Pennsylvania and fracking

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Contents

Introduction

Pennsylvania's shale gas resources are part of the Marcellus Shale, an extensive formation of shale (a type of sedimentary rock that is high in carbon) in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and other states in the region. [1] It underlies about 18,700 square miles in southern New York, including New York City's entire 1,585-square-mile watershed west of the Hudson River.[2] This shale has received renewed attention both because of new estimates of the quantity of methane gas believed to be under these rocks[3] and because of the significant environmental concerns that have been raised about the method of extracting the gas from the shale, "fracking."

History

Between Jan. 1, 2005 and March 2, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued 10,232 drilling permits, and denied only 36 requests.

Tom Corbett’s first major political appointment after his election as Governor in November 2010 was to name C. Alan Walker, an energy company executive, to head the Department of Community and Economic Development. Corbett also repealed environmental assessments of gas wells in state parks. Within the budget bill, Corbett authorized Walker to “expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.”

Between 2007 and the end of 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued 1,435 violations to natural gas companies; 952 of those violations related to potential harm to the environment. In March 2011, Michael Krancer, the new DEP secretary and a political appointee of Corbett, took personal control over the department’s issuance of any violations. By Krancer’s decree, every inspector could no longer cite any well owner in the Marcellus Shale development without first getting the approval of Krancer and his executive deputy secretary.[4]

On February 14, 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law Act 13, which revoked local zoning authority to discourage oil and gas development, allowing municipalities to adopt rules on drilling, but preventing them from banning it. The law also allows the state’s Public Utilities Commission to overturn local zoning and decide whether a community is eligible for a share in impact fee revenues, and enables the industry to seize private property for a drilling operation.[5]

Despite the regulations to encourage shale gas development in the state, by 2013 fracking in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania had dropped by more than 50 percent since its peak in 2010, attributed primarily to the low market price of gas. David Masur of PennEnvironment said gas companies that once touted the benefits of cheap natural gas for the Pennsylvania economy are looking instead toward facilities to ship liquid gas to markets overseas, where prices are higher.[6]

Revenues

In 2012, Pennsylvania was the only major gas-producing state that does not tax natural gas production.[7]

In February 2012, the Pennsylvania House and Senate approved a compromise plan for a "local impact fee" on natural gas drillers, which Gov. Corbett is expected to sign. Corbett had refused to impose a "severance tax" on drillers, arguing that it would hinder the industry's presence in the state, so instead the "impact fee" was created. The compromise calls for a fee that would fluctuate with the price of natural gas and, starting in 2013, the rate of inflation. In the first year alone, Republicans say, the levy would raise $180 million from 3,850 wells. The bill sends 60 percent of proceeds to localities directly affected by drilling, to cover such items as road repair and increased public-safety costs. The other 40 percent goes to statewide projects.[8]

Many Democrats and environmental groups have criticized the bill, saying it was crafted behind closed doors by Republicans. The bill requires that all types of oil and gas operations (except for natural gas processing plants)—unlike any other commercial or industrial business—be allowed in all zoning districts, and mandates a state ordinance that supersedes municipal ordinances.[9]

Taxes defeated in part by industry study

Pennsylvania remains the largest U.S. state without a tax on natural gas production, due in part to a 2009 Pennsylvania State University study predicting drillers would shun Pennsylvania if new taxes were imposed; lawmakers cited it the following year when they rejected a 5 percent tax proposed by then-Governor Ed Rendell. The tax would have generated an estimated $100 million in its first year. It was later reported that the PSU study was sponsored by the industry-funded Marcellus Shale Coalition, which provided a grant of about $100,000, and led by economist Dr. Tim Considine, the lead analyst for natural gas deregulation on the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, according to his University of Wyoming profile. Considine has also conducted contract research for industry groups such as the American Petroleum Institute and the Wyoming Mining Association.[10] A 2010 expansion of the 2009 PSU study was funded by the American Petroleum Institute.[11]

The impact fee will bring in about $85 million in 2012 compared to $200 million under a 5 percent tax, assuming a gas price of $2.50 per thousand cubic feet, according to the non-partisan Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. The fee will peak at about $200 million a year, while the tax could have reached $500 million in 2015 if gas prices rebound to $4.50.[12]

Considine was also the lead author on a SUNY-Buffalo report in May 2012 that claimed state regulation had made fracking safe in Pennsylvania. Within days, a top Pennsylvania environmental official quoted the Buffalo study in testimony to Congress about the effectiveness of fracking regulations. But both the official and the study itself declined to mention Considine’s close ties to the industry — and that his department had received nearly $6 million in donations from the oil and gas industry in 2011.[13] A separate PSU study on fracking also funded by the Marcellus Shale Coalition was cancelled in 2012 after after some faculty members said the project was being slanted toward industry.[14]

Tax loopholes

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, more than 400 corporate subsidiaries linked to Marcellus Shale gas exploration have been registered in Delaware, most within the last four years; more than two-thirds of the companies in the Marcellus Shale Coalition are registered to a single address: 1209 North Orange Street. In 2004, the Center estimated that the Delaware loophole had cost the state $400 million annually in lost revenue.[15] SEIU of Pennsylvania has calculated $550 million/year in lost tax revenue in the state from the shale gas industry due to the loophole.[16]

Lobbying and donations

A 2012 press release by MarcellusMoney.org stated that the "natural gas industry and related trade groups have now given nearly $8 million to Pennsylvania state candidates and political committees since 2000.... Top recipients of industry money given between 2000 and April 2012 were Governor Tom Corbett (R) with $1,813,205.59, Senate President Joseph Scarnati (R-25) with $359,145.72, Rep. Dave Reed (R-62) with $137,532.33, House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai (R-28) with $98,600, and Sen. Don White (R-41) with $94,150.[17]

The 2011 Common Cause report, "Deep drilling, deep pockets, in Washington and Pennsylvania," found that "from 2001 through June 2011, the fracking industry gave $20.5 million to current members of Congress and spent $726 million on lobbying."

Two Pennsylvanians, Rep. Tim Murphy, and Sen. Pat Toomey, ranked among the leading recipients in Congress in gas industry donations (10th and 28th respectively). Murphy has received $275,499 and Toomey $160,750. Other PA recipients included Rep. Jason Altmire (D) with $65,365; Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) with $60,800; Rep. Bill Shuster (R) with $59,000; Rep. Charles Dent (R) with $56,500; and Rep. Glenn Thompson (R) with $52,000.

