Methane Update – News & Information about Marcellus Shale Boom

Events & Views from Williamsport-based Responsible Drilling Alliance:

April 26 – “Fracturing Our Future,” a public meeting with Calvin Tillman. Tillman, former mayor of Dish, Texas, knows all about the risks that drilling and transporting natural gas can pose to human health and safety.  To protect his family’s health, he gave up both his position and his home and moved off the Texas Barnett Shale, and is now helping others to cope with the onslaught of problems and challenges that gas drilling brings. He’s founded a non-profit organization known as Shale Test to help those impacted by drilling to get the water, air, and soil tests they need but cannot afford.

Tillman is coming to Lycoming County, and will speak at the Hughesville Fire Hall,  at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26th.  If you’re concerned about the water you’re drinking, the air you’re breathing, and the soil in your garden, plan to attend. Sponsored by RDA, admission is free and open to all.

April 27 –  Protest of Governor Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Committee Meeting, 
10 a.m., Wed, April 27, Rachel Carson Building, Room 105, Harrisburg.
 More info.

Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz was not referring specifically to gas drilling in his essay on the Fukushima disaster and the global economic crisis, but his words are certainly applicable to the industrialization of PA’s Marcellus Shale. We have an under-regulated and untaxed industry using new and unproven technologies to extract a resource that lies under the land where we live, work, and play.

Stiglitz writes, “Societies fail to manage risks. We have little empirical basis for judging rare events, so it is difficult to arrive at good estimates. We also have few incentives to think hard at all. When others bear the costs of mistakes, the incentives favor self-delusion. A system that socializes losses and privatizes gains is doomed to mismanage risk.”

And so it is with the risk that the entire process of gas extraction, processing, and transportation brings to all of us who live in what Professor Engelder of PSU refers to as the Marcellus “sacrifice zone.”

Increasingly, Harrisburg appears to be the capitol of self-delusion, incessantly repeating their false mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs” and grossly underestimating the risk this industry poses to our health, safety, environment, and long-term financial stability. We are entering a boom/bust economy, where long-term risks are ignored and short-term wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few – many of whom hail from other states and other countries.

70-100 Household Wells Contaminated by Drilling in Bradford County, Property Values Down, Electric Bills Up

From The Daily Review of Bradford County:

At [a recent] Bradford County commissioners’ meeting, residents filled the room asking the commissioners to address the many problems related to gas drilling, including traffic congestion, high rents, and pollution of air and water.

Diane Siegmund of Towanda and Sheshequin Township resident Carol French told the commissioners that 70 to 100 households in Bradford County have had their water wells contaminated by gas drilling.

Joe Shervinski of Terry Township told the commissioners that the number of Bradford County residents with water contamination problems from gas drilling is five times more than in Dimock, PA, the town that made national news headlines.  Siegmund said that 13 households in Dimock had contamination problems, a number now dwarfed by Bradford County.

“Newly industrialized Bradford County is bearing an enormous burden from unsafe air, due to methane, and from water contamination.  I’ve spoken to people who have barium in their water–people who want to get out, but can’t sell their houses”, Siegmund told the commissioners.

French urged the county to begin reducing the assessments on homes where people have been affected by gas well contamination, as they are financially strapped.  She said residents along Paradise Road in Terry Township, where there have been numerous drinking water contamination problems, have seen the value of their homes drop dramatically, as reflected by recent real estate appraisals. “Their properties are worth one-tenth of the value before gas drilling started,” French said.

Buffalo Tank for Household Water in Wyalusing PA (Photo by Wes Skilling)

She also said these same residents have to face skyrocketing electric bills to prevent freezing in the water buffaloes that now provide their drinking water and from running water filtration systems at their homes.  One household saw its monthly electric bill increase from $130 to $450, while another household’s bill increased from below $150 to $520. “This increase in electric bills is occurring throughout Bradford County,” French said.

