Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PA Department of Environmental Protection Studies Air Quality

Today the PA DEP issued a statement that, in response to complaints from citizens about odors near gas wells, it will begin a study of air quality to be completed in four parts.  The agency will test for volatile organic compounds (VOC), nitrogen oxides, hydrogen oxides, and carbon monoxides.

Read the full statement here.

"I'm not opposed to drilling; I'm opposed to being poisoned."

Tim Ruggiero, Texas citizen and land owner

Two Texans who live with the “boom” of the gas-rich Barnett shale are traveling across the country to warn citizens living above the Marcellus shale what they can expect:

1) Air and water contamination

2) Lies, half-truths and deception from gas companies

3) Little or no help from government regulatory agencies

Mayor Calvin Tillman of DISH, Texas, reminds audiences that,
Once you know, you can’t NOT know.
In other words, as citizens understand the escalating problems of gas drilling in their neighborhood - from noise to odors to evidence of elevated toxins in their own blood samples - the situation cannot be ignored.

Opposed to Being Poisoned

Tim Ruggiero’s business card says “Texas Land Owner.” He and his family live in Decatur, Texas, not far from DISH. As he puts it,
I am not opposed to drilling. I am opposed to being poisoned.
Both Tillman and Ruggiero recently spoke to audiences in New York City, Philadelphia, Clearville, Midway and Pittsburgh, PA. They make a point of telling listeners that they travel at their own expense. In response to a question from this blogger, they explain their motivation this way: Ruggiero:
My wife and I are not the first two people to get run over by the gas industry. If we can get the industry to behave in an ethical and moral manner, it will have been worth our efforts. Otherwise, the gas industry will keep behaving badly until they are made to stop.
Tillman: “What happened in DISH, Texas, doesn’t have to happen here. Maybe, together, we can make changes in the way the gas industry and government regulators operate.”

Because of verbal attacks by the gas industry, Tillman tells audiences, “I’m not a paid lobbyist. I’m not on a crusade to end gas drilling. I don’t get paid to be the mayor of DISH, Texas. I’m not getting paid to be here. I’m using my vacation from my real job, and I paid my own way here.”

Gas industry executives cannot make the same claim, whether they are from Spectra Energy, Range Resources, Chesapeake Energy, Cabot Oil & Gas, American Petroleum Institute, Marcellus Shale Coalition or America’s Natural Gas Alliance - to name only a few.

Visit un-naturalgas blog here (Or click on the link in the righthand column of this blog.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

South Caddo (LA) Evacuees Return Home

Residents of South Caddo Stop By the Firehouse To Pick Up Water
Photo by Greg Pearson/The Times

The residents of South Caddo, evacuated this week due to hazardous gasses in their homes from gas drilling-related causes,  were allowed to return to their homes yesterday.  But first they went to the Shreveport Fire Station No. 22 to pick up water.  The water was not provided by the offending gas company, Exco Resources, Inc.  The water was provided at taxpayers' expense by the fire department.  A team of 23 people escorted the residents back to their homes and went in first in groups of three to test and make sure it was safe. 

Some residents could not return to their homes yet.  They live too close to the drilling site (within a half mile).  It will be at least Monday before they can return.  The well must be sealed first.

The most dangerous situation, other than the risk of explosion, was the presence of VOCs- volatile organic compounds.  These VOCs pose a health risk to liver and kidney function.

One hundred thirty-five families were affected.

A resident whose water was contaminated during this incident commented to the newspaper:
Well, I am still here with no water.. the company responsible for this still has not contacted any of the people left in their homes for now 5 days with no water...I think our first responders have done what they know to do.. it is the company that should have sent water to our homes. That is the least they could have done.. well, today most of the residents are coming home.. now they can see what it is like to be at home with no water..I am not sure how they can say it is safe when they don't know for sure..Gas stays at the bottom until it is bubbles to top.. I think I am going to need some counseling after this..I am afraid to even wash clothes,flush the toilet, or even wash the dishes.
Read the entire article from The Shreveport Times.

Firsthand Experiences With the Marcellus Shale Drilling: Stephanie Hallowich Speaks Out

Stephanie Hallowich reporting from Pennsylvania
Photo by Hannah Abelbeck

Stephanie's story of how gas drilling has jeopardized her family's health and feelings of safety is one of the most poignant and articulate accounts I have seen so far. She reports that her friends and neighbors, even church friends, are turning against her because they see her as a threat to the money they hope to get from future royalties.  The social implications of gas drilling have yet to be seriously addressed, but they are there, and they are devastating.

