911 — Emergency! Water contamination map NE PA

Thank you to William Huston for this update.

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The contamination in NE Pennsylvania from gas drilling is far worse than anyone knows.

The brown towns all have known sites of water contamination.
I used the following criteria:

1) At least one site with an external water tank (“water buffalo”) receiving replacement water
2) Water filtration system installed due to contamination
3) PA DEP complaint
4) PA DEP positive determination letter

All of these towns were first identified by Laura Legere, Scranton Times Tribune, in the May 19, 2013 article, “Sunday Times review of DEP drilling records reveals water damage, murky testing methods”.

One problem with the dataset is that it is heavily redacted. In almost every request, the name of the homeowner and the address were redacted. This is one reason for the per-town granularity.

Also, there are 9 towns in Bradford County, plus 7 towns in Susquehanna County where precise locations of the sites have been determined and the names of the impacted persons known, ether by myself, or one of four confidential sources I used for this report.

A word about using confidential sources:

There are many reasons why people who get water contamination prefer to be anonymous. Here are a few:

Gas industry bullies will attack you (as the Sautners were attacked by Phelim McAleer and Energy in Depth).
Your neighbors with gas-leases will ostracize you. “Why do you want to make trouble and ruin this for all of us? Just keep your mouth shut and you’ll be taken care of.”
Your home is your largest investment. If it becomes known that your town, and your property specifically, has water contamination, your home will become worthless.

I will work with bona fide journalists, and scientific investigators in identifying my sources if a promise is made to respect the privacy of the victims.

I would say I could, fairly easily, get precise locations for some sites in about 16 towns.
(9 in Bradford and 7 in Susquehanna Co.) subject to privacy concerns.

This map shocked me.

I try to be well informed of what is going on in Pennsylvania.
However: This map shocked me.

I know that some of my confidential sources who live in the Gasfields of PA and are extremely well informed, also had no idea the extent of the water contamination.

NE PA is only 2% to 20% developed.

Notes:

Note Well: I am not saying the entire (brown) town has bad water.I am only saying that each brown town has at least one site of water contamination.
Each site may contain several affected homes.
Several towns have multiple sites, each with multiple homes.

It would be a huge task to get precise locations for these sites.

A large bulk came from Laura Legere’s RTK request,
which came back heavily redacted
(no precise address).

Totals:

Out of these totals:

29 of 37 towns in Bradford Co. (78% of all towns in the county)
15 of 27 towns in Susquehanna Co. (56% of all towns in the county)
—-
44 of 64 (69%) total towns in two counties with contaminated water.

Copy of Jeremy’s post-hearing comments:

Once again I have proven that no one should pay any attention to anything I say about what is likely to happen in court.

To make a short story even shorter, Jerry asked the court to grant a delay so that we would have time to find out whether or not the next appeals court takes my appeal. This is the appeal we’ve already filed but which isn’t mandatory, because what I’m appealing is only the conviction on a violation, and I’m not a more respectable criminal who’s done something worse.

To my surprise, assistant DA Tunney didn’t really have any objection, saying he didn’t want to be in the position of sentencing a defendant before his conviction was final (or words to that effect) and, equally to my surprise, Judge Berry went along with it, granting me another 90 days in which to await the appeals court’s decision.

The guiding principle here is that we’re still fighting, still insisting that I was had a right to do what I did. But I use the term “guiding” loosely, because if anything’s guiding me, how come I feel like I’ve been spun around three times with a donkey’s tail in my hand?

Chesapeake Energy – former big player in Finger Lakes’ leasing

ProPublica: At the end of 2011, Chesapeake Energy, one of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies, was teetering on the brink of failure.

Its legendary chief executive officer, Aubrey McClendon, was being pilloried for questionable deals, its stock price was getting hammered and the company needed to raise billions of dollars quickly.

The money could be borrowed, but only on onerous terms. Chesapeake, which had burned money on a lavish steel-and-glass office complex in Oklahoma City even while the selling price for its gas plummeted, already had too much debt.

In the months that followed, Chesapeake executed an adroit escape, raising nearly $5 billion with a previously undisclosed twist: By gouging many rural landowners out of royalty payments they were supposed to receive in exchange for allowing the company to drill for natural gas on their property.

In lawsuits in state after state, private landowners have won cases accusing the companies like Chesapeake of stiffing them on royalties they were due. Federal investigators have repeatedly identified underpayments of royalties for drilling on federal lands, including a case in which Chesapeake was fined $765,000 for “knowing or willful submission of inaccurate information” last year.

Last month, Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett, who is seeking reelection, sent a letter to Chesapeake’s CEO saying the company’s expense billing “defies logic” and called for the state Attorney General to open an investigation.

McClendon, a swashbuckling executive and fracking pioneer, was ultimately pushed out of his job. But the impact of the Financial Maneuvers that he made to save the company will reverberate for years. The winners, aside from Chesapeake, were a competing oil company and a New York private equity firm that fronted much of the money in exchange for promises of double-digit returns for the next two decades.

