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Pennsylvania

Meet the Insurgents on the Front Line of America’s Fracking War

Compiled by Peter Rugh - Vice, January 12, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made headlines at the end of last year when he announced a ban on hydraulic fracking in his state. That was unquestionably a victory for environmentalists, but in neighboring Pennsylvania, however, fracking is still underway. This summer, I visited the northeastern region of the Keystone State to see what the the front lines of America's shale gas boom looks like.

Far off the radar of Google Maps, I found Craig Stevens mowing the front lawn on his 115-acre property in Susquehanna County. Craig, a former National Rifle Association recruiter, hasn't had a drink from his faucet in about a year and a half, and for good reason.

"Blood started shooting out of my face," he told me at his home, licking the sweat off of his gray mustache. "The water started tasting like metal. Slightly at first, then it got stronger. I had spontaneous nosebleeds. Eight of them over two weeks. I couldn't figure out what it was, but the day I stopped drinking the water is the day the nosebleeds stopped." Craig had the water tested. "Barium and strontium levels are through the roof," he said.

Back in 2007, representatives of Chesapeake Energy visited Craig's now deceased 95-year-old grandmother in a nursing home. For $50 an acre, they convinced her to sell the mineral rights to the property, which has been in Craig's family for six generations. Craig and his siblings later negotiated the fee up to $8,000 an acre and a 20 percent cut of everything that is extracted, but he's still pissed that Chesapeake had the gall to hustle his grandma. And he's bitter now that his water has gone bad.

"They won't do anything about it, because they won't admit they did anything wrong," he said.

REPORT: Pennsylvania Shale Gas Operators Cited for 337 Well Casing Violations

By Alex Lotorto and Adam Hasz - Frack University, October 30, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Link to the report

Shale gas operators have been cited for a total of 337 well casing violations in Pennsylvania out of an estimated 8,473 wells drilled.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s compliance and well count data, there has been one well casing violation for every twenty-five wells drilled in the decade since unconventional shale gas development began.

Well casing violations are cited when the structural integrity of a shale gas well is lost. Improperly casing the borehole may result in contamination entering groundwater resources such as springs and aquifers. Well casing violations fall under seven categories, some of those categories include; improperly or insufficiently installed cement, failure to report insufficient or improper cement within a twenty-four hour period; and failure to case and cement to prevent migrations into fresh groundwater.

Two companies with the greatest number of casing violations include Chesapeake Energy, with fifty-four violations and Talisman Energy Inc with forty-one violations, each accounting for about six percent of their total well casing violations. Operators with ten or more wells who had the greatest percentage of well casing violations were Chief Oil and Gas and Exxon Mobil, both having approximately 11.5 percent of wells drilled with well casing violations.

The data review was completed by a partnership of environmental groups including Energy Justice Network and SustainUs.  Researchers sourced well count data from the PA DEP Spud Report and the well casing violations were counted using the online PA DEP Compliance Report, both available on the department’s website.

Energy Justice Network mission is to support communities threatened by polluting energy and waste technologies. Taking direction from a grassroots base and the Principles of Environmental Justice, EJN advocates a clean energy, zero-emission, zero-waste future for all.

SustainUS’ mission is “to empower young people to advance sustainable development. Through proactive education, research and advocacy at the policy-making level and at the grassroots, we are building a future in which all people recognize the inherent equality and interdependence of social, economic, and environmental sustainability. We strive to reflect our values through the diversity of members and projects, our ongoing commitment to educating ourselves and others, and the way we live our lives.”

Pennsylvania Instructed Its Employees To Ignore Residents Sickened By Drilling

By Andrew Breiner - Think Progress, June 20, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health instructed its employees never to talk to residents who complained of negative health effects from fracking, StateImpact Pennsylvania reported Thursday. Two retired employees of the department detailed restrictions on attending meetings, lists of topics they could not discuss, and a general departmental hostility to the idea of health problems linked to shale gas drilling. The state’s governor, Tom Corbett, declined to comment for StateImpact Pennsylvania’s story.

Pennsylvania has had more than 6,000 hydraulic fracturing wells drilled within the last six years, and zero state studies on their health impacts. In Pennsylvania, and near fracking operations across the country, people have won settlements from fossil fuel companies after being sickened. In many cases the drilling company imposes a gag order to prevent sickened people from spreading the word about what caused their illness and building the case that fracking has negative health effects.

In 2011 Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission recommended a registry to collect health data from people living near fracking operations. Three years later, it still doesn’t exist. Across the country in Colorado, legislators tried to commission a study on the health effects of living near drilling, but fossil fuel advocates ensured its demise. Doctors want more data on health effects of fracking, but the interests of the drillers usually win out.

Former Pennsylvania Health Employees Say Bosses Enforced Silence on Shale Drilling

By Brandon Baker - EcoWatch, June 19, 2014 (reposted with permission from EcoWatch)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A shocking investigative report revealed Thursday that Pennsylvania state health employees may have compounded the danger of Marcellus Shale drilling by systematically refusing to respond to residents’ concerns about it.

A former Department of Health employee said she was told not to return phone calls from residents who expressed concerns about natural gas drilling, NPR reported in its State Impact series.

“We were absolutely not allowed to talk to them,” said Tammi Stuck, who worked as a Fayette County community health nurse for nearly four decades.

Another department retiree, Marshall P. Deasy III, confirmed Stuck’s accusation. He said that drilling was the only public health issue he remembers officials enforcing silence on during his 20 years with the department.

Exaggerating the Employment Impacts of Shale Drilling: How and Why

By Frank Mauro, Michael Wood, Michele Mattingly, Mark Price, Stephen Herzenberg, and Sharon Ward - Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, November 2013

Over the last five years, firms with an economic interest in the expansion of drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations — and their allies, supporters, and trade associations — have used a variety of tools and techniques to exaggerate the employment impacts of shale drilling. These strategies have ranged from the use of inappropriate measures, such as data on new hires, to represent job growth to the misleading attribution of all jobs in “ancillary” industries to the shale industry.

A review of statements by representatives of shale drilling firms and their allies makes the motivation for this exaggeration clear — to preclude, or at least to minimize, taxation, regulation, and even careful examination of shale drilling.

Read the report (PDF).

Violations Analysis of Shell Oil Company's Shale Gas Development in Pennsylvania

By x362102, et. al., October 17, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This report analyzes data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regarding violations cited for shale gas development by Shell Oil Co’s subsidiaries through the end of 2012.

Key findings include:

  • Shell has a 5:6 violation to well ratio. Out of 603 wells drilled, we found that Shell’s subsidiaries East Resources Inc., East Resources Mgmt. LLC and SWEPI were cited 494 violations by PA DEP.
  • Ninety percent of Shell’s violations were environmental in nature. Out of 494 violations, we identified 443 that were environmental in nature, which have or are likely to cause harm to the environment.
  • Shell has been cited for a casing failure rate of about one percent of wells for a total of six citations. It is important to note that well casings are meant to protect aquifers from contamination by chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” process.
  • Shell was cited violations 45 times for Improper Construction of Waste impoundments, 37 times for Faulty Pollution Prevention Practices, 25 times for Discharge of Industrial Waste. This presents imminent danger to surface and ground water supplies.

Read more here.

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