Visit Faces of Frackland here.

Troy Borough (PA) Council Approves Gas Lease

Troy, Pennsylvania

Troy, PA, is located at the eastern edge of the majestic Appalachian Mountains.  A gas lease offer was on the table at this week's regular meeting of Troy Borough Council.  Borough manager Dan Close reported on the gas lease offer to council.  The offer was from Talisman (formerly Fortuna). Nine acres in Farmer's Valley was to be leased for a puny $4,000 per acre with a 20% royalty.  There was no discussion- repeat: NO DISCUSSION, and the motion to accept the lease offer was unanimous.

In this blogger's opinion, it might have been a good idea to consider the negative impacts of gas drilling before voting unanimously to accept the offer.  Does the Bohlayer family know about the toxic chemicals which will soon be dispersed in the air,  leached into the soil, and possibly affect the water around Troy? The Bohlayer family has a pear and apple orchard in Troy, a business which has been in operation for five generations.  In fact, there are 40 agricultural companies in Troy, Gardiner's Farm, Wilson's Farm, Lane Shady Farm, Brook Elm Farm, and Alfred Sparling Farm, to name a few.  Some are orchards, some dairy farms, and some livestock.  Jim and Marge Crandle produce maple syrup in Troy. Do these farmers know that gas drilling can contaminate trees, plants, streams, rivers, and can kill animals?  Have they been made aware of the risks?   Water polluted with toxic chemcials cannot be used to water plants or feed animals.   

Read the article in the Towanda Daily Review here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another View of What Happened In Dimock, PA

Cartoon by John Cole, The (Scranton) Times-Tribune
Used by permission.

$240,000 in fines and a one-year moratorium on drilling in a small rural township might make it seem that Pennsylvania state government is cracking down on natural gas drillers that compromise the environment and living conditions for local residents. Unfortunately, pitted against the millions in profits drillers stand to gain from extracting gas from the Marcellus Shale, it basically amounts to the cost of doing business.

Don't know what happened in Dimock?  Click here for a start.  Also search this blog for more information on the plight of Dimock.

Endless Mountains Visitors Guide: New Attraction in PA- Visit a Well Pad

Read and weep. Here is part of the new brochure: Endless Mountains Visitors Guide. Imagine trying to make a gas well a wonderful and fascinating thing to visit in Pennsylvania. It is almost like trying to make visiting a ward in a VA hospital something to look forward to. Come see the death and destruction here in Pennsylvania. It will be fascinating. Watch the gas drillers as they work diligently to ruin everything we treasure here in Pennsylvania. Read on.........(from the Endless Mountains Visitors Guide)

History in the Making: Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Drilling

The Endless Mountains Region has embarked on a new and fascinating journey with the introduction of natural gas drilling in the area. Natural gas companies have made residency here as they work diligently to extract the natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation–a black shale that is thousands of feet underground. The Marcellus Shale lies beneath much of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio,West Virginia, and adjacent states. As you travel through the Endless Mountains, you may see a well rig towering into the sky,
or a large leveled area of ground with equipment all around.These are all part of the drilling landing pad and gas extraction process.We invite you to learn about and discover this part of history that is unfolding in the Endless Mountains.

To learn more, contact the visitors bureau at 1-800-769-8999, or visit (This website is clearly pro-drilling in every way.)

I am going to call the number above and ask where would be a good place to see a gas well.

Here is the website where you, too, can download this visitors guide:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Flaring: Video Showing the Lighting of a Flare

Flaring lights up a night sky and can go on for days.  People living nearby have trouble sleeping sometimes because of the bright light.

Louisiana Residents Evacuated Due To Water Contamination From Gas Wells

Contamination of underground water systems from a recently drilled natural gas well in Caddo Parish, LA, has necessitated the evacuation of some 135 families in the area. Water quality tests are expected to come back tonight, Wed., April 21. If the tests are acceptable, the residents will be escorted back to their homes by an entry team. The team would test the gas quantity at each home.

Pets are being boarded at local kennels, and the expenses incurred will presumably be reimbursed by Exco Operating Company. Residents who choose to remain in their homes are being cautioned against using well water for any reason and to avoid smoking and open flames.

