"Mineral rights trump surface
The Oil and Gas Industry is a behemoth and
spends tens of millions of dollars every year
State and Congressional Representatives for the
votes they desire. Only one other industry spends more on lobbying while
trying to get their way with Congress. We saw huge profits
realized by oil companies in the early 21st Century, while the average
citizen was struggling to make ends meet.
The Oil and Gas Industry balks
at more regulations (such as complete labeling of frac fluids)
saying it will violate their right to have exclusive, patented formulas
for use in fracking. With exemptions from major parts of 7 of the 15
environmental regulations most companies must obey, they have little
reason to change their ways.
Horizontal drilling in progress
Farmers around early Marcellus Shale
exploration and production activities were frustrated and totally
disgusted to find that many companies were too cheap to provide dozens
of workers around gas drilling and pipeline construction sites with
proper toilet facilities. Whether people step in piles of human feces,
or their dogs get into it, this is clearly an OSHA health violation that
needs to be enforced.
OSHA Regulation 1928.110 - FIELD SANITATION
facility means a fixed or portable facility designed for the purpose of
adequate collection and containment of the products of both defecation
and urination which is applied with toilet paper adequate to employee
needs. Toilet facility includes biological, chemical, flush and
combustion toilets and sanitary privies."
Restored Marcellus shale well site
New Kids on the Block
The gas industry will be quick to tell you that hydraulic fracturing is nothing
new, having been around for several decades, dating back to the late 1940's.
What they don't tell you is that hydraulic fracturing of
Marcellus Shale is still very new. The
first well was
drilled on Marcellus Shale in 2004.
Some will admit the Hickory area has been
the 'guinea pig'
since there is ongoing experimentation, and the typical learning curve
that accompanies the first use of new
methods on a new shale play. Hickory area
citizens who signed the early gas leases were never told the hydraulic
fracturing process would be used for their gas wells, expecting instead the more basic vertical gas
wells that present less risk to surface water, well water and the environment.
Something in the water
The old joke about 'it must be something in the
water' is no longer a joke. While the industry folk continue to repeat
their standard line that gas drilling has "never contaminated water" we
now know that is not true. Research Dimock Pennsylvania.
So then, why do the companies fight so hard to keep
all their exemptions from complete environmental supervision, and
enhanced safe drinking water
legislation? In Pennsylvania, drilling operations have contaminated
water wells and been responsible for
surface spills causing
documented fish kills.
Don't count on the DEP to do your
water tests, do them yourself
"Well owners should have their water
tested within a few months before the start of the drilling. Once
a company has started drilling, it's too late because there won't be a
record of the well water's quality before drilling. If a resident
decides to test for any impacts after the drilling has occurred, that
needs to be done within six months because drillers are presumed
responsible for any damage to water supplies within six months after
drilling has begun." Source: Bryan Swistock, water resources
specialist with Penn State Cooperative Extension
It would be a good idea to test for as many chemicals as possible, even
though it will cost more money.
Water buffalo has replaced water from this Spring house
|Break a leg
Some drilling companies boldly proclaim
they will restore your leased land to as good, or even better
condition than it was before drilling started. More than one Hickory
farmer will tell you that just wasn't the case.
Below is a
photo of a crack in the farmer's field that developed from soil fill work
against the high wall of the drilling site being hastily
done. That round silver object is a quarter.
Would you want to risk your
livestock breaking a leg while grazing in a field with this kind of
fault line? The rest of the restored area is full of ruts, bumps, and
large chunks of gravel, nowhere near its original condition before drilling started.
Large crack in the soil along the former high wall of the drilling
During presentations, drilling
companies promote the idea that they are extremely well monitored
and inspected by multiple agencies. The fact of the matter is that in
Pennsylvania the only agency watching over them is the
overworked and understaffed Pennsylvania DEP. West Virginia has been in
worse shape with less than two dozen inspectors in the early years of
The western part of
Pennsylvania doesn't have an effective river basin commission like you find
in the eastern parts of the state, only ORSANCO. Therefore, even though drillers are
required to file a water usage plan, it is pretty much 'take all you
want for free' when it comes to
taking water from creeks, streams, lakes and
rivers. Fracturing one gas well can require up to 6 million gallons
of water. What if there is a drought watch in place?
Three vacuum tanker trucks withdrawing water from Chartiers Run
Marcellus Shale drilling in western
Pennsylvania is unique in another way when it comes to water. Wastewater
that is. Some other parts of the US get rid of drilling wastewater using deep injection
back into the ground. While that method has its own set of concerns, it is
still better than the "Pennsylvania Way."
In Pennsylvania it started out as: Haul it to any wastewater
treatment plant that will accept it, so they can partially process it by
diluting it with treated sewage, and then dump it
back into the rivers. Yes, the same rivers that citizens draw their drinking
Some regulation finally caught up with this method
in 2010, placing
tighter restrictions on which treatment plants can accept produced water, and how
much they can take.
plants that accept residual waste are not equipped to
process the heavy metals and high salt content of the waste water. Also
of concern is radioactive content and a long list of frac fluids that may
still be present in wastewater. If water authorities aren't removing
these chemicals, just what are you drinking?
This sort of 'catch-up' restriction (aka: better late than never) is what leads
some environmental activists to ask, "Why don't we have a gas drilling moratorium until we have all the
proper environmental legislation in place?" The reply comes back loud and
clear, "Drill baby drill" and "Money, money, money"
Two brine tankers dumping their loads at the
of McKeesport, which was still authorized to accept 80,000 gallons of
wastewater per day in November 2009. Drilling wastewater was diluted with
treated sewage, then dumped into the
Monongahela River (foreground).
Municipal Authority also dumped wastewater into the Mon River.