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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Marcellus Shale Gas Insight Conference

Shale Gas Insight--2011 Conference in Philadelphia, PA 

September 7-8, 2011

Location: Pennsylvania Convention Center

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mapping Communities Banning Fracking

Mapping the Movement


Food & Water Watch is tracking the latest local measures against hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) and statewide efforts to stop or prevent the practice. Communities across the nation are lobbying their local and state elected officials because they believe fracking poses an unacceptable risk to their drinking water, their health and the future of their communities. Refer to the map below to see where the oil and gas shale plays are and where communities are lobbying their governments to ban fracking.


Detroit Becomes First City in Michigan to Ban Fracking

Detroit, Mich. – Last Friday, Detroit’s City Council became the first in Michigan to pass a resolution supporting a ban on a controversial gas drilling technique known as fracking. 

The Council passed the resolution unanimously. Council member JoAnn Watson offered up the resolution, and several local activists attended the Council meeting to show their support. In banning fracking, Detroit joins 65 other municipalities across the United States who have taken action against the practice.
“Detroit sent a strong message indicating that a ban on fracking is necessary to protect public health and preserve Michigan’s natural resources,” said Lynna Kaucheck of Food & Water Watch. “Michigan sits in the middle of 20 percent of the world’s available fresh water; that means we have a distinct responsibility to protect this vital natural resource. The time to ban fracking in Michigan is now.”
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and toxic chemicals deep underground to break up dense rock formations and release natural gas. Opponents of fracking cite the high potential for water and air pollution as a leading reason to ban the practice. Over 1,000 cases of water contamination have been reported near fracking sites.
Public opposition to fracking has escalated in recent months, with concerned residents and environmental and consumer advocacy groups campaigning against the practice. Recent reports show that oil and gas interests have leased nearly $200 million worth of Michigan-owned drilling rights in the Collingwood-Utica formation in the last year. The Collingwod-Utica formation is a deep shale deposit that rests under the northern portion of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
“Its time our state lawmakers truly put the state of Michigan and its tourism and agriculture industries ahead of greedy oil and gas interests” said Kaucheck. “We need to support the industries that make our state great, instead of selling of our natural resources to the highest bidder.”
In other parts of the Midwest where fracking is increasingly common, residents have reported complications ranging from headaches and blackouts, noxious odors in the air and sudden blindness, hair loss and death among their livestock.
A 2011 Cornell University study found that the process of fracking also releases methane, which according to the EPA, is 21 times more damaging of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Similarly, a study released by researchers at Duke University in April found methane levels in shallow drinking water wells near active gas drilling sites at a level 17 times higher than those near inactive ones.
“This resolution is a great first step and a bold statement from the Detroit City Council,” said Kaucheck. “We hope that other municipalities and the state follow suit.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. House and Energy Commerce Committee determined that 14 oil companies had injected 780 million gallons of fracking chemicals and other substances into U.S. wells between 2005 and 2009. This included 10.2 million gallons of fluids containing known or suspected carcinogens.
The companies however, are not required to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluid, which they claim should be protected as a “trade secret”. They are also exempt from seven major federal environmental laws, including the Clean Water Act.
Scientists at the Endocrine Disruption Exchange who tested fracking fluids found that 25 percent can cause cancer; 37 percent can disrupt the endocrine system; and 40 to 50 percent can affect the nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems.
Last month Food & Water Watch released a report entitled The Case for a Ban on Fracking. The report reveals how the natural gas industry’s use of water-intensive, toxic, unregulated practices for natural gas extraction are compromising public health and polluting water resources across the country. Article found on Alternet.org
The Case for a Ban on Fracking is available here.
A map of municipalities that have taken action against fracking is available here.
Sourced from Food and Water Watch 