An update on Monday, April 20, warned residents:
though unlikely, the water from your well may have the potential of being flammable. Do not drink or use any well water and do not give well water to your pets. You are also advised not to turn on any faucets, flush the toilets, or smoke cigars, pipes or cigarettes.
Those who did not have a place to go were asked to report immediately to the Hilton-Shreveport Convention Center where representatives would be located to assist them.

Two of the gas wells in the affected area were filled with cement, but the Caddo Sheriff said that plans were in place for those wells to be uncapped on Tuesday morning and flared to burn off excess gas.

The Wilcox Aquifer, the main water supply for Caddo Parish residents outside the Shreveport city limits, was the focus of concern as to the extent of contamination.

Click here to read the full article from KSLA News 12, Shreveport, LA.

Can you imagine living like this?
More on this incident from ProPublica writer Abraham Lustgarten here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Watch This Video Filmed In Dimock, PA

The noise is unbelievable.  The roads are caked with mud and potholed.  Trucks everywhere.  Water tanks by the dozens.  All within 300 feet of people's homes.  It's just wrong.
Kudos to Vera Scroggins who took this video!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Eminent Domain An Issue In Siting PA Gas Lines

Do pipeline companies have the power of eminent domain in Pennsylvania?  This allows them to put pipelines in wherever they wish even over the objection of property owners.  An article (link below) in the Philadelphia Inquirer suggests that the answer to this question is YES.  There are six pipeline companies registered in PA as utilities, giving them the right to take easements by eminent domain- at a fair-market rate.

There will be a hearing on Thursday, April 22, in Harrisburg to review the Public Utility Commission's regulatory oversight of pipelines and to decide whether or not the rules need to be revised in light of the gas boom now in progress and growing ever larger as the weeks go by.  The PUC regulates smaller, in-state "midstream" pipelines that are declared as utilities, or common carriers.

Eminent domain has become a big problem in Texas where the Barnett Shale is located.  In January, Laser Marcellus Gathering Co. LLC of Houston applied to build a 30-mile pipeline to connect wells in Susquehanna County to the Millenium Pipeline in Broome County, NY.

Pipelines will become an ever-worsening problem wherever gas drilling is in operation.  Pipelines are dangerous and problemmatic, especially the maintenance of them as the years go by and the hidden inner corrosion which can go undetected.

Read the whole article here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cabot Energy Ordered To Plug Wells and Help Dimock, PA, Residents

The PA Department of Environmental Protection today issued a sweeping order requiring Cabot Oil & Gas Company to take extensive actions and help the residents of Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, who have been devastated by the water, soil, and air pollution caused by gas drilling.  The measures taken by DEP appear to be tough, at least in comparison with other anemic punishments that gas companies receive in general.  I hope the DEP continues to monitor and insist on complete compliance and make the fines and orders as severe as possible.  The bad part is that the original order and agreement with Cabot was done in November 2009 and was not carried out by Cabot, resulting in this further action.  Why didn't Cabot take action last fall?  For five months the problems have continued and gotten worse.  The fine of $240,000 is hardly damaging to Cabot's budget.

Click here to read the press release and the details of the order.  Perhaps there are some teeth in it.  However, many more such orders need to be given out and followed through before the public will begin to feel even remotely compensated.

For more information on oil and gas wells, visit, keyword: Oil and gas.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Natural Gas Drilling: Bradford County (PA) Courthouse Becomes Gas Gang Hangout

The rotunda of Bradford County Courthouse
Photo by Wes Skillings
The situation at the Bradford County Courthouse has gotten out of hand.  The county commissioners have made some necessary changes so that the employees at the courthouse and the citizens who have business there can use the building for the purposes for which it was designed.  The" gas gang" as it is being called is having to do their business under new guidelines to which some are really objecting.  One gas industry contractor said,
Contractors like myself are out there working and bringing money to this county. I figured that my group alone brings in about five grand a month...I just don't understand why y'all wouldn't cater to us.
Commissioner McLinko responded at the April 8th meeting:
This thing about the money has been thrown in my face. We're not going to sell our county out for a dollar bill...I get tired of hearing how much money you are bringing in.
Commissioner Smith said,
The rotunda of the courthouse is not a corporate office. It's not a cafeteria, and it's not a social club.
The commissioners' outrage is certainly understandable and justified. However, do they remember that it was their idea to wholeheartedly bring the gas industry to Bradford County and lease 90+ acres of public land in order to make money for the county?

