A Letter to the Editor…

The following letter to the editor in today’s Williamsport Sun-Gazette has some interesting ideas. Whether or not you agree with any or all of these, it surely will get you considering ways to think out of the box in addressing gas drilling issues.

A Gas Drilling Protection Plan-Posted April 29th-letter to the editor

I was surprised how fast the gas drilling industry charged into Pennsylvania and I suspect once our natural gas wealth is taken, the profiteers will be equally fast in leaving. We will be left with a destroyed landscape, massive pollution, and for decades with the clean-up costs. Pennsylvania’s gas wealth belongs to the people, not the grab and go profiteers. We can not stop it, but we can control it, and share it. We must demand our elected officials return all contributions from the drillers or give it to a charity and that they notify the public of every lobbying contact. If they don’t and do not pass the following legislation, let’s vote them out of office.

We need an immediate moratorium on drilling until the following can be enacted:

1. An annual $5,000 per well drilling fee.

2. Five cents per gallon for the water drained from our creeks and rivers.

This money would be used to hire hundreds of inspectors and auditors to monitor drilling activity independent of but as a complement to our under-staffed DEP….

To read the full letter, click here:


Marcellus Hearing in Williamsport, PA

Anne Harris Katz attended the four-hour hearing on Marcellus gas impacts two days ago, in Williamsport.  Here are her comments:

“I was in the audience for the entirety of this hearing, the content of which is covered in the two articles below. Of all the public events I have attended on Marcellus Shale impacts, this one had the most balance among the perspectives of industry, regulators, and groups concerned about protecting the environment and economy.

The articles in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette do a reasonable job covering the approximately four hours of testimony and Q & A between testifiers and legislators. There was not time for questions or comments from the audience, but the legislators asked good questions and made useful comments. I take issue with referring to what went on in this event as a “lively debate”. This was a public hearing at which formal testimony was taken. In my estimation it was not a debate. It would be helpful for those who could not attend to have access to a transcript of everything said. ”   AHK

Here are the two links to the articles on the Sun Gazette that she mentions.

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


Impact on bay cleanup not known


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:


Public Supports Rules for Drillers

By DAVID THOMPSON – dthompson@sungazette.com

POSTED: December 17, 2009

More than 100 people turned out Wednesday for a public hearing regarding a Department of Environmental Protection proposal to set more stringent treatment standards on wastewater primarily associated with the natural gas industry.

The hearing was hosted by the state Environmental Quality Board and moderated by Patrick Henderson, executive director of the state Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.

Of the approximately 20 people who testified at the hearing, held at the DEP’s Northcentral Regional Office in Williamsport, most were either in favor of the proposed standards or advocated even stricter or wider-reaching standards.

Two who testified said they believed current discharge standards are adequate.

The proposal would impose restrictions on the amount of total dissolved solids – or TDS – sulfate and chloride that can be discharged by a treatment plant into a waterway.

It also regulates levels of barium and strontium that can be discharged from wastewater specifically from the natural gas industry.

Deb Nardone of the Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited spoke in favor of the proposed standards, calling it “a necessary tool” for the DEP to use to protect the state’s fresh water resources.

Nardone suggested that more stringent regulations may be needed in the future, but in the meantime, the ones proposed should be “in place as soon as possible.”

Anne Harris Katz of Fairfield Township said she and her husband were drawn to the area almost 20 years ago but now questions whether the move was a good choice.

Katz said she fears the gas industry will change the region’s “pristine environment, small-town atmosphere and the confidence that residents’ health and safety are adequately protected from the short- and long-term hazards of gas drilling and extraction.”

“The proposed new standards will decrease the amount of pollution, and in this instance, less is better,” Katz said.

Her husband, Harvey M. Katz, said the gas industry should bear the cost of treating its wastewater, not the public.

He added that water polluted by gas industry wastewater will impact the area’s aquatic life.

Nathan Sooy of Clean Water Action, which represents a consortium of environmental and watershed groups, spoke passionately about the impact gas industry wastewater could have on local waterways.

Sooy said the DEP proposal “will go a long way towards ensuring our drinking water supplies will not have unsafe levels of (TDS)” and urged the agency not to weaken the proposed discharge standards.

Sooy added that the rules should be put in place as soon as possible, that no drilling permits be issued until that happens and that discharge standards should be applied to other materials found in gas drilling wastewater.

City resident John Bogle said the gas industry will prove harmful to the state’s tourism industry, the Pennsylvania Wilds initiative, agriculture and property values.

Bogle suggested the industry could adversely impact the area in ways similar to the coal industry.

“A trip through the coal regions will show what pollution from an unregulated extractive industry can do to the economic future of a region.”

“The DEP’s proposed TDS strategy is a solid move in the right direction,” he said. “The DEP needs to stick to its guns.”

