Home > Gas Drilling, Marcellus Shale, Politics, Pollution > Marcellus Shale Rally in Harrisburg

Marcellus Shale Rally in Harrisburg

Today I joined with Gas Truth of Central PA, Clean Water Action and a dozen more organizations at the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg, PA to protest what we feel is a shameless lack of democracy in PA. The protest was aimed at the members of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission–which to anyone with a modicum of sense in their heads looks like a very one-sided stacked deck. Led by Lt. Governor Jim Cawley; this commission has the majority of membership coming from the Oil and Gas Industry. By no means am I saying that they should not be represented, but when they make up the bulk of the membership of the group–13 out of 30– the deck is well and truly stacked. Interestingly enough, these 13 members contributed heavily ($557,000) to Governor Corbett’s campaign. Twelve more members are from companies who contributed just over $562,000 to the Governors campaign, and one is the son of a $300,000 contributor.  That’s 26 members who contributed $1.4 Millon to the Corbett Campaign. The remaining four members are from Conservation groups: Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Nature Conservancy. Four members out of 30. Thirteen members from Oil and Gas industries. Glaringly missing are representatives from Health agencies–many of the chemicals found in frack fluids and waste frack fluids are known carcinogens; not to mention radioactive. There is only one woman on the commission; she’s from a conservation group.

As an interesting statistic, the Oil and Gas companies represented on the Commission represent 42% of all violations–514 out of 1,227–in 2010 that occured at drilling sites. The violations ranged from pretty severe (illegal discharge of industrial waste) to seemingly innocuous (administrative oversights). The number of violations is about 1/6th of the total number of Gas Wells in the Marcellus Shale region of PA. Chief Oil and Gas led the way (Terry Bossert; their VP of Government sits on the Commission) had the highest with 174. Chesapeake Energy (Dave Spigelmyer, VP of Government Relations) was number 3 at 132. Other companies such as East Resources (74), Exxon Mobil (66), Range Resources (32), Chevron (16), EQT (15) and Consol (5) all have seats on the Commission.

The hue and cry is that there is no danger from the Frack Fluids; that 90% of them remain in the ground, locked in the shale. Ok, lets review the process. We drill down below the water table until we’re in the shale bed. Then, we drill a long horizontal tunnel in the shale, then fracture using the fluids and sand, and pump the gas out. Key word here: Fracture. While the shale is geologically less than permeable; putting fractures in it reduces that impereabiltiy. And..these chemicals are now below the water table. Centrifugal force from the rotation of the earth tends to force the fluids to the surface; and natural geologic activity will tend to increase the fractures. Result: eventually the fluids will end up in the water table. It might happen today, via cracks in the cement casing they put down the well on the sides; or it might happen tomorrow at some date in the future.

What about the 10% of frack fluids that are recovered? Well; they contain water, sand, a mixture of chemicals ranging from Benzene to xylene; all of which are carcinogens. Some of these fluids are ‘recycled’ but a majority go out for disposal. As an example, every day 14 waste disposal facilties along the Monongahelia Watershed accept these fluids and place 826,825 lbs of total dissolved solids (anything that isn’t water is one; and could be a toxic material), 486,812 lbs of chloride, 16,737lbs of strontium, 15,033 lbs of barium into the river. Every Day. Under the ‘Haliburton Loophole’, Oil and Gas exploration are exempt from the Clean Water Act.

Governor Corbett really needs to open his window and hear the shouts of the people who are against this drilling. These are ordinary people who, since fracking operations moved in, can’t use their water, are tired of the endless truck traffic,  have property values reduced; can’t get FHA loans to buy property in the area or see the deterioration in forested lands caused by the gas well pads and roads needed to reach them. These are real people with real problems caused by the unchecked growth of this industy. Mayor Calvin Tillman of Dish TX (pop. 218) who has seen the results of shale drilling in the Barnett Shale area stated that there were about 100,000 wells in his area; and the Marcellus Shale is about 5 times larger; simple math says 500,000 wells in PA, WV, part of Ohio, MD,  NY and KY; should all of the region be developed. Even worse–below the Marcellus Shale is the Utica Shale; so when the Marcellus is tapped out in 25-50 years; Utica will be next.

One would think that a process that has been in use since 1949 could be safer than it is; but alas it is not. We the people must use our voices and we must shout loud enough so our elected officials hear us. This commission is a sham; and its’ recommendations will only further the interests of the drillers; not the people.

Frack Rally in Harrsiburg

This is what Democracy Looks Like

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