NCRO Weekely Report Nov 23rd-Dec 4th 2009

NORTHCENTRAL REGIONAL OFFICE-WILLIAMSPORT

WEEKS OF NOVEMBER 23-DECEMBER 4, 2009

Issues Requiring the Governor’s (or Governor’s staff) ACTION

Nothing new to report

Issues Requiring the Governor’s (or Governor’s staff) ATTENTION

Nothing new to report

Management and Productivity

Nothing new to report

Recovery Activities

Nothing new to report

What’s Hot/Major Actions

IntelliWatt Renewable Energy, Mount Carmel Township, Northumberland County: On Nov. 17, IntelliWatt submitted the complete response to the third deficiency letter sent by the Air Quality program for their plan approval application to construct a 12.5 megawatt wood biomass fired combustion turbine.  DEP staff provided guidance to IntelliWatt regarding the emissions calculations and suggested that IntelliWatt reduce carbon monoxide below 100 tons per year from the proposed project in order to move from a major to a minor facility.  Air Quality program staff is currently finalizing the technical review of the plan approval and hopes to submit a notice of intent to issue for publication within two weeks.  (Muhammad Zaman 570-327-0512)

First Quality Products, Wayne Township, Clinton County: On Nov. 16, the Air Quality Program received a plan approval application from First Quality Products for a new production line for adult incontinence products.  The volatile organic compounds and particulate matter emissions are major concerns for the proposed project.   Particulate matter emissions will be controlled by a three-stage, high-efficiency dust collector. (Muhammad Zaman 570-327-0512)

Susquehanna Health System/Williamsport Hospital, City of Williamsport, Lycoming County: Susquehanna Health submitted an Air Quality plan approval application for construction a 1.9 MW co-generation unit at its Williamsport campus.  The project has received a $1 million PEDA grant funded by ARRA.  The application review is complete and draft plan approval conditions sent to the Pa. Bulletin for public comment.  The notice should be published on Dec. 5.  Unless there are significant negative comments, the plan approval may be issued the week of Jan. 4, 2010.  (David Aldenderfer 570-327-3648)

Northeastern ITS LLC, Mercer, Venango, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield, Centre, Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Columbia, Schuylkill, Lehigh and Northampton Counties: On Nov. 30, the Watershed Management program received responses from Northeastern ITS to DEP’s Chapter 102/NPDES technical deficiency letter for this fiber optic line project.  Staff is presently reviewing these responses and completion is anticipated this week.  Eight of twelve Chapter 105/Water Obstruction and Encroachment permit applications were published in the Nov. 28 edition of the Pa. Bulletin.  The 30-day public comment period for these applications has now commenced.  (John Twardowski 570-321-6523)

White Pines Landfill, Pine Township, Columbia County: On Nov. 30, an employee of White Pines Corporation notified the Waste Management program that the Borough of Millville told the White Pines Landfill on Nov. 27 to cease discharging leachate to the borough’s sewage treatment plant.  The landfill was verbally informed by the borough that it was in violation of the Landfill Leachate Treatment Agreement by exceeding concentration levels for copper. White Pines has requested permission to temporarily truck leachate to the Montgomery Borough wastewater treatment facility and to store greater than 25 percent of total leachate capacity on-site, which DEP intends to approve.  The department will inform White Pines Corporation that if it cannot resolve the issues with Millville Borough, it will have to submit to DEP within 60 days a permit modification application with plans to modify its leachate treatment plan.  (Patrick Brennan 570-327-3651)

Sandy Ridge Wind LLC, Taylor and Rush Townships, Centre County, and Snyder Township, Blair County: On Nov. 23, the Watershed Management program held a public meeting and a public hearing on an NPDES stormwater construction permit application submitted by Sandy Ridge Wind LLC. About 50 people attended the two sessions with equal balance between supporters and opponents of the project. There were nine people who testified at the public hearing, with seven opposing the project and two in favor of it.  This permit application was submitted in June, and a second technical deficiency letter was sent to the applicant last week.  (David Garg 570-321-6581)