The losers were landowners in Pennsylvania and elsewhere who leased their land to Chesapeake and saw their hopes of cashing in on the gas-drilling boom vanish without explanation.

People like Joe Drake.

“I got the check out of the mail… I saw what the gross was,” said Drake, a third-generation Pennsylvania farmer whose monthly royalty payments for the same amount of gas plummeted from $5,300 in July 2012 to $541 last February. This sort of precipitous drop can reflect gyrations in the price of gas. But in this case, Drake’s shrinking check resulted from a corporate decision by Chesapeake to radically reinterpret the terms of the deal it had struck to drill on his land. “If you or I did that we’d be in jail,” Drake said.

Chesapeake’s conduct is part of a larger national pattern in which many giant energy companies have maneuvered to pay as little as possible to the owners of the land they drill. Last year, a ProPublica investigation found that Pennsylvania landowners were paying ever-higher fees to companies for transporting their gas to market, and that Chesapeake was charging more than other companies in the region. The question was “why”……SEE LINK FOR REMAINDER OF ARTICLE & FLOW CHARTING:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/13/fracking-chesapeake-energy_n_4958845.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Marcellus Watch: Trust, but verify imported drilling waste

State and local officials are well on their way to burying radioactivity as an issue in the debate over whether to allow a major expansion of the Chemung County Landfill on the Chemung River about six miles southeast of Elmira.

The landfill, which has been leased to Casella Waste Systems Inc. since 2005, has been accepting drilling wastes from Pennsylvania since 2009 — often turning away its own municipal waste to save room for the more lucrative imports.

Now the county legislature is considering a plan to increase the landfill’s capacity from 180,000 tons of waste a year to 417,000 tons. The landfill that currently occupies 54 acres of a 327-acre site would add 50 acres of new lined landfill cells.

Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli, a supporter of the expansion, has taken the lead role in denying that radioactivity matters.

In a recent newspaper opinion column he said granite kitchen countertops are “several times more radioactive than drill cuttings.” Besides, he noted, Casella operators have installed a radiation detector at the landfill that has never once been triggered by a load of drilling waste.

Given the commercial opportunity at stake, it’s not likely that Santulli will be objectively weighing the evidence. In his case, the wisdom of Upton Sinclair applies: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.”

If not Santulli, then who will consider the matter objectively?

The landfill expansion requires the approval of both the county legislature and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Both have sidestepped the issue and let Santulli’s simplistic and biased analysis stand.

In a previous Chemung landfill expansion case in 2011, a DEC hearing officer ruled the question of radioactivity irrelevant and disallowed expert testimony about the dangers.

Those experts attempted to point out that drilling wastes originating from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania contain unusually high levels of naturally occurring radiation, or NORM. The main threat is Radium 226, a dangerous carcinogen if it reaches water supplies or is inhaled as the byproduct radon, the nation’s No. 2 cause of lung cancer.

Dr. Earl Robinson, an Elmira pulmonologist who has opposed each bid to expand the landfill, testified in 2010 that to accept drilling waste was to recklessly ignore the effects of radioactivity in local water and air.

Those arguments didn’t fly with the DEC staff. At one hearing, a DEC attorney explained that her agency only regulated radioactive substances that had been “processed and concentrated.” NORM didn’t qualify. She testified that the level of radioactivity in the landfill was legally irrelevant to the agency.

In the latest push to expand the landfill, county officials have disallowing a full review of radiological risks on the grounds that the matter was settled in the 2011 DEC hearing case.

So, we’re back to Santulli’s assurances that drill cuttings are harmless and the Casella-installed radiation detector proves radiation is no problem.

But the radiation detector is largely for show. It tests for gamma rays, the most penetrating form of radiation, but not necessarily the most deadly. Only 4 percent of the emissions from Radium 226, the main threat, are gamma rays. The rest are alpha particles, which can’t penetrate loose clothing, let alone the metal sides of Casella’s waste haulers that roll by the detector.

Radium 226’s alpha particles are deadly when inhaled or ingested. “When alpha-emitters get in the body, they can set up business next to cells and bombard them,” said one scientist whose testimony the DEC disallowed.

Santulli wasn’t far off in saying drill cuttings are harmless. Unfortunately, they arrive in a semi-liquid mud or sludge or soup consisting of Marcellus shale liquids that are the real threat.

Radium 226 is soluble in the naturally occurring Marcellus brine. For millennia NORM has leached into that brine that is brought to the surface during drilling.

When the DEC tested the brine from all 12 of the state’s Marcellus shale wells in 2008 and 2009, it found levels of Radium 226 far above the allowable limits for drinking water (5 picocuries per liter) or release into the environment (60 picocuries per liter). Brine from four of the wells showed Radium 226 readings in excess of 10,000 picocuries/liter.

Every well is different, so there’s no guarantee the Pennsylvania drilling wastes are that highly contaminated. But if they are, what better place to haul them to than Chemung, where state and local officials look the other way?

