The Fracking News Archives

September 27, 2011

The increased attention from the vandalism @ Yellow Creek has produced increased press coverage around CHC and our overall fight. It also introduced me to a great independent radio station, Rustbelt Radio. Check out their story on on CHC and our campaign (our story is at about 8 min, following a description of the Building Change workshop)
The EPA held their second of three regional hearings on proposed air pollution regulations related to Marcellus Shale. They’re good regulations, and CHC members are in Pittsburgh to testify.  It’s not too late to get your voice heard – take action here!!
Speaking of violations – the cement well casings which prevent methane and other materials from coming up Marcellus Wells are failing. It could be that new casings regulations put into place in Feburary are resulting in more write-ups – but the EPA violations reports discuss methane bubbling up. That’s a problemCases of methane seepage like these keep occurring, and if other records are unsealed, there will likely be more.
People out in the Pocconos are fed up with violations too – this time of natural gas pipelines.  Wanna be conservation zone driller EQT is in the pipeline business too.
This past Monday the Citizens Marcellus Shale Commission held it’s second hearing in Pittsubrgh. State and local officials, scientists, academics and citizens were united in their concern and opposition to drilling in PA. Said one former DEP exec, “It saddens me that some of the environmental progress made during my career will be lost.”
Speaking of the DEP – they’ve released details about their restructuring.  Sec. Krancer also released this statement regarding the changes. According to former DEP head John Hangar, the centralization of the Oil and Gas bureau is a bad idea, as it puts that division out of step with the rest of the DEP which relies on a regional structure. There also seems to be no commitment to getting away from fossil fuels. There’s also the ongoing concern that no matter how you slice it – slashed funds at time of skyrocketing environmental risk reduces effectiveness.
The lawsuits have been flying – New York will see the court cases on fracking bans first. NY has a similar Oil and Gas Act which puts those bans in confict with state regulation. There are other recent cases in PA involving the industry suing governments for environmental protection laws, another decision reversing a ban on drilling in Alleghaney National Forest.  And in Susquehanna county, there’s an important conversation about whether or not shale is a mineral.
At least the industry is getting some scrutiny, the Department of the Interior is reviewing whether any of the 175 Marcellus Shale gas wells drilled in Pennsylvania state forests or other permitted or planned well developments on publicly owned land violates a 1964 federal land conservation law.
A professor at Penn State gives a sobering look at the realities of the benefits of shale drilling.  I hope the people looking at the Utica shale remember this.  I also hope the folks thinking about their Utica, or their Marcellus will read this article about leases and regrets.
Speaking of eco-terrorists – this guy should go to jail.
Seems like I always hear about religious leaders arguing with one another; at least they agree with us.
Finally, remember Tom Smith, of Indiana County? He led the lobbying effort to have all coal mining permitted in the conservation zone back in 2003. He also said that it’s not possible to drill without violations (factually incorrect according to DEP records) and that we shouldn’t worry so much about them. He’s running for Senate.

September 16, 1011

CHC was in the news again this week, both in the Indiana Gazette, and the Blairsville Dispatch. Do you have more to say about the YC decision? Let me know! Better yet, write a Letter to the Editor!
Unfortunately, it’s not just Indiana County where fracking is happening despite public outcryPipelines are a major issue for folks too.
Speaking of cumulative impacts, Arkansas and Colorado are both a couple years ahead of Pennsylvania in terms of rapid development of oil and gas drilling – and they’re impacted. They’ve seen a lot more spills in recent years – 7 spills every 5 days, and litigation over very serious health effects on children.
Ross Pifer from PennState gave a very accessible webinar yesterday on legal issues surrounding Marcellus Shale. He said that since there’s not been many court cases testing these new laws regulating fracking, that we’re likely to see additional ordinance challenges. 
Are you new to the CHC list? Here’s an in depth article from a Philly paper that’s a up to date overview of the issues around fracking. You should also remember that the industry thinks we’re making things up.
NPR did a great story this week on whether or not we should go “drill baby drill” in the state forests as some in the Corbett administration suggest.  (spoiler alert, Corbett’s guy is wrong)
The good news is that despite all the flooding in the NE Cabot Oil and Gas claims their operations are doing okay, and some have even given the industry an A for weathering the floods….(nothing to see here, move along…..)
The Keystone XL pipeline is a terrible idea. Just ask the Dali Lama. Or, read the opinions of these experts.
And lastly, these two stories don’t relate to fracking directly, but they are awesome: One from Germanythe other from Japan. Why aren’t these innovative ideas coming from the U.S.?

September 9, 2011

The zoning hearing board approved MDS’s application to drill. You already know this. But did you know that MDS Energy is in the minority of gas drillers that each year have violations? In his quote, Mike Knapp says their violations were only waste washed around from a heavy rain. Here’s to hoping that there’s never rain at Yellow Creek.
The Indiana County Conservation District has been tasked with the job of ensuring MDS Energy follows the conditions of the Zoning Hearing Board. It’s unclear what kind of authority they’ll have, but we should definitely support their staff of three.
One way to support them is to join the Marcellus Citizen Stewardship Project. They teach citizens visual assessment methods to keep as many eyes on drilling as possible. Anyone want to be trained by these folks? (that link is to their entire online presentation, it’s a big file – but likely worth it).

