OilandGasHelp.com

I happen to be looking for the location of a specific Northwest Savings Bank in PA and when I pulled up their website I found the below link.

http://www.oilandgashelp.com/

It looks like Northwest Savings Bank has put together a section of their website to answer questions or help folks who are considering leases. The “Oil and Gas Resources” section has some interesting info available. At the very least, another resource for those who like to have all the facts before they make decisions.

Hydraulic Fracking the Propaganda and Truth

I know I’ve been away from this blog for a while now but it looks like folks are still finding it. The following link was passed on to me, and good for a few laughs despite the depressing topic, and I just had to pass it along. Enjoy and share!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZptKESRzio&feature=youtu.be

Citizen Monitoring Info

For those watching the gas drilling industry’s activities, keep in mind that the federal EPA now has a hotline (they call it a tip line) for reporting issues that the public spots. details are available at this website:

http://www.epa.gov/region03/marcellus_shale/tipline.html

For broader information about spotting and reporting environmental problems to EPA, see:
In Pennsylvania drilling issues can also be reported to PA’s Department of Environmental Protection. As far as I know PA DEP does not – yet – have a hotline or tip line specific for gas drilling issues. Reports to PA DEP can be made according to the guidelines noted here: http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/report_an_incident/6010

Waterdogs have the gas industry upset!

I think it’s wonderful that our small group of watch dogs, otherwise know as “waterdogs”, has created such a stir! Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group has done such a wonderful job of putting this program together! Not only are they being recognized as an organization that has power by educating the local area residents (in the wake of DEP being given the slash and burn treatment by our state government) but also as a group that is so on-the-ball with the information they are making available to participants of the course, that the gas industry feels the need to criticize what they are doing in an attempt to make the Waterdog trainings appear limited and naive. The PA Oil and Gas Association spokesman in the article is doing exactly what any industry with a lot of black baggage would do. They love it when we feel powerless because their industry is, as he puts is, complicated and arcane, which it is…but it also doesn’t take a rock scientists to figure out most of what is going on as well as some of the industries dirty little secrets. Being a Waterdog doesn’t make anyone comparable to a DEP inspector but it does give area residents the opportunity to learn about what’s happening to their environment and take some care and control in what happens to the water and and other resources in PA. It also is a viable way for many more pairs of eyes to keep watch over the mass of wells that have been drilled in such a short time span that the DEP is struggling to keep up with monitoring all of them.
I just wanted to update this post and add this note. ALL calls to DEP are confidential and the right of every citizen! I just spoke with a friend who works in that office and she and I both want to make sure that the folks in PA understand that. SO please call DEP if you have a need to or if you have questions and be comfortable that your concerns and/or information will remain private.
by Laura Legere (Staff Writer)
Published: December 1, 2009

A small watershed protection group has drawn the disdain of the state’s natural gas industry by offering a training program to help citizens in Northern Pennsylvania learn how to document and report potential environmental violations at Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling sites.

The Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group, based in Tioga County, will hold its second two-hour training session Tuesday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Pennsylvania College of Technology campus near Wellsboro.

The “waterdogs” program is meant to teach citizens in Susquehanna, Bradford and Tioga counties how to monitor waterways and well sites in the midst of a rapid expansion of gas drilling. It is also aimed at supplementing the oversight of the Department of Environmental Protection, which has struggled to fill all 17 oil and gas positions in its northcentral regional office.

In publicity materials about the event, the group called DEP’s permitting and inspection process “very rigorous” but said the staff is outnumbered by the many out-of-state gas contractors that are “not yet familiar with our regulations regarding water usage, erosion and sedimentation, and waste disposal.

“The region is too large and the resources of the regulators too limited to effectively keep track of the exponential growth in activity taking place,” the group said.

Reaction from the state’s natural gas industry ranged from disbelief to derision.

The Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association posted news of the event on its Web site under the headline, “Environmental vigilante training to help enforce Marcellus drilling regs.”

“In just two hours you can learn all you need to know to be an environmental vigilante and help protect our watersheds from Marcellus gas drillers,” the post said.

On his “Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Law Blawg,” Meadville-based oil and gas attorney Russell L. Schetroma called the event “amazing.”

