Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gas drilling in PA state forests of great concern for conservation chief

Published December 13, 2009 in the Scranton Times Tribune.
Written by Robert Smith
HARRISBURG - As Pennsylvania prepares for what could be a 50-year period of drilling for deep natural gas pockets in its state forests, the long-term health of these previously damaged forests is on the mind of the state's top conservation official.  John Quigley, the acting secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, is preparing to receive bids next month from drilling companies for 32,000 acres of state forest land in the Marcellus Shale formation.  

Much of the acreage in Northcentral Pennsylvania targeted for drilling was owned in the 19th century by timber companies, which clear-cut trees and left millions of acres of denuded and vulnerable to erosion.  The state purchased that land 100 years ago for the public benefit, and professional foresters nurtured the second-growth hardwood forests that exist today.  "The forest you see there is 100 years old," said Mr. Quigley in an office interview last week. "It recovered from the denuded landscape. We have to make sure we don't go back to that."
To read the entire article, click HERE.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Recent Bradford County spill results in $52/gal fine. Company investigated by US Dept of Justice, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Back in February of this year, an estimated 295 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled from a tank located at a well site in Asylum Twp, Bradford County.  On Monday, December 7, PA's Department of Environmental Protection issued a press release stating the two companies involved--Chesapeake Appalachia LLC and Schlumberger Technology Corp of Midland TX would each be fined $15,557 (or roughly $50 per gallon spilled).  According to the PRESS RELEASE, clean up involved the following:
  • A contractor "removed free-standing acid from the ground with absorbent pads"
  • Trenches were excavated to contain the spill
  • Contaminated soil was neutralized with "soda ash and hydrated lime"
  • Approximately 125 tons of contaminated soil had to be excavated
  • Nearly 14,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid and water mixture were removed from the site 
  • An additional 11,000 gallons of acid was transfered from the faulty tank to temporary tanks
Schlumberger Technology Corp is one of the country's leaders in the use of hydraulic fracturing (Halliburton is the other).  The company has been the focus of many investigations including:
  • that of a team led by Erin Brockovich (remember the movie?) for a spill in Midland, TX.  You can see footage of Brockovich on a CBS appearance HERE
  • STC is suspected to be the cause of 16 cattle dropping dead in a field recently in Louisiana after drinking a mysterious fluid in a field next to a drilling rig.  
  • recently been investigated by the US Dept of Justice for having violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in their oil & gas business in Nigeria.
  • Investigated and fined by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for having "willfully failed to perform required radiation surveys" in Montana resulting in the exposure of 31 workers to hazardous radioactive material.  Read the full Notice of Violation HERE.

Gas leases in Wellsboro, PA filed illegally

WELLSBORO -- A WENY-TV News investigation shows that there could be a large number of natural gas leases in Pennsylvania that were filed illegally.  The legality of the leases is linked to the process taken by natural gas companies when the leases are signed.  

See video and full story on WENY's site.

Meeting in Mansfield, December 16, of Tioga County Natural Gas Task Force

Wednesday, December 16th @ 7:30pm, there will be a meeting of the Tioga County Natural Gas Task Force.  The meeting will take place at Main Street Yoga Studio in Mansfield, PA.  If you are from Wellsboro and are planning on attending, there's at least one person with a need to hitch a ride.  Save gas and do a good deed!  For custom directions, click here.

For more info on the carpool need--and a great blog besides--see this post from  How do we do the mountain.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reminder: training to be held tomorrow (Tue) evening in Wellsboro

Please note that the location has been changed to the Deane Center in Wellsboro.  You can view the original blog post with all the details here.  For directions to the Deane Center, you can enter your home address and obtain directions via this googlemaps link.  If you are so inclined, please share any important information you might obtain either here or on our Facebook page.  Many thanks!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Training to be held at Wellsboro's Penn Tech College, December 8

The Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group is holding its second training workshop for Waterdogs to help document and record possible environmental violations at Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling operations in the Bradford, Susquehanna and Tioga county area.  The training session will be held on December 8 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, North Campus on Route 6 east of Wellsboro.        
While the Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for permitting and inspecting these Marcellus Shale drilling sites, DEP personnel cannot maintain a watch on the activity of all the people, rigs and trucks contracted and subcontracted to produce the gas. Many contractors and companies brought in from outside the state are not yet familiar with our regulations regarding water usae, erosion and sedimentation, and waste disposal. The region is too large and the resources of the regulators too limited to effectively keep track of the exponential growth inactivity taking place.

