Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Leroy (PA) Well Spill: Update?

Here is an excerpt from the Daily Review article published today:

Progress has been slower than anticipated due to the adverse weather conditions that were experienced throughout the weekend, hampering work efforts, according to Chesapeake spokesperson Brian Grove.

The Atgas 2H has remained in stable condition since late Thursday and is expected to continue in this state through final preparations.

Katy Gresh, community relations director for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, reported that DEP personnel remained on the scene Monday, testing the water of Towanda Creek, as well as an adjacent tributary, and where Towanda Creek empties in the Susquehanna River in Wysox 16 miles away. Gresh reported that not all testing results are back yet from the scene, but no adverse effect has been detected at this time.

My questions are several.
  •  Do gas drillers NOT realize that Pennsylvania has actual weather which can actually be adverse, especially in winter and spring?
  • What is "stable condition"?  Is this like a report on a sick patient who is expected to pull through given time?  Does it mean that no more spillage is occurring?
  • What are "final preparations"?   Is that like getting ready to kill and bury this well?
  • Why is a premature report of "no adverse effect detected at this time" even put in print?  This statement can conveniently be lifted out of context and reprinted anywhere, possibly giving people the impression that this actually caused no adverse effect at all.  Once people read that, they can feel free to go back to their lives and forget about it.  It leads to a false security which can be deadly. 
Another way to put it is this:  Media can create a baseless sense of optimism, and worse, a belief that spills and blowouts are fixable.
  When accidents happen at gas wells,  reports so often use wording like this, very vague and also bordering on or actually misleading the public.  Readers want to believe that there were no adverse effects of 30,000 gallons of frack fluid spilling out on the ground and flowing out over farmland and into streams and rivers.  We know in our heart of hearts that such a wish will not be granted in the real world.  But when the media provides only general information based on very little actual fact, or at least not enough facts, it is a disservice to us all. Will the public take the time to follow up and keep abreast of what is happening, or will people just console themselves that all is well because they saw an article in the paper or, for that matter, heard an interview on NPR?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Frack Spill in Leroy, PA: Press Conference in Towanda

Chesapeake Energy - Frack Spill in Leroy, PA from Melissa Troutman on Vimeo.

Attorney Todd O'Malley held a press conference outside Chesapeake Energy's office in Towanda, PA following a hydraulic fracturing flowback fluid spill that leaked toxins into a nearby waterway and led to the evacuation of seven families. Many people whose private water wells have been contaminated and who've had health problems due to contamination were present to share their stories.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Natural Gas Drilling: Forgive Us, Mother Earth

Credit: Apollo 17 crew
A friend wrote this message today:

I can't say "Happy Easter"-- our Mother Earth is being crucified and defiled by countless gas and oil wells and industries--- She is being pierced with long , metal drills, pipes in her Body and she is bleeding her water/blood out of these wells full of toxic chemicals injected into her Body--- her Skin is being peeled back and scraped by giant , metal , noisy, diesel belching machines--- She is Crucified right now--- dying --- can we stop and save Her?? Please---


Protest in Towanda (PA) April 22nd

God bless the people of Bradford County and others who stood in solidarity on Friday, Earth Day, across the road from Chesapeake Energy's headquarters in Towanda, PA, to protest the environmental and human costs that they have suffered from the gas industry so far.  We stand with them.

More on this event from The Morning Times (Sayre)....

Natural Gas From Fracking Could Be Dirtier Than Coal

I'm hearing a lot of talk lately about natural gas being a great bridge fuel while we figure out what to do next, facing peak oil and what not.  Well, according to a Cornell University study released and published in the May issue of Climatic Change Letters, getting natural gas out of the ground could do more to aggravate global warming than mining coal.  While natural gas has been described as clean-burning and producing less carbon dioxide than coal,  hydrofracking produces dangerous methane which is a much more potent greenhouse gas.  Horizontal gas drilling can account for up to twice the methane emissions than conventional gas drilling.

