Monday, November 29, 2010

Submit your question to Dept of Energy Secretary for tomorrow's live chat

Now's the time to make your voice heard!  Tomorrow (Tuesday), Steven Chu, Secretary for the Department of Energy, will be taking questions on building a "clean energy economy" during a live video chat.  Even if he is unable to answer all of the questions, it will surely make an impact if he receives an avalanche of them on the "cleanliness" of natural gas drilling as an alternative. To submit your question, click HERE for the online submission form.

From the White House:  "This week, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu is answering your questions in a live video chat. Secretary Chu recently delivered a speech calling on the United States to sharply accelerate innovations in clean energy -- citing China and other countries' recent advances in clean technology as a critical "Sputnik Moment" for the U.S. Now, it’s your chance to ask the Secretary your questions on building a clean energy economy."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New PA drilling rules to be implemented by January 2011.

Pennsylvania rules panel OKs new gas-drilling safeguards

"HARRISBURG, Pa. — Crews rushing to drill deep, high-pressure wells into the vast Marcellus Shale reservoir beneath Pennsylvania will soon have tougher safety standards to obey as regulators work to modernize the state’s environmental protection laws.
The Independent Regulatory Review Commission, the gatekeeper of Pennsylvania state regulations, unanimously approved a set of proposed standards at its Thursday meeting. The rules are expected to be published and final no later than January.
“Today’s action is another major step in making sure that Pennsylvania updates its regulations and grows its oversight with the Marcellus industry,” Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said after the vote.
Hanger’s agency wrote the proposal, the latest of several sets of new regulations designed to protect waterways and drinking water supplies from natural gas migrating underground, well-site chemical spills and the massive volumes of toxic sludge that comes out of newly drilled wells.

[This AP story appeared Nov 18; click HERE to read the remainder of the story in full...including photos].

Friday, November 26, 2010

30+ violations this year alone...and XTO keeps on drilling...

[Note: this story was written by Mark Levy for the Philadelphia Inquirer & originally appeared HERE on Nov. 24th.]

Pa. DEP studying leak at gas well
The XTO leak polluted a Lycoming County stream. It was not the company's first leak.
By Marc Levy, Associated Press

HARRISBURG - State officials were investigating a leak of drilling wastewater at a natural-gas well site in north-central Pennsylvania that polluted a stream and a spring, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said Tuesday.

A department inspector discovered the leak last week while visiting a producing well owned by XTO Energy Inc. in Lycoming County, where the company is tapping into the vast Marcellus Shale gas reserve.

The inspector noticed an open bottom valve on a 21,000-gallon tank containing fluids left over from the hydraulic fracturing process used to stimulate a newly drilled well. The inspector closed the valve, but tests on two nearby waterways show signs of pollution, the department said.

Investigators still do not know how the valve opened, and have not met with XTO officials yet, department spokesman Dan Spadoni said.

A spokeswoman for XTO's parent company, Houston-based Exxon Mobil Corp., said Tuesday that about 2,400 gallons leaked and that XTO was cleaning it up and taking steps to keep it from happening again. The company initially told state officials that, as a worst-case scenario, about 13,000 gallons could have leaked, but it settled on the lower figure after employees reviewed inventory records, Exxon spokeswoman Rachael Moore said.

Neither Moore nor Spadoni knew how long the fluid had been sitting in the tank.

This was not the first such leak for XTO.

Violation records posted online by the department from a May inspection of a Lycoming County well owned by XTO reported a wastewater spill of about five barrels, or 200 gallons, because of an open valve. Before the latest leak, XTO had racked up 31 violations in 2010, according to department records.

XTO has drilled more than 20 Marcellus Shale wells in Pennsylvania since the beginning of 2009, department records show.

In the hydraulic fracturing process, millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals are blasted into the well to break apart the shale and release the gas.

The wastewater that comes back up the well is typically a toxic sludge of dissolved chlorides, sulfates, and metals accumulated in the shale, and must either be treated on site or be trucked away to a special treatment facility.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

EPA goes after Halliburton on hydrofracturing

[As posted on Innovation Trail by Zack Seward 11/9/20]

The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations are reporting that the EPA and Halliburton are butting heads over hydrofracking.

On Tuesday the EPA said it had subpoenaed Halliburton after the energy giant refused to disclose the chemicals it uses in the controversial drilling technique.

Hydrofracking relies on injecting a slurry of water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations. The millions of gallons of slurry are used to force open channels in the earth's crust, thereby allowing oil and natural gas to flow upward.

Of nine major energy companies contacted by the EPA, Halliburton was the only one to refuse the agency's request for its chemical formulas.

Through a company spokesperson, Halliburton told the Wall Street Journal they were disappointed by today's move:

In a written statement, Houston-based Halliburton said the EPA made "unreasonable demands" that would potentially require the company to prepare approximately 50,000 spreadsheets of data. The company said it had been working with the agency "in good faith" and has turned over nearly 5,000 pages of documents as recently as last Friday.

Drilling companies have long sought to protect their chemical formulas, calling them proprietary.

The EPA is studying whether hydrofracking affects drinking water and the public health. As we've been reporting, the study comes as natural gas companies stand poised to expand Marcellus Shale development into New York state.

Today's announcement from the EPA is especially interesting, considering President Obama's recent indication that natural gas would be one of his lead olive branches to newly-empowered Republicans in Congress.

To read the original article, including photos, please click HERE.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Obama's Enthusiasm for Gas Drilling Raises Eyebrows

[This article was originally posted on on 11.4.2010]

By MIKE SORAGHAN of Greenwire

President Obama's newfound interest in expanded natural gas drilling yesterday surprised many on all sides of the drilling debate, from environmentalists to drillers and even the coal industry.

"Representatives of drilling groups said they had no idea that Obama would make natural gas his lead olive branch to the newly empowered Capitol Hill Republicans. But they were pleased that he did.

"I was surprised by the venue," said Chris Tucker, spokesman for Energy In Depth, a drilling industry group formed to fight off federal regulation of shale gas drilling.

Obama's remarks seemed to refer to vast new sources of shale gas in Pennsylvania, Texas and their neighboring states. Improvements in "hydraulic fracturing" technology have allowed production from formations under those states previously thought to be too expensive to exploit (E&ENews PM, Nov. 3).

"We've got, I think, broad agreement that we've got terrific natural gas resources in this country," Obama said when he was pressed for issues on which he could compromise with Republican leaders. "Are we doing everything we can to develop those?"

Tucker said Obama's remarks were in line with the actions of some of his Cabinet departments.

"The president's remarks yesterday fit perfectly with a State Department that is actively looking to export the shale revolution globally, an Energy Department that views shale as a fuel with enormous potential for our future and an EPA that has consistently stated that the technology needed to produce shale gas is safe," Tucker said.

Another gas group, America's Natural Gas Alliance, called Obama's remarks "And they were his strongest public comments to date in support of natural gas."

But not everyone sees gas drilling as so "terrific." Environmentalists are worried that the "hydraulic fracturing" technology used to pry loose the gas could contaminate drinking water."

To read the remainder of the article in its entirety--including the mystery of why the topic of natural gas drilling even arose at this press conference, please click HERE.

Just how much did the gas industry spend on buying the election?

[Posted on, 11.4.2010]

Natural gas industry spent heavily on Pennsylvania Republican candidates
By John P. Martin, Inquirer Staff Writer

On the day Pennsylvanians elected Republican Tom Corbett governor, his campaign logged four donations.

Two came from individuals, a third from the state Republican Party. The fourth, campaign reports show, was $1,000 from the natural-gas driller Range Resources.

For a candidate who raised nearly $30 million, that $1,000 from the Texas company was a drop in the bucket. But it underscored the role the natural-gas industry played, even at the closing moments, in an election critical to its future.

The gas firms, their employees, or others who stand to gain as Marcellus Shale drilling expands put more than $500,000 into Pennsylvania candidates' coffers since September, state reports show. Much of the money came in donations of five figures or greater; most of it went to Republicans; and all of it was legal in a state with no contribution limits.

At the same time, drillers' lobbyists spent hundreds of thousands trying to shape the debate as lawmakers in Harrisburg weighed new taxes and regulations.

For them, the season could not have had a better ending. First, Gov. Rendell and legislators failed to reach a promised deal on a natural-gas tax. Then Republicans captured the General Assembly and governor's office.

