House Bill 2235

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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.

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Drilling without approval

On January 12, SRBC ordered Texas-based Novus Operating, LLC, a natural gas drilling company, to immediately cease all water-related activities at two drilling pad sites in the Marcellus shale formation in Brookfield Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  The company began drilling two wells without prior approval from SRBC.

To read more, click here: http://www.srbc.net/whatsnew/Newsletters/article_33.asp

Here is a link to the 2008 Bureau of Water annual report.

http://www.hbgauthority.com/Monthly%20Reports/Water/2008%20Bureau%20of%20Water%20Annual%20Report.pdf

And here is a link to a consumer confidence report by United Water for 2008.

http://www.unitedwater.com/uploadedFiles/Localized_Content/UW_Pennsylvania/50/UWPA_Harrisburg_Consumer_Confidence_Report.pdf

Neither of these reports has direct information regarding the gas industry but there is some good information about water in PA and where it comes from, especially if you do not live in a rural area. Just some FYI as well as a few eye openers here and there that we rarely think about, yet drink every day. There are also some interesting findings on bottled water in PA especially in places like State College. Voices of Central PA, a public newspaper out of Centre County, is currently working on some research regarding this. Check out their website for details although the articles may not be up on the web yet.

Funding Cuts Mean Potential Collapse of Environmental Oversight in Pennsylvania

October 15, 2009
Press Release from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

(HARRISBURG, PA)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation expressed grave concern over environmental funding cuts in the recently adopted Pennsylvania budget that threaten to further reduce Pennsylvania’s commitment to clean up rivers and streams, and fail to provide much-needed environmental oversight and funding to limit impacts from Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.

“The budget approved last Friday rolls back years of progress in cleaning up Pennsylvania rivers and streams.” said Matthew Ehrhart, Executive Director of CBF’s Pennsylvania office. “It contains the biggest cuts ever made to environmental programs in the history of the Commonwealth.”

The new state budget reduces the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) personnel by $21.1 million, representing over 300 people responsible for implementing the agency’s environmental protection duties. The inequity of these cuts is stark—the 26.7 percent reduction in the DEP budget was nearly triple the average 9 percent cut other state agencies took in this budget.

“Not only has state government cut the Department of Environmental Protection by over 26 percent, it has failed to find the over $600 million in funding DEP says is needed by farmers and others to meet the mandates of the federal Clean Water Act to cleanup the watersheds contributing pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, Ehrhart said.”

The cut to DEP staff raises significant concerns about whether the agency can conduct basic and mandatory environmental protection duties. Without adequate staff, permits necessary for new business activity will not get reviewed and issued.

“Without the boots on the ground, full enforcement of environmental laws will not occur,” Ehrhart said.

Drastic cuts were also made to the only new resource the state has contributed to clean water in the last six years, namely the Resources Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) farm conservation tax credit program, which was cut by 50% to $5 million this year.

In addition to cuts at DEP, the already understaffed conservation districts, a key player in water cleanup efforts, were cut by $600,000.

“Without the on-the-ground help provided by the conservation districts, not only can’t we spend the state dollars we have for farm conservation work, we will not be able to take full advantage of funding available through the federal Farm Bill to help our farmers install conservation practices.”

The new budget also eliminates completely the modest $2 million available for county stormwater management planning, another key element in reducing nutrient pollution from runoff, and reduces basic sewage planning and enforcement by 40 percent.

These cuts exacerbate a trend of cuts to critical clean water programs seen in the last several years which total almost half a billion dollars. They include:

  • $376 million reduction in grants to support wastewater treatment plant operations over the last six years;
  • $100 million diverted from the Growing Greener Program to pay for other programs and pay down the debt on bonds; and
  • $5 million cut from the highly successful REAP farm conservation tax credit this year.

Another environmental funding crisis looms as Growing Greener funding will run out in 2010, leaving a gaping multi-million dollar hole that must be filled.

“We believe many of these clean water funding gaps can be filled through the adoption of a severance tax on natural gas production being developed by out-of-state companies in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas fields,” said Ehrhart. “These companies stand to make billions of dollars over the next several decades exploiting a Pennsylvania natural resource just like coal, timber and oil companies did in the past. This time, we need to be smarter and require these companies to contribute so that impacts to our land and water resources caused by their exploitation can be offset.”

Instead of passing a severance tax, lawmakers and the Governor agreed to open up our state forest lands to more drilling. While a valiant effort championed in the House of Representatives successfully limited the scale of this drilling, the severance tax ultimately did not meet demands of the Senate, nor the Governor, who had originally called for a severance tax as part of his initial budget proposed back in February. Yet the Marcellus Shale gas boom continues at an unprecedented rate, and environmental impact is mounting. In September, DEP ordered Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation to cease drilling operations after three separate chemical spills polluted streams and wetlands and caused a fish kill in Susquehanna County.