Read the article from the Rocket Courier.  There are many more details which will make you wonder:  Do the gas drillers own the place?  Why do they think they do?  Where are their manners?

PA Has No Law Requiring Full Disclosure of Fracking Chemicals

A frack pit with torn liner
Does anyone have details on Pennsylvania's requirements for disclosure  of fracking chemicals? Also, are you aware of other states that have  full public disclosure requirements?

(from Bruce Baizel)
PA does not 'require' disclosure in rule or statute. They have a  policy/guideline, which is not enforceable, but 'voluntary'.  No other state requires full public disclosure.

Bruce Baizel, Oil and Gas Accountability Project Staff Attorney

Bruce comes to OGAP from Dine CARE, a Navajo action group, and Round River Conservation Studies, groups he staffed and represented for eleven years. Bruce received his law degree in 1986 from the University of Denver College of Law, has a BA in Biology and a Masters in International Relations.

Also, a response from Deborah Goldberg of Earthjustice:
Pennsylvania has published a list of additives that companies may use for fracturing. As far as I know, there is no other public disclosure. Theo Colborn analyzed the list to get more chemical identity and toxicity data. New York provides the MSDS sheets for the additives that industry may use. No one provides full disclosure as far as I know.
Deborah Goldberg
212-791-1881 x227

Friday, April 9, 2010

Natural Gas Drilling: Bradford County (PA) Courthouse Has Unwelcome Carnival Atmosphere

The Rotunda at Towanda County Courthouse
[Photo: The Towanda Daily Review]
Even Commissioner Doug McLinko, a staunch supporter of gas drilling in Bradford County (PA), is drawing the line.  The three commissioners of the county have had to clamp down on unacceptable behavior at the courthouse in Towanda, the county seat.  It seems that as many as 80 people are descending on the courthouse rotunda daily to search for information on gas leases and properties on which leases will be signed.  Nothing wrong with these people except they seem to have gotten the idea that they are entitled to make themselves at home to the detriment of the normal courthouse activities.  They are monopolizing the tables in the rotunda area, eating their fast food lunches, playing loud music on computers, and watching movies.  The county has had to hire another custodian to help clean up the mess in bathrooms and even scrape food off the floor at night.  The commissioners tried to talk to representatives of Chesapeake Energy and Talisman, but to little effect.  Finally Mark Smith, head commissioner, took things into his own hands and removed some of tables, leaving room for only 42 people.  Rules of use were put at each table.  It seems the people doing the gas drilling work had forgotten they are indeed guests there.  The local people are beginning to resent the intrusion of the gas industry even at the courthouse.  The crumpling roads and long lines at the coffee shops are other reminders that "they are not in Kansas anymore."  It is now almost impossible to even find a motel room available, not even for social services who need spaces for the homeless.  The drillers have commandeered  every last room.  Perhaps that problem will be alleviated when dormitories are built to house these men, a plan which is in the works.

When will life return to normal for the residents of Bradford County?  Sadly, the answer is probably never.

Read all about it here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Natural Gas Drilling: A Homeowner From Dimock, PA, Speaks From the Heart

Property value....what is a home worth? Is there a price for the memories and dreams? Each window in a home frames a moment in time-a masterpiece. How much?... What is the price of clean water splashing from your faucet?.. How do you put a dollar amount on the sound of spring peepers from the back yard?.. What value is given to a view?...Wooded slopes cleared for pennies...How much does a spring bubbling crisp and clear from the Earth cost? Night sounds from the deep woods are priceless. What I would pay to hear the pair of Great Horned Owls echoing down through our valley....Springs first full moon splendid in its rightful place as the brightest object in the sky.....until the huge drilling rig on the ridge arrogantly claimed the throne...What DOES the night sky cost?

-written today by a resident of Dimock, PA, who moved there several years ago to build her dream home.

Natural Gas Drilling: News From Ohio

Daily life next to a gas compressor station. Compressor stations are usually placed at 40-100 mile intervals along pipelines.

A message and call for help from Kari Matsko of NEOGAP:

For the last 3-4 years it has been only NEOGAP (still growing) trying to get Ohio lawmakers and landowners properly informed. Ohio seems to be constantly ignored and this is dangerous for all nearby states because:

-we are second only to TX in air pollution

-we have the 4th highest number of wells drilled in the nation (after TX, PA, OK)

-most in ohio are clueless and think these problems are just in PA or NY, no one is educated!

