DEP’s Unauthorized Water Withdrawal Program

July 26, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:  Cathy Pedler – (814) 454-7523
Bill Belitskus – (814) 778-5173
Ryan Talbott – (503) 887-7845

Department of Environmental Protection Unlawfully Permitting Water
Withdrawals For Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling in Western Pennsylvania
Only riparian owners can make use of water in streams and rivers

Natural gas companies have descended on Pennsylvania’s forests and
farmlands to drill into the Marcellus Shale.  Each Marcellus Shale gas
well requires millions of gallons of water for the drilling process.
That water is taken from Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers under the
alleged authority of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental
Protection (DEP).  The DEP, however, does not have the authority to
permit water withdrawals in Pennsylvania.

In central and eastern Pennsylvania, water withdrawals are managed by
the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and Delaware River Basin
Commission.
Congress created the two commissions as federal-interstate compacts
with
the authority to permit water withdrawals within their respective
basins.
The rest of Pennsylvania, most of which is in the Ohio River basin, is
governed by riparian rights common law, which allows only the owner of
property along a watercourse to withdraw water for use on their land.
There is no state law regulating water withdrawals other than for
municipal drinking water supplies.

In a letter sent to DEP Secretary John Hanger, the Allegheny Defense
Project (ADP) outlined the current state of Pennsylvania law regarding
water withdrawals and charged the DEP with operating an unauthorized
water withdrawal program that allows natural gas companies to take
water
that they have no legal right to for their Marcellus Shale gas
drilling
operations.

“The fact is, the DEP has absolutely no authority to permit water
withdrawals in Pennsylvania,” said Cathy Pedler, ADP’s forest watch
coordinator.  “Outside of the Delaware and Susquehanna River
watersheds,
water withdrawals are governed by riparian rights common law, which
means only those who live adjacent to the water can make reasonable
use
of the water on their land.  A gas company cannot take water that
flows
through property it does not own.”

Nevertheless, documents obtained by ADP reveal that the DEP is
unlawfully authorizing water withdrawals from western Pennsylvania
streams and rivers.  On March 31, 2010 the DEP approved a Water
Management Plan for Hanley & Bird, Inc.  The Water Management Plan
allows Hanley & Bird to withdraw 1.44 million gallons of water a day
from the Redbank Creek in Jefferson County for five years.

Under the Water Resources Planning Act of 2002, the DEP is required to
develop Water Management Plans for the entire state.  That law,
however,
does not provide any authority to the DEP to authorize water
withdrawals.

“The Water Resources Planning Act is just that, a planning act,” said
Bill Belitskus, ADP’s board president.  “That law provided no
substantive authority to the DEP to regulate or permit water
withdrawals
from Pennsylvania’s surface waters.  Each time the DEP approves a
water
management plan and tells a natural gas company that it can withdraw
surface water for their drilling procedures, it is acting without
authority and encouraging illegal conduct.”

ADP’s letter to DEP Secretary John Hanger is attached to this email.
Visit ADP’s website to see the documents we obtained from recent file
reviews at the DEP’s Northwest Regional Office:
http://alleghenydefenseproject.wikispaces.com/Marcellus+Shale
<http://alleghenydefenseproject.wikispaces.com/Marcellus+Shale>


Ryan Talbott
Executive Director
Allegheny Defense Project
117 West Wood Lane
Kane, PA  16735
http://www.alleghenydefense.org <http://www.alleghenydefense.org/>
rtalb…@alleghenydefense.org <mailto:rtalb…@alleghenydefense.org>

DEP has proposed tougher standards for Oil & Gas drilling.

The Public Comment Meetings are finished and there are only about ten days to get in your comments by e-mail.

These regulations call for more stringent standards for O&G drilling operations.

These regulations are vital.  They upgrade requirements for testing, well casing, welding, cementing and other steps to prevent blowouts, migration of gas and release of fluids which could contaminate our waterways and aquifers.

The public comment period will end on 8/09/10.

If you missed the hearings, please submit your official written testimony via   RegComments@state.pa.us

or via USPS at

Environmental Quality Board

P.O. Box 8477 Harrisburg PA  17105-8477

·        Be sure to use subject heading “CH 78 Regulations”

and  include your full name and address.

Talking points – Choose the topics most important to you:

  • Safety – Marcellus depths and pressures are so far beyond what was “normal” in the 1980’s, we must upgrade the Oil & Gas regulations to ensure safety.
  • Prevent stray gas migration [ contaminating local waterwells]

·        Cementing – Use Texas standards

DEP’s definition for cement sets a 24-hour compressive strength standard of at least 500 psi; however, other states, such as Texas, have found that standard insufficient to prevent vertical migration of fluids or gas behind pipe. Texas requires an additional 72-hour compressive strength standard of at least 1,200 psi across critical zones of cement.

·        Cementing – Upgrade the details

Ensure better cementing by documenting the chemical composition of the mixture. Expand the “cement ticket” definition to include:

(a) a requirement for the operator to test the mixing water pH and temperature and note it on the cement ticket (this is standard industry practice and aids in determining cement quality);

(b) a record of the Waiting on Cement [WOC] time, which is the time required to achieve the calculated compressive strength standard before the casing is disturbed in any way.  Allow no shortcuts.

  • Protection of Water Supplies –

DEP must clarify  §78.51 to explain what constitutes an adequately restored or replacement water supply for homeowners.  There should be a set timeframe for acting upon a complaint filed by a landowner.

