PennFuture workshop: Gas and Our Water

Gas and Our Water:

Legal tools for watershed advocates dealing with

drilling in the Marcellus Shale

Saturday, April 16

King’s College, Wilkes-Barre

This workshop will give grassroots conservation and watershed groups, concerned citizens and volunteers the legal tools necessary to protect our water and ensure Marcellus Shale gas drilling is done responsibly. Hear from leading environmental attorneys on land use and zoning, permits, wastewater issues, and enforcement of our clean water laws and regulations. Find out how to participate in the permitting process and to get decision-makers to listen to you.

Specific topics include:

* Wastewater and stormwater permits and permit appeals;

* Clean water enforcement; and

* Land use and zoning – Planning a boom

 

Space is limited – Register today

3 CLE credits available

Breakfast and materials included

 

The cost of the workshop is FREE to PennFuture members and students with ID; $10 for non-members. Free parking.

Space is limited and registration is required; register online today or by calling 717-214-7920.

A draft agenda will be available soon.

Date: Saturday, April 16, 2011

Time: 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Location:

King’s College -Burke Auditorium

133 North River Street

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

If you’d like to attend this event you can purchase tickets online by clicking here:

http://my.pennfuture.org/site/Calendar?view=Detail&id=107422&autologin=true&AddInterest=1261

EPA Wants to Look at Full Lifecycle of Fracking in New Study – Gas industry not happy

by Nicholas Kusnetz

ProPublica, Feb. 9, 2011, 2:32 p.m

The EPA has proposed examining every aspect of hydraulic fracturing, from water withdrawals to waste disposal, according to a draft plan the agency released Tuesday. If the study goes forward as planned, it would be the most comprehensive investigation of whether the drilling technique risks polluting drinking water near oil and gas wells across the nation.

The agency wants to look at the potential impacts on drinking water of each stage involved in hydraulic fracturing, where drillers mix water with chemicals and sand and inject the fluid into wells to release oil or natural gas. In addition to examining the actual injection, the study would look at withdrawals, the mixing of the chemicals, and wastewater management and disposal. The agency, under a mandate from Congress, will only look at the impact of these practices on drinking water.

The agency’s scientific advisory board will review the draft plan on March 7-8 and will allow for public comments then. The EPA will consider any recommendations from the board and then begin the study promptly, it said in a news release. A preliminary report should be ready by the end of next year, the release said, with a full report expected in 2014.

A statement from the oil and gas industry group Energy in Depth gave a lukewarm assessment of the draft. “Our guys are and will continue to be supportive of a study approach that’s based on the science, true to its original intent and scope,” the statement read. “But at first blush, this document doesn’t appear to definitively say whether it’s an approach EPA will ultimately take.”

The study, announced in March, comes amid rising public concern about the safety of fracking, as ProPublica has been reporting for years. While it remains unclear whether the actual fracturing process has contaminated drinking water, there have been more than 1,000 reports around the country of contamination related to drilling, as we reported in 2008. In September 2010, the EPAwarned residents of a Wyoming town not to drink their well water and to use fans while showering to avoid the risk of explosion. Investigators found methane and other chemicals associated with drilling in the water, but they had not determined the cause of the contamination.

Drillers have been fracking wells for decades, but with the rise of horizontal drilling into unconventional formations like shale, they are injecting far more water and chemicals underground than ever before. The EPA proposal notes that 603 rigs were drilling horizontal wells in June 2010, more than twice as many as were operating a year earlier. Horizontal wells can require millions of gallons of water per well, a much greater volume than in conventional wells.

One point of contention is the breadth of the study. Chris Tucker, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, said he understands the need to address any stage of the fracking that might affect drinking water, but he’s skeptical that water withdrawals meet the criteria. “The only way you can argue that issues related to water demand are relevant to that question is if you believe the fracturing process requires such a high volume of water that its very execution threatens the general availability of the potable sources,” he wrote in an e-mail.

The EPA proposal estimates that fracking uses 70 to 140 billion gallons of water annually, or about the same amount used by one or two cities of 2.5 million people. In the Barnett Shale, in Texas, the agency estimates fracking for gas drilling consumes nearly 2 percent of all the water used in the area.

