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:

Gas industry no longer must comply with stricter air quality guidelines!

Deadline for policy reversal looms
TAKE ACTION TODAY

The facts: In December, 2010, a policy document was put in place by DEP, advising air quality professionals responsible for permitting of gas industry compressors and other sites to consider the aggregation (total toxic accumulation) of air emission sources, as opposed to just permitting each site based on the emissions of that single-point source of pollutants.

On February 26, 2011 – this policy was rescinded by the Corbett administration. The new policy advises air quality permitting staff to look ONLY at individual pollution-emitting sites rather than the cumulative impacts the gas industry will have on PA’s air quality.

The problem: Due to the topography of our region, we already have poor air quality. With the increasing presence of the gas industry, a change for the worse is certainly headed our way. A variety of emissions are emitted at compressor sites: NOx, CO2, VOC, Formaldehyde, PM10, Ethane, Methane, Propane, I-butane, n-butane, Non Methane Hydrocarbons, Heavy Non Methane and Non Ethane Hydrocarbons, etc.

Compressors will grow in number and size as the gas fields grow. They will emit a mix that can create ground level ozone that will regularly be held in place by the air inversion factor we see in our valleys and hollows, including the Susquehanna River Valley, where many of you live.

What might this mean to your family, especially children, the elderly and those with respiratory challenges?

The solution: DEP must be made to rescind the recent order and reinstate tighter controls. Your participation in this public comment process is critical. Please take action today. Below is a template with the address and necessary subject line information. Please write to the Environmental Engineer Manager, Mr. Trivedi at: vtrivedi@state.pa.us 

The final deadline day is May 26, 2011. He prefers emails but you can send real mail to him at:

Virendra Trivedi, Environmental Engineer Manager
New Source Review Section
Division of Permits
Bureau of Air Quality
12th Floor
Rachel Carson State Office Building
PO Box 8468
Harrisburg PA 17105-8468

Marcellus Shale advisory board members rack up violations

Published: Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 12:00 AM     Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 6:38 A By DONALD GILLILAND, The Patriot-News

Eight of the drilling companies with representatives on the Pennsylvania governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission were cited with environmental violations last year. One of them led the state in violations. All of them contributed to Gov. Tom Corbett’s campaign.  That lends some ammunition to environmentalists’ complaint that Corbett populated the commission henhouse with industry foxes favored for their largesse rather than careful business practices. Industry officials say the representatives bring valuable expertise and talent to the panel.

According to an analysis of violations from the Department of Environmental Protection conducted by Clean Water Action, an environmental group, the companies represented on the governor’s commission accounted for 42 percent of all drilling violations last year — 514 out of a total 1,227.  “It’s pretty shocking,” said Myron Arnowitt, Clean Water Action’s state director. “Some of the very worst companies are on the commission.”  With 174 violations, Chief Oil & Gas led the state last year; Chief’s vice president of government and regulatory affairs, Terry Bossert, sits on the commission. Attempts to contact Chief for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. Chesapeake Energy had the third-highest number of violations at 132; Chesapeake’s vice president of government relations, Dave Spigelmyer, was appointed to the commission, but chose to step off prior to the beginning of its work.  Other companies with violations serving on the commission are: East Resources (74 violations), Exxon Mobil (66), Range Resources (32), Chevron (16), EQT (15) and Consol (5).  The violations range from administrative oversights to illegal discharge of industrial waste. About one in six wells had problems.

“We’re concerned that some of the folks on the commission are really part of the problem, and we don’t see how they’re going to be part of the solution,” Arnowitt said.

Companies represented on the commission also donated more than $790,000 to Corbett’s campaign, he said. Ray Walker of Range Resources is serving on the commission as the representative of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group he chairs.

“The commission’s objective is to develop a comprehensive, strategic proposal for the responsible and environmentally sound development of Marcellus Shale,” said the coalition’s spokesman, Travis Windle. “Having subject matter experts — like Ray Walker and others — whose understanding of these highly technical issues is second to none only makes sense.” Range is also widely recognized as one of the most environmentally responsible of all the companies drilling in Pennsylvania. It was Range that told DEP the state’s regulations had to change or its rivers would be destroyed.
That’s not good enough for Clean Water Action.  It’s one of 17 groups that plans to stage a rally outside the commission’s meeting at the Rachel Carson Building in Harrisburg at noon today. The groups are calling for the governor to disband the commission unless citizens groups are given seats at the table. “The rally is really to address the fact — from our perspective — [that] the makeup of the commission is not what it should be to address the problems Marcellus Shale drilling has brought to the state,” Arnowitt said.