-we will take any/all waste into our injection wells without testing

-we just passed a law saying brine includes fracking fluid and anything else

-our drilling borders lake erie and all the tributaries

-drillers/well owners have come forward saying companies dump cuttings/fluids into storm drains, rivers & ravines

-we have ZERO ft setbacks to water sources/watersheds etc

-we have NO marcellus shale special permit conditions, despite many being drilled

-our state disallows local mayors/officials to mandate drilling locations (zoning nixed)

-our state disallows epa, soil & water etc to implement environmental provisions

-our state regulators work with drillers to compose 20 acre tracts made up of numerous small highly residential lots & then place drill operations within 150 ft of homes/schools

-our state requires no NORM/TENORM, H2S or any other air monitoring despite these close conditions

-our state works with drillers to ensure enough land is pooled by sending letters to home owners stating their minerals will be taken by force if they don't sign leases

-people are selling (trying to sell) after being poisoned by H2S, CO, or had their water contaminated...things are so bad, most are saying they are looking to move outside OH

-we really have no enforcement, after the bainbridge explosion (similar to Dimock)- no company was fined...this rarely to never happens & the air poisonings above were considered 'legal' by our regulators

-our governor is NOT LISTENING, they all only listen to the 'experts' the regulators/enforcers in OH (!!) -he's had letters pour in since 2004 and still signed a bad bill last week because our regulators supported it (with the oil and gas lobby)

PLEASE- our people are:

scooping oil off their drinking water glass before consuming from the tap,
tap water lights on fire,
getting rashes from bathing,
opening windows to prevent homes from exploding,
getting tasered on our own land when it holds gas/oil operations we object to,
taking kids out of school,
camping to avoid sleeping in homes near compressor stations (air,noise problems)

THANKS for any help you can provide!

Kari Matsko
Director, NEOGAP - Ohio


The Real Cost of Hydrofracking

Seneca Lake


Considering our environment, the cost of hydrofracking needs to be thoroughly analyzed in terms of protecting our water, air, wetlands and wildlife. . . .Economically, we need to study how the benefits to a few compare to the costs of the many. On the one side, there will certainly be a number of new jobs (most of them temporary), a spurt of supporting businesses, some personal drilling bonuses and royalties. On the other side, there will be big changes in community needs for more housing, public health, schools, emergency services, roads and bridges, and volatile real estate prices. . . .

But, beyond the environmental and economic costs, there is another kind of cost that is less easy to quantify, yet nonetheless real. I’m talking about the humanities---the human costs of hydrofracking in terms of history, esthetics, ethics, community identity and self-determination---all of those connections between what an area has been, its values and history and aspirations, what it is now and what it hopes to become.  Such things are never singular or static, of course---there are always competing and changing ideas and values, but I would contend that, in a healthy, viable community, those changes occur slowly and deliberately, are informed by an area’s past, and must involve much public input and debate.

When we look at very fast community changes that occur without regard to such rooted values and considered preparations, we generally see upheaval and significant loss of local identity. Sometimes these dramatic changes happen as a result of a war or natural disaster. Most recently, New Orleans, Haiti, Baghdad come to mind. When my family moved to area in 1972, it was the Elmira flood . . . from which Elmira is still recovering.

And just as sudden loss is disruptive to a community, so is a great sudden boom or windfall. Think of gold, oil, diamonds. From the Gold Rush in the Black Hills to Diamond mines in Congo, Oil in Nigeria, Ecuador, Iraq---in human and cultural terms, you see a similar upheaval: environment degradation, disregard for local people and their historical values---accompanied by great displacement, discord, public corruption and often violent conflict.

When it comes to the prospect of the Marcellus Shale Gas Boom, the main question we need to ask is: What is the value that we as a region stand to gain versus the value of what we are likely to lose?  It might be nice believe that we can have it all, but that is almost never the case. So then, what are these values, these unpriceable essentials of our history and identity that I fear might be lost in exchange for the tens of thousands of forecasted hydrofracked gas wells in our Finger Lakes region?

1. Most obviously, the water. Our eponymous icon. We’re not called the Finger Lakes Region for nothing. Our abundant water is not only inseparable from our region’s beauty, agriculture and tourism, but of inestimable value to our wildlife and to the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on the lakes for drinking water. And while it’s true that our country needs energy, also consider this: Our Finger Lakes contain the largest reservoir of fresh water wholly within United States. (The Great Lakes being also shared with Canada). What is that worth? And---considering all the skirmishes and wars that are already being fought over fresh water---what will it be worth in future generations?

