that's safe, efficient, and beneficial to all Pennsylvanians," said Kathryn Z. Klaber, the coalition's executive director.

State Rep. Camille "Bud" George (D., Clearfield), chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, who has called for more rigorous oversight of the industry, said he was troubled by EOG's "apparent disregard" of best industry practices.

"No human endeavor is going to be mistake-free," he said, "but the report suggests disregard for basic safeguards, which should trouble everyone."

Coincidentally, the DEP's announcement occurred the same day as the Pennsylvania Environmental Council released a 47-page report calling for a severance tax on gas production and greater regulation of the industry to avoid the state's experiences from unregulated extraction of coal and timber.

"We have to get this right," said Don Welsh, the council's president. "Pennsylvania has been through a whole lot of resource extraction in the past, and we were left a big bill to clean it up."



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

William Rathbun, Department of Environmental Protection

DEP Investigates Fire at Susquehanna County Natural Gas Well Pad

HARRISBURG -- Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said his agency is looking into the cause of a July 13 fire at a natural gas well pad in Susquehanna County.

The fire occurred at a separator tank at a site operated by Chesapeake Energy in Auburn Township. The tank ignited at approximately 8 p.m. and was extinguished at around 10 p.m. by local emergency responders working with the company. The well was producing natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation through a pipeline away from the wellhead to a production unit where a valve failed, leaked natural gas and caught fire.

“Fortunately, this incident does not appear to have caused any significant environmental contamination thanks to the prompt response efforts of the local emergency responders and the company,” said Hanger, noting that no injuries or evacuations were reported as a result of the incident. “We’ll be investigating this operation closely to see what can be learned by both the department and gas well operators.”

Chesapeake notified the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency of the fire at approximately 8:30 p.m. DEP dispatched an oil and gas inspector immediately to the scene to assess the conditions. The site will remain closed until repairs can be made and DEP completes its investigation.

Chesapeake Energy has been issued 698 permits to develop natural gas in Pennsylvania, 697 of which are located within the Marcellus Shale. The company operates 187 wells in the state, 182 of which are in the Marcellus Shale.

For more information, visit and click on “Oil & Gas.”

In West Virginia:
Gas drilling fire burns 7 workers in W. Virginia
July 15, 2010
Science News

A fireball and explosion burned seven members of a crew drilling for natural gas at an abandoned coal mine in West Virginia on Monday, the second big fire at an energy formation known as the Marcellus Shale in less than a week, a government worker said.

Local media reports said the injuries were not life-threatening.

“Seven workers were taken to the hospital for burns,” Prentice Cline, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration assistant in Charleston, West Virginia said.

AB Resources PA LLC of Brecksville, Ohio is the operator of the well, while privately-held Chief Oil & Gas, holds responsibility to drill and complete the well, local media reports said.

Cline said five of the workers work for Union Drilling, Inc, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, and two work for BJ Services Co of Houston.

The vast Marcellus Shale field runs through West Virginia and Pennsylvania. On Thursday, a well operated by EOG Resources Inc in Pennsylvania blew out when a drilling team lost control of it while preparing to extract gas using the hydraulic fracturing technique.

Chief was unavailable for comment.

Local media reports said the natural gas drilling operation near Moundsville was less than a week old.

Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, said it appeared West Virginia fire was also caused by workers getting ready to use hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” to get to the gas.

Critics of fracking say domestic water supplies are contaminated by chemicals that are forced into the ground along with sand and millions of gallons of water to free gas from fissures in the shale a mile or more underground.

Union Drilling, Chiefs site contractor, had drilled the first 1,000 feet of a second well on the property and was preparing to install surface casing when crews apparently hit and ignited the methane, local reports said.




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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


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