Corbett has pledged not to impose any new taxes, making it unlikely drillers will face anything close to the 5 percent tax on gas revenues Rendell once proposed.

The industry had backed Corbett from the outset, giving his campaign $835,000 through mid-October, according to an analysis by the watchdog group Common Cause. As the race entered its last week, Corbett took in nearly $200,000 more from drilling interests.

That included a $100,000 check from Lance Shaner, the newly appointed chief executive officer of Rex Energy, which has permits for 57 wells and more pending. Also on the list was $15,000 from Michael Radler, an executive at Chief Oil & Gas, which has nearly 200 permits and which had already given Corbett's campaign $53,000.

In addition, $50,000 came from Kentucky businessman Richard Corman, whose rail company serves drilling sites.

Christine Torretti, chief executive at S.W. Jack Drilling, chipped in $4,997, upping to $250,000 her two-year total to the state GOP and its top nominee. That included covering about $15,000 in air fare and hotels for Corbett's campaign.

And on Monday, Corbett collected $10,000 from Frac Tech Solutions, a Cisco, Texas, firm specializing in hydraulic fracturing, the process of retrieving gas from the shale.

Bill Hicks, general counsel for Frac Tech, said there was nothing significant about the donation's timing. He said the company employs 100 people in Pennsylvania and has had projects here since 2007.

"We believe Tom Corbett would work to encourage further development of the Marcellus Shale in a sensible way," Hicks said Wednesday.

Corbett wasn't the only beneficiary of such largesse. Senate President Pro Tem Joseph Scarnati (R., Jefferson), a key figure in the tax stalemate with Rendell, accepted more than $100,000 between June and October from individuals or groups with ties to energy companies, his campaign reported.

Scarnati doesn't face reelection for two years. He passed much of the money to Republican candidates who needed it.

That meant $50,000 each to Jim Cawley, the Bucks County commissioner who was Corbett's running mate and is now lieutenant governor-elect, and Sen. Bob Mensch (R., Montgomery), who was fighting to keep the seat he won in a special election last year. And $10,000 to buy video services for Kris Vanderman, who lost a GOP Senate bid in Washington County.

Scarnati's campaign also gave $280,000 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee. Scarnati's top aide, Drew Crompton, said there was nothing improper about the GOP leader's passing his contributions to other campaign committees.

He also dismissed as "totally reprehensible" any suggestion that the gas donations bought influence or access. Crompton said Scarnati worked hard toward brokering a severance tax when some in the industry wanted no tax at all.

"He had every intention of getting the package done by Oct. 1," Crompton said Wednesday. "It wasn't like we were just talking about a tax."

Beyond the campaign contributions, drillers increased their lobbying efforts in Harrisburg. An early glimpse at lobbying reports due this week shows that energy concerns spent more than $2.1 million lobbying in the quarter than ended Oct. 1.

To read the remainder of the article in its entirety, please click HERE.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Tioga County man stabbed to death by gas industry worker

[Please note: this article was originally posted on, 11.5.2010]

Gas industry worker charged in Pa. stabbing death
Landry being held in death of his landlord
By Jason Whong
CHARLESTON TOWNSHIP, TIOGA COUNTY, Pa. -- A gas industry worker from Texas has been charged in the Thursday night stabbing death of a local man from whom he rented a room.

Pennsylvania State Police in Mansfield arrested Billy Holden Landry, 49, of Liverpool, Texas. He is charged with criminal homicide and aggravated assault in the death of Shawn Charles Miller, 44, of Cherry Flats Road in Charleston Township, east of Wellsboro.

Police were called just before 11:30 p.m. Thursday to 158 Cherry Flats Road, where Miller rented two upstairs bedrooms to Landry and another gas industry worker.

Miller had no pulse when medics arrived, according to a criminal complaint against Landry filed in District Court in Wellsboro.

Miller was pronounced dead at the scene by the Tioga County Coroner's Office.

Police said the men were arguing before the stabbing.

Kimberly A. Hess said she witnessed the argument at the home that her mother, Connie Everitt, shared with Miller, Everitt's boyfriend of 13 years. Miller rented the two upstairs bedrooms in the three-bedroom home to "oil-riggers," she said.

Hess said she spent the night on the couch and was awakened by Miller asking Landry and the other man, Mike Helton, to be quiet.

"They were drunk, and one had a girl over, and they were all just rowdy and making noise," Hess said.

Hess said she heard a voice from upstairs taunting Miller and asking him to come upstairs.

Miller remained at the bottom of the stairs and asked them to "shut up, be quiet," she said.

Hess said the men came downstairs, one with a knife, as Everitt tried to keep the men apart.

Everyone was "eventually pushed down on top of Shawn," Hess said, as the fight moved toward the television.

"There was a candle that got broke, and I seen blood coming ... from Shawn's wrists, from the top of his hand, actually. And I thought it was from the candle getting broken," she said.

Miller took a few steps, then fell over. "That's when we realized he had gotten cut ... right below his chest," Hess said, as she traced a line across her abdomen with her finger.

"We were trying to give him CPR."

Landry and Helton left immediately afterward, she said. "They left without their shirts on or anything. They didn't grab their bags or nothing."

Just after midnight, Landry went to state police in Mansfield and told the dispatcher that he wanted to speak with a trooper "about a situation he was involved in," according to the complaint.

Landry told the dispatcher that "two females had beat him up" and that he had stabbed a man "in self-defense," according to the complaint.

When a trooper interviewed Landry, he said he was protecting himself and that "nobody should take a beating and not protect themselves."

To read the remainder of the article in full (including photos), please click HERE.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Where's the nearest brick wall??

So let me get this straight.  The gas companies spend nearly a million dollars to make sure their guy wins the gubernatorial race and the citizens of PA actually bought the snow job?  Check out this map on MSNBC's site.  Scroll down to see county by county results.  In nearly every single county struggling with the repercussions of drilling in their backyards, 2 and 3 times the number of people voted AGAINST THEIR OWN INTERESTS by choosing Corbett as their governor.  Where's the nearest brick wall???

Do not forget to vote today!

So very much rests on the decision you make today.  It's your privilege and your right.  Use it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Some protection for our state parks after all?

Pending the outcome of Tuesday's election (which might possibly bury the issue of such a policy), this could be some very good news for PA's state parks and forests.

[This article appeared on  the website for Scranton's Times Tribune].

Policy targets drilling in parks
By Robert Swift (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published October 30, 2010

HARRISBURG - A new policy to minimize the impact of potential natural gas drilling on state park and forest land where the state doesn't own subsurface mineral rights is being established by state environmental officials.

The policy by the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and Natural Resources requires applicants for drilling permits to specify all areas of a tract that will be disturbed.

DCNR will then evaluate how drilling on the tract will affect wildlife, water resources, public recreation and environmentally sensitive areas and recommend steps to limit its impact.

Prospective drillers will include DCNR's environmental review when they submit an application for a well-drilling permit to DEP.

A clear review policy is needed because the state doesn't own the mineral rights to 80 percent of state park land and 15 percent of state forest land, said DCNR Secretary John Quigley. In these situations, DCNR lacks the ability to put controls in place that would come with a standard lease agreement. But DEP can compensate for that by attaching conditions to a drilling permit to address environmental issues, officials said.

Sixty state parks are located in the Marcellus Shale formation, the focus of a new type of drilling for deep gas pockets.

DCNR officials are concerned about potential drilling at the popular Ohiopyle State Park in Southwest Pennsylvania, said agency spokeswoman Chris Novak. Some companies are interested in doing seismic tests at Ohiopyle and the state owns the mineral rights to only 4,000 acres of the park's 20,000 acres.

A group of Susquehanna County residents is taking action to protect Salt Springs State Park from the impact of drilling. Several Marcellus Shale wells have been drilled on nearby land outside the park.

The Silver Lake Association petitioned the state Environmental Quality Board in March to grant an "exceptional value" designation for the Silver Creek watershed which includes the state park.

This designation would ban activities that can degrade the watershed's water quality.

To read the remainder of this article, please click HERE.

Gas Boom Mints Instant Millionaires

[The following article appeared via CNN Money by way of Yahoo News]:  
Tuesday, October 26, 2010  
by Steve Hargreaves, senior writer

TOWANDA, Pa. — In the hills of northwest Pennsylvania, the boom in natural gas production turned mechanic Chris Sutton into a millionaire practically overnight.