“In order to ensure the protection of our rivers and streams and prevent a battle over our public lands every year, we call upon the General Assembly to pass a severance tax as soon as possible,” said Ehrhart.

“Balancing budgets in tough economic times means establishing priorities, holding the line on spending, being creative about new revenue sources, and cutting non-essential funding,” said Ehrhart. “But the cuts made in this budget fail to prioritize both federal and state mandates to clean up our most precious, fundamental resource—our water. Our state government is not doing the job it is required to do by law and we all will pay the price for years to come.”

http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=1453 This is the link to their website if you want more info or want to know more about the organization themselves. They also have a quarterly publication called “Save the Bay” that has an article about the gad drilling crisis. You can download it from their site or actually join the organization and get the quarterly publication in the mail.

DEP to Hold Public Meetings, Consider Proposed Critical Water Planning Areas

http://www.ahs2.dep.state.pa.us/newsreleases/default.asp?ID=5707

This link will take you to a page on DEP’s website. This page offers information about the 6 upcoming meetings that will take place to consider the proposed critical water planning areas in 6 different watersheds  in PA and lists the contact person for each meeting and location.

Northcentral Regional Office of DEP Report for Sept 28th-Oct 2nd

NORTHCENTRAL REGIONAL OFFICE-WILLIAMSPORT

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 28-OCTOBER 2, 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

Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. Spill, Dimock Township, Susquehanna County: On Sept. 24, the Oil and Gas program issued an order to Cabot requiring the company to cease the hydro fracking of any wells in Susquehanna County until the company completes a number of important engineering and safety tasks.  The order requires Cabot to develop within 14 days an updated and accurate Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency Plan and Control and Disposal Plan for all permitted well pad sites in Susquehanna County. The company must conduct an engineering study of all equipment and work practices associated with hydraulic fracturing at all well sites in the county within 21 days. Cabot also must place the approved Preparedness, Prevention and Contingency Plan and Control and Disposal Plan in a conspicuous location at each permitted well site and provide a copy to each contractor and subcontractor working at any well site. Contractors and subcontractors cannot begin work at any well site until they receive the two plans.  (Jennifer Means 570-321-6557)

TerrAqua Resource Management LLC Public Hearing, City of Williamsport, Lycoming County: On Sept. 30, a public hearing was held by DEP’s Water Management program to receive testimony regarding TerrAqua’s draft NPDES industrial wastewater permit. The company wants to construct a plant to treat gas well drilling wastewater.  This public hearing follows a public meeting that was held July 8, which generated significant public interest and comment.  About 60 people attended the public hearing with 12 people providing oral testimony.  Clean Water Action was the only statewide environmental group that provided testimony.  DEP will continue to accept written testimony and comments regarding this permit application through Oct. 7.  (Robert Hawley 570-327-0530)

Northeastern ITS LLC, Mercer, Venango, Clarion, Jefferson, Clearfield, Centre, Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Columbia, Schuylkill, Lehigh and Northampton Counties: The Pa. Bulletin notice for the Chapter 102 permit application was published Sept. 26 for this fiber optic line project.  AECOM, consultant for Northeastern ITS, continues to update the mapping for the Chapter 102 permit application.  One such update now includes a portion of Columbia County.  This change will necessitate a revised notice to the Pa. Bulletin.  NWRO has not received any revised Chapter 105 applications.  (John Twardowski 570-321-6523)

Emergency Response, Pine Creek Township, Clinton County: On Sept. 22, Emergency Response Manager Gerald McKernan responded to a residual waste spill along Pa. Route 220 in Pine Creek Township.  A Dirt Inc. truck was transporting gas drilling fines from a Chesapeake gas well in Bradford County to the Clinton County Solid Waste Authority in Wayne Township.  For an unknown reason, the truck lost the entire load from the Avis exit of Route 220 to the landfill in Wayne Township.  The local fire department was washing the residual waste from the road surface until requested to stop.  PennDOT then used a street sweeper to remove the sludge from the road surface.  Eagle Towing and Recovery was hired to remove the residue from the shoulder of the road.  Appalachian Utilities has a drinking water well in the immediate vicinity supplying Avis Borough and Pine Creek Township.  The incident was referred to the Waste Management program for follow up.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Potential Problems/Potential Major Actions