Potential Problems/Potential Major Actions

Emergency Response, Stevens Township, Bradford County: On Nov. 20, Emergency Response Team Member Dave Engle responded to a report of discoloration in Rockwell Creek in Stevens Township.  Engle determined that Johnson’s Quarry was disposing of saw yard dust in a manure impoundment on property owned by Salanka.  The impoundment was breached and discharging to Rockwell Creek.  Engle documented the release for compliance action and the incident was referred to the Water Management program for follow-up.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Emergency Response, Armenia Township, Bradford County: On Nov. 22, Assistant Emergency Response Manager John Erich responded to a 6,000 gallon spill of frack flow back water to the well pad by Fortuna Energy in Armenia Township.  Erich documented the release for compliance action and addressed control measures to stop the release from entering a wetland.  The incident was referred to the Oil and Gas program for follow-up.

(Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Good News/Major Accomplishments

Nelke #1 Orphan Gas Well Plugging and Abandonment Project, Delmar Township, Tioga County: Well cleanout operations have been in process with the service rig through Nov. 20.  The well bore has been cleaned out to about 4,000 feet deep.  Diagnostic logs were run and evaluated.  A mechanical plug was set at a depth of 4,000 feet and a cement plug placed on top.  The plugs appeared to stop the gas flow to the surface.  Plugging operations are currently shut down to monitor the well and plug seal.  Uphole plugging should resume Dec. 7.  (Bruce Jankura 814/342-8134)

GEC Enterprises Inc./Sandra Cooper, Richmond Township, Tioga County: On Nov. 18, the Waste Management program issued a $15,000 civil penalty to GEC Enterprises Inc. and Sandra Cooper for violations of the Pa. Solid Waste Management Act.  Sandra Cooper is the president of GEC Enterprises Inc. and GEC operates The Sign Shop located in Richmond Township. During a March complaint investigation at The Sign Shop, Waste Management staff observed the burning of solid waste in a burn barrel at the business and there was a container of hazardous waste that was not properly labeled.  James Cooper, president of The Sign Shop, informed DEP that hazardous waste generated at the facility is normally disposed at his brother’s body shop at another location or burned at his residence with his household trash, both of which constitute illegal disposal.  Samples were collected from the ash in the burn barrel and the analytical results indicated that toluene was present in the ash.  During the investigation, Waste Management staff found that toluene is used to clean painting equipment at the facility.  James Cooper eventually disposed of the ash from the burn barrel as a hazardous waste and all issues have been resolved at the site.  (James E. Miller 570-327-3431)

Francis J. Palo Inc., Lamar Township, Clinton County: On Nov. 18, the Waste Management program received a $1,652 civil penalty from Francis J. Palo Inc. for the unpermitted burning of solid waste.  While in the field on Sept. 16, Waste Management staff observed black smoke blowing from the old Valley Ag and Turf property in Lamar Township. During the investigation, DEP staff learned that employees of Francis J. Palo Inc. were burning solid waste in a burn barrel at the site.  Palo later informed DEP that the solid waste being burned was office waste from an office trailer that Palo was maintaining for the PennDOT roadway inspector.  Palo removed the burn barrel and disposed of the ash.  Additionally, Palo will be conducting training for its employees regarding unpermitted burning of solid waste.  (James E. Miller 570-327-3431)

Thomas Benjamin, Benton Township, Columbia County: On Dec. 3, the Waste Management program received the final payment of a $1,382 civil penalty from Thomas Benjamin for violations of the Pa. Solid Waste Management Act.  During an April complaint investigation at Benjamin’s property in Benton Township, DEP staff observed that Benjamin had dumped about 125 cubic yards of construction/demolition waste that consisted primarily of shingles and dry wall and had also burned solid waste.  Also, there were about 100 waste tires dumped on his property in another location.  Benjamin told DEP that the solid waste at the dump was from three separate roofing jobs.  He cleaned up the solid waste and disposed of it properly using a licensed waste hauler.  (James E. Miller 570-327-3431)

Outreach/Upcoming Events

Lycoming County Oil and Gas Committee Meeting, Loyalsock Township, Lycoming County: On Nov. 19, Emergency Response Manager Gerald McKernan attended the Lycoming County Oil and Gas Committee meeting at the Lycoming County Emergency Operations Center in Loyalsock Township.  The meeting focused on industry input on safety training for responders and event categorizing for response levels.  Industry representatives from Anadarko, Chief Oil and Gas, East Resources, KTO, Pa. General Energy, and Range Resources were represented at the meeting.  Several others sent letters of support.  The intent is to develop a training program for emergency service organizations responding to drilling and pipeline incidents.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Act 2

