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.