“Hopefully the participants, the sponsor and the college have insurance to cover the damages operators suffer from spurious claims of environmental damage made by graduates of the program,” he wrote.

Stephen Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association, said his post was meant to be “tongue-in-cheek,” but the production of natural gas in the state and its regulation are “very serious issues.”

“To act like you’re going to make someone competent as a DEP inspector with two hours of training for issues as complicated and arcane as these… is a little naive and a little dangerous,” he said.

He also said the volunteers risk creating more work for DEP, rather than helping its staff, “by reporting things that aren’t in fact a problem.”

DEP investigates all complaints that fall under the department’s jurisdiction.

But Ron Comstock, president of the headwaters group, said the goal is precisely to limit the amount of unsubstantiated complaints filed with DEP by people who do not know what to look for.

“In the absence of some responsible programs like this, they’re going to have just tons of that,” he said.

The group encourages people to be aware of the drilling as it expands in the region. “Maybe they’ll see something that’s not right,” he said, “and with some training, they’ll know what to do.”

The group also emphasizes water quality monitoring in streams where it already has strong baseline data so it can track signs of leaks or spills, he said. Similar community monitoring has been recommended at public meetings by water quality specialists with the Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Mr. Comstock said his group hopes to start a training movement that will spread to other watershed groups around the state.

“We stress safety,” he said. “If there’s anything we can do to make a bad experience something better and safer, that’s what we hope to do.”

Contact the writer: llegere@timesshamrock.com

Getting the water in your well tested?

If you are having a gas well put in on your property, I hope you are also having the water in your well tested prior to any drilling. Despite the costly manner of having your well water tested I would say that it should be a mandatory procedure. A basic test can be anywhere from $300.00 to $1,000.00. If you live next to someone else who is having a well put on their property you should also seriously consider having your well water tested.

There has been some discussion and worries about what sort of metals of chemicals and toxins should be tested for and who should/can to do the tests. Seewald laboratories out of Williampsort, PA offers well water testing that covers all the basic tests AND the procedures used by Seewald to test the water are acceptable and will hold up in a court of law. If you are using some of the other “mom & pop” testing companies who may not always follow all the correct procedures, such as “chain of custody”, or doing it yourself (which can be much more affordable – $80.00) the chances of the test being useful for a court case is pretty insignificant. The phone number for Seewald is 570.326.4001. If you think the chance of needing to take the gas company drilling on your land, or your neighbors, is not likely, check out this link.

http://www.topix.com/com/cog

Penn State Cooperative Extention has published this, which you might find useful if you are wanting more information about water well contamination, what’s in the ground that can get in your well and water testing.

http://resources.cas.psu.edu/WaterResources/pdfs/gasdrilling.pdf

Pa. to lease forest land for gas drilling

Pa. to lease forest land for gas drilling
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will lease 31,967 acres of state forest land for deep gas well drilling, an amount that could meet a legislative mandate to raise $60 million from the sale of such leases in the 2009-10 budget year.

Department Secretary John Quigley said yesterday that offering leases on the forest land balances the state’s environmental and fiscal obligations.

“We chose these tracts of land after extensive environmental reviews to protect the health of the forest now and in the future, to allow for gas and timber extraction and public recreation, and to keep ecosystems intact that support a diversity of wildlife and plants,” Mr. Quigley said.

The six tracts proposed for leasing are located in the Elk, Moshannon, Sproul, Susquehannock and Tioga state forests in Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton, Potter and Tioga counties.

The leases require a minimum bid of $2,000 an acre and royalties of 18 percent. If the state gets $2,000 bids on all the offered acreage, it would raise almost $64 million.

State Sen. Mary Jo White, R-Venango, who pushed for the sale of leases as chairwoman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said she is pleased the department moved quickly to implement an important part of the budget and is hopeful the offering will be successful.

Ms. White, in a statement released by her spokesman, also noted that responsible development of the Marcellus shale natural gas reserves was critical to avoiding a personal income tax increase as part of the recently passed budget.

