Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fracking on WDIY TONIGHT 6pm--Please Submit Your Comments to the DRBC!

SPLIT ESTATE will be screening Saturday March 12th  6:00 PM Reception;
7:00 PM Screening at The Grand Eastonian Suites Hotel, 140 Northampton 
Street, Easton. Suggested donation $20. All proceeds to benefit the 
Committee to Save Williams Township. Please call 610-844-2599 or 
email to purchase tickets.

Posted by: Noël Jones

Alan Jennings host of Lehigh Valley Discourse on WDIY 88.1 (93.9 in Easton) will be featuring the topic of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for natural gas and the potential for drinking water contamination in our area on his 6pm show today. Special guests confirmed are PA Representative Bob Freeman of the 136th District, and Attorney Don Miles, a member of the Sierra Club. Jennings has been trying to secure a guest from the drilling industry, but so far none have agreed to participate.

The New York Times has begun an in-depth series of articles on this issue in the last week:
Regulation Lax As Gas Well's Tainted Water Hits Rivers
Pressure Grows for Answers on Fracking
Water Recycling No Cure-All In Gas Process

TAKE ACTION: Below is a message from Iris Marie Bloom, Director of Protecting Our Waters on how to submit electronic comment to the Delaware River Basin Commission to urge them to not pass new regulations for drilling until the EPA's health impact study is finished:

"Dear Protectors, You can do this in two or three minutes if you are really fast!   If you have more time, customize your comment more.  

WHY:  The Delaware River Basin Commission will decide Wednesday whether to push their March 16th deadline back.  New alarming findings from previously unpublished EPA studies and confidential industry studies, published yesterday, should put a nail in the coffin of these premature draft regs, and strengthen the call for a moratorium, but only if the public weighs in.

WHAT:  Submit electronic comment now, even if you've already commented, based on yesterday's stunning revelations in the New York Times about the radioactivity from gas drilling waste far exceeding safe levels for drinking water, combined with the fact that drinking water treatment facilities in PA have not been required to test for radioactivity since 2006.

WHEN:  Now.  

HOW:  Copy from the comment I just submitted; use just the first paragraph if you like.  Customize it with one introductory sentence about your own level of concern.  Paste it into the comment field using these instructions, and ideally email us to say you did it!  (don't hit reply; email separately).   Link is below the text. 


Given the new information contained in yesterday’s deep investigative reporting on the disposal of 1.3 billion gallons of toxic radioactive gas drilling waste in Pennsylvania’s streams and rivers, we ask that you push the March 16th deadline for public comment on your draft rules back for two years.  Nowhere in your rules did you address the fact that, as reported in the New York Times yesterday, gas drilling waste has pushed the radioactivity levels far beyond the safe level for drinking water AND drinking water treatment facilities have not been asked to test for radioactivity since 2006.  This level of irresponsibility is life-threatening.  To protect our health and our ecosystem, you must not move towards finalizing your rules at this time.  

The New York Times reporter combed through 30,000 pages of documents for months, and based his information on previously unpublished EPA studies, a confidential industry study, and other official sources.  This is hard evidence that we are being put at risk; if you allow drilling in the basin, the risk will magnify.  We must not allow radioactive wastewater to enter our food chain.  We need much more time to absorb, understand and study these risks.

Please impose a complete moratorium on all gas drilling projects in the Delaware River Basin for at least two more years, until the EPA study has released preliminary results and until a Cumulative Impact Study for the Delaware River Basin is assessed.  The fact that 1.3 billion gallons of radioactive toxic waste has already been dumped into our streams and rivers means that about 5.3 billion gallons of radioactive toxic waste is now underground from gas drilling in Pennsylvania.  

Hydrogeologists say that open fractures could slowly convey that waste into groundwater and surface water over decades, generations, and centuries, creating a new sort of hell for future generations.  When it comes to irreversible damage such as this, which puts critical life support systems -- air, water, food -- at risk, we must abide by the precautionary principle.  Ban open plastic-line impoundments for radioactive toxic waste; ban any discharge of gas drilling waste into the waters of the basin; do not allow these poisons underground or in our water.  Wait for science.  Thank you.

My own comments continued  (use any of this you like):

Toxic radioactive waste underground is important because hydrogeologists, such as Ron Bishop, have evidence that a pre-existing network of intricately connected fractures and fissures underground are open to the surface in some places.  Because those openings have not been mapped in Pennsylvania, it’s a matter of luck and time to see where the toxic poisons will emerge and which live beings they will kill.

Let’s make no mistake about this.  Love Canal would pale in comparison to the deadly toxic pollution which will occur if any of those open fractures convey to the surface – decades, generations or centuries hence – the toxic load which is being pumped underground.  Your rules completely fail to take into account the long time frame for which we are morally responsible when we allow this radically harmful new technology to move forward. 

Based on the New York Times story yesterday (1/27/11), some 5.3 billion gallons of toxic radioactive gas drilling waste is already deep underground in Pennsylvania from the drilling so far.  The New York Times did not address future impacts from this underground injection of toxic waste -- with no EPA oversight and no mapping of fractures which convey to the surface -- but your rules MUST address this because your Compact requires you to "prevent future pollution."

Given the radioactive materials mobilized by unconventional gas drilling, including radium 226, radium 228, uranium and radon, which are not adequately removed and which are not adequately tested for, you must stop moving forward with these draft rules at this time.  Your draft rules also ignore seismicity – either natural earthquakes or seismic events created by hydraulic fracturing – and you must take the requisite time to assess those risks, with help from the U.S. Geological Survey.  An earthquake could result in “hundreds or thousands of BP-scale disasters” due to onshore unconventional gas drilling, according to hydrogeologist Ron Bishop.  But your rules just assume an earthquake won’t happen.  This is contrary to probabilities established by USGS.