Sutton recently leased his 154 acres of land on the Marcellus Shale to Talisman Energy for a $900,000 up front check, plus a 20% cut of the revenue of the natural gas extracted from his land.

A half hour away it's a very different story. Truman Burnett's retirement home is ruined: His pond is contaminated by a drilling accident on land owned by a neighbor and his well water is undrinkable.

Burnett doesn't blame the neighbor for the mishap, but the fortunes of Burnett and Sutton illustrate just how dramatically the shale gas phenomenon is dividing Pennsylvania.

Some are getting very rich, while others see nothing but problems.

Nearly everyone appreciates the economic benefits derived from the development of the cleaner, domestic energy source in the Marcellus, which stretches under Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York and Ohio.

But as shale gas production takes off in the Northeast and in other shale formations across the country, people should pay attention to Pennsylvania.

Here, debate about the speed of development, the influx of out-of-state workers, the safety of the drinking water, and the changing character of the area is dividing this state's rural communities.

**A Boom in Bloom**

Towanda, a town of some 3,000 people about 60 miles northwest of Scranton, is in the midst of a full-on energy boom.

Hotel rooms are impossible to get — one hotel was booked through December. Rents on two-bedroom apartments have gone from $400 to $1,500 a month. The downtown is jammed with traffic, much of it tractor trailers loaded down with drilling materials and equipment. One resident counted over 100 passing his house in an hour.

"We're being invaded," Jim Stuart, a longtime Towanda resident, said from the counter of a downtown diner. "And I don't deal well with things being shoved down my throat."

The invaders, mostly workers from Texas and Oklahoma, are here for the vast deposits of natural gas.

It's been long known that gas exists in this part of Pennsylvania, but extracting it was too costly. But a few years ago, shale gas became economical. The reason: Higher gas prices and advances in drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

Known as fracking, hydraulic fracturing is a process that involves breaking the shale with vast amounts of pressurized water, sand and chemicals. It's being described as one of the biggest developments in energy in a long time.

It was pioneered in Texas, then Louisiana and Arkansas. Now it's in Pennsylvania.

"It's been the opportunity of a lifetime," said Jodi Edger, who runs a construction and excavating company that builds the well pads and services the rigs. "If it wasn't for the oil and gas industry, there wouldn't be a whole lot up here."

Edger has doubled the size of his staff in the last year or so, going from 50 employees to over 100.

Laborers get $14 an hour, and backhoe and bulldozer operators earn $18 or more. Everyone has full benefits and gets overtime, which adds up fast. He says his people are putting in 60 and 80 hour weeks.

"You hear the doom and gloom about what's happening with the economy on the national news, and then you see what's happening up here," he said. "I can't even find a truck driver."

On the other side of town, Joe Snell sells welding gas and equipment to contractors working the rigs.

Snell said his sales exploded from about $10,000 a month last fall to over $50,000 a month now.

Lunching with three of his customers at a local diner, it was all jokes.

"Working up here, we found out the difference between northerners and southerners," said one of the welders. "Down there we're rednecks, up here they're hillbillies." Everyone laughed.

For Brianna Morales, proprietor of the BriMarie Inn a half hour north of Towanda in the town of Sayre, the influx of workers has meant more business and the opportunity to meet new people.

"It's neat to learn some of the south's traditions, and the food they like," she said.

**Hot Tempers**

But the mood isn't always so light.

A few months back, there was a 15-person brawl outside a Towanda bar, supposedly over a girl. Such incidents are getting more common, said Mike Holt, owner of the Red Rose diner, who witnessed the rumble.

"These guys come up here, with their southern accents, all 'yes m'am, no m'am,' flashing lots of money, and the women are impressed," said Holt. "The local men feel intimidated."

At a bar in Sayre, one roughneck from Louisiana was seen carrying on with the local women, drinking, and pulling out a wad of bills.

After he left, one patron was overheard talking about the greed in town, and the damage this drilling may be causing the environment.

**The Water**

The traffic may be the most visible and most complained about thing in this region. But it's likely temporary — after the wells are drilled it'll be gone.

To read the remainder of the original article, please click HERE.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Great move, but a little late

Given that three quarters of a MILLION acres in PA state forests are already under lease which could ultimately produce 1,000 well pads--each with 6-10 wells....

Let's pause here and let this sink in: 6,000 to 10,000 state forests.  I'm still stunned this could even happen.  Why designate land a state forest to be enjoyed by  hikers & campers, for hunting & fishing--if it's not a protected resource?  I don't get how this is even legal.  Regardless, there's not a thing that can be done about it now but (1) hope the gas companies won't drill there on moral grounds (ahem) or (2) slap them with a tax on gas extraction to clean up the mess they're going to make of a beautiful natural resource and to replace all the lost tourism revenue PA will be seeing in the not too distant future.  Every other state with gas drilling imposes severance taxes...except PA.

So Gov. Rendell has decided to put a moratorium on future gas drilling in state forests now that he lost the recent battle on imposing a severance tax for gas extraction.  After 700,000 acres in state forests have already been leased and two months before he leaves office.  Really?  If Corbett, who has received nearly $1 million in campaign donations from gas companies, wins the gubernatorial election on November 2, what do you think his first move is going to be?

Corbett thinks the tax will send "thousands of jobs elsewhere."  The last time I checked, the Marcellus Shale isn't going anywhere.  Does he really think the companies will just not drill in an area that's been described as the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas?"  And as for those jobs, my general observation in my own neck of the woods is that the large percentage--and I mean 80-90%--of those jobs are being filled by company men from  out of state.  These companies are building entire hotels--or buying existing ones as has been rumored--to house their workforces; traffic in town(s) is now gridlock much of the time; and most of the pickups I'm seeing all have out of state plates.  But again, this is my own general observation.

At any rate, read all about the moratorium in yesterday's article posted on (Pittsburgh's)

Rendell to order halt to gas wells
Plans moratorium on state forests after losing battle to enact gas tax
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau

HARRISBURG -- "Gov. Ed Rendell plans a moratorium on further leasing of state forest land for natural gas drilling after losing a grueling battle to enact a Marcellus Shale tax and watching Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Corbett -- who opposes a tax -- take in campaign cash from natural gas companies.

The Democratic governor will hold a news conference today in his hometown of Philadelphia, where he will "sign an executive order instituting a strategic moratorium on future drilling operations in the state," according to a news release.

However, a future moratorium wouldn't stop natural gas drilling planned for 700,000 acres of state forest land located in the vast areas of Marcellus Shale -- land that has already been leased to private companies. There have been two lease sales since 2008, bringing in a total of $296 million for the state's Oil and Gas Fund.

Only 25 wells are now producing gas on that forest land, but eventually 1,000 "well pads," each with six to 10 wells, could be located there, according to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Mr. Rendell will leave office in January, so whether a moratorium on leasing forest land would continue beyond January would be up to either Mr. Corbett or Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato. They'll face off in the Nov. 2 election.

As for Mr. Corbett, a new report by, compiled by Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania and Common Cause/Pennsylvania, listed his political contributions from the gas drilling industry at $856,220 over the last 10 years, with most of the money coming in over the last two years.

The new Corbett total is up from the $700,000 reported a few weeks ago and the $373,000 reported in June. Mr. Onorato has received significantly less in the last decade -- $124,300. Mr. Onorato favors a severance tax on Marcellus Shale gas, while Mr. Corbett does not.

"In the last weeks before the election, drilling industry CEOs went all out for Tom Corbett because he thinks that ordinary Pennsylvanians should pay to clean up the messes that their drills leave behind,'' claimed Josh McNeil of Conservation Voters.

Mr. Corbett said the natural gas industry is just in the beginning stages in this state and he doesn't want to impose a tax that could send thousands of jobs elsewhere. He said his policies will not be swayed by campaign contributions.

The Marcellus Shale, a rock bed a mile or more beneath three-quarters of Pennsylvania and parts of New York, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia, contains as much as 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The extraction process involves a high-pressure procedure that pumps up to 8 million gallons water and chemical additives into the wells to fracture the shale and release the gas.

Also in Philadelphia today, Mr. Rendell will continue his criticism of Senate Republicans for their "unwillingness to enact a severance tax on the natural gas industry." He said Monday the Legislature is displaying "recklessness" regarding a projected $3 billion or more budget shortfall in 2011 by its failure to enact a gas severance tax.

He claimed it's "senseless" for Pennsylvania to ignore the $100 million or more that could be generated by imposing a "fair'' extraction tax on the thousands of cubic feet of natural gas being extracted from Marcellus Shale.

