Over 54 million gallons of frack water missing & unaccounted for
The PA Department of Environmental Resources has discovered that records on recycling of gas drilling wastewater have been wildly inflated due to a reporting error. Even worse, no one seems to have any idea where the missing frack water has gone.
Seneca Resources Corp., a subsidiary of Texas-based National Fuel Gas Company acknowledged that a worker gave data to the state in the wrong unit of measure, listing gallons where he should have listed barrels of water. Because of the error, every 42 gallons of wastewater was listed as just one, for a total of 54,600,000 gallons of missing toxic drilling fluids.Â DEP officials did not immediately respond to inquiries about the problems with the state’s data.
The AP reported in January that previous attempts to track wastewater were also flawed. Some companies reported that wells had generated wastewater, but failed to say where it went. The state was unable to account for the disposal method for nearly 1.3 million barrels of wastewater, or about a fifth of the total generated in the 12-month period that ended June 30.
These omissions are of grave concern, because Pennsylvania’s strategy for protecting the health of its rivers is based on knowing which waterways are getting the waste and how much they are receiving.
Economic development at any cost
Governor Tom Corbett appoints the fox as dictator over the henhouse.
Pennsylvania has been in the national news recently, as pollution from gas drilling threatens water resources across our state. But instead of ratcheting up oversight, Governor Tom Corbett wants to hand authority over some of the stateâ€™s most critical environmental decisions to C. Alan Walker, a big campaign contributor and energy executive with his own track record of violating the stateâ€™s environmental regulations.
In naming Walker to head the Department of Community and Economic Development, Corbettâ€™s new budget gives Walker unprecedented authority to â€œexpedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.â€
â€œI have never seen anybody give an economic development director the authority to tell every other agency in the state what to do with regard to its statutory responsibilities,â€ said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental group active on drilling issues.
â€œThe budget introduced today represents a completely new way of doing business for DCED and its economic development partners,â€ claimed Walker in a prepared statement. â€œIn a tough economic climate, we need to send a powerful message to the Pennsylvania Business Community that Pennsylvania is open for business.â€
Walkerâ€™s past history of environmental disregard is alarming. For example, in 2002, three of Walkerâ€™s coal companies notified Pennsylvaniaâ€™s Department of Environmental Protection that they had run out of money and were going to stop treating the 173 million gallons of polluted water they produced each year and released into tributaries of the Susquehanna River. The state eventually got a court injunction to force them to continue treating the wastewater.
To read ProPublica article by Abrahm Lustgarten , Nicholas Kusnetz and Joaquin Sapien, click here: http://www.propublica.org/article/corbett-pa-energy-exec-authority-environment
One fatherâ€™s impassioned plea
Last week, Peter Buckland rode his bicycle over 100 miles to deliver this fervent plea to Governor Tom Corbett, asking Corbett to meet and discuss the changing policies and regulations that demonstrate Corbettâ€™s disregard for the true value of PAâ€™s state forests. For many of us, Bucklandâ€™s memories parallel those that we hold most precious. If you have not already done so, please sign RDAâ€™s petition to spare remaining state forest from leasing. Youâ€™ll find the petition at: www.SOSInPA.org
Dear Governor Corbett,
Thank you for working to serve Pennsylvania as our governor. I am writing to you to request a meeting with you to bring some measure of better representation to the natural gas rush thatâ€™s gripped our state. Too many of us are not being heard. That includes people across the state who have already been negatively impacted, people who worry about our shared resources and especially the forests, and people who believe very strongly in a better quality of life.
Allow me to tell you a little bit of my story. When I was a boy, I played in Slab Cabin Run, a stream that flows down the Tussey Ridge south of State College. My friends and I loved that stream, clambering over rocks in our shorts from late spring to the fall. One day we built up the guts to go through the culvert that goes under Route 26 over the mountain to Greenwood Furnace and Whipple Dam State Parks and Shaverâ€™s Creek. Beneath the hemlocks, we followed the stream up toward the headwaters just a few hundred feet from the Rothrock State Forest. We tramped around as adventurous boys do, throwing mossy rocks into Slab Cabin and picking up big sticks that were alternately the walking sticks of wizened old men or knightly swords.
On other occasions we played in a small spillway below someoneâ€™s backyard bridge. The other side of that little cascade housed a small brook trout area the homeowners built. Once, my friend Elliott and I found a snapping turtle on the sidewalk between our houses. With a combination of apprehension for our fingers and the self-assuredness of boyhood machismo, we picked it up, dropped it into a bucket and put it into that trout run.
Down West Chestnut Street, just below the headwaters, lies a yellow gate into some forest trails. When I was a kid we used to march up there to get to our favorite sledding runs. Dead Manâ€™s Trail was our favorite with a tree right down the middle. When I was old enough to take long walks by myself and get around at night, I walked my dog in those woods. Today, that gate is 500 feet from my house.
For the last 10 years or more I have spent thousands of hours in the state forests. As a mountain biker, hiker, and camper, the forest is my second home. Rothrock is just outside my door. I know it is not currently on the gas market. But just two ridges to the west lies the Moshannon State Forest where 90,000 acres of state forest has been leased to gas companies. To my north lies the Bald Eagle. I travel by bike in the Forbes, Gallitzin, Sproul, Michaux, Tidaghton, and Tioga State Forests. The forests are my second home and they are the source of much of my health. They bring us all health.