According to state officials, the department has held 73 lease sales since 1947. The last, in 2008, brought in $190 million for 74,000 acres. But gas and lease prices have declined since then, and last spring the Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council recommended that consideration of all new state forest land leases for drilling be put on hold.

Chris Novak, a DCNR spokeswoman, said a couple of recent lease agreements with large groups of private landowners in Susquehanna and Bradford counties indicates that gas drilling companies will still pay premium prices for desirable acreage.

In September, Fortuna Energy Inc. agreed to lease about 30,000 acres from a coalition of 600 property owners for $5,500 an acre. And Hess Corp. agreed to pay $3,500 an acre to another landowner coalition for drilling rights on 11,400 acres.

It’s been estimated that the Marcellus shale beds, 5,000 to 8,000 feet deep below three-quarters of Pennsylvania, could hold as much as 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas worth as much as $1 trillion.

According to the DCNR, there are about 660,000 acres of state forest land under lease for gas production and 750 wells in production. If the just-proposed leases are successfully bid, the leased total would rise to 692,000 acres, about one-third of the 2.1 million acres of state forest.

Pre-qualified bidders may submit bids until 2 p.m., Jan. 12, at which time they will be opened publicly. The department said leases will be awarded based on the amount of the first year’s land rental. The primary lease term is 10 years and a lease covers annual land rental amounts and possible royalties.

For more information about state forests and gas leasing, visit the DCNR Web site at www.dcnr.state.pa.us or call 717-772-9101.

Tom Barnes contributed. Don Hopey can be reached at dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.

Sued by the Forest

Here is an article from the Boston Globe with a topic that will surely invite all sorts of arguments for and against. Should nature be able to take you to court?

Boston Globe/Steve Wacksman

By Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow

July 19, 2009

 

Last February, the town of Shapleigh, Maine, population 2,326, passed an unusual ordinance. Like nearby towns, Shapleigh sought to protect its aquifers from the Nestle Corporation, which draws heavily on the region for its Poland Spring bottled water. Some Maine towns had acquiesced, others had protested, and one was locked in a protracted legal battle.

Shapleigh tried something new – a move at once humble in its method and audacious in its ambition. At a town meeting, residents voted, 114-66, to endow all of the town’s natural assets with legal rights: “Natural communities and ecosystems possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist, flourish and naturally evolve within the Town of Shapleigh.” It further decreed that any town resident had “standing” to seek relief for damages caused to nature – permitting, for example, a lawsuit on behalf of a stream.

Shapleigh is one of about a dozen US municipalities to have passed measures declaring that nature itself has rights under the law. And in 2008, when Ecuador adopted a new constitution, it recognized nature’s “right to exist, persist, maintain itself and regenerate its own vital cycles, structure, functions and its evolutionary processes.” A campaign is also underway in Europe for a UN Universal Declaration of Planetary Rights, which would attempt to enshrine such principles in international law, following the model of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These developments are part of a small but growing movement that aims to reorient the relationship between the earth and the law. Advocates argue that natural objects should not be treated as mere property, vulnerable to exploitation or destruction as owners see fit, but as rights-bearing entities with intrinsic value. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit, works with communities such as Shapleigh to protect local ecosystems, and more towns are considering ordinances in the same vein. The Center for Earth Jurisprudence, established in 2006, works with two Florida law schools, developing a legal philosophy based on respect for the planet, and seeking avenues in current law to advance that goal.

“Someone needs to be able to represent the rivers,” says Patricia Siemen, director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence. “Someone needs to be able to represent the forests.”

Of course, the notion will strike skeptics as preposterous. Would we need to worry about offending litigious shrubs? With a boulder, or a swamp, as a witness in the proceedings? Critics dismiss the idea as grandstanding that could clog the courts with frivolous cases.

But proponents see it as part of an ongoing progression, an expansion of rights that slowly brings about an increasingly just society. After all, not so long ago, slaves and women were in some legal regimes deemed property, just as nature is today. Now we all accept universal human rights. The concept of animal rights has also become familiar, if much more contested. Advocates of this agenda see the extension of rights to ecosystems as the natural next step. And they believe it could spark a profound shift in our relations with nature, leading to more effective environmental protections.

