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Friday, May 18, 2012

Couple Denied Mortgage Because Of Gas Drilling

 From  No Frack Ohio

Brian and Amy Smith seem to be the first example in western Pennsylvania of a homeowner being denied a mortgage because of gas drilling on a next-door neighbor's property.
The drilling goes on day and night at a new Marcellus Shale well in Daisytown, Washington County, and Brian Smith told Channel 4 Action News investigator Jim Parsons that he has no complaints -- except one.
"As far as drilling and the noise and the lights in the window? No," he said. "But when it affected the value of my home? Absolutely."
The Smiths live across the street from the new gas well. They applied for a new mortgage on their $230,000 home and hobby farm, and Quicken Loans congratulated them on their conditional approval.
"They said all the paperwork will be done by the end of the week and we'll be able to close," Brian Smith said. "Somewhere in there, they called us and said, 'Your loan got denied.' "
In an email, Quicken Loans told the Smiths, "Unfortunately, we are unable to move forward with this loan. It is located across the street from a gas drilling site." Two other national lenders also turned down Brian Smith's application.
Quicken Loans emailed the following statement to Channel 4 Action News: "While Quicken Loans makes every effort to help its clients reach their homeownership goals, like every lender, we are ultimately bound by very specific underwriting guidelines. In some cases conditions exist, such as gas wells and other structures in nearby lots, that can significantly degrade a property's value. In these cases, we are unable to extend financing due to the unknown future marketability of the property."
Clean Water Action said that in other parts of the country, when shale gas drilling has arrived, mortgages at nearby properties sometimes get denied. This is the first case they've heard in Pennsylvania.
"The banks aren't stupid," said Myron Arnowitt, director of Clean Water Action in Pennsylvania. "They're going to look at that and be more cautious in terms of what they are willing to mortgage."
"If I can't refinance, could somebody get a loan to purchase my house? And that would be my concern. That's definitely a worry," Brian Smith said.
Homeowners who are denied by national lenders because of gas drilling could try local banks. First Federal in Washington, Pa., said it does not deny mortgage applications based solely on nearby drilling.