He said he had offered a compromise tax plan that is reasonable for both the drillers and the state, one that's less burdensome than his original severance tax plan, proposed in February and modeled on the tax used in West Virginia.

He criticized legislators for taking large campaign contributions from the shale drillers, claiming there is "no question'' that those donations have led to the Legislature's reluctance to enact a shale tax.

Senate Republicans favor a tax of 1.5 percent on the selling price of gas at the wellhead for the first five years of a well's life, then rising to 5 percent. Mr. Rendell favors a 3 percent tax the first year, rising to 4 percent the second year and then 5 percent thereafter.

Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who has gotten $143,000 from the gas industry, said the drilling industry has created many jobs in his district, especially in Tioga County, and he doesn't want drillers to go to other states if Pennsylvania enacts too high a tax.

Mr. Rendell said all other states with Marcellus Shale drilling have an extraction tax. He said it makes no sense for Pennsylvania to be the only state without such a tax, especially when the state faces a large budget shortfall next year. He called on Senate leaders to return to session after the Nov. 2 election to work on a shale tax, saying, "I will negotiate night and day.''

But GOP Senate leaders say they won't meet during the "lame duck'' session after the election. The Democrat-led House plans to come back for a few days in November, but without the Senate, no tax bill could get final action.

This version corrects details of Republicans' gas tax proposal. Harrisburg Bureau Chief Tom Barnes: or 1-717-787-4254."

You may also read the article as it appeared by clicking HERE.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Satellite imagery shows destruction caused by gas well drilling in Marcellus Shale

Recently, Jay Langham, a concerned resident of Washington County, PA authored a photo essay on the gas well activity in his area.  Combining his own images with those freely available from Google Earth, Langham does an excellent job illustrating exactly how Marcellus Shale extraction is forever altering the landscape of these communities.  Since many of the images are taken from Google's satellite photography, the breadth of environmental destruction will be shocking to those who may have only seen the sites from nearby roads or land.  In some cases, Langham notes that some nearby residents were seemingly unaware of the landscape's destruction as some sites are not easily visible.  To view the pdf document of Langham's photo essay, please click HERE.

Please note that you will need (free) Adobe Reader software to view this document.  Most pcs already have this installed but if yours does not, click HERE to get the download.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Will the PA Senate heed Rendell's call tomorrow?

While the House passed a severance tax bill on gas companies prior to their self-imposed October 1st deadline, the Senate failed to follow suit.  There are allegations the Senate let the clock run out in order to stall a decision until after the November 2nd election.  If the GOP gubernatorial candidate, Tom Corbett, wins the election, any such tax will likely be far, far lower than the one passed by the House.  Corbett is a proponent of the gas industry and is against taxing it at all.  The natural gas industry has donated nearly $400,000 to Corbett's campaign; they're hedging their bets, however and have also contributed $75,000 to the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Dan Onorato (see for detailed info).

These donations are in keeping with the overall trend seen in the recent House vote on bill 1155.  According to, the natural gas industry's donations to those in the House who voted *against* the bill were 3.5 times more than those who voted for it.  While both parties have accepted donations from the industry, it's not a generalization in the least to say that Republican candidates overwhelmingly support the gas industry and are working hard to keep any such severance taxes exceedingly low--if not non-existent.

As Josh McNeil of Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania puts it, “It may not be in the interests of the gas industry, but a Marcellus Shale drilling tax is good for the Commonwealth, good for local communities, and good for the environment.  When legislators take thousands of dollars from the gas industry, then vote to let that industry take our resources for free, we have to wonder whose interests they’re really serving.”

So Rendell is calling for the Senate to meet during tomorrow's scheduled holiday, Columbus Day, to debate the severance tax issue.  What follows is an article by Angela Couloumbis as posted on Oct. 9, 2010 on  Click on the title to read the article in full on or read the opening paragraphs below.

Rendell calls for meeting on the Monday holiday to speed natural-gas tax negotiations

HARRISBURG - Gov. Rendell is haranguing legislative leaders to return to work on Columbus Day and discover a route, at long last, to a tax on natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale.

At a news conference Friday, Rendell decried what he called a "preposterous" lack of substantive talks to establish a tax rate. He said he had organized a meeting for 1:30 p.m. Monday - a state holiday - with key legislators and industry representatives in the hope of reaching a deal.

"We made a promise to the people of Pennsylvania," he said, referring to his and legislators' midsummer vow to craft a natural gas tax by Oct. 1. "I intend to honor that promise."

But in a sign that such a tax may be delayed again, Republican leaders said they would gladly meet with the lame-duck Democratic governor Tuesday.

They also differed sharply with Rendell's framing of the issue, branding "absolutely untrue" his claim that they were stalling in hope of having a Republican governor by January.

For nearly two years, the natural-gas industry and its allies have staved off proposals to tax the wave of new drilling in the lucrative Marcellus formation. Over the summer, as part of negotiations on the annual budget, legislators promised to return to the Capitol this fall and enact a tax by Oct. 1.

Rendell said the House - where Democrats rule by a slim majority - held up its end with passage of a tax proposal last week. He said the GOP-controlled Senate had done nothing but "carp and criticize" in an apparent attempt to "run out the clock" in the hope that Republican Tom Corbett will be elected governor Nov. 2.

Corbett has said he is against imposing a tax on gas drilling.

"This is all B.S. right now," the governor said of the Senate's stance.  Continue to read the remainder of the article by clicking here.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Law enforcement forced to play "Whack-a-mole" and PA pays one way or another

Law enforcement officials are doing the best they can with the resources they have, but with the natural gas industry wreaking havoc all over the state, they're left playing a "Whack-a-mole" style of policing.  It's nearly impossible to keep up with the results of  the blatant disregard drillers seem to have for PA residents and resources (natural or otherwise).  State officials failed to pass a severance tax through the Senate by October 1st that could provide much needed funds to help ensure drillers abide by regulations; instead the industry continues to pretty much 'regulate' itself in most of the state.  One has to wonder how many other wetlands of "exceptional value" are being knowingly ruined by these companies.  

The gas industry doesn't care what laws they're breaking, what roads they're tearing up or what land they're ruining.  They don't have to; they're not from here, but from states like OK, TX or KS-- here to do a job.  And they're buying our elections to help ensure they're left to continue 'regulating' and policing their own.  See previous post: Just who is buying *your* candidate?  

For more information on this topic, the following excellent article by Ben Waxman, appeared on yesterday, October 8, 2010.

Tax or not, Marcellus Shale drilling is costing Pennsylvania.

State lawmakers agreed back in July to pass a tax on natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale by October 1st. They failed to meet that self-imposed deadline, and now it's looking likely that nothing will happen on the tax until after November because the State House has adjourned for the election.

That's bad news because the state desperately needs new sources of revenue. It's also mind-boggling because companies mining in the Marcellus Shale are taking a huge toll on Pennsylvania's infrastructure.

We'll start in Derry Township, where the large trucks used by natural gas drillers are tearing up newly paved roads.

With three wells completed for Marcellus Shale drilling and 30 more planned, Derry Township supervisors say they're concerned about damage done to roads by heavy equipment. On Thursday morning, the supervisors took state Sen. Kim Ward on a walking tour of damaged streets -- including Superior Road, which they say was paved last year but has large ruts and piles of gravel today.

There are other problems outside of Derry. The state police have taken 140 trucks, mostly used by natural gas drillers, out of service statewide because they failed inspection. The increased enforcement is a response to the large number of vehicles inundating roads in regions with a lot of drilling.

Out in Tioga County, the Department of Environmental Protection has issued a $40,000 fine to a drilling company for several violations.

DEP inspected the Bloss Township, Tioga County, site in March and found that Seneca Resources Corp. of Brookville had filled nearly one acre of “exceptional value” wetland without authorization, improperly built an impoundment, and caused sediment runoff by failing to institute erosion control best management practices.

What do all these incidents have in common? They're examples of how state and local government have been forced to respond to the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling, even though the legislature has failed to pass a severance tax to generate revenue to pay for these responses. Clearly, the impact of drilling is real. Without the proper resources, it's impossible for government agencies across Pennsylvania to ensure the industry does more good than harm.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

US Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels

For lack of anything better to say..."Yay!"