2. Agriculture. For almost 200 years, the most important economic asset of our region has been---and still is---agriculture. 100 years ago, our region was known as the “berry capital of the world.” in 2009, its national rank was: 2nd in apples, 3rd in dairy products, 3rd in grapes, 3rd in wine, and it is one of the nation’s fastest growing areas of organic agriculture as well. A 2001 Agricultural Economic Development Plan prepared by Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Broome County Department of Planning put it this way:  Income from agriculture goes further than other sectors in helping the economy. Agriculture produces much higher economic multipliers than any other sector of the Broome County economy.  Farmland is a valuable future resource for the County in providing for a healthy and plentiful local supply of food products and generating new sources of farm income. Urban residents of the County, as well as visitors, are seeking locally grown fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers, both organic and non-organic.

3. Tourism.  Hand in hand with the plentiful water and agriculture, tourism has long with an essential characteristic of our region. From steamboats on the lakes and spas in the 19th Century, to Watkins Glen, Corning and Hammondsport in the early 20th C. to the Windmill and Wine Trail in the 21st. . . . The Cornell/Broome County points out the integral relationship between tourism and agriculture. Farms create rural character and attract tourism.

Farms contribute to Broome County's rural character and protect open spaces essential to the quality of life for both permanent and seasonal residents. Any number of surveys of rural residents and second-home dwellers indicate the primary reasons people live in such areas have to do with their appreciation of the natural resources and open spaces offered, but the anecdotal evidence is perhaps even stronger and local tourism brochures provide examples. They include references not only to the County's recreational opportunities but also its "scenic beauty." They also speak of the "quiet valleys," "enchanting villages" and quiet country settings" throughout the County as attractive features for visitors. And as much as that is true for neighboring Broome County, it is all the more true for the Finger Lakes Region.

In specific reference to the Finger Lakes, the Porsche Club of America says this about us:
Happiness is defined as the congruence of well-being and satisfaction. Driving through the Finger Lakes Region of New York State can be the epitome of happiness, especially if you happen to be driving a Porsche!
And, in 2009, Sherman Travel‘s ranked the Finger Lakes as “the #1 Lakeside Resort Destination in the World!”  Not Lake Tahoe, Lake Lucerne, Lake Como or Lake Louise, but our Finger Lakes! What is that worth? Clearly, in last decade or so, the influx of Mennonites has also augmented the region’s agriculture and tourism with their prolific farms, flowers, crafts and unique charm.

4. Education and Progressive Thought.  These characteristics of clean water, agriculture and tourism may occasionally be at odds, but they are also symbiotic. There is a harmony and and evolution of these assets, which act together to maintain a healthy and vibrant continuity in our region. That harmony also stems from our region’s emphasis on quality education, progressive social history and religious tolerance.

Consider the extraordinary availability of higher education in our region: Cornell, Rochester, RIT, Eastman School of Music, Syracuse; the heart of the SUNY system: Geneseo, Binghamton, Alfred, Brockport, Cortland and Oneonta; the array of quality small private colleges: Colgate, Hamilton, Hobart/ William Smith, Ithaca, Elmira, Keuka, Wells, LeMoyne, St. John Fisher, Nazareth; the excellent Community Colleges: Corning, FLCC, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tompkins Cortland, Monroe. . . .For our area’s population and rural character, these institutions offer an inestimable wealth, and one that has been closely aligned with our region’s equally amazing history of progressive and independent thinkers.

In 1865, Ezra Cornell wrote: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study." And such has also been the openness toward social progress: Women’s Rights leaders like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Elizabeth Blackwell; Abolitionists and leaders of the Underground Railroad like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass; great progressive orators like Douglass, Robert Ingersoll and Mark Twain. Too often Mark Twain is only remembered for Tom Sawyer, and less for Pudd’nhead Wilson, “The War Prayer,” and the Anti-Imperialist League.
I am said to be a revolutionist in my sympathies, by birth, by breeding and by principle. I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolt. ---Mark Twain
This tradition of education and progressive thought in the humanities is as much a part of the richness of our region as are the precious lakes. What is that worth compared to millions of cubic feet of gas? I couldn’t begin to say.