The natural gas industry contributed about $1.6 million to Gov. Corbett’s political campaigns from 2001 to 2011, about $1.1 million of that for his campaign for governor.[18]

Revolving door

The 2013 Public Accountability Initiative report "Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania" identified 45 current or former Pennsylvania state officials who have links to the energy industry and gas drilling and fracking regulation, including 28 who have left to take industry jobs. According to the report:

  • Pennsylvania’s previous three governors have strong ties to the natural gas industry - Tom Ridge’s firms benefited from a $900,000 contract to lobby for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Mark Schweiker joined a lobbying firm with a Marcellus Shale practice, and Ed Rendell is a partner in a private equity firm invested in fracking services companies and recently lobbied on behalf of driller Range Resources. Current governor Tom Corbett received more than $1 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.
  • Every Secretary of Environmental Protection since the DEP was created has had business ties to the natural gas industry.
  • Twenty Department of Environmental Protection employees have held jobs in the energy industry either before or after their agency jobs. Former high-level staffers include Terry Bossert, who has worked for three law firms that represent the energy industry before being hired as a vice president at Chief Oil & Gas; John Hines, a former Executive Deputy Secretary, who is now a government relations advisor to Shell; and Barbara Sexton, a former Executive Deputy Secretary who is now a government affairs director at Chesapeake Energy.

Wells

Drilling wells

As of January 12, 2012, the Department of Environmental Protection has issued 5,751 permits in the Marcellus Shale region of the state, and 2,891 wells have been drilled.[19]

In the Marcellus Shale region in Pennsylvania, drilling companies were issued approximately 3,300 gas-well permits in 2009, compared with 117 in 2007.[20]

In 2012, staffers at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Powdermill Nature Reserve compiled what is believed to be the first comprehensive list of every Marcellus Shale well site in Pennsylvania; Powdermill believes that since 2000, the state has permitted 9,848 Marcellus Shale wells, of which 6,391 are either drilled and/or producing. There are 2,457 active permits that could eventually be drilled. Another 349 wells have either been abandoned, plugged, declared inactive, shut-in, or their status is unknown.[21]

Map courtesy of FracTracker

Waste injection wells

At the end of 2011, Pennsylvania had six active Class II wells. Of the almost 22 million gallons of wastewater that Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale operators sent to disposal wells in the first six months of 2011, nearly 99 percent went to Ohio, according to production reports from the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Department.

According to state regulators, Pennsylvania has only six active wells because the geological formations in Pennsylvania's east are not permeable and because, until 2010, the state allowed companies to discharge brine into streams or take it to treatment plants. Fluid recycled or sent to out-of-state disposal wells increased after the state started limiting wastewater sent to treatment plants.[22]

Abandoned wells

As of 2012 the state DEP knows the loca­tion of 8,257 aban­doned/orphaned oil and gas wells -- an estimated 2 to 4 per­cent of the total aban­doned wells in Pennsylvania, according to the DEP. As many as 300,000 wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania since the first oil well was drilled in 1859, with an unknown num­ber of them left behind as abandoned wells. The number is unknown because most abandoned wells were drilled before Penn­syl­va­nia required per­mits, record-keeping, or any kind of regulation. The abandoned wells can serve as conduits for the surface migration of methane gas, particularly from newly drilled wells, sometimes leading to explosions.[23]

Pipelines

Regulatory issues

In December 2011, Governor Corbett signed a law giving the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) authority to begin taking steps to do safety checks of some natural gas pipelines in the Marcellus Shale regions - hiring inspectors and drafting new rules that bring the state in line with federal rules. But the new safety-inspection and construction regulations will not apply in the most rural areas with "gathering" pipelines, which typically link wells with interstate pipelines. Because the pipelines are in remote, rural areas, the federal safety rules - covering everything from steel quality to welding standards - do not apply.[24]

After the law, the PUC began the job of enforcing federal safety rules for pipeline systems, but none of the rules applies when the pipes or compressors are in the most rural areas, known as Class 1. For decades, the gas industry has fought hard to protect that exemption, according to the Inquirer. An Inquirer series in 2011 found that such regulatory gaps, coupled with a slow response from Pennsylvania, meant that hundreds of miles of high-pressure pipelines had been built with no safety oversight, and up to 25,000 miles could be built, experts say.[25]

On March 29, 2012, a natural gas explosion rattled a compressor station near Springville, part of Marcellus Shale drilling in northern Pennsylvania, shaking houses up to half a mile away. After the blast, a gas safety inspector from the state Public Utility Commission began an investigation into possible violations of gas safety rules. But the PUC shut down its examination a few weeks later, after determining the station was in a rural area - and thus outside its jurisdiction.[25]

MARC 1

In January 2012, Central New York Oil & Gas Co., LLC went to court to condemn nearly half the properties along its FERC approved 39-mile natural gas pipeline through northern Pennsylvania, despite the company's assurance to federal regulators that it would minimize using eminent domain. Eminent domain would give the company the right to excavate and lay the 30-inch diameter pipeline on private property. Landowners would not lose their properties and would be compensated. Landowners say the company steamrolled them by refusing to negotiate in good faith on either monetary compensation or the pipeline's route, which cuts through the state's pristine Endless Mountains.

The MARC 1 pipeline is seen as key infrastructure for tapping into the Marcellus Shale, as the high-pressure steel pipeline will connect to major interstate pipelines and the company's own natural gas storage facility in southern New York state. Central New York Oil & Gas hopes to start construction soon and finish by July 2012, but awaits permits from Pennsylvania environmental regulators and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The EPA has expressed concern that the pipeline will cross dozens of pristine waterways.[26]

Environmental and health effects

Water use

Approximately 4.3 million gallons of fluid are injected per fractured well in Pennsylvania, according to researchers from San Jose State University and the consulting firm Downstream Strategies. This comes out to 3.2 to 4.3 gallons of water per thousand cubic feet of gas - three times what previous research has calculated. On average, only 6% of injected fluid is recaptured. Pennsylvania operators reported an almost 70% increase in wastewater generated from 2010 to 2011—rising to a reported 613 million gallons of waste in 2011.[27]

Fracking wastewater: History

Pennsylvania farmer speaks to anti-fracking rally
  • Interactive Map displaying where fracking waste from PA drilling was produced and disposed, across six states.

