Responsible Drilling Alliance Endorses "First 100 Days" Clean Energy Agenda
WILLIAMSPORT, PA- October 18th, 2012
In conjunction with nearly 2,000,000 citizens nationwide, the Responsible Drilling Alliance (RDA), a Williamsport-based citizens group dedicated to seeking the truth about the consequences of shale gas development, has joined over one hundred other grassroots organizations in issuing a "First -100-Days" clean energy agenda for the President of the United States to adopt immediately upon taking the oath of office on January 20, 2013.
The America Clean Energy Agenda calls for a true energy revolution in electrical power generation via the replacement of the nation's overwhelming reliance on highly polluting, water-intensive, and ultimately expensive coal, natural gas and nuclear power with a sustainable grid. Cost-effective energy efficiency solutions combined with core renewable electrical power sources will lead to increased American jobs and national security, with better family health and safety through affordable and reliable domestic renewable energy production.
Working with research and reports provided by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. of Cambridge MA, the American Clean Energy Agenda was spearheaded by the think tank Civil Society Institute of Newton, MA and the Washington D.C.-based research organization Environmental Working Group. The full text of the agenda and the list of the groups that have endorsed it are available online at: http://www.AmericanCleanEnergyAgenda.org.
The first-100-days clean energy agenda calls on the next U.S. President to:
RDA President Ralph Kisberg states: "Tens of thousands of tax paying Pennsylvania citizens are dealing with the negative consequences of unconventional gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. At only 5% of the projected build out, family water supplies have been contaminated, property values ruined, and lives turned upside down due to a myopic focus on climate-changing fossil fuel extraction. It is time for our leaders in Washington to aggressively move us into the 21st century energy future the majority of Americans envision - before it is too late."
Eye-opening polling data from an April 25, 2012 ORC International survey is available online at http://www.civilsocietyinstitute.org/media/042512release.cfm
NOTE: The sponsors of the American Clean Energy Agenda initiative do not endorse or intend to endorse any candidate for office. The release of the "100 Days" report is intended to provide information to the public on what constitutes an effective problem-solving energy policy.
DUSHORE, PA - The Department of Environmental Protection is investigating two methane migration incidents near Chesapeake Energy drilling operations in Forks Township, Sullivan County. One incident occurred in the Black Creek area, and the other near Pleasant Valley Road.
Although DEP has not yet determined the cause of either methane migration, an abandoned well from the 1950's was discovered around a mile northwest of the Pleasant Valley Road problem area.
DEP detected combustible gas at the surface of the ground above the abandoned BJ Broschart well in Forks Township. A township resident reported to RDA that the well was drilled to a depth of 7,000' and never put into production.
"Since the well is considered an orphaned well, with no viable operator, the department assumed the responsibility of plugging the well through the Orphaned Well Plugging Fund," said Spadoni.
Hydrocarbon Well Services well-plugging site
DEP hired Hydrocarbon Well Services to plug the orphaned well through an emergency contract.
"Had we not taken this action, this well would have simply been added to a list of thousands of orphaned wells waiting to be plugged, and it could have taken many years," said Spadoni.
"We first became aware of the [Pleasant Valley Road] situation through a report form Chesapeake, after the company received a complaint from a resident," said DEP's Community Relations Coordinator Dan Spadoni in an email. "The initial investigation led to the temporary evacuation of the resident due to elevated levels of methane in the basement of the home."
|Methane vent in Sullivan County. Click the image to hear the eerie sound coming from the vent. (Image: RDA)|
Vents and alarms were installed so that the resident could return to the property.
"Screening and further investigation in the area identified several other water supplies, including that of the complainant, with elevated levels of methane," said Spadoni.
According to DEP, there were no obvious problems with Chesapeake's nearby Lambert Farms well that would have contributed to the methane migration.
"[That's] why there is no specific violation in our compliance system," said Spadoni.
The other methane migration occurred in the Black Creek area of Forks Township, which is about 4 miles away from the BJ Broschart well.
"There is one potentially impacted water supply as well as surface expressions of methane in the creek. The nearest gas wells to this occurrence are Chesapeake's Black Creek and Insinger wells," said Spadoni. "Again, there are no obvious problems relating to the construction of these gas wells, which is why there are no specific violations noted."
As drilling activity increases in the Marcellus Shale region, so do the risks posed by abandoned wells.
"When new gas wells are drilled near abandoned wells, the abandoned wells present an increased risk of gas migration," said Laurie Barr of Save Our Streams PA. "Unplugged wells can provide pathways between formation layers and the surface.
