June 7 Frack Lobby Day in Harrisburg
Today was the Rally and Lobby day in Harrisburg PA. I signed up to attend with 400 other people so that we could voice our opinions to our Senators and Representatives; as well as hear speeches from people affected by drilling; a few politicians who have proposed legislation to place a moritorium on new drilling, provide for a remediation fee (tax, impact fee; call it what you will) and move new drilling far away from any water sources. I also picked up many pieces of literature with more details about the impact of Hydraulic Fracturing and Drilling in the Marcellus Shale region. Some of the details from this literature and the rally appear below.
- An interview with a former employee with one of the gas companies gave eyewitness accounts of illegal actions taken by drillers when there is an accident–they range from dumping on the road, dumping in creeks to burying contaminated soil under new soil; all while not reporting the accident to the DEP and hoping that no inspectors make a surprise visit.
- A social worker who shared that the homeless numbers are on the rise in areas where the drilling is taking place, due to increases in rental rates because the drillers are willing (and of course able) to pay up to 2x more for rents. This, in turn, affects people living in the area who do not make enough money to afford the increased rental rates.
- Evidence from Careerlink of a 25% attrition rate among native Pennsylvanians who the drilling companies hire; due to ‘cultural differences’, like working 12-hour days for weeks at a stretch without days off.
- Josh Fox, who made the academy award nominated film ‘Gasland’; which still draws controversy, even though much of the details have been proven factual.
No story, however, is more poignant than that of Crystal Stroud. She lives in Towanda PA and like many, was lured by the prospect of financial gain for leasing the drilling rights on the 2 acres of land she and her husband owned. Little did she know that the drilling would negativley affect her family’s health in a way she could not imagine. A few months back she began having health issues; her hair was falling out, she would have uncontrollable muscle tremors, heart palpatations and panic attacks. They tested her for thyroid issues, but that was normal. The recommendation was that she take anxiety medication. A few days went by and she began to have worse affects. During all of this, they had the water tested from their well; and the results came back; the well was contaminated with Barium, Lead, Strontium, Choloride, Methane, Radon and other Radiological materials. She had her blood tested and found that her Barium level was 110—normal is 0-10. Barium accumuluation affects the nervous system; and her problems were definitely among the symptoms.
The Stroud family contacted the drilling company and they sent a representative out to look over her water results, he began to explain away the items found and she asked about the Radiologicals; he looked only at the Radon (1.2pCi/L before drilling; 154.5pCi/L after drilling began). Crystal asked him specifically about the Gross Alpha and Gross Beta; to which the representative replied; “I don’t know anything about those.” DEP representative have told neighbors with similar issues to ‘just buy a water filter, you’ll be ok’. The Stround house has filtering equipment and the water from the tap is still contaminated at those levels.She also shared with us the fact that her son has the same levels as she had; 18 days after they ceased to use the water; and that her levels have nearly doubled since April. They have to move; but can’t sell their property with a contaminated water well.
The Stroud story is not unique; numerous families have been affected in the region–from the much publicized Dimock issue; to local landowners who didn’t know the mineral rights to their property had been sold off decades ago. Wells are contaminated, water is being taken from our streams and creeks; with full blessing of DEP and other agencies.
Studies have been done about the affect on local wildlife and in areas with heavy drilling the impact is significant; diminished mayfly populations and salamander populations abound in regions with heavy drilling. These are the ‘canaries’ in the coal mine; mayflies are a major food source for many animals; if their numbers are depleted, one can only imagine how the populations of other animals will be detrimentally affected.
All along we’re being fed the ‘economic development’ platitudes from the industry and from our political officials. Yet the math doesn’t make sense. The estimated impact of Gas Production for PA is a paltry $22 billion dollars. That’s only 2.3x what Hunting, Trapping and Fishing (at an estimated $9.5 Billion dollar) brings to the Commonwealth. Plus, the Fishing Industry alone directly employs 17,000 PA residents; either as guides or at tackle stores and other directly employed individuals. Other industries such as agriculture and tourism contribute nearly $350 Billion more and employ more than 10x the number of people who live in PA–the Gas Industry employs an estimated 48,000 people; over half of which are not residents of PA. Gas industry jobs are temporary; each well has a life expectancy of only 5-7 years. Sure; there is an estimated 100 years of Gas underground; but at what cost?
If the Gas Industry continues its’ desecration of pristine forests, streams, creeks and agriculture land; the larger industries of Agriculture, Hunting, Fishing, and other related industries will be doomed in PA. The great World-Class fly-fishing streams will be a memory; and the hunting lands will be gone. Tourism in the Marcellus Shale areas will diminish to nearly nothing.
One of the greatest lies we’re being told in PA, however, is that the Gas will give us (and potentially the US) ‘Energy Independence’. This is simply not true–a majority of the leases have been sold overseas; with the bulk going to China, South Korea and India; it’s not staying here. China is already buying millions of gallons of water from us, now they want our Gas too.
The Jury is still out on whether or not Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale region is safe—or ever will be. Studies by the EPA are undeway; but aren’t expected to be complete until 2012 and released some time in 2013. Like other people who were at the Capitol today; I support a moratorium for 1-3 years until the studies are done. At that time, with the evidence in hand, we can (if it is possible) extract the Gas safely; it’s not going anywhere.