On Jan. 5, 2010, Pro Publica reported that Pennsylvania was dumping hundreds of millions of gallons of the wastewater utilized in extracting natural gas in the Marcellus Shale into streams across the state. They reported that "Pennsylvania was largely unprepared for the vast quantities of salty, chemically tainted wastewater produced by drilling operations...While the state Department of Environmental Protection called for the fluids to be sent through municipal treatment plants, those facilities are largely unable to remove the salts and minerals, also known as Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), from the waste...[R]esearchers still don't know whether high TDS levels are harmful to humans or wildlife. But the analysis found that some public water utilities had exceeded the federal limit for levels of cancer-causing trihalomethanes, which can form when chlorine in drinking-water treatment systems combines with bromide, which can be present in drilling waste."[28]

In February 2011, the NY Times reported that "In Pennsylvania, [water] treatment plants discharged [drilling] waste into some of the state’s major river basins. Greater amounts of the wastewater went to the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to more than 800,000 people in the western part of the state, including Pittsburgh, and to the Susquehanna River, which feeds into Chesapeake Bay and provides drinking water to more than six million people, including some in Harrisburg and Baltimore. Lower amounts have been discharged into the Delaware River, which provides drinking water for more than 15 million people in Philadelphia and eastern Pennsylvania."[29]

The Times concluded that "More than 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater was produced by Pennsylvania wells [from 2008 to 2011], far more than has been previously disclosed. Most of this water — enough to cover Manhattan in three inches — was sent to treatment plants not equipped to remove many of the toxic materials in drilling waste." Under federal law, testing for radioactivity in drinking water is required only at drinking-water plants, but federal and state regulators have given nearly all drinking-water intake facilities in Pennsylvania permission to test only once every six or nine years.[30]

Wastewater disposal

During the first half of 2012, oil and gas companies reported a total of 12.1 million barrels of fracking wastewater (drilling fluid, frac fluid, and produced fluid) generated from unconventional wells in Pennsylvania, up from 9.6 million barrels in the same period 2011.[31] Some experts say the state's 70,000 older oil and gas wells are also a concern: an AP analysis of state data found that in the second half of 2011, about 78 million gallons of drilling wastewater from conventional oil and gas wells were still being sent to treatment plants that discharge into rivers.[32]

In a peer-reviewed study released in April 2013, it was reported that "Wastewater produced by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale is already overwhelming disposal options and will continue to do so as gas development increases, according to newly published research. The investigation did not evaluate environmental consequences of the wastewater." However, it was also reported that "fracking wastewater could have a range of environmental and health impacts if not managed correctly. The analysis was limited to Pennsylvania."[33]

Radium

A 2013 Environmental Science and Technology study performed by scientists from Duke University, based on two years of water samples at a Pennsylvania plant that treats fracking wastewater, found high concentrations of of the element radium, a highly radioactive substance. The concentrations were roughly 200 times higher than background levels. In addition, amounts of chloride and bromide in the water were two to ten times greater than normal. Scientists note that the plants are not designed to handle the radioactive elements present in the wastewater, and are not required to test their effluent for radioactive elements. The study suggests that the treated water released back into local streams retains significant levels of radioactivity. The researchers believe the findings would likely be similar for many of the other facilities in Pennsylvania - currently 74 facilities treat wastewater from fracking and release it into streams. Elevated levels of chloride and bromide, combined with strontium, radium, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopic compositions, are present in the Marcellus shale wastewaters, the study found.[34] The study examined the water discharged from Josephine Brine Treatment Facility into the nearby Blacklick Creek, which feeds into a water source for western Pennsylvania cities, including Pittsburgh. Scientists conducting the study took samples upstream and downstream from the treatment facility over a two-year period, with the last sample taken in June this year.[35]

Wastewater dumping

On March 17, 2011 Pennsylvania Greene County resident Robert Allan Shipman and his company, Allan’s Waste Water Service Inc., were charged with illegally dumping millions of gallons of natural gas drilling wastewater across six counties in Pennsylvania from 2003-2009. The investigation of Shipman began after a client grew suspicious of illegal dumping when an in-house audit “revealed a large discrepancy in the amount of sludge received by Allan’s Waste Water and the amount of sludge disposed” by the company at treatment facilities. A review of reports by the Department of Environmental Protection confirmed that over 170,000 gallons of sludge were unaccounted for from June 2006 to the summer of 2007.[36]

Wastewater pits

As reported in The Columbus Dispatch, fracking wastewater impoundment lots as big as football fields already dot heavily fracked landscapes in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The impoundments store millions of gallons of water with fracking chemicals, toxic metals, and radium that come up from shale wells. Companies clean the water of pollutants so it can be recycled to frack new wells.[37]

In Pennsylvania, wastewater must be removed within nine months of competed drilling at a site, according to the DEP. The state has permits for 23 such lagoons.[37]

A West Virginia University study of 15 waste and freshwater lagoons in that state found that eight were built to contain more water than permitted, or had structural problems that threatened leaks.[37]

Methane

In 2009, there were 1.26 cases of methane gas migrating into groundwater for every 1,000 new Marcellus wells drilled, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. In 2010, there were more than seven cases for every 1,000 new wells. The contamination is believed to be due to lack of historical drilling in the PA region, the large amount of methane generated deep underground, and leaks in cement and casings that allow gas and fluids encountered in rock formations to migrate up outside of the wellbore.[38]

The State's Department of Environmental Protection announced in July 2012 that it was going to monitor ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen sulfide and methane at compressor stations and gas processing facilities in the state.[39]

Silica

In July 2012, two federal agencies released research highlighting dangerous levels of exposure to silica sand at oil and gas well sites in five states: Colorado, Texas, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania. Silica is a key component used in fracking. High exposure to silica can lead to silicosis, a potentially fatal lung disease linked to cancer. Nearly 80 percent of all air samples taken by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health showed exposure rates above federal recommendations. Nearly a third of all samples surpassed the recommended limits by 10 times or more. The results triggered a worker safety hazard alert by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.[40]

Social effects

Jobs

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, shale-gas development has created 245,000 direct and indirect jobs, amounting to 4 percent of total employment in a state with 5.7 million jobs. Mark Price, a labor economist with the Keystone Research Center, puts 20,000 direct jobs created from Marcellus Shale.[41]

A 2013 report by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative concluded that the Department overstated the industry's effect on employment by including ancillary jobs in its counts. By the collaborative's count, the industry supported 29,856 jobs in the state in 2012. That same year, West Virginia's energy industry supported 13,147 jobs, and Ohio's shale business generated 8,972 positions, according to the study. Virginia, Maryland and New York -- the three remaining states in the analysis -- each had fewer than 5,000 shale industry jobs.

Pennsylvania state officials fired back, saying that excluding those jobs minimizes the industry's positive community impacts.[42]

Displacement

In March 2012, Pennsylvania mobile park owner Richard A. "Skip" Leonard told residents he sold the 37-unit park to Aqua PVR LLC. The company, whose parent company is Bryn Mawr-based Aqua America, plans to eliminate the park and build a water withdrawal facility to be used by the natural gas industry.