They breathe for us. They filter our water. They bring us beauty. They are the homes of the glorious and diverse creation of Nature. In our state, they embody the flourishing Creation of which we are a very special part.
Our intelligence and our organization have brought the most amazing changes to this planet. But in our intelligence and our power we have not always done what ought to have been done. In a quest to do what we can, we have too often been shortsighted, impatient, and lacked moral clarity. I wonâ€™t bother enumerating a huge list of human-made disasters here because we know too many of them. But from the people of Easter Island who deforested their island to the utter devastation downstream of the Tennessee Valley Authority, powerful people have too often done â€œbusiness as usualâ€ at the expense of other peopleâ€™s health, the integrity of their communities, our shared water, our air, the habitat we share with other organisms, and the glorious wilderness we have agreed not to touch.
From the collapse of Easter Island or the ecosystems in Tennessee there is something disturbing at work. How do a boy and his friends appreciate beauty if it doesnâ€™t exist near them? How do those kids learn to live better with the other creatures of the Creation if what exists is the roar of a compressor station and the clear-cutting of the trees for a road that will crush the soil? What is the smell of thousands of uninterrupted acres of woods? What does a ridge top trail look like with its patches of sandstone cracked over the course of millions of freeze-thaw cycles?
Can that boyâ€™s health be worth another gas well? Another one hundred gas wells? Another several thousand as has been estimated will come soon?
Is it worth terrifying a family by introducing evaporating benzene into the air he breathes and poisoning? Is it worth his waking in the night screaming with a pounding headache because people he will never know are allowed to use other people he will never know to extract gas from a formation of rock buried tens of millions of years ago?
That boy lives all around the state right next to thousands of mountain gap streams. This problem is not just in my backyard. It is in our common backyard.
Is this the price of progress? The destruction of our common resources that brings us a common good in our great commonwealth? I find it hard to believe that this is the right thing to do. Is progress in Pennsylvania to make it into a third world nation, where there is no justice and the people are not only ignored but hurt by a collusion of big industry and government?
Like you, I am a father. When I think of my son, Sacha, waking up in the night repeatedly because of a toxic environment, I shudder and grow very angry. I have talked to and had correspondence with people all over the state who have stories about their neighborsâ€™ health. The headaches. The smells. The trips to the doctor. It is only a matter of time until we start seeing the long-term health effects caused by prolonged exposure to heavy metals like cadmium, barium, strontium, radium, and gross alpha. As you know, the recent New York Times articles have provided a wake-up call that cannot be ignored. Following former DEP secretary John Hangerâ€™s recent statements, I would certainly hope that you are going to summon additional DEP power to sample all drinking water across the state for these toxins. Of course, there are other chemicals like benzene that need to be tested for.
We have to stop accepting ugliness and destruction in the name of progress. This is not progress. I am calling on you to focus on our forestsâ€™ and our peopleâ€™s abilities to sustain themselves and each other.
I have to say that there is something else that really bothers me and thousands and thousands of others around the state. See, we donâ€™t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to donate to your campaign. We donâ€™t have nearly $3,000,000 to contribute to total campaigns over the last 10 years in the state. We canâ€™t buy airtime. We can’t spend millions to lobby the legislature, to tangle up regulation and regulators, or create glossy pamphlets that we can dispense at public symposia. We canâ€™t put gag orders into leases. We arenâ€™t poisoning peopleâ€™s wells and buying them water from elsewhere and shipping it to them. We canâ€™t pay the price for this. On any level.
Pennsylvaniaâ€™s forests bring us great wealth. Not only do people gain the monetary benefits of our forest tourism, they get peace of mind, clean air, fresh water, beautiful trails, wild game from turkey to black bear, and the joy and thrill of being out in wilderness. I am a big fan of happinessâ€¦not in the empty bubble gum and pink hearts way but the kind of happiness that comes from meaningful and joyful experiences with friends and family in great places. The state parks and state forests are those places.
We, the concerned, must be heard and represented because you are OUR governor. I request that you do the following:
- Impose a statewide moratorium on new gas drilling.
- Reinstate DCNRâ€™s ability to perform environmental impact assessments.
- Reinstate DEPâ€™s ability to carry out comprehensive air quality assessments from drilling operations.
- Provide for the immediate testing of all drinking water facilities around the state to test for all chemicals associated with the natural gas drilling process.
- Impose a severance tax on existing operations with accrued funds going back into some combination of environmental restoration, infrastructure maintenance, and local municipal and/or educational funding.
A meeting with you will, Iâ€™m sure, be a lively and spirited discussion that might just mark the beginning. See, we believe in conversation and in the power of meeting face to face with those whom we have elected no matter their political persuasion. But to have that conversation, we need to be heard.
We hope you will listen to that little boy.
With great hope,
Peter Dawson Buckland
Ph.D. candidate – Educational Theory and Policy
Penn State University, College of Education
Founder of Environment – Ecology – Education in the College of Education