Do ‘Environmental Extremists’ Pose Criminal Threat to Gas Drilling?

by Abrahm Lustgarten Sept 8th, 2010

As debate over natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale reaches a fever pitch, state and federal authorities are warning Pennsylvania law enforcement that “environmental extremists” pose an increasing threat to security and to the energy sector. A confidential intelligence bulletin sent from the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security to law enforcement professionals in late August says drilling opponents have been targeting the energy industry with increasing frequency and that the severity of crimes has increased.

A pro-drilling group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, characterized the vandalism in Pennsylvania as “directed at preventing our industry from safely delivering these resources to Pennsylvanians.” The group’s president, Kathryn Klaber, said she supported civil debate over drilling, “but to the extent they go in the other direction, and potentially devolve in a manner that undermines our ability to keep our folks safe, then we will have a problem,” she said.

 
It warns of “the use of tactics to try to intimidate companies into making policy decisions deemed appropriate by extremists,” and states that the FBI — the source of some of the language in the Pennsylvania bulletin — has “medium confidence” in the assessment. A spokesman for the FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The advisory, a copy of which was obtained by ProPublica, doesn’t cite the specific incidents causing concern. It is also unclear from accounts from state law enforcement officials whether the incidents in Pennsylvania posed a substantial threat, or what effect the advisory might have on public gathering and the debate over drilling in the state. Pennsylvania State Police said there have been only a few isolated crimes involving drilling facilities.

“We haven’t had any incidents of any significance to date where we have identified a problem, or any environmental extremists,” said Joseph Elias, a captain with the Pennsylvania State Police Domestic Security Division, which was not involved in issuing the bulletin.

An aide to Gov. Ed Rendell — speaking on behalf of the state’s Homeland Security Office — said the advisory was based on five recent vandalism incidents at drilling facilities, including two in which a shotgun was reportedly fired at a gas facility. “All this security bulletin does is raise awareness of local officials. It doesn’t accuse anyone of local activity,” said the spokesman, Gary Tuma. “Where the professionals detect a pattern that may pose a threat to public safety, they have a responsibility to alert local law enforcement authorities and potential victims.”

Anti-drilling activists in the state say that public hearings and other events have been peaceful and that they see no evidence of violent opposition. Given the lack of evidence about “extremist” crimes, they say, the bulletin casts drilling opponents as criminals and threatens to stifle open debate.

“It may very well be designed to chill peoples’ very legitimate participation in public decision making,” said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, a national group pressing for stronger environmental protections. “If people who have concerns fear that they are going to be treated as a security threat they may very well be afraid to go and express their views.”

The advisory lists a series of public hearings on drilling permit issues across the state as potential flash points. It also mentions a Sept. 3 screening of the anti-drilling film “Gasland” in Philadelphia that went off without incident. Language describes “environmental activists and militants” on one side of the debate and “property owners, mining and drilling companies” on the other.

Finally, the bulletin groups the public hearings and film screening with protest rallies for anarchist clubs focused on “evading law enforcement,” and with a Muslim advocacy group’s rally for the release of suspects in an alleged terror plot at Fort Dix, N.J.

The advisory was sent to state law enforcement and local government groups, as well as businesses with a specific concern addressed in the bulletin. It was not intended to be distributed to the public.

To read the full ProPublica article cited above, with all its active hyperlinks,  click here:
To read the report cited in this article that wan’t supposed to be made public  (PENNSYLVANIA INTELLIGENCE BULLETIN NO. 131 PENNSYLVANIA INTELLIGENCE BULLETIN NO. 131

In issuing such an advisory, the government has to walk a fine line between the need to respect the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and the need to keep the public safe, said Nathan Sales, an assistant law professor at George Mason University and a former policy development staffer at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “The question is how to accomplish the one with minimal consequences to the other,” he said.

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Marcellus Money

Here’s a website that is keeping tabs on which PA politicians have been offered money from from the gas industry and which ones have accepted that money.  Enjoy.

http://www.marcellusmoney.org/

Gas Bubbling from the Susquehanna River

http://74.95.82.237:591/rconline/FMPro?-db=RCOnline.fp5&-format=record_detail.html&-Lay=Detail&CurrentRecordID=12635350&-find

Gas Bubbling from River at Sugar Run – by David Keeler – 9/2/2010

Click here for video clip

Keep the Promise Town Hall-PA Severance Tax!