The Lycoming County Planning Commission approved the company's land development plans for the pump station project in mid-February 2012. A news story about the commission's action was the first residents said they knew of the plans. Later, a letter to residents stated the developer would provide residents with a $2,500 incentive payment if they moved by April 1, and a $1,500 payment if they moved by May 1.[43]

When six of the households were unable to move because of the financial burden, members of the occupy movement and others stepped in to set up a resistance camp. The campaign lasted two weeks during which activists set up a functioning community. On June 12, 2012, residents received notice from Aqua America that excavation at the mobile home park would begin that day and that people would have to leave or risk arrest. Huffmaster Crisis Response, which activists were told was hired by Aqua America, was sent in to remove them.[44]

Spills and accidents

From January 2011 to June 2012 Pennsylvania records show 134 oil, gas, or chemical spills in the state.[45] FrackAlert contains a map of accidents and spills in the region here.

May 2009: Leak in Cross Creek Park

A leaking waste water pipe from a Range Resources Marcellus shale gas well drilled in Washington County's Cross Creek Park polluted an unnamed tributary of Cross Creek Lake, killing fish and sealife approximately three-quarters of a mile of the stream. The state Department of Environmental Protection said Range Resources reported the May 26 waste water discharge from a coupling on a 6-inch pipe running from a recently drilled well to a waste water impoundment.[46]

September 2009: Dimock spill and methane leakage

See Federal Investigations: Dimock below for more info on Dimock.

Explosive Gas Emissions from Dimock Water Well

In September 2009, eight thousand gallons of drilling fluids were leaked near the town of Dimock, at a hydraulic fracturing site run by Cabot Oil and Gas and involving a compound (LGC-35 CBM) manufactured by Halliburton that is described as a "potential carcinogen" and is used in the drilling process. The contaminants seeped into a nearby creek, where a fish kill was reported by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The spill was blamed on "faulty pipe work" and resulted in a significant fish kill and other fish “swimming erratically,” according to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection.[47]

November 2009: Atlas Energy contamination in southwest Pennsylvania

On November 9, 2009, Reuters reported that the owner of 480 acres of land in southwest Pennsylvania claimed Atlas Energy Inc. ruined his land with toxic chemicals used in or released there by hydraulic fracturing and he also claimed to find seven potentially carcinogenic chemicals above permissible levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He performed tests on his well water a year before drilling began and said the water conditions were "perfect." After the drilling began, water tests found arsenic at 2,600 times acceptable levels, benzene at 44 times above limits and naphthalene five times the federal standard. He has decided to sue Atlas Energy Inc for negligence and is seeking an injunction against further drilling, and unspecified financial damages. Jay Hammond, general counsel for Atlas, said Zimmermann's claims are "completely erroneous" and said Atlas will "vigorously" defend itself in court and declined further comment.[48]

March 2010: Spill in Sproul State Forest

An estimated 8,000 gallons to 12,000 gallons of mud used by Anadarko E&P Co. Inc. for drilling operations overflowed at its well site due to "human error," spilling into Sproul state forest land that had been leased out by the state for drilling. It was part of 32,000 acres of state forest land leased to five firms interested in drilling the deep gas pockets of the Marcellus Shale formation.[49]

May 2010: Cattle Quarantined Over Fracking Fluid

Twenty eight cows were quarantined after having access to a leaking waste water holding pond on a farm in Tioga County (north-central Pennsylvania). Tracks were found around and in the pond with dead grass in a 30-foot by 40-foot area around it. Water quality tests established levels of chloride, magnesium, potassium, and strontium - a heavy metal and particularly toxic to children. This is the first time animals have been quarantined in response to natural gas drilling. "We took this precaution in order to protect the public from consuming any of this potentially contaminated product," said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. Twenty adult cows will be quarantined for six months and eight calves will be quarantined for two years. The farm is located near an East Resources drilling site.[50]

June 2010: EOG Resources blow out

On June 4, 2010, a western Pennsylvania natural-gas well owned by EOG Resources Inc. blew out, releasing over one million gallons of gas and drilling fluids before being contained about 16 hours later, as reported by the Wall Street Journal and WCAJTV in Pennsyvania.[51][52] Operators at this site were preparing to extract gas after through [hydrofracking]]. In a press release, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection stated that it would "aggressively investigate" the methane well blowout and that it would take the "appropriate enforcement action."[53] "As a result, the well released natural gas and flowback (fracturing) fluid onto the ground and 75 feet into the air," the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said in the press release. EOG Resources is the new namesake for the company formerly known as Enron. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has stated that the incident should serve as an open for what could unfold in the future if proper regulation methods are not implemented with expedience.[54] More on this statement can be seen here: http://www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?play=1&video=1517214459

January 2011: Spill in Tioga County

In January 2011, approximately 21,000 gallons of fracking wastewater was released from a Tioga County, Pennsylvania well when a valve was left open, releasing chloride, sodium, barium and strontium, as well as hydrochloric acid used in the fracking fluid.[55]

April 2011: Wastewater spill in Towanda

In April 2011, near Towanda, Pa., seven families were evacuated after about 10,000 gallons of wastewater contaminated an agricultural field and a stream that flows into the Susquehanna River, the result of an equipment failure, according to the Bradford County Emergency Management Agency.[56]

January 2012: Wastewater spill in Susquehanna County

In January 2012, an equipment failure at a drill site in Susquehanna County led to a spill of several thousand gallons of fluid for almost a half-hour, causing “potential pollution,” according to the state DEP. In its citation to Carizzo Oil and Gas, the DEP “strongly” recommended that the company cease drilling at all 67 wells “until the cause of this problem and a solution are identified.”[57]

March 2012: Explosion

On March 29, 2012, a natural gas explosion rattled a compressor station near Springville, part of Marcellus Shale drilling in northern Pennsylvania, shaking houses up to half a mile away. After the blast, a gas safety inspector from the state Public Utility Commission began an investigation into possible violations of gas safety rules. But the PUC shut down its examination a few weeks later, after determining the station was in a rural area - and thus outside its jurisdiction.

The PUC began the job of enforcing federal safety rules for the pipeline systems being built to serve the thousands of new Marcellus wells, but none of the rules applies when the pipes or compressors are in the most rural areas, known as Class 1. For decades, the gas industry has fought hard to protect that exemption, according to the Inquirer. An Inquirer series in 2011 found that such regulatory gaps, coupled with a slow response from Pennsylvania, meant that hundreds of miles of high-pressure pipelines had been built with no safety oversight, and up to 25,000 miles could be built, experts say.