Shale Gas Outrage was a huge success
 – with over 2000 people there to protest the equally large conference of Marcellus Shale big wigs, and their paid-off polititians – oops, I meant their paid consultants. (Corbett cancelled b/c of the floods)
One of the biggest wigs – Chesapeake CEO Aubry Pinkerton – was so offensive towards Pennsylvanians that Governor Rendell had to stand up for us. A close acquaintance of CHC’s in the industry rolled his eyes in embarrassment when I mentioned Chesapeak’s drilling record.
We’ll be seeing this discussion happen again soon, lots of legislation is expected when folks get back to Harrisburg in a couple weeks. I wonder if they’ll still go on about how fracking will solve our and energy insecurity, now that we’re planning to export natural gas.
New York State will also be figureing out how to frack – they’ve just released a renewed Environmental Impact Statement – it’s pretty good! We could learn a lot from it.
And lastly, fracking for books?

September 5, 2011

Twice in two days last month Indiana county officials were advised to seek a lawyer to help them protect the conservation zones. This is not the first time the county has indicated they need a lawyer – and several months ago the commissioners committed to providing resources for legal counsel.
CHC has provided the opinions of three top environmental lawyers – and yet no real action. It begs the question, is all this much ado about nothing? Are the commissioners serious about protecting the county? Or, are they just following the state’s playbook of inaction?
The state’s example is not good. In addition to slashing DEP’s budget, the Corbett administration is now withdrawing from several suits against air pollution, and is reorganizing DEP itself.
CHC hopes that our county commissioners can do a better job at balancing the health needs of Pennsylvanians, and the dollar needs of these fat cats.  There’s every reason to regulate strongly, and no reason to trust the industry’s contributions.

Speaking of fat cats – Exonn Mobile finally realized their dream to drill the artic; they’re trading drilling rights for fracking technology. Under the deal Russia has rights to gas in the U.S.  See Noam, corporations aren’t people, they’re nations.

In a not so confusing contradiction, Penn State’s new jobs report that was not funded by the industry found MS drilling has created about half the jobs that Penn State’s old industry funded jobs report found. So much for facts.

In more positive news, the Citizen Marcellus Shale Commission held their first in a series of public hearings last week. All public comments from the audience of about 100 in the 3 hour meeting expressed serious concern about drilling. This commission will be sending the summary to the governor. I’m predicting that this People’s Commission will likely confirm that Corbett is out of step with Pennsylvanians

The protest against the Keystone XL pipeline and the tar sands isn’t getting enough news. Read about it.  There are a ton of reasons why this is a terrible idea.  Experts have said that completing this project would mean “game-over” for fighting climate change.

This proposed project exposes the dirty secret behind politicians complaining about our addiction to foreign oil.  They’re not concerned about the oil part. We should be.

Albert Einstein said “thought without action is a crime.”  Thank you, Peter Roquemore.

Speaking of action – many of CHC’s partners will be involved in Shale Gas Outrage happening this week – stay tuned for reports.

And finally, tell me if this blows your mind.

August 29, 2011

If you thought the Indiana School District had internal issues, at least they’re not bubbling methane into eachother’s wells.
The people’s commission on Marcelus Shale has been launched involving many of CHC’s friends, the first hearing is this Wednesday – anyone want to go?
The Post Gazette’s pipeline sheds some light on the recent conflicting reports about how much gas is available in the Marcellus shale. I tend to agree with John Hangar on this one, it’s most likely that there is a lot.
There’s fortunately no evidence that the earthquake last week was connected with fracking, and also, I haven’t read reports that the earthquake damaged any natural gas operations. However,the lightening is a different story.
There are a couple of compelling stories about the difficult choices that Pennsylvanians are having to make thanks to the Marcellus shale.  In the first, a long-time activist is forced to settle, and sell her house to Range Resources. In another, a family weighs trading natural gas profits for their family home. And here’s a great series of interviews about land owners dealing with landmen
In these last several months I’ve had the pleasure of meeting folks from all over the state who have courage, vision, and seem right on to me. Peter Buckland is one of them; he’s got his own radio show, and he loves to bike.
And lastly – this is a must read. With so many in Pennsylvania advocating the Drill-O-Palooza, it’s good to see that someone sees the connections between the ridiculously optimistic claims of the current gas rush and previous big fossil fuel booms.  “Economies based on natural-resource exctraction have rarely proved healthy in the long run. Rather, again and again, they have exhibited a pattern of short-term boom followed by long-term bust.”

