Monday, September 5, 2011

Chesapeake Energy Accused of Operating Without a Permit (with Update)

The Arnold pad on Kerrick Road at Sollick Road
Taken in 2009 before it became a residual waste treatment facility
Photo: Carol Manuel
This would be just another bad story about Chesapeake if it were not so close to my family's summer home in French Azilum, Bradford County, PA. In this week's Rocket, there is news that Chesapeake is already hauling residual waste/frack fluid up to the Arnold site  on Kerrick Road.  The pad was there in 2009, but no well was put there. A group of neighbors with property on the border of Terry and Asylum Townships is making a lot of noise. They are claiming that Chesapeake Energy is "operating several wastewater treatment facilities in the area that were either improperly permitted, not permitted at all, or operating on sites that were not adequately prepared for such usage."

David Bohlander and Patrick Blow are angry that Chesapeake is so bold and DEP seems less than adequate in oversight.
They don't understand why this remote rural area was chosen for what they feel is a regional facility.
Chesapeake is claiming that these local people are just making a fuss over nothing.

The Asylum Township supervisors have taken an active role in questioning the operations. They noted that no Land Development Application had been submitted to the municipality as required in the township's 2008 subdivision/land development ordinance. Lee Allyn also expressed concern about the truck traffic on Herrick Rd. [Note:  I know this road very well.  It is very hilly, some steep hills.  Much of it is dirt, not paved.  I frankly cannot think of a less desirable location for a centralized facility.  It is literally out in the boonies!  I kid you not!] 

Bohlander and Blow say they would be "willing to put up with 300-600 trucks daily passing their homes on their way to the Arnold pad" if they could be assured that the watershed would be properly protected. Blow has a personal reason for being worried. He has lost two parakeets and a dog to ontaminated well water.
Both men say this is a matter of public health.
The Arnold facility, just up the hill from the family homestead  for all intents and purposes, is being used to treat waste drilling mud as we speak even though the permit for such an operation is not in place yet. How can this be? Gas drilling activity with no permit? The audacity is impressive. Meanwhile, my family is in jeopardy of contamination, both air and water. The recent hurricane, not to mention the earthquake which was felt in Frenchtown by none other than Cousin Mark, are reminders that weather happens. Rains and wind come, and the earth shakes. Unusual, at least the earthquake is unusual. At least it used to be unusual. Some say that fracking can cause earthquakes. It is a real problem in Arkansas and Texas.

Update:  I called the PA DEP Friday to speak with Lisa Houser, environmental waste manager.  She was not at her desk, but called back and left a message.  She said that indeed  Chesapeake Energy is operating what will be called the Arnold Centralized Fluids Processing Facility, as yet not fully permitted, though an application was filed in March.  Ms. Houser said there are a few minor issues yet to be worked out, for example, they are using a different kind of truck than originally stated in the application.  But she did not seem terribly concerned. (I will talk with her this week to get more information and verify this.  You can't always determine too much in a voice message.)

Click to read the whole Rocket-Courier article.

Important Update:
I had a very good conversation with Lisa Houser of the DEP today.  She called me in response to my phone call to her last Friday before Labor Day.  She told me that the DEP does not regulate the number of trucks that can go back and forth.  It regulates the amount of frack fluid that can be processed per day:  940,000 gallons.  She said there are many kinds and sizes of trucks, so it is impossible to know how many trucks it will take on a given day.  However, the average capacity is about 9,000 gallons per truck load.  So that would add up to about 200 truck trips up and down the mountain daily.  That number would change if the trucks used are smaller, of course.

Even more important:  I was in error (technically at least) to say that the Arnold facility is operating without a permit.  They do have a valid permit (issued last July) to operate a 123 facility.  However, the DEP has several issues still unresolved, involving the size of trucks and the kind of tanks that were listed in the permit. Ms. Houser said that the facility was not constructed in accordance with the permit.  She has spent a lot of time the last two weeks in conversation with Chesapeake in regard to this facility.  She told me that she only has four inspectors to cover 14 counties!  She added that, even if she had 100 inspectors, it wouldn't be nearly enough to do the proper oversight.  I have to sympathize with her frustration.

It is exasperating to think that gas companies can wiggle out of situations.  For one thing, they have scads of money in case fines are levied.  I think they "go ahead and apologize later."  And the chances of being caught in a remote area up on a mountain like the Arnold site are small.  Also, as Ms. Houser explained, these drillers are used to the way things are done in Texas and environs.  They are not used to the regulations in PA.  And they seem to treat the regs in a somewhat cavalier manner in my opinion.  The consequences are not harsh anyway.

I am beginning to see that permit issues can be messy.  It is impossible to police what is going on.  Violations are discovered perhaps by luck, random inspections, or maybe through citizen reports.  As for the latter,  it is almost impossible to observe what is going on because most well pads are off limits.  No Trespassing signs bar people from legally going on pad sites.
Sign at Arnold Site
Arnold Centralized Fluids Processing Facility
238 Sollicks Road at Kerrick Road
[Click to enlarge photo]
Photo: Carol Manuel
Asylum Township

1 comment:

Lovemygasguys said...

YOU PEOPLE are ridiculous! Earthquakes are NOT caused by "gas well fracking"!!! I guess you are blaming all the rain and flooding on the drilling going on here as well!! Here's an about "Bible Prophecy"??? You know (or maybe you DON'T )like in the book of "Revelations"???!!! Could "the end" of the world be near???? Seems to me that would be the reason for all the "unusal" things happening around here.