PennFuture files federal lawsuit against Marcellus Shale driller Ultra Resources, Inc. for violations of federal and state air pollution laws

Harrisburg, PA (July 21, 2011) – Citizens for Pennsylvania‟s Future (PennFuture) filed a lawsuit today in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Ultra Resources, Inc., for air pollution at its Marcellus Shale drilling sites, which violates the federal Clean Air Act, Pennsylvania‟s State Implementation Plan (the “Pennsylvania SIP”), and Pennsylvania‟s New Source Review regulations. PennFuture also filed a formal request with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for all records of air pollution at drilling sites throughout the Commonwealth.
“Ultra‟s drilling operations in Tioga and Potter counties are emitting dangerous and illegal air pollution and operating without the required permits,” said Jan Jarrett, president and CEO of PennFuture. “Unless gas drillers operating in Pennsylvania control the air pollution from their operations, air quality will deteriorate, putting public health at risk.

“The noxious air pollution is widespread in the two county area of the Marshlands Play,” continued Jarrett. “The operations include natural gas wells, pipelines, compressor stations, and other equipment, all of which are connected by pipeline to a Metering and Regulation Station, also constructed and operated by Ultra, where the gas produced at Ultra’s wells is adjusted for pressure, measured, and delivered to an interstate pipeline. Ultra constructed the operations without the necessary permits – specifically a permit required by Pennsylvania’s New Source Review (NSR) regulations, and without achieving the lowest achievable emissions rate or purchasing emissions reductions credits. The company is emitting large amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the air, creating serious health risks for anyone living downwind from the operations.

“The laws were passed for a reason – to protect the health of our families,” continued Jarrett. “According to the United States EPA, even short-term NOx exposures, ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours, cause adverse respiratory effects including airway inflammation in healthy people and increased respiratory symptoms in people with asthma. And this air pollution also leads to more fine particle pollution, which can cause heart attacks and other deadly illnesses.

“But this appears to be business as usual for many drillers,” continued Jarrett. “A study out of Fort Worth (TX) recently showed that the NOx pollution just from the average compressor engine there is about 60 tons per year. And with drilling going like gangbusters here in Pennsylvania, that same kind of pollution from all the operations would create serious public health problems, and destroy any ability of Pennsylvania to meet air quality standards. We’ve also seen the formerly pristine air in Wyoming now more dangerous than that in Los Angeles, thanks to massive drilling. We need to stop this problem here and now.“We are also asking DEP to open the books on its assessment of air pollution at other drilling operations throughout the Commonwealth,” said Jarrett. “We cannot and will not allow the drillers to operate without meeting our clean air rules.”
Copies of the PennFuture court filing and Right to Know request may be downloaded at www.pennfuture.org
To read a copy of the Right to Know Request, click here:

Stephanie Hallowich in National Geographic

Stephanie Hallowich has had one of the worst experiences with natural gas drilling in PA and she has also been one of the loudest voices, speaking out for her family and others in the same situations. Her story was picked up by National Geographic and can be found at the below link.

She had this to say about it:

Our story went on National Geographic today.  It will take awhile to get through.  I needed a few tissues to get through it.  Please feel free to forward it to as many people as possible!

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/10/photogalleries/101022-energy-shale-gas-drilling-pictures/#/energy-marcellus-shale-environment-hallowich01_27145_600x450.jpg

I was fortunate enough to meet Stephanie earlier this year while visiting and touring Ron Gulla’s farm in Washington County, PA. We stopped by Stephanie’s home and I was horrified by the smell first off and the close proximity of  dehydrator tanks and a compression station, not to mention the wells…all within a 100 yards or less of her home. I couldn’t imagine being her family or having children trying to play in their backyard near this industry. You can find out more about Stephanie and her family at the above article from National Geographic or check out Faces of Frackland.

THANK YOU STEPHANIE!

