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