MK Express/Altmire Trucking Act 2 Site, College Township, Centre County: On July 23, an MK Express/Altmire Truck crashed on U.S. Route 322 during a heavy rainstorm and lost about 20 to 50 gallons of diesel fuel to the soil along the shoulder of the road.  Emergency personnel placed absorbent booms near stormwater drains to prevent any further contamination.  Minuteman Spill Response excavated more than 59 tons of contaminated material and five confirmatory soil samples were collected from the excavation.  All soil samples came back below DEP’s Statewide Health Standard, and an Act 2 relief of liability for the Statewide Health Standard for soil was granted on Nov. 25. (Randy Farmerie 570-327-3716)

Steam Valley Sunoco Act 2 Site, Lewis Township, Lycoming County: On Nov. 20, the Environmental Cleanup program approved a Remedial Action Completion Report submitted on behalf of Sunoco Inc. for the former Steam Valley Sunoco facility, which documented the remediation of a 1997 unleaded gasoline release. A Statewide Health Standard was attained for gasoline constituents in soil and groundwater, and an Act 2 relief of liability was granted for the regulated substances identified in the report.  (Steve Webster 570-327-3429)

NPDES Majors Backlog Status

Number of Overdue Permits-0

Number of Permits Issued This Week-0

Number of Permits Newly Expired This Week-0

(Chad Miller 570-327-3639)

Items for the DEP Planning Calendar

EQB Public Hearing—Outdoor Wood-Fired Boiler Regulations

December 3 at 1 p.m.

NCRO

I-99 Partners Meeting

December 10 at 10 a.m.

Patton Township Building

Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority LMIP Meeting

December 10 at 2 p.m.

NCRO

(Daniel Spadoni 570-327-3659)

Foundation alleges rubber-stamping, challenges 2 gas-drilling permits

Here is an article from the Sun Gazette written by David Thompson. I find it very entertaining in a demented way that the comments Everett makes about miles and miles of state land that no one can get to, is the exact point and reason that some folks are against drilling in these areas! The other comment that caught my eye was the idea that we should allow these companies some time to get their foot in the PA door before we go taxing them. I’m no expert, but last time I checked the gas and oil industry was the only only one in this country that was making any money during this  period of  economic recession and I just can’t bring myself though any logical thought process to understand why we should give them a break on some taxes for a few years. Maybe Yaw and Everett are afraid these companies won’t be able to afford it and they’ll up and leave the state in search of another Marcellus Shale? Somehow, I highly doubt that they have any intentions of leaving before they have taken what they came for and the possibility of them not having the funding for it? Please, I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry over that one.

P.S. How come the Democrat has no timely response?

Foundation alleges rubber-stamping, challenges 2 gas-drilling permits

Environmental group PennFutures and Chesapeake Bay Foundation officials recently called for state lawmakers to abandon plans to lease state land to gas drilling companies and instead raise money for the state by implementing a severance tax on gas removed anywhere in the state.

At least two local lawmakers disagreed on both counts.

“I’m still unconvinced for the need for a severance tax,” said state Rep. Garth Everett, R-Muncy. “Maybe (it can be implemented) in a few years when the industry is up and running and producing something.”

Everett said he wants to see the industry gain a foothold in the state, then study the impacts the industry has on other types of taxes such as the corporate net income tax.

State Sen. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock, agreed.

The industry should be allowed to develop before such a tax is implemented, Yaw said.

“I don’t think there is any question that down the road when the industry is established that there’ll be a tax,” he said. “I’ve talked to people in the industry. They expect it.”

Yaw said if there was the potential for any other job-producing industry to move to the state, they would be offered incentives such as tax breaks to come here.

“You can’t have an industry come in and then tax them to death,” he said. “Now is not the right time.”

“There’s not really a huge industry to tax,” Everett said. “Basically, today a severance tax would hurt the shallow well business in the western part of the state.”

Both Yaw and Everett said leasing state land for gas exploration should be done and can be done responsibly.

