Responsible Drilling Alliance

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Quigley and Hanger offer concerns, Philly says “NO” – Jan. 24th 2010 Newsletter

Can we balance conservation with gas development on PA state land?

A straightforward and enlightening interview with DCNR Secretary John Quigley

“With 20 forests and 117 parks under its supervision, Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has always had a big job managing state land. The fact that many of the state’s forests and parks are located above the Marcellus Shale gas deposit has made management even more complicated. The Allegheny Front’s Ann Murray talks with John Quigley, the Secretary of the DCNR about how Pennsylvania, a cash strapped state, plans to balance conservation and gas development on state lands…”  Listen to the entire Quigley interview here:

Departing DEP Secretary says

“More rules needed for Marcellus”

Excerpted for the RDA Newsletter from the original article by Laura Legere at:

According to John Hanger, departing secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, “The maximum fines that environmental regulators can issue to violators of the state’s oil and gas law are ‘way too low,’ and the bonds drillers post to guarantee plugging of all their natural gas wells are ‘scandalously low’. State law does not currently give regulators the right to ban gas drilling in flood plains, nor has it mandated a large enough distance between gas wells and drinking water reservoirs. And state legislators need to amend sections of the oil and gas law to give regulators clear legal authority to deny permits to drillers that habitually cause significant environmental and safety problems. Right now the department really has very questionable authority to tell a company, ‘You operate so badly we’re not going to give you any more permits’.” Mr. Hanger led the state’s environmental oversight agency during two-and-a-half years when Marcellus Shale drilling grew from an infant industry in Pennsylvania to an established one, and the department under his guidance made substantial updates to the Oil and Gas Act and other environmental laws to respond to that growth. But in an interview last week with the Times-Tribune about the past and future of Marcellus Shale oversight, Mr. Hanger said many more changes are necessary to ensure proper regulation of the industry, and many of those changes must come from the Legislature. Despite the prominence of Marcellus Shale drilling as an environmental issue during his tenure, Mr. Hanger put it in the context of other environmental threats facing the state, including air pollution from coal-fired power plants, climate change that is contributing to the warming of the state’s rivers and thousands of miles of streams that remain dead from acid mine pollution. “Marcellus Shale is both an environmental threat and an environmental opportunity.  The state should tax the industry and use some of the money to clean up legacy environmental problems that otherwise do not receive enough funding, and it should transition to using natural gas in fleet vehicles and power plants,” he said. “The worst case for Pennsylvania would be to be the host of natural gas and not use more natural gas to make electricity and to replace dirty diesel buses and trucks.  The state also must work to avoid creating future environmental problems from shale drilling by increasing the blanket bond for natural gas wells to make sure they are properly plugged at the end of their lives.  Currently, a $25,000 bond covers as many wells as a company wants to develop. Plugging one Marcellus Shale well costs about four times that much,” he said. “‘During the Rendell administration, we spent $16 million of taxpayer money to plug 1,600 oil and gas wells that had been abandoned by companies in the past,” he said.  “We have these abandoned oil and gas wells with no money to pay for them because we didn’t require the gas companies decades ago to post a reasonable bond. We’re in the process of repeating the same mistake.” Mr. Hanger also offered advice to the next DEP secretary, Environmental Hearing Board Judge Michael Krancer. “The single most important thing” is for the agency to be a “professional, independent watchdog,” he said.  “Sometimes I hear some in the industry and some in business say DEP should be the partner of the gas industry, or should treat the gas industry as a customer or a client,” he said. “That’s not correct. The gas industry companies have partners. They’re called investors.” If the agency falls short of being an independent, professional watchdog, ‘it doesn’t matter how much staff you have, and it doesn’t matter how tough or weak the words on the rule page are,” he said. “The regulatory role won’t work.”

NOT My Range Resources!

Excerpted for the RDA Newsletter from the original article by Robert Myers (Lock Haven Univ.) in the Lock Haven Express at:

You’ve probably seen the billboards, or perhaps heard the radio ads: Real Pennsylvanians talking earnestly about the wonderful experiences they’ve had with Range Resources. Range’s website has their stories, along with lots of information about how committed Range is to “making a real difference in the lives of people throughout Pennsylvania.” Well, that much is true: Range is indeed making a real difference. However, a quick review of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection records suggests that the truth is more complicated than the ads suggest. On May 27, 2009, a leaking wastewater pipe from a Range gas well polluted a tributary of Cross Creek Lake in Washington County. The spill killed fish, salamanders, crayfish and aquatic insects. On May 14, 2010, the DEP fined Range $141,175 for spilling 250 barrels of fracking fluid into a high-quality waterway in Washington County in October 2009. Range claims on its website that its “commitment to protecting the environment” can be seen in its erosion control efforts. According to the DEP, Range was cited at least six times between 2009 and 2010 for “failure to minimize accelerated erosion” at sites in Clinton, Lycoming and Green counties. The citation of Sept. 28, 2009, noted that Range’s failure to implement and maintain an erosion plan resulted in sediment discharge into Hoagland Run. Range also insists that it “works every day to train our employees and contractors and see that they follow and understand regulations and company standards related to safety.” If that’s true, it’s difficult to understand why Range was cited twice in 2009 for “failure to notify DEP of pollution incident.” In the Cross Creek incident, Range employees waited nearly four hours before contacting DEP. Range’s website notes that, “After drilling is complete, our aim is to be a good guest and leave things the way we found them – or even better.” However, according to the DEP, one of Range’s Greene County operations was cited on March 22, 2010, for “failure to restore site within nine months of completion of drilling or plugging.” The natural gas industry has bought itself a governor and enough friendly politicians to make sure that it can continue to operate without substantial restraint in Pennsylvania. I urge the industry to at least have the integrity to admit the truth: That over the next few decades, it will turn Pennsylvania into an industrial wasteland.