Posted at July 25, 2011, 4:28 pm


Pa. shale panel recommends drilling fee, forced pooling
Friday, July 15, 2011   By Laura Olson and Sari Heidenreich, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG -- After much debate, the governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission this morning agreed to recommend a drilling impact fee and the pooling of gas reserves into a large plot even if individual landowners oppose it.
Members voted on several dozen recommendations to send to the governor next week that would encourage natural gas use, help develop the state's workforce for the industry, and provide support for emergency responders.
Discussion on those areas was relatively brief, with most of the back-and-forth coming over which impacts to list in their recommendation of a drilling fee.
The recommendation to impose drilling impact fees was approved unanimously after some tweaks to the list of included impacts. But members did not recommend any particular dollar figures or rates.
Written copies of the recommendations under discussion were not available to the public, but each work-group presented its suggestions orally to set up debate.
The lack of availability of public documents drew concerns from some in the audience trying to follow the debate.
"If they think this discussion serves as adequate public input . . . [then] that's unfortunate," said Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of the environmental advocacy group PennFuture, as the commission paused for lunch.
Others on the commission voiced concerns throughout the morning when issues arose over which they said there was too little prior discussion by the panel.
Those watching took frantic notes as Lycoming County Commissioner Jeff Wheeland, who jointly led the local impacts sub-group, described their recommendation for a fee. That levy should be used to mitigate the "uncompensated" impacts being experienced as a result of the industry, said Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley.
Mr. Wheeland described a long list of impacts they observed, affecting public safety, water and sewer infrastructure, roads, housing, local government services, judicial proceedings, public health and environmental resources.
There also was discussion over a provision that would link that fee to zoning rules in municipalities, like in the impact fee proposal unveiled earlier this year by Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati. That phrase will direct municipalities against "unreasonably impeding" gas drilling.
A recommendation to allow companies to "pool" sections of land into a large drilling plot, even if a landowner is unwilling to lease, was approved with much debate and three dissenting votes.
Environmentalists on the panel said they were hesitant to adopt the recommendation because of what they saw as too little discussion on the controversial policy.

"It's a problem not having more information on what we'd be supporting," said Matt Ehrhart, a commission member representing the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Mr. Cawley responded that he was befuddled by that view, saying that concern should have been raised at earlier meetings.

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Laura Olson: lolson@post-gazette.com or 717-787-4254. Sari Heidenreich is an intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

WKTV News Channel 2 from Utica, New York

Local hydrofracking opponents take road trip to Pennsylvania to see impact


CLINTON, N.Y. (WKTV) - A group of eight Oneida County residents made the 150 mile trip south to Towanda, Pennsylvania on Saturday to hear, firsthand, the effects of the controversial natural gas drilling process called hydrofracking.

The group talked with residents who live near where that type of drilling has already taken place.

Toshia Hance of the Town of Augusta in Oneida County is one of those people who made the trip.

"This is the worst thing that can happen," Hance said. "It's chemical genocide. These people are ultimately dying due to the radiation contamination."

Hance says she wants to urge New Yorkers to stand together.

"Tell our county legislators and our town supervisors, and our assemblymen and our senators to stop it," Hance said. "We will not be considered collateral damage to the shareholders' profitability."

Bonnie Jones-Reynolds of Clinton was also one of the eight who made the trip, and will never forget the conversations she had with some of the Towanda residents.

"We were told that they are living down there in a state of great intimidation, everybody is intimidated," Jones-Reynolds said. "They're afraid, because if they speak up, their water is going to be shut off."

Reynolds is talking about what the locals down there call 'water buffaloes" - the large white water tanks brought in by the natural gas companies and put on the properties of those individuals who have had their well-water contaminated with toxic chemicals from the 'fracking' process.

They say those who have signed leases also signed a confidentiality clause.

The group from Oneida County took video of the trucks going in and out the town of Towanda on a daily basis with the toxic waste that comes up from the wells and has to be dumped at a nearby landfill.

Natural gas companies come in and offer people a monthly lease payment to drill on their property. The companies drill down several thousand feet, then drill horizontally out from there up to a mile to fracture the shale and harness the natural gas inside that shale.

Carleton Corey of New Hartford made the trip to Pennsylvania as well, and says he heard from residents in Towanda about the gas companies being known to take advantage of elderly land owners.