This training will show participants how to document and record important observation information and who to call in the event of envirnmental harm or public safety issues. Those completing the training program will be provided with a bumper sticker, registration card and logbook for recording observations. There is a $10 registration fee to cover cost of materials. There is a limited of 35 Waterdog trainees for this class. Call 724‐1801x118 to register.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

This Thursday: Info session on what drilling means for Tioga County

Thurs., DEC. 3, 2009 
7:00 PM
Hubbard Auditorium
56 Main Street, Owego, NY

"Marcellus Gas Drilling--What it means to Tioga County"

Chris Burger will present a slide show and talk about what changes we may see in Tioga County when gas drilling begins in the Marcellus Shale. It is especially timely in view of the DEC public hearings on the supplemental DEIS. As president of the Carantouan Greenway I have seen presentations in schools, businesses and churches. Chris's presentation highlights how the impacts of gas spacing, road and pipeline construction affects you - me - us, and is a presentation you do not want to miss.

Chris Burger is chair of the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, served on Cornell University's Eco-Justice Project, a former Broome County Legislator and chaired the Soil and Conservation District and the Sourthern Tier East Regional Planning and Development Board.

This program is sponsored by the Carantouan Greenway.

Thanks to for the program info!  Be sure to check out this blog based out of Bradford County, PA.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Interview with president of Ithaca NY's Toxics Targeting

This videoclip is Amy Goodman's interview with the president of Toxics Targeting, an upstate NY based organization that has created an interactive map database documenting hazardous environmental conditions and accidents in New York State.  TT utilizes local, state & federal public records--some of which are no longer available for research due to homeland security regulations--and continuously updates a database that currently documents nearly 300,000 such sites.  While the interview is based on the particulars of the current natural gas drilling phenomenon occurring in NY, the information is largely transferable to those of us across the border in PA.  Take a moment and either view the clip or read the transcript.  By following this link, you will also find recent, related articles about the environmental issues upstate NY is currently facing due to hydraulic fracturing.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pipe Dreams in Pennsylvania?

Marcellus Shale: Pipe dreams in Pennsylvania?
A region is discovering that the price of the economic boom from natural gas drilling may be irreversible environmental damage and residents' peace of mind.

...[W]ith nearly 700 Marcellus wells drilled throughout the state, the environmental costs of drilling are becoming clear. The gas in the Marcellus "play" may ameliorate the United States' energy needs, but the technique to extract it has damaged streams, water supplies and Pennsylvania's famous forests. It has transformed some of the state's most beautiful landscapes into industrial zones and brought hardship to some who thought it was their lifeline.... 'The regular folk out here will never see the compensation they deserve, and their original water supply is forever gone,' Switzer said. 'I'm never going to make any money on this. All I've lost is my soul.'"

Read the article in its entirety in the Bay Journal from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

December 1st forum @ Cornell University

On Tuesday, December 1st, Cornell University's Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science, the Paleontological Research Institution, the Cornell Water Resources Institute and Cornell Cooperative Extension will host a panel discussion entitled “The Marcellus Shale:  Energy, Environment and the Public Interest.”  The forum will be hold in Uris Hall Auditorium from 4:45-6:45.

This forum is intended to inform the Cornell faculty on the broad range of energy and environmental issues that underlie the current controversy regarding extraction of shale gas from the Marcellus Formation in southern N.Y. and northern Pennsylvania. Cornell experts in geology, energy, groundwater, and public policy will be present to help answer questions regarding the potential risks and benefits associated with this national energy resource.