The following article by Elisabeth Rosenthal appears in today's New York Times:

"With insurgents increasingly attacking the American fuel supply convoys that lumber across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the military is pushing aggressively to develop, test and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to transport fossil fuels.

Last week, a Marine company from California arrived in the rugged outback of Helmand Province bearing novel equipment: portable solar panels that fold up into boxes; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity; solar chargers for computers and communications equipment.

The 150 Marines of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, will be the first to take renewable technology into a battle zone, where the new equipment will replace diesel and kerosene-based fuels that would ordinarily generate power to run their encampment.

Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade."

To read the remainder of the article, please click HERE.   Note: if you do not have a (free) NYT account, you *may* be asked to sign up for one.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Inaccuracies in Dimock response.

Please note: what follows is my response to an email sent to me from Michael Lebron of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability.  To read Mr. Lebron's original message to me, please see the post immediately preceeding this one.  The reason I've chosen to post my response to Mr. Lebron is because I want to draw attention to the fact that all of us fighting against this fracking mess are in this together.  So here goes:

Dear Mr. Lebron,
I'm a bit perplexed as to why you're accusing me of false reporting when it's not my reporting that seems to have incurred your ire.  If you actually read the blog post carefully, you would see that my own portion of it consists of a paragraph lead in--commenting on the article which appeared in the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre.  After my own paragraph, appears the following:

[Note: this article, written by Matt Hughes, appeared Oct 1, 2010 in the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre.  Click HERE to see the original article which includes photographs.]  The article then appears as it did on the TL's website.

The section you quote from is actually Matt Hughes's article.  Furthermore, if you had actually bothered to click on that link to see it as it appeard on the Times Leader's site, you would see that Josh Fox himself commented on Hughes's article almost immediately after it appeared:

"Actually, I can't take credit for the demonstration or the signs. I had no idea that was prepared, it just fit perfectly with my question and I guess the crowd decided that it was the right time to unveil the signs. I was as surprised as anyone there. But it was a very appropriate and stunning move. Great job to everyone involved in planning that one! - Josh"

This same comment also appears on Gasland's Facebook site following a posting about the Times Leader's article.

I think it's important to remember that we're all working towards the same goal: to draw attention to this horrible practice of fracking that's quite literally tearing our communities apart.  While I can empathize that you might be upset if someone else is given credit for the hard work DCS and the Carter Road community put in to make their presence known at this event, it's hardly the first time a reporter got it wrong.  Lord knows it's happened to me.  Not having been at the event, however, I had no way of knowing who made the signs or who didn't.  Frankly, that wasn't the point I was trying to make when I reposted the Times Leader's article; my point was in drawing attention to the fact that Dimock is finally going to receive some restitution.

As for your seemingly sour grapes over Josh Fox, I think one can quite legitimately argue that GASLAND has drawn *international* attention to the little town of Dimock as well as to the greater issue of fracking.  My blog is one of many devoted to the natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale; your group is one of many also devoted to bringing attention to the issue.  All of us must realize however, that sometimes it takes something big--like a film--to really get the attention of people not directly involved--people who don't have to deal with the trucks, the roads, the noise, the fear--people who have no idea how much of a marketing scam the government has let loose in order to sell natural gas as the 2nd coming.  GASLAND has done that.  I've never met Josh Fox, but I've seen the film.  He has shone an international spotlight on this issue and for that I'm grateful.

So if you are so upset that the wrong people were given credit for signs that were made, I would suggest you direct your emails/comments to Matt Hughes.  *His* email address appears at the end of his article--as it appears both on the Times Leader's site and at the end of the (re)posting on my blog.

Inaccuracies in Friday's Time's Leader article on Dimock?

On Friday, I reposted an article written by Matt Hughes of Wilkes-Barre's Times Leader.  The article was in regards to Dimock finally getting some restitution.  Today, Sunday, I received a very, shall I say, "heated" email from one Michael Lebron of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability.

Despite the fact I quite clearly indicated the latter portion of the post was an article by Matt Hughes (and provided a link to the original article as well as the text and Hughes's email address), Lebron mistook Hughes's words for my own.  Lebron ended his email to me with these words:  "I am looking forward to seeing you to take off your celebrity-coated lenses by correcting the record on your blog. I am also looking forward to seeing Josh, copied here, ask you to do the same."  So, for whatever it's worth, even though the article in question was merely reposted on my blog and not my article, consider the record corrected--at least on my end.  What follows are Lebron's issues with Hughes's article.  Given the length of his email to me, my response to him will appear in a subsequent post.

Lebron writes that the Hughes's article is:

'...factually inaccurate, and I am dismayed - no, astounded - that this even made it to your corner of the blogosphere since Josh also knows it is inaccurate.

1- Josh Fox did not put this community at the center of the national debate, the Carter Road people themselves did, through their brave stance and actions over the last two years which has been picked up by countless reporters, especially Abrahm Lustgarten, Laura Legerre, and Tom Wlibur, as well as numerous websites and blogs, long before GASLAND was released.

2- Josh Fox did not distribute the signs. Leslie Lewis, her son and I came up with the idea. I designed and wrote them. Raye Levine, daughter of Joe Levine - co founder of DCS and along with myself also a board member - printed and mounted them. The Carter Road community gave them their blessing and I then distributed them to people who I contacted days before the press conf.

3- From your reporting you would think Josh Fox was not only the only person in the room, but that he is able to walk on frack water and turn gas wells into butterflies across our farmlands. Again, the Carter Road community and their legal representative, Leslie Lewis deserve credit for forcing this issue in their litigation and their hang-tough negotiations with the DEP: instead of settling for the status quo solution of quasi-industrial methane separators/filters, they asked for a pipeline to be run out to the nearest clean aquifer, and as a compromise, settled for municipal water. Not only is this unprecedented, but it begged what is the million dollar question for the state of Pennsylvania, asked rhetorically (since I knew the answer) by me at the press conference and POINTEDLY NOT ANSWERED by the Secretary. The question, because of its implications, did not go unnoticed by Laura Legerre, reporter for the Scranton Times Tribune, who chose to pursue it in her Oct 2nd story and managed to get an answer that is close to THE answer:


Families suing Cabot over the contamination initially proposed that the department force the company to drill centralized wells and pipe fresh water to their homes before Mr. Hanger told them a public water line was "the only way to guarantee a permanent safe drinking water supply."

"If you drill another well, there's no guarantee whatsoever right now, given that we still have gas migrating through the geology, that that well won't become contaminated at some point," Mr. Hanger said on Friday.

Mr. Hanger's comments amounted to his bleakest assessment yet by the state of the aquifer that feeds the Dimock homes - four more of which were determined by the state in September to be impacted by methane from Cabot's extensive Marcellus Shale drilling in the township.

Michael Lebron

Saturday, October 2, 2010

PA Chief of Homeland Security resigns over monitoring gas drilling activists

Appearing in yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
By Tom Barnes:

HARRISBURG -- State Homeland Security Director James F. Powers Jr.-- under pressure for a heavily criticized contract -- today announced he's resigning from state government.

There were numerous calls for Gov. Ed Rendell to fire Mr. Powers, ever since word got out two weeks ago about a $103,000 contract Mr. Powers signed with the Institute for Terrorism Research and Response a year ago. Civil libertarians, state Sen. Jim Ferlo, Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields and others were angry about a so-called anti-terrorism contract he agreed to.

It led to tracking and monitoring of many protest groups around the state, including gay/lesbian parades and protests against Marcellus Shale drilling. Mr. Ferlo and Mr. Shields said he should be fired for violating people's constitutional right of free speech.

Mr. Rendell was sharply critical of the contract, which he canceled, calling it a severe lapse in judgment. But Mr. Rendell refused to fire Mr. Powers and said today that Mr. Powers decision to leave is his own. The governor praised Mr. Powers for serving the country during a 30-year career with the Army.

The director said he was resigning "with deep regret'' but said all his actions during his four years with Homeland Security were meant to foster "the security and wellbeing of the commonwealth citizenry -- our greatest resource.''

He earlier had apologized for unintended consequences of the contract and said he hadn't meant to infringe on anyone's rights. He said he was trying to protect public safety by keeping a watch out for terrorist attacks.

Click HERE to read the original article on the Post-Gazette's website.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dimock *finally* gets public water. Cabot continues to deny responsibility.