Robert Martin of PA Forest Coalition writes:

When Bob Donnan had a chance last fall to ask John Hanger (then Secretary of our Dept of Environmental Protection) a question during a live TV show on WQED, he queried   “When are we going to quit dumping gas drilling wastewater into our rivers?”

You’ll be asking yourself that same question, and many more, after reading this article. Here is an example from a Washington County Park.

Cross Creek Park 6H had these alarming levels of liquid radium: Federal drinking water limit is: 5 pC/iL. 
The level at this site: 2,260 pC/iL.

What could be worse?   Check out the interactive map in this link.

Note the amount of radioactive brine in the Northern Tier Counties.  Do any of our public sewage treatment plants even test for radioactivity?

The solution to pollution is NOT dilution. 
You can give up eating Gulf Coast shrimp, but you can’t give up drinking Pennsylvania water.

“Pa Constitution, Article I Section 27 – Declaration of Rights: 
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.”

“Who Are They Kidding?” – Op-Ed from Retired PA-DCNR Policy Director Rick Carlson

Just because the majority of voters in Pennsylvania elected Tom Corbett, it really doesn’t mean the majority of us are too stupid to see through this administration’s addiction to gas industry money. The Governor wants us to believe his repeated opposition to a Marcellus tax is part of his vision to nurture the growth of the Marcellus industry in Pennsylvania. These huge corporations must be laughing all the way to the bank while the rest of us are left outraged over the flow of gas money greasing the political machinery in Harrisburg.

And now we are to believe the recent gag order on issuing Marcellus violations by Secretary Krancer was intended to assure better consistency in DEP’s enforcement efforts. It should scare all of us that the Secretary has the audacity to actually think that anyone is stupid enough to believe this is being done for any reason than to slow down or impede enforcement of gas drilling violations.

The original gag order didn’t even mention the word “consistency”…and anyone who has spent time working with the DEP field offices knows there always inconsistencies in the way regulations are interpreted and applied between regions and even between individuals in the same region.

So why are Marcellus gas violations being singled out to require every proposed enforcement action must be reviewed first by the Secretary? Most likely because they were directed to do so by the Governor’s Office. Maybe this is our fault since we weren’t smart enough to make it perfectly clear that what we wanted was a moratorium for new gas leasing on State Forest lands and not a moratorium on enforcement of gas drilling regulations.

This Administration is going to spin the tax and enforcement issues hard enough to make an astronaut dizzy, and if they keep making cuts to the education programs, we’ll eventually be stupid enough to understand why they believe no Marcellus tax and top down enforcement is good for Pennsylvania.

Energy Return on Energy Invested – EROEI & Shale Gas

Chart by Howarth, et al. Article by Ugo Bardo, reposted at Energy Bulletin:

…Natural gas is composed mainly of methane (CH4) which is a potent greenhouse gas. Because of the higher ratio of hydrogen to carbon, it is true that natural gas produces less CO2 than other fuels when burned. But the extraction, processing, and transportation of gas is never perfectly tight and a certain amount of gas always is lost into the atmosphere…

…we are facing a fundamental shortcoming in the way we account for costs and benefits of what we are doing. In monetary terms, shale gas seems to be a good deal. In EROEI (energy) terms it is probably less good but it may still provide a positive return. It is in environmental terms – in the so called “external costs” that shale gas is a disaster. We don’t have enough data to show that this is a general case – that is, if what is happening with natural gas is happening with all energy resources. But, if this is the case, our problem is not that the EROEIs of fossil fuels are too low; they might be too high!

Right now, with a wave of rampant climate denialism engulfing about everything in the debate, the idea that we can stop fracking by traditional method of international climate treaties seems to be unthinkable…Even more unthinkable is that we could do it by telling people to install high efficiency light bulbs.

So, the only hope we have to avoid a climate disaster is to beat shale gas in its own terms: economic ones. Don’t forget that shale gas may well be abundant, but it is also expensive in monetary and energy terms. So, if we can deploy renewable technologies that produce electricity at a lower price than gas, then there is a chance that shale gas will stay where it is: underground.

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