From Protecting Our Waters Wordpress site


SOS Butler County: Black Water + Purple Water = A Fracking Nightmare

FEBRUARY 11, 2012
Kim McEvoy manages to find a spot to put a tray of cupcakes in a kitchen where every level surface is covered with jugs of water. Some of the water is drinkable: that’s the water her husband re-fills at his job, using one-gallon jugs; or the water she drew from her then-clear, good-tasting well water back in 2008, stocking up for a hurricane. But some of that water is not drinking water. Many of the jugs have brownish-grayish water in them — the water that comes from her kitchen tap, which have an “X” marked clearly on them with a black marker. Kim’s kitchen tap has been connected again to her water well since the gas drilling company, Rex Energy, took away the water buffalo (large plastic container) full of replacement water they had been providing for her family up until January 16th.
Kim’s neighbor Janet McIntyre succeeded in persuading Rex Energy to provide both her family and Kim’s family with 20 gallons per week of bottled drinking water, but even that will be cut off by February 29th, and even that required Janet to threaten, in a phone conversation with Rex Energy representative, to call her attorney. “They were none too gracious about it,” Janet said.  Six neighboring families still have their water buffaloes; two other families, besides the McIntyres and McEvoys, had the clean water deliveries cut off by Rex Energy in January. One of those families is paying out of pocket for replacement water.
In Kim’s kitchen last Saturday, February 4th, I had a conversation I never expected to have with a three-year-old. Referring to the jug of brownish-gray water I’d just watched Kim fill from her tap, I asked Kim’s daughter Skylar, “What does the black X mean?” She said smartly, “Don’t drink the water!” Looking at a photo Kim McEvoy took of her own bathtub last year, showing gray and black water residue, I asked Skylar, “Do you take baths in your bathtub any more?” and she answered emphatically, “Nope!”
Kim McEvoy lives in Connoquenessing Township, Butler County, in western Pennsylvania. She and, according to a rough survey, 51 of her neighbors have had their water “go bad” — discolored; in one case foaming; in some cases smelly; and in some cases running out — since January 2011, when her water suddenly turned such a dark gray that it left black marks in the bathtub. By September, struggling to find out what was in her water and struggling to get a secure source of clean replacement water, Kim had had enough. She wrote Governor Corbett a letter to which the governor has never responded. It began,
My name is Kimberlie McEvoy, I own my home in Connoquenessing Township, Butler County, and I have black water.
Between the end of February and the beginning of March 2011 my water turned black and had a foul, smelly odor. My fiancée and I showered in the water and became sick with headaches, fatigue and painful sinuses. I’m so glad I did not
bathe my two-year-old daughter in the water.
The only thing in my environment that had changed was the drilling of two gas wells near my home, so I called the gas company, Rex Energy. They came out and retested my water well and gave me a water buffalo. The retest of my water showed arsenic, manganese, ammonia and other volatile organic compounds. Rex is now fracking the gas wells…
Right now the health and well being of my family depends on my water buffalo. When Rex Energy takes it away we will have no water. Since the fracking and flaring have begun, the air quality has deteriorated. We can’t play outside without getting a headache or a sore throat.
Now that the water buffalo is gone, the situation is much more serious. While Kim, her fiance and 3 year old daughter, Skylar, are neither drinking nor showering in their well water, their neighbors are experiencing multiple problems. Neighbors are reporting health symptoms including rashes; a severe nosebleed; vomiting; headaches; and more. Two leukemia cases have been reported.
One man died just over a week ago.  According to Janet McIntyre, Kim’s neighbor, the man, Mr. Dennis Peterson, 49, had reported last September that he had “rashes all over his body,” and he was diagnosed with leukemia by December. The cause of death has not been confirmed independently as of this writing. While leukemia is associated with volatile organic chemicals,  in particular benzene; and volatile organic chemicals abound in association with gas drilling — moving through air and water, while benzene also multiplies due to the sudden heavy industrialization and increase in truck traffic — it may be difficult to know whether the man’s rashes, failing health and death were directly caused by gas drilling in the area.  The EPA recently found benzene in drinking water at 50 times the safe limit in Pavillion, Wyoming after fracking has been going on there for over ten years. Rex Energy has been drilling and fracking in the Connoquenessing area for over two years, and the people there appear to be completely without authoritative help from those who should be most concerned: the EPA, CDC and ATSDR.
“We are surrounded”
Janet McIntyre sent her water test results, including tests showing toluene, acetone, high methane levels, and other contaminants, including one test (which PA DEP says was a “blank,” meaning they say it was just trouble with the test tube) showing 1,3,5 trimethyl benzene, to EPA last December. The last she heard from EPA, around Christmas time, they had “received the documents but have been too busy to review them.”
