Saturday, October 31, 2009

Welcome To Bradford County, PA

Our family summer home in beautiful French Azilum, Bradford County
(Photo by C. Manuel)

If you were designing a brochure to entice tourists to visit Bradford County, PA, where tourism brings in nearly $2.5 billion to the region annually, it might go something like this.......

Welcome to Bradford County, "where you’ll find everything from fresh maple syrup and honey, to enthralling modern artwork. The hospitality services here are second to none, whether you want a bed and breakfast, a hotel (UPDATE: There are no rooms available right now because gas drillers occupy ALL of them), or a campground. The artisans found here follow traditional styles with new twists. Chain saw carvings, whittlers, stonewall builders, and quilters are just a few of these amazing artists that reside and work in Bradford County.

Bradford County is an agrarian society, for the most part. Farms cover a vast expanse of the county. Many Farmers in the area raise grass fed livestock, sell organic fruits and vegetables, and process dairy products organically. These products can be found on location, in local stores, and at the local farmers markets.

Bradford County is filled with local landmarks and is great for sight seeing. Set in the Appalachian Mountains' there are still traces of our history everywhere. Arrowheads found in fields give hints of Native American movements and settlements in the area. Old mines and dilapidated mining towns serve as markers and historic evidence of how mining life truly was. French Azilum Historic Site shows a never completed French settlement along the river,; a town of about forty families at its peak, that was planned to hold four hundred. Take a trip to Azilum to see the beautiful landscape, get a tour of a second generation French home, check out the archeological dig being done by a Cornell professor, or just to have lunch and see the eagle's nest. Bradford County’s history-rich background makes it a great place to spend an afternoon, a day, a week, or a lifetime." [taken from this website]

It sounds like a piece of heaven, and it is- for how long remains a big question. Now the future of tourism, fishing, hunting, camping, and just plain living in Bradford County, PA, is threatened by the corporate craving for the natural gas that lies beneath in the Marcellus Shale formation. According to a July report, there are currently eleven gas companies operating in the county, all poised to make billions of dollars while poisoning the earth and air we all require for survival. Some residents are worried about the negative effects of gas drilling: erosion and sediment and the disposal of millions of gallons of tainted (toxic!) water produced in the course of gas extraction, some of which comes back to the surface while much of it remains underground permanently. A Pennsylvania attorney for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Matt Royer, said

We're really concerned about getting protections in place here. There are serious risks to our water from the drilling- from stormwater runoff and erosion that occurs during the construction phase, and from the treatment of wastewater after the drilling phase.
The problem, as CBF Water Quality Scientist Harry Campbell explains it, is that very few treatment plants are capable of removing the salt and chemicals in the frac water, many of which are proprietary and therefore unknown except to the drilling companies. Campbell said
One of the main concerns is the high salinity of the water. If frac water gets discharged into streams in this concentrated form, it will affect aquatic life. Also,we don't have water-quality criteria for the many chemicals used in frac water, so there's no way to know if the water's being adequately treated.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is in the middle since it is charged with promoting income for the state while at the same time protecting the environment and public health. With state funds being slashed 25% in the 2010 state budget, it is doubtful that the money will be available to hire more inspectors to do the work of monitoring compliance with environmental regulations. Adding to the problem is the fact that the Energy Act of 2005 exempts the natural gas industry from most environmental regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act. To make matters worse, private water wells, which are the norm in much of Bradford County, are not protected by the federal regulations anyway. Industry is vehemently opposed to regulations and have a well-funded robust lobbying strategy to insure the defeat of any legislation that might thwart their pillaging of the land.