Jerry S. Walls, former director of the county planning department, said it is “vitally important for Pennsylvania to have effective policy standards for the discharge of total dissolved solids.”

According to Walls, clean water is as essential to a healthy environment and positive quality of life.

“Our groundwater, rivers and streams should not be viewed as easy, unlimited waste disposal systems,” he said.

Walls said he was involved in the planning, design and development of the Lycoming County landfill. The DEP has specific standards regarding the control of leachate from the landfill. However, frac water flowback impoundment lagoons at drilling sites “have no such standards” which ‘equals preferential regulatory treatment of the natural gas industry,” he said.

Walls lauded the industry’s efforts to recycle gas drilling wastewater, adding the proposed TDS standards would provide incentives to continue that practice.

John Tewksbury, a kindergarten teacher from Muncy, said he attended the meeting on behalf of his students who wanted him to speak in support of the regulations.

Tewksbury said the students were concerned with the impact pollution could have on rivers and streams.

F. Alan Sever, an engineer from Montoursville who worked for the DEP, said the Environmental Quality Board determined in 2001 that there “was no reason to assign statewide effluent limitations for total dissolved solids, chloride or sulfate.”

Sever said that except for isolated incidents on specific streams, the DEP has not shown that there is any reason to change that policy.

If the agency finds specific problem areas, it could assign “site specific” discharge limits at those sites, he said.

Sever also took issue with the cut-off date – April 1, 2009 – for when dischargers would fall under the new guidelines and those that would be gandfathered under the previous guidelines.

By grandfathering treatment facilities already causing problems and assigning stringent limits to those that did nothing to create a problem is unfair, he said.

He also cited an example of a discharge permit issued to a company several days prior to the cut-off day and suggested the permit was issued “in order to protect this company from having to meet these new limits.”

Ned Wheeler, president of Keystone Clear Water Solution Inc., said the oil and gas industry has been in Pennsylvania for 100 years and has a history of cooperation with regulatory agencies.

Wheeler said the proposed regulations are “unrealistic and unreasonable” and do not take into account regulations already in place.

According to the DEP, the expected results of the new rules would be to prevent the water quality issues that came to light in 2008 on the Monongahela River and ensure that the cost of treating gas industry-generated wastewater will not be borne by customers of drinking water systems.

In the fall of 2008, the river flow fell and concentrations of TDS, which mostly is salt, and sulfate in the river rose to historic highs.

According to the agency, the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Moshannon Creek have a limited capacity for handling new loads of TDS and sulfate.

Is Wasteater Discharge into the Susquehanna River Possible?

Opposition expressed to wastewater treatment facility

By DAVID THOMPSON dthompson@sungazette.com

Nearly all those who testified Wednesday during a public hearing regarding a proposed gas drilling wastewater treatment facility spoke in opposition.

The hearing, held at the northcentral regional office of the state Department of Environmental Protection, was held to gather public testimony regarding an application by TerrAqua Resource Management of Williamsport for a permit to discharge treated gas drilling wastewater into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

The company, a subsidiary of Larson Design Group, wants to treat and discharge up to 400,000 gallons per day of gas drilling wastewater into the river.

However, many in attendance had concerns regarding the impact the treated water will have on the river, including its ecosystem and the people who use it as a source of drinking water.

Others expressed concerns about how gas exploration will impact the entire state.

Fairfield Township resident Anne Harris Katz, a scientist, asked how the DEP will make sure treated water does not contains harmful toxins when it is discharged into the river.

Katz questioned the department’s ability to monitor those toxins and determine their impacts once they enter the watershed.

She also questioned the agency’s role in the Marcellus Shale Wastewater Partnership, which she said was comprised of the DEP and industry organization the Marcellus Shale Committee. Katz said the partnership should contain more stakeholders, such as local residents, scientists, and environmental and planning organizations.

“However, it still remains questionable in my mind that a regulatory agency should be part of any partnership involving a group whose activities it regulates,” she said.

Don Williams of Harleysville said allowing the gas industry to gain a foothold in the state would set back environmental improvement efforts decades. Williams compared “the Marcellus Shale frenzy” to making a pact with the devil.

“We are once again striking a Faustian bargain at the expense of our natural resources, degrading the quality of our land and our waters in exchange for the false promises of jobs and the fleeting economic prosperity for a limited few,” he said.

“I am fully opposed to the further degradation of the Susquehanna River … and I am respectfully requesting this application be denied,” Williams said.

Williams added that until the gas industry provides full disclosure of all chemicals used in the hydrofracturing process, action on all gas drilling wastewater treatment plant applications be suspended.

The draft permit for the proposed facility allows the discharge into the river of between 54,000 and 522,000 pounds of total dissolved solids per day. That equates into 15.7 million pounds of solids being discharged into the river every month, he said.