The state Department of Environmental Protection, which issued an air-quality permit for the station, is conducting its own investigation into whether the owners, Williams Partners of Tulsa, Okla., committed any violations. But DEP typically enforces emissions standards for compressor stations, not gas safety regulations. The agency says it told Williams not to restart the compressor without its permission, but the company began running it anyway a day or two later.[58]

Federal Investigations

DOE, Greene County

In July 2013 the Department of Energy said the first year of its study suggested no evidence that chemicals from natural gas drilling moved up to contaminate drinking water aquifers at a site in Greene County, PA. Drilling fluids tagged with unique markers were injected more than 8,000 feet below the surface at the gas well bore, but were not detected in a monitoring zone at a depth of 5,000 feet. The researchers also tracked the maximum extent of the man-made fractures, and all were at least 6,000 feet below the surface.[59]

Dimock

Water for Dimock

In November 2009, fifteen families in Dimock filed a lawsuit against Cabot Oil and Gas, alleging the company allowed methane and metals to seep into drinking water wells, failed to uphold terms of its contracts with landowners, and acted fraudulently when it said that the drilling process, including the chemicals used in the underground manipulation process called hydraulic fracturing, could not contaminate groundwater and posed no harm to the people who live there.[60] The complaint says residents have suffered neurological, gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms from exposure to tainted water. They also say they have had blood test results consistent with exposure to heavy metals. The lawsuit accuses Cabot of negligence and says it has failed to restore residential water supplies disrupted by gas drilling.[61]

PA Resident Lights Running Tap Water on Fire

Previously, Dimock had experienced several contamination incidents. In winter 2008, drinking water in several area homes was found to contain heavy metals and methane gas that state officials determined leaked underground from Cabot wells. In spring 2008, Cabot was fined for several other spills, including an 800-gallon diesel spill from a truck that overturned.[62]

Under Gov. Ed Rendell, the DEP found Cabot's activities to be at fault for contamination and the DEP was going to force Cabot to pay for construction of a water pipeline to provide replacement water for eleven Dimock families. When Tom Corbett - who received more than $1 million from the gas industry during his campaign - took over as governor in 2011, the plans for the water pipeline were scrapped.[63] Cabot had been trucking water to Dimock’s residents, but stopped in November 2011 when a judge declined to order the company to continue deliveries.[64] Under pressure, the Environmental Protection Agency started delivering water supplies in 2012, and organizations and nearby residents organized water caravans to deliver water to an additional seven families.[65]

In 2011, the EPA began testing drinking water in 61 locations in Dimock, Pennsylvania, for possible fracking-related contamination in response to the 2009 reports of methane leakage into the water supply, including several incidents of drinking water wells exploding.[66] On March 15, 2012, EPA released a statement saying that results from the first 11 homes sampled "did not show levels of contamination that could present a health concern," but that it will perform additional sampling at three homes currently receiving replacement water and two homes where arsenic was detected.[67]

In response, Water Defense and Gasland director Josh Fox went to Dimock for the test summaries and had them looked at by experts. The outside analysis found high levels of methane or chemicals in the water of all the families, Water Defense said. The water of four of the six families had methane levels in excess of Pennsylvania’s threshold for mitigation efforts. One of the reports “showed methane levels seven times” the state limit and nearly twice “the EPA’s less stringent standard,” according to ProPublica. The tests also showed that the methane was accompanied by the gas ethane, which the experts said indicated that the methane may have come from a deep underground reservoir that was drilled and not from surface sources.[68]

Among the other substances detected at low levels in Dimock’s water were a suite of chemicals known to come from some sort of hydrocarbon substance, such as diesel fuel or roofing tar. They include anthracene, fluoranthene, pyrene and benzo(a)pyrene – all substances described by a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as cancer-causing even in very small amounts. Another host of chemicals detected by the water testing has not been evaluated by the federal government for the risks they might pose to human health.[68]

On May 11, 2012, the EPA completed its testing of water at all 61 homes in Dimock, and said the drinking water is safe to consume. The EPA said it will re-sample four wells where previous Cabot and state data showed levels of contaminants. The EPA also said one of the 12 water wells was found to have an elevated level of methane.[69]

In response, Water Defense distributed a statement from Ron Bishop, a chemist and drilling opponent at the State University of New York at Oneonta, who reviewed the EPA tests and said many of the wells are "significantly contaminated" with pollutants that threaten human health: "One-third of the wells (20/59) are contaminated with methane at levels of concern" and "arsenic (As) above the EPA´s cancer prevention limit were found in ten wells, barium (Ba) levels above the ATSDR´s comparison values were found in 3 wells, high lithium (Li) levels were found in 2 wells, and manganese (Mn) above the EPA's MCL [Maximum Containment Limit] was found in one water well." The AP reported that "the Dimock plaintiffs, who sued Cabot in 2009, appear to have quietly entered into settlement talks with the company."[70]

Even though levels manganese and lead exceeded the EPA's federal MCL standards, the residents' filtered tap water was tested and declared within the MCL limits. Bishop criticized the EPA for ignoring a November 2011 analysis of water testing data gathered from Dimock wells prepared for the agency by the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The report raised concerns about the reliability of the water filters and methane removal systems used by residents in Dimock and concluded that there is could be a "possible chronic public health threat" based on prolonged use of water from some wells in Dimock if exposure was not reduced in the future.[71]

In August 2012, the state Department of Environmental Protection granted Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. permission to resume hydraulic fracturing in an area of Dimock.[72]

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) (a branch of the Centers for Disease Control) is following up on the EPA study. ATSDR's study will account for risks of long-term exposures to the water through showering, drinking, bathing, and washing, as well as risks that might be compounded when people are exposed to multiple toxicants. There is no time frame for the completion of the report.[73]

In July 2013 the Tribune/Los Angeles Times reported that as the federal EPA moved to close its Dimock investigation, the staff at the mid-Atlantic EPA office in Philadelphia, which had been sampling the Dimock water, argued for continuing the assessment. The newspapers pointed to an internal EPA PowerPoint presentation by Washington Bureau staff members warning their superiors that several wells had been contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic, most likely because of local natural gas production. The presentation identified five wells contaminated with methane whose chemical fingerprint, or isotopic composition, was the same as methane from the Marcellus shale formation at the center of Pennsylvania's natural gas boom.[74] The EPA also dropped its investigations into water contamination from shale gas drilling in Parker County, TX, and Pavillion, WY.[75]

Washington County

In September 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began investigating whether specific Marcellus Shale drilling and compressor station operations in Washington County have caused environmental damage that violates federal regulations. Washington County has more wells and compressor stations than any other county in the region, with 700 drilled Marcellus Shale gas wells, 278 of which are "producing."[76]