Up In the Air

I made an announcement shortly after Memorial Day weekend, that I would be putting my home in DISH on the market.  This decision was made by my family after several instances of both of my children having nosebleeds during the night.  These nosebleeds correlated with strong odors and spikes in the chemicals being emitted by the natural gas compression station a quarter mile from our home.  We are still planning on putting our home on the market by the end of August.  This is a tough decision, but to ensure the safety of my family, it is something that I will do.
A year ago, you essentially could not be outside for more than a couple of hours without being forced into your home by the noxious odors.  In the few months prior to Memorial Day the odor events were limited to the late evening/early morning timeframe and happened a few nights a week for a couple of hours.  After the Memorial Day incident, the TCEQ brought a canister for me to keep at my home for instances of the strong odor, I still have this canister.  There have been periodic odor events over the past couple of months; however, they now only last for a brief time.  By the time I get the canister ready to take the sample, the odor is gone.  Unfortunately, my air conditioning system sucks the odor in the house, and the odor sometimes lingers longer inside than outside.  So over the past year, the situation has improved tremendously.  Is it enough? I am not sure.
This announcement got a great deal more attention than I had anticipated.  I had to make sure that those who know me and support me, knew why I was making this decision.  I did not want everyone to find out when the for sale sign went up.  There have been a flurry of media stories that have been taken by some to suggest that I will be resigning as mayor and moving from DISH immediately.  Another report actually had me being forced out, which was wishful thinking for some.  I have a great group of citizens here in DISH that have been extremely supportive of me and know that I will support and defend them to the end, and it will be difficult should I end up leaving.  I will be better about keeping everyone in the loop so there are no misunderstandings of my intentions.
When me and my wife made the decision to put our home on the market, we had seen both of our children having several massive nosebleed during the night.  These nosebleeds coincided with the strong odor that filled our community.  At this point we contemplated moving immediately and figuring things out after that.  Since that time neither of my children have nosebleeds at that level and only a few minor nosebleeds and none at night.  So we are not the motivated sellers we once were.  However, do to the continuing problems and little faith in our regulatory agencies, we will be putting the house on the market.  Like most anyone reading this, we can not put it on the market tomorrow.  For the past 3 years I have worked around 80 hours a week and therefore the home has been neglected.  So there are several projects that were half completed, and need to be finished before we can market it.  I am not anticipating a big market for the home, but if by some miracle it should sell, I would then have to resign as mayor, but not a minute before.  I will likely not leave it on the market indefinitely either, it will sell, or it will not.
Every time that I have given either the operators or the regulatory agencies a pat on the back, something bad immediately happens.  So it may be foolish, but I have some level of optimism currently about this facility.  Several things have been accomplished to make this a better facility, and I am certain that no other facility has as many controls in place as this one does.  But with the massive size of the facility, I am not sure if it can be…good, just better than the others.  I am sure there is more than one photo of me on a break room dartboard, and I am also sure these companies have unwillingly spent a great deal of money, but the conditions have improved greatly for the citizens of this community.
Some were also led to believe that I would simply disappear from DISH, and from this matter all together, which again is wishful thinking.  Whether I live in DISH breathing chemicals, or somewhere out of this area, I will always be involved in this subject in some capacity.  In the next couple of month, I will be making an announcement about part of what will be in my future.  For the past five years this has taken up a great deal of my time, and we have somewhat been the poster child of what can happen to a community.  Therefore, it is impossible for me to simply walk away.  As always I thank those who have supported me through this decision.
As always, please pass this on or post on your blogs or websites.
Calvin Tillman
Mayor, DISH, TX
(940) 453-3640

“Those who say it can not be done, should get out of the way of those that are doing it”

Neighbors take a stand on noise, odor of gas drilling

Sunday, March 14, 2010

By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mount Pleasant residents Dencil Backus, JoAnne Wagner and Bill Forrest stand near two “condensate” tanks, which are part of a compressor station complex in the village of Hickory , in Mount Pleasant , Washington County.

Just outside a fence enclosing a field on Debbie Hanes’ farm near Hickory in Washington County sits a noisy, smelly, two-story natural gas compressor station, running 24/7 and lit up at night like a minor league baseball park.

The rumbling noise of the four compressors in what’s known as the Fulton Station is audible a little more than 700 feet away at Ms. Hanes’ home in Mount Pleasant and to other residents of Washington Road up to a half-mile away.

MarkWest Energy Partners built the boxy, steel-clad building in 2008 for $4.4 million to collect gas from then-burgeoning Marcellus shale drilling and push it through a growing pipeline system to a processing plant eight miles to the southeast in Houston .

The station, which was expanded from two to four compressors last year without public notification, emits an industrial chemical odor into the bucolic countryside. At least once a day the operation produces a startling “belch” — a pressure release from valves located less than 50 feet from Ms. Hanes’ property line that is loud enough to spook humans, as well as her donkeys and horses in adjacent fields.

“We have farmland all around our property and the compressor station creates a huge change to the character of this neighborhood,” said Ms. Hanes, a member of a Mount Pleasant citizens committee that seeks more local input into future drilling operations. The committee has proposed an amendment to the local zoning ordinance aimed at regulating some of the noise, lighting, odor and air pollution impact associated with Marcellus shale gas drilling facilities.

Read the rest of this article here:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10073/1042737-58.stm#ixzz0iBughgSV

Mayor of Dish, TX to speak in Elmira, NY.

The  Mayor of Dish, TX, Calvin Tillman,  will be in Elmira Heights this Saturday, Feb 20th to speak out about the air and water contamination problems they are having and have had in Dish due to natural gas drilling in the Barnett Shale.

The presentation will be held from 8:30am to 10:55am and has been relocated to the Heights Theater at 210 E. 14th Street in Elmira Heights. It is free and open to the public.

DEP – Notice of new rulemaking for gas well construction

The following is an extract of a DEP release from January. You may already have seen this, but might not have considered officially commenting to DEP on their rulemaking. I urge you and any organization you represent to do so. Gas industry representatives may attempt to weaken or delete some – or all – of these regulations. Public input will help to support DEP’s efforts to put these regulations in place.