For more information, see

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lawsuit could be the 1st to prove link between "fracking" and water contamination--and set a precedent for future lawsuits to come

PA lawsuit says drilling polluted water
Mon Nov 9, 2009 9:37am EST
By Jon Hurdle [excerpts below; click title for full text]

AVELLA, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania landowner is suing an energy company for polluting his soil and water in an attempt to link a natural gas drilling technique with environmental contamination. George Zimmermann, the owner of 480 acres in Washington County, southwest Pennsylvania, says Atlas Energy Inc. ruined his land with toxic chemicals used in or released there by hydraulic fracturing.  Water tests at three locations by gas wells on Zimmermann's property -- one is 1,500 feet from his home -- found seven potentially carcinogenic chemicals above "screening levels" set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as warranting further investigation.

Jay Hammond, general counsel for Atlas, said Zimmermann's claims are "completely erroneous" and that the company is in compliance with Pennsylvania's gas-drilling regulations. Hammond said Atlas will "vigorously" defend itself in court and declined further comment.  But Zimmermann says he has evidence that chemicals used by Atlas contaminated his land.  "There are substances that can't be made by nature and that's what's in the ground," he told Reuters during an interview in his 12,000-square-foot house on a remote hilltop....  If Zimmermann wins his case, it would be the first in America to prove that hydraulic fracturing causes water contamination.

Baseline tests on Zimmermann's water a year before drilling began were "perfect," he said. In June, water tests found arsenic at 2,600 times acceptable levels, benzene at 44 times above limits and naphthalene five times the federal standard.  Soil samples detected mercury and selenium above official limits, as well as ethylbenzene, a chemical used in drilling, and trichloroethene, a naturally occurring but toxic chemical that can be brought to the surface by gas drilling....  Companies are not required to disclose the composition of the fluid because of an exemption to a federal clean water law granted to the oil and gas industry in 2005.

Many local residents have been deterred from fighting the gas companies by the expense of legal action and water testing. Zimmermann says he has spent about $15,000 on water tests and will spend whatever it takes to prove his case.  Rural residents who live near gas drilling say their water has become discolored, foul-smelling, or even flammable because methane from disturbed gas deposits has migrated into water wells.

Farmers in southwest Pennsylvania blame cattle deaths and mutations on local fracking. Other complaints attributed to tainted water include children's sickness, skin rashes and neurological disorders.

The industry says the chemicals used in fracking are injected through layers of steel and concrete thousands of feet below aquifers, and so pose no threat to drinking water. Spokesman argue there has never been a documented case of water contamination as a result of fracking.

On Zimmermann's property, the presence of water and soil contaminants that exceed EPA screening levels risks wider pollution of drinking water supply, wrote Cleason Smith, a consultant with Hydrosystems Management, which tested the soil and water, in a letter explaining the test results.  Atlas rejected Smith's report, saying in court documents that the findings were inadmissible....

Zimmermann's suit says his land has become "virtually valueless" because it is permanently contaminated with toxic chemicals as a result of the 10 wells that Atlas has drilled.  The suit accuses Atlas -- which is able to drill on the land because it acquired the mineral rights from a previous owner -- of negligence. It is seeking an injunction against further drilling, and unspecified financial damages.

With a wife, an eight-year-old son and eight-month-old twins, Zimmermann, 66, worries about air and water quality.  He said he has invested about $11 million in the estate, which includes a winery and an heirloom-tomato business, but he now just wants to walk away because he believes it has been ruined by gas drilling.  He rates his chances of selling the property as "slim to none" in light of the proven water contamination.

"I don't want to live here any more," Zimmermann said. "I'm afraid of the chemicals."

(Editing by Mark Egan and Philip Barbara)
© Thomson Reuters 2009. All rights reserved.

Residents in Dimock, PA sue Cabot Oil & Gas Corps over gas drilling

Pennsylvania residents sue over gas drilling.  