Both families say that Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) has told them their water troubles are “just aesthetic,” and has assured them that the water is safe to drink.  Requests for re-tests have gone unanswered, and Janet McIntyre said that one PA DEP regulator told her, “You should be grateful for the fracking because they’re injecting lots of water underground, raising the level of the aquifer.”  Both Kim and Janet say they have been told point blank, “You’re the only one having any problems.”
Unfortunately, the problems now include disappearing water. While the gas industry withdraws millions of gallons of water locally for fracking, local residents including the McEvoys and a neighbor named “Denny Fair,” are finding their water is running out. Denny Fair reported his water was “gone” around last November, according to Janet McIntyre; and Kim says her water runs out after seven minutes.
Some of the reported health impacts, such as the vomiting, severe nosebleed, and rashes described by Janet and Fred McIntyre, are disturbingly consistent with known gas drilling impacts. Janet also described flaming water on at least one occasion: “We collected Denny Fair’s well water in a bucket. At that point we set it on fire. We were so amazed it had caught fire, I thought, ‘oh, I was so stupid not to have a video camera!’ “
Janet described her own water as foaming out of the tap on two occasions, which she refers to as “attacks” because it felt their water was under attack by the gas drilling company. She said it was purple. Other residents have reported their water turning orange, red, and brown.
Janet McIntyre sent a statement to the press conference Protecting Our Waters organized in September 2011.  and our summary of interviews with her up until that time describing her troubled water, including her test results and the death of the family’s dog, is here.
Five months later, when I finally met the McIntyres in person, Fred McIntyre told me, “We are surrounded by thirty gas wells.” On a ten-minute tour I saw several of those well pads spaced close together, along with a huge frack pit open to the sky.
Janet McIntyre, like many others, including Theo Colborn, had tried to describe to me in words the overpowering stench at gas drilling operations which regulators call an “odor event.” This blog reported on an “odor event” in Texas not long ago here. But when we stopped by the Grosick well pad on Woodlands Road and rolled down the car window, I was coughing to the point of retching within 60 seconds. It was not a mere “odor” or “smell” in the ordinary sense of the word — it was rather more like being overpowered, choked and nauseated. I have reported the event to the EPA and have gotten no response. But that was based on a few minutes’ exposure. The McIntyres said, “We were breathing that bad air all last summer.”  So were the cows across the street from the Grosick well pad.
Kim McEvoy commented, “I can’t even stand to live here any more… my dream is dying.”
Kim’s gets the last word, from her letter to Governor Corbett — hand delivered to Governor Corbett’s Philadelphia office on September 7th:
I love Butler County but I fear I will have to foreclose on my home and leave. I just wonder how many more Pennsylvanians will have to make this same heart breaking decision. Please stop the drilling. It’s not right to allow the gas
companies to gamble with our lives.
UPDATE February 20, 2012: To take action to help the impacted families in Butler County, please send this letter to the EPA. It’s great if you can help  by adding a supportive sentence of your own to the beginning of the letter to individualize it.
And, even while more bad news accumulates (a gray liquid observed spilling off a Rex Energy drilling pad site this morning while workers did not appear to observers to have contained the ongoing spill; another woman reported that foul odors from the Sarsen plant in Butler County sickened her on December 8th, from 1/4 mile away– that’s some extreme emissions for you!) there’s good news too!
Farmer Stephen Cleghorn of Jefferson County drove 3 hours round trip today to lend his own water buffalo to the McIntyre family; and I got a pledge from an environmental group to buy drinking water, for the month of March, for two of the impacted families, on an emergency basis! Step by step is the only way to build our meaningful assistance and resistance.
Thanks for all your letters to EPA and for any offers of help. For the moment, please email me at protectingourwaters@gmail.com if you would like to donate to help provide water, because I am already in touch both with the impacted families and with a wonderful network of local activists who are meeting right now to provide organized assistance. We will be accountable, transparent and public if any funds are donated. If you do want to help, please put DONATE WATER FOR BUTLER in the subject heading of your email; and we will coordinate with the bookkeeper of our 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor to make sure donations can be tracked properly and channeled to the families appropriately. We will report back. Meantime, please write EPA because really, this is their job. Thanks!