"This fellow talking about this 92 year old mom, in a nursing home, having them sign the contract, never contacting the daughter or the son, just the way they do things," Corey said. "And once they put in calls, they said they are not talking, we have our signatures, end of conversation."

Jones-Reynolds says the people they talked to are hoping New Yorkers can stop our legislators here before issuing permits.

"You have these individuals in Towanda and basically they're saying 'we're done. It is here. It's not going to be stopped here. We have to live with this, or we have to leave or whatever,'" Jones-Reynolds said. "Where they're getting any good feelings out of this or whatever, they really want to help New Yorkers keep this out of New York."

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released a report back on July 1 saying hydrofracking could be done safely here in New York State.

There will be more research done by the NYS DEC, as well as a series of public hearings held before permits could ever be issued.

This group of residents are hoping people will continue to call their state representatives and voice their opinions on the drilling issue and they say if at all possible, take a trip to Bradford County Pennsylvania yourself.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Marcellus e-Alert: Pennsylvania's Shale Commission Issues Final Report

Here it is everyone—Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and his corporate benefactors are about to takeover the state’s resources. Corbett, or Mr. Corrup—ett, is about to let the private drilling and fracking and gas industry right Pennsylvania law on their own financial behalf.

Were we not told that cigarettes were actually good for you, at one time. Were those living in Utah during the nuclear testing era, told that watching the nuclear testing out in the desert, was safe. Yet today, most, if not all, those viewers sitting out in the desert with their specially issued paper glasses, in their lawn chairs, have cancer. Were we not told that drilling thousands of feet in the Gulf of Mexico was safe, until it wasn’t. And now, we were told that nuclear power facilities were safe, and Japan told us it wasn’t.

But now, here in Pennsylvania, we are being told that Marcellus Shale drilling and Fracking are safe. And actually, in this report (read the document for yourselves here) we are being told that the benefits out way the risk, until they aren’t!

What I mean by that is that until our drinking water sources, such as wells, rivers, and aquifers are poisoned by an accident that is unfixable. Just ask those people living along the Gulf of Mexico’s northern coastline; or, those children living within the 15 mile radius of Japan’s nuclear meltdown!




Also, you will read in the following except that in regards to land use rules, a community must accommodate not only the needs of the citizens, but those of the drillers!! Therefore, a community MUST make sure that drillers and Frackers get the locations they find most desirable. So, what this is saying is “go screw yourselves” when the drillers and Frackers come to YOUR town. I say “JUST BAN IT!”


Marcellus e-Alert: Shale commission issues final report

Gov. Tom Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission today issued its final report on natural gas drilling in the state. The report makes 96 policy recommendations on how Pennsylvania should deal with the environmental and economic impacts of drilling in the state, including local impact.

The 137-page final report can be accessed here. The recommendations will be used as a basis when the legislature takes up the issue this fall. I expect it to be thoroughly examined and debated.

In the meantime, I invite you to join me in reading this report that addresses an issue of vital importance to our area. I welcome your feedback.

Here are sections of the report that YOU might find most interesting:



The communities where Marcellus Shale natural gas activity is occurring serve as the foundation for future natural gas opportunities that will have substantial, positive impacts on both Pennsylvania and our nation from an energy perspective. Therefore, development of shale gas should account for and mitigate, to the maximum extent possible, any adverse impacts on these communities. A brief overview of the impacts identified through due diligence conducted by the Local Impact & Emergency Response Work Group follows.



Municipalities have a legal responsibility for planning for and responding to all types of emergencies. Drilling activity leads to the potential for many types of incidents for which response may be necessary including: fires, well blowouts, chemical and fuel spills, and traffic accidents attributed to an overall increase in vehicular traffic.
Emergencies at drilling locations have occurred and until emergency specialists retained by drilling companies arrive on site, volunteer fire companies and other local first responders must secure a site and take appropriate action. Quite often local emergency responders in Marcellus Shale communities are unpaid volunteer fire fighters
and paramedics who face increasing demands on their service.