Kudos to the DEP for not waiting until this fiasco plays out in court before doing the right thing.  While it's no shock that Cabot continues to deny any wrongdoing whatsoever, now the fight begins to make sure they are ultimately held accountable (legally and fiscally) for what happened in Dimock.  PA residents should not have to fund a $12 million dollar project because of Cabot's negligence.

[Note: this article, written by Matt Hughes, appeared Oct 1, 2010 in the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre.  Click HERE to see the original article which includes photographs.]

Amid drilling fight, Dimock gets public water.  The state, which will fund the project, says Cabot Oil & Gas contaminated wells.

DIMOCK – Residents of Dimock, the Susquehanna County community at the center of a nationwide debate over natural gas drilling, will soon be connected to a public water supply, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger announced Thursday. The state-funded project will connect Pennsylvania American Water’s Lake Montrose treatment plant to 18 homes in Dimock.

For two years, drinking water for 33 Dimock residents has been supplied by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, the natural gas drilling company that DEP says contaminated the water wells of some Dimock residents with methane and natural gas.

More than 100 reporters, photographers, filmmakers, spokespersons and residents of the Susquehanna County community packed the tiny Dimock Baptist Church to hear the announcement.

Hanger said DEP will fully fund the project, now slated to cost $11.8 million, though the department still insists that Cabot foot the bill. Hanger said DEP will pursue litigation against Cabot if necessary to recoup the cost of the project, but that the department did not want to wait any longer to provide a permanent source of clean drinking water to Dimock residents.

“We have had people here in Pennsylvania without safe drinking water for nearly two years,” Hanger said. “That is totally unacceptable. It is reprehensible. We have given Cabot every opportunity to resolve this matter.… We’re not going to wait to go through long legal proceedings with Cabot to get this started.”

A new 12-inch transmission main will transport water approximately 5.5 miles from the Pennsylvania American Water’s Lake Montrose plant south along state Route 29 into Dimock. Approximately seven miles of 6-inch distribution mains will connect the main to the homes of 18 families. Other Dimock residents seeking connection to the water supply may also contact Pennsylvania American Water about gaining access, Pennsylvania American Water President Kathy Pape said.

Pape said the project, which will also involve the installation of pressure regulating systems, hydrants and water treatment systems, will take 18 months to complete once ground has been broken. The company is also waiting on a state grant to come through before that happens, however, and Pape said work on the project will most likely not begin for a few months.

On Wednesday, Cabot published full page ads in several newspapers around the Dimock area, and also sent out press releases and 29-page letter defending the company. In those documents, Cabot denies responsibility for water well contamination in Dimock and claims that DEP is waging a public relations war against the company.

“They have even gone so far as to say that they signed these under duress,” Hanger said, later adding, “the last time I checked, (Cabot President Dan O.) Dinges is not a 90-year-old widow sitting in a nursing home who is incompetent to sign a legal document … he is fully capable to sign documents without counsel, but he had counsel.

A Cabot spokesman, George Stark, attended the meeting but was not allowed to speak by Hanger.

“I am not interested in hearing from Cabot at this point,” Hanger said.

Stark spoke outside the church following the meeting, saying Cabot is investigating all its options and would schedule meetings with DEP to discuss the matter. Stark said Cabot would like DEP to consider other, less expensive measures to deal with the problem, such as drilling new water wells, refurbishing and reconditioning existing wells and installing water filtration systems.

“We understand what is being laid on the table today, but we still believe there are other options,” Stark said.

Josh Fox, the filmmaker who put Dimock at the center of the national debate over natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in his documentary Gasland, also attended the meeting and staged a small demonstration highlighting the precedent he thinks Hanger’s announcement may set.

Fox distributed signs depicting water towers, each labeled with the name of a different Pennsylvania community, including Towanda, Lenox, and Clearville, followed by the phrase “needs municipal water.”

“It looks like this is setting a trend in Pennsylvania, that once this drilling starts, you’re going to have municipal water coming in,” Fox said.

Fox said there have been “significant reports” of water contamination near gas drilling sites in other parts of the state, and asked Hanger whether the state would also connect those areas to a municipal water supply.

Hanger responded that, in a worst case scenario, DEP would need to take similar action, but said that confirmed reports of contamination are rare, and that other companies have been much better than Cabot at resolving the contamination in those cases.

“We have companies that are actually solving problems, as opposed to denying problems,” Hanger said.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

SPLIT ESTATE documentary wins Emmy Award, special rebroadcast upcoming on Planet Green

SPLIT ESTATE wins an Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Research."

Imagine discovering that you don't own the mineral rights under your land, and that an energy company plans to drill for natural gas two hundred feet from your front door. Imagine having little recourse, other than accepting an unregulated industry in your backyard. Split Estate maps a tragedy in the making, as citizens in the path of a new drilling boom in the Rocky Mountain West struggle against the erosion of their civil liberties, their communities and their health.

Zeroing in on Garfield County, Colorado, and the San Juan Basin, this clarion call for accountability examines the growing environmental and social costs to an area now referred to as a "National Sacrifice Zone."

This is no Love Canal or Three Mile Island. With its breathtaking panoramas, aspen-dotted meadows, and clear mountain streams, this is the Colorado of John Denver anthems -- the wide-open spaces that have long stirred our national imagination.

Exempt from federal protections like the Clean Water Act, the oil and gas industry has left this idyllic landscape and its rural communities pockmarked with abandoned homes and polluted waters. One Garfield County resident demonstrates the degree of benzene contamination in a mountain stream by setting it alight with a match. Many others, gravely ill, fight for their health and for the health of their children. All the while, the industry assures us it is a "good neighbor."

Ordinary homeowners and ranchers absorb the cost. Actually, we all pay the price in this devastating clash of interests that extends well beyond the Rockies. Aggressively seeking new leases in as many as 32 states, the industry is even making a bid to drill in the New York City watershed, which provides drinking water to millions.

As public health concerns mount, Split Estate cracks the sugarcoating on an industry touted as a clean alternative to fossil fuels, and poignantly drives home the need for real alternatives.

Watch the trailer for the documentary, and don't miss a special airing October 16 at 10 p.m. on Planet Green.

Press release as published on PLANET GREEN'S website. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

House passes SB1155 to tax gas companies!

PennFuture Praises State House for Passage of Natural Gas Severance Tax That Helps Funds Growing Greener, Urges Senate to Consider Bill Immediately to Keep the Promise Made to the Citizens.

HARRISBURG, Pa.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) today praised the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for its passage of SB 1155, a significant extraction tax on deep natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation that also funds Growing Greener, local governments impacted by drilling, wildlife management agencies, hazardous sites cleanup and county conservation districts, and the General Fund. The measure passed by a vote of 104 to 92. This action allows the tax to be considered by the State Senate before it adjourns for the year.

“This is a reasonable and robust tax”
“Thanks to heroic effort by Representative Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) insisting that SB 1155 include substantial revenue for Growing Greener, and the support of both Democratic and Republican House members, the House has kept its promise to the citizens to pass a bill by October 1,” said Jan Jarrett, PennFuture’s president and CEO. “Now it’s up to the Senate. We urge the Senate to act quickly, and preserve both the significant tax in this legislation and the money for Growing Greener, local communities and the other specified agencies.

“This is a reasonable and robust tax,” continued Jarrett. “It allows the drilling industry to flourish, while compensating the citizens for the use of the state’s natural resources. We have had daily reminders of the risks to our environment and local communities from drilling, so it is only fair that a portion of this new tax revenue go to environmental protection and local communities.

“Many of our elected officials, particularly Representatives Dave Levdansky (D-Washington, Allegheny) and Camille ‘Bud’ George (D-Clearfield), helped create the general framework in this bill, and it must be retained in the Senate,” said Jarrett.

“All eyes now turn to the Senate,” said Jarrett. “We call on the Senate to keep the robust tax on drilling in this bill and the split of this new revenue. Our environment, our communities, and our citizens depend on it.”

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization that works to protect and promote Pennsylvania’s environment and economy. PennFuture’s activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state and federal courts, advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level, public education, and assisting citizens in public advocacy. PennFuture was dubbed “the state’s leading environmental advocacy organization” by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Click HERE to view the original release as it appeared on Businesswire.