Arnowitt was part of an April 13 meeting between environmental groups and both the governor’s energy executive and the DEP secretary. The groups were denied seats on the board, but the officials asked them to supply specific ideas of how to incorporate more public comment into the proceedings. That has not been done. “We’re still putting together ideas,” Arnowitt said. “We’re happy to talk more about how to include more input, but that’s a separate question.”

That disparity between public and private action is telling, said Chad Saylor, spokesman for Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, who leads the commission.The proceedings are open and transparent, he said, and public comment is still welcome.


To read this article in full online, click here:

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/04/gas_panel_members_rack_up_viol.html



Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission challenged on environmental issues at first meeting

Alright, I apologize up front for this being rather lengthy but I really feel that the information being provided here and the comments below are worth reading through slowly and considering carefully when trying to figure out which side of this debate you want to fall on. I know many of you already have your minds made up and any of you who are living in areas where the drilling is heavy know this is not all coming up roses the way they keep telling us it is or will be.

Published: Friday, March 25, 2011, 6:44 PM     Updated: Friday, March 25, 2011, 7:05 PM

Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley opened the first meeting of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission Friday with an idyllic vision of what Pennsylvania could become in 20 or 30 years “if we make the right decisions today.” Brain-drain” and “rust belt” would be phrases of the past. “Tens of thousands” of people would be working in the natural gas industry, “and thousands more working in related industries like water purification.” There would be “open spaces and family farms that have passed from generation to generation because foreclosure was avoided today.” Cawley’s vision was reitterated by most of the other commission members, whose introductory remarks were punctuated with two mantras: “we need to do this right” and “we need to find science-based and fact-based solutions to environmental issues.”
Even the environmental members of the commission echoed those sentiments. With one exeption. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation stepped up with a list of specific environmental concerns …. “CBF would like to draw attention to the fact that Pennsylvania’s recently crafted Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load does not currently account for the cumulative increases in the nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment loads generated by the natural gas industry, an omission that will need to be addressed,” said staff attorney LeeAnn Murray. “CBF also notes that DEP currently reviews permits for gas extraction on a permit by permit basis without viewing the potential comprehensive cumulative impacts resulting from increases in sediment loads from erosion and post-construction runoff from roads, wellpads, pipelines and other infrastructure.” “It is issues like these that we believe may have an impact on water quality,” she said, “and with recent scientific studies indicating that water quality is affected by gas extraction activities we hope to discuss methods of reducing such impacts.” … She said the foundation is “looking forward to discussing topics involving: shallow gas migration, the ultimate fate and risk of contamination from frackwater, documentation and tracking of waste products, inadequate bonding laws, setbacks, fines, well pads siting issues, floodplain concerns, an exploration of alternative fracking methodologies that may have less environmental and health impacts and a funding source…whether a fee, assessment or, tax, which compensates PA for the extraction of a natural resource and allows citizens of the Commonwealth to utilize the money for local impacts and environmental improvements.” Murray was by no means the only commission member to address environmental concerns, but the Chesapeake Bay Foundation representative was the only person at the table willing to jostle Gov. Corbett’s apple cart from the start.
Outside the meeting, representatives of more activist environmental groups complained about not being appointed to the commission. Even the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which works to clean up the water flowing into the world’s largest estuary, “is not involved in shale issues up to the eyeballs like the rest of us,” said Nathan Sooy of Clean Water Action. But it appears — at least at the moment — that the activist environmentalists do trust the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to be a torch bearer for their concerns. “They have a perspective to this that’s a lot bigger than Pennsylvania,” said Virginia Cody, an activist from Wyoming County. But the foundation has not been given one of the leading roles in the “working groups” expected to do most of the work between now and July, when the commission is supposed to give the governor its recommendations.
Lt. Gov. Cawley appointed Michael Krancer, Acting Secretary of DEP, as chair of the working group on “public health, safety and environmental protection; vice-chair is Cynthia Carrow of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.
When asked about the industry-leaning make-up of the commission after the meeting, Cawley said, “This really isn’t about the make-up of the commission, but the information we get. I suspect and hope we will hear even more from environmentalists.” When asked if there would be an opportunity for the public to at least observe or listen to the meetings of the working groups, Cawley said, “I’m sure.
To read this article online an access the links within the text, click here:

http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2011/03/marcellus_shale_advisory_commi_1.html

Below are comments and thoughts from Anne with the Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA). Please take the time to read through this, especially if these issues are new to you.