Pristine lakes and forests abound in northeastern PA, and the Chesapeake Bay watershed extends over a large part of the region, causing many people as far south as Virginia to worry about the future of the bay and the Susquehanna River which flows into it. In the process of preparing a drill pad, trees are felled, destroying countless acres of forest and animal habitat. The pipelines needed to get the gas from pad to market also swallow up vast stretches of the landscape which never return to their original beauty or ecology. Access roads carve up even more land and are paved with gravel mined from local hills and mountains. Mike Lovegreen, District Manager of the Bradford County Conservation District said,
There are two or three hundred wells in the county already, and a lot of infrastructure going up right now. We'll see frenzied activity this year.
While industry has their money-grabbing, pollution-producing frenzy, citizens of the county will undoubtedly find themselves in their own frenzy, trying to protect themselves and their familes and their property, a daunting task at best, since this is a case of Big Gas versus citizens with little financial means to fight. Ironically, some land owners are eager for the drilling to begin because they believe they will get a lot of money from the minerals beneath them. Some will (those with large land holdings); most won't in all likelihood. Especially vulnerable are those who own no land at all. These residents have nothing to say about what happens where they live. However, they must endure the effects of environmental pollution and negative health effects from water, air, and soil.

Another concerned group is the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited. Deb Nardone, a Cold Water Resource Specialist who works with the group, commented on the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and DEP and the job these groups have done in trying to regulate, for example, the withdrawal of water from area waterways. She reports that they have done "a pretty good job" of oversight." However she expressed her concern about the impacts of drilling on water and wilderness areas.
...the new roads built to get to the well pads, the stream crossings, the pipelines, the truck traffic, the actual disposal of the wastewater- everything has an impact downstream. We're talking about [protecting] true wilderness areas, pritine streams where our members hunt and fish.
Read the article about PA (North Branch Susquehanna: As Gas Wells Proliferate, Water Worries Grow) in the latest issue of CBF Save the Bay here. You will have to scroll down to page 6 to find the article. The pictures are very educational, and you will find a map of the North Branch Susquehanna (page 8), showing the Marcellus Shale formation and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The author of the article is Carol Denny, editor of Save the Bay magazine and a native of Pennsylvania.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Introducing: The Gathering Line

Gathering Line - a special pipeline that transports gas from the field to the main pipeline.

The Gathering Line is a round-up of oil & gas drilling news brought to you by National Alliance for Drilling Reform (NA4DR), a broad alliance of grassroots activists from states across the nation that are affected with drilling development.

WWJD on Carter Avenue? TXsharon wants to know if Chesapeake Energy or anyone in Fort Worth government has stopped to consider the answer to that question. Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Some upstate NY landowners are wondering whether they can sell their property if it has a gas lease. Check out the Marcellus Effect for a short review and a link to interviews with realtors.

NEWS FROM PENNSYLVANIA: Laceyville, PA, Getting Nearly $100,000 in Gas Revenues: Is This Good News? Peacegirl at Gas Wells Are Not Our Friends combs the newspapers of Bradford and Susquehanna Counties in Pennsylvania and talks with local people from these areas to find out what is really happening. This week the focus is on Laceyville, Wyoming County, PA. Will the people of Laceyville survive the invasion of the gas industry?

How Many Natural Gas Explosions Does It Take?!! One Too Many! Read it at Cheap Tricks and Costly Truths.

For the first time in decades, New Mexico Senators sacrificed migrating big game with their vote to allow drilling during the winter in the Jicarilla Ranger District of the Carson National Forest. Drilling Santa Fe asks if we have forgotten the high price of deregulation and offers something for consideration.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Update: Schlumberger Comes To Town

Update: Read the latest report on the Schlumberger Horseheads, NY, facility which has now been approved inspite of strong opposition from many local residents. The public hearings seem to have been for naught.

Here is the original post from August 2009:

Gas industry people are very intelligent shrewd. They hire people to deal with the public. There are employees, landmen, whose job it is to get the most land leased for the least amount of money. And then there are employees who go out into the community to build trust and confidence pacify and intimidate people into thinking that everything will work out and every effort is being made to protect them and the environment. This approach is very effective. Most citizens and landowners want to believe this fantasy, and that is why the gas industry can succeed so easily in getting them to go home feeling pretty good about the gas wells near or on their land. It helps that most of us still think that the regulatory laws and agencies are certainly not going to allow our lives to be ruined by pollution, contamination, illness, and death. How many people know that Pennsylvania and New York have fewer than 20 inspectors to oversee ALL aspects of the drilling industry? How many people realize that the gas industry is STILL exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, The Clean Air Act, and many other environmental laws?