In order to protect Pennsylvania’s residents and environment from the impact of increased natural gas exploration across the state, Governor Edward G. Rendell announced today that the commonwealth is strengthening its enforcement capabilities…. … DEP’s work to amend Pennsylvania’s oil and gas regulations will strengthen well construction standards and define a drilling company’s responsibility for responding to gas migration issues, such as when gas escapes a well or rock formation and seeps into homes or water wells. Specifically, he said the new regulations will:

• Require the casings of Marcellus Shale and other high-pressure wells to be tested and constructed with specific, oilfield-grade cement;
• Clarify the drilling industry’s responsibility to restore or replace water supplies affected by drilling;
• Establish procedures for operators to identify and correct gas migration problems without waiting for direction from DEP;
• Require drilling operators to notify DEP and local emergency responders immediately of gas migration problems;
• Require well operators to inspect every existing well quarterly to ensure each well is structurally sound, and report the results of those inspections to DEP annually; and
• Require well operators to notify DEP immediately if problems such as over-pressurized wells and defective casings are found during inspections.

“These new draft regulations, which were developed through open meetings with experts in the industry, are designed to give Pennsylvanians peace of mind by bringing our state’s requirements up to par with other major gas producing states or, as in the case of the well casing requirements, to a level that is even more rigorous,” said Governor Rendell.

The new regulations will be offered for public comment on Jan. 29 before going through DEP’s formal rulemaking process.

In commenting to DEP about these new regulations, consider whether it is appropriate for  the industry to police itself when there have been so many documented instances of failure to do so in Pennsylvania and other gas-producing states.
Specifically, the regulations noted above that say the following are situations where a regulatory agency may be a more appropriate entity to oversee this aspect of drilling in order to protect the public and the environment.
– “Require well operators to inspect every existing well quarterly to ensure each well is structurally sound, and report the results of those inspections to DEP annually.”
– “Require well operators to notify DEP immediately if problems such as over-pressurized wells and defective casings are found during inspections.”
Consider the following with regard to the regulation that says: “Clarify the drilling industry’s responsibility to restore or replace water supplies affected by drilling.”
If a home’s water supply is damaged in quality and/or quantity by gas drilling – whether the supply comes from a private or public source – it should be replaced in toto. It’s unacceptable to replace only drinking water but not water that is needed for other household purposes, such as washing, or for irrigation. A property’s value can be significantly diminished by lack or water or water that is polluted. It appears that the regulation on this matter would insure appropriate replacement. Public input would underscore the importance of this regulation.
Consider whether the mechanism to determine whether a water supply has been adversely affected by drilling is fair to the property owner.
In order to comment on these regulations, here’s what DEP says.
Interested persons are invited to submit comments, suggestions or
objections regarding the proposed amendments to the Bureau of Oil and Gas, P. O. Box
8765, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8765 (express mail: Rachel Carson State Office Building,
5th Floor, 400 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101-2301).
Comments submitted by facsimile will not be accepted.
Comments, suggestions or objections must be received by the Department by March 2, 2010.
Electronic Comments: Comments may be submitted electronically to the Department at
ra-epoilandgas@state.pa.us and must also be received by the Department by March 2,
2010.
A subject heading of the proposal and a return name and address must be included
in each transmission. If the sender does not receive an acknowledgement of electronic
comments within 2 working days, the comments should be retransmitted to ensure
receipt.
To read the original announcement, click here:

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/newsroom/14287?id=3115&typeid=1

To read the details of the rulemaking, deadline for public comments and where to send them, click here:

Largest Private Clean Air Fund in Texas Bans Nat’l Gas Projects

Stating that “it’s become impossible to ignore the incongruity of the claims of a ‘cleaner’ natural gas industry, versus the facts on the ground in our own backyard,” the grassroots directors of the largest private clean air fund in Texas have voted to suspend consideration of any further anti-pollution grants promoting the use of the increasingly controversial fuel and voiced support for a regional moratorium on new gas drilling….

… it’s become impossible to ignore the incongruity of the claims of a “cleaner” natural gas industry, versus the facts on the ground in our own backyard. Among the most important of those facts are:

1) The natural gas industry is poorly regulated.
2) The gas industry is adding to local air pollution problems.
3) The gas industry is consuming and contaminating large quantities of water.
4) The gas industry is abusing private property rights.

Could this be Pennsylvania in  few years?
To read the full article, click here:

http://campaign.constantcontact.com/render?v=0011-u4wRWTE7TQUNuwD0BlMyMjUJwF130yNEAAQBxmklz9AdoTvSlsUAegNg2cypcqJ_cI3Rx2fHV6NKZTwiB-vnUfTVdIEfjMLQMsbc9L71YAW0Y7uDQsU71ZZCvt_C-C