COMMENTS: About the above article, take with lots of salt grains.   I highlighted some specific sections and will comment on these here.

(1) Consider this comment: “Brain-drain” and “rust belt” would be phrases of the past. “Tens of thousands” of people would be working in the natural gas industry, “and thousands more working in related industries like water purification.” There would be “open spaces and family farms that have passed from generation to generation because foreclosure was avoided today.”
If the Governor cuts support for PA’s educational institutions, just how does that stave off the brain drain?

As I said in past messages to this email list concerning jobs: the gas industry is hiring retired members of the region’s governmental and regulatory agency elite – or in some cases not waiting that long and just hiring them away from those jobs. That’s not bringing new jobs to those who need them. So far the majority of the newly-hired from the ranks of the non-retired unemployed are not family-friendly jobs. Because of overtime pay for working long shifts and/or having no days off within a week, the take home money may be family-sustaining. But the worker doesn’t get quality time to spend with his/her family.

Regarding open spaces and family farms, consider what family would want to remain on their land  – much less farm it – if the gas industry ruins their source(s) of fresh water. Some of those who have leased large farms for drilling have said, should their wells become contaminated, they will take their royalty money and move away. That’s one way to maintain open spaces. But I don’t think that’s what the Governor intended when he mentioned maintaining open spaces.

(3) Consider the comment: “we need to find science-based and fact-based solutions to environmental issues.”
Without unbiased scientists on the Commission, the likelihood of getting unbiased science to use in decision-making is close to zero. See below my comment about the one professional scientist on the Commission – Terry Engelder. He’s a legitimate geologist with a credible academic track record of relevant research and publications. BUT, and this is a really big “but” – he should not be considered unbiased regarding Marcellus Shale matters because of his public statements and his funding sources.

The Commission needs more scientists – those without industry ties and those with expertise in environmental and health science. One industry-funded geologist is not enough for any good scientific input from this commission.  It’s a good thing that the representative from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation spoke up for the need to assess comprehensive and cumulative impacts. That’s something any good scientist would say right out of the gate. However, looking at impacts comprehensively and cumulatively should not be limited only to erosion and sedimentation issues.


(4) Here’s something to keep in mind about Michael Krancer, the chair of the working group on public health, safety and environmental protection – who also happens to be the acting head of DEP. His contribution to Mr. Corbett’s campaign for Governor and the Republican party was in excess of $200,000 (see: http://www.followthemoney.org/database/StateGlance/contributor.phtml?d=22286044). Money buys influence and power.


(5) Don’t forget what constituencies make up the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Here’s a copy of what I said in a previous email about this group. The subject heading from that email is: “Governor Corbett creates system to marginalize regulatory control over gas drilling – putting big business interests over public’s protection”, dated 3/13/11. I have added additional information below.


Commission members

Boldface type indicate members with business and/or gas industry ties that I know of (14). Underlined names are those who represent organizations with at least some environmental focus (4). DEP is not considered an environmental organization; it is a regulatory agency. There is only one scientist on this commission, Terry Engelder, who acknowledges receiving funding from the gas industry and has repeatedly supported the benefits of drilling, minimizing environmental impacts. Important environmentally-protective regulatory agencies noticeably absent from this commission are  Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and PA Fish & Boat Commission. It’s also noteworthy that there are several Corbett appointees to state positions, such as Patrick Henderson, Governor’s Energy Executive and Mike Krancer, Acting Secretary of DEP (see #4 above). One would expect these individuals to support the Governor’s perspectives.

Terry Pegula, who has no affiliation listed for him, used to own East Resources (a major drilling company in the Marcellus Shale). Pegula sold East to a Dutch Company – Royal Dutch Shell – but he’s still listed as an employee of East. Campaign contribution records show Mr. Pegula donated $100,500 to Governor Corbett’s campaign, and his wife, listed as an employee of East Resources (parent company Royal Dutch Shell) donated $180,500 to the campaign. For details, see:
and the links within this page:

It’s also noteworthy that Mr. Pegula has donated millions to Penn State and has been quoted when asked what the would tell Penn State Students: “

I would tell students that this contribution could be just the tip of the iceberg, the first of many such gifts, if the development of the Marcellus Shale is allowed to proceed”(see:http://onwardstate.com/2010/09/18/pegula-marcellus-shale-development-good-for-students/). Studies touting the economic benefits from Marcellus Shale development that have been published under the aegis of Penn State and/or by Penn State faculty, have come under fire for inadequate data leading to faulty conclusions. See the following sites:

(2) Critique: (“Penn State Admits Gas Study Flaws”): http://www.northcentralpa.com/article/penn-state-admits-gas-study-flaws


It has also been said such publications from Penn State should be considered in the light of institutional bias toward the natural gas industry. If only the contributions from Mr. Pegula are considered here, there is certainly evidence that this could be the case.