September 9, Thursday— Keep the Promise Town Hall in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County between Williamsport and Lock Haven, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Robert H. Wheeland Center, 1201 Locust Street, Jersey Shore, PA 17740 (part of Citizens Hose Company, Station 45)
Date: August 30, 2010 12:56:46 PM EDT
Subject: PennFuture event in Jersey Shore 09/09
I wanted to reach out to you as individuals and leaders of your organizations to invite you to an upcoming town hall meeting in Jersey Shore. We appreciate the help and support you have provided on many issues around clean water and responsible drilling in the past.
As you are probably aware, funding for the Growing Greener program is expiring. To make matters worse, the Environmental Stewardship Fund, which also funds  Growing Greener, has been diverted away from local projects.  There are many projects in north central PA and around the Commonwealth that were made possible due to this funding source. Some of you may have played a key role in these projects.
PennFuture is hosting a town hall on the severance tax and uses of the revenue on Thursday evening, September 9, in Jersey Shore.  We are calling our series of these events around the state the “Keep the Promise Tour” as we are asking members of the PA General Assembly to keep the promise they made in July to have a severance tax agreement by October 1. Below are the details on the event. We expect the following folks to attend among others: Reps. Mike Hanna, Garth Everett and Rick Mirabito; Commissioner Joel Long from Clinton County; Dave Rothrock from PA Council of TU; Tim Schaeffer from the Fish and Boat Commission; and several folks discussing value of Growing Greener funding for the area.
We would welcome attendance by your members and any promotion of the event that you can provide.  We ask that folks who attend the event register through our web site at the link below.
September 9, Thursday— Keep the Promise Town Hall in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County between Williamsport and Lock Haven, 7:00-9:00 p.m.
Robert H. Wheeland Center, 1201 Locust Street, Jersey Shore, PA 17740 (part of Citizens Hose Company, Station 45)

EPA’s Public Meeting on Hydraulic Fracturing

EPA’s Public Meeting on Hydraulic Fracturing Study to Take Place in Binghamton, New York; Meeting Scheduled for September 13 and 15 at the Broome County Forum Theater

Release date: 08/31/2010

Contact Information: John Senn, (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov

New York, NY – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has selected a new venue and dates for the public meeting on EPA’s upcoming hydraulic fracturing study originally scheduled for August 12, 2010. The meeting will now be held at the Broome County Forum Theater in Binghamton, New York, on September 13th and 15th, 2010.

Meeting Information:
EPA will hold four identical sessions during a two day session at the same location:

Date: Monday, September 13, 2010
Location: Broome County Forum Theater, 236 Washington St., Binghamton
Time:

  • 12:00pm – 4:00pm (pre-registration begins at 10:30am)
  • 6:00pm – 10:00pm (pre-registration begins at 4:30pm)

Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Location: Broome County Forum Theater, 236 Washington St., Binghamton
Time:

  • 12:00pm – 4:00pm (pre-registration begins at 10:30am)
  • 6:00pm – 10:00pm (pre-registration begins at 4:30pm)
Transition from the Postponed August 12 Meeting
The four sessions scheduled for September 13 and 15, 2010 will be identical to those already convened in Dallas, Texas; Denver, Colorado; and Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. The agenda will match that of the meetings previously scheduled for August 12. As with all previous meetings, EPA will make a short presentation at the beginning of each session and registered speakers will then have the opportunity to provide verbal or written comments directly to EPA.

All individuals who pre-registered for the August 12 meetings will retain their registration for the September 13 and 15 meetings. Because the timing of the sessions has changed from a one-day event to a two-day event and EPA has added another meeting session, EPA needs pre-registered individuals to specify the session they would like to attend.