"Safety issues arise when abandoned wells are located within close proximity to active drilling," said Barr. "In McKean County a home exploded. The DEP subsequently ordered the operator to plug three abandoned wells that were discovered during the investigation into the house explosion."
When asked to comment, Sullivan County resident and gas industry watchdog John Trallo said, "Not only is the DEP under Corbett and Krancer unwilling to hold the industry responsible, it seems like they go out of their way to actually cover up for them without investigation.
The lack of information and transparency by DEP about the these kind of situations leaves the public in the dark as to just how often they are occurring - something you would think would be helpful in analyzing the safety of shale gas development."
RDA would like to know if there are other abandoned wells in the areas of Sullivan County where shale gas drilling has occurred or will occur. At a meeting at a Chesapeake event at Sullivan's Elkland Township Fire Hall this summer, RDA Board President Ralph Kisberg asked a Chesapeake representative if they knew of any abandoned gas wells in the county. Kisberg also suggested Chesapeake involve the community in researching old newspapers, county records and family documents and make a PR event out of the project.
When Chesapeake's Andy Travis was asked if they had ever drilled into an abandoned well in the area, Travis truthfully answered no. Perhaps a better phrasing of the question would have yielded a different answer: has hydraulic fracturing of a Chesapeake well ever caused communication with an abandoned well?
by Morgan Myers
As reported last week, a Minuteman Environmental Services truck spilled 3,600 gallons of trade secret "Hydraulic Stimulation Fluid" into Pine Creek on September 26th. Responsible Drilling Alliance followed up with DEP and Restoration Ecologist Kevin Heatley to learn more about potential environmental impacts.
"In a receiving stream as large as Pine Creek, a 3,600 gallon discharge is not typically going to cause an environmental degradation," said DEP Water Quality Program Manager Tom Randis. "If it happened during a low flow period or in a headwaters stream we'd be talking about a different scenario."
"Will the spill kill Pine Creek?" said Heatley. "No, it wont - but what about the cumulative impacts?"
DEP conducted a water sampling survey and visually inspected the creek for signs of a fish kill following the spill. DEP decided not to do a macrobenthic survey, which would have provided more information about changes to the environment at the creek's bottom.
"We did not do a benthic survey because there was no visual fish kill," said Randis.
"Just because a bunch of fish didn't float to the surface does not mean that the stream was not injured," said Heatley. "When you pollute a stream the first thing that happens is you change the organisms at the bottom of the food chain."
A macrobenthic survey measures the potential impact to such organisms.
"The solution to pollution is dilution," said Randis. "Of course that's not something we advocate, but it does work."
"Dilution is not the solution to pollution," said Heatley. "Salty water will dilute, but what else was in that fluid? There is no safe threshold for radiation. One single radioactive impact could be the thing that triggers your cancer."
"You're talking about 3,600 gallons of fluid [discharged] into a stream flowing at 2,300 gallons per second. That's relatively insignificant in terms of a mixing zone," said Randis.
Hydraulic Stimulation Fluid is HydroRecovery LP's treated frack water. The exact formula is proprietary, but HydroRecovery confirmed that the fluid spilled by Minuteman contained constituents besides brine.
"We're going to get Minuteman's product data sheets tomorrow," said Randis. "Our investigative findings will be public information. The company would have to follow very specific protocol for that information to remain confidential."
The spill occurred upstream from Jersey Shore Water Authority's Pine Creek intake.
"DEP did not notify the Jersey Shore Water Authority because the intake there is only in operation during low flow periods," said Randis of DEP. "Pine Creek is a backup intake. Larry's Creek is their primary water supply."
DEP opted not to notify downstream residents of the contamination either.
"By the time they got the letter the contamination would have been long gone," said Randis. "Probably to Sunbury by then."
"What if your kid is splashing in the creek when that proprietary fluid floats by?" said Heatley. "This shows me that our regulatory community is not looking out for our best interests."
Minuteman Environmental Services will be issued a violation for an unauthorized discharge of an industrial waste.
"That's a clean streams law violation," said Randis. "We will determine if there will be any fines after we gather all the facts about damage to the receiving stream, what was released, and the response by the responsible party - in this case, Minuteman."
DEP was asked if Minuteman would pay for the clean up effort.
by Morgan Myers
WATERVILLE, PA - A Minuteman Environmental Services truck released 3,600 gallons of HydroRecovery LP's “Hydraulic Stimulation Fluid” into Pine Creek after crashing into a cliff along Route 44 yesterday afternoon. Firefighters placed booms in the creek to mitigate contamination. By the time Emergency Response arrived on the scene, the tanker had drained completely. The valve had been severed from the tank.
