Friday, December 30, 2011

Fracking cracks the public consciousness in 2011

PROPUBLICA-- This was the year that "fracking" became a household word.

It wasn't just that environmental concerns about the underground drilling process finally struck a mainstream chord -- after three years of reporting and more than 125 stories. For the first time, independent scientific investigations linked the drilling technique with water pollution, and a variety of federal and state agencies responded to the growing apprehension about water contamination with more studies and more regulation.

The most important development -- and perhaps a crucial turning point -- was in December. In a landmark finding, the Environmental Protection Agency concluded that hydraulic fracturing was the likely culprit in a spate of groundwater contamination that had forced residents to stop using their water in dozens of homes in central Wyoming. The agency had been investigating since 2008.

Read the remainder of the article...

Planning Commission approves fracking water treatment plant

DAILY REVIEW---  "North Towanda Township--The Bradford County Planning Commission on Tuesday approved construction of Hydro Recovery-Bradford LP's proposed plant in Standing Stone Township, which would treat and recycle various kinds of residual waste from gas drilling sites, including flow-back water from fracking.

The approval is conditioned on Hydro Recovery addressing 12 issues raised by an engineering firm hired by the county. The commission gave Hydro Recovery 90 days to meet the conditions, which include providing a long-term maintenance plan for on-site storm water management control measures, providing a map showing the location of current and planned utility lines, and providing copies of approvals from other government agencies.

The plant would process up to 300,000 gallons per day of residual wastes from gas well sites, such as flowback water from hydraulic fracturing, said David Hedrick, a project manager with Hydro Recovery."

Read the remainder of the article...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Landowners turn against leasing for 'fracking'

The Independent-- "Nearly half of the landowners who have leased their ground to shale gas developers in the north-east of America regret doing it, despite the money, according to a new report by Deloitte.

In findings that will intensify opposition to the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, some 47 per cent of respondents in the 'new shale' states of Pennsylvania and New York, who have rented out their land, said they wouldn't repeat the experience."

Read the remainder of the article...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Philly Inquirer runs in-depth series on fracking

If you haven't yet seen the Philadelphia Inquirer's recent investigative series on fracking in PA, be sure to check it out.  The newspaper has also collated all make and manner of resources, graphs, timelines, maps and an archive of previous stories about all aspects of drilling the Marcellus Shale.  Click HERE to read the series and access the links to all other resources.

Baker's Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Bill Signed Into Law

Power Engineering-- "Gov. Tom Corbett today signed into law Rep. Matt Baker's (R-Bradford/Tioga) legislation establishing regulatory oversight of natural gas pipelines in the Commonwealth to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC).

The new law will authorize the PUC to conduct safety inspections and investigations of natural gas pipelines within the Commonwealth in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (U.S. DOT).

'This legislation is just common sense and keeps us in line with what other 31 natural gas-producing states are doing,' said Baker. 'I am pleased that the General Assembly and governor recognized the immediate need for such legislation and fast-tracked it through the legislative process and signed it into law.'"

Read the remainder of the article...

Corbett signs pipeline safety measure

CPBJ-- "Gov. Tom Corbett on Thursday signed a bill giving Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission regulatory oversight of the commonwealth's natural gas pipelines.

The new law, which takes effect in 60 days, gives the PUC authorization to conduct safety inspections and investigations of pipelines in coordination with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration."

Read the remainder of the article...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Your Water Under Fire

If you haven't seen it, the current issue of "E: The Environmental Magazine" is devoted to the topic of gas drilling.  Articles include

  • "Fracked to pieces: concerned citizen groups call fora ban as NY State draws closer to wide-scale hydraulic fracturing"
  • "Pro-gas Pennsylvania: the fallout from Pennsylvania's open-fracking policies provids a cautionary tale for states considering drilling" 
  • "Igniting minds: a conversation with Josh Fox, writer and director of the Emmy Award-winning Gasland"
  • "All out of love: We'd never solve our climate problem if we just replaced coal with natural gas"
To read the articles, click HERE to access the latest issue online.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gas Drilling Vote Cancelled: Delaware Governor to Vote No

Trenton, NJ:  The November 21, 2011 vote to be held at the Trenton War Memorial by the Delaware River Basin Commission has been cancelled according to sources.  The vote was to seek approval of regulations that would have allowed shale gas drilling in the Delaware River Basin by the beginning of 2012.  The last minute cancellation is the second time this vote has been put off.  And this time is believed to be in response to an announcement by the Governor of Delaware that he would vote against the regulatory/drilling proposal.

Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum praised Governor Markell.  “Governor Markell has listened to the will of the people, to the science and to the tremendous environmental and community harm being caused by gas drilling where it is happening.   The issue of shale gas drilling has finally moved out of the political arena and is now being treated as an issue of genuine public policy concern,” said Delaware Riverkeeper van Rossum.

Read the remainder of the press release in full by clicking HERE.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Susquehanna County couple challenges shale gas contracts; case heads to Pa. high court

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A case raising doubts about whether Pennsylvania's booming natural gas industry has the right to extract the methane from the thick shale more than a mile beneath countless properties is being appealed to the state's high court.

A Susquehanna County couple on Friday asked the Supreme Court to reinforce that a nearly 130-year-old ruling applies to the Marcellus Shale, which lies underneath much of Pennsylvania and is considered the nation's largest-known natural gas reservoir.

To read the article in full, please click HERE.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Half of state forest land is already under contract...but they want it all.