August 24, 2011

Yellow Creek Conservation Association member Lee Schweitzer lays out the basic problem of an 11 foot wide truck loaded with toxic flowback fluid passing a 7 foot wide car along a 15 foot wide road, in another letter to the editor.
A national columnist gives a perspective on the DOE’s recommendations for drilling – pointing out that the industry needs to do a better job of telling people the truth.
A few recent reports highlighting the effect of Marcellus development so far, the first is a report from Susquehanna and Tioga counties, which found that so far, deep shale fracking hasn’t really paid off in real dollars for these counties . The seconds is a powerpoint report from a hospital in  Bradford County which has seen an increase in injuries and illnesses due to contact with frack fluid.
Don’t tell Haliburton CEO Dave Lesar about any frack fluid injuries, he just had one of his underlings take a swig of frack fluid to try to prove it’s not harmful. A spokesperson later confirmed that they do not consider their patented CleanStim to be edible. But it does raise the question, who would he ask to drink the toxic flowback fluid?
Don’t tell the folks in West Texas that you can drink frack fluid – it may be a better alternative to what they’re proposing to drink since water tables are so low. Guess what industry in West Texas uses a lot of fresh water?
Don’t tell the Susquehanna River Basin Commission about fracking draining the waters of the Commonwealth, they’ve already suspended water permits for 40 companies because of low water levels.
Don’t tell the industry about restrictions to water, as usual, they’re doing just fine.
Don’t tell Daryl Smitsky from Hickory, PA about anyone doing fine. After 17 Marcellus wells sprung up around his home, his water and his farm were ruined.
South Africa’s mining minister has extended it’s moratorium on drilling, saying that until they get all the information, they won’t risk the environment. What a great idea!

August 20, 2011

Consul Energy has just sold a significant chunk of their Marcellus land holdings in PA to TX based global energy giant Noble Energy for $3.6B. Don’t look for Consul to create more jobs with the windfall of cash, they plan to spend it on themselves.
Dr. Bernard Goldstein, head of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) has published a strong op-ed calling for a moratorium on drilling. The folks at CHEC have produced important resources for our coalition, both under the leadership of Dr. Voltz, and now Dr. Goldstein. We hope hope they’ll come to Indiana to deliver a presentation on health impacts related to fracking.
In some strange economics, the head of the Department of Community and Economic Development suggested that open season on drilling in state lands would solve all our economic woes. Fortunately, wiser voices have a very good response.
The Renew Growing Greener Coalition has recommended that any impact fee is used to renew funding for this successful statewide program.  Our own county commissioners are part of that coalition, and recently some good friends of CHC published this letter in support of Growing Greener.
Speaking of growing greener, Carnegie Mellon has released a news study on fracking and greenhouse gas emissions that conflicts with a Cornell study released earlier this year which suggested natural gas emissions were worse than coal for contributing to climate change.

August 16, Special Edition

We need as many folks as possible involved in the upcoming county fair.  The headline was for real, Global Giants are Invading county fairs. 
Some of the spokespersons for these Giants have suggested they’re under attack. They have encouraged them to fight back despite the facts, and have recently won significant battles overcitizen groups everywhere.
YOU CAN HELP! RSVP now to provide an alternative voice that puts people’s health over profits in Indiana County.

August 15, 2011

The Department of Energy has released a new report recommending stronger air quality regulations as well as disclosure of air pollutants and the types of chemicals used in Marcellus shale fracking. It also calls for study of water quality issues, the creation of industry best practices and more public education.  Reaction has been mixed to the DOE report, with some pointing to the DOE Shale subcommittee’s tight links with industry, however, there are some very good recommendations in their report.
These federal agencies can have a significant impact on our country’s fuel choices – the latest recommendations from the EPA will see several coal plants shut down.
Unfortunately, Governor Corbett doesn’t get it, so he’s slowly shutting the door on renewable energy in PA. (Senator Toomy doesn’t get it either)
Speaking of water quality, folks at Siemens seem to have figured out how to make cake from flowback fluid.  According to the article, the process produces water pure enough to drink, except for the 40% salt content.
More on water quality; here’s an interview of one of the co-authors of the Duke study linking deep shale fracking with methane migration. When asked about the “small amount” of chemicals added to the mix of mud, sand and water to make frack fluid:
“Small amount” is the way that the industry describes it. If you take the most concentrated brine on Earth, the Dead Sea, for example, it has a “small amount” of salt.

We’ve all heard folks in the industry say that of course they want to be environmentally friendly, but “accidents happen.”  Sometimes they happen three times in 10 days.

Yes, the legislature is coming up soon, and yes, there will be a continued debate over a severance tax vs. an impact statement, with both sides priming their communications pumpsfor the upcoming session.
And lastly, a fellow in Pine Creek Valley with a preview of what could happen around Yellow Creek.