Robert Howarth, Tony Ingraffea, and Renee Santoro analyzed data from published sources, industry reports, and Powerpoint presentations from the EPA.  The study is the first peer-reviewed paper on methane emissions from shale gas, and one of the few exploring the greenhouse gas footprints of unconventional gas drilling.

Read more here:  LINK

The Gasketeers

Used with permission from Stevo

In days of yore, long ago, the King of France had his own private guard to
protect him," the Musketeers". Our new King Gas has come up their own private
guard, " the 3 Gasketeers". Fear not my fellow fighters, for there was another,
known as " the fourth Musketeer".

That is you my friends, you are " the fourth and greatest Musketeer of all !
You prove daily that the pen is mightier than their sword. So, draw that pen from
it's scabbard, raise it to the sky, and say " I'll never go thirsty again"! Thanks.

Gasfucius says : " Our lives are the sum total of our experiences. But it is not just
the experiences, it's the people we experience it with. So let's not be a "Mouseketeer" ! "


Friday, April 22, 2011

From Penn Future: Update on Gas Well Spill, Waste Water Disposal

From Penn Future:

The spill and its aftermath

Chesapeake Energy shut down all hydraulic fracturing operations in Pennsylvania in the aftermath of a massive spill of 30,000 gallons of frack water in Bradford County. The incident polluted a tributary of Towanda Creek. PennFuture has called on DEP to shut down all Chesapeake operations, not just fracking, until the company can prove it can operate safely.

The Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) pilot policy that prevents inspectors from citing drillers for violations of environmental laws until approved by Secretary Krancer is more than unwise. It is dangerous and must end immediately.

DEP asks drillers to stop dumping waste at sewage treatment plants

DEP Secretary Michael Krancer this week asked Marcellus Shale drillers to stop delivering gas well waste water to 15 sewage treatment plants. This action came in response to new reports showing that bromides that pass through plants without treatment can interact with drinking water treatment chemicals and form new substances that cause cancer. Last year DEP enacted strict limits on the disposal of toxic and salt-laden wastewater into our waterways, but the 15 plants were exempt from the new regulation.

The drilling industry's reaction to the request has been positive so far. Secretary Krancer should order the drillers to comply if any companies do not promptly honor the request.

Fraccident in PA: Popular Mechanics Weighs In

We're not supposed to drink what?

Popular Mechanics featured an article on Tuesday's well spill in Leroy Township, Bradford County, PA.  The well operated by Chesapeake Energy erupted just before midnight April 19th, sending thousands of gallons of contaminated frack fluid over the earthen berms surrounding the well pad and down through farmlands to a nearby creek which flows into the Susquehanna River.  The well is Atgas 2H located about 175 miles northwest of Philly.  The mishap occurred while the crew was in the middle of a "frack job."  Although the investigation into this accident is not complete, officials believe a steel coupling located beneath the well's blowout protector, but above ground, failed, allowing the flowback to gush out.  This blowout protector is the same technology as the device that failed in the Gulf oil spill one year ago this week.  What happened in Leroy is not being described as a blowout which would have involved an explosion and methane release into the air.  However, there was no way to immediately stop the flow of water.  As the PM article siad, "there was a lot of water."  Normally this flowback is collected in pits or tanks, processed to remove some of the contaminents, and then partially reused in other wells.  However, some of the waste is trucked out of state or worse, diluted and released by treatment facilities into rivers and streams.

Prior to the incident this week,  there had been days of steady rain which had partially filled the containment pits, causing the pits to overflow when the accident occurred.  Then the berms failed as well.  DEP officials have warned farmers  to stop their cows from drinking surface water. [And we know how easy it is to monitor cows.]

