Thursday, July 1, 2010

PA cuts DEPs budget for 2nd year in a row; Clean Water Action issues report

At a time when gas drilling operations are increasing at an alarming rate, let's cut the budget of the only organization regulating and overseeing the whole shebang!

"Clean Water Action today released a report showing ten years of diminishing funding for environmental protection. Citing recent incidents in signficant pollution in the areas of wastewater treatment, food processing and natural gas drillers, the report is meant to show the urgent need for a robust agency to check polluters, look for problems and fine them aggressively for violations. In the Governor's budget deal released today, DEP would take another cut in funding. Adjusted for inflation, the agency is now two-fifths the size it was under the previous administration."  Read the full report HERE.

East Resources Inc Questions Basis for PA Department of Agriculture Cattle Quarantine

East Resources, Inc. today released the following statement regarding the order issued by the Department of Agriculture to quarantine cattle on the Tioga County farm owned by Don and Carol Johnson in Shippen Township, Tioga County. East performed a hydraulic fracturing operation on a horizontal Marcellus shale gas well drilled on the farm that the Johnsons leased to East.

On May 2, the Department of Environmental Protection notified East Resources about a possible leak from a temporary water impoundment located at the Johnson 435-1H Well Site. The impoundment contained a mixture of fresh water and flowback water from a hydraulic fracturing operation on the well. Flowback water was first introduced into the impoundment on April 9.

East immediately initiated an investigation and remedial activities that were conducted in coordination with the Department. We immediately fenced off the pasture area impacted by the leak, and the impoundment was dewatered on May 3. By May 5, the wet soil in the impacted area had been removed from the site.

By May 7, the impoundment was closed in its entirety. Water from the former impoundment as well as water collected in the release area was removed, effectively eliminating the potential of future impacts. The liner, all wet soil below the liner, and the soils taken from below the impoundment were removed and staged in secondary containment prior to disposal at an authorized and permitted landfill.

In coordination with the Department, East collected and analyzed water and soil samples from the impoundment, the area in the nearby pasture affected by the leak, and numerous other areas in the vicinity of the impoundment. The water and soil samples were evaluated for background conditions and to assess possible impacts using methods with quantitation limits consistent with Act 2 Statewide Health Standards. None of the soil samples contained concentrations of compounds of concern in excess of established PADEP Act 2 residential Statewide Health Standards.

The site was reclaimed, and samples were subsequently collected and evaluated to confirm that the source of the leak was removed and the impacted area was remediated. East had successfully completed the remediation of the site by eliminating the leak, removing the source, and removing the areas of concern. No further remediation was necessary.

With regard to the imposition of a quarantine on the Johnson's cattle by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, everything that East has seen from the results of soil and water sampling conducted at the request of the Department indicates no reason for any concern of adverse impacts to the Johnson's cattle or to public health.

East received a letter from the Department of Agriculture explaining its justification for the quarantine on June 24, 2010. East questions the basis for the quarantine, and we have contracted with an independent toxicologist to evaluate the Department's rationale for imposing the quarantine. East is also concerned that the quarantine imposes an unnecessary burden on the Johnson's farm operations.

East expects to receive the toxicologist's report shortly.

East Resources, Inc. is an independent oil and gas producer in the Appalachian and Rocky Mountain regions of the United States. East is one of the most active oil and gas explorers in the Appalachian region and is making significant investments in the responsible development of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale. The company holds approximately 900,000 gross acres of Marcellus Shale rights in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York, and it employs more than 355 office and field personnel with approximately 60 employees in Tioga County.

East Resources, Inc.

Dept of Agriculture quarantines cattle at Wellsboro farm due to containment leak

Cattle From Tioga County Farm Quarantined After Coming in Contact with Natural Gas Drilling Wastewater

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Department of Agriculture announced today that it has quarantined cattle from a Tioga County farm after a number of cows came into contact with drilling wastewater from a nearby natural gas operation.

Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said uncertainty over the quantity of wastewater the cattle may have consumed warranted the quarantine in order to protect the public from eating potentially contaminated beef.  "Cattle are drawn to the taste of salty water," said Redding. "Drilling wastewater has high salinity levels, but it also contains dangerous chemicals and metals.  We took this precaution in order to protect the public from consuming any of this potentially contaminated product should it be marketed for human consumption."

Redding said 28 head of cattle were included in the quarantine, including 16 cows, four heifers and eight calves. Those cattle were out to pasture in late April and early May when a drilling wastewater holding pond on the farm of Don and Carol Johnson leaked, sending the contaminated water into an adjacent field where it created a pool. The Johnsons had noticed some seepage from the pond for as long as two months prior to the leak.

The holding pond was collecting flowback water from the hydraulic fracturing process on a well being drilled by East Resources Inc.  Grass was killed in a roughly 30- x 40-foot area where the wastewater had pooled. Although no cows were seen drinking the wastewater, tracks were found throughout the pool. The wet area extended about 200-300 feet into the pasture.