August 6, 2011

Indiana County’s Farm Bureau opposes CHC’s ordinance amendment.  Not good news, but not unexpected since it’s well known that the Farm Bureau doesn’t like regulation. The other bad piece of news is that Comm. Ruddock’s idea for regulation in this article conflict with the Oil and Gas Act.
Do you know a farmer who disagrees with that position? Please have him/her contact me asap.724-910-0690.
EPA records from the 80’s have shown that even though everyone from Mike Knapp to Lisa Jackson have said it’s never happened, fracking waste fluid was found to have contaminated drinking water. The EPA expects that there are likely more cases.  In this particular case it seems previously dug wells provided an avenue for the frack fluid.
Speaking of abandoned and orphaned wells (PA has thousands and thousands of them, andthey’re dangerous), Gov. Corbett suggested an impact fee on new MS wells could be used to pay for plugging them.  Makes me wonder what’s the next boom that we’ll tap to pay for the thousands of abandoned MS wells in 50 yrs.
And, here are a couple of other bright ideas from Gov. Corbett: he’s slashing jobs and programs at DEP, and he’s suggesting privatizing state parks.
You’re likely asking right now, “Why be such a hater, Gov. Corbett?”  Try checking out the money behind Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Commission.
Range Resources (who’s CEO was on the commission) certainly got what they paid for; they pulled in over $50 million in the second quarter of this year, six times what they made last year.
Cheasepeake Energy wasn’t on that commission; their profits only doubled compared to last year.  Maybe that’s why they’re trying to whip up opposition to new water protection rules bysending this letter to landowners.
There’s a new conversation about pooling taking shape in Harrisburg. Under this new definition, only land that is already under lease would be compelled to join on to a particular project.  Essentially, it forces the companies to cooperate, and still allows people who don’t want any drilling not to drill.  I expect this idea will gain momentum.
Staying on the topic of “instances where our federal regulators contradict the industry line,” the Department Of Energy is launching a program to try to remove naturally occuring radiation from fracking flowback fluid.
And lastly, the Gazette finally picked up a story that The Fracking News wrote about in April about a supposed leaked memo detailing dishonest practices of landmen in Ohio.  Authentic or not, landowners should make sure to learn how to get the best lease possible for their mineral rights.

August 2, 2011

More reaction to the Gov’s Marcellus Shale Commission recs from good people we know. One issue they completely missed was air pollution.
Air pollution due to fracking is on the minds of Indiana County residents, our zoning board, and the regulators at the EPA. Their new proposed regulations for the oil and gas industry would cut smog-forming volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by nearly one fourth across the oil and gas industry
In a completely un-shocking turn of events, the industry doesn’t like this new proposal.

Who knows if local drillers like MDS or EQT already meet these proposed standards? 

GASP is my new favourite organization, with a wealth of researched based information on air pollution due to fracking.  They also have very good reasons why DEP’s conclusion that fracking is safe for air pollutants is wrong.  

Who thinks our county would appreciate seeing a presentation from GASP’s legal director, Joe Osborne?
And lastly, Yellow Creek State Park is putting on a camping trip to teach people the ethos of “Leave No Trace.”  Seems like that’s a lesson the industry should learn!

July 29, 2011

There has been speculation about why EQT has not applied for a county special permit for drilling in the CZ since they’ve applied for a DEP permit, but it’s perhaps because they’re doing just fine already.
This is an excellent piece by a former colleague on big industry’s influence on academic institutions in PA  “…. we see another pathway through which industry works its power: buying research stamped with university credentials, then deploying it as neutral, unassailable knowledge on the public airwaves and in the capitol building.”
The EPA is proposing regulations to limit air pollution due to fracking – there will be a public comment period, and a decision by this winter. You can read the specific regulations here.
A study in frack-land around Ft. Worth, Texas found high enough levels of Carbon disulfide, a neurotoxin, to recommend 1 mile setbacks from schools.
Air pollution from fracking is only beginning to be understood, here is a short study guide on air pollution that I put together for the Zoning Hearing Board.
Staying in Texas, here is a remarkably compelling video of what is going to happen to Pennsylvania in the coming decade. (this takes a minute to load, but it’s worth it).
And lastly, what do Chrysler and Fiat have in common?

July 26, 2011

A hard hitting letter from Brian Cope expresses what many of us feel – that MDS and EQT’s attempts to get an application approved before county government has a chance to make changes is a slap in the face.
Here are the reactions from two of CHCs state partners on Gov. Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Commission final report: PennEnvironment, and PennFuture.
Here are some more reactions from a variety of other stakeholders, including the industry (spoiler alert, the industry LOVED it!!)
Temple University is the latest academic institution to study water contamination and it’s relation to fracking. This time in Susquehanna county.
And lastly, here’s an interesting powerpoint from some lawyers in New York outlining the challenges to insuring hydro-fracking. Turns out the insurers are concerned about the things that the industry say are no concern.

July 22, 2011

The latest letter to the editor from Lee Schweitzer actually made this rock steady guy tear up!
Wilkinsburg Borough is the latest municipality to adopt a community bill of rights to ban fracking.
Gov. Corbett’s hand-picked commission has released their report. It’s the best report fracking can buy. Check it out here on the Post Gazette’s site, as well as a good explanation on why these recommendations come as no surprise.

Many people have expressed disbelief that Westmoreland County has allowed CNX to construct this horizontal fracking complex underneath the county’s water supply at Beaver Run Reservoir. Boating, hiking, fishing and swimming at the reservoir are all prohibited to protect the water at the reservoir. Turns out it took a lot of local residents by surprise as well.
Among the many concerns about fracking that need more attention is the enormous volumes of clean water that this industry is turning to toxic sludge.  The direct effects of this are being felt:The Susquehanna River Basin Commission has suspended water withdrawals at 36 locations in 10 counties due to low water levels in streams.
Another major concern that is increasingly understood is air pollution from fracking operations.PennFuture is suing Ultra Resources for violating the Clean Air Act.