Land use tools such as comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances, and subdivision and land development ordinances can be adopted by municipalities to make certain that development is located where and at an intensity that meets both industry and community needs. However, many municipalities in Pennsylvania’s rural areas, where the majority of Marcellus Shale natural gas production is occurring, have not faced significant development activity in the past and subsequently have not adopted sufficient land use controls to protect citizen interests.

Pennsylvania’s local government associations have taken action by developing a model zoning ordinance to assist municipalities with adopting regulations to allow Marcellus Shale natural gas production while maintaining reasonable local controls. This model ordinance has been promoted and used in several municipalities.

Maintaining effective land use control in Pennsylvania requires that municipalities retain their authority to enact reasonable regulations and be afforded the opportunity to plan for the impact of such activity on their communities. According to testimony presented to the Commission, more than 800 counties and municipalities in the Marcellus Shale region have adopted zoning regulations or ordinances. The zoning regulations and ordinances may be inconsistent in substance and application, and include various restrictions on noise, setbacks, and road use. Some zoning regulations and ordinances provide for disparate treatment of the natural gas industry.



While Marcellus Shale natural gas production has had significant, positive impacts on Pennsylvania’s overall economic outlook, the impacts on quality of life should not be overlooked. While in some instances difficult to quantify, there have been substantial impacts reported in and near communities where well drilling is occurring.

From an overall increase in traffic, noise impacts near well drilling sites, and disturbance of view sheds, to rising school district enrollments, there are marked community changes pre- and post-development.



Following are the recommendations adopted by the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission at the Commission’s July 15, 2011 public meeting. Roll call votes of the recommendations can be found in Appendix C.




Currently, there is only one gas safety inspector training center (Oklahoma) in the nation. Pennsylvania, in
partnership with industry, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and educational institutions, should pursue existing opportunities which seek to locate a gas safety inspector training facility within the Commonwealth.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) must currently send its gas safety inspectors out-of-state to obtain needed training related to pipeline safety. The PUC has stated that its need for pipeline inspectors will grow in coming years as additional pipeline infrastructure is deployed throughout the natural gas producing regions.

To address the lack of coordinated permitting processes for pipeline deployment, the Commonwealth should designate a state agency to create a “One Stop” permitting process while expanding the use of General Permits to authorize routine development activities, as well as maintain jurisdiction over multi-county linear pipeline projects and ensure appropriate notifications have been made to local jurisdictions. It is not the purpose of this proposal to encourage the expansion of statutory jurisdiction of the Public Utility Commission beyond gas safety oversight in so far as non-jurisdictional gathering lines are concerned.

To relieve the burden imposed upon roads and bridges from the transportation of sand, water, pipe and other commodities associated with natural gas development, the Commonwealth should prioritize the utilization of its financial resources to evaluate and potentially expand its rail freight facilities and capabilities, and partner with rail authorities to seek federal rail assistance funding, such as the Transportation Investment Generating  Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

On April 21, 2011 Governor Corbett issue Executive Order 2011- 02, which established the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission. Among its charges, the Commission will “Study and prepare a comprehensive listing of  potential revenue sources available for current and future funding of transportation in the Commonwealth for all modes of transportation.” 

PENNDOT should identify a mechanism to properly invoice natural gas operators for costs incurred for inspections and improvements on non-posted roadways. Invoices must reflect actual costs apportioned to the industry utilizing engineering calculations based on traffic counts.

Prioritize and encourage the beneficial re-use of steel and blast furnace slag a byproduct of the electric arc and integrated steelmaking process for aggregate applications, such as well pad and access road construction, thus preserving limited landfill capacity.

As PENNDOT and municipalities expand the use of posting roadways for heavy truck traffic, both the Commonwealth and municipalities should evaluate the impacts this imposes upon other users of the roadway, including timber, wood product, quarry and other mine operators and others, and work to provide flexibility for all users whenever possible.

See 8.5.2 for an overview of increased posting and bonding activity related to Marcellus Shale development.