Now the big news in Horseheads, NY, is the huge $30 million facility Schlumberger plans to build in their town. This Texas corporation provides services and materials to oil and natural gas producers robbers. They intend to supply drilling sites within a 300-mile radius, primarily in Pennsylvania's Northern Tier. The proposed Horseheads facility would become the company's North American headquarters. The buildings would be 400,000 square feet and require 90 acres of land. The gas industry gobbles up much more than just a few acres for a well pad here and there. Does Horseheads really want to give up 90 acres of good land for such a purpose as this? Stephen Harris, spokesperson for Schlumberger, says the upcoming public meeting in Horseheads will give the local citizens a chance to ask questions and perhaps express their concerns.
The purpose is to open up to local residents to give them the opportunity to answer some of the concerns that come up at town hall meetings...We hope to give people a better sense of who we are, why we chose Horseheads and what kind of corporate neighbor we hope to be. We want to open up the dialogue on a more informal level. What we'll have are different stations on key issues. If you have a concern about traffic or storm water drainage, we'll have different stations residents can come to to get information.
Perhaps they'll have a little basket of toy Schlumberger trucks for the kids to take home and play with.

And what will be happening at this facility in the Holding Point industrial park in Horseheads? Fueling, washing and maintenance areas for a fleet of trucks which service drilling sites, as well as storage areas for materials toxic chemicals used at those locations. I can just picture this. What a nightmare for Horseheads! I hope the citizens will stand firm and deny whatever permits are required for this facility to be built. But, if not Horseheads, where will Schlumberger go next, looking for a place to put this monstrosity? It will ultimately go somewhere.

Read more about the Schlumberger's plans and upcoming meetings of the Horseheads Village Board of Trustees and the Horseheads Planning Board here.

To find out about a Schlumberger open house in Horseheads, NY, this Thursday, September 3, click here.

Read about an August 11th public meeting in Horseheads here.

For your information and just so you know, when you talk about Schlumberger, it is pronounced SCHLUM-BEAR-ZHAY! It rhymes with lingerie!


Friday, October 23, 2009

Gas Well Talking Points for the Gullible

On the website, there are numerous links to many informative pages. Here is one example:

Gas Well Talking Points

  • SPICE RACK - One local gas drilling company likes to use a photo of a kitchen spice rack while discussing frac fluids. They will tell you: "We only use a few, just 4 or 5" and "This is stuff you use in your house" and "Most of it stays deep in the ground." But a spice rack example?? Frac fluids put a nurse in Colorado into organ arrest after she came in contact with a drilling worker soaked with frac fluids. The good news is that she lived. Bad news is that it took more than 30 hours for her to be released from intensive care. These gas drilling company PR guys sure must think you're stupid if you fall for their cooking spices comparison!

  • ROAD SALT - Since some people know that hydraulic fracturing fluids coming back out of the ground ('flowback') contain high levels of salt or brine, the gas drilling PR guys will address this one very simply. They tell the crowd they could drill for 10 years and not create as much salt runoff as the Pennsylvania highway department uses for de-icing roads during one winter. OK then, we need the roads salted for safety and winter transportation, but do we really need gas drillers adding that much salt to the environment, especially when most of it now gets processed and dumped back in our rivers, where we get our drinking water?

  • RESTORED TO THE SAME OR BETTER CONDITION - Drilling companies profess that they will put the land they use for gas drilling pads, frac pits, pipelines and other operations back into the same or better condition. While they might get some vegetation to grow, it will never be the same. Here's one of those reclamation jobs near the entrance to Cross Creek Park in Washington County, PA.