Get Involved

Dear Editor:
Today, many people don’t realize that their most sacred and life-sustaining commodity, water, if compromised, could one day change their entire life.
Corporate National Gas Hydro-fracking can ruin everything you have and ever cared about - your land, your house, well, livestock, ponds, creeks, wildlife, health and peace of mind are at stake. Testimonies from people in Wetzel County, Bradford, Pa. and thousands of people all over the country, should not be in vain - gas drilling ruined their lives.
A recent November 2011 article in the New York Times Magazine, told the story about how life changed for people in Amwel Township, Pa. Before “gas fracking came in” there were beautiful grassy pasture lands with alfalfa, trefail and timothy. The 4,000 people lived in small villages in Amity, Loan Pine and Prosperity.
The farmland looked very much like it did when English and Scottish settlers came in the 18-century. Today, you might as well put up a sign, “Welcome to Gasland.”
Ten gas wells, compressor stations, gas pipelines running for hundreds of miles, five acre open water chemical impoundment ponds, truck traffic, noise and air pollution.
Soon after they started drilling, people discovered their dogs and horses mysteriously dead, litters of puppies were aborted or born with cleft lip, no hair or missing limbs and children became inexplicitly ill.
Contaminated wells with black water, corroded water using appliances and water values, and a smell of rotten eggs and diarrhea coming from shower faucets. Blood tests results from sick residents found high levels of heavy metals, such as arsenic and industrial solvents including benzene, toluene and ethylene glycol.
This can happen anywhere. Fracking can be stopped, but first you have to care enough to get involved. If you love where you live, don’t just look the other way.
Russell Ratcliff
Berkeley Springs 

Marcellus Shale drilling forum draws jeers from Bucks County residents

by Douglas B. Brill from the lehighValleyLive.com

In between shouts from a crowd that alleged payoffs, cover ups and lies, state legislators on Thursday in Bucks County tried to explain the benefits of a Marcellus Shale drilling law they approved.
Four Bucks County legislators held a forum at Palisades High School County to explain the law, which takes effect Monday. Joining them were other legislators, including the law’s author, who was booed, other state officials and science experts.
They were confronted by a standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 people who shouted over them and derided their remarks repeatedly throughout the forum.
“I feel like I’m wearing a Dallas jersey at an Eagles game,” said Andrew Heath, executive director of the Renew Growing Greener Coalition. The coalition is advocating for gas drilling fees established by the law to go into an environmental stewardship fund to support projects backed by state Growing Greener grants.
The law, known as Act 13, charges the drilling-impact fees to drilling companies based on the amount of gas they extract. Heath said the fees are projected to generate $480 million in new state revenue for conservation, recreation and environmental programs through 2015. 
The law also will force drillers to disclose most chemicals they use, and it will require drilling sites to be further from public and private water sources, the officials said.
The law governs hydraulic fracturing, sometimes called fracking, a process in which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is blasted into underground shale deposits to break them and release natural gas. The Marcellus shale deposit that extends from West Virginia to New York through most of Pennsylvania is believed to be the largest natural gas reservoir in North America.
Many who live near the shale deposit worry of the effects the chemicals will have on drinking water and have other environmental concerns.
The state legislators who voted for the law and held the forum were state Sens. Bob Mensch and Chuck McIlhinney, and Reps. Marguerite Quinn and Paul Clymer, all Republicans. They were joined by Brian Ellis, a Butler County representative who was jeered when he identified himself as the author of the law.
Ellis said his goal was to establish the impact fees and to create jobs. When he said the drilling industry would benefit Pennsylvanians, someone shouted, “He’s covering up.” Mensch drew derisive laughs when he disputed claims that the panel assembled for the forum was biased.
Clymer was called a liar when he said the gas extracted by fracking is “clean energy that’s going to help us.” Even a Penn State University hydrogeologist was accused of taking a payoff.
“I don’t think we’ve pleased everybody and that’s all right but as long as we can do that in a way that’s respectful without interrupting one another …,” Clymer said in closing, the end of his remarks lost in one person’s chant and the others’ clamor to leave.
Before the forum, environmental groups whose members held signs calling for a ban on fracking, staged a press conference to condemn the new law.
They were mostly concerned with a provision that says state law for hydrofracturing supersedes local zoning, which the environmentalists said will leave municipalities with no say about where drilling sites are located.
That provision was put on hold for 120 days Wednesday by a state judge. Five western Pennsylvania municipalities and Bucks County municipalities Nocakamixon Township and Yardley sued to challenge the law.
Nockamixon Township Supervisor Nancy Alessi called the law “one of the most egregious acts in Pennsylvania history because it takes zoning away from everyone completely.”Nockamixon sued in part because a gas driller applied in February to operate a gas well in the township.