"Mike Domach has spent a few weeks every year in the Pennsylvania wilderness for more than a decade. But gas drilling operations there have him wondering if it's worth going anymore...."  Read the entire article, posted 9.23.2011:
State may free wilderness for gas leases - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
'via Blog this'

Friday, July 29, 2011

The truck was "incorrectly labeled." Riiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Today the Wellsboro Gazette's Facebook page featured the following:

"Trucks like this one were spreading what looked like water on River Road, Ward Township, on July 15. The trucks, marked “residual waste,” were keeping the dust down between sites where Talisman Energy USA was drilling gas wells and withdrawing water. After investigating their operations, Talisman discovered the truck was incorrectly labeled. Talisman’s policy is to spread only fresh water for dust control, said Director of Communications Natalie Cox and the equipment on the truck would only be appropriate for fresh water, not brine water. Talisman said the truck was spreading fresh water and they will label their trucks, including those used by subcontractors, accurately in the future. The Department of Environmental Protection does allow brine to be spread on dirt roads, but not brine from the Marcellus Shale where Talisman is drilling."

Report by Jason Przybycien.  Go to to see photo and read other Gazette news.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

PA's Dept. of Health keeps no database of health complaints.

So when I saw the following article by Michael Rubinkam of the AP, I shouldn't have been surprised.  The Pennsylvania Department of Health has no centralized central location...where they're tracking health complaints related to gas drilling.  Why?  Because there's no proven link between health problems and gas drilling.  Really?  Well....I guess it will stay that way, won't it?  Since the Department of Health is a government agency and the current administration was bought and paid for by the oil/gas companies (see Marcellus Money), it really makes perfect sense if one thinks about it.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Department of Health said Friday that it does not formally keep track of citizens' health complaints about gas drilling and has not, as a result, linked drilling to any health consequences.

"We have not made a conclusive link between an individual's health and natural gas drilling," agency spokeswoman Brandi Hunter-Davenport said in response to an Associated Press inquiry. "The Department will continue to monitor any citizen complaints which come to our attention."

The AP asked the health department for data on the number of drilling-related complaints it has received from citizens - and whether the agency has ever made a finding that drilling impacted human health - in the wake of claims by a northern Pennsylvania hairdresser who says that a gas well near her home made her sick.

Though gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale has boomed since 2009, with more than 3,200 wells drilled to date, Hunter-Davenport was unable to say this week how many health complaints the agency has received and investigated.

"Currently, we do not have a centralized database but are working with the Marcellus Shale (Advisory) Commission and anticipate that in moving forward we will be more systematically engaged in addressing the health aspects," she said via email Friday.

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

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Lowball gas leases haunt Pennsylvania Landowners

Stuck in a lease worth $2 an acre when leases are currently going for thousands per acre?  You'll want to read this.  The following article appeared today on the Corning Leader's website:

Forksville, Pa. --A few short years after agreeing to lease their land to a natural gas company for $2 an acre, Dave and Karen Beinlich could do little but watch, and wait, as an overnight drilling boom turned fellow Pennsylvania landowners into millionaires.

While other landowners were striking increasingly lucrative deals with energy companies, the northern Pennsylvania couple’s suddenly valuable 117-acre parcel netted them $234 per year. And there wasn’t a thing they could do about it.

The Beinlichs are among thousands of residents living atop the gas-rich Marcellus Shale who signed lowball leases in the years leading up to the boom in Pennsylvania. In those early days a half-decade ago, virtually no layperson had even heard of the rock formation, let alone knew that drillers had found a way to access the huge reservoir of natural gas locked inside it.

An untold number of industry-friendly agreements are now approaching their expiration dates. But landowners who expected to sign new leases — and reap windfalls of thousands of dollars an acre — are facing the reality that energy companies with billion-dollar investments in the Marcellus are not about to let their prime acreage slip away.

As landowners in Ohio and New York prepare for their own round of Marcellus leasing, high-stakes battles are developing in law offices and courtrooms throughout Pennsylvania. Landowners who signed early for pittances are trying to get out of their leases, and gas companies are trying just as hard to keep them shackled to the original terms. In some cases, landowners say they were fraudulently induced into signing by high-pressure sales agents known in the industry as landmen. In others, residents contend that companies failed to abide by the lease or act in good faith.

“There’s just too much money at stake — between a $3 lease and a $7,500 lease — for the operators to walk away from,” said Robert Jones, an attorney in Endicott, N.Y., who represented a group of landowners who sued successfully in federal court to shed their old leases. “They’re desperate to hold on to them like the landowners are desperate to get rid of them.”

Click HERE to read the remainder of the article .

Thursday, July 21, 2011

PennFuture files federal lawsuit against Marcellus Shale driller Ultra Resources, Inc for violations of federal and state air pollution laws

PRESS RELEASE: Harrisburg, PA (July 21, 2011) – Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) filed a lawsuit today in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Ultra Resources, Inc., for air pollution at its Marcellus Shale drilling sites, which violates the federal Clean Air Act, Pennsylvania’s State Implementation Plan (the “Pennsylvania SIP”), and Pennsylvania’s New Source Review regulations. PennFuture also filed a formal request with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for all records of air pollution at drilling sites throughout the Commonwealth.

“Ultra’s drilling operations in Tioga and Potter counties are emitting dangerous and illegal air pollution and operating without the required permits,” said Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of PennFuture. “Unless gas drillers operating in Pennsylvania control the air pollution from their operations, air quality will deteriorate, putting public health at risk.

“The noxious air pollution is widespread in the two county area of the ‘Marshlands Play,’” continued Jarrett. “The operations include natural gas wells, pipelines, compressor stations, and other equipment, all of which are connected by pipeline to a Metering and Regulation Station, also constructed and operated by Ultra, where the gas produced at Ultra’s wells is adjusted for pressure, measured, and delivered to an interstate pipeline. Ultra constructed the operations without the necessary permits – specifically a permit required by Pennsylvania’s New Source Review (NSR) regulations, and without achieving the lowest achievable emissions rate or purchasing emissions reductions credits. The company is emitting large amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the air, creating serious health risks for anyone living downwind from the operations.