Investigators did not immediately disclose the chemical make-up of the fracking fluid that escaped.  Some of the chemicals are proprietary, making it impossible for emergency workers to know what to test for or treat for.  Popular Mechanics said,
If initial estimates are accurate, it would make Wednesday's incident the most serious fracking accident in the history of Marcellus Shale development.
That is quite a claim to make. 
Methane bubbles in the Susquehanna in Sugar Run
Credit: Don Williams

Happy Earth Day from Whale News Network

Used by permission of Mr. Matson
Anyone remember Tony Hayward?  That treasure chest that Mr. Hayward has on the big hook says "One Million Dollar Pension." And the newspaper in the lower lefthand corner is the Wall Street Journal.  Cool shirt on Hayward. You bet your BP.


Bradford County, PA, Commissioner Smith Writes To Governor Re: Gas Drilling Problems

Looking down French Azilum Road in Asylum Township, Bradford County, PA, near our summer home established in 1930.
Photo credit: Carol Manuel
 Bradford County, PA

Bradford County, PA, 301 Main Street, Towanda, PA 18848

Mark W. Smith, Chairman
Gayle Kershner, Chief Clerk
Jonathan Foster, Solicitor


Bradford County Commissioners
April 20, 2011

Governor Tom Corbett
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120

Dear Governor Corbett,

Issue after issue has arisen in Bradford County in relation to the development of natural gas in Bradford County. Most recently there was a major incident involving a well blowout in Leroy Township, Bradford County. This major incident is just one more issue our county is dealing with in regards to the development of the Marcellus Shale.

I have a number of concerns I would like to address in relation to these important issues that are unfolding in the county I was elected to represent. DEP officials are quoted in the media as saying they spend as little as 35 minutes to approve each gas well permit. This is an appalling statistic considering the significant operations and impact of a natural gas drilling site and even more appalling considering that there have been nearly 2,000 gas wells permitted in Bradford County.

In recent weeks it has been reported that DEP is now requiring Marcellus Shale violations to be approved by top DEP officials before being levied on gas companies. This practice strikes at the heart of the integrity of that organization. It does irreparable damage to the local areas in the Marcellus Shale with the environmental damage that has become an everyday reality in Bradford County.

Well water contamination in Bradford County is a real and serious issue that is affecting residents’ quality of life, livelihoods, families, and property values. Water buffalos, temporary water storage tanks, now lay claim to peoples’ front yards as a stark reminder of the extreme negative impact that natural gas development is having on our local communities.

Last year I put much effort working for a severance tax that would include an equitable share for local communities. It was a failed attempt but a sincere effort to ensure our county is taken care of through this development. I continue to see our county, townships, and boroughs struggle with complex issues of development with no financial or logistical support from the Commonwealth. Emergency responders, volunteers, state and local police and dispatchers are working at a break neck pace to respond to immense traffic accident increases, well site accidents, and other related issues.

I have heard politicians in complete favor of the gas industry use the phrase, “We don’twant to kill the golden goose”. I would like to state, for the record, that the “Golden Goose” does not exist. It is no more part of reality than the Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, or the Easter Bunny.

Lastly, I would like to address the outstanding issue regarding Bradford County’s lack of representation on your appointed Marcellus Shale Commission. Bradford County has had the unique experience of being the most drilled in county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Yet, despite that fact, no one from our county was appointed to your commission. The fact our county was not taken into consideration is a direct insult to our county.

I have been working to, at least, find a way for some of our agencies to be heard by the commission or one of its work groups. To date I have not been successful. I have called and e-mailed the Lt. Governor’s Office and tried working through one of our state representatives to no avail. What a shame that a county with the most experience dealing with the impact of natural gas development seems to have been blackballed from comment to what will be your basis for setting Marcellus Shale policy.

I ask you to take our county and others like it seriously as you move forward setting policy in regards to Marcellus Shale development. The economic benefit of this development is unquestionable. However, it is also unquestionable that when left unattended, the negatives outweigh the positives quickly and heavily.