  • ONLY ONE CASE OF WATER CONTAMINATION - Open wide folks, because this is a BIG ONE to swallow whole! The local gas drilling company PR guy told a crowd in Hickory Pennsylvania in early 2009 that he only knew of one case of water contamination due to fracking gas wells in the entire United States, and that may have been in Arkansas, he thought. Just one week prior to his presentation, the photo below was taken of a run-off area down stream from a gas well that had just been fracked, and this was less than 10-miles from where he was giving his presentation. Do you think these guys need to get out in the field more, or just focus on the facts. How dumb do they think you are anyway?

  • MON RIVER WATER PROBLEM HAD LITTLE TO DO WITH GAS DRILLING ACTIVITIES??? - Late in 2008, about 1/3 of a million Pittsburgh area residents were treated to "chunky" water, that being tap water that was much higher than normal in TDS (Total Dissolved Solids). The PaMarcellus industry consortium commissioned a study by Tetra Tech in an attempt to show that drawing millions of gallons of water from surrounding streams and waterways had little to do with the terrible tasting drinking water. OK then, let's use their numbers, assuming the study was correct.... they say hydraulic fracturing of gas wells contributed to less than 7-percent of the chunky water problem (Keep in mind the study was done by a paid contractor). Since a Pittsburgh TV news team caught them raiding rivers that were already under a drought watch for massive quantities of water, they had to admit they played a big part (1 in 14 according to THEIR numbers). They will pump streams dry too, even though Pennsylvania's Clean Streams Law makes it illegal. Gas drilling is a "wild west style" under-regulated industry, and everyone knows where that got us with coal mining.
    Photo below: Three tankers pumping water out of a stream running low due dry summer conditions on Marcellus Shale near Houston, Pa. Is gas well fracking more important than aquatic life in this stream?

    Steal the water from the fish...
    July 11, 2009 -
    Washington Firefighter Academy parking lot, Chartiers Township


Marcellus Shale gas drilling wastewater

Go to the original web page here.


PA News: Residents Report Toxic Clouds of Gas Near Compressor Station

Compressor station in Dimock, PA. Photo by Mary Sweeny

On October 20, 2009, residents of Mt. Pleasant Township, PA, reported an incident involving natural gas near the Nancy Stewart Compressor Station about 1:15 p.m. Raw natural gas was escaping from a pipeline with such force that it caused nearby homes to shake! Martin O'Lear, a local resident said,
It sounded like a rocket taking off. My eyes started to burn, and then I started to cough which lasted through the afternoon and night. I've lived here for 34 years and never had my eyes start to burn when I stepped outside.
The Department of Environmental Protection stated that the incident was "normal operating procedure." The DEP is currently performing air tests in the area. Results may be available next week.

Wilma Subra, a chemist and founder of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, said,
We [in Louisiana and Texas] frequently have compressor stations that either had an explosion or an over-pressurization.
On the same day this incident in PA was reported, Dr. Subra was interviewed on WHRW Binghamton's radio show "The Point." She spoke about her work testing the air in DISH, Texas, and about the report she gave to the New York State Senate regarding clean water.

Read the whole article by reporter Nastassja Noell here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Residents Speak Out Against Proposed "Frac Water" Processing Plant

Kudos to the Wyalusing Rocket Courier for this excellent article published today. DC Koviack reported on a hearing and meeting held Tuesday at the Tunkhannock Middle School in regard to a proposed water treatment plant that would discharge treated frac water (from natural gas wells) into Meshoppen Creek. Wyoming Somerset Regional Water Resources Corporation has applied for a permit to locate this plant in Lemon Township (Wyoming County, PA).

The area chosen for this plant has five wetlands within it, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. And it was designated a SUPERFUND SITE and slated for clean-up over a decade ago because of pollution, but was allowed to remain untreated because its wetlands have held the toxins, thus avoiding further pollution in surrounding areas. If this site were to be excavated, which is the plan, this would undoubtedly unleash all this contamination from the past, to say nothing of the contamination of a new water treatment plant..

