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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Silencing Communities: How the Fracking Industry Keeps Its Secrets

From Truth-out.com Tuesday, 08 May 2012 13:46
By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report
The "Rogers" family signed a surface-use agreement with a fracking company in 2009 to close their 300-acre dairy farm in rural Pennsylvania. That's not the end of the Rogers' story, but the public, including the Rogers' own neighbors, may never learn what happened to the family and their land as drilling operations sprouted up in their area. The Rogers did not realize they had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the gas company making the entire deal invalid if members of the family discussed the terms of the agreement, water or land disturbances resulting from fracking and other information with anyone other than the gas company and other signatories.
"Rogers" is not the family's real name, it's a pseudonym offered by Simona Perry, an applied anthropologist who cannot reveal the family's identity. Perry has been working with rural families living amid Pennsylvania's gas boom since 2009. Mrs. Rogers initially agreed to participate in a study Perry was conducting on rural families living near fracking operations. She later called Perry in tears, explaining that her family could no longer participate in the study because of the nondisclosure clause in the surface-use agreement. She told Perry she felt stupid for signing the agreement and has realized she had a good life without the money the fracking company paid them to use their land.

Perry has been working with andcollecting data on rural families living amid Pennsylvania's gas boom since 2009 and she told Truthout that the Rogers were not the only family who could not share their experiences due to nondisclosure agreements. Perry said the nondisclosure agreements prevent doctors and researchers from gathering valuable data on the health and environmental impacts of fracking and have a chilling effect on people and communities living near the rigs.
"As communities struggle to contend with these impacts and risks in their daily lives, citizens are forced or sometimes unknowingly sign a nondisclosure agreements, [and] they have lost their freedom to speak and share their knowledge and experience with their neighbors," Perry said. "As a result, whole communities have been silenced and repressed."
Doctors Demand Access to Fracking Data
Controversial hydraulic fracturing oil and gas drilling methods known as "fracking" involve pumping water and chemicals deep underground to break up rock and release oil and gas. Advanced techniques have facilitated an oil and natural gas boom across Pennsylvania and beyond in recent years and brought the drilling close to homes and farms.
Besides air emissions standards recently introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency,  fracking remains largely unregulated by the federal government and has been linked to earthquakes and air and water contamination across the country. Fracking companies disclose some of the chemicals used in fracking fluid, but others - and their concentrations - are often exempt from disclosure because they are considered trade secrets. Other exemptions buried in state and federal law allow drillers to avoid disclosing contents of fracking fluids after they return from deep underground.
Dr. Jerome Paulson, a physician and director of Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment, said that the fracking industry has told the public that the drilling procedure is safe, so there is no reason to hide information on health impacts from public view. Nondisclosure agreements with private landowners and disclosure exemptions, Paulson said, are preventing doctors from doing their jobs and protecting the public.
"How do we provide appropriate treatment recommendations to who are ill?" Paulson asked during a press conference last week. "For the population of individuals who are healthy, how do we provide prevention recommendations when we don't have the information?"
A spokesperson for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group that represents fracking companies in Pennsylvania, was not available for comment.
Headaches, Nosebleeds and Sealed Records
Chris and Stephanie Hallowich and their children thought they had found their dream home when they moved onto a farm in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, but they did not know the prior owner had leased the gas rights to a fracking company, according to Matthew Gerhart, an attorney for the group Earthjustice. The family soon found themselves surrounded by gas development as fracking companies exploited the gas-ri ch Marcellus Shale that runs under much of the state.
The Hallowich family became outspoken opponents of fracking and said that they and their children began suffering from headaches, nosebleeds, burning eyes and sore throats as drilling operations expanded on their land and in their neighborhood. The family tried to get the attention of the media, state regulators and the gas companies, but ended up filing a lawsuit in 2010 and abandoning their home.
The lawsuit was settled in last year. The settlement hearing wa s closed to the press and the gas companies persuaded a common please judge who approved the settlement to permanently seal it from public view, according to Gerhart, who assumes the settlement includes a nondisclosure agreement. Two area newspapers, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Observer Reporter, have since sought access to the court records, but were initially denied. Last week, the newspapers appealed the judge's decision denying them acces s to the records to the state's Superior Court.
Dr. Paulson joined Earthjustice, Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility, and other groups in filing a brief in support of the newspapers' appeal, arguing that the public deserves access to crucial information about the potential health impacts of fracking.
"We're involved in this case because the gas companies insistence on confidentiality is the tip of the iceberg, for one example of a pattern of secrecy and in other contexts," said Gerhart, who hopes tha t the effort to unseal the records will be a step toward greater industry transparency. "... We need real data and access to the real people that are affected by fracking."
The brief filed by Earthjustice and the doctors' groups lists 27 cases in heavily fracked states such as Colorado, Arkansas, Texas and Pennsylvania where details of the case or the settlement are being held out of public light due to sealed court records and nondisclosure agreements.