“The laws were passed for a reason – to protect the health of our families,” continued Jarrett. “According to the United States EPA, even short-term NOx exposures, ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours, cause adverse respiratory effects including airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in people with asthma. And this air pollution also leads to more fine particle pollution, which can cause heart attacks and other deadly illnesses.

“But this appears to be business as usual for many drillers,” continued Jarrett. “A study out of Fort Worth (TX) recently showed that the NOx pollution just from the average compressor engine there is about 60 tons per year. And with drilling going like gangbusters here in Pennsylvania, that same kind of pollution from all the operations would create serious public health problems, and destroy any ability of Pennsylvania to meet air quality standards. We’ve also seen the formerly pristine air in Wyoming now more dangerous than that in Los Angeles, thanks to massive drilling. We need to stop this problem here and now.

“We are also asking DEP to open the books on its assessment of air pollution at other drilling operations throughout the Commonwealth,” said Jarrett. “We cannot and will not allow the drillers to operate without meeting our clean air rules.”

Copies of the PennFuture court filing and Right to Know request are available for download.

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization, founded in 1998. 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.

Working from the premise that “Every environmental victory grows the economy,” PennFuture has successfully advocated for landmark environmental legislation, including passage of the largest-ever environmental funding bond, public investment in green energy and energy savings programs, passage of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, adoption of the Clean Vehicles Program and adoption of a regulation that protects Pennsylvania’s babies by restricting mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. PennFuture has staff throughout the state, in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Wilkes-Barre. The Philadelphia Inquirer called PennFuture the “state’s leading environmental advocacy organization,” and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named the organization one of the ten most influential groups on the issue of natural gas drilling.”

To view the entire press release or for more information on PennFuture, click HERE.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Report Reveals Toxic Air Near Natural Gas Operations

While this press release concerns air quality in natural gas operations in Colorado and New Mexico, it has obvious repercussions for drilling in other states.  To start your own citizen sampling corps, see Global Community Monitor for all the info you'll need!

Citizen Samples Confirm Neighboring Communities at Risk
El Cerrito, CA-- Citizen sampling of air quality near natural gas production facilities has identified highly unsafe levels of toxic chemicals near homes, playgrounds, schools and community centers in Colorado and New Mexico. A new report issued by Global Community Monitor, GASSED! Citizen Investigation of Toxic Air Pollution from Natural Gas Development, details the air sampling results, environmental and public health threats with living amid the natural gas boom.

A coalition of environmental and community based organizations in Colorado and New Mexico collected nine air samples that were analyzed by a certified lab. The lab detected a total of 22 toxic chemicals in the air samples, including four known carcinogens, as well as toxins known to damage the nervous system and respiratory irritants. The chemicals detected ranged from 3 to 3,000 times higher than what is considered safe by state and federal agencies. Sampling was conducted in the San Juan Basin area of Colorado and New Mexico, as well as Garfield County in western Colorado.

“Carcinogenic chemicals like benzene and acrylonitrile should not be in the air we breathe – and certainly not at these potentially harmful levels," said Dr. Mark Chernaik, scientist. “These results suggest neighboring communities are not being protected and their long-term health is being put at risk.”

"My husband, pets, and I have experienced respiratory and other health related problems during the twelve years we have lived on Cow Canyon Road in La Plata County, Colorado.  We believe these health issues are related to the air quality in our neighborhood and in the area,” said Jeri L. Montgomery, neighbor of natural gas development.

To read the remainder of this press release/post--as well as to download the actual report--please click HERE.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Renewable energy could power the world without new technologies or higher costs

The world can be powered by alternative energy in 20 to 40 years by Louis Bergeron.

If someone told you there was a way you could save 2.5 million to 3 million lives a year and simultaneously halt global warming, reduce air and water pollution and develop secure, reliable energy sources – nearly all with existing technology and at costs comparable with what we spend on energy today – why wouldn’t you do it?

According to a new study coauthored by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson, we could accomplish all that by converting the world to clean, renewable energy sources and forgoing fossil fuels.

“Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources,” said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering. “It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will” [emphasis mine].

He and Mark Delucchi, of the University of California-Davis, have written a two-part paper in Energy Policy in which they assess the costs, technology and material requirements of converting the planet, using a plan they developed.

The world they envision would run largely on electricity. Their plan calls for using wind, water and solar energy to generate power, with wind and solar power contributing 90 percent of the needed energy......

This article appeared in "Odewire" on July 14, 2011.  Read the remainder of the article in its entirety by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"It's like giving the earth Alka-Seltzer...

-- if the Alka-Seltzer shattered your internal organs so oil companies could harvest your juices."

In case you missed it, last night comedian Stephen Colbert addressed the issue of fracking on his show The Colbert Report.  Yes, it's a serious issue, but if we don't laugh everyone once and again at the gallows humor of it all I think we would all lose our minds.  There are so many funny things in this piece...I don't know where to begin.  I know I'll never look at Alka Seltzer in quite the same way again.  And who knows...will PA soon be under attack??  Have a look-see and a laugh.  You're welcome.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

France becomes 1st country to ban fracking

Just as New Jersey recently became the first state in the country to ban fracking, we are learning that France has become the first country in the world to ban it.

The French parliament voted on June 30 to ban the controversial technique for extracting natural gas from shale rock deposits known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the web sites of Le Monde and other French media reported.

The bill had already passed the National Assembly, the country's lower chamber, on June 21, and on June 30 a Senate vote of 176 to 151 made France the first country to enact such a ban, just as New York State is preparing to lift a moratorium on the same method.

The vote was divided along party lines, with the majority conservative party voting in favor and the opposition voting against the bill, according to Le Monde. The Socialist Party, in particular, opposed the bill because it did not go far enough. The bill's critics said that it left open possible loopholes and that in particular it does not prevent the exploitation of oil shale deposits by techniques other than fracking. An earlier version of the bill, which the Socialists had supported, would have banned any kind of development of the deposits, Le Monde reported.