Although this proposed treatment plant would ideally treat the water and make it 100% reusable, this cannot be done. So some of the treated water would be discharged into Meshoppen Creek, a now pristine creek which was used as a dump in the 1950's and 60's and cleaned up in the 1980's. Many citizens spoke out against dumping treated frac water into the creek and start the whole polluting process all over again. Meshoppen Creek flows into the Susquehanna River and ultimately into the Chesapeake Bay. This water ecosystem provides irreplaceable biodiversity which, once destroyed, cannot be restored.

The consensus at the meeting was that the permit should be denied.

Read the article here.


Democracy Now! Interviews Charles Duhigg of the NYT: Toxic Waters

Watch this interview with New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg about the latest in his investigative series “Toxic Waters,” which examines the worsening pollution in the nation’s water systems. Duhigg appeared last month to discuss how chemical companies have violated the Clean Water Act more than 500,000 times in the last five years, most without punishment. Since then he has written articles focusing on how coal-fired power plants and large farms are threatening the nation’s drinking water.

Charles Duhigg, Award-winning reporter for the New York Times. He is the author of a new series about the worsening pollution in American waters called “Toxic Waters.”


Monday, October 19, 2009

NPR's Terry Gross: How Safe Is Your Drinking Water?

An estimated one in ten Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals, parasites, bacteria, or viruses, or fails to meet federal health standards. Terry Gross, on her radio show, Fresh Air, on NPR today, talked with journalist Charles Duhigg who says that part of the problem is that water-pollution laws are not being enforced.
If you have a half hour to spare, sit down and listen in.
Mr. Duhigg covers many areas of concern, and Ms. Gross asks those probing questions that we wish a lot more interviewers would ask!

Click here to hear this excellent interview.

Charles Duhigg is writing a series for the New York Times entitled, "Toxic Waters," a series about the worsening pollution in American waters and regulators' response. Check out some of his installments:

Power Plants: Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways

Agricultural Runoff: Health Ills Abound as Farm Runoff Fouls Wells

Industrial Waste: Pollution Grows With Little Fear of Punishment

Herbicides: Debating How Much Weed Killer Is Safe in Your
Water Glass

Watch a remarkable short video called "From Air To Water Waste," by clicking here. The video is on the right hand side of your screen in a tiny box!



Saturday, October 17, 2009

NY State Gas Pipeline News: And the Winner Is...

Governor David Paterson has proposed nearly $1 billion budget cuts to health care and education. Read more here. He is concerned that the state will have cash flow problems as soon as December unless measures are taken now.
New York is ground zero for the fiscal crisis, Paterson said. This is a painful plan, but we will share the burden.
Paterson's proposal faces strong opposition from the state legislature, MTA officials, the city teacher's union, and the city health care union.

One group will not have to worry, however. The natural gas industry will be well funded regardless of the vital human services being put on the chopping block. Governor Paterson made a rare visit to the North Country on Tuesday (10/13/2009) to announce his proposal for $2.5 million in funding for a natural gas pipeline into northern Franklin County, NY. Franklin County has pledged $1.4 million, and state Sen. Betty Little has managed to find another $2 million. In any case, all these funds will be provided by the tax payers of New York State. A few citizens have questioned why money from state and county coffers should be given to a private company. It is unseemly for an industry that pollutes aquifers, rivers, and streams and causes deadly air pollution and soil contamination while accumulating huge profits and enjoying exempt status from environmental regulations,including the Safe Drinking Water Act, to be given free money. This same industry has a reputation for causing terrible problems for people who live in the areas being drilled for natural gas. Accountability and oversight are not as common as people may think.

This project still needs the approval of the state Public Service Commission. Contact information for this commission is as follows:
The Hon. Jaclyn A. Brilling, Secretary
Phone (518) 474-6530

James Denn
Public Information Officer
(518) 474-7080

Read more about Governor Paterson's gift proposal to Big Gas here. Giving away public money to private industry at this critical time when money is desperately needed for health care and education is not only unacceptable. It is unconscionable. When are we going to ask the natural gas industry to start giving back to us to pay for all the damage and destruction that they are causing while making fortunes for themselves, especially their CEOs? And when are we going to realize that we may have a difficult dilemma on our hands before long: Water or gas?