The Public Utility Commission should be given statutory gas safety oversight of non-jurisdictional intra-state gathering systems, including mechanisms to establish safety standards regarding the design, construction and installation of such lines within Class 1 areas. Pipelines are generally classified based on location to building density. Class I pipelines are generally defined as having 10 or fewer buildings intended for human occupancy within the “Class Location Unit” (220 yards from the centerline on either side of the pipeline).

The Commonwealth, through the Bureau of Aviation, should undertake a detailed assessment of air service and infrastructure needs among regional airports within the Shale area so that targeted improvements can assist in capitalizing on gas-industry generated economic opportunities.

Counties and municipalities should undertake an inventory and structural evaluation of locally-owned bridges currently exempt from federally mandated inspections (typically 8’ to 20’).

PENNDOT should calculate and evaluate increased traffic volume to continuously calculate impacts, particularly as natural gas development activities expand into currently undeveloped regions of the Commonwealth.

To ensure the safety, integrity and use of high quality steel (such as steel which meets API standards) annual well production reports submitted to DEP should specify the country of origin and manufacture of any steel products used in the maintenance or construction of a well during the reporting period.

To ensure the safety, integrity and use of high quality steel (such as steel which meets API standards) in the exploration, gathering and transmission of natural gas, operators required to register with the Public Utility Commission shall report the country of origin and manufacture of any steel products used for a PUC regulated activity during the reporting period.

A lead state agency should be designated to alleviate delays in linear pipeline project development and approval; to identify redundant (state and federal) natural and cultural resource reviews which should be eliminated; to properly tailor the scope of agency reviews; and the PA Natural Resource Inventory on-line tool should be expanded to accommodate linear projects longer than 15,000 feet.

State agencies should offer accelerated permit reviews within guaranteed time frames, provided any incremental costs associated with the accelerated review shall be paid by the permit applicant.

State law should be amended to authorize PENNDOT to negotiate leases which permit the location of energy and utility infrastructure within PENNDOT’s right-of-way.

PENNDOT shall look to add language to either the Excess Maintenance Agreement or the Road Maintenance Plan that directs the industry to evaluate the Erosion and Sediment controls already in place on a roadway to determine if interim erosion and sediment control measures are necessary while the road is in use but before road reconstruction begins.

See 8.5.2 for an overview of Excess Maintenance Agreements and challenges posed to local and state road and bridge infrastructure.

Develop and provide planning tools and educational opportunities relating to unconventional natural gas development to counties; require proper notice of permit applications with an opportunity to comment (similar to notice for host and adjoining municipalities); and, under DEP guidance and consistent with applicable permit conditions, allow for County Conservation Districts to engage in inspections of erosion and sedimentation controls at unconventional well sites, if they choose to do so.

DEP should ensure that natural gas construction activities are required to meet the same standards as general construction activities. Modifications to current construction standards as they are applied to unconventional natural gas drilling activities may be necessary.

From Washingtonsblog.com


Fukushima: Still Dire For Japan ... Still Threatening the U.S. and Canada

Things are not getting better in Japan.

As a nuclear expert said recently, the "reactors are almost in the same situation they were in the early days of the accident":

Here are updates from the last couple of weeks, courtesy of ENENews:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania Bans Fracking To Protect Their Citizens!!!

We need more elected officials to understand the negative costs of drilling and Fracking exceeds the financial benefit. The dangers are way too great to allow this dangerous practice.

Wilkinsburg council bans fracking from borough limits
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Wilkinsburg became the latest community in Allegheny County to ban Marcellus Shale gas drilling within its borders.
Borough council voted unanimously Wednesday night to adopt an ordinance that prohibits drilling or "fracking" — a term used to describe the process by which drilling companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into a well in order to crack the shale and help gas to flow.
The vote was met with robust applause from the small gathering of citizens, assembled in council chambers, who have spent the last several months lobbying their elected officials to adopt an ordinance modeled after similar legislation passed last year by members of the Pittsburgh City Council.
"It's great that we are passing this, but it doesn't end our responsibilities," said Council Vice President Jason Cohn. "I don't know if there is a lot more we can do, but we need to see how we can continue to protect our citizens."
Councilwoman Pamela Macklin took it a step further by urging citizens to continue spreading the word about the dangers of fracking to neighboring communities, such as Penn Hills, that do not have laws banning fracking as well.
"Sometimes, the best legislation comes from the audience," Mr. Cohn added, noting that this ordinance would not have been passed it it hadn't been for concerned citizens bringing the issue before council.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