“Hydraulic Stimulation Fluid is a brine water that has some residual components in it,” said Teresa Copenhaver, Business Development Manger of HydroRecovery L.P., a frack water recycling plant in Blossburg. “We do a chemical precipitation process that removes heavy metals, minerals, and other constituents from the waste waster. It’s diluted down from when it came in.”
When asked for specifics about what “residual components” besides brine were in the treated water, Copenhaver called it “proprietary information.”
“Coke and Pepsi won’t tell you what’s in theirs,” said Copenhaver. “Were not trying to hide anything from anybody, we create a product.”
In addition to Hydraulic Stimulation Fluid the truck released “a few gallons of transmission fluid and a couple pints of power steering fluid,” according to Wes Gordon of Minuteman Environmental Services. “These were more of a concern than the treated water. The treated water is almost like drinking water again.”
“You wouldn’t drink it,” said Copenhaver. “It’s meant 100% for recycling for fracking. The gas companies don’t need a very clean treated water to go down hole.
DEP and Minuteman took stream readings following the accident.
“We took water samples above, below, and at the incident to see if anything had changed. The samples went to the lab this morning,” said Gordon.
According to readings from the USGS station in Waterville, Pine Creek is currently flowing at about 2,300 gallons per second. Gordon of Minuteman said that 3,600 gallons of treated water were released. Responsible Drilling Alliance is still trying to understand what impact the accident will have on the creek.
Several things played into the accident. “The driver wasn’t feeling good so he rolled down the window to get some fresh air at a section of the road without a berm. He creased the first set of rocks, which pushed the front of the cab into the second set of rocks,” said Gordon. "Basically it was just an accident."
The driver hauling the treated water was not injured.
“He was a little stunned at the beginning but he was checked out by EMS on scene and at the hospital,” said Gordon. “Due to DOT protocol we had to have him drug tested, but this guy has a good record. He passed.”
The accident happened near one of Pine Creek’s deepest fishing holes, a beloved spot near the railroad bridge above Torbert Village.
“Pine Creek is a beautiful area,” said Copenhaver. “I used to live there, hike, and bike the rail trail. I don’t want [accidents] to happen and I know the gas companies don’t either.”
The prepared statement below was read by Jeff Richardson at a public meeting at the Gmeiner Center in Wellsboro, PA on 8/28/12.
Hello and Good Evening. We are Jeff and Tina Richardson and we moved into Tioga County in 1993.
We are here tonight in part to talk about what is happening to us regarding natural gas drilling. We have no background in law, nor in any field related to the natural gas industry. We are here as concerned citizens. We hope that what we are going through isn't happening to others. For us, along with environmental, health and safety concerns, there are also the issues of the impact on property value and on quality of life. We want to give you a brief summary of a portion of what we have been dealing with. I'm going to read a short statement about our situation and concerns. Then, a representative from Responsible Drilling Alliance will speak. After which, we invite anyone to speak on their experiences or concerns.
First, we want to say that we are NOT against drilling, but are extremely concerned that it is done safely.
In February 2010, when we learned of the planned drilling activity that was to take place next to our property, with the pad just over 1,000 feet from our well, we feared we could be impacted by the drilling because it would be so close to our water supply; environmental and health issues were our first concern. Then came the decision of signing or not signing a lease. We asked ourselves - if we didn't sign on, would the natural gas be extracted from our property without us getting compensated for it? We wanted to protect ourselves as much as possible. We sought legal advice. We were advised to sign a non-surface lease with several addendums for added protection. Some of the issues we addressed in our lease and addendums included:
- Water quality
- No pipeline, no access roads
- No seismic testing
- No storage of gas in any formation underlying our property
- No automatic renewal of lease
- Non-deduct royalties
After much thought, we signed on, requesting VERY extensive baseline water tests from the drilling company - East Resources - before doing so. We thought we had done what we could to protect ourselves and our property and had only to be concerned with the drilling site right next to us. However, we have come to learn that you do not have to live right next to a site to be impacted by its operations. In our case, that meant our water well became contaminated from a drilling site nearly 3/4 of a mile away.
Back in January of this year (2012), we noticed a change in the taste of our water. In February, we called DEP. They promptly came out and began testing our water. Tests indicated elevated manganese and methane at a COMBUSTIBLE LEVEL. In fact, when DEP was doing the testing and the well cap was removed, we could hear our water bubbling.
In May, DEP determined that gas well drilling had impacted our water supply. Methane contamination was bad enough news to us. But recently, after noticing increased truck traffic at the pad, we called Shell and DEP to inquire about the activity. We learned that even though the well had not been repaired, fracking would still take place. We became even more seriously concerned for our well-being.
