Range Resources Well Pad, Wash. County, PA

Pennsylvania studies on shale-site air emissions incomplete, according to court documents

From an Article by Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 20, 2014

Three widely cited state studies of air emissions at Marcellus Shale gas development sites in Pennsylvania omit measurements of key air toxics and calculate the health risks of just two of more than two dozen pollutants.

State regulators and the shale gas drilling industry over the past four years have repeatedly used the regional studies to support their positions that air emissions from drilling, fracking wastewater impoundments and compressor stations don’t pose a public health risk.

The revelations about the shortcomings of the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s short-term air sampling reports are contained in sworn depositions by two PA-DEP air program employees who worked on them.

Those documents were filed in a Washington County Common Pleas Court civil case in which three families allege that air and water pollution from Range Resources’ Yeager drilling and 13.5-million gallon fracking wastewater impoundment in Washington County made them sick.

In a parallel case, now before the state Environmental Hearing Board, one of those individuals, Loren Kiskadden, has appealed a PA-DEP ruling that myriad spills and leaks at the Yeager drill site and impoundment did not contaminate his well water supply a half mile away.

“The PA-DEP’s willingness to allow Pennsylvania’s citizens to continue to rely upon what it knows to be an inaccurate air study is unacceptable and completely contrary to the department’s obligations to the public,” said John Smith, who with his wife, Kendra Smith, is representing Mr. Kiskadden in the case before the EHB and the property owners in the civil case.

According to the Washington County court documents filed in August, concentrations of 25 airborne chemicals that the PA-DEP’s field laboratory truck parked near the Yeager drill site in rural Amwell Township measured were mis-reported or not reported to administrators in Harrisburg who wrote the air quality report for southwestern Pennsylvania in December 2010.

Linda Hreha, a chemist in PA-DEP’s mobile analytical section who did the air sampling on which all three of the state’s regional air quality reports are based, testified in her deposition on December 5, 2013, that she measured but did not report elevated concentrations of air contaminants at the Yeager impoundment, including 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene at 550 parts per billion; methane at 1.2 parts per million; and methyl mercaptan at 1 part per million, twice the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommended exposure limit.

Because the depositions indicate DEP used the same data reporting procedures for shale gas pollution reports in 2011 in the North-central and Northeast regions of the state, the validity of those reports are also called into question.

In all three reports, the DEP failed to calculate the health hazard for 25 of 38 chemicals it tested for but still concluded that the levels of those air pollutants that the shale gas development sites emitted were not likely to trigger air-related health concerns, she testified.

Not only did the DEP not calculate the vast majority of chemical hazards, but its determination that public health would not be harmed was not made by anyone with training in medicine, toxicology or environmental or occupational health, according to Nick Lazor, chief of the PA-DEP’s Air Quality Monitoring Division, who oversaw production of the reports and was deposed on January 17, 2014.

Although the PA-DEP air pollutant sampling was supposed to be following protocols from air testing done in Texas’ Barnett Shale gas and oil field, Mr. Lazor testified in his deposition that the department couldn’t test for two chemicals, acrylamide and glutaraldehyde. The first is a carcinogen and the second a potent toxin. Both have been used in hydraulic fracturing fluid and were detected in emissions at Barnett shale gas drilling and fracking sites in Texas.

Though the DEP acknowledged in the shale gas air pollution reports and again Sunday in response to questions that the reports were intended to provide only a “snapshot” of air contaminants on the day they were measured, state environmental officials in Republican and Democratic administrations and drilling industry spokesmen have used them more broadly to allay public health concerns and justify regulatory restraint.

Michael Krancer, Gov. Tom Corbett’s first PA-DEP secretary, referenced the studies in testimony opposing federal regulation of the shale gas industry before U.S. House committees in November 2011 and May 2012 in Washington, D.C., and before a state House Policy Committee in February 2012.

Just last month, Travis Windle, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry lobbying group, cited the air monitoring studies when he questioned the objectivity of Yale University researchers whose study found greater numbers of illnesses near shale gas drilling sites.