PennState has coordinated with the Marcellus Shale Coalition to release a new study detailing jobs created by Marcellus Shale fracking. Their numbers on job creation, however, conflict with the state’s numbers on job creation, as well as the new news that unemployment is increasing in PA. So much for the facts.
And lastly, people who claim we need to drill more gas so that we’re energy independent need to tell the people exporting our gas that they missed a memo. Or they need to stop wrapping fracking in the American flag.

July 18, 2011

Corbett’s hand-picked Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, headed by Lt. Gov. Jim “industry asks for nothing” Crawly, held overly secretive votes on a series of recommendations expected to be released this week.
However, key recommendations advocated by environmental advocates on the commission, such as a recommendation to preserve state forests from drilling was voted down. Others have suggested that these are the best recommendations that fracking can buy. 
A compelling legal argument here about how banning fracking does not amount to a “taking” of property.
Just in case you forgot how awesome Yellow Creek State Park is, here’s some more thoughts on what we’re protecting.
And so long to Talisman Terry, the friendly Fracosauras who literally told kids that fracking would bring rainbows. We probably have Stephen Colbert to thank for that.

July 14, 2011

MDS reapplies for well-drilling permit near Yellow Creek.  Can anyone put their hands on that application?
Panel reviews law governing drilling. Thanks to everyone who came to support CHC, most everyone spoke in favour of our ordinance.
Well contamination due to pollution is getting closer to home, as this Ebansburg couple is suing an Alleghaney county MS driller for contaminating their well. But as the industry likes to point out, it’s not the fracking, it’s the drilling that causes methane migration. I don’t think these people care what it is, they’re tired of hauling water.
Research on air quality has been somewhat scarce, however, this new study in Colorado finds 22 dangerous chemicals in the air, like benzine, near gas drilling communities. Other places,like Pinedale, WY have lived with unexplained air pollution ever since fracking came to town.
And lastly, in case you missed it, Stephen Colbert’s piece on the colouring book put out by an MS driller is spot on! Fracking is “like giving the earth an alka-seltzer, if the alka-seltzer shattered your internal organs so that gas and oil companies could harvest your juices.”

July 11, 2011

Here is a great article summarizing the various ordinances around PA to regulate fracking. 

In West Virginia, the battle over where shale fracking can happen is heading to the courts on both sides. The West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Organization plans to take their fight against fracking to the courts, including a possible lawsuit to give surface owners the rights to a hearing on well permit applications. And on the other side – Northeast Energy plans to sue the town of Morgantown, WV for $42 million for their ordinance banning fracking.

A great article here from the Scranton Times outlining the many ways that Marcellus shale wells have failed, and will likely continue to fail. 

And if you missed it, there’s a really excellent one hour special available via podcast for free from This American Life all about fracking in PA. It includes extensive interview with friend of CHC, Dr. Conrad “Dan” Voltz opens up about why he left PITT (spoiler alert – it’s exactly what you thought).

July 7, 2011

The Fracking News
The Sierra Club has sent a letter to PA legislators making the case that Marcellus Shale drilling is prohibited by law in state lands, including Yellow Creek State Park.
An experimental research forest in West Virginia found that fracking fluids killed virtually all plant life.
This weekend Marcellus Shale fracking will be the topic of both 60 Minutes, and This American Life – check it out!

July 5, 2011

A family in Tioga County is the latest to be informed that their water and pond have been ruined by deep fracking – in this case methane migration. In this case they have tests confirming that before the drilling started, the water was crystal clear. Despite this, Shell Appalachia is sticking to the industry line.

New York has announced they will seek to lift the moritoium on fracking following a final report and recommendations from their Department of Environmental Conservation. They released preliminary recommendations which include:
  • Ban high-volume fracturing in the watersheds for the reservoirs of New York City and Syracuse and on all public lands, wildlife management areas and within 500 feet of aquifers. This would leave drillers with access to more than 80 percent of the Marcellus formation in New York state.
  • Require drillers to collect all wastewater in sealed tanks and not in lined open lagoons as is common in the industry.
  • Require separate and special permits for companies wanting to withdraw water for hydraulic fracturing of wells.
  • Mandate additional well casings to prevent methane gas from migrating into groundwater supplies.
  • Require drillers to follow strict guidelines for the disposalof “fracking” wastewater into the state’s wastewater treatment facilities, similar to the requirements for the disposal of medical waste.
  • Require disclosure of all the chemicals drillers plan to use in the process and to make that list public.
Environmental groups have suggested that these recommendations are a good start, but the devil is in the details. Their final report is due in a few months. Reaction from the industry is as expected, with some drillers openly feeling sorry for New YorkersSome of these articles from the industry remind me of something that Ben Price from CELDF said, “we don’t have a drilling problem, we have a democracy problem.”
More on PA’s state budget:
Here is a great breakdown of the just passed budget for the state’s environmental protection programs.  Spoiler alert, I count 16 instances of the word Decrease, and 7 instances of the phrase “Zeroed out.”
At least one state official is honest enough to suggest that this year’s budget is inadequate. Tim Schaeffer, director in the PA Fish and Boat Commission said they’ve recommended the state legislature consider providing additional resources so the commission can continue its efforts to protect state waterways and wildlife from “potential degradation” by Marcellus shale drilling efforts.
Unfortunately for Pennsylvanians worried about jobs, the results are already in – states that cut the most spending to “weather” the recession have lost the most jobs.
This business friendly budget that cuts education and welfare, but fails to include a tax on drilling should is not a surprise to folks watching the lobbying numbers – the natural gas industry spent $3.5 million this past year to lobby lawmakers and state officials.