“The language of rights has a great deal of currency. It’s the most powerful of our ethical terms,” says John Baird Callicott, a philosophy professor at the University of North Texas. “Rights shift the burden of proof from those who are defending nature to those who want to exploit it.”

In the view of proponents, the idea is less outlandish than it may seem. Other nonhuman entities have long enjoyed certain rights under our legal system: ships and corporations are two examples of entities entitled to “personhood,” meaning they can bring lawsuits to court. What’s more, proponents say, the extension of rights invariably seems absurd before it happens. When the economy depended on slave labor, emancipation was unfathomable even to many who abhorred slavery. In retrospect, though, it seems morally imperative and historically inevitable.

Yet bestowing rights on nature poses considerable practical and philosophical challenges. In the case of the declarations in towns like Shapleigh, it isn’t always clear how they will be enforced. (So far, Nestle has not attempted to set up operations in Shapleigh, but it’s hard to say whether that is a result of the ordinance.) Granting standing – the ability to sue in the name of a natural object – is a more modest, specific goal, but stipulating “inalienable rights” strikes some legal experts as both vague and infeasible. Critics also argue that because the language of rights is indeed potent, we ought to be wary of diluting that force by spreading rights too thin. And they question whether the concept of rights and interests can be applied to nature in any meaningful way.

“All the interests in nature conflict. Trees fight each other for sun and water,” says Mark Sagoff, an environmental philosopher at the University of Maryland. “Granting rights to nature would just be a distraction from the policy progress we’ve made.”

The debate ultimately centers on the basis of legal rights. Historically, they have been strongly associated with human beings. All of the formerly rightless entities who now seem so clearly deserving of rights – infants, for example, or women, or African-Americans – share one conspicuous trait: they’re people. (Corporations and ships, it could be argued, represent conglomerations of people.) When extended to animals, rights have often been based on affinities with humans: sentience, the ability to suffer. The question is how starkly we distinguish between human and nonhuman life. Is membership in the biosphere alone enough to merit rights?

The notion of nature’s rights has long been cherished in environmentalist circles; the idea cropped up in the writings of Sierra Club founder John Muir in the late 19th century and the influential ecologist Aldo Leopold in the mid-20th century. But the first sustained legal argument is usually attributed to Christopher Stone, a law professor at the University of Southern California. In 1972, Stone wrote an article entitled “Should Trees Have Standing?”, which laid out the case for expanding rights that is now commonly cited. (The essay, originally published in the Southern California Law Review, will be reissued by Oxford University Press in 2010.)

Stone lamented that although one could sue to protect nonhuman life, one had to prove “injury” to humans. Damages, when awarded, went to compensate the human plaintiff, not to restore the natural object. He argued that natural objects themselves should be eligible to be plaintiffs (represented, of course, by human trustees or guardians). Furthermore, the natural objects should benefit directly from a favorable judgment – funds should go to restoring the damage wrought. Stone drew an analogy to the legal status of “incompetents,” such as children or senile elders, who may not be able to articulate their interests: guardians can make informed judgments about those interests and represent them in court.

As it happened, a highly pertinent case was before the Supreme Court at the time. In Sierra Club v. Morton, argued in 1971, the Sierra Club tried to stop Walt Disney Enterprises from building a ski resort in a pristine California valley called Mineral King. The Court decided that the Sierra Club itself lacked standing, although it could sue on behalf of its members, who could claim they suffered recreational or aesthetic injuries (for example, from the lost opportunity to hike in the area).

Serendipitously, Justice William O. Douglas had been slated to write the preface for an issue of the Southern California Law Review, and Stone had rushed his article into that issue, hoping that the justice would read it. The strategy worked: Douglas dissented, echoing Stone’s thesis. “Contemporary public concern for protecting nature’s ecological equilibrium should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation,” he wrote. “This suit would therefore be more properly labeled as Mineral King v. Morton.”

For a time, the idea appeared to gain some currency. In 1973, the Endangered Species Act became law, including a provision for “citizen suits” on behalf of listed species. The provision, Professor Callicott has argued, grants de facto standing to the endangered wildlife (although this view is controversial). In any case, the law implicitly recognized the worth of life that has no instrumental use for people.