Companies that currently own permits for drilling in oil shale deposits on French land will have two months to notify the state what extraction technique they use. If they declare to be using fracking, or if they fail to respond, their permits will be automatically revoked.

[This article, by Davide Castelvecchi, appeared June 30, 2011 in the "Observations" blog on Scientific American's website.  To read the remainder of the article in its entirety, please click HERE.]

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wellsboro family struggles with well contamination

"One morning the salamanders in their pond, where the water was 'pristine' according to tests done prior to drilling, began to die...."

The following article by Cheryl Clarke appeared in the Sun Chronicle on July 2, 2011:

A Charleston Township family's experience with natural gas drilling has become the latest story of contaminated well water associated with nearby drilling, in the ongoing Marcellus Shale saga, according to family member Jeremiah Gee.  Gee and his parents, Denise and Jerry, live next door to land that has been leased to Shell Appalachia for drilling, and last winter, a gas drilling site appeared about 100 yards from a pond on their property.  It now is known as the "Vandegrift 290" well site.

Gee, a doctorate candidate at Penn State University, said shortly thereafter the family noticed a change in its well water.  "We noticed that early on our faucets were sputtering, and the water was milky looking," Gee said.  The reason it looked like milk, he said, is "because there were a billion tiny gas bubbles in it, and if you set it on the counter, it clears up."  The gas bubbles also can be heard and seen in the Gee's water well, he said.  "If you open the casing you can see the gas bubbling in the well," he added.  Though there are no other contaminates in the well water-yet "we are not drinking the well water at this time," Gee said. "If you took a match out and dropped it in the well casing right now you would get a boom."

Gee said six natural gas wells have been drilled from the one pad, and "we noticed this after the completion activities began.  They call the whole process of completion activities a cycle," he said he was told by Shell officials. "They go to the end of a horizontal hole, perforate it, frack it, plug it and then move back and repeat the process a dozen or more times so," he added.  Shell had just started perforating two of the bores when the Gees noticed a difference in their water.  "Gas started bubbling in the 'cellars,' a deep culvert put around each well head to prevent gravel from collapsing the hole," Gee said. "It is not supposed to do that; the gas is supposed to be in the casing," he added.

DEP informed
Gee said Shell did not stop operations on the wells until the fact that his family could light their tapwater on fire was brought to the attention of the state Department of Environmental Protection.  Shell began taking steps to "mitigate" the problem last week.  Gee said the family has spoken to everyone involved with Shell from "the average Joe on up to the operations manager," with less than satisfactory results.

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

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Power of One.

Hello friends.  I'm sure you've had plenty of moments in recent months when you've been discouraged at the political and environmental circumstances in which we find ourselves; I know I have.  Before I began this blog a year and half ago, I was horrified, frustrated, and scared by story lines that seemed more appropriate for science fiction novels than the reality in many of our own backyards.  "I'm one person," I thought.  What the heck can *I* do?

And then by chance I came across the Edmund Burke quote which graces the banner of my blog:  "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little."  That quote gave me the inspiration to start this little blog.  Over the past several months, its Facebook audience has grown to nearly 2000 people who have been brought together over a common concern.  Still, I'd become discouraged of late.  And as the universe always seems to throw you what you need when you need it, I thought I'd share what was thrown my way tonight. Never underestimate the power of one person to affect change!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Dear Friends,
Apologies for my absence in recent weeks.  Unfortunately, this past month we've been dealing with the sudden decline and ultimate passing of a very dear member of our family.  Less than 48 hours later, we lost another beloved family member.  So while I've seemingly disappeared from the blogosphere, at present my attention needs to be elsewhere; I will post as I am able.

Many thanks for your understanding.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Natural gas discovered underneath U.S. Capital. Extraction could begin in late 2011.

The following is a press release issued earlier today from Earthworks:

Washington D.C. - Earlier today, Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers announced that natural gas deposits were discovered on U.S. Capitol grounds during the construction of the underground Capitol Visitor center.  The discovery -- made prior to the visitor center's opening in 2008 -- was announced today after mineral rights and jurisdictional issues were resolved allowing leasing to proceed and gas production oversight to be implemented.

An unsuspected natural gas bearing shale formation -- similar to the Marcellus Shale underlying middle Appalachian states, the Barnett Shale in north-central Texas, and other shale gas plays around the country -- was uncovered as the pit was dug for the several stories deep undergound Capitol visitor center.  The new visitor center was deemed necessary in the wake of 9/11 to mitigate the possibility of terrorist attack on the Capitol Building.

It is this type of shale gas, now accessible because of a recent gas production innovation known as horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") that has increased U.S. natural gas reserves to the point that President Obama made natural gas part of his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future announced on Wednesday at Georgetown University.

Production of shale gas is controversial, however, because of concerns from adjacent communities over potential impacts to public health and drinking water.  Hydraulic fracturing is exempt from portions of the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act -- shielding the toxics used in the process and the process itself from public scrutiny and governmental oversight.  EARTHWORKS, hundreds of affected communities, and the Oscar-nominated documentary GASLAND, argue that the result is polluted air, water and communities.

“I’ve lived with frackers in my community for the past 20 years,” said Gwen Lachelt of Durango, Colorado.  The Oil & Gas Accountability Project director continued, “if drilling is safe then I'm a platypus.  I don't think those folks in D.C. know what they're doing."

Mr. Ayers, thanks to his unique powers as steward of the Capitol, enacted public health protections where Congress and the states have not.  Drilling will proceed under a regulatory regime as if the federal environmental exemptions did not exist.  As a result, Congress and the public will know exactly what toxics are being injected underneath the Capitol, baseline water testing will be required, and no waste pits will be permitted.

"I'm pleased that the Architect of the Capitol has decided to impose precedent-setting environmental and public health standards on shale drilling on US Capitol grounds," said Lauren Pagel, EARTHWORKS' Policy Director.  She continued, "But I am left wondering why the communities across America faced with drilling in their backyards can't receive the same protections."