Also last month the PA-DEP, in a letter to the Mars Parent Group, twice referenced the short-term studies to justify its decision to approve a permit for R.E. Gas Development LLC, a subsidiary of State College-based Rex Energy, to drill and hydraulically fracture a Marcellus Shale gas well a half-mile from the Mars Area School District campus and its 3,200 students in Middlesex Township, Butler County.

Local residents, the Clean Air Council and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network have appealed that permit decision to the state Environmental Hearing Board.

“Speaking as a parent, it’s a concern that the PA-DEP continues to rely on studies done in 2010 and 2011 and shown to be inaccurate, incomplete and inconclusive,” said Amy Nassif of the Mars Parent Group, to whom the PA-DEP letter was addressed. “Those studies don’t consider vulnerable populations like our children and aren’t applicable to what’s going on around the mars School District campus in 2014.”

“There certainly is a big question about whether the PA-DEP did a good job on those studies,” said Joseph Minott, an attorney and executive director of the Clean Air Council, a Philadelphia-headquartered environmental organization that is an appellant in the appeal of the Rex Energy permit filed with the state Environmental Hearing Board.

“A cynic would say the PA-DEP did what it wanted to do with the air studies to get the result it wanted, and it wanted to prove the pollution was minimal and set the testing protocol to get that result.”


Wake Up West Virginia Before It ‘s Too Late!

Commentary by Maria Gunnoe, Regional Coordinator with OVEC, October 18, 2014

It seems to me that someone somewhere would see the errors in the ways of the gas and coal industries in the Appalachian region.  Surely the people that live with these nightmares aren’t the only ones who see what these industries are doing … ?

It’s terrible! The people of the Appalachian region suffer horribly because the coal and gas industries have a free ticket to pollute and pillage our beautiful West Virginia.  It’s terrible to see, for the ones that live and die from it, especially knowing for many years that it was coming, literally watching as the wagons were surrounded.

Our forefathers have tended to these lands only to see our generation kill them.  I have fought mountaintop removal coal mining for nearly 20 years, most of which was volunteer work.  I have witnessed firsthand what regulation in the state of WV looks like and basically there is NONE. And, what is on the books doesn’t get enforced.  OUR resources and OUR people have been sold off to the highest bidders, being the coal and gas companies.

The attack on our people, air, land and water has “leaders” if you will.  These “leaders” are our industry-owned politicians.  It’s time to end the BUSINESS AS USUAL in WV.  We are at a crossroads and it’s now or never.  Once these areas are gone …  there is no getting them back.  Polluting is easy … UN-polluting (reversing the damages) is nearly impossible.

People’s health, well being and quality of life will come first ONLY when we put ourselves first at the voting booths.  Mountaintop removal pollution has been shown to promote LUNG CANCER and these companies are still doing it.  WHEN we develop the political will to pass the ACHE Act (www.acheact.org) we can beat this corrupt system by putting people’s health first!

It’s time to clean the slate in WV.  It’s time to realize that none of our citizenry has rights anymore! Industry now has those rights.  OUR resources have been negotiated and we DO NOT and DID NOT HAVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE.

I have heard ALL of our politicians talk about how important coal and gas are to West Virginian’s economy.  People’s ability to live here is real important to the economy too, isn’t it?  I recently heard Nick Rahall say that “Coal was the most important resource in our state” when in reality coal-related chemicals are what polluted 300,000 people’s water in January 2014.  Thanks to COAL we didn’t have a safe faucet, stream or spring to drink from!

I recently read where WV is planning to allow FRACKING UNDER the OHIO RIVER.  First … are they trying to get WV sued?!?  This river is millions of people’s drinking water!  Can someone tell me how this was ever conceived as a good idea?

The State of WV has been generational-family run by the same families who have always stuck the screws to our people to prop up their buddies.  It’s sad to see what we have allowed to happen to our state but it’s even more sad to see that we continue to turn our heads while it continues to happen again and again.

It just seems to me that these catastrophic things keep happening and everyone keeps forgetting about them while people all around die of the health impacts of these out-of-control industries.

No wonder the people in DC think that we all are “stupid hillbillies.”  The politicians in office are the ones that represent the will of our people, supposedly.  I don’t think the residents of Appalachia want anyone to suffer and die so we can flip on the lights.  The problem here is that our people are suffering and dying to produce electricity EVERYDAY and no one wants to talk about it.