Update: Pennsylvania is giving its all to special interests, including natural gas drillers, too. Read more here.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Fort Worth: Carter Avenue Will Be Pipeline Alley

A top story from Fort Worth announces that Chesapeake Energy is poised to proceed with its plans to install a 16-inch natural gas pipeline along Carter Avenue, a short residential street in East Fort Worth. The proposed pipeline that Chesapeake seeks to install is not a typical domestic gas-line but a large diameter, high pressure, un-odorized, corrosive, wet gas gathering line straight from the wellhead. Its purpose is to connect two separate gas wells near I-30, aka Tom Landry Freeway, in east Fort Worth. Alternative routes are available but Chesapeake has indicated a preference for the Carter Avenue route.
If completed, the proposed Carter Avenue pipeline would be the first such pipeline of its kind in the city of Fort Worth.
The pipeline will be buried 75-130 feet beneath the front yards of more than 30 homes. It was thought to be problematic for it to be located along I-30. Why? Because there are no access roads in the area, and, if the line ever needed repairs, the entire freeway could be shut down. The residents of Carter Avenue are hard-working people who just want to live on a nice street with their families. Just last year new sidewalks and new pavement were put in there. But to Chesapeake, and perhaps even to public officials of Fort Worth, these people are secondary to the main priority of putting in a pipeline. There are more than 2,000 natural gas wells in Fort Worth at present, and companies are building pipelines and compressor stations to get the gas to market. Gas companies have formed their own pipeline companies which enjoy rights to condemn land just like a city government or utility company can do in Texas. There are no legal protections in place to help citizens avoid the destruction of their property.

Chesapeake has been busy filing condemnation suits against landowners on Carter Avenue. Some of the residents, like 72-year-old Jerry Horton, are in poor health and can hardly deal with this crisis. Seemingly oblivious to the plight of these humble citizens, Chesapeake's CEO Aubrey McClendon came to town today (10/16/2009), sporting a dashing red sport coat, to express his company's commitment to the community. He has opened a new office in east Fort Worth and donated 12 used computers to a near-by school. [Wow!] He told a gathering that he expects to invest a billion dollars a year in the Fort Worth area for years to come.

Has McClendon visited any of the people who live on Carter Avenue? If he did, would he even be capable of understanding what his company is doing to them?

People are expendable in the gas industry business. A homeowner on Carter Avenue, Steve Doeung, said,
Families are going to leave, homes are going to be put up for sale, yards are going to be unkept, and this neighborhood will become pipeline alley.
A block party was held tonight in the 2700 block of Carter Avenue. The residents are protesting and boycotting the controversial natural gas meeting hosted by Chesapeake at Texas Wesleyan University.

According to one source: The Chesapeake meeting at Texas Wesleyan University was announced on short notice, canceled, and rescheduled the same day. One resident of the affected area was notified by mail, and he is the only resident who has refused to lease his property to Chesapeake for the pipeline.

A comment from a citizen reads as follows:
"high pressure, un-odorized, corrosive, wet gas gathering line".... think about it - is that something that should be in ANY neighborhood. What happened to [Mayor]Moncrief's promise to... "WE WILL KEEP THE NEIGHBORHOODS SAFE. WE WILL PROTECT THE NEIGHBORHOODS!"

I guess Moncrief should not have made such a sensible statement before checking with Chesapeake. Maybe the new motto for the Fort Worth's City Council's should be ... "CHECK WITH CHESAPEAKE BEFORE YOU SPEAK!"
Check out these links for more information on the Carter Avenue crisis here, here, here, and here.

Texas Sharon weighs in here. "What Would Jesus Do On Carter Avenue?"