Regulations

Between 2000 and 2010 the number of active wells in Pennsylvania almost doubled from 36,000 to 71,000. In response, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection increased the size of its enforcement staff to 130 employees, 65 of which are inspectors. In 2010, each Pennsylvania oil and gas inspector was responsible for, on average, 1,092 active wells. In 2011, the investigative group ProPublica looked at records for 48 wells and found most were inspected at least once during drilling, however none were inspected during fracking, and six had not been inspected at all.[77]

Regulatory violations

Water contamination

In 2014 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection determined that oil and gas operations had damaged Pennsylvania water supplies 209 times since the end of 2007.[78]

According to a 2014 AP investigation, which reviewed state data on water contamination allegations related to fracking that it was able to obtain from state agencies, Pennsylvania had confirmed at least 106 water-well contamination cases since 2005, out of more than 5,000 new wells.[79]

State environmental regulators determined that oil and gas development damaged the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses between 2008 and the fall of 2012, according to a cache of nearly 1,000 letters and enforcement orders written by Department of Environmental Protection officials. One in six investigations - 17 percent of the records - found oil and gas activity disrupted water supplies either temporarily or seriously enough to require companies to replace the spoiled source. Impacts included "methane contamination, sediment, and frack water spills from the surface." Methane migration was the leading cause of damage.[80]

From January 2011 through October 2012 there were 166 complaints filed in Fayette, Greene, and Washington counties to the PA state Department of Environmental Protection by residents who believed their water was contaminated due to oil and gas activity. The DEP does not keep a record of how these complaints were resolved or if they were definitely related to oil and gas activity.[81]

ExxonMobil

In September 2013, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General filed criminal charges against ExxonMobil for illegally dumping tens of thousands of gallons of hydraulic fracturing waste at a drilling site in 2010. The Exxon subsidiary, XTO Energy, had removed a plug from a wastewater tank, leading to 57,000 gallons of contaminated water spilling into the soil. XTO was charged with five counts of unlawful conduct under the Clean Streams Law and three counts of unlawful conduct under the Solid Waste Management Act.[82]

2012 spills

in 2012 Pennsylvania state regulators levied fines in 13 percent of the cases where inspectors found gas spill violations.[83]

Ambiguity over violations

According to CNN Money, fracking companies might be violating drilling rules but affected landowners may not know "because the state agency charged with regulating the wells — the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) — does not have to notify landowners if a violation is discovered. Even if landowners inquire about safety violations, DEP records are often too technical for the average person and incomplete." If landowners do want to find out out about violations on their property, such as “subpar cementing” that can lead to flammable drinking water, they have to schedule a meeting with the DEP and request the violation records in person.[84]

Chesapeake Energy

Weeks after a peer-reviewed Duke University study "Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing," found "systematic evidence for methane contamination" of drinking water associated with shale gas extraction at sixty sites in NY and Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Chesapeake Energy $1.1 million – the largest fine against an oil and gas operator in the agency's his­tory – for contaminating 17 shale gas drilling wells in Bradford County, including some that had been part of the Duke study.[85][86][87]

In June 2012, Chesapeake Energy settled a lawsuit filed by three families in Bradford County over the water contamination, paying $1.6 million.[88]

State finds methane migration

In September, 2009, the Pennsylvania DEP presented its compilation of known cases related to gas well leaks to the Pennsylvania state’s Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board. According to the briefing, methane migration from gas drilling, had “caused or contributed to” at least six explosions that killed four people and injured three others over the course of the decade preceding full-scale Marcellus development. At least 60 water wells (including three municipal supplies) had been contaminated.[89]

Moratorium

In September 2013 Pennsylvania State Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) announced the introduction of the Natural Gas Drilling Moratorium Act, Senate Bill 1100, that would place a moratorium on issuing new permits for fracking in Pennsylvania. EcoWatch reported that "SB 1100 would cease granting new permits for fracking while an appointed commission prepares a study analyzing the agricultural, environmental, economic and social impacts of drilling for natural gas, due in January 2017."[90]

Water

A large portion of the Marcellus Shale formation underlies the environmentally sensitive Chesapeake Bay Watershed as well as the Delaware River Basin. The Delaware River Basin Commission holds regulatory jurisdiction in the watershed that houses much of the Marcellus Shale formation of any operations which involve water usage, extraction, or potential contamination. They were set to vote in November 2011 on whether any hydro-fracking operation that is to take place within the boundaries of their Special Protection Waters would first have to be permitted by the DRBC, but later canceled the vote. Communities and drillers are waiting for a ruling.[91]

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission oversees another portion of the watershed. SRBC and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued orders to suspend operations at several wells in May 2008 because surface water was being diverted by the drillers without the necessary permits, and precautions to protect streams from contaminated runoff were questioned.[92]

DEP reports omit chemicals found in water tests

In November 2012 it was reported that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had created incomplete lab reports and used them to dismiss complaints that Marcellus Shale gas development operations have contaminated residential water supplies and made people sick, according to court documents and other sources in a Washington County case of residents against Range Resources. Two DEP employees said the department's oil and gas division directed the lab to generate water test reports to homeowners that omitted the full findings for heavy metals, including lithium, cobalt, chromium, boron, and titanium, some of which are human carcinogens, as well as volatile organic compounds that are associated with hydraulic fracturing fluids. As a result, state Rep. Jesse White (D-Cecil) called on state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the DEP for "alleged misconduct and fraud" described in the sworn depositions.[93]

DEP spokesperson Kevin Sunday said oil and gas division officials wanted to see only the results they deemed relevant to determining whether drinking water was being contaminated by Marcellus Shale gas drilling and production, and the omitted chemicals were not. Yet the 2009 study, “Sampling and Analysis of Water Streams Associated with the Development of Marcellus Shale Gas,” linked the unreported metals and fracking. The study, prepared for the industry-funded Marcellus Shale Coalition by Thomas Hayes of the Gas Technology Institute with input by the state DEP, did a sampling of water at 19 locations, before and after fracking. The study found aluminum, boron, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, lithium, molybdenum, nickel, tin, titanium, thallium, and zinc in the flowback water after fracking. Using a computer code called Suite Code 942, the DEP tested for 24 contaminants but listed only eight of the metals in the report given back to a resident who requested the analysis; zinc, nickel, cobalt, molybdenum, titanium, and boron were found but omitted, as was acetone, chloroform, and T-butyl alcohol, which were dismissed and omitted as a lab error.[94]

Toxicology tests on seven plaintiffs who live within a mile of a Range Resources drill site and wastewater pond in Amwell Township have found the presence of toluene, benzene, and arsenic in their bodies.[95]

A Washington County resident is suing the agency for failing to fully investigate the air and water contamination she says made her sick. In connection with the lawsuit, Democratic State Rep. Jesse White has demanded that state and federal agencies investigate the DEP for “alleged misconduct and fraud.”[96]

Lawsuits

Non-disclosure agreements

On May 27, 2010, Stephanie and Chris Hallowich initiated a water contamination case against Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners, and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners. No official complaint was ever filed and the case was settled as a non-disclosure agreement in July 2011, a request by the defendant companies that former Washington County Common Pleas Judge Paul Pozonsky granted Aug. 23, 2011.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Washington Observer-Reporter challenged the decision, saying the organizations had the right to information about the case.