The EPA proposes using two or three “prospective” case studies to follow the course of drilling and fracking wells from beginning to end. It would also look at three to five places where drilling has reportedly contaminated water, including two potential sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, and one site each in Texas, Colorado and North Dakota….

To read this article in full online, view the photos, videos, sidebar topics and access the links within it, click here:

http://www.propublica.org/article/epa-wants-to-look-at-full-lifecycle-of-fracking-in-new-study

Gas vs Wine

In New York state’s Marcellus Shale region the Keuka Wine Trail may soon get a new neighbor: a disposal facility for toxic brine flowback from natural gas drilling. In his latest column about drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation, journalist Peter Mantius of Burdett writes that local government officials may face tough calls over which to favor: the natural gas industry or the wine industry….

To read the article, click here

http://www.odessafile.com/features-Mantius7.html

DEP needs to hear from you!

A Message from the RDA…
DEP needs to hear from you and your organization.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed new regulations for industrial wastewater that is high in total dissolved solids (TDS).

Natural gas drilling operations in the Marcellus Shale uses substances high in TDS for hydrofracturing (fracking) wells. The wastewater  that comes back out of wells (flowback fluid) after fracking is also high in TDS. The high levels of TDS in Marcellus wastewater is mostly in the form of salts and can be two to four times saltier than seawater.

Frac and flowback fluids can enter streams and rivers intentionally (legally by permit) or accidentally. The result can be a danger to health for all organisms – including humans. It can also make the water unfit for industrial use.

DEP needs the new regs to ensure that wastewater generated at Marcellus Shale gas drilling sites does not damage streams and rivers.

To read details about the proposed new regs, go to this link in the PA Bulletin: http://pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol39/39-45/2065.html

DEP’s  Environmental Quality Board (EQB) held several public hearings on the proposed new regs held across the state, and some of the testimonies given by members of the public can be viewed at this site:  http://www.northcentralpa.com/category/category/gas-drilling


DEP needs to hear from all who care about our environment, our heath and the businesses which depend on clean water.

Please consider having your organization send a letter or email to the EQB commenting on the proposed new regs. Feel free to craft comments based on the testimonies of others and/or from the talking points noted at the end of this message.

If individual members of your organization are willing to write letters or send emails to the EQB, that would be very helpful.

Natural gas industry representatives are lobbying very hard, backed by substantial funding, to prevent any strengthening of the existing regs. In fact, lobbyists are asking for the regs to be even weaker than they are now.


Send written comments by postal- or e- mail on the proposed rule NO LATER THAN FEBRUARY 10, 2010:

Environmental Quality Board
P.O. Box 8477
Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477
regcomments@state.pa.us


Here are some talking points to make about DEP’s proposed changes to Chapter 95, Wastewater Treatment Requirements. These come courtesy of Clean Water Action.

1.  We need safe drinking water!  DEP’s proposal will go a long way towards ensuring that our drinking water supplies will not have unsafe levels of total dissolved solids (TDS).  DEP should not weaken their proposed discharge standard for TDS.

2.  We need these regulations to be in place as soon as possible to protect our rivers and drinking water.  DEP should stop giving out more drilling permits until wastewater rules are in place.  DEP should also stop allowing existing or proposed wastewater plants to pollute our rivers unless they follow these new rules.

3.  DEP should add discharge standards for those contaminants that are frequently found in Marcellus Shale gas drilling wastewater.  These would include bromides, arsenic, benzene, radium, magnesium, and possibly others.  Many of these contaminants are very difficult for drinking water systems to remove.

4.  DEP needs to ensure that all aspects of the generation of Marcellus wastewater are regulated.  Currently there are no requirements to track wastewater from drilling sites to treatment plants, and there is no oversight over the reuse of Marcellus wastewater.

Fighting climate change with natural gas

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_us_energy_shift

Here’s a link to an article from the Associate Press that was headlined on Yahoo’s! homepage this morning. Natural gas is finally getting as much media play as reality television programs and Hollywood scandals. That’s good, but not all the publicity shows a true persepective of what’s at stake. This article doesn’t even mention the negative impacts on the environment and communities in the area where drilling is taking place. I don’t think that was the point of the article so I won’t call the Associated Press a lot of nasty names. But, the article does explain a lot of what our country is up against as far as climate change goes. We need to change the way we produce energy; we need to do it quickly; we need to do it cheaply. Natural gas is looking like the best option for that at this point and despite the down side(s) of the gas industry, I don’t think we will be able to fight the idea of tapping into this energy resource  to make the rest of the globe happy as well as prolong our ability to live life as we have known it on this planet.