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just the Tip of the Iceberg in NYS: Taxpayers To Pay For Pipelines

NY Governor Paterson has announced that he will provide a $2.5 million subsidy to help fund a natural gas pipeline in an area of NYS known as North Country. An article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise (10/14/2009) reported that St. Lawrence Gas wants to extend a natural gas pipeline 48 miles from the town of Stockholm (St. Lawrence County) to the village of Chateaugay (Franklin County). According to the article, some have questioned why state and county taxpayers should be given to a private company.

Stan Scobie and Michael Lebron testified today before the Environmental Conservation Committee at the NYS Capitol in Albany. They spoke on the subject of the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement governing natural gas drilling (dSGEIS). They represent New Yorkers for Sustainable Energy Solutions Statewide.

Stan Scobies said of this news about Patterson's donation to the gas industry:

"I believe that this is the tip of the iceberg. In the NYS "Energy
" (Aug 2009) there is language that is suggestive of support/
corporate welfare for pipelines starting at the wellhead. I am
currently giving testimony to the NYS Assembly on this and trying to
raise consciousness on the issue. Typically the O&G Co. presentations
to muni groups are along the lines of: "We ask for no tax breaks, no
incentives, come in and leave money on the table, create lots of good
jobs, what's not to like?"

Stan Scobie, Binghamton, NY


Hidden Pollution: Watch Video From EPA

Methane, a potent, invisible greenhouse gas and the main ingredient in natural gas, is escaping in vast volumes from oil and gas fields in the United States, Russia and other countries. Some companies have found that investments in capturing the emissions quickly pay off in sales of the fuel. Vast volumes are still escaping every day in the United States, Russia, and many other countries. More at:


Monday, October 12, 2009

I Was Thirsty, So I Poured a Glass of Water and Drank It: I Didn't Know It Was Bad!

It was a simple thing. Pouring a glass of water from the faucet at Ned Prather's cabin near DeBeque, Colorado. Ned was thirsty, so he drank the water fast- right down the gullet. He drank about two thirds of the water when he began to feel strange.
His throat burned. His head pounded. His stomach hurt. He felt like he was going to suffocate.
Tests would later show the water from a spring he has drank from for decades was heavily contaminated with a carcinogenic and nervous system-damaging chemical stew known as BTEX- benzene, toluene, ethylbenzine and xylene. This was reported in an article in the October 11th issue of the Denver Post. BTEX and other volatile organic compounds come to the surface from oil and gas wells. [ For information on chemicals used in the gas drilling industry, click here.] The Endocrine Disruption Exchange did an analysis in 2007 which listed 245 chemicals used in natural gas development and delivery, 92% of which have one or more adverse health effects, the most common being skin and sensory organ toxicity, respiratory problems, neurotoxicity, and gastrointestinal and liver damage.

Last year, according to the Denver Post article, there were 206 spills in Colorado connected to or suspected in 46 cases of water contamination. This calls into question those who claim there has NEVER been a case of water contamination reportedly caused by gas drilling activity. In fact, since 2003, there have been around 300 cases in Colorado. What causes this contamination? Records show BTEX has seeped into water wells when gas well casings give way.

Eighteen wells are located within 3,000 feet of Mr. Prather's spring. An abandoned sludge pit of bad smelling production water sits on one hill above his cabin. The winter before his spring became contaminated, there was a huge diesel spill caused by a spigot accidentally left on. There are pipelines buried all over the hillsides near his cabin, some as old as three decades. Read more on pipelines here.

No one can accuse Ned Prather of being anti-gas drilling. He and his three brothers used to work for Occidental Petroleum, a company which is ironically under notice for allegedly contaminating a spring that runs on the other side of the Prather cabin. But Ned is understandingly frustrated. His spring water still stinks- an odor described as a cross between diesel fuel and permanent-wave solution. (This blogger notes: Having had many permanents in my life, I cannot imagine my water smelling like that.) Ned has supported Big Oil and Gas, he says, but he is angry now. He says the oil and gas commission in Colorado is not doing their job. The Prathers are afraid to drink water even from a new spring provided by the gas companies involved.