You can read more by clicking HERE.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Compressor station sickens residents

There's an article appearing in today's online Denton Record-Chronicle (Texas).  While the story takes place in TX, the repercussions in PA are pretty self-evident.  If you or your loved ones live near a compressor station, take note.  I remain confounded why PA lawmakers--and even many residents--hear about things like this and are willing to disregard it.  Even the Mayor of Dish, TX has resigned and moved his family away!

Atmosphere of concern:  
Residents of Dish feel change in air
By Elizabeth Smith / For the Denton Record-Chronicle

"...Each day, Dish officials estimate, about 1 billion cubic feet of gas travels through three metering stations, more than 20 major gas gathering pipelines and 11 compression plants that have been shoehorned into the town’s two square miles by energy companies.

The Sheffields are among many residents who have lodged complaints with local, state and federal officials about the noise and odors coming from facilities so loosely regulated that toxic emissions, whether the release is intentional or accidental, go unreported and uncounted.

When the wind blows from the compressor stations to the southeast and emissions are high — leaving a strangely sweet odor hanging in the air — those are the days Rebekah Sheffield and her family feel the worst. Her husband, Warren, frequently checks the readings of a new state air ambient monitor online. When the wind is blowing from the southeast, he often finds that the ambient air levels of the 46 toxic compounds being monitored are higher than normal.

“We know that we just can’t stay — for our health,” Warren Sheffield says. “Every day here we feel worse. Every day we’re a little bit sicker. We’re going to have to do something.”

But with their house in disrepair and the prospect of finding a buyer unlikely, the Sheffields say they feel trapped.

Rebekah and Warren Sheffield moved to Dish in 1996 after buying a century-old farmhouse. The couple says they dreamed of restoring it by hand and raising their children. It was a place where she could breathe in the fresh air — until the gas wells were drilled across the street.

Rebekah Sheffield first noticed changes in her body the following year when she reacted to fragrances, particularly perfumes and detergents, she says. A whiff of someone’s perfume sent her stumbling to the floor. She fainted at ballgames, in the grocery store, even while sitting in the pew at church.

Her physician, Dr. Tod Heldridge, prescribed a battery of allergy medications, though they did little to lessen her symptoms. When her condition worsened in 2003, she consulted a neurologist, but tests found no brain lesions or tumors. In 2004, she sought out an allergist, but no combination of pills or nasal sprays substantially quelled her symptoms. The next year, she saw another specialist to treat her constant state of vertigo, but tests were inconclusive. Rebekah Sheffield’s instability was very real to her husband, who grew frustrated that he could not catch his wife when she fell. Finally, in her early 30s, she purchased a wheelchair.

Rebekah Sheffield learned the hard way that soaps and detergents will give her chemical burns up to her elbows. In place of shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and deodorant, she must create her own toiletries using a combination of natural products including cornstarch, baking soda, lemon juice and sugar.

Unable to determine either the specific cause or an effective treatment for her condition, Heldridge diagnosed her with multiple chemical sensitivity. The medical community does not accept the diagnosis as a legitimate medical condition, with debate both over its existence and if symptoms are triggered from exposure to chemicals...."

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

DEP shuts down well site in Galeton over violations

The following press release was issued by the DEP on 3/23/11:

DEP Shuts Down Potter County Gas Well Pre-Construction Site Over Violations Impacting Public Water Supply

WILLIAMSPORT -- The Department of Environmental Protection has ordered Chesapeake Energy to cease work on a natural gas drilling well pad for failing to comply with regulations and impacting one of Galeton Borough Water Authority’s water sources.

The well pad was in the site-preparation phase, which occurs before any well construction or drilling activities take place.

In conducting site-preparation activities at the Beech Flats well pad in West Branch Township, Potter County, Chesapeake failed to implement the required erosion and sediment controls. As a result, a significant amount of sediment and silt discharged from the site into a stream that is a tributary to a water source serving Galeton’s system. The Galeton Water Authority has been forced to use another permitted water source to serve its customers.

“In order to protect human health and the environment, we ordered Chesapeake to stop all construction activity,” DEP North-central Regional Director Nels Taber said. “They must begin corrective action on this site immediately.”

By March 29, the company must correct the existing violations at the site and review and revise, as appropriate, its Erosion and Sediment Control Plan to prevent future damage. DEP will not permit Chesapeake to resume construction at the site until all terms of the order are met.

After a routine site inspection March 8 and a March 10 meeting with Chesapeake, DEP issued a notice of violation for several infractions of the Clean Streams Law and Oil and Gas Act. The company did not respond to the notice. During follow-up inspections March 21 and 22, staff discovered the additional violations and impacts that resulted in the March 22 order.

For more information about DEP, visit or contact:  Katy Gresh, Department of Environmental Protection Southwest Regional Office.

Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau 
Room 308, Main Capitol Building 
Harrisburg PA., 17120 

This press release can be viewed in its entirety by clicking HERE.

Monday, March 21, 2011

PA gas drilling the focus of NPR's Diane Rehm Show

From the show's site:  "The state of Pennsylvania is in the forefront of the current rush to extract natural gas, and it also seems to be in the middle of an increasingly contentious debate over related environmental risks. The process of extracting natural gas involves forcing millions of gallons of water deep into the earth to break up rock and release the gas. Environmentalists say that in some states, including Pennsylvania, this waste water which is often laden with heavy salts and naturally occurring radioactive materials is being improperly discharged into rivers and streams...."