Instead of sidestepping the issue, the DEC should conduct its own tests on the leachate that seeps out of the bottom of the landfill. That leachate is hauled to the local wastewater treatment plant (which isn’t equipped to handle radioactive material) and then dumped into the river. The DEC should take quarterly measurements of leachate from each landfill cell and lagoon and compare them over time.

The alternative is business as usual, where consultants to Casella collect and analyze the leachate. The system invites backscratching so as not to disturb the flow of profits. One of the consulting reports the DEC received in 2012 on Chemung Landfill leachate was signed by the husband of a Casella executive.

Come on, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Order the DEC to do its job.

Peter Mantius’ opinion column appeared in 3/6/14 Corning (NY) Leader.

Peter Mantius is a freelance journalist from Schuyler County who follows shale gas drilling issues. He is a former reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and former editor of two business weeklies in the Northeast.

SENECA IN THE BALANCE

Seneca in the BalanceTuesday, March 11, 2014, 7:00 – ­9:00 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm)

Watkins Glen High School Auditorium, 301 12th St, Watkins Glen, NY 14891

Live stream at  www.Seneca-In-The-Balance.com

Find out how close we are to becoming the gas storage and transportation hub for the Northeast; ​ ​
Discover what we’ve learned about the structural integrity of the salt caverns under Seneca Lake ​ that are slated for storage expansion, and how this could impact the region;
Learn about this expansion plan’s regional economic and public health impacts;
Identify what our region’s legislative bodies think about this project;
Understand the legal standing of the community and possible legal recourse.

FEATURED SPEAKERS include:
Richard A. Young, Ph.D: Distinguished Service Professor (Emeritus), Department of Geological ​ ​Sciences, SUNY at Geneseo
John Halfman, Ph.D: Research Scientist, water quality expert, Finger Lakes Institute, Hobart​ ​William Smith College
Moneen Nasmith: Associate Attorney, Earthjustice, NE Office
Steve Churchill, Seneca County Board of Supervisors
Paula Fitzsimmons, Schuyler County Physician Assistant
Doug Hazlitt, Co­Owner of Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards
Yvonne Taylor & Joseph Campbell, Gas Free Seneca

Schumer:…not enough to protect many communities along the rail lines…many places in upstate NY…

…..These steps are not enough to protect many communities along the rail lines, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said this week. This includes many places in upstate New York, like Buffalo, Rochester, Utica, Syracuse and Albany, that have seen higher rail traffic. He compared the industry’s use of outdated tank cars to “a ticking time bomb” and urged federal regulators to quickly retire these older cars, known as DOT-111s, in favor of models built after 2011 that have better protections.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/business/energy-environment/bakkan-crude-rolling-through-albany.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140228&_r=0

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson Cries NIMBY and Sues the Frackers

Rex Tillerson is the chairman, president, and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation. Under Tillerson’s leadership Exxon acquired XTO Energy, making Exxon the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S.

Go ahead, look it up.  I’ll wait.  And here is some “About” text from the XTO web site you can confirm:

XTO Energy Inc. was founded in 1986 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Safely and responsibly extracting natural gas from U.S. shale and other tight formations is our principal business. We also produce crude oil and natural gas liquids in the United States.

We’re the nation’s largest holder of natural gas reserves, and we have one of the highest drilling success rates in the industry.

We operate throughout the United States, from the Great Plains to Appalachia. You’ll find us in places such as Montana and Pennsylvania, Utah and Louisiana, and Texas and Ohio. We own interests in approximately 40,000 producing oil and natural gas wells across the country.

XTO Energy Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corporation merged in 2010.

In March 2013, Rex and his wife, in conjunction with five other well-to-do neighboring couples from Bartonville, Texas, filed a lawsuit.  According to petition No. 2012-30982-211 filed in the district court of Denton County, Texas, Rex and Renda live on their Bartonville ranch, named Bar RR Ranches, LLC, which has a fair market value in excess of $5 million.

Whom are they suing?  The defendants are the “BARTONVILLE WATER SUPPLY CORPORATION; ITS GENERAL MANAGER AND ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS.”

Why? The plaintiffs wish to enjoin the water company from building a 750,000 gallon water tower that “will loom over the Plaintiffs properties at a height of 160 feet – the equivalent of a 16 story building.” And furthermore, the plaintiffs claim the water company intends to “sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards.”

We certainly are sympathetic to the Tillersons’ and their neighbors’ fears, honest American citizens, Texans moreover, with ordinary sensibilities wishing to simply live their lives in peace, quite, and good health in their own homes/ranches. Or as they most eloquently put it: Continue reading

Film: Drill Baby Drill

Drill Baby Drill

Drill Baby Drill Film coming to Corning and Elmira

The documentary Drill, Baby, Drill, which was filmed in Poland and Pennsylvania, tells the story of Polish farmers who band together to protect their land when unconventional shale gas drilling (fracking) threatens.  It also looks at the effects of ongoing drilling on farmers and their communities in Pennsylvania.

The film has been aired on French and German television Continue reading