Anne

PA DEP Fines Pennsylvania General Energy Co. LLC $28,960 for Illegal Surfactant Discharge

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

Dept. of Environmental Protection

Commonwealth News Bureau

Room 308, Main Capitol Building

Harrisburg PA., 17120

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

02/2/2011

CONTACT:

Daniel T. Spadoni, Department of Environmental Protection North-central Regional Office

570-327-3659

DEP Fines Pennsylvania General Energy Co. LLC $28,960 for Illegal Surfactant Discharge to Pine Creek in Lycoming County

Incident Occurred at a Marcellus Natural Gas Well Pad in Cummings Township

WILLIAMSPORT — The Department of Environmental Protection today announced that it has fined Pennsylvania General Energy Co. LLC (PGE) of Warren $28,960 for the illegal discharge of Airfoam HD, a surfactant, into Pine Creek in Lycoming County last March.

Surfactants are used by natural gas drillers to create a foam that will lift water and drill cuttings to the surface. Airfoam HD is approved by DEP for use by the industry.

“PGE responded immediately to this incident and fully cooperated with the department,” said DEP North-central Regional Director Nels Taber.

During the weekend of March 13 and 14, 2010, there was significant rainfall and snow melt that caused residual Airfoam in a Marcellus well bore to migrate to a spring on the hillside creating a white, foamy substance. The spring was not used as a source of drinking water.

A DEP investigation on March 15 verified that the material was flowing from the spring, down the hillside, under Pa. Route 44 via a storm drain, and into Pine Creek. At the time, the spring was flowing at an estimated 180 gallons per minute.

PGE began diverting foam from the storm drain in the road berm and later placed an absorbent boom across the spring run on the hillside, which prevented further discharges to Pine Creek.

No constituents of Airfoam HD were detected in Pine Creek.

The discharge was a violation of the Clean Streams Law, Solid Waste Management Act, and DEP’s oil and gas regulations.

The fine was deposited into the fund that supports DEP’s oil and gas permitting and enforcement programs.

For more information, call 570-327-3659 or visit http://www.depweb.state.pa.us.

DEP Makes Oil and Gas Operations More Transparent

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection

Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

11/1/2010

CONTACT:
Jamie Legenos, Department of Environmental Protection
717-787-1323
 
DEP Makes Oil and Gas Operations More Transparent with New Online Resources

Information on Well Production, Waste Products, and Violations Now Online

HARRISBURG — For the first time, Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry production and compliance information is available online as part of the commonwealth’s ongoing effort to make the industry’s operations more transparent.

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said the oil and gas public reporting website, which debuted today, allows access to production statistics for oil and gas wells in the state, including historical data. A new, separate webpage also lets users view violation data, by operator, as well as the department’s enforcement measures.

“The public reporting website will create much needed transparency that allows for citizens and policymakers to be aware of the increasing amount of natural gas being generated in Pennsylvania,” said Hanger. “This is an industrial activity that is taking place widely throughout the state. It’s important that families know what is happening in their backyards and whether or not the company drilling there has a good track record of safe and environmentally sound operations.”

The public reporting website, www.marcellusreporting.state.pa.us/ogrereports/, enables users to search all oil and natural gas production data by operator, county or a specific well number. Information on industry-generated waste can be viewed by operator, county or processing facility.

Act 15 of 2010 required Marcellus operators to report to DEP their well production totals from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010 by Aug. 15. Subsequent reports on Marcellus production are due every six months. All other oil and gas production besides Marcellus wells must be reported annually.

“It is absolutely essential for the oil and gas industry to be excellent in their operations to protect public health and our environment,” Hanger said. “This information will allow the public to see which operators are leading the way in a safe and environmentally conscious manner and which ones need to address their operating procedures.”

The violation, inspection, and enforcement information is available for 2008 through 2010 to date, including resolved violations for the three-year span. Information for 2010 is available year-to-date or monthly. To view the violation reports, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us and click on the button that says “Gas Well Violations.”

For more information about oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us and click on “Oil and Gas.”