Best Regards,

Mark W. Smith
Chairman, Bradford County Commissioners

Cc: Secretary Michael Krancer
Representative Tina Pickett
Representative Matt Baker
Senator Gene Yaw

The Tale of the Golden Goose

Thursday, April 21, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Chesapeake Energy Suspends Hydrofracking in Pennsylvania


Chesapeake Energy has suspended hydrofracking in Pennsylvania until the cause of a well blowout in Leroy Township  late Tuesday night can be determined.  The well is still out of control.  Toxic fluids were spilled onto farm fields and into a tributary of Towanda Creek which flows in the Susquehanna River.

One man who lives near the well is worried his water well will be ruined.  The well is located several hundred yards from the blown-out well.  His well and several other nearby water wells are being tested for contamination.

It's an Occupation: No Room at the Inn in Towanda, PA

Gas drillers literally move in and occupy any area in which they operate.  It is tantamount to a military invasion.  Where once the local people went about their daily lives in peace,  now the roughnecks are in charge.  They are everywhere, in the coffee shops, restaurants, motels, and clogging the highways and little country roads.  There is hardly room for the local residents or tourists or hunters or fishermen who may try to find a place to stay.  It's Boomtown USA.  Great for the merchants for a while, maybe even decades.  But bad for the environment and human beings who reside in the area.  Great for a few landowners who will make some good money.  Bad for everyone else who suffers the consequences with no benefits whatsoever.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Well Blowout in Bradford County, PA

A gas well emergency is underway in LeRoy Township near Canton, PA, at this hour.  Thousands and thousands of gallons of fracking fluid have been spilled due to a blowout.  The fluid has contaminated Towanda Creek, a tributary of the Susquehanna River. 

We must stop gas drilling unless we don't mind this happening many times more in the future.  A contaminated creek cannot be saved.  Damage done.  Reports are that the creek was stocked with trout April 5th.

LINK:  http://www.wnep.com/wnep-brad-leroy-gas-drillingemergency20110420,0,1884646.story
TV Report:  http://www.wnep.com/  (video)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bradford County USA

Beautiful Bradford County is now an industrial zone.  One of  the saddest sights I have seen ever because my family summer homestead is there on the Susquehanna River.  It won't be long before our family cannot go there anymore.  Worse yet, some family members refuse to accept the dangers of air, water, and soil contamination and plan to continue to visit there as we all have for decades.  Some local people get upset with people like us because we can come and go.  They have to live in this Sacrifice Zone twelve months a year.  What are they supposed to do?  Many have no safe water to drink.  Many have devalued properties which are hard to sell.  Many are low-income and have no means to relocate.  What are they going to do?  Some have signed gas leases; others have not.  All are at risk.   They are considered collateral damage.  Humans and animals are just collateral damage, dispensible, vulnerable.  Lives ruined.  For what?  A few years of un-natural gas energy?  Perhaps it's legal, but is it right?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gas Drilling in Bradford County, PA

This video was done by TIME magazine.  Listen to Greg Morell who owns two motels in Wysox, PA, say how much he is benefiting from gas drilling.  He recommends gas drilling to everyone.  The addition to his motel (Riverstone Inn) he is now building in Wysox is ALREADY rented 100% by the gas industry.  Our family who has its family reunion in French Azilum every July still can't find rooms.

Listen to Bonnie and Truman Burnett tell about their new home and the spills that have occurred, making it impossible for them to enjoy their once beautiful property.  Two years ago 100,000 gallons of frack water were spilled and ruined their little pond and their well.  Contaminated water from this spill still trickles downhill toward Towanda and the Susquehanna River every time it rains, they say.  Another accident occurred when 300-500 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled onto the ground.

The Johnsons cattle drank frack fluid containing strontium which went to their bones and proved deadly.  Look at the faces of these people as they tell their story.

But for Mr. Morell, it's all fantastic.  He's making money hand over fist.  And that's the name of the game, of course.  MONEY. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Another Truck Overturns in Towanda, PA

A truck carries residual waste in Hickory, PA
A driver of a truck owned by Texas Transco sustained minor injuries on Tuesday when the vehicle overturned at 4:30 a.m. as he drove on Bridge Street in Towanda.  The tractor trailer was carrying water, according to the Daily Review report, and the water leaked from the vehicle when it rolled over after leaving the north side of the road.  No other vehicles were involved.  After rolling, the truck went down a slight embankment. 

