CHC Update – Multiply by 40


It’s been a busy week – there’s a drilling update below, followed by upcoming events, a report on the last planning commission and steering committee meetings, and then the Fracking News
Yellow Creek Well Site Update

CHC received notice that MDS was to start drilling at Yellow Creek this past Friday. When you drive past the site on Ray Road, you’ll notice a larger pad, the drill rig, several trucks, and other new equipment at the site. They’ve also increased the signage.

Now imagine multiplying that “little industrial plant” by 40.  That’s how many Marcellus wells that MDS Energy wants to drill in the conservation zone.

Assuming the best case scenario, that there are no accidents, the lasting footprint of the current well will be an enormous 1000 foot deep concrete block, plugging a mile deep hole that’ll be spewing hundreds of thousands of gallons of super-salinated waste fluid, which may contain radioactive material, for many years to come.

Now imagine multiplying that footprint by 40.  And that’s a low estimate, since other companies besides MDS hold leases in the conservation zone, some in the Yellow Creek State Park itself.

Avoiding the cumulative risk of over 40 of these “little industrial plants” surrounding the state park is why there is a conservation zone in the first place.

The county needs to step up to the plate.  The planning commission will determine their recommendations to the commissioners by October 12.


Call the County Commissioners, stop them in the street, or show up in their office. Let them know, the conservation zone should be protected, there should be no fracking in the conservation zone.

Coming Events:
Thanks to Dan Budris for adding a calendar to our website. Check it out to keep it straight!

Visual Assessment Training 
Marcellus Citizens Stewardship Project
Mountain Watershed Association
October 17, 6-9pm Venue TBA

CHC is co-sponsoring this event to help educate as many Indiana County residents as possible on Marcellus shale drilling. The Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project is a Mountain Watershed Association initiative in conjunction with Three Rivers Waterkeeper, GASP Pittsburgh, Clean Water Action, The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, PennEnvironment and the Fayette County Conservation District. This project provides citizens with tools and knowledge to responsibly monitor Marcellus shale development to aid in community and environmental protection.

Check them out, there’s more info on the website – including some of their presentation materials:

RSVP with me – stay tuned for the venue!

October 13 – 15
Senator John Heinz Regional History Center,
Pittsburgh, PA

Keynote speaker, renowned economist and environmentalist Winona LaDuke, October 13, 6pm

I’ll be heading to this on Thursday evening, and likely a good portion of the day on Friday.  It’s a great opportunity for CHC to network and learn from other social justice organizations across the region. There are workshops on environmental justice, criminal justice, tools for grassroots organizations, and other issue and skills based topics. There’s even a film festival!!  Anyone want to come?

The first-ever gathering of people and organizations from across Southwestern Pennsylvania – community members and leaders, human services providers and small business owners, union members, grantmakers, filmmakers, artists, entertainers, media representatives, people from all backgrounds and interests – who share a common goal of advancing social justice and change in our region and world. A three-day, open attendance conference on social justice and change for the 10-county Southwestern Pennsylvania region. Events include workshops, training sessions, plenary sessions, a Keynote Address by renowned economist and environmentalist Winona LaDuke, panel discussions, the Building Change Film Festival, a Social Justice Arts Show, an Internship Fair, entertainment, Youth Leading Change event, and more.

Report on Planning Commission Meeting 9/28: 

This was the 5th out of 6 planning commission meetings, it was the most substantive of all of them so far. Kurt Hausammann, director of the planning department of Lycoming Co, joined by phone and talked about their comprehensive zoning ordinance dealing with drilling across their county

One aspect of that ordinance that drew attention in the room was their ban on drilling in two specific zones: zones called Rural Centers, and Neighborhood Preservation districts. They assumed that property owners in these zones (about 2% of total county area), would be able to get at their gas via a horizontal well, not disturbing the surface in those zones. (sound familiar?)

Also, Craig Neal from Consol Energy gave a presentation about their best practices at their Beaver Run project. They have a huge complex 500 feet from the reservoir. My personal opinion is that that complex is like a sword hung by a thread over the heads of folks in Westmoreland county who rely on the reservoir for drinking water.  But, that said, so far they have a perfect drilling record with DEP, with no violations. And according to Neal, they use a number of extra safety precautions, particularly for their containment pits. A Consol geologist also talked about drilling, but I didn’t understand a word he said.

Ken Bisbee came as well and expressed his concern over any drilling nearby, traffic, noise, light pollution, and of course any accidents that could affect the park.

The next meeting, Oct. 6, will be in a closed session, and Mr. Rivosecci emphasized that they have the choice btwn a ban, drill baby drill, or some kind of conditions, and their deadline is Oct. 12.

Report on Steering Committee Meeting 9/27

Beth Marshal from the zoning hearing board was our guest to talk about the conservation zone ordinance. Written in 1973 from project 70 funds, it’s withstood  a number of legal challenges, and is a fairly remarkable ordinance to have such longevity.  As we know, the decision on MDS was made largely because they met the conditions of the current ordinance. Ms. Marshal also said that even if they had denied it, that eventually on appeal the county would be forced to back down because of the legal costs.

Reminds me of what Ben Price said, “we don’t have a drilling problem, we have a democracy problem.”

An extended report on the meeting is available.


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