On March 20, 2013, President Judge Debbie O'Dell-Seneca found that the presumption of openness in the court system must trump the interest of the companies to keep the records sealed, opening the door to challenging other closed door fracking settlements.[97]

Gag order

It was reported in early August 2013 that in 2011 two young children living in Pennsylvania were banned from "talking about fracking for the rest of their lives under a gag order imposed under a settlement reached by their parents with a leading oil and gas company."

The gag order was imposed under a $750,000 settlement between the Hallowich family and Range Resources Ltd. The settlement barred the Hallowichs' son and daughter, who were then aged 10 and seven, from ever discussing fracking or the Marcellus Shale. While gag orders on adults is normal, such gag orders on children are uncommon.[98]

Citizen activism

Civil rights ordinances

Some towns and cities in Pennsylvania (such as Pittsburgh and nearby suburbs) have been adopting community civil rights ordinances to keep fracking out of their locales. These are not the same as zoning laws that have been recently preempted by the state's Act 13 (2012). According to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), communities ground the civil rights ordinances in community rights to local self-government, the rights of natural communities and ecosystems, the right to water, and the rights of community members over corporations. Few corporations have challenged the ordinances because, according to CELDF: "What happens if a corporation were to sue a community that has adopted a rights-based ordinance? Rather than arguing over Municipal Planning Code law and the violation of a corporation’s rights, the battle would be over democratic local self-governance," which corporations want to avoid.[99]

Pittsburgh’s ordinance, like other Pennsylvania municipalities, also states that “natural gas extraction” companies “shall not have the rights of “persons” afforded by the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions, nor shall those corporations be afforded the protections of the commerce or contact clauses within the United States Constitution or corresponding sections of the Pennsylvania Constitution.[100]

Kids Speak Up on Fracking.

Supporters of the civil rights ordinance argue the state Constitution is on their side: in 1972, Section 27 was added to Article One of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and reads, “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”[101]

Moratoriums

Gasland director Josh Fox and an alliance of conservation groups called on the Delaware River Basin Commission to ban fracking in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, arguing that the drilling technology would pollute the river’s 14,000-square-mile basin, a source of drinking water for 15 million people. In May 2009 the Commission declared that gas companies wanting to drill in Wayne County would need a permit from the DRBC as well as from the state of Pennsylvania. A year later the commission announced that it would not issue permits and would study the impact of fracking.[102]

Water rights

On February 27, 2012, the citizen group Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) filed a Freedom of Information Act public records request to force the Susquehanna River Basin Comission (SRBC) -- which includes officials from Pennsylvania, New York State, Maryland and the federal government -- to show what it has been doing to protect regional waters and the general public from hydrofracking water demand and pollution.[103]

Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty Anti-Extraction Resolution

In September 2013 the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty—APSCUF—passed by a vote of 68-31 a position statement with response to the SB 367—the PA Frack U Bill—and more generally the state university union’s position with respect to hydraulic fracturing—fracking—on state university properties.[104]

Companies

Legislative issues

Act 13

In early February 2012, the Pennsylvania House and Senate approved a plan (Act 13) for a "local impact fee" on natural gas drillers, which Gov. Corbett signed into law on February 14. Corbett had refused to impose a "severance tax" on drillers, arguing that it would hinder the industry's presence in the state, so instead the "impact fee" was created. The compromise calls for a fee that would fluctuate with the price of natural gas and, starting in 2013, the rate of inflation.[105]

Many Democrats and local communities have criticized the bill, saying it was crafted behind closed doors by Republicans with the gas industry. The bill requires that all types of oil and gas operations (except for natural gas processing plants)—unlike any other commercial or industrial business—be allowed in all zoning districts, even in residential neighborhoods, schools, and sensitive natural protection areas. The bill also mandates a state ordinance that supersedes all existing municipal ordinances and prevents municipalities from adopting any zoning provisions that are stricter than the mandated standards.[106]

Impact fee

Act 13 has an impact fee rather than taxes, due in part to a 2009 Pennsylvania State University study predicting drillers would shun Pennsylvania if new taxes were imposed; lawmakers cited it the following year when they rejected a 5 percent tax proposed by then-Governor Ed Rendell. It was later reported that the PSU study was sponsored by the industry-funded Marcellus Shale Coalition, which provided a grant of about $100,000.

The impact fee will bring in about $85 million in 2012 compared to $200 million under a 5 percent tax, assuming a gas price of $2.50 per thousand cubic feet, according to the non-partisan Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. The fee will peak at about $200 million a year, while the tax could have reached $500 million in 2015 if gas prices rebound to $4.50.[107]

Banning local zoning ordinances

Act 13 essentially disregards a 2009 decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholding municipal rights to write zoning laws that excluded oil and gas drilling if it did not fit the community’s “character” and “special nature.” Under the Act, municipalities can adopt some rules on how drilling is to be done, but they cannot say no to drilling. The law also tells municipalities that they must revise their local ordinances to allow drilling if they want to receive payment under the new per-well impact fee. The law also empowers the state’s Public Utilities Commission—a body of appointed officials—to overturn local zoning, and to determine if a community is eligible to share in impact fee revenues. If a gas company or any individual disagrees with a local law that affects drilling, the “aggrieved” party can go to the PUC and the board will be required to “determine whether [the local law] violates” the new state oil and gas law.[108]

It was later reported that this section of the Act was likely modeled after an ALEC bill titled, "An Act Granting the Authority of Rural Counties to Transition to Decentralized Land Use Regulation," passed by ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force at its Annual Meeting in 2010.[109]