Weeklong radio series on all aspects of Marcellus drilling

This week, WHYY, a public broadcast network serving southeastern PA, southern NJ and all of Delaware, is running a series of discussions on all aspects of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.  According to their WEBSITE, the show airs weekday mornings and evenings from 10-12.  If you aren't located in their broadcast area, fear not!  You can listen live on your computer via streaming audio by clicking HERE.  (Note that you may be prompted to install or update your computer's version of media software in order to listen).  If you have Sirius-XM radio, the show will air on the Sirius-XM channel NPR Now 134 and NPR Talk Sirius 135.  You may also download podcasts of the shows after they've aired via their WEBSITE.  The site includes selected show summaries, selected transcripts, photographs, links for further research.

Topics for discussion are as follows:

The Shale Game Part 1: County vs. County
Monday, September 27, 2010
Susan Phillips and Kerry Grens take you to two counties in northeastern Pennsylvania that have reacted to gas drilling in drastically different ways.

The Shale Game Part 2: Water
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Natural gas has been trapped deep below the surface of Pennsylvania for eons. But only in the past two years has the industry begun in earnest to tap the rich gas reserves of the Marcellus Shale — a layer of rock thousands of feet down that runs from New York to West Virginia. Gas companies sunk nine hundred wells into the Pennsylvania Marcellus this year. With this new area in play, residents have a lot of questions. The most frequently asked: what will be the impact on their water. In part two of our series The Shale Game, WHYY's health and science reporter Kerry Grens searches for the answer.

The Shale Game Part 3: Jobs
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Pennsylvania's natural gas rush has environmentalists and residents worried about contaminated drinking water wells, increased truck traffic, exploding well heads and potentially toxic spills. But the counterpoint all along has been jobs, jobs, jobs.

The Shale Game Part 4: Social services
Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Shale Game Part 5: Regulatory issues
Friday, October 1, 2010

Thanks to MH for passing along the info!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Look Before you Lease (and after too): workshops this weekend!

This weekend, Earthworks' Oil and Gas Accountability Project will be holding workshops for landowners considering leasing or who have already leased, and anyone concerned about surface owner rights, leasing, and the impacts of gas development. Gas drilling is taking off across the Marcellus Shale region, and many landowners and communities wonder what it means. Spend time with experts in mineral leasing and accounting, corporate accountability, and gas development regulations. Learn about the leasing process, industry tactics, and what leasing means for you, your neighbors, and community.

There are 3 locations for the workshops:  Friday, October 1, 6-8:30 pm. Ohio Room, Kilcawley Center, Youngstown State University, Youngstown, OH · Saturday, October 2, 9:30 am-12 pm. Ulmer Planetarium, Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA · Saturday, October 2, 4:30 pm-7pm. Pearn Auditorium, Brennan Hall, University of Scranton, Scranton, PA.

Earthworks is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting communities and the environment from the destructive impacts of mineral development, in the U.S. and worldwide.

For more information about these workshops or Earthworks, click HERE.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Farmers take up camera against fracking practice

"They’ve been labeled “farmers turned filmmakers,” but it’s what Jeff and Jodi Andrysick felt they had to do with their $10,000.

The couple, native Pennsylvanians, set aside the money for a multi-vendor farm market where they live in Keuka Lake, N.Y., in Finger Lakes country. But the fight against fracking became more pressing, so the money went to a high-definition camcorder.

This led to “All Fracked Up,” a documentary they made to rally people against fracking and what it could do to their areas. The couple was in Pennsylvania on Friday promoting the film, which will debut at the BTE Theatre in Bloomsburg, at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 2. Admission is $5, and they’ll host a discussion after the movie.

It all began when “a predatory gas corporation” — the Andrysicks’ lawyer advised them against using the name — tried to dump what is believed to be three-quarters of a billion gallons of toxic waste into an abandoned gas well in Pulteney, N.Y. The waste came from a drill site in Pennsylvania.

“We figured if Pennsylvania doesn’t want it there, why should we take it?” Jeff Andrysick said.

The people of the region successfully fought it back, and the Andrysicks want Pennsylvanians to know they can do the same.

“The gas corporations prey on ignorance,” said Jeff Andrysick, saying they play a smoke-and-mirrors game to get people and towns to buy into what they do."

Read the remaining text of Evamarie Socha's article by clicking here:  THE DAILY ITEM (as it appeared 9.24.2010).

Self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline for gas tax bill looming

Why don’t legislators simply pass a tax on natural gas drilling in Marcellus Shale?  

"That was the question posed to Rep. Garth Everett, R-Lycoming, at a recent meeting in his district sponsored by Trout Unlimited.  With only five days left until the legislators’ self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline and no clear movement toward passing a bill, the question is one being asked by many around the state.

“The important stuff we do is rarely simple,” said Everett.

In the course of crafting the 2010-11 state budget in June, lawmakers agreed to impose a tax on drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which is thought to be one of the world’s largest deposits of natural gas.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati’s office has held talks throughout the summer with both the industry and environmental interests and is prepared to make good on the promise to enact a tax this session, but tax legislation must originate in the House of Representatives.

Rep. David Levdansky, D-Allegheny, has been working on a natural gas tax for two years. “I think this is a once-in-a-career opportunity to make a real difference,” he said. “In my 26 years here, I think this is the best opportunity we have to put in dedicated funding for conservation and environmental protection programs.”

Passing a tax is possible “if we receive bipartisan support,” said Levdansky. “I think next week is do or die.”

Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Minority Leader Sam Smith, said, “The caucus is not telling anybody how to vote. ... It’s a member-by-member thing. Each member is going to weigh it on their own.”

Even Gov. Ed Rendell has expressed skepticism a tax will get passed.

House Democratic spokesman Brett Marcy said, “For the most part, we are united in our determination to get this done.” But they have been in “constant discussions” about the best method of distributing the revenue generated by a tax.

The question isn’t just the rate of tax, but what to do with the money. Leaders on both sides of the aisle have said they think some of the revenue should go to environmental programs, but which ones and in what proportion is a big question. The governor and House leaders want a majority of the revenue to go into the state’s General Fund. Rank-and-file members on both sides appear to prefer the lion’s share go instead toward environmental programs, infrastructure investments and local municipalities.

Along the northern tier, where drilling is transforming both the landscape and economy, Republican lawmakers say the time for a tax hasn’t come. “Who would have believed the counties in the northern tier would be leading the state in jobs created and lowest unemployment,” said Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga. “We need to revitalize the economy and create jobs, which all of this is doing right now. Maybe there’s a time and place for a competitive, modest tax, but I don’t think it’s now.”

To read the remainder of Donald Gilliland's article in The Patriot-News, click HERE (as it appeared 9.25.2010).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Just who is buying your candidate?

Election season is definitely heating up; much of that heat is being generated by the executives of the many gas companies operating in the state of Pennsylvania.  Did you know that since 2007, gas companies have donated more than $5 million to Pennsylvania's elected officials in order to lobby their cause?  Since 2001, they've donated an additional $3 million to PA political campaigns--on both sides of the political fence.

There's a great new website where you can see exactly how much money has been given to which legislators/candidates going back to 2001.  The details indicate the individual amounts and actual dates of donations.  The site is and it was developed as a joint project between Common Cause PA and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania.  You can read their press release from this month's launch by clicking  HERE. 

So are you curious to see just how much Senator Joseph Scarnati accepted in campaign donations from the likes of Chesapeake, Cabot, Dominion, East Resources and their colleagues?  I was.  $117,535 to date.  But he's not the leader of the pack by any means.  That honor is reserved for Tom Corbett, PA's current Attorney General and candidate for Governor.  So far he's raked in over 1/4 million dollars: $372,720 to be exact...and counting.  To date, his political war chest of nearly $8 million more than doubles that of his Democratic rival's.  To hedge their bets however, the natural gas industry has also contributed to Corbett's opponent, Dan Onorato: $74,300.  Onorato's war chest amounted to $3.3 million as of September 13, 2010.

Corbett is currently leading in the polls.  But he's been a vocal opponent of hitting the gas companies with a severance tax on drilling within PA.  He would rather allow them to extract our natural resources, turn around and make enormous profits.  Huh.  Then there's all of those jobs that were supposed to be created by the drilling industry.  Oh they're being created alright.  And they're being filled largely by company men from Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas (think about all the trucks you've seen in our towns with these license plates--or am I the only one?).

Some time ago, an older gentleman was walking along the beach (stick with's related, I promise).  The ocean's tide had deposited hundreds of starfish along the shore.  As he wove his way among them all, he came upon a little boy who was picking up one starfish after another and throwing them back into the ocean.  The man asked the boy, "why are you wasting your time?  There has to be hundreds of starfish all up and down the shore.  Throwing a few more back into the ocean isn't going to make a difference."  The little boy paused, bent down to pick up another one, wound up his pitching arm, and let that starfish fly.  As he watched it arc out over the waves and plunk down into the ocean he replied, "I sure made a difference for that one."