Guests included Ian Urbina, author of the recent NY Times series which started on February 27, 2011; John Quigley, former Secretary of PA's Department of Conservation & Natural ResourcesDr. Tony Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering & Weiss Presidential Teaching Fellow at Cornell University; Kathryn Klaber, President of the Marcellus Shale Coalition; Amy Mall, policy analyst for the National Resources Defense Council; and John Hanger, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

To hear the entire hour's broadcast, click HERE.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NYT responds to yesterday's DEP press release contradicting story

Journalist Ian Urbina authored a response to DEP's press release (see previous blog post) which appears in today's New York Times.  In its press release, the DEP stated that their own testing in various sites proved that the water was potable and that any levels of radium/radioactivity were all below safe levels.  Here is an excerpt illustrating yet another example of ineptitude when it comes to state oversight:

"The Times found that samples taken by the state in the Monongahela River — a source of drinking water for parts of Pittsburgh — came from a point upstream from the two sewage treatment plants on that river. The state has said those plants are still accepting significant quantities of drilling waste.

Because that sampling site is upstream, the discharges from those two plants are not captured by the state’s monitoring plans.

Asked on Monday if the state planned to correct the problem, Katy Gresh, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said it was still considering where to take samples in the future and whether to require testing at drinking-water intake plants."

To read the original article in its entirety, click HERE.

So who's telling the truth?

Recently the New York Times featured an investigative report on fracking--on their front page.  (Click HERE to read).  Several previously confidential reports/memos were uncovered showing that fracking wastewater ultimately can NOT be adequately treated before it's released into our waterways.  Worse, an accompanying interactive map showed dozens of PA wells tested positive for radium thousands of times higher than acceptable levels.

Well, yesterday, PA's Department of Environmental Protection issued a press release indicating the exact opposite.  Three of the wells featured on the NYT interactive map are located in Tioga County; and yet the DEP says they tested water downstream of Tioga County and found the water safe.  How is that possible??  To read the original DEP press release, click HERE.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Earthquakes from fracking?

So what does the largest earthquake to hit Arkansas in 35 years have to do with us?  It seems that Arkansas, home to the Fayetteville Shale, has fallen victim to more than 800 small earthquakes since September alone.  Some are drawing a possible connection between the earthquakes and the large amount of fracking going on in the area.  They have issued a  6 month moratorium against new injection wells while they study any possible connections.

The following excerpt is from article posted by the Associated Press yesterday:

Largest earthquake in 35 years hits Arkansas
by Sarah Eddington

GREENBRIER, Ark. — The central Arkansas town of Greenbrier has been plagued for months by hundreds of small earthquakes, and after being woken up by the largest quake to hit the state in 35 years, residents said Monday they're unsettled by the increasing severity and lack of warning.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the quake at 11 p.m. Sunday, centered just northeast of Greenbrier, about 40 miles north of Little Rock. It was the largest of more than 800 quakes to strike the area since September in what is now being called the Guy-Greenbrier earthquake swarm.

The activity has garnered national attention and researchers are studying whether there's a possible connection to the region's natural gas drilling industry. The earthquake activity varies each week, though as many as nearly two dozen small quakes have occurred in a day....

...What woke Tarkington was a magnitude 4.7 earthquake that was also felt in Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi. No injuries or major damage have been reported, but the escalation in the severity of quakes in and around the small north-central Arkansas town has many residents on edge. Some said they're seeing gradual damage to their homes, such as cracks in walls and driveways....

...[S]cientists continue to study whether there may be a connection between the earthquakes and local injection wells, where the natural gas industry pumps waste water that can no longer be used by drillers for hydraulic fracturing....

To read the original article in full, please click HERE.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


No, it didn't win the Oscar.  But it's won on so many other levels. Thanks to this documentary, people are talking about a topic that most had never heard of a few years ago.  Case in point: the front page of today's New York Times.  Thank you, Josh Fox, for all of your efforts, your tenacity, and your refusal to back down or be silenced.  You may not have a golden statue for those efforts, but you have the thanks and respect of thousands of people around the world fighting this fight.  And the fight continues!

Top House Democrat outraged over admissions in today's NYTimes.

The front page story in today's New York Times caught the eye--and the ire--of Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey who promptly fired off a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson demanding immediate action.  As referenced in our previous post, the NYTimes investigative report discloses information from internal reports and studies by not only the EPA, but the drilling industry itself.  Read all about it--including portions of Markey's letter, by clicking HERE.  To read the previous post from this blog--which includes the link to the New York Times article--click HERE.

NYT uncovers confidential gas industry, EPA reports.

The New York Times published a lengthy story online yesterday (appearing on the front page of today's newspaper) detailing just how inadequate the existing regulations are when it comes to fracking for natural gas.  Of particular note: the revelation in a gas industry report that "treated" fracking water released back into our streams and rivers still contains amounts of radioactivity that cannot be diluted.  Seems like a no-brainer to me but it's the first time I've heard an industry insider admit it.  Of course the admission takes place in a confidential report that is only now seeing the light of day.  Furthermore, EPA scientists express concern in their own study--also never made public--that water treatment plants are incapable of removing certain contaminants and are in all likelihood violating the law.

Here's an excerpt:

"...While the existence of the toxic wastes has been reported, thousands of internal documents obtained by The New York Times from the Environmental Protection Agency, state regulators and drillers show that the dangers to the environment and health are greater than previously understood.

The documents reveal that the wastewater, which is sometimes hauled to sewage plants not designed to treat it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water, contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known, and far higher than the level that federal regulators say is safe for these treatment plants to handle.

The Times also found never-reported studies by the E.P.A. and a confidential study by the drilling industry that all concluded that radioactivity in drilling waste cannot be fully diluted in rivers and other waterways...."

To read the entire article in full, click HERE.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Huge explosion rocks western PA gas site

At approximately 6:30pm last night an explosion at a Chesapeake drill site rocked the small community of Avella PA (Washington County) and burned for nearly 3 hours as firefighters from at least 2 counties battled the blaze.  The explosion injured 2-3 people who are now being treated for burns.  Two contractors were reportedly flown via helicopter from the scene to UPMC-Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh.  For video of the site, click HERE to see the WTOV footage.