If additional plants are built, “what will our watershed … look like next year, or five years from now?” he asked.

Several people who testified, including Jon Bogle and Mark Szybist of the Responsible Drilling Alliance, said the company’s application should be resubmitted.

Szybist said the application no longer is valid because the company plans to use a different treatment process than originally was stated in the application.

A new application should be submitted and the public should be given time to review it and comment on it, he said.

Nathan Sooy of Clean Water Action agreed that a new application should be submitted because of the new technology the company is proposing.

Sooy argued that because of uncertainties in the toxicity of the wastewater the facility will receive, the DEP should institute a stringent testing tool called Whole Effluent Toxicity Testing, or WETT.

Sooy also expressed concern that the method the company plans to use to treat the water through evaporation results in significant air pollution and hazardous waste disposal issues.

Former county planning department chief Jerry S. Walls said properly designed and well-run treatment plants are essential if the region is to realize the full economic impact of development of natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale.

“We need these treatment facilities, but we also must respect and use the best science available to avoid yet another cycle of natural resource extraction followed by decades of publicly funded pollution cleanup,” he said.

Walls added that he had concerns about the cumulative impact of 10 or more treatment facilities on the west branch of the river and the Chesapeake Bay.

He suggested that in addition to civil and sanitary engineers, scientists, such as health physicists, nuclear scientists and others, are needed to design methods that adequately can treat the substances contained in gas drilling flow back fluids.

Walls also expressed concern over the way in which naturally occurring radioactive material found in flow back water will be disposed of.

Local businesswoman Barbara Jarmoska said that in 30 years of working in the natural health field, she has seen increased levels of breast cancer in women and autism in children. Jarmoska said she was concerned about the agency’s ability to test for all potential toxins that could be present in the water.

Pointing to the agency’s inability or unwillingness to post permit applications and other public records online, John Kesich suggested the DEP may be involved in a conspiracy to prevent the public from receiving adequate information about gas drilling-related permits.

Ralph Kisberg, also of the Responsible Drilling Alliance, said the gas drilling boom in the region “has gone way too fast.”

Kisberg said a slower approach is needed to allow technology to catch up with the industry’s need to treat wastewater.

Caleb Banas said that to maintain the integrity of the river’s ecosystem, “it is very important that nothing other than water goes into the system.”

Salt, the main pollutant of treated gas drilling water, should not be allowed in the river, he said.

Alliance member Robbie Cross said the DEP’s philosophy on the gas industry runs counter to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resource’s definition of the Pennsylvania Wilds.

The DEP will accept written testimony through the business day on Oct. 7, said Robert Hawley of the DEP.

Is the Morris Run Injection Wastewater Well at Fault for Dunkard Creek Fish Kill?

It’s still being determined exactly what caused the fish kill at Dunkard Creek, PA/WV but there seem to be all sorts of possibilities! One of these includes the waste water from a Morris Run injection well operated by CNX Gas Co. LLP, a subsidiary of Consol Energy.
Golden algae to blame for Dunkard Creek fish kill
Friday, September 25, 2009
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A bloom of toxic alien algae is being blamed for killing thousands of fish, mussels and other forms of aquatic life in more than 30 miles of Dunkard Creek along the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border this month.

Randy Huffman, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection secretary, told West Virginia Public Broadcasting yesterday that low, warm creek flows and high levels of chlorides and dissolved solids combined to produce an environment conducive to the growth of golden algae, a species of algae usually found in southern and southwestern states.

The West Virginia DEP refused to confirm Mr. Huffman’s diagnosis yesterday but a spokeswoman said it would issue a news release about the Dunkard Creek fish kill this morning.

Tom Hoffman, a spokesman for Consol Energy which has mines in the area, confirmed that the company’s scientists believe the golden algae, also known as golden-brown algae, was a cause of the fish kill.

“It’s difficult to say what was the cause in this situation, but we believe it’s related to the algae bloom. We still don’t know why the algae was there or what caused the bloom to occur,” Mr. Hoffman said.

The golden algae is one of a large group of algae known as chrysophytes that are usually found in hotter and desert environments and can produce toxins that are lethal to fish and other aquatic life.

Mr. Huffman said the dissolved solid and chloride levels were high because of discharges from a mine treatment facility at Consol Energy’s Blacksville No. 2 deep mine and a second treatment facility at Consol’s Loveridge deep mine near the West Virginia town of St. Leo.

Another contributing cause, Mr. Huffman said, could be what he described as a discharge from a new borehole into which an unspecified company is injecting drilling wastewater into a mine void.

But the only deep injection wastewater well in the area permitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is the Morris Run injection well operated by CNX Gas Co. LLP, a subsidiary of Consol Energy, at Consol’s closed Blacksville No. 1 mine in Greene County since 2005. Consol uses the well to dispose of wastewater from its methane well drilling operations.