Watrous Water Association, Gaines Township, Tioga County: Water Supply Management program staff continue to deal with the Watrous Water Association regarding its community water system.  The association board discontinued use of the Benaur Spring since there was no disinfection on that source.  The property owners of the land where the spring is located stated that they will not allow the association to use their land to provide power or construct buildings in order for disinfection to occur.  The association has reverted to using Hanky Panky Spring as its sole source, which is also under the influence of surface water and needs to either be abandoned or filtered.  Exceedingly high water use due to seasonal use of homes and cabins on the system has caused problems meeting the demand.  A number of association board members have threatened to resign and have told a number of system customers that they should be drilling individual wells.  Watrous Water Association has neither the financial nor managerial capabilities to run a community water system.  DEP staff will continue to work with the association though it appears a compliance document will ultimately be needed to keep the association moving in a positive manner to comply with our regulations.  (John Hamilton 570-327-3650)

Good News/Major Accomplishments

Sewage Connection Limitations Lifted, Moshannon Valley Joint Sewer Authority, Centre County: In 2002, Moshannon Valley Joint Sewer Authority and its tributary communities of Morris, Rush, and Decatur Townships, and Chester Hill and Philipsburg Boroughs were placed on sewage planning restrictions.  The sewage treatment plant was hydraulically and organically overloaded, experienced bypasses, and had multiple effluent violations.  Most of the problems were associated with excessive inflow/infiltration entering the collection systems in the respective municipalities.  Through consent orders and agreements with each of the tributary municipalities, the collections systems were rehabilitated to eliminated the excessive inflow/infiltration.  The flows have been greatly reduced, no effluent violations have been reported for at least two years, and the treatment plant is no longer in an existing or projected overload.  On Sept. 28, the Water Management program lifted the planning restrictions.  (Robert Boos 570-327-3399)

M.W. Farmer Co., South Williamsport Borough, Lycoming County: On Sept. 23, the Waste Management program received the final payment of a $48,000 civil penalty issued to the M.W. Farmer Co. for residual waste violations.  The civil penalty was part of a November 2005 consent order and agreement with Farmer to correct residual waste violations that included accepting and storing residual waste associated with the removal and salvaging of underground storage tanks, and the acceptance and storage of waste oil, which requires a permit from DEP, at the company’s property in South Williamsport. (James E. Miller 570-327-3431)

Casella Waste Management of New York Inc., Ulysses Township, Potter County:  On Sept. 24, the Waste Management program finalized a $3,000 civil penalty with Casella Waste Management of New York Inc. for waste transporter violations noted during an Aug. 26 waste vehicle inspection at the Potter County Transfer Station.  Casella operated two waste transportation vehicles that lacked the required sign to identify the type of solid waste being transported.  (James E. Miller 570-327-3431)

On-Lot Sewage Crisis, Lycoming Sanitary Committee, Lycoming County: The committee relies on an 85 percent state grant to cover operating expenses. Because of the budget impasse and the early depletion of allocated funds under the previous budget, the committee is currently operating on a $150,000 line of credit from a local bank that is projected to run out on Sept. 25. This is in addition to the 2008 state reimbursement of $260,000 that it is still waiting to receive for the previous year’s expenses. The board had voted to permanently close down the agency if it doesn’t get the state reimbursement by Sept. 25.  UPDATE: During its meeting on Sept. 24, the board decided to keep the doors open until November when it will reevaluate staying in operation or closing and filing for bankruptcy.  The hope is that by November the state budget will be resolved, the grant program funded, and the 2008 reimbursement received. (Robert Boos 570-327-3399)

Outreach/Upcoming Events

Conservation District Roundtable, Northcentral Region: On Sept. 25, the Watershed Management program hosted the fall conservation district roundtable meeting with our conservation district partners.  Conservation district staff from 12 districts attended and heard reports and took part in discussion on the Lycoming County nutrient trading project; an update on the Oil and Gas program in the NCRO; increased activity in regional agricultural compliance; and an update from central office staff on the newly revised Chapter 102 erosion control regulations.  The group then divided into program specific breakout sessions to further discuss program issues with the respective program staff.  Two of these roundtable meetings are held each year to further increase the communication and close working relationship with our conservation districts and to exchange ideas and concerns on specific issues.  (David Garg 570-321-6581)

Green Career Day, Mt. Pisgah State Park, Bradford County: On Sept. 30, two Water Management biologists were invited for the fourth year in a row to set up a station at the Career Day for 8th graders from Tioga, Bradford and Sullivan Counties.  DEP was one of 21 agencies and green industries represented at the Career Day.  Students learned about the importance and variety of natural resource job opportunities that exist in the Northern Tier.  As in years past, the DEP station was very popular with around 32 students learning about fish capture techniques, fish identification and health and environmental conditions that affect fish populations.  Many questions were asked and interest was shown in a career with DEP. (Tom Randis 570-327-3781)