Finally today, about 11,000 western Pennsylvania middle-schoolers will be learning about jobs in the Marcellus Shale industry as part of their curriculum starting this fall. That unit was funded in part by four shale drilling groups: Cabot Oil & Gas, Talisman Energy, Chesapeake Energy and the Marcellus Shale Coalition. 

July 1, 2011

The Fracking News
Pennsylvania has passed a budget that cuts education and welfare, but failed to pass a tax on Marcellus Shale. The cuts to DEP may affect regulation and enforcement of Marcellus Shale drilling. The folks at have worked out what Pennsylvanians are missing without a severance tax.
New Jersey is about to put a ban on deep shale fracking.
DEP has fined Chief Oil and Gas for failing to report a hydraulic oil spill and waste pit liner violations at a well pad in Jefferson Township.  Chief claims there was no contamination of water (surprise!)
While PA has only just started to monitor health effects of fracking, Earthworks and the Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project has an excellent report detailing case studies of folks in Texas who’s health has been compromised by deep shale fracking.
Hunters and fishers are directly involved in monitoring fracking across the state.
CHC has no idea who put these stickers up, and personally I’m not convinced at how effective this sort of activism is, but it sure is funny 🙂

June 24, 2011

The Fracking News
EPA tells families near Bradford County well blowout in April to stop using their well water after testing finds high sodium, and radioactivity. This is the result of the last major accident involving deep shale fracking.

Two more communities have taken strong steps to regulate where drilling can happen.  Mt. Pleasant in Washington County passed an ordinance that sets specific restrictions on MS drilling. and, the borough of Baldwin becomes the latest PA municipality that has passed a community bill of rights to ban fracking completely.  You can read the actual ordinance here – Section 1 – Findings and Intent are particularly powerful to me.

Paul Hart of Hart Resource Technologies in Creekside has said their business is hurting since DEP requested MS drillers to stop sending them their toxic waste fluid. That’s the second Indiana County company business who has recently complained that their business model is compromised by DEP and the EPA’s regulations on frack fluid.

Here is a good critical article on the state of frack fluid and regulations from
Speaking of toxic frack fluid, Ohio has a lot of it.

June 20, 2011

Thanks to all of our Coalition members for helping to write, and for signing on to this letter to the editor in Sunday’s Gazette. It is a response to the industry promoted falsehoods that Lt. Governor Crawly spouted when he came to the last Natural Gas Task Force Meeting. A footnoted version is available on CHC”s website.
PennFuture’s latest online newsletter has a good summary of all the work that needs to be accomplished in Harrisburg.
ExxonMobile’ subsidiary XTO energy has halted drilling operations at a major drill site and vented gas in Muncy, PA to allow for a DEP to investigate new instances of methane contamination of residential water wells and bubbling up in a near by stream.
Lycoming County has seen a nearly 350 percent increase in traffic on rural roads due to MS drilling.  Not only does this put additional pressure on local infrastructure, but damages local air quality, contributing a significant amount of particulate matter.
In a presentation to a community in Morgantown, DEP Secretary Huffman said that the DEP wasn’t prepared for the type and scale of activity associated with the MS ramp-up.  He talks about current regulation that is needed, and how they plan to address the cumulative impacts of drilling.
Color me fracked: Energy industry produces coloring book to make case for gas drilling to the kids whose natural areas will be despoiled by the practice.

June 13, 2011

The Big Story this week is that a drilling lobbying group is offering free airfare, hotel rooms, and meals to people willing to speak in favor of the drilling industry at a Department of Energy hearing on Marcellus Shale drilling in Washington County on Monday.  The hearing is before a DOE Natural Gas subcommittee, which some charge is itself heavily weighted in favor of the industry.
In other Big Money news, Exxon Mobil has bought Warrendale-based drillers Philips Resources and TWP Inc. for $1.69 billion.  This is actually a deal compared to their purchase of XTO Energy for $41 billion in Dec. 2009.  This follows a trend of billion dollar buy-outs by multi-national corporations – last May, Royal Dutch Shell bought East Resources for $4.7 billion ($300,000 of which went to Gov. Corbett’s campaign).  And just after last year’s election, Chevron bought Atlas for $3.2 billion.