Prather is still unsettled about his health as well. He wonders about the effects of the tainted water even now after 16 months. When he drank the water, he had to wait 18 days before he could find out what was in the water! When he got the test results, he was advised to continue to get his blood monitored to check for liver or kidney damage. And another effect is already a fact: His business as an outfitter is done for.
Hunters don't want to stay in a cabin with suspect water or to harvest deer and elk they fear could be drinking contaminated water.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking effect is this: The Prathers say their children and grandchildren no longer want to come to the cabin.
This is the thing. Me and Dollie, we were going to leave this to our grandkids one day.
Read the Denver Post article here.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Democracy Now! Reports on Gas Drilling in NY

Environmental Battle Brews in New York over Natural Gas Drilling

Last week, government regulators opened the door to natural gas drilling inside the Marcellus Shale watershed, which supplies drinking water to some 15 million people, including nine million New Yorkers. Stretching from New York to Kentucky, the shale is believed to hold some of the world’s largest deposits of natural gas. Proponents say the drilling will boost the nation’s economic recovery and reduce dependence on foreign oil. But environmentalists are warning the drilling could contaminate New York’s water supply as it has in other states. The proposed regulations are now open for public comment until the end of the next month, followed by a final decision early next year.

Sharif Abdel Kouddous, sitting in for Amy Goodman, interviews three guests on DEMOCRACY NOW! seen on Free Speech TV Channel 9415 (DISH Network).

Albert Appleton, Former commissioner of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and former director of the New York City Water and Sewer System. Teaches courses in sustainability and economics at Hunter College and Cooper Union.

Brad Gill, Executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, an oil industry trade group which supports drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Joe Levine, co-founder of the groups Damascus Citizens for Sustainability and NY-H2O.


PUBLIC FORUM: Natural Gas Production- At What Cost to New York State

Monday, October 19, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. FREE!
Brighton Town Hall Downstairs Meeting Room
2300 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618

Come and find out how natural gas drilling may impact New York State. How will hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale affect our water, environment and economy? Great speaker and panelists!
(585) 392-4918

For flyer, click here.


Laceyville, PA, Getting Nearly $100,000 in Gas Revenues: Is This Good News?

Laceyville Bridge, Laceyville, PA, and the Susquehanna River

I am particularly concerned about small towns in rural areas of our country which are vulnerable to the seductive promises made by the gas drilling industry. The poorer the people, the easier it is to get leases signed it seems to me.

Laceyville, PA, is about as small as they come, a little borough of .2 square miles with a population of 396 (2000). The last census reported 108 families reside in Laceyville, 162 households. The median income for a household was $29,375. About 11% of families were below the poverty line. Farming, logging, and quarrying are the main businesses. Laceyville children attend Wyalusing schools, and three churches serve the spiritual needs of the residents. The fire department and ambulance services are staffed by volunteers.

An article about Laceyville's "windfall" income from gas drilling activity appeared October 8th in the Rocket-Courier, a Wyalusing newspaper. Some borough leaders are looking forward to the money they will receive from leasing publically owned properties. They expect to receive about $100,000. Public lands not yet leased will be leased in the near future. The borough council plans to repair local roads and to repair the old well which is being replaced by a new water well. Once the new well is functional, the old well could be used to sell water to gas companies. One council member strongly opposed any money going for additional police.

The problem for the people of Laceyville may have a lot to do with water. Other small towns have had their water sources tainted from the effects of gas drilling. In Dimock, PA, for example, as many as nine families cannot use their water as a result of drilling by Cabot. Recently there were three toxic spills in the course of one week. Long and short term health issues are showing up around the country where gas drilling is going on. Air pollution is a huge problem as well. Wherever a well pad is installed, a superfund site is the eventual result. Natural gas drilling is a dirty, toxic process even if everything goes as planned. However, accidents are commonplace.

I wonder how much $100,000 will help the good people of Laceyville if they have problems with soil, air, or water pollution. Contaminated water cannot be replaced or cleaned up. If the reservoirs are compromised, how will Laceyville get their water?

Read the Rocket Courier article by David Keeler here.