In 1974, Laurence Tribe, the prominent Harvard law professor, elaborated on Stone’s reasoning in an article for the Yale Law Journal. He wrote that the legal system’s focus on human injuries reinforced anthropocentric values, creating a vicious circle that could further increase callousness to other life forms: “What the environmentalist may not perceive is that, by couching his claim in terms of human self-interest – by articulating environmental goals wholly in terms of human needs and preferences – he may be helping to legitimate a system of discourse which so structures human thought and feeling as to erode, over the long run, the very sense of obligation which provided the initial impetus for his own protective efforts.”

In 2008, Francisco Benzoni, then a business professor at Duke, published an article in the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum, citing Tribe’s paper and reviving the point. “The current jurisprudence on standing embeds a value theory without any articulation or discussion about whether that’s the value theory we should adopt,” says Benzoni.

In the intervening years, a number of lawsuits have named nonhumans, usually animals, as plaintiffs. The rulings have been inconsistent. In one oft-cited case, Palila v. Hawaii, in 1988, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals explicitly endorsed the standing of a bird, writing that it “has legal status and wings its way into federal court as a plaintiff in its own right.” In 2004, however, the same court (but different judges) dismissed that statement as nonbinding “rhetorical flourishes.”

The need to frame arguments in terms of their human effects has led to some almost comically contorted claims. In Animal Welfare Institute v. Kreps, in 1977, several environmentalist groups sued to stop US firms from importing baby sealskins from South Africa, asserting that their members suffered aesthetic, recreational, and educational losses from the brutal deaths of the seals. One of the members announced a plan to visit South Africa. Remarkably, the groups won the case on appeal. But some who applaud the outcome question the method.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, just sue in the name of the seals,” says Stone, the author of the seminal paper on rights for nature. “The seals are being bludgeoned to death and somebody’s saying, ‘I want to be seeing seals.’ That’s not what it’s about. It’s a very backwards way of getting the case into court.”

Some champions of nature’s rights see a glimmer of promise in a recent ruling. In the 2004 case Cetacean Community v. Bush, about the effect of the Navy’s use of sonar on whales and dolphins, the Ninth Circuit, which is one level below the Supreme Court, denied standing to the creatures. However, the opinion left an opening, noting that “nothing in the text of Article III [of the US Constitution] explicitly limits the ability to bring a claim in federal court to humans.” It would be up to Congress, the judge suggested, to stipulate that the nonhuman life under a law’s protection has standing to sue. Some environmentalists, such as the staff at the Center for Earth Jurisprudence, now hope Congress can be persuaded to do just that – and their ideal legislation would not be limited to animals, either.

Among scholars with environmentalist sympathies, there is vigorous debate over whether standing for natural objects is the most sensible approach to defending ecosystems. After all, it’s possible to enlarge the scope of our concern and protection without granting legal rights per se. Rights advocates contend that presenting legal cases in terms of human impacts is too anthropocentric, but critics invert that logic. They say we are projecting onto nature our assumptions about its interests. Ultimately, in their view, even the most radical environmentalist embodies human values, and we should just say so.

Richard Stewart, a law professor at New York University, believes that inanimate objects such as trees and rivers do not have interests or values. Rather, he says, the argument really concerns “human ideas about what’s good for nature.”

The distinction can be subtle. It doesn’t mean we must diminish the worth we assign to nature; it just means acknowledging that we as a society are assigning the value. We could, for example, liberalize standing for humans – make it easy for people to sue to protect nature, without granting official standing to the natural objects. If we could sue to preserve a valley because developing it offends our moral sensibilities, this would indicate that nature matters beyond its strictly instrumental uses. But, according to this perspective, it matters to us humans, not in some transcendent way that is independent of our judgments.

Indeed, some critics ask, how do we know what nature prefers? Perhaps Mineral King wanted to host a ski resort, Mark Sagoff has suggested; perhaps a beach wants to welcome tourists, or a river wants to make electricity. As Sagoff puts it, “Old Man River might want to do something for a change, other than just rolling along.”

Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow is a contributing writer for Ideas. She can be reached at rebecca.tuhusdubrow@gmail.com