By Jon Hurdle

DIMOCK, Pennsylvania, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Residents of a small rural Pennsylvania town sued Cabot Oil & Gas Corp (COG.N: Quote, Profile,Research, Stock Buzz) on Friday, claiming the company's natural-gas drilling has contaminated their water wells with toxic chemicals, caused sickness and reduced their property values. The lawsuit accuses the company of violating state environmental laws by allowing drilling chemicals to escape from gas wells, where they are used in a technique called hydraulic fracturing.

A Cabot spokesman said the company had not had time to study the lawsuit in detail but said Cabot was in full compliance with Pennsylvania's environmental laws and "disappointed" by the lawsuit. "We don't see merit in these claims," Cabot spokesman Ken Komoroski said. The company, like others in the industry, has argued that its drilling processes are safe because chemicals are heavily diluted and are injected into the ground through layers of steel and concrete thousands of feet below the aquifers that are used for drinking water. The industry says there has never been a documented case of ground water contamination because of hydraulic fracturing. The case is one of the first to confront the industry over the technique, which critics claim pollutes aquifers with chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses.

Cabot's drilling allowed methane to escape into private water wells and in two cases caused wellhead explosions due to a gas build-up, the 15 families in the lawsuit claim. Pat Farnelli, 46, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told reporters on Friday that some of her eight children suffered stomach cramps after drinking water from the family's well, which is a few hundred yards from a gas well. She ruled out water-borne bacteria because boiling the water didn't help.

The suit is the culmination of complaints by residents of the northeastern Pennsylvania community where Cabot has drilled dozens of gas wells in its efforts to develop the Marcellus Shale, a massive gas formation that underlies about two-thirds of Pennsylvania and parts of surrounding states. "These releases, spills and discharges caused the plaintiffs and their property to be exposed to such hazardous gases, chemicals and industrial wastes," said the complaint. The complaint says residents have suffered neurological, gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms from exposure to tainted water. They also say they have had blood test results consistent with exposure to heavy metals.

Victoria Switzer, a plaintiff who lives about a mile from Carter's home, said she had joined the lawsuit because she had failed to get satisfaction from the state Department of Environmental Protection or her elected representatives. "Lawyers were the last thing I wanted," she said. "We are not greedy people, we just want some justice." The lawsuit accuses Cabot of negligence and says it has failed to restore residential water supplies disrupted by gas drilling. It seeks a permanent injunction to stop the drilling processes that are blamed for the contamination, as well as unspecified compensatory damages.

Residents of many gas-drilling areas in the United States say the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing are contaminating ground water. However, they have been unable to prove that, in part because energy companies are not required to disclose the composition of their drilling fluids.

Gas deposits such as the Marcellus Shale offer the United States an opportunity to reduce dependence on overseas oil imports and reduce carbon emissions, advocates say. But development could slow if fracturing is shown to be environmentally damaging. (Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Michelle Nichols, Richard Chang and Steve Orlofsky)

© Thomson Reuters 2009. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of Thomson Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters and its logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Thomson Reuters group of companies around the world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some sobering facts

  • 21 of 31 states have NO regulations specific to hydraulic facturing.
  • 4 states *do* have detailed regulations guiding the "fracking" process (and PA is not among them)
  • 10 drilling states require that fracturing chemicals be disclosed
  • 0 states require that the volume of hydraulic fracturing fluid left underground be recorded.
Sources: State Oil and Natural Gas Regulations Designed to Protect Water Resources, May 2009, U.S. Department of Energy, office of Fossil Energy, National Energy Technology Lab, and the Ground Water Protection Council

For an excellent rundown of the current issues New York state is facing in the midst of all the drilling occuring right across the border, see Buried secrets: gas drilling's environmental threat 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Area newspaper coverage

If you live in the Tioga County area, you can read all of the stories and editorials written on natural gas drilling by clicking here for info appearing in the Wellsboro Gazette. Read the coverage in the Elmira Star Gazette here. The Williamsport Gazette has a special page on their website devoted to natural gas drilling information.