Truck accidents are not uncommon in areas where gas drilling operations are on-going.  Because of this, local citizens must use extra caution when on the roads of Bradford County.  Be ready to take evasive action at all times.  These trucks are often operated by people from Texas where the terrain is very different, and the drivers may be fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  In addition, time is of the essence, which may cause the drivers to speed.  This is not to say that most drivers operate these huge vehicles improperly and unsafely.  However, being alert is essential.  I have nearly been driven off the road in this area by gas trucks.  I have a friend in Texas who has ended up in a ditch more than once.

Here is the article from the Daily Review:  LINK

Monday, April 4, 2011

How Much Water?

Kayaking at Wysox, PA
Photo: Don Williams
The gas drilling industry is crafty at presenting facts to the public.  For instance, it tries to downplay how many chemicals and how much is put into the ground during drilling and fracking.  You'd think it was nothing to worry about- just stuff you find underneath your sink!  This article by Wes Skillings of the Rocket-Courier writes about the calculations of Dan Barrett, Bradford County District Attorney, who likes to play around with numbers in his spare time.  He set out to help readers visualize how much water two million gallons is.  He concludes that
two million gallons would fill a one-acre pond to the depth of six feet, two inches.
How many tanker trucks would be required to haul two million gallons of water?  Barrett estimates it would take 400 loads, each carrying 5,000 gallons (20 tons).  Here's another visual:  A million gallons would fill a football field surrounded by a wall 3.71 feet high and filled to the top with water.

Wikipedia says it takes 660,000 gallons of water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool.  You could fill that pool more than three times every day with a reservoir of two million gallons, Barrett calculates.

Now think of how many gas companies are all lined up day after day, night after night, sucking water from our rivers, streams, and lakes.  In Bradford County, PA, there are many water withdrawal sites in operation.  Companies apply to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and get permission to steal withdraw millions upon millions of gallons of perfectly good water every day.  After the gas industry gets a hold of this precious resource, it soon becomes toxic waste and must be disposed of, never to be returned to the Earth again, except as unusable, poison waste.

Do we want to take all this water, a finite resource,  and throw it away by the millions of gallons every single day in thousands of places?  The scale, the enormity, of this situation is mind-boggling.  So those who would minimize the impact of consumptive water use are not thinking about the big picture.  I think it is the seduction of the Almight Dollar at work.

Here is the Rocket-Courier article:  LINK

PA Laundromats Struggle With Gas Drilling Clothes

The clothing worn by gas drilling workers gets pretty nasty.  Nothing new, I suppose.  Industrial workers get dirty.  However, what do the drillers get on their clothes?  We don't know what chemicals are used in the drilling process (proprietary, you know), so I guess we just have to hope that it's okay.  The washing machines at laudromats are getting all gummed up with a brownish film.  Sometimes the machines have to be serviced to clean them out for other customers.  I personally would not wash my baby's clothes in a machine that had just been used for contaminated clothes soaked in toxic chemicals and grease.  It would seem that laundromat owners are going to have to invest in industrial machines or at least designate certain machines for use by gas drillers. 

This does not, however, address the problem of the wash water and what it has in it after swishing around these clothes.  Presumably the water goes into the local sewer system.  Where does that water end up?  I hope the local municipal authorities are in the know about this.  But my hunch is that this potential problem has not been thought of properly.  As is the case so often with the gas industry,  the motto is:  Drill now; figure out the kinks later.

Read the Daily Review article here: LINK

Another related article here. (from pressconnects.com)

Oh, and another serious problem:  What about car washes?  Gas drillers bring their muddy trucks to wash them in self-service car washes.  What is in that wash water?  I shudder to think.