Pennsylvania's election is going to be the "game-changer" the pundits have long been calling the Marcellus Shale itself.  Whoever is elected to office this fall has the opportunity to change Pennsylvania's future in a massive way for decades to come.  It's sad, but traditionally voter turnout is considered a success if 20% of registered voters decide to make the effort to drive into town and cast their votes.  That's right.  In a good year, 20% of registered voters typically decide for the other well as the large numbers of citizens who don't even both to register in the first place.  Do you really want to hand that power over to a stranger?  Don't make the mistake of thinking your one vote won't make a difference.  Register to vote if you haven't already.  Pencil in election day on your calendar.  Make the effort.  It's our right, our civic duty and our privilege.  Vote.  And make sure you vote for the future *you* want....for yourself, for your children, and for your grandchildren.

Did you know that your tax money is being used to bring drillers into Pennsylvania? Neither did we.

The following appeared in a recent Facebook post from PennFuture.  Who knew?  I'm sure if it's happening in Pittsburgh, it's probably not an isolated incident--especially in northeastern & northcentral PA where you can't throw a rock without hitting a gas well.  And by the way, atta boy Gov. Ridge!  I'm glad someone has their priorities straight.

(Please note: You can find out more information about PennFuture and many other organizations, informative blogs, and other resources related to gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale by clicking on the appropriate tabs along the top of "Protect the Endless Mountain's" Facebook Page.  You can also see & explore the same resources listed along the right-hand side of the blog.)

"Did you know that your tax money is being used to bring drillers into Pennsylvania? Neither did we.
Then we saw the story in yesterday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which details a trip sponsored by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance using money from the Department of Community and Economic Development that will fund an event at the Petroleum Club of Houston, complete with hors d’oeuvres, where two drilling executives and the head of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development will wine and dine 150 Lone Star gas industry executives to come to Pennsylvania and make money from our natural resources.

Now, we have no objection to recruiting companies to do business in Pennsylvania, but we think that the drillers haven’t really done their best at making sure Pennsylvanians and Pennsylvania companies get a piece of the Marcellus action. Except for former Governor Tom Ridge, that is, whose firm is getting nearly $1 million to stop a substantial severance tax from being passed.

Seems like the drillers think that Pennsylvania is a great place to pillage, but they wouldn’t want to live here as real partners in our communities. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be fighting so hard against playing by our rules and paying their fair share.

But ordinary citizens can trump the arrogance and cash of the drillers by making their voices heard. The legislators are considering what to do right now – and they must do the right thing.

Send an email right now to your legislators with one simple message: The drillers must play by our rules and pay their fair share.

If you want to do more, please help PennFuture reach out to others by phoning our members and supporters. Contact Christine Knapp, our director of outreach, at 215-545-9692 or sign up to volunteer on our website.

To read the article "Public money used to court Texas drillers" in yesterday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, click HERE.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

PA's Men In Black spying on GASLAND goers? Is this 2010 or 1984?

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was apparently embarrassed to discover our state's Department of Homeland Security was performing domestic surveillance on... grassroots activist groups and events associated with them.  As an example, public showings of Josh Fox's GASLAND were targeted as events of interest.  Since when is going to see a film a terrorist threat?  I happened to record it on my Tivo when the film was on HBO; I wonder...will HBO or Tivo be slapped with a warrant to produce names of subscribers who downloaded/recorded GASLAND?  Seriously.  I'm having flashbacks of Orwell's 1984.  All this in the birthplace of our country's Constitution.  The irony is....well, it's just plain sad.  Not to mention frightening.

Now just to clarify, PA's Department of Homeland Security reports directly to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.  Guess who PEMA reports directly to?  The Governor of the Commonwealth.  I guess they must have left that part out of their last few reports.

See the clip that aired on today's NBC Evening News with Brian Williams for more info:

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

GASLAND's Josh Fox to receive LennonOno Grant for Peace

On October 9th, John Lennon would have celebrated his 70th birthday.  His widow, Yoko Ono, will celebrate by bestowing the 2010 Lennon Ono Grant for Peace to four individuals who have been selected "based on their courage and commitment to peace, truth and human rights."

The LennonOne Grant for Peace was created to honor...John Lennon's dedication to peace and commitment to the preservation of human rights.  Created in 2002, this biennial award has always been given to two recipients.  On this special anniversary, however, Yoko Ono will present this award to four recipients:  Josh Fox for his documentary GASLAND; author, poet & activist Alice Walker; author Michael Pollan; and activist/advocate Barbara Kowalcyk.  For more information, click HERE.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Marcellus community satisfaction survey

Yes. You read that correctly.  If you're interested in finding out the results of Penn State's survey, tune in (on your pc!) September 16, from 1-2pm.  As with most webinars, you must register to attend.  To register or for more information, click HERE.  Also with most webinars, it will likely be archived so that it can be viewed at a later date (for those of us who have day jobs).

Fracking featured on PBS's "Need to Know"

Thankfully the health concerns so many of us have arising from fracking are remaining in the forefront.  A recent edition of "Need to Know," a show airing on PBS, featured an investigative report on fracking.  Prominently featured was Abrahm Lustgarten, winner of the George Polk Award for his environmental reporting on fracking.  If you weren't able to see it, watch it online by clicking on the following link: NEED TO KNOW on PBS. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yet another shale gas summit bites the dust.

First it was on, then it was relocated, then it was off.  Now it may be on again, but who knows where.  I'm talking about the EPA's public fracking meeting--the last of 4 held across the country.  First it was to be in Binghamtom, but was cancelled only days before--this after a large number of protestors (some traveling long distances) promised to make their presence known.  The EPA cited logistical & contract issues.  One would think these would have been worked out months ago rather than left to mere days before the event.  At any rate, it was relocated to Syracuse and now Syracuse, too, has pulled the plug.  Now there's talk of it being back in Binghamton, but the EPA is keeping their options open.  You can read more about the ongoing saga HERE.

Now it seems the massive gas shale summit scheduled for October 1st in Pittsburgh (it would have included Pennsylvania politicians in addition to gas company executives) has not only been cancelled--it's as if the thing was never even scheduled in the first place.  Again, a large contingent of protesters were planning to attend; the event was mentioned just a few weeks ago on our blog. As journalist Chris Potter writes, the event hasn't just been cancelled, "it's as if the summit was never scheduled at all."  On August 18th, Potter posted the following article on the Pittsburgh City Paper's website.

(Thanks to one of our FB fans for the "heads up" on this!)

Marcellus Shale Coalition cancels summit where protest was planned

The Marcellus Shale Coaltion has quietly cancelled a "shale gas summit" originally planned for Oct.1.

And by "quietly," I mean that for all appearances, it's as if the summit was never scheduled at all. The coalition Web page that once touted the summit now produces a 404 error. (Though a cached version of it can be found here.) No other mention of it appears on the site.

The summit was billed as a chance for "key stakeholders to showcase and highlight the Marcellus Shale’s economic and energy production potential." It was said to be attracting CEOs from big gas producers like Chesapeake Energy and Range Resources. It was also, however, likely to attract a sizable protest from people opposed to natural-gas drilling in the state.

Travis Windle, a spokesman for the coaltion, confirms that the event has been cancelled. What role did the protest play in that decision? "None whatsoever, actually," he says.

Instead, he says, the event was called off due to "a host of logistical issues" including several competing events. Chief among them is the "DUG East" convention being held in Pittsburgh just over a month later. That event is slated to include at least one of the same keynote speakers -- Range Resources CEO John Pinkerton -- and Windle says the events would "be pulling from the same pool of attendees" as well. Another shale event is slated for a few days before the DUG conference.

This still raises the question about why the event was not so much cancelled as "disappeared." You might expect the Coalition to notify people that their event had been called off -- rather than, you know, simply scrubbing the website and acting as if it never happened.

Windle says that those who were interested in the event were notified, but "we didn't think it was necessary to issue a statement" beyond taking the web page down.

So if I'm a protester, I guess, I'm sending out "change the date" cards and planning my activities on Nov. 3-4 instead. And I'm hoping that gas wells are as easily dispensed with as the Oct. 1 conference was.