“I think it would be irresponsible if we didn’t lease some state land,” Everett said. “There is a humongous amount of state land in Pennsylvania that can be developed responsibly and I think it should be.”

“I think some people get confused between (the words) ‘state forest land’ and ‘state park,'” he said. “There is just miles and miles and miles of state forest land that nobody sees. You can’t get to it right now.”

“There’s no question there is a lot of activity and a lot of equipment and a lot of things that go on for a couple months,” Yaw said. “Once drilling is completed, those sites are reclaimed. The ones I’ve seen are grass.”

Yaw said he understands concern about land disturbance related to the building of pipeline infrastructure, but added that pipelines should be installed, when possible, along pre-existing rights-of-way such as roads and power lines.

The foundation recently filed a legal challenge to the issuance of erosion and sediment control permits by the state Department of Environmental Protection to gas-drilling companies in Tioga County.

Fortuna Energy Inc. was issued a permit to move earth related to the installation of a pipeline in Jackson Township. Ultra Resources Inc. received a permit for drilling operations in Gaines and Elk townships.

The foundation contends the state is jeopardizing the bay watershed by “rubber-stamping” permits without proper review.

Foundation attorney Matthew Royer said the DEP should restore review responsibility to the county Conservation Districts. The agency took over permit review responsibilities from the districts earlier this year.

“Conservation Districts have the local knowledge and experience to review permits and manage the program,” Royer said. “What we see here is a clear failure by DEP to meet fundamental review obligations. DEP should restore (review) authority to Conservation Districts.”

“I didn’t understand why the Conservation District folks were taken out of the loop,” Everett said. “The explanation (by the DEP) was that there was uneven enforcement from county to county, but I think Conservation District folks can be trained to put an extra pair of eyes and pair of boots on the ground.”

“I don’t have a problem with the Conservation Districts,” Yaw said. “My experience is they did a good job.”

Yaw added that both the DEP and Susquehanna River Basin Commission have “been very responsive” in streamlining their permitting process “without compromising the environment.”

State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, did not respond to the Sun-Gazette’s request for comment as of deadline for this report.

News on the CBF appeals to DEP and Water Pollution!

This is a must read article!

Group appeals DEP’s expedited permits for gas drilling
Thursday, September 10, 2009
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is challenging the state’s new expedited permitting process for Marcellus shale gas wells, claiming that it fails to police drilling and doesn’t protect streams from erosion and sedimentation runoff.

The foundation yesterday filed an appeal with the state’s Environmental Hearing Board of permits granted by the state Department of Environmental Protection to Fortuna Energy Inc. to drill in the Tioga State Forest in Tioga County.

Last week, the foundation filed similar appeals of two other DEP permits granted to Fortuna and Ultra Resources for Marcellus shale gas wells on private land in Tioga County.

All of those permits were granted by the DEP since April when it stripped County Conservation Districts of the authority to review gas well drilling erosion and sedimentation plans. The DEP, without public notice, also instituted an expedited permitting process that requires only an administrative review to determine if all permit paperwork has been submitted.

The new DEP permit requires no technical review of the environmental impacts on wetlands or streams by the state, which is illegal under state and federal clean streams law, according to Matt Royer, Chesapeake Bay Foundation attorney.

“The DEP is rubber-stamping permit applications without any independent environmental review,” Mr. Royer said. “And it’s putting Pennsylvania’s precious waters and streams at risk.”

He said winning the appeal would set a statewide precedent and require DEP to perform environmental reviews on each permit application.

Teresa Candori, a DEP spokeswoman, would not comment on the appeal.

When the DEP removed the Conservation Districts from the permitting process, it said the changes would consolidate permit review and inspection within the department’s regional oil and gas offices where 37 new inspectors had been hired to handle a flood of drilling permit applications for Marcellus shale wells.

But the Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water, a coalition of 36 environmental groups, immediately condemned the change as illegal because it was done without public notice and provided for no meaningful agency review of the drilling operations.

It’s estimated that Pennsylvania could have as much as 363 trillion cubic feet of natural gas worth as much as $1 trillion deep underground in the shale formations that underlie three-fourths of the state. The gas wells to tap those deposits are 5,000 to 8,000 feet deep and each uses up to 4 million gallons of pressurized, chemically treated water to crack or “frac” the shale and release the natural gas. The wastewater left over contains high levels of salts, dissolved solids and fracing chemicals.