Gas Rush: Fracking in Depth

Wednesday, 25 April 2012 15:52By Truthout, Truthout | Gas Rush Landing Page
"Gas Rush" is the place to find original insight and analysis on one of the most heated environmental debates in America. As fracking spreads across the country, Truthout chronicles earthquakes, blowouts, political battles and a swelling grassroots opposition. Gas drilling is quickly changing the landscape in Washington and our own backyards, and it's time to hold the government and industry accountable.
By Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica | News Analysis
"Public Media" Joins "Gang Greens" in Colluding With Frackers
By Maura Stephens, Truthout | News Analysis
Fracking and Psychological Operations: Empire Comes Home
By Steve Horn, Truthout | News Analysis
Letter to Friends and Neighbors
By Patrick R McElligott, Truthout | Letter
Letter to New York State Senator Thomas Libous
By Patrick R McElligott, Truthout | Letter
The Heinz Award and What I Plan to Do With ItBy Sandra Steingraber, Truthout | Op-Ed
New Jersey Lawmakers Vote to Ban Fracking
By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report
America's Energy Ethos: Do, Regardless of Harm
By David Sirota, Truthout | Op-Ed
Gassy Geezer Pushes Fossil Fuel
By Maura Stephens, Truthout | Op-Ed

Allegheny Defense Project

See Link Here.

Tell Your Representative to Protect the Allegheny National Forest by Voting NO on Pennsylvania HB 1904!

The Allegheny National Forest is the most industrialized forest in the U.S. Forest Service System due to even-aged management (serial clear-cut logging) for high-value timber species, and because of intensive, full-field mine-out, stripper well oil and gas drilling, and marcellus shale gas drilling. These activities together are destroying every use and enjoyment of the forest, including recreation, wildlife habitat, water quality, and air quality. Now Pennsylvania Representative Kathy Rapp and her colleagues want to make this the permanent condition of the Allegheny National Forest by passing House Bill 1904. Help us stop them bysending this letter (click here) and by calling your representative to tell them to protect the Allegheny National Forest.

There are 12,000 to 15,000 active conventional oil and gas wells on the Allegheny National Forest with unconventional Marcellus and Utica Shale gas well drilling now beginning. 

There are over 2,236 miles of oil and gas roads and 1,512 miles of USFS system roads on the Allegheny.

The Allegheny National Forest was created for Watershed Protection.

But Pennsylvania's only National Forest has been plagued by mismanagement, corruption, and a local political environment heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry and other extractive industries.
The industry is occupying the surface of the Allegheny with full-field-mine-out stripper well developments (see also PSU stripper well consortium). After environmental groups filed a compliant in Federal Court because of the failure of the Forest Service to conduct site-specific environmental analysis on proposed oil and gas drilling sites on the Allegheny, a limited amount of information was made public about the oil and gas industry's plans for the Allegheny National Forest.  The image below illustrates a proposed project in the northeastern part of the Allegheny National Forest. Each green dot represents a well. Not illustrated in the image is all of the infrastructure that goes along with these developments including tank batteries, oil lines, water lines, electric lines, generators, wastewater impoundments, drilling fine dumps, drilling equipment and waste, truck traffic, construction equipment, and every other element of an industrialized landscape.

The image below shows the industry's plans for the Allegheny National Forest. All of the yellow areas are predicted by the Forest Service to see full-field-mine-out within the next 20 years.

This is the stage for unconventional Marcellus and Utica Shale Gas Drilling (see aerial monitoring of shale gas sites in 2010). Kathy Rapp and her colleagues want to industrialize the Allegheny National Forest. They do not want the public's surface protected, in fact they do not want to acknowledge that the public has any rights to protect the surface at all. 

House Bill 1904 builds on preemptions contained in Act 13, the completely inadequate, and unlawful, Marcellus shale legislation recently signed by Governor Corbett.
Act 13/HB 1950 contains the following provision:
“With respect to oil and gas deposits on national forest lands identified under section 17(o) of the Mineral Leasing Act (106 Stat. 3108, 30 U.S.C. § 226(o)), the application of regulations and statutes adopted by the Commonwealth shall be the exclusive method and means by which any requirements may be imposed on any feature, aspect or process of oil and gas operations pertaining to the development of the deposits.”
The provision attempts to make Pennsylvania statutes and regulations the only requirements imposed on national forest lands: it attempts to preempt federal law on oil and gas drilling in national forests.
The oil and gas industry is attempting to spin the situation into a state's rights argument. However, it is simply a case of corporate rights over community and individual rights. The root causes of this situation are greed, corruption**, and a complete lack of leadership and honorable behavior on all levels of government. 
It is up to those of us who care about the landscape and the communities of the Allegheny National Forest to make this right. Please start by telling your representative how you feel.
**Public corruption is a breach of trust by federal, state, or local officials—often with the help of private sector accomplices.

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