June 9, 2011

Lt. Gov. Crawly repeats the dubious claim that fracking is safe, CHC hopes that the Indiana County Task Force does not follow his lead on disregarding fact.
Here are two more tragic stories of fracking in MS leading to local pollution. One from the Sykesville Hunting Club in Moshannon State Forest where spring water was contaminated from torn lining in a wastewater pit, but no one was notified. It was only discovered after people noted that the water tasted funny, and had an oily residue when used for washing.The other story is about a fracking waste water spill along Wallis Run Road in N. Central PA. DEP initially called the 10 mile spill “unknown, but not hazardous.”
Former DEP head, John Hanger blogs about the drastic funding cuts that DEP has received in recent years, Corbett’s budget cut DEP’s funds to 1994 levels. The recently passed House budget cuts their budget even further. It’s difficult to see how Lt. Gov. Crawly can claim that DEP has the capacity to monitor the industry.
Two more communities in neighboring states pass ordinances to ban drilling. One just 10 miles south of PA in Morgantown WV, and the other in the town of Oneonta in Central New York. They join a growing list of communities who have decided to draw a line in the sand about where drilling is okay, and where it is not.

June 6, 2011

Two great letters to the editor from members of the CHC
DEP makes recommendations to state MS Advisory Commission for updates to the Oil and Gas Act. You can find the actual letter sent from Sec. Krancer to Lt. Gov. Crawly here. Below is a summary of the recommendations.

·       extending a well operator’s presumptive liability for water pollution from 1,000 feet to 2,500 feet;

·       restricting deep gas drilling within 500 feet of private water wells and within 1,000 feet of a public water supply;

·       prohibiting deep gas drilling in flood plains;

·       comprehensive cradle to grave tracking of wastewater;

·       increasing the bonding requirements for deep gas wells;

·       tougher penalties for violations; and,

·       granting DEP the authority to condition a well permit based on its assessments of the impact on public resources.

DEP is also reporting that the flow of fracking wastewater to PA waterways has almost halted, due to the request from DEP  for treatment plants to stop “treating” the toxic frack fluid. And they’re less than a month past the deadline. 
IUP students and faculty are launching a new water quality monitoring project in Beaver Run, which provides drinking water for thousands, and has seen a good deal of MS fracking already.  They join the Evergreen Conservancy which launched a water-quality monitoring project this month as well.
Indiana County Commissioners have recently signed on to a movement to encourage the state to renew the Growing Greener program – nice work!
And in England, fracking is causing earthquakes.  According to the British Geological Survey, geologist, “Any process that injects pressurized water into rocks at depth will cause the rock to fracture, and possibly produce earthquatkes.”

May 31st, 2011

New York Times, 5/27, Could Smog Shroud the Marcellus Shale’s Natural Gas Boom?.  Former DEP chief John Hangar is interviewed on the high potential for increased smog from fracking operations.

Indiana Gazette, 5/27, Lieutenant Governor addresses gas task force.  Same story as linked above, the Lt. Gov. promises that the industry will deliver jobs, prosperity, ponies and rainbows.

Responsible Drilling Alliance Newsletter, 5/24,Why We Should Not Be Fracking for Natural Gas. Text of a speech given mostly in relation to New York, but brings up a number of salient issues to PA too.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 5/30, Fayette radio host says shale criticism led to firing.

Sierra Club Activist Network has a great list of bans, moratoria, and resolutions that have been placed on deep shale fracking across the country and around the world.  Even France’s conservative president says no fracking!

May 20th, 2011

Pennsylvania’s drilling waste-water deadline nears, drillers appear to be scrambling with what to do with the toxic frack fluid.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. is fined $1 million by the DEP for contamination of private water supplies with methane in northern Pennsylvania’s Bradford County and a February tank fire at a drilling site in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Washington County.

This is a link to a pretty big story from last week, but only picked up the Post-Gazette’s Pipeline this week.

Excellent article from the magazine The Economist on fracking

May 18th, 2011

Another great letter in the Indiana Gazette from a member of the Yellow Creek Conservation Zone asking the commissioners to completely ban all drilling operations in the conservation zone.

Ruddock and County Commissioners seek guidance on writing CZ ordinance from state.

Shale drilling fines drop under Corbett, by a lot.

Republican budget proposal cuts DEP another 2 million dollars

EPA directs six largest drillers in PA to disclose their plans to get rid of toxic frack fluid once they comply with the DEP’s request to stop taking it to treatment plants. Also – did you know that Indiana County based Tunnelton Liquids Company had been illegally dumping toxic frack fluid into a Saltsburg mine without a permit?

May 13th, 2011

Our friends at Central Indiana County Water Authority press for better regulations and call for a moratorium on MS drilling in the county.

West Homestead is the latest municipality to effectively ban fracking through a declartion of community rights, working alongside the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

PennEnvironment is hosting a lobby day on June 7 focused on fracking. Sign-up here, if we have enough folks we should carpool or get a bus.

Sierra Club is sponsoring a bus from Pittsburgh to Philly to attend a public hearing on May 24 on the EPA’s proposal to limit mercury, arsenic and lead pollution from coal plants.

 May 10th, 2011

New peer-reviewed study from Duke links fracking to methane in drinking water.

“The study found that methane levels in private drinking water wells was 17 times higher on average in wells within 1,000 feet of a deep natural gas well, based on water sampling done at 68 wells. Methane was found in 85 percent of the wells”                                                                                                           

Here is a link to the actual report:

 May 9th, 2011

PennEnvironment Report: I sent this out before, but wanted to make sure everyone saw this important report from PennEnvironment. Their work will likely be very helpful for our campaign. The full report, In The Shadow Of the Marcellus Boom, is attached. Below is a link to an interactive map showing drill sites and affected areas, as well as a press report from their release last week.