At this point it would make all the more sense to see some severance taxes, higher well bonds, ANY waste water disposal management plans and safer methods for hydro-fracking of wells. I always wonder if any of the folks who write up these articles live in any of the states where the drilling is going on. Do they have a well in their back yard and a contaminated water well?

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.

RDA info and meeting places/times

Stop the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from caving in to mining and gas industry pressure. These industries would like to transfer the water quality of the Susquehanna River to their bottom line by using it as an inexpensive dump for their salt and chemically laden waste water.

Attend the hearing on Wednesday 16th at 5:00, DEP’s office in the Old Grit Building at 3rd and William Street, Williamsport. Your attendance will support DEP’s own research which has lead to a good proposed strategy for new TDS discharges. Without public support, DEP may be forced to retreat from its own recommendations.
BACKGROUND
Last April DEP published a strategy to protect Pennsylvania Rivers from becoming too saline by greatly limiting the amount of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) in NEW discharges into the rivers.
This strategy came after critical conditions appeared in the Monongahela River Basin due to mining and gas industry discharges. Gas drilling waste water, which is extraordinarily high in TDS, put the already stressed river over the limit for potable water withdraw.  Bromines from gas industry waste water react with disinfectants used in water plants to produce carcinogenic secondary chemicals.  The result was a drinking water health advisory issued to thousands of water users.
This September, forty three miles of Dunkard Creek, which stitches back and forth across the boarders of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, experienced a massive fish kill. The culprit, which wiped out almost all animal life in the stream, was toxins produced by an invasive algae which can only thrive in brackish water.
Below are some excerpts from DEP’s preamble to the hearing. Link to complete document here.     http://pabulletin.com/secure/data/vol39/39-45/2065.html

“Total dissolved solids (TDS) is comprised of inorganic salts, organic matter and other dissolved materials in water.”

“TDS causes toxicity to water bodies through increases in salinity, changes in the ionic composition of the water, and toxicity of individual ions.”

“Several studies on the potential impacts to aquatic life from these large TDS discharges were also conducted on major tributaries flowing into the Monongahela River in Greene County, PA. Each of these studies documents the adverse effects of discharges of TDS, sulfates and chlorides on the aquatic communities in these receiving streams. The former concludes that there is a high abundance of halophilic (salt-loving) organisms downstream from the discharges of TDS and chlorides and a clear transition of fresh water organisms to brackish water organisms in the receiving stream from points above the discharge to points below. It is evident from this study that increases in salinity have caused a shift in biotic communities.

The Monongahela River Watershed is being adversely impacted by TDS discharges and many points in the watershed are already impaired, with TDS, sulfates and chlorides as the cause.

In addition, watershed analyses conducted by the Department (DEP) of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and the Moshannon River Watersheds have documented that they are also severely limited in the capacity to assimilate new loads of TDS and sulfates.”

You are needed. Attend the hearing to support DEP’s proposed strategy, based on good science, for protecting Pennsylvania’s waterway.
To speak at the hearing call 717-787-4526 to register.

J. Public Hearings

The Board will hold four public hearings for the purpose of accepting comments on this proposal. The hearings will be held at 5 p.m. on the following dates:

December 14, 2009
5 p.m.
Cranberry Township Municipal  Building
2525 Rochester Road
Cranberry Township, PA 16066-6499
December 15, 2009
5 p.m.
Department of Environmental  Protection
Cambria District Office
286 Industrial Park Road
Ebensburg, PA 15931
December 16, 2009
5 p.m.
Department of Environmental Protection
Northcentral Regional Office
Goddard Conference Room
208 West Third Street,
Suite 101
Williamsport, PA 17701-6448
December 17, 2009
5 p.m.
Lehigh County Government Center
17 S. 7th Street
Allentown, PA 18101
responsible drilling alliance