Section 7.6 about gas drilling waste must be completely redrafted to protect public health.  Plastic-lined impoundments full of toxic waste create unacceptable hazards to water, air, and earth, and must be banned.  Each pit is a Superfund site in the making – but gas drilling is largely exempt from the Superfund law thanks to the Halliburton loophole in the 2005 Energy Act.  Under Pennsylvania law, gas drilling waste is exempt from being legally considered “hazardous” even though it is extremely hazardous, as we have seen from many explosions, fires, and deadly toxic spills.  This is outrageous; you must classify hazardous waste as hazardous waste.  Finally, there must be absolutely no discharge of gas drilling waste, which cannot be safely treated by any existing facility, to any streams or rivers in the Delaware River Basin.

Commissioners, we ask that you remain steadfast in your legal obligation to protect the Delaware River Basin while under fire by the industry and by property owners.  It is understandable and natural that people want money and jobs; that's the case everywhere.  But it's not the case that this industry is being "singled out" as some have said.  The issue is that this industry is highly toxic, even without any human error; and with human error the potential for catastrophe rises.  The issue is that this industry is brand new and radically experimental.  The high-volume aspect is new.  The high-pressure aspect is new.  The slickwater chemical cocktails used are new.  And combining hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling using multi-well pads is new.  

My inbox fills daily with news about poisoned water, including new cases in nearby Bradford County.  A disappointed landowner, Truman Burnett,in Bradford County said two spills by Chesapeake Energy, one of flowback and one of hydrochloric acid, have destroyed his water supply and killed all life in his pond; this has destroyed his retirement and his hope of handing his property on to his grandchildren.  Mike Bastion, also of Bradford County, had his water supply destroyed by Chesapeake Energy last year and the company now delivers only 25 gallons a week for him to use for all his water needs.  Sherry Vargson, another Bradford County landowner, found out the industry lied when they said they would drill, frack for a few days, and be gone.  Instead they've installed a compressor station which runs 24/7 and sounds like a truck idling under her window, making the house vibrate; to her, the $400/month she's gotten isn't worth the noise and air pollution, although she may be unaware she is breathing a load of volatile organic chemicals which can cause respiratory disease and cancer.  

Commissioners, these are among the many people who couldn't make it to the hearing in Wayne County.  The PR Firm, Quantum Communications, which got all those pro-gas-drilling public officials to the hearing, failed to call any landowners who've been badly hurt to testify, because the PR firm is working for the American Natural Gas Association which has only one concern: profit, not the public interest.  Do not be swayed by the effective work of a rich PR firm which is manipulating people's legitimate need for jobs.  We must create safe jobs and a sane economy based on sound principles, including the absolute need to prevent acute and cumulative deadly harm.

We don't have a PR firm, we don't have money, and we didn't have time or means to get  people whose water has been poisoned to the hearing.  In fact we are so exhausted from getting 10,000 comments to you prior to the release of your rules that we are about out of resources.  For you to call comments "balanced" when you are really referring to the deep pockets and bottomless resources of the industry, and a few dozen frankly intentionally mis-informed landowners, vs. the public health of 15 million people is, quite honestly outrageous.  Do not let yourselves be manipulated. 

When I tried to find an "ordinary landowner" who is pro-gas drilling at the Honesdale hearing, everyone I tried to talk to turned out to work for Quantum Communications, the PR firm.  The only phone number I got had area code 717 -- that's Harrisburg.

Don't let PR message framing twist this debate.  It's too important.  Stick to science.  Don't add the Delaware River Basin to the growing list of guinea pigs whose health has already been harmed by unconventional gas extraction.  The news this week is that Chesapeake Energy is dumping a substantial proportion of its shale gas drilling shares, and whatever public reason they may give for their action, they know how many landowners' lives they've already ruined and perhaps want to avoid the escalating costs and bad PR from the resulting lawsuits and negative exposure.

Thank you.  I look forward to hearing that you have pushed the March 16th deadline back for two years, giving you time to take real hard science into account. You must  re-draft the rules so that they address radioactivity in gas drilling waste; seismicity; open fractures; ban open plastic-lined impoundments; and prevent acute and cumulative, multi-generational deadly future impacts. You are not singling this industry out.  No other industry pours radioactive waste into our drinking water.

(also on our website in Action Alerts under "Urgent Five Minute Action")

Once on the NPS web site, click on the ‘Open For Comment’ link to the left hand side and select the document ‘Natural Gas Development Regulations – DRAFT’.  Review the draft and click on the comment button above the draft. 

Please also write and call your PA State Senator, PA State Representative, U.S. Congressperson and U.S. Senator to ask for a Delaware River Basin moratorium and extend that request to all of Pennsylvania and to our nation.  Encourage strong support for the EPA's authority and funding on Capitol Hill.  Josh Fox and the GASLAND team have also created a letter to President Obama which they are hoping 50,000 people will email and send:  here is the link for that letter on googledocs:

Economic justice matters.  Our government is spending $70 billion dollars on domestic surveillance right now.  That type of spending is completely out of control.  They have to hire people to keep track of the people they are hiring to keep track of the buildings they are building and the cameras they are buying.  Civil liberties aside, it's to the point where the sheer volume of surveillance going on works against real attention to real threats