The cattle had potential access to the pool for a minimum of three days until the gas company placed a snow fence around the pool to restrict access.  Subsequent tests of the wastewater found that it contained chloride, iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium and calcium.  Redding said the main element of concern is the heavy metal strontium, which can be toxic to humans, especially in growing children. The metal takes a long time to pass through an animal's system because it is preferentially deposited in bone and released in the body at varying rates, dependent on age, growth status and other factors. Live animal testing was not possible because tissue sampling is required.

The secretary also added that the quarantine will follow the recommended guidelines from the Food Animal Residue Avoidance and Depletion Program, as follows:

Adult animals: hold from food chain for 6 months.
Calves exposed in utero: hold from food chain for 8 months.
Growing calves: hold from food chain for 2 years.

In response to the leak, the Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation to East Resources Inc. and required further sampling and site remediation. DEP is evaluating the final cleanup report and is continuing its investigation of operations at the drilling site, as well as the circumstances surrounding the leaking holding pond.

Issued: Thu Jul 1, 2:39 pm
Media contact: Justin Fleming, 717-787-5085
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pick up the phone! Start up that email!

At a time when PA is attempting to balance the state's budget by leasing out our state parks and forests to drilling, they're also proposing to slash the budget of the organization that oversees said drilling (see following article).  The DEP is *already* understaffed and with the amount of current and future wells being drilled, they need *more* funding, NOT less.  The oil and gas industry does not want federal oversight and thus far they've had enough money and clout to get their wish.  The only people charged with making sure the industry abides by the the DEP.  So unless the goal is to hand the keys over to the drilling companies, it behooves every single one of us to either pick up the phone or email our legislators to voice our profound displeasure at this latest course of events.  Links to contact your senators/representatives can be found both on the Endless Mountains blog along the right sidebar under "Local Info" or on our facebook page under the "Local Info" tab.

Please take a moment out of your day to do this.  EVERY voice counts.

State budget continues to slash Environmental Protection; Over 1/3 of DEP budget cut over two years.

(Harrisburg) – Clean Water Action issued a strong statement today calling for restoration of large cuts to the budget for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The proposed state budget deal released yesterday by the Governor and legislative leaders cuts DEP’s budget by 9.2%. This is on top of last year’s budget cut of 26% for DEP. [ATTACHED - PDF of 2000-2008 budgets in actual numbers, not accounting for inflation]

Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action stated, “I don’t see how any legislator can pretend that the DEP can do what they are required to do with this level of funding. Lawmakers that support protecting Pennsylvanians from air and water pollution need to stop this year’s budget cut, and restore funding cut last year.”

Noting that Pennsylvania is currently experiencing a boom in natural gas drilling, Arnowitt continued, “The state is giving out 5,000 new Marcellus Shale gas drilling permits this year alone. This is an industry that is notorious for its lack of controls on both air pollution and water pollution. It is the height of irresponsibility to continue handing out permits while decimating the one agency that has any oversight on gas drilling.”

Despite the new budget cuts to DEP proposed for this year’s budget, overall state spending is increasing 0.6% to $28 billion a year. DEP’s portion of the state budget represents only ½ of one percent of the total budget (o.5%).

Brady Russell, Eastern PA Director for Clean Water Action stated, “Even before this round of budget cuts, there has been a steady decline in state support for DEP over the past ten years. If this year’s cuts go through, the state will be giving DEP almost 60% less than they did in the 2000 – 2001 budget.”

Although legislative leaders have agreed to enact some level of severance tax on natural gas extraction in the fall, no dollars have been allocated to any environmental protection programs in this year’s budget. “If the state legislature refuses to use general funds to support DEP’s budget, it must direct a portion of the severance tax to restore DEP’s budget to reasonable levels,” asserted Arnowitt.


Clean Water Action is an organization of 1.2 million members working to empower people to take action to protect America's waters, build healthy communities and to make democracy work for all of us. For 36 years Clean Water Action has succeeded in winning some of the nation's most important environmental protections through grassroots organizing, expert policy research and political advocacy focused on holding elected officials accountable to the public.

Click HERE to access this original post as it appeared today on Young Philly Politics.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is PSU's involvement with Marcellus operators tainting objectivity?

Thank you to those who left important comments on our last post.  While Penn State is in fact looking for individuals to help with an ongoing study on the effects of Marcellus drilling in rural areas, some of the monies funding this study *may* in fact be traced back to the oil and gas industry.  Even if that's not the case, the oil and gas industry has reportedly donated funds (in general) to PSU which calls into question whether this or any future studies may be tainted and/or biased.

That said, one individual recommended the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Healthy Environments & Communities (CHEC).  You can read more about CHEC's efforts to monitor and study the effects of Marcellus shale drilling by clicking HERE.  You can share your experiences via their sister site,, and view the data they have collected to date.  There is a wealth of information on each of these related sites.

Many thanks, "Fracked," for passing along this information.  We'll be adding the links to the blog and Facebook tabs momentarily.