OSHA Refresher and General Safety Training, Northcentral Regional Office: On Sept. 23, Gerald McKernan, Jack Kernan, John Erich and Denny Wright conducted OSHA Refresher and General Safety Training to eleven NCRO employees.  The training provided employees with an overview of hazardous material safety procedures, Office of Administration, DEP’s and Field Operation’s safety policies, and basic standard operating procedures.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Table Top Exercise, City of Lock Haven, Clinton County: On Sept. 29, Emergency Response Manager Gerald McKernan participated in a table top exercise at the Clinton County Emergency Operations Center in Lock Haven.  The exercise was a fracking pipe failure resulting in a heating oil release and a brush fire at a well site in Grugan Township.  Other state agencies participating in the exercise were the State Police, PennDOT, PEMA, and DCNR, along with local emergency fire and medical services.  The exercise was managed by O’Brien’s Response Management and funded by Anadarko.  It was an excellent networking and learning experience for all participants.  Communication problems were the major issue due to the remoteness of the location, lack of cell service, satellite phone connectivity, and lack of radio communications by Anadarko with the county.  (Gerald McKernan 570-327-3722)

Act 2

Palmer Industrial Coatings Inc. Act 2 Site, Woodward Township, Lycoming County: Palmer Industrial Coatings was granted Act 2 relief of liability on Sept. 30 for soil contaminated with gasoline, diesel and heating oil.  The soil was remediated to meet Statewide Health Standards.  One 2000-gallon underground storage tank that previously held heating oil and two 1000-gallon tanks that previously held gasoline/diesel fuel were located onsite.  The tanks were removed starting in June 2008 by M.W. Farmer.  Soil was found to be contaminated with gasoline, diesel and heating oil constituents and was excavated.  Three confirmatory soil samples were taken below each tank for a total of nine samples.  All soil samples came back below DEP’s Statewide Health Standards.  About 74 tons of contaminated soil was disposed at Lycoming County Landfill.  (Randy L. Farmerie 570-327-3716)

Rainey Property Act 2 Site, Bell Township, Clearfield County: On Sept. 30, the Environmental Cleanup program approved an Act 2 Final Report that demonstrated attainment of the Site-Specific Standard for soil and groundwater.  In 1998, gasoline contaminated groundwater was discovered at a property across the road from the site.  DEP’s investigation revealed that the site was a former gasoline station and in the mid-1980s underground storage tanks were removed without closure sampling being conducted.  The property owner, Richard Rainey, refused to complete site characterization.  As a result, DEP issued an administrative order on Jan. 18, 2002.  Soil and groundwater characterization were completed for the site.  About 114 tons of contaminated soil was removed from the former tank pit area.  Sampling of soil and groundwater demonstrated attainment of the Site-Specific Standard.  (Randy Farmerie 570-327-3716)

FB Leopold Act 2 Site, Watsontown Borough and Delaware Township, Northumberland County: On Sept. 23, the Environmental Cleanup program approved the Act 2 Final Report for the attainment of a Non-Residential Statewide Health standard for soil and groundwater at the FB Leopold Media Filter Company in Watsontown.  The site was used for brick manufacturing from 1913 through 1986, and a coal gasification plant was operated on a portion of the site from 1979 to 1984.  In 1990, the site became an anthracite screening operation.  FB Leopold operated from 1996 through 2006, when the current owner, ITT Corporation, assumed operations.  An environmental site assessment detected isolated areas of soil contamination.  Remediation consisted of excavation of these impacted soil areas, and the collection of post-remedial samples confirmed that Act 2 Non-Residential Statewide Health standards had been attained.  An executed environmental covenant was submitted to ensure that the site use remains non-residential and that groundwater not be used as a potable water source. (Larry Newcomer 570-327-3418)

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

Nothing new to report

A Tale of Two Cities

This is an article from the Star Gazette by Tom Wilbur that does a pretty good job of explaining or foreshadowing what could happen for many PA residents who are leasing their land to the gas industry. There is no way of knowing from the beginning what sort of troubles may arise, and in some cases people have had no problems what-so-ever and are very happy with their experiences. I am finding that some of these gas companies are better to work with than others. Most of the trouble we have seen reports on comes from the north eastern section of PA where Cabot Oil & Gas has created many catastrophes for residents with wells. At this point I’m not sure why you would sign on with Cabot at all. I am trying to do do some checking and researching on the gas companies that are drilling in PA and will see if I can come up with a list of the better ones (and the reasons why) for folks that are considering leasing land.

http://www.stargazette.com/article/20090919/NEWS01/909190346/Marcellus%20Shale%20%20A%20tale%20of%20two%20cities?GID=8kLy/Ugp5it1g9QfS1tH3gPDJ2FECM17pGWwoR/KHiQ%3D