Mr. Royer said the Tioga County Conservation District had approved an erosion and sedimentation plan for earth disturbance caused by construction of a single eight-acre well pad after doing field surveys of wetlands and stormwater runoff conditions in the state forest.

But in recent months the DEP has approved 13 amendments to that permit, including nine for additional well pads and three for impoundments for drilling waste water that authorized clearing 105 acres of timberland without conducting technical reviews of the plans or their cumulative effects on the forest or nearby streams.

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


Appealing for Permits

Below is a copy of a letter I received from one email list I belong to. It is a perfect example of what has been going on in my area. The gas companies move swiftly and because they know that if locals are informed of and given the choice, they will rebel against what is happening.  Therefore, these large companies with years of practice sweeping in over night and and jamming a foot in the door without having to deal with all the legalities and paperwork, are easily getting what they want.  A miss-informed, uneducated public. The few of us who are aware of how quickly this devastation is happening are struggling to get the word out and create a strong unified group of educated people who can work to prevent this kind of rushed and hap-hazard drilling.

Hi Folks:

“Wanted to let you know that, in last few days, I’ve been moving fast and furious on some E&S permits whose appeal period clocks were fast approaching midnight, and, thankfully, was able to beat that clock and file Notices of Appeal yesterday.  These appeals are challenges to the expedited permit review process.

On Friday afternoon of last week, I trekked up to Williamsport and reviewed 5 E&S control permits issued by DEP Northcentral Regional Office under the new “expedited permit review process.”  (Originally, Williamsport gave me a date of 8/26 for the file review, but I begged and pleaded and got the date moved up to last Friday so we’d have time to appeal the permits if warranted).  2 of these permits provided good fact senarios under which to challenge the permit process.  The trick was that the appeal periods on both of these permits ended yesterday (Monday, August 24).  So I went over the files carefully and drafted objections over the weekend, and CBF filed Notices of Appeals at the EHB yesterday.  Attached are the Notices of Appeals.

I am going back up to Williamsport tomorrow to look at 12 more files.  The appeal period for most of these permits expires September 8th, so there will be a little more time to assess these particular cases.  I’d be glad to update you all and talk further on what I find out following my file review tomorrow.

We will be issuing a press release announcing our appeals later in the week.

Here is a summary of each appeal:

The first is of a permit issued to Ultra Resources, Inc.  for earth disturbance activities in a 558 square mile project area known as the “Marshlands Play” in Tioga and Potter Counties .  The permit was issued 2 days after the application was received, without any technical review of plans.  It contains no stormwater calculations to analyze runoff rates or volume, and fails to address post construction stormwater entirely.  The erosion and sediment control plan and the application was prepared by a land surveyor, not an engineer.  Phase II, which authorizes earth disturbance activity to construct a gas pipeline, was issued in 7 business days after the application was received, again  without technical review.  It contemplates at least two stream crossings of High Quality trout streams.  The PA Bulletin Notice from which we are appealing is for this Phase II authorization.

The second is  of  a permit issued to Fortuna Energy, Inc. for earth disturbance activities associated with building a gas pipeline in a 40 square mile area in Tioga County .  Like the Ultra permit, this permit also did not undergo technical review, does not address post construction stormwater, and was prepared by the same land surveyor.   The Phase II authorization for this permit, which was issued 3 business days after the application was received, allows the pipeline to be constructed through wetlands that qualify as EV wetlands because they are adjacent to a tributary of a wild trout stream designated by the PA Fish and Boat Commission.  Impacts to EV wetlands cannot, as a matter of Pennsylvania wetlands law, be permitted for these kinds of projects. Nothing in the permit application identifies these wetlands as EV wetlands, and there is nothing in the file that indicates DEP treated them as EV wetlands.  This permit issuance shows what can happen when the Conservation Districts are cut out of the process and DEP staff are only conducting administrative review of plans—illegal encroachment into EV wetlands is authorized.”

Matt Royer

Pennsylvania Attorney

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

I’d also like to add this press release on this topic.

http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=1394