5. The Living Nature of the Finger Lakes. Nor do I know how to figure the worth of the forests and wildlife in our region. Wildlife for hunting and fishing or just as food for the soul. How would one put a price on it? Per fish? Per fox? Per great blue heron? I don’t know. Any more than with clean air or starry nights. I can’t quantify the worth of a starry night, but that doesn’t make it worthless.

Last Tuesday (3/29), I picked up a copy of the Elmira STAR-GAZETTE.  Its main headline said: COUNTY EXEC OUTLINES ALTERED LANDFILL PACT, which was about the importation of fracking waste from Pennsylvania to be dumped into the Chemung County Landfill. Right under that, the sub-headline read: OPENING DAY FOR TROUT FISHING IS THURSDAY --- CATHARINE CREEK REMAINS A LURE.  Talk about an unviable juxtaposition!  No, we won’t be able to have it both ways. Water and agriculture and wine and tourism, yes. But, like oil and water, fracking waste and trout do not mix.

A year ago, our Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes sent a FOIL request to DEC asking for a list of toxic chemicals that DEC had on record associated with any planned use of fracking fluid additives in our five-county region. Because there had been much talk that such information was proprietary, we did not have high expectations, yet, to our surprise, we received a list of 48 products along with the Material Safety Data Sheet for each.  When I analyzed this information, I discovered that 34 of these products contained
highly-hazardous chemicals. And, of those, 21 were known to be toxic to aquatic environments, and 11 others had yet to be tested for environmental toxicity at all).

That is hardly heartening for the trout. How compatible will these products be with trout? Or perch? Or us?  The industry likes to point out that these additives only make up one-half of one percent of the fracking fluid, and that many of these chemicals are included in everyday products like antifreeze and bathroom cleanser.  But, if you consider that, in Pennsylvania, each well uses 5.5 million gals. of fracking fluid, then that “only one-half of one percent” amounts to 27,500 gals. per well.  And if, as Prof. Tony Ingraffea estimates, it is likely that as many as 40,000 such wells will be drilled in our seven counties in Western NY, that would amount to 1.1 billion gals. of noxious chemicals that would be added to our environment. What will that mean for all our aquatic life? For the 500,000 people who currently depend on the Finger Lakes for their drinking water? For our region’s reputation as a clean, welcoming environment? Would you want to buy milk and apples for your family that came from farms surrounded by fracking fluid ponds and deisel-spewing well pads?  Or if you were a tourist, would you want to be driving on torn up roads behind endless lines of fracking trucks? Through noisy industrial zones one after another? Does that sound like a world class tourist destination to you?  Or if you were a doctor or professor or other professional, would such a place be #1 on your list of desirable places you’d like to settle? Or if you wanted to build you retirement dream home, wouldn’t you to be sure of the safety of your drinking water, the secure value of your investment?  Or if you wanted to start a winery or an organic farm, wouldn’t you want to dig in somewhere where the local populace and powers-that-be had a vision more compatible with your own?

In short, we can strive to remain a first class area for all these values that we, as a region, have traditionally cherished.  Or we can be a first class producer of natural gas.

But we cannot be both.

To know this, we can look to Cleburne or DISH Texas. We can look to Garfield County, Colorado. We can look to the Louisiana coast that used to call itself “Fisherman’s Paradise” and is now God’s own junkyard for the gas and oil industry, not a fishing boat or tourist in sight. We can look across our southern border to Pennsylvania and wonder why they are so desperate to send their fracking waste to us. Or we can just look around our Finger Lakes Region and think about what it’s worth and what losing it would really mean. To me that’s the best way to do a true cost analysis of hydrofracking.

Steve Coffman
Dundee, New York

Gas Drilling in NE Pennsylvania: Ulster Votes To Seek a Gas Lease

Ulster, PA
Monday night, April 5th, the Ulster Township Supervisors voted to put out for bid  a lease which would allow a natural gas company to set up an operation on township property.  The land to be used for this purpose is underneath the township building, Totem Park, and the ball field.  Chesapeake Energy has shown an interest in obtaining the lease. The amount of money to be paid to the township for this lease:  $45,000.

Putting gas wells on public property near a park and a ball field is a dangerous proposition.  Ulster citizens must question this plan at public meetings.  Their lives will be permanently changed by this.