May 21, 2011 | By PA Independent | Posted in General News

Local ordinances will be Marcellus shale battlegrounds

Industry says some communities violate state law with anti-drilling rules
By Eric Boehm | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Natural gas industry officials are asking the state of Pennsylvania to provide clarity and consistency in municipal zoning ordinances that make drilling inconvenient or even impossible in certain parts of the state.
The environmental group behind some of the restrictive drilling ordinances claims the industry is trying to undermine the right of self-government.
That issue is one of many Gov. Tom Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission will address before submitting a final report to the governor on July 22. The commission consists of 30 members representing state and local government, the drilling industry, environmental groups and academia. It is charged with presenting a policy recommendation to the governor on the controversial natural gas industry in the state.
Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, told the commission Friday that drilling firms are having difficulty navigating the 779 zoning ordinances in the 1,491 municipalities in the Marcellus shale region. 
She compared it to a resident having to obtain a new driver’s license for every town through which he might drive.
“Some have expressly banned natural gas extraction altogether. Others banned stages of development,” Klaber said.
Klaber said the “exclusionary” ordinances violate the state Oil and Gas Act, which supersedes local regulation of the natural gas industry. She specifically pointed the finger at the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, or CELDF, which works with local governments to pass environmental ordinances.
Ben Price, Pennsylvania projects director for the CELDF, said the Oil and Gas Act only prevents municipalities from regulating the industry, not banning it.
“For the industry to say that communities may not govern the activities of corporations chartered in the name of the people in the state is an absurdity,” Price said, during a phone interview Friday. He said a “cozy relationship” between drilling firms and the state was responsible for the attempt to undermine local control.
The city of Pittsburgh has adopted the anti-drilling ordinance, along with three other municipalities in Allegheny County, said Price. Similar ordinances have been adopted by 66 communities in western Pennsylvania, said Klaber.
Klaber said the new ordinances were being selectively enacted and enforced against the natural gas industry.
At the conclusion of Friday’s meeting, Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, chairman of the commission, said the local ordinance issue would be addressed in the final report.
The commission will not hear directly from representatives of local governments in drilling-affected areas until its next full meeting June 17.
One of the commission’s four “working groups” has been focused on the local impacts. Other working groups are examining environmental issues, infrastructure impacts and economic development.
At the start of the meeting, Cawley requested preliminary recommendations from committee members no later than May 31, though he said an early draft of the commission’s report was premature.
“The testimony that is going to be taken on June 17 is going to be equally as important as any testimony that’s been taken at any other commission meeting,” Cawley said.
On a parallel track to the commission, Senate President Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, has proposed a “local impact fee” to help counties and municipalities deal with the effects of gas drilling. In that proposal, municipalities which prevent drilling from taking place would not be eligible for any of the revenues generated by the $10,000-per-well levy.
The legislation introduced by Scarnati also includes a model ordinance for municipalities.
David Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, which represents the heads of 1,500 municipalities in the state, said Scarnati’s approach made sense, since banning drilling in certain areas did not prevent negative impacts elsewhere.
“You have to enforce it across the board,” Sanko said. “There are some bad actors everywhere, but making the law more strict isn’t going to stop those.”
Price said the model ordinance would tempt local officials to surrender their control for “nominal revenue.”
The commission is not scheduled to make a final report to Gov. Tom Corbett until July 22, and Cawley stuck to that plan when questioned about it Friday. 
Cawley said there would be communication between the legislature and the commission, and the proposed impact fee may be a part of the commission’s final recommendation.