Because of violations at that injection facility from September 2007 to March 2009, CNX was fined $157,500 for violating provisions of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, including accepting at least 100 truckloads of wastewater with total dissolved solids levels “significantly higher” than its federal permit allowed.

David Sternberg, an EPA spokesman, said the federal order has not been finalized but could require a modification of the injection well’s permit. A public hearing will be held before the order is finalized but it has not been scheduled.

Whether the Morris injection well is contributing to the bad water in Dunkard Creek hasn’t been determined by state or federal agencies. There is a coal barrier between the Blacksville No. 1 and No. 2 mines that should prevent seepage of water from one to the other.

Mr. Hoffman said there’s no indication that any such seepage is occurring or that the Morris injection operation is to blame, and the violations at the Morris mine shaft have long since been corrected. He said identification of the algae is a “breakthrough” in determining the cause of the kill.

“A lot of people assumed it was something coming out of one of our pipes that caused this event,” Mr. Hoffman said. “But this is something different.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental, watershed and sportsmen’s organizations, the Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water, is calling on the EPA to stop all gas well drilling discharges into Dunkard Creek and require Marcellus shale gas drilling operations to document where they are disposing of all wastewater.

Each well drilled into the Marcellus shale, a 5,000- to 8,000-foot-deep rock formation underlying much of Pennsylvania and the northern Appalachians, uses between 1 million and 4 million gallons of pressurized water to fracture the rock and release the gas it contains. One-third to one-half of that water, which contains lubricating chemicals and contaminants picked up underground, is pushed back to the surface by the gas and must be disposed of by the drilling companies.

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

Nothing Is Sacred…

Below is another article from the Sun Gazette. The author is Patrick Donlin and the topic is heated. I spend a lot of time trying to be open minded and understanding of other points of view, even if they are not my own, but sometimes I have a hard time keeping my emotions out of my logic and my over all feelings towards any gas exploration that takes place in or near the PA Grand Canyon or Pine Creek should just be completely off limits.

Is nothing worth saving anymore? It seems that there is a price to be put on everything around us. Every tree, every drop of fresh water, every field, mountain view, nesting site and migratory path can be bought with dollars. Is this our end goal? To be so greedy for money that we sell out in every way possible until we have nothing left? I feel that there are already so many people who have signed leases for their private property. How many more gas wells do we need? Must there be one every 40 acres? There are folks who are willing to give up their private land for this consumption. Why must these gas companies push their way into every valley, every ridge, every lush and healthy hollow of forest that we have left? And if it was not enough to say “Hey. This area is beautiful and is part of the earth’s ability to create and recycle clean water and clean air and healthy soils so fauna can grow”, then at least look at the other side of that thought. The PA Grand Canyon Rail Trail has made headlines in large papers. It is talked about and recommended by many travel magazines and articles. the PA state forest and Pine Creek are some of the best places to fish, hike, bike camp and hunt in the Mid Atlantic. Apparently all the money that comes from the tourism to this area, the money that keeps the small business owners in business, the restaurants, the hotels and bed and breakfasts is just not worth it. Somebody somewhere is making decisions for themselves and those outcomes are going to effect everyone in this region as well as those who travel to it from other places.

WATERVILLE – State foresters are being encouraged to ensure the environmental preservation of a patch of public land where natural gas well drilling is proposed.

Mark Murawski, county transportation planner, said Tuesday to the Pine Creek Rail Trail Advisory Committee that wells are a possibility around the southern end of Ramsey Road, Cummings Township.

A company he identified as PGE has expressed investigative in

tentions, although no representatives were at the meeting held at the Waterville fire hall.

Officials with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will decide if wells will be built at the site located just east of Waterville and known as the Ramsey Vista.

“The DCNR has jurisdiction where that site is at,” said Toner Hollick, county planning commission member and the township’s representative to the trail advisory committee.

Murawski said the county’s involvement is limited to zoning permit review, which it hasn’t approved yet.

“The county doesn’t have any jurisdiction on state forest land, other than issuing a zoning permit,” he said. “We’re reviewing it (the permit) now.”

Jerry Walls, Pennsylvania Wilds planning consultant, wants to ensure eyesores aren’t erected in the picturesque Pine Creek Valley, which has been nationally recognized as one of the best places to take a bicycle ride.

Drilling rigs and pipelines are possible if gas wells are approved.

Walls understands gas well exploration may progress, but he successfully encouraged the trail advisory committee to send correspondence to the DCNR, encouraging reasonable protection of the natural scenery.

The number of wells is unknown, as Tiadaghton state Forester Jeff Prowant said anywhere from one to 14 could be created.

The company may lose interest if ample gas isn’t present, according to Rebecca A. Burke, chairwoman of the county commissioners.

“If they do it on a couple wells and they’re not productive, they might move on,” she said.