  1. Pre-registered speakers for the August 12 session will be sent an e-mail from the Cadmus Group requesting they select one preferred session in which to provide verbal comment. The email notification will provide instructions on how to choose a session. Speakers who pre-registered using the telephone registration will be contacted by Cadmus by phone to confirm their preferred session.
  2. Pre-registered attendees (those who opted not to give verbal comment) will be asked to indicate the session they would like to attend via the registration website. The registration website is located at http://hfmeeting.cadmusweb.com and will open beginning at 9:00 am on Friday, September 3, 2010…….
For additional questions or comments, please email hydraulic.fracturing@epa.gov or call 1-866-477-3635. Meeting information may be found on the EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study website athttp://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/hydraulicfracturing/wells_hydroout.cfm……

Letter to the Editor, Aug. 29, 2010

A Letter to the Editor, Towanda, PA:

Loss of one resource for another?

EDITOR: Being a licensed Pennsylvania water well driller for the past 40 years and being born and raised in the Towanda area, I feel I must respond to the stories I keep reading about the gas drilling companies shifting the blame of water well problems to poor well construction and local water well drilling.

One such story was in this week’s Sunday Review (Aug. 22, 2010). And before I begin I want it known that any subsequent mention of the Chesapeake company shows no hostility towards them or their representatives. With mutual respect and dual acknowledgement of experience, I do believe that natural gas extraction and water well drilling can harmoniously coincide in Northeast Pennsylvania.

First of all, if a water well is not constructed properly, there are problems from day one and not 10, 20 even 50 years later.

Referring to Sunday’s article, Brian Grove of Chesapeake stated he does not believe, the facts, implicate its drilling operations is causing the water issues at hand. We have not spoken with any of the Paradise Road residents, but, the fact is, we have recently received many calls from local homeowners regarding disturbances in their water wells that began after nearby gas drilling activity had started. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the time line coincidence and figure out gas drilling activity probably has caused these water well issues.

Again referring to the Sunday article, Mr. Grove wrote, affected water wells are drilled into shallow aquifers. Most of our calls pertain to rock wells, but our answer to his comment is, this is Pennsylvania, not Texas! In many local areas, residents depend on the shallow aquifers because the deeper water is salty, or sulfury, and not compatible to human consumption. What a shame to disturb their only potable water resource.

And Mr. Grove’s insinuation that poor water well construction could be causing current water well issues is a direct disrespect to me, my father before me, and other local reputable water well drillers. Speaking for myself and my father’s memory, we have drilled thousands of water wells during decades of business in Northeast Pennsylvania. Our continued good reputation is testimony that we do successfully construct quality water wells. I invite Mr. Grove to call me to discuss well construction but not to come into my hometown and discredit my work. Mr. Grove stated that Chesapeake has offered to drill replacement water wells of “superior construction standards.” A recent telephone conversation with Chesapeake representative Larry Wooten makes me question what he means by “superior construction standards?”

Mr. Wooten called in regards to me drilling a replacement well on my neighbor’s property. He quizzed me about my practices and prices. When I told him I use a steel drive shoe on the bottom of my casing to seal contaminates from entering the well, he told me they never use them and thought this contaminant seal was an unnecessary added cost. Again, this is Pennsylvania, not Texas. I believe embedding a steel drive shoe into rock formations is necessary to superiorly construct a Pennsylvania water well.

To end, we believe Northeast Pennsylvania is both blessed and cursed by the Marcellus Shale mineral deposits which lie underneath our homes. The excitement of gas lease funding and large drilling rigs coming to our area has been replaced by damaged roads; delayed travel and traffic snarls; streams sucked dry by convoys of trucks, driven by persons foreign to our area, who may skillfully drive Texas flatlands but have difficulty maneuvering our hilly serpentine roadways; residential sweet water invaded by methane that is blowing off well caps; local families displaced by gas workers; and other changes affecting our work and lifestyles.

Unlike cautious New York state, we think Pennsylvania jumped the gun and has allowed natural gas drilling companies into our area too soon, in too large of numbers, and with too few regulations in place. The saying, you don’t know the worth of the water until the well is dry, sounds like a reality to us. Our drinking water is being affected and millions of gallons of water are being extracted from our streams, rivers and municipal wells with insufficient recharge. Well, Sen. Casey, we agree it is high time to protect our water, our people and our future.

Thomas and Loraine Cummings Water Well Drilling

Towanda

http://thedailyreview.com/opinion/letters/letter-to-the-editor-aug-29-2010-1.980232