Better yet: submit your own Letters to the Editor of these or other area newspapers.  

Click here to submit your own Letter to the Editor of the Elmira Star Gazette.

Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor of the Wellsboro Gazette.

Letters to the Williamsport Gazette can be submitted here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hear one PA farmer's story

Don't know where to start? Upcoming (FREE!) skills training right across the border!

Right across the border in downtown Ithaca NY, there is a very active grassroots group--Shaleshock--taking action to understand and protect communities from environmental accidents and other effects caused by the natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.  The weekend of December 4-6, they're bringing in The Ruckus Society,--one of the most respected organizations for the development of grassroots organizations--for FREE skills training on what you can do to get yourselves organized to effect change.  

The deadline to register for the training is NOVEMBER 16 so if you want to go, sign up now as space is limited.  Click on the link for "skills training" for more information and to register.  I received confirmation from their organizers that this training is not just limited to just NY residents--there are people already registered from PA but they're encouraging more people to join up.  If you haven't already, join their email list here. 

Think the problem is too big? Too overwhelming?

The following is excerpted from "Wanna Get Some Action?"--a collaborative pamphlet produced by several environmental groups including the Energy Action CoalitionEnergy Justice Network and

What kinda power we got?
Throughout history we can look to examples of how everyday people have used their community-based power to win a more just society in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.  In fact, many of the rights and comforts we now take for granted resulted from people like us getting together and collectively taking action when injustice couldn’t be ignored anymore, like…

  • The 40 hour work week (and weekends!)
  • Voting rights for women, youth (over 18), African-Americans
  • The end of formal slavery
  • Maternity leave
  • Ending child labor / The right to go to school
  • Civil rights
  • The rights of people with disabilities to reasonable accommodation to hold jobs and access businesses....
These social movements faced massive opposition in their time - the power holders put everything they had into maintaining the status quo, and making it seem like there was no alternative. But they were wrong. People used the power of their numbers and, at strategic moments, took bold actions to demand changes, which were eventually put into law by policy makers.

You *can* make a difference.  But you can't wait for someone else to do it for you.  If you're upset, scared, concerned--you need to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and do something.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Journey of the Forsaken

This site has to be seen to be believed.  Telling an incredible story through personal observations, photographs, and videoclips, it documents one family's experience from 2004 through 2008 as *60* natural gas wells are developed within 1 mile of their home in Colorado (they do not have any wells on their own property).  If you have any doubts about what is on the horizon as these gas companies continue to drill with apparent disregard for the safety of our water supply, our environment, and our health--you won't have them after reading through this incredible story. Included is a thorough explanation (with images!) of the fracking process.

Water Contamination Concerns Linger for Shale Gas

Apprehension over the contamination of water supplies following hydraulic fracturing (more commonly known as "fracking"); identifying the risks of fracking to our water supply; and illustrations showing the fracking process are detailed in this recent NPR story.  Of particular note: concerns in Dimock, PA

NPR Interview: Health Issues Follow Natural Gas Drilling in Texas

If you didn't hear this piece when it aired, take a moment to listen (or read) the NPR interview with the mayor of Dish, TX a small town in the northern part of the state.  After decades of living in the town, many residents are experiencing serious, unexplained health issues since the installation of 11 natural gas compression stations within the town limits.  Air tests since the stations have been built have shown "extremely high levels of carcinogens and neurotoxins."

As Mayor Tillman noted, "if you don't learn from what has happened here, by the time that the odor gets bad enough for you to not want it there, by the time that the noise gets loud enough that it's disturbing you, it's already too late."


The recent influx of natural gas companies to the area is raising great concern to those who know and love the  beautiful mountains of northeastern PA and the greater southern tier.  This blog is a place to exchange information, ideas, and concerns so that we can protect our homes, our water supply, the air we breathe, and our very selves.  Please join the conversation.