SOS – Save our State Forests

On election night, Governor Tom Corbett said one of his first acts in office would be to end the leasing ban on State Forestland. This is in spite of the fact that a comprehensive study done by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) showed that leasing more public land for drilling would kill jobs, hurt the economy, and destroy the forests. Help RDA tell Corbett “NO”. Sign our petition today. Tell your friends to do the same. Together we can make a difference. Visit: Jim and Jen Slotterbeck, RDA members who originated the SOS petition, wrote the following update about the petition campaign: The single most interesting aspect of our campaign thus far has been what you, the reader, have posted in the comments section of our petition.  There are many truly heartfelt and insightful comments regarding our State Forests.  Not only have Pennsylvanians commented and signed, but people from all over the world have been weighing in.  Our signature count has been less than hoped for, but your comments reinforce how important this issue is. We have been marketing the Save Our State Forests in Pennsylvania campaign across the state.   Radio and newspaper interviews have been conducted and many phone calls have been made.  We spoke with our State Representatives about SOSinPA.  Many groups and organizations have stepped forward and offered to help.  We thank them and encourage you to learn about them: Earth Justice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment.  They have created an “Action Alert” with our petition and sent it to their membership.  To date, they have received over 1000 signatures that will be included in our final signature count.  (It is independent of our online signature count) The Pennsylvania Camo Coalition is made up of sportsmen and sportswomen from around the state who care about preserving outdoor opportunities and who hope to pass down a legacy of clean air and water and healthy wildlife to our children and future generations. Pennsylvania’s hunters, anglers and trappers have been, and continue to be, some of the state’s most committed and effective conservation leaders. Penn Future works to create a just future where nature, communities and the economy thrive. They enforce environmental laws and advocate for the transformation of public policy, public opinion and the marketplace to restore and protect the environment and safeguard public health. PennFuture advances effective solutions for the problems of pollution, sprawl and global warming; mobilizes citizens; crafts compelling communications; and provides excellent legal services and policy analysis. Lycoming Audubon Society, Isaak Walton League of America, Keystone Trail Association, PA Forest Coalition, GDAC, Marcellus Protest, and many others have been instrumental in getting the word out.  We appreciate all their effort and support! We KNOW there are more people out there who support this campaign.  We encourage you to continue getting the word out.  Print out a flyer from the website and post it at your work place, talk to your friends and family and make sure they have signed! The Responsible Drilling Alliance sincerely thanks all of you.   Together we are a voice that matters.

Quotes of the week

“The preponderance of the evidence is what counts, otherwise you get decades of entrenched special interests insisting upon absolute proof verified by an omnipotent deity. Think big tobacco, the lead paint controversy, asbestos, acid rain, all examples of where special interests delayed implementation of regulatory constraints under the illusion of the evidence being ambiguous. In the meantime real people die from cancer or live lives impaired by chronic illness. This is what you get when you allow a disproportionate number of legal professionals to dominate the political process — an emphasis on spin as opposed to reason.” Kevin Heatley, Environmental Scientist and RDA member “The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. “ Franklin D. Roosevelt (1938)

Roadmap to a renewable future

This week’s National Geographic News highlighted the work of two researchers–Mark Jacobson (Stanford University) and Mark Delucchi (University of California Davis)–who figured out what it would take to provide all of the world’s energy needs with renewable power by 2030. The researchers figured that it would take 4 million wind turbines and 90,000 solar panels. (Pennsylvania now has 16 operating wind farms and least 4,000 solar panels thanks to the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, passed in 2004 and the $100 million Pennsylvania Sunshine program, created in 2008.) According to the researchers, this future is entirely possible. “Technically you can do it. It really depends on will power,” Jacobson said. Although touted by the gas industry as a bridge to this renewable energy future, development of the Marcellus Shale is in truth a deterrent – postponing the crucially needed move away from fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) to clean, renewable energy sources.

Philly says “NO” to Marcellus gas

Excerpted for the RDA Newsletter from the original article by Jon Hurdle at:

Philadelphia officials have directed a city utility not to buy natural gas from the Marcellus. Philadelphia Gas Works buys $300 million to $350 million of gas per year but none of it from the Marcellus Shale and it has no plans to do so pending the EPA review of hydrofracking due in 2012.  The Gas Commission’s unanimous vote followed a decision by the Pittsburgh City Council to preemptively ban hydraulic fracturing in that city.

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