Chemical disclosure and medical censorship

The Act also requires that companies provide to a state-maintained registry the names of chemicals and gases used in fracking. Physicians and others who work with citizen health issues may request specific information, but the company does not have to provide that information if it claims it is a trade secret or proprietary information, nor does it have to reveal how the chemicals and gases used in fracking interact with natural compounds. If a company does release information about what is used, health care professionals are bound by a non-disclosure agreement that forbids them from warning the community of potential water and air pollution, but also forbids them from telling their own patients what the physician believes may have led to their health problems.[110]

A strict interpretation of the law would also forbid general practitioners and family practice physicians who sign the non-disclosure agreement and learn the contents of the “trade secrets” from notifying a specialist about the chemicals or compounds, thus delaying medical treatment.[111]

On April 11, 2012, it was reported that the Pennsylvania Department of Health refused to give the Associated Press copies of its responses to people who claimed that drilling had affected their health. The AP also reported that Act 13 stripped $2 million annually from a statewide health registry that tracked respiratory problems, skin conditions, stomach ailments, and other illnesses potentially related to gas drilling.[112]

Legal challenge

The law was scheduled to take effect on April 14, 2012, but aggrieved municipalities said they will sue to challenge sections of the bill and try to keep it from taking effect.[113] Seven municipalities -- including the southwestern towns of Cecil, Peters, South Fayette, Mt. Pleasant and Robinson, plus two towns in Bucks County -- filed a lawsuit challenging the Act in March 2012, along with a Monroeville doctor and environmental activists from the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. A state appellate judge granted a 120-day injunction to prevent the zoning section of the law from going into effect in mid-April.[114]

In support of the lawsuit, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, representing 1,455 townships, approved resolutions in May 2012 opposing any state legislation that would limit or remove local zoning and land use regulations.[115]

The case against Act 13 was argued in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg in June 2012. If Act 13 is upheld, municipalities must revise their Marcellus Shale-related ordinances to comply with state regulations. Plaintiffs say whichever party loses the court case is expected to appeal, so either way, it's going to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.[116]

On July 27, 2012, a Commonwealth court panel ruled that the state cannot take away zoning control away from local municipalities. The majority opinion stated that requiring municipalities to change their zoning rules in a way that would conflict with their development plans "violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise."[117]

On December 19, 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 4-2 that townships and other local governments in Pennsylvania can use their zoning codes to control gas drilling within their borders, and that parts of Act 13 infringed on the state constitution's guarantee of clean air and pure water. All four majority justices ruled that Delaware Riverkeeper had standing to challenge Act 13, which could pave the way for other groups to bring environmental cases. The justices also said that Mehernosh Khan, a doctor, had standing to challenge Act 13's "gag rule" that prevents physicians from obtaining and sharing information about chemicals used in drilling. The Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reconsider his challenge to the law.[118]

National bills

  • The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (H.R. 2766), (S. 1215)--was introduced to both houses of the the United States Congress on June 9, 2009, and aims to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act.[119]

Citizen groups

Industry groups

Reports

2013 Social Costs of Fracking

The Food & Water Watch report "The Social Costs of Fracking" (Sep 24, 2013) argues that fracking is associated with more heavy-truck crashes, social disorder arrests, and STIs.

2013 Shale Gas Roundtable

The 2013 report Shale Gas Roundtable: Deliberations, Findings, and Recommendations by the Univ of Pittsburgh offers recommendations on natural gas development in Southwestern Pennsylvania based upon public deliberations with regional stakeholders. The report found scientific research on the impacts of shale development is scant, and where it exists, it lives under a suspicion based on who funded the work. The report therefore recommends a model of funding research similar to health studies on the auto industry by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute, whose research priorities are set and carried out by independent scientists, and funded by both industry and government.

2012 Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability report

Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability's 2012 report, "Gas Patch Roulette: How Shale Gas Development Risks Public Health in Pennsylvania," consists of community health surveys and air and water testing. Surveying 108 residents in 14 Pennsylvania counties, the report found "that those living closer to gas facilities reported higher rates of symptoms of impaired health." The water and air tests conducted by Earthworks found that "more than half of the water well samples had elevated levels of methane and some had iron, manganese, arsenic, and lead at levels higher than the Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) set by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). All of the air samples were taken in rural and residential areas; in several, higher levels of the BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, which are known carcinogens) were detected, as compared to samples taken by the DEP in 2010."

2012 PennEnvironment on Hidden Costs

The 2012 PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center report, "In the Shadow of the Marcellus Boom," identified more than a dozen categories of hidden, external costs linked to Marcellus Shale gas development in Pennsylvania. External costs included aquifer contamination, human health problems, and damage to roadways, home values, and natural resources including public forests. The report also found that bonding amounts required by the state will be inadequate to cover long-term future costs of plugging abandoned wells. Pennsylvania drillers paid $197.6 million in the first round of 2012 Marcellus Shale impact fees, exceeding legislative estimates, but the report said those fees fall far short of covering all costs.

Pennsylvania Land Trust Report

According to a report from the Pennsylvania Land Trust, Marcellus Shale gas drillers in Pennsylvania commit an average of 1.5 regulatory violations per day from 2008 to 2010, based on Right To Know requests to the Department of Environmental Protection. From 2008 to 2010, drilling companies were cited for 1,435 violations -- 952 of which were considered most likely to harm the environment, according to the report. The industry average in Pennsylvania was a "serious environmental incident" in six out of eight wells.

Nearly half of the violations were related to improper erosion and sedimentation plans and improper construction of wastewater impoundments that contain fracking water. These impoundments were improperly lined or not structurally sound. There were 155 citations for discharging industrial waste onto the ground or into commonwealth waters, and 100 violations of the state Clean Streams Law.

East Resources Inc. of Warrendale had the highest number of violations with 138, followed by Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, a subsidiary of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy, with 118, and Chief Oil & Gas LLC of Dallas with 109. Houston-based Cabot Oil and Gas, the company responsible for contaminated drinking water wells in Dimock, was fourth with 94 violations.[120]

For casing and cementing, there were 47 violations issued on 33 Marcellus wells in the first five months of 2011, according to DEP records. In 2010, there were 90 violations issued on 64 faulty wells. The faulty casings are believed to be linked to methane leakage into water supplies. In 2011, updated DEP regulations on casings and cementing took effect that require a third string of steel casing; cement with gas-blocking additives in areas with known shallow gas-bearing zones; and a longer period to let the cement harden.[121]

Clean Water Action Report

According to the environmental group Clean Water Action, there were 1,200 violations of environmental regulations in 2010 by gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale, a quarter of them from leaks or poor construction of waste pits for fluids that flow back to the surface after fracking. Over 1 well in 6 had violations. Gas companies that are members of Gov. Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission were responsible for almost half of the violations.[122]

Resources

References

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