Note:  Maria Gunnoe won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2009 for her work in southern West Virginia.  Her work is part of the projects of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC), now active throughout much of West Virginia.


A new West Virginia University study has found that dust from mountaintop removal coal-mining operations promotes the growth of lung cancer tumors.

The study results “provide new evidence for the carcinogenic potential” of mountaintop removal dust emissions and “support further risk assessment and implementation of exposure control” for that dust, according to the paper, published online Tuesday by the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Note:  Frack sand is primarily silica (SiO2), which as a dust is well known to cause silicosis and lung cancer.  The workers on frack sites are generally exposed to this dust during the fracking process. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration is aware of these risks and has been working to reduce (not eliminate) this serious problem.


Gas Industry Truck Issues Surface on Roads and Bridges in PA and WV

October 19, 2014

Marcellus Shale truck safety summit proposed in Pennsylvania From an Article by Emily Petsko, Washington PA Observer-Reporter, October 14, 2014 Photo: Pieces of a damaged section of Pollocks Mill Bridge in Jefferson Township (PA) fall away as an overweight tanker truck is extracted from it recently. Photo by Tara Kinsell / Observer-Reporter.  Order a Print Two [...]

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Sunday School 108 — Human Activities are Destroying the Earth’s Diverse Life-Support Systems

October 18, 2014

World Wildlife Fund’s state of the planet report reveals alarming and avoidable biodiversity loss From an Article by Andrea Germanos, staff writer, Common Dreams, September 30, 2014 Human activity has brought the planet’s life-supporting systems to the brink of tipping points, causing an “alarming” loss in biodiversity and critical threats to the services nature has [...]

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Major Study of the Environmental Costs of Fracking

October 17, 2014

The Environmental Costs and Benefits of Fracking This  new study has been published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Volume 39, pages 327 to 362, 2014. Authors — Robert B. Jackson (Stanford), Avner Vengosh (Duke),  J. William Carey (Los Alamos),  Richard J. Davies (Newcastle UK),  Thomas H. Darrah (Ohio State),  Francis O’Sullivan (MIT), [...]

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Marcellus Gas Well Pad Fire in Tyler County During Flowback Operations

October 16, 2014

Ten Local Fire Departments Extinguish Fire on Noble Energy’s Shirley 1 Pad From an Article by Fred Connors, Wheeling Intelligencer, October 16, 2014 Alma, WV – Fire departments from four counties responded to a gas well pad fire Wednesday on WV Route 18 near Centerville. Tyler County EMA Director Tom Cooper said today, Tyler County [...]

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Small Study May Have Big Answers on Health Risks of Fracking’s Open Waste Ponds

October 15, 2014

A first of a kind study from West Virginia will help Americans inside the fracking boom understand the dangers of exposure to VOCs Article by Zahra Hirji, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer, Inside Climate News, October 10, 2014 When Mary Rahall discovered that oil and gas waste was being stored in open-air ponds less than [...]

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Atlantic Coast Pipeline – Major Topic for Landowners in WV & VA

October 14, 2014

Two meetings held in central WV on right-of–way for the huge gas pipeline project Original Article by S. Tom Bond, Resident Farmer of Lewis County, WV The second of a matched pair of meetings for those interested in fracking in Central West Virginia was held, September 17, 2014 at West Virginia Wesleyan College, by Dominion [...]

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NY Seneca Lake at Risk of Gas Storage Eruptions

October 13, 2014

FERC Approves NY Methane Storage Project at Seneca Lake From a News Article by Peter Mantius, Natural Resources News Service, October 3, 2014 Brushing aside warnings of dangerous geological risk, federal regulators say construction can start immediately on a methane gas storage project next to Seneca Lake that has galvanized opposition from wine and tourism [...]

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West Virginians Join Global Frackdown-3 on October 11th

October 12, 2014

Lewis County Lavender Farm Hosts Global Frackdown News Report by Marisa Matyola, WBOY 12 News, October 11, 2014 Weston, WV – Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has gained popularity over recent years, and continues to spark debate. October 11 marked “The Global Frackdown“, an international day of action initiated by Food & Water Watch to ban [...]

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