At the same meeting, money was allocated to buy 7,000 tons of gravel to perform maintenance on local roads which are badly in need of attention.  If the articles appearing in the Towanda Daily Review lately are any indication, the roads in Ulster will only get worse when the gas drilling gets into full swing.

Read the article in the Daily Review.

Ulster is in Bradford County near Sayre.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Natural Gas Industry: Charitable Donations?

The Towanda Daily Review announced today that Talisman Energy, formerly Fortuna, has given a donation, albeit not a generous one by any means, to a very worthy local charity, Grace Connection, which reportedly ran out of funds last February and had to close temporarily. To read about the donation, check out the article here.

Now let's consider this: In 2008, the CEO of Talisman, John A. Manzoni (pictured above), received a salary of $1,254,000. However, the total compensation for CEO Manzoni came to roughly $8,816,000. Manzoni was listed on Canada's 100 highest paid CEOs in 2008. On that list, the average salary, not counting bonuses, was $7.3 million. That same year Canadians were hard hit by the emergence of the worldwide recession (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives). The average working person in Canada earned $42,305 a year. Economist Hugh Mackenzie, who authored a report, said,
The top 100 CEOs pocket that amount [$42,305] by 1:01 p.m. on January 4- the first working day of the year.
Mackenzie also noted that the Canadian CEOs on the top 100 list also collected an average of $1.6 million a year in bonuses related to stock options and "much more than that in stock grants."

Now back to that generous (?) donation to Grace Connection,  Talisman cannot really think this amount of money represents anything more than a disingenuous attempt to make people think it is concerned about the lives of local people, can it?  How about a half a million dollars?  That would be more commendable and proportionate in my opinion.  Every little bit counts, of course. Talisman's donation is needed in any amount, but it is so paltry compared to the millions of dollars of profit these gas companies take in at the expense of many people who are personally affected in not so beneficial ways.

A question for Mr. Manzoni:  That's a really nice looking watch, sir.  What time do you have?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Another Truck Goes In a Ditch: Tioga County Accident

Another accident involving a truck hauling water for a gas drilling company has been reported in Delmar Township, Tioga County, PA.  Accidents are happening with more and more frequency with the increase in drilling in Pennsylvania.  It just comes with the territory.  The driver was unhurt, but he was fired after the accident. 

Read the story here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Fumes Ignite at Gas Well: More On the Fire in Washington County, PA

The Observer-Reporter, a Washington County, PA, newspaper, has published a report (4/1/2010), giving further details about the serious fire which occurred on March 31st at a well site in Hopewell Township, Washington County, PA.  The land owner, George Zimmerman, does not own the mineral rights beneath his property.  Consequently, he has had absolutely no say in what has happened on his property since a gas well was placed there.

Mr. Zimmerman looked out his bedroom window Wednesday morning and saw flames shooting 100 feet in the air from the fire.  A state police fire marshal said the blaze was an accident caused by a malfunction which ignited fumes and caused $375,000 in damages.  The DEP said both the tank and pit used to store fluid used for hydrofracking caught fire.  A storage trailer also burned.  Firefighters did not immediately take action to extinguish the fire because they had to assess what was actually on fire.  The fire in the tank was the last thing to be put out.  The pit fire burned itself out. The fire chief from West Middletown said the fire might have been caused by vandals.  [This is speculation.] Fire crews from four towns responded. 

Mr. Zimmerman has had problems before. In early December a spill went into a pond feeding a stream.  The spill was from a pit filled with fresh water mixed with recycled water. Also three water wells Zimmerman had dried up.  Atlas has recently been fined $85,000 by the DEP for violations at 13 of its well sites.

Read the whole article.
Here is another article from Amy Mall of NRDC. She tells of previous problems the land owner had with Altas Energy.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Marcellus Drilling: Fire in a Frac Pit in Washington County, PA

The Atlas well burns on Wednesday, March 31st.

The Pittsburgh reported a fire at a gas well in Washington County, PA,on March 31st.  A frac pit caught fire about 8 a.m.  The land owner and a neighboring family smelled a "horrendous gas smell" for several days before the fire erupted, but numerous calls to state officials were unsuccessful.  The fire was put out by Washington County's hazmat team who also had to use foam to extinguish a fire at a holding tank near the wastewater impoundment pond.  The pit's rubber liner was allowed to burn out on its own, according to Public Safety Director Jeff Yates.  Altas Energy is the company operating the well.  Read the newspaper account here.
Watch a TV report video here.