Governor Tom Corrupt-bett, Pennsylvania's seriously corrupt official gets an achievement award--
Oh Really!!! As Seth Meyers would say!!
Corbett deserves an indictment award if any award is to be given. Let us NOT to forget that when Corrupt-bett was PA's  state attorney's general, he failed to prosecute Alan Shipman, the waste hauler who violated numerous toxic dumping laws. He was dumping toxic fracking chemicals into PA's streams and creeks, while Corrupt-bett racked up the violations in his office but failed to bring them to court.
Once governor, he passed the Shipman case on to his predecessor. Nothing like pass on the buck.
 Corrupt-bett, or Corbett as he is known among the drillers and frackers, was preparing to run for governor and was already accumulating the dollars from the gas drilling and fracking industry. No doubt, he did not want to bring attention to Shipman's crimes upon humanity and the environment in his run up to the governor's mansion in Harrisburg.

Corbett Lifetime Achievement Award Hits Sour Note with Some

It seems that no one is singing the Pittsburgh Opera’s praises in its decision to present Gov. Tom Corbett with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
An April press release from the opera stated that, “Gov. Corbett will be honored for his early work as a teacher as well as his long-standing protection of the public interest as Pa. Attorney General. Additionally, as governor, he has recognized the economic, educational and social value of the arts.”
The opera is also honoring Susan Corbett, “as First Lady, has championed greater participation in the arts in her role as Chair of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.”
The decision has led to online outrage, with hundreds of comments being posted on the opera’s Facebook page and 1,200-plus signatures on a change.org petition that calls on the Pittsburgh Opera to “Rescind the Tom and Susan Corbett Lifetime Achievement Award.”
The controversy also prompted a response from a local blog entitled Yinzercation (a portmanteau of “Yinzer nation” and “education”), a site run by Jessie Ramey, ACLS New Faculty Fellow at Pitt and parent to two students attending public schools there.
The blog began in December 2011 in response to those “outraged by the $1 billion state cuts that are now hitting our schools.”
What started as a group of Pittsburgh Colfax K-8 parents “has quickly grown into a region-wide movement as folks from across Southwest PA have joined the fight to stop this attack on public education,” according to the site.
Ramey said in a Post-Gazette interview that the only opera that comes to mind when she thinks of Corbett is “The Beggar’s Opera,” because of the lengths to which public schools must now go in order to save their arts curriculum.
While some members of the public may not agree with the opera’s decision, their marketing and communications director Debra L. Bell said in the same Post-Gazette interview that Gov. Corbett intervened this year to prevent a 70 percent cut to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts budget
She also said the council gave $73,000 to the opera this year, bringing the total to $2 million since 1998.
Even so, arts and arts education supporters have been saying that it ain’t over until the fat lady sings, and they plan to hold a demonstration outside of the Saturday event, when the Corbetts are to receive their award following the opera’s annual benefit gala.
It is expected that some are planning to take the opera-tunity to show their love for the arts by donning Viking helmets and staging a protest outside opera headquarters.
Additionally, in a move Yinzercation calls “Singing it to the Legislators,” activists have called on their fellow incensed parents and arts supporters to contact their state representatives and senators, along with Pittsburgh Opera’s board members, to demand better support for education.
There’s also a practical benefit for the opera to share good will with the Governor.
Like many of the well-connected opera board members, Chair Michele Fabrizi has history with Gov. Corbett outside of the opera.
Fabrizi has a couple ties with state politics – having donated to the campaigns of the governor, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Dwight Evans as well as Dan Onorato, who lost to Corbett in the gubernatorial race.
Her connections are typical. General Director Christopher Hahn, President John E. Traina  and Treasurer Robert C. Denove all donated to state political campaigns within the last cycle. Hahn donated to Corbett, while the latter two donated to state Minority Leader Jay Costa Jr. and Onorato, respectively.

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