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Friday, September 10, 2010

Gas extraction in Pennsylvania using hydraulic fracturing ("fracking")

Folks -

I am asking you to take a look at this important issue - natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale deposits which cover a goodly portion of Pennsylvania. This is just beginning in Pennsylvania and we need to tread slowly and carefully.  I have put some links at the end so that you can do your own research if you wish. Don't take my word for it.  If you get the chance, please see Gasland. It has had some showings in the area and is scheduled to open in theaters in November. Finally, please consider coming to the Capital Wed Sept 21st for a Lobby Day and Rally.  

This is a little long, but it is a complex issue and I am only skimming the surface.

The method of gas extraction from Marcellus Shale uses a process called hydraulic fracturing also known as fracking. If fracking sounds like a bad word, well perhaps it is.  There are many issues here, but the most important concern water quality, air quality, and the rights of property owners.  The Energy Policy Act of 2005 removed the Environmental Protection Agency from oversight of fracking [but now the EPA wants to know the chemicals used in drilling].  It also exempted the oil and gas industry from many regulations that protect us such as: the Water Quality Act, the Air Quality Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act , the SuperFund law, just to name a few.  These companies use over 500 chemicals, many known to be toxic and/or carcinogenic, throughout the extraction process and they are not required to disclosed them. In fact, they are considered proprietary and therefore can be kept secret from the public.  As much as 80,000 pounds of chemicals can be injected into each well to fracture the shale. These chemicals end up in the air, soil, ground water, rivers, streams and drinking water wells. This has happened in communities throughout the United States and, as was reported over the last few days, in Bradford County, PA.  Methane gas is already seeping into the Susquehanna River in Bradford County.

Nitrogen Oxide and Volatile Organic Compounds are aspects of drilling that create air quality issues.  In fact, there are times when these compounds, among others, create a visible smog. At other times they are not able to be seen, but they are doing their damage anyway.

It takes about 2 millions gallons of water each time a well is fracked and some wells can be fracked up to eighteen times! It is nearly unimaginable the amount of water necessary for this process at one single well.  Most of the water is not recovered and a toxic soup is all that remains of the water that is recovered.  Your drinking water may be at risk even if you do not live in area that would be subjected to drilling.  Consider that the large watersheds of the Susquehanna and Delaware Rivers supply drinking water to millions of people  not just in Pennsylvania, but also to New York City, Philadelphia, Wilmington, and large portions of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.  The overall health of the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays depends largely on the health of the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers.  Those bays, especially the Chesapeake are already under great stress without the added problems from unregulated gas drilling.

Finally there is the issue of the rights of landowners.  Many landowners do not own their mineral rights. They only own the surface.  You can choose not to lease, but does not mean that your gas won't be taken anyway.  Wells can be built right up to your property line.  As you may know, Pennsylvania does not currently tax companies for the gas they remove. This has been a great source of recent debate in the State Legislature.  Just this week the Republicans have said they would agree to the Tax in exchange for "forced-pooling."  Forced-Pooling means that if 75% if the surrounding property owners have signed leases, they consider that you've signed a lease, too.  Gas drilling can then happen on your property without your consent.
I think this is SO important. I am not naive. I know that no form of energy comes without its downside and that includes wind and solar.  However, I am not sure fracking for gas is worth the risk - at least not a this moment in time. Please educate yourself - your drinking water may depend on it.


Not just about the movie, but has a fact sheeting on fracking, personal stories and action steps

A 38 page PDF that de-bunks the industry attempts to discredit the Gasland movie.  You'll find many good links here.

Natural Resources Defense Council Spread sheet on all the exemptions in the 2005 Energy Policy Act

Pennsylvania Clean Water Campaign - You can find more information on the Lobby Day and Rally. Sign-up for the Lobby Day. Lots of good information on Gas Drilling and it's effects on water quality.

Propublica article on last week's EPA warning to the residents of the Wyoming Town of Pavillion that they should not drink their water and must use ventilation fans while showering of washing clothing to prevent a methane gas explosion.  This has been linked to gas drilling and the company involved EnCana wants to drill in PA.  You'll find other information on this site about gas drilling .

Susquehanna River Sentinel - a blog about drilling in Bradford County. Includes photos and video links. [The methane gas bubbles that are coming up in the Susquehanna River cover a huge area, something like 150 feet x 200 feet]. The video doesn't do it justice.

Bradford County methane seeps as reported by a business website.  Pretty much the DEP press release verbatim. 

Here the link to the AP story I heard on NPR this morning [9-10-10].  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129771879

Here is video footage of the Bradford County gas bubbles posted just today by WNEP which is out of Scanton (mailing address says Moosic, PA) http://www.wnep.com/news/countybycounty/wnep-brad-methane-gas-source-susquehanna-river,0,113104.story

 A search turned up only the press release from 09/07

You might be interested in this opinion piece (and the two comments) that ran in  a Lehigh Valley paper in June about the time GASLAND aired on HBO.  This is what we are up against and we need to be prepared to respond.

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