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.
From the report:
From Pittsburgh to Scranton, gas companies have already drilled more than 3,000 hydraulic fracturing wells, and the state has issued permits for thousands more. Permitted well sites exist within two miles of more than 320 day care facilities, 67 schools and nine hospitals statewide.
Read the rest here.
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.
- PA Fracking Fluid Blowout Sparks Outrage: Citizens Join Marcellus Shale Oil and Gas Litigation Group in Demanding Temporary Drilling Moratorium
- FYI:A Letter to President Barack Obama Concerning Natural Gas Extraction from Marcellus Shale in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
- Spill at Marcellus Shale drilling site in Bradford County prompts evacuation
- Environmental Protection Agency steps into probe of fracking spill
- Gas panel members rack up violations
- The Marcellus Shale Has Friends in Low Places
Took a ride up rt. 287 to Ansonia PA, Tioga Co.
Stoped at the Darling Run Access and biked down along Big Pine Creek to the Owassee. That’s the name of the rapids on a turn in the creek in the upper part of the PA grand canyon.
We then drove west to Potter Co. and down rt. 44. This is all yesterday, Sunday. If we passed one water tank semi, we passed a hundred. They are hauling the water to the gas wells for fracking the shale viens. The serenity of the beautiful mountain roads has been prettty much destroyed. Along with the roads. The mountain road stretch of rt. 44 coming down from Fin, Fur, and Feather to Waterville has been crushed and semi rebuilt over the last couple months. There again, yesterday, Sunday that stretch was one tanker semi after another.
I stopped by my favorite fishing blog the other day, and one of the posts had this in it. Traffic–all of the traffic–Trucks for the water, cars and trucks for the people driving to the well sites, the waste hauler trucks, the well equipment, the chemicals. Chesapeake Energy has stated that they don’t have enough trucks so they are bringing in 5,000 more from Wyoming. This is just going to get worse everyone.
5,000 additional trucks; for just one company. That is a mind-numbing thought; can you imagine the fuel usage for those 5,000 trucks; the carbon emissions for those trucks, and just the smell of the diesel fumes? These trucks aren’t just in operation from 8-5, but rather they are on the road 24×7. All of this additional traffic is also wreaking havoc on the infrastructure. Yes, I know the Gas industry pays for the repairs, and often leaves them better than they were; but at what cost? We need to look at the bigger picture.
Recently, Cornell University published a study showing that the Natural Gas extraction from Fracking may actually contribute to Climate Change, and it’s easy to see why–but not just from all of the increased traffic, but with the venting of Natural Gas to the atmosphere. Methane is a far more hazardous greenhouse gas; and while we don’t have any actual numbers, it’s possible that up to 7.6% of the total volume of a well is vented to the atmosphere. Some wells actually burn or ‘flare’ the gas; and while that’s not as hazardous; there are still greenhouse gases being contributed.
Our water is in danger, our air is in danger; we’re killing out planet. When do we all start caring? When do we all say ENOUGH!?
(With thanks to Susquehanna River Watch for posting this information)
So, the Susquehanna River Tournament Trail has decided to take its’ toys elsewhere on the Susqy this summer as all of their tournaments are being held North of the Sunbury Fabridam; with one being held in Willamsport. The PFBC, in its’ belated wisdom, has made the main stem of the Susquehanna (as of this writing; there is an April meeting where this may change) south of Sunbury into a ‘catch and release’ fishery; along with several miles of the major Tributary the Juniata.
Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not ‘anti-tournament’—I’m not a tournament angler because I fish to relax; I get enough competition in the daily grind. The only person I want to beat fishing is myself. However, some of the members of this group have been quite vocal in their opposition to the new rules. Their cry is that the tournaments aren’t to blame; all the fish are alive when they are released and that pollution is to blame for the problems with the Smallmouth Bass population on the Main Stem of the Susquehanna. I don’t disagree with this premise; in fact I am a firm believer that there are multiple reasons why there are issues. Combined Sewer Overflows are a horrendous problem; lawn and agriculture runoff is an issue, the chemicals humans put in their bodies to combat everything from osteoporosis to depression; even the chemicals we treat our roads with in the winter so that ice and snow are melted are all issues with the river as well. However, tournaments play a role as well. Depending upon the study you read; tournaments can account for a mortality of 5% to 40%. If 100 fish are caught (and typically they will be among the largest fish), the chance of losing between 5 and 40 fish in an already injured fishery seems foolish to me.
I agree with the new PFBC rules–because they are an excellent and easily handled set of rules given the current climate in Harrisburg with regard to the state budget. They are not a panacea however. The real fix will come when the other issues are addressed; however this will take time and will cost millions to fix in Harrisburg alone. Of course, the burden for this will fall on the residents of the city; who are already overburdened, given their economic climate. The other issues–lawn/ag runoff and chemicals used by humans will also cost millions to deal with; both in terms of enforcement of regulations and developing methodologies for removing the chemicals.
The response to the rule changes by the SRTT was to move their tournaments north of the Fabridam. Many of their membership live in the area of the Main Stem around Harrisburg and south; and now they are driving an hour and a half north of Harrisburg to conduct their Tournaments. Towing their boats behind trucks that get 25mpg or less; and polluting the air (and ultimately the river they claim they care for) just to compete with one another seems like an irresponsible action to me. They were advised by the PFBC about paper tournaments, but according to their website, paper tournaments “won’t work”. I would like to know their reasons for this; many tournaments—Kayak Tournaments for one–are held annually and are paper tournaments.
Personally, I believe their actions are like the stereotypical child who cries ‘Fine, I’ll just take my toys and go somewhere else’. Not exploring the option of conducting Paper Tournaments seems to me to be an irresponsible action by the SRTT; adding the pressure of their tournaments to an area that is already fished heavily just adds to that feeling of irresponsibility. I disagree with their reaction.