"I was eating dinner when all of a sudden there was an explosion," said Katie Leeper, whose home is on a hill across the valley from the well. "I didn't know it was an explosion at first, but the whole house shook and the windows rattled.  "I looked outside, saw all the neighbors, looked over the hill and saw the big fire."  Another neighbor, Robert Dalesio, who said his house is 650 yards from the well, thought a plane had crashed.  "I first thought a C-130 (military transport aircraft) went down because they fly over here all the time," he said. "There was a pretty good concussion. I looked over and saw the whole hillside on fire."  To read the full story, click HERE.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

3400 gallons of frack water spilled in Lock Haven

SWISSDALE - The state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed this morning that 3,400 gallons of treated frack flowback water were spilled during Friday's tri-axle truck crash on the Coudersport Pike, near the "horseshoe curve."  "There were two things spilled ... 50 gallons of fuel and oil and 3,400 gallons of treated frack water," DEP spokesman Dan Spadoni said. "We have no information that any waterways were threatened by this. I don't think that's a concern."

The water truck is owned by A&A Construction of Clarence. The water was from a well drilled by Anadarko.  A&A has hired an environmental consultant, GEF, at the direction of DEP, to conduct an investigation, Spadoni said.  "That's part of it," he said. "We've already taken soil samples and have taken at least some private drinking water samples. We'll be following up today."  Spadoni said someone from the agency's Environmental Cleanup Program will be collecting more samples from private drinking water wells.  As far as any fines that may be instituted, Spadoni said that will be decided at a later date.  "Right now, we're focused on the site remediation," he said.

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

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"A catastrophe waiting to happen"

LinkTV, an independent media orgranization whose mission is to "engage, inform and inspire viewers to become involved in the world," recently posted an in-depth investigation into Marcellus drilling activity--based in large part in Bradford County, PA.  The report seems to have its basis in the fact that natural gas drilling is planned for large parts of Europe.  It's an excellent piece of investigative journalism--I urge you to take the time to watch!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sierra Club video series on fracking effects

The PA chapter of the Sierra Club recently posted a series of 10 video clips featuring Kevin Heatley, Restoration Ecologist.  The series documents the various effects of fracking to PA forests. The first video can be seen below; click HERE  to view the remaining nine.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Josh Fox, Mark Ruffalo head to DC in support of FRAC Act

Anti-fracking bill gets Oscar hopeful's support
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hoping success rubs off, a U.S. lawmaker had the director of the Oscar-nominated film "Gasland" near when announcing he will reintroduce a bill making companies reveal chemicals used in natural gas drilling.

"Before this country embraces natural gas as the solution to our energy needs ... we need to take every step possible to ensure our water is not contaminated, our air is not polluted, and our communities are not irrevocably harmed," Representative Maurice Hinchey of New York, who will reintroduce the bill, said at a press conference.  To read the entire article by Timothy Gardner, click HERE.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Special report: In depth on fracking (video)

While the WGRZ news station is out of western NY, a good portion of the content (interviews, etc) take place in Bradford County.  The video is approximately 9-10 minutes long and well worth watching.  To read the accompanying transcript, click HERE.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Landowners might have more options than previously thought.

For those landowers who signed over mineral rights a decade or more ago and thought they had no recourse when those leases were extended at the original rates of mere dollars per acre.....think again.  The following article appeared in today's Ithaca Journal.

Landowners looking for legal options to fight energy companies

As energy companies attempt to extend some oil and gas leases because of New York's hydraulic fracturing moratorium, local law firms are trying to assemble groups of landowners to fight those claims in federal court.

Hundreds of local landowners have received letters from natural gas companies over the past two years claiming "force majeure" on their expiring leases, many of which are a decade old and signed for just a few dollars per acre.

Force majeure, a legal clause in some contracts, allows for the lease to be extended if an unforeseen event prevents either side from upholding the terms of the agreement.

One small group of landowners in the Harpursville and Colesville areas moved forward with a federal suit against a force majeure claim last fall, and now some lawyers are trying to expand the legal fight against the industry.

"We have probably 120 families that expressed an interest," said Robert Jones, a lawyer with Coughlin & Gerhart LLP. "Our goal is to commence a lawsuit on their behalf by March 1"....

Click HERE to read the remainder of the article in its entirety.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Should you have a right to know?

The American Gas Association, Gas Processors Association and Chesapeake Energy Corporation have all filed suit against the EPA that would undermine the public's right-to-know laws.  At issue: inventorying and disclosure requirements for all oil and gas discharges into the environment.  Click HERE to read the recent press release issued by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Speak out...and risk being named a terrorist.

Last time I checked, I was an American citizen living *in* America.  And then I see something like this:

Thanks to for posting.

Don't inhale.

So what exactly is floating about in the air that we breathe....if we happen to live near gas drilling operations?  A news channel out in Pittsburgh investigated.  Wait till you see the video; the company who owns the compressor station shown in the video says they are "in full compliance" with all regulations.  Click HERE to see the clip and read the accompanying story transcript.  

Even more disturbing....the DEP admits they have no idea what the emissions are but that said, their findings of a 5 month study "did not indicate a potential for major air-related health issues associated with the Marcellus Shale natural gas activities."  Huh?  I particularly enjoyed the part of the clip where the guy from Range Resources states, "what we need is a more comprehensive policy that encourages natural gas use."  WHAT?  If I didn't know any better, I'd think they take us all for idiots.

To read the full text of the DEP's report, click HERE.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Allentown explosion kills 5, levels 8 homes.