We are still unclear as to the explanation provided by both Shell and DEP as to why it was ok to proceed. Our concern is that other contaminants may migrate into our water because the well is not repaired. We were informed by Shell - just yesterday - that fracking is complete at this time. However, it is unclear to us as to how long it could take possible contaminants to migrate. This will be an ongoing concern for us if further drilling operations occur at the pad.
In addressing our water problems, there was a need for immediate water supply, as well as a long term solution. Bottled water was delivered regularly. The offer of water buffaloes was given, but we declined because we thought, if having a filtration system installed, it would be resolved promptly. We would later come to realize that this would not be the case. There was also the option of drilling a new well. We decided not to take this risk because it was our understanding that a new well may not provide a different outcome. We did not want to further disturb the aesthetics of our property for something that might not work. It is bad enough looking out our windows every day and seeing the well vent. We decided to move forward with a filtration system.
Discussions with Shell regarding the filtration system were (and still are) very time consuming.
Regarding location, it seems to us that Shell was trying to use the easiest solution for themselves, with little regard for us:
- First, Shell wanted to put the system in our basement - we were VERY uncomfortable with that option because of the methane being brought into the house to be separated out.
- The next offer was that a system be installed in a work trailer to be placed in our driveway. We did not accept this either.
- Finally, we agreed on a shed to be used to house the filtration system.
Then came the discussions on what was to be filtered out. Another time-consuming, tiring situation because what we were told would be included kept changing - from methane, to methane and manganese, to the newly developing changes in our water (namely, odor and increased sediment) and back again to just methane - the answers kept changing.
Twice we halted the construction of the system because we could not get a solid answer on what was to be filtered out. But, JUST VERY RECENTLY, this was resolved - or so we thought. Now, because of the unrepaired well being fracked, we are very concerned there may be further contamination issues to be addressed.
Another reason we halted the system construction was because we needed to get additional legal advice. It is our understanding from Shell that once the system is installed, WE would be responsible for maintaining it. We needed more information about the system and any expenses that WE may incur that Shell would not be covering.
Regarding water tests, our experience is that we've had to continually request results from Shell before receiving them. Until very recently, it has been frustrating having to track down information for our own water and not know what is going on or if progress is being made since having a well vent installed.
We also feel it is imperative to have ongoing water tests, especially if an unrepaired well is being fracked. Again, methane migrated into our water, so we have serious concern that other problem substances could migrate as well. We believe these tests should be extensive, should be done by a company NOT used by Shell and feel Shell should be paying for them. Or DEP should be doing regular testing of our well for any possible migrating contaminants. Neither is the case at this time.
We are also concerned with the affect this situation may have on our property value and the salability of our home. When it comes time to sell in the future, we fear it may be difficult to do so
- because potential buyers may have to incur the cost of extensive water tests to insure that the water is safe
- because of the well vent, the filtration system and the methane detectors throughout our home. We feel potential buyers may be scared off by these rather than comforted by them.
When Shell implied that they would address our property value if we were prepared to move, we became extremely upset. THIS IS OUR HOME. Why should we have to uproot our life on a timetable convenient to Shell and not us?
Regarding our quality of life, Shell has taken from us our peace of mind. We feel our way of life, on our own property, has been devastated because of several factors:
- Anxiety about possible further contamination issues from the unrepaired well and also from the well next to us that is not yet developed.
- Anxiety over the salability of our property in the future, when WE want to move. These thoughts are with us every day.
- Frustration with repeatedly being told that someone else would be addressing our concerns.
- Frustration in dealing with conflicting information.
- Outrage that we are now put in the position of carrying the burden of protecting our water supply and property value in a situation we did not create. We understand that problems with drilling can occur; but in our case, we feel correcting the impact of these is Shell's responsibility, not ours.
* Lost Time
- A substantial amount of time is having to be spent in dealing with all of this; time which instead should be spent doing the things we choose, not fighting this fight.
So, in conclusion, we feel that Shell has little concern for the effect their operations are having on our lives. We did not even get an apology from Shell until mentioning it to them. At first, we saw our situation as an opportunity for Shell to show us that they act responsibly and also in good faith. Instead, this has become an ongoing battle for us. We now feel compelled to speak out and use the public forum to inform as many people as we can, both inside and outside of our community, that this could happen to them. We hope this will not be the case.
Please remember, you do not have to have a lease or live next to a well pad to be adversely impacted. Thank you.
Contact: Jeff Richardson 570-662-5700