Federal Government to step up it’s study on fracking:

Historic archeologic sites being destroyed across state by drillers. Our history traded for gas company profits.

A story from Sunbury, PA on the massive loopholes in our state’s laws with regard to MS drilling, and the impact on people’s health. Anyone who tells you that the industry is already properly regulated is mistaken.

 May 6th, 2011

Guess which Southwest PA state Senator introduced the bill that passed out of committee today which encourages state universities to drill on their own land to plug budget holes. I’ll give you a hint, he was among the top recipients of campaign money from the MS industry, and his name rhymes with “plight.”

New Report from Penn Environment: Shale Gas Extraction Poses Risk to Vulnerable Populations in Pennsylvania

The State of Maryland is sueing Chesapeake Energy for polluting the susquehanna river and consequently the Chesapeake Bay after the Bradford County MS spill.                                                                           

North East residents find voice to create ordinance to ban fracking – we can learn much from these folks.

May 3rd, 2011

Panel denies drilling permit for fracking in Yellow Creek State Park conservation zone

May 2nd, 2011

The important story of a Towanda, PA family whose heath was compromised by Fracking            

“Fraccident Map” showing the extent of fracking accidents in PA

Laurence Kruckman’s Letter to the Editor of the Indiana Gazette regarding fracking in Yellow Creek

April 30th, 2011

Congrats to Yellow Creek State Park for another environmental award!

Gov. Corbett creates a crisis – and then proposes a dangerous solution that will help his campaign donors                                                

and there is a related petition to Corbett being circulated by PennEnvironment                                             

Representation without Taxation: How Natural Gas Producers Escape Taxes in Pennsylvania                                                         

April 26th, 2011

Great letter, Michael Kessner, president of Friends of Whites Woods, in today’s gazette!                                                              

A balanced article on the Natural Gas Task Force.  Our folks will likely be included on the final Task Force.                         

DEP head Michael Krancer calls the polluting of our streams and rivers a success story. There is so much in these articles that make me angry it’s difficult to know where to begin. It is the latest proof that Pennsylvania is a National Zone of Sacrifice. I’m tired of that, are you?

An article about a PA community succeeding in keeping fracking out, and a Community Bill of Rights from Ben Price. We can be successful in demanding our rights to clean air and water, regardless of the strength of our opposition. These articles raise the question, should we be demanding more?

This is an old article about the county’s failure to protect Yellow Creek Lake from coal mining in 2003.  This time there are no guarantees, except that unless we continue this campaign as we have begun, history is guaranteed to repeat itself.                                                                  

This is a follow-up from a landman handbook I circulated a couple weeks ago. The attorney general in Ohio are following up

April 21st, 2011

Congratulates to Lee Schweitzer for being the first in our group to get a Letter to the Editor published – Great letter Lee!!

Many of you sent this to me yesterday – it’s tragic, and exactly what we are worried about with fracking. In the video below one resident says that it’s “just one of those things.” If one of those things happened in the Conservation Area, it would ruin Yellow Creek for years.

The good news is that DEP is starting to get the picture. These news stories are terrible, but they help our campaign in that the Commissioners should see the clear dangers of fracking, and will hopefully act.

What the h— is Corbett talking about? They’ve already polluted our water!! Doesn’t he read the news?                                             

April 18th, 2011

The Post Gazette has a special online feature called Pipeline that looks closely at Marcellus Shale drilling. Sunday’s Pipeline has an interactive map that tracks violations. MDS Energy says they can drill safely uphill from Yellow Creek Lake, yet between 2008-2010 they had several violations, most included failure to protect ground water. They were fined $26,000.                                                                  

Post Gazette, Sunday, April 13, What Fines Reveal About Drilling in State,

The House Energy and Commerce Committee released a report that said there are toxins in fracking fluid. Nows a good chance to call your federal electeds and ask them what they’re going to do about it.

Did you know that Yellow Creek State Park was the first in the state park system to reduce it’s carbon footprint by 20% Way to go!!

April 14th, 2011

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Some water treatment plants refuse to take fracking fluid

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Pitt offical issues statement about opposition to Marceullus Shale drilling

New York Times: Senators Question Safety of Water Used in Gas Drilling

April 11th, 2011

New York Times, April 11, Shale Gas Isn’t Cleaner Than Coal, Cornell Researchers Say                                                    

Post-Gazette, April 11, Coal mogul gets role with Corbett, Governor wants him to expedite permits for Marcellus Shale drilling.                                         

Common Causes, April, Expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in New York to Influence Public Policy              

April 8th, 2011

DEP and EPA call for further testing and regulation in PA fracking industry:   partner=rss&emc=rss

Mount Pleasant is bullied by drillers Range Resources:            

DEP orders fracking to stop in Forest County because of well water contamination.  While this contamination is, unfortunately, no surprise to anyone who’s paying attention, it is the first time that the PA Department of Environmental Protection has actually confirmed that a hydraulicly fractured well ruined the water table. Up until now, the industry has been able to hold the line that fracking has never contaminated a well.                                                                                                           


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