Revise §78.51(c) to read: Within 24 hours of the receipt of the investigation request, the Department will send a technical team to the field site to examine the situation and determine whether immediate action is needed to shut down operations.

·        Blowout Preventer –

Blowouts are very serious work safety, and environmental situations. Blowouts may result in human injury, fire, explosion, oil spills and gas venting.  Suggestion:  Require all wells to be drilled with a Blow-Out Preventer once the surface casing is installed and cemented.  No exceptions.

§78.72 (c)  requires BOP controls to be accessible during an emergency; this is logical.  However, the regulation should also require that the operator to place the BOP controls on the rig itself.  BOP controls need to be accessible both on the rig and at a location a safe distance away from the drilling rig.   Recent accidents show the need for this.

“Safe” = absence of risk.  While it is not possible to eliminate all the risks inherent in drilling, we have to ensure that the standards are as bullet-proof as we can make them.  There should be no “weasel clauses” that allow misinterpretation, no omissions, no compromises because of industry arm-twisting or whining that DEP is “unfriendly”.

Your statements are needed so the IRRC can see strong public support for the new DEP CH 78 regulations.

.   .     Remember, it is the Department of Environmental Protection.

=========================

DEP’s proposed regulations are at:

http://www.pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol40/40-28/1248.html

If you have questions regarding details from any of our mailings, please contact Coalition-Secretary@comcast.net immediately.

House Bill 2235

palta logo

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives will consider Rep. Vitali’s House Bill 2235 this week. The bill would place a 5-year moratorium on new leases of State Forest to natural gas drillers.  The five years would give DCNR time to study the impacts current drilling leases will have on the environmental, economic and recreational values of our State Forests.  After the moratorium ends, the bill would allow DCNR to lease further lands only if DCNR determines that such leases can be done without threatening water and air quality, habitat, ecosystems, recreational, social and asthetic values of the forests.

Call your PA Representative and ask them to
1. support the moratorium bill, and
2. vote against weakening amendments.

Find your representative’s contact information.  Just use box labeled “Find Members By” in the upper-right hand corner…

Background:

One third of our state forests are already open to natural gas drilling.  Without careful scientific study and planning, we can’t know what additional drilling, if any, can occur without harming our publicly owned forest’s environmental, economic and recreational values.  Our state forests are one of our greatest public assets, protecting our highest quality streams, providing public recreation, supporting tourism, and providing a sustainable timber supply.  As such, we should exercise balance and restraint when considering making additional lands available for drilling.

Several amendments have been filed which seek to weaken the moratorium proposal, mainly by shortening the moratorium to 1 year.  The moratorium needs to be 5 years to yield enough data to meaningfully understand the cumulative effects of drilling in our State Forests.  To date, there are only 9 Marcellus wells in production in State Forests; however, 2000 more are expected to be drilled in the next 5 years.

No private lands will be affected by the moratorium nor will any State Forest land already leased.

The moratorium would take effect after the additional leasing of state forests already planned by Governor Rendell for the 2010-2011 budget (which is expected to yield $112 million).

For more information, please call 717-230-8560.

Information for an Informed Citizenry

Here is a link to a three part series on the Marcellus Shale Gas Play. The fellow speaking is Tony Ingraffea. He has a PhD in rock -fracture mechanics and is from Cornell University.

http://essentialdissent.blogspot.com/search?q=ingraffea

Leasing of PA state land for natural gas drilling

Here is a link to the transcript about the PA House Majority Policy Committee’s public hearing regarding the leasing of state and for gas drilling.

http://www.pahouse.com/policycommittee/documents/31810hmpc.pdf

Gas industry’s potential impact on the environment discussed at public hearing here

By DAVID THOMPSON dthompson@sungazette.com

POSTED: April 14, 2010

While few people are questioning the enormous economic impact of developing the natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale, the gas industry’s potential impact on the environment is generating a lively debate.

That debate came to Lycoming College Tuesday during a public hearing by the state House Democratic Policy Committee.

The event, which mostly focused on environmental issues related to gas exploration, and to a lesser extent, the Chesapeake Bay, was co-chaired by state Reps. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, and Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster.

Also sitting on the panel was state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven. Hanna said he supports a moratorium on leasing state land until the full impact of the gas industry is known.

A diverse group of speakers provided testimony regarding the Marcellus Shale during the near four-hour session.

Read it all here:

http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/542033.html?nav=5011

Disposable Workers of the oil and Gas Fields

Read the article here:

http://www.hcn.org/issues/343/16915

After watching Split Estate a few weeks ago and seeing some of the terrible effects the gas drilling industry can have on human lives and health, my mind started asking questions about the workers at these sites. If someone living 200 yards away from a well pad can have health problems that effect them neurologically to the point they can’t speak, have trouble breathing, splitting headaches, aching joints and bodily pain, and never have touched or come into hands on contact (although they probably are in their drinking water and through showering) with the chemicals used to Frack a well, then what happens to the guys who frack the wells and actually live in this stuff for weeks, months, even years?

There were some disturbing images of wells being fracked in the film Split Estate that show rig workers being doused with frack fluids while wearing nothing but T-shirts and coveralls. But we rarely hear anything about how the workers are treated or how many health issues they have and how the industry has been dealing with it.