The explosion happened late Wednesday night.  Included among the casualties was a 4 month old infant, a 16 year old girl and a 70 year old couple.  And while 8 homes were leveled, 48 homes and 10 businesses were damaged.   Utility workers had inspected the lines just the day before but hadn't detected any leaks.  The lines in question were installed back in 1928.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

PA fracking blowout spews fluid onto state forest lands

The following article appeared in the Star Gazette on 1.25.2011.
Talisman Energy may face heavy penalties  
By G. Jeffrey Aaron

Talisman Energy has resumed its Marcellus drilling operations in Pennsylvania, a week after one of the company's gas wells experienced a blowout that caused an uncontrolled discharge of sand and fracking fluids onto state forest lands in Tioga County.

As a result of the incident, Talisman shut down all of its hydraulic fracturing operations in North America while it conducted an internal investigation into the cause of the Jan. 17 blowout. Those operations have since resumed, with Talisman's Pennsylvania drilling program being the last to be brought back online.

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has requested Talisman provide answers to nine questions related to the blowout as part of its investigation into the incident. The investigation could result in civil penalties levied against Talisman.

The well where the blowout occurred is on Pennsylvania State Forest lands in Ward Township, about nine miles southeast of Mansfield.

"There is certainly the possibility of a civil penalty that would be determined at a later time," DEP spokesman Daniel Spadoni said. "But we need to have the investigation concluded to our satisfaction before the civil penalties would be addressed."

Talisman, based in Calgary, Alberta has five days from receipt of letter, called a notice of violation, to submit the information requested by the DEP. The letter was dated Monday.

Among other items, the DEP wants Talisman to submit a sampling plan for the site, information on any fluids released during the blowout, an analysis of the incident's cause, changes in all of the company's Marcellus operations as a result of the incident and when those changes will be implemented.

DEP is also asking why it was notified shortly after 1:30 p.m. Jan. 17 when the incident began a little after noon.

"This was a serious incident that could have caused significant environmental harm had it not been brought under control," DEP North-central Regional Director Nels Taber said in a statement. "DEP is conducting a thorough investigation to determine why this incident occurred."

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

Gas drilling isn't as "clean" as previously thought

Really?  Anyone who lives in an area where they're drilling has known this since Day 1.  The industry has spun a marvelous tale of how natural gas is the second coming--describing it as "clean" and even "green."  If I see another commercial about it I just may throw my tv out the window!  Natural gas might burn cleanER than oil but now there is finally evidence showing that when taking into account the entire lifecycle from extraction through burning, the benefits of natural gas are negligible at best.  Click HERE to read the latest chapter in Abraham Lustgarten's provocative series on the natural gas industry for ProPublica: "Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated."

So instead of investing billions of dollars and destroying millions of acres, decimating property values (not to mention any tourism industry that might have existed pre-drilling), ruining wells, and risking the health and well-being of people, wildlife, and pets....WHY aren't those billions of dollars being invested in something that does none of the above: solar power, wind power or something yet to be discovered?  Last night's State of the Union address touched upon how the United States needs to out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build; we can't expect to lead the pack again if our focus is on the fossil fuels of last century.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Catching up; deep thoughts

Dear Friends,

I realize it's been several weeks since my last post.  First it was due to a tropical vacation, then the holidays hit, and before I knew it, it was mid-January.  My apologies for seeming to drop into a black hole.  Lately, however, I've struggled with what to post.

I started this blog a little more than a year ago, when gas drilling operations in my area began to overwhelm the landscape.  As I watched what was happening around my beloved hometown, I wrestled to find a way to deal with my feelings of helplessness.  To my dismay, many area residents seemed resigned to what was happening.  After a few months of gas drilling on my mind (and in my hearing, in my sights....), it occurred to me that I didn't have to feel helpless--there *was* something I could do.

I put to use my skills as a librarian and created this site to be a sort of "one stop shop" for people like me--people who were concerned about what was happening, wanted to educate themselves about natural gas drilling and network with similar-minded folks.  My goal was to reach the widest possible audience and to make the information easily accessible.  I spent a considerable amount of time researching and identifying authoritative local, state and national resources.  When I started this process, I didn't know beans about fracking, the current means by which natural gas is extracted.  Now, I know more than I wish I did.

I had also never built a blog or linked it to other social media sites, so I had to educate myself on that too.  I created links to other topical blogs and made it easy for visitors to find and contact their legislators or locate the latest information in their newspapers (you don't even have to do the search--click on the link and it's done for you!)

But over the course of the past year as the number of blog/Facebook fans grew, so did the number of drill  sites in my area.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not against gas drilling.  Many people I know are finally out of debt or at the very least, aren't living paycheck to paycheck since they leased their mineral rights or allowed compressor stations to be built on their property.  I'm thankful for that.  But I'm increasingly frightened at the cost of this new-found wealth.

I'm for responsible gas extraction; unfortunately fracking is not a responsible means by which to extract gas.  It's quicker and cheaper.  It also negates the entire marketing campaign by which gas companies insist natural gas is a "cleaner, greener" fuel.  I can assure anyone who believes that piece of fiction that it's just that:  fiction.  Anyone who doubts it need only live next to a drill site...or two.  Or three.

The cost of this new-found wealth is steep and the repercussions far-reaching.  As drilling activity increased, more of our roads were destroyed by the constant stream of heavy equipment and trucks that come with it; state police stings netted hundreds and hundreds of gas truck violations.  More leaks, explosions and "accidents" occurred.  A resident was murdered by a gas company worker.  Jobs were promised; instead hotels were booked solid and new ones built to accomodate workers from out of state.  Hunters were warned they could be stopped and questioned if they inadvertently stepped on land under development by gas companies.  Even our state parks were not immune to the onslaught of the drills.  Then came the recent state elections.  Incredibly, PA residents elected a new governor and other legislators who were "gas friendly" and had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations.  Either people voted against their own self interests...or apathy prevented them from voting at all.

Perhaps I was fooling myself into thinking that I could actually make a difference.  As I look at what's happening around me, it's hard not to feel that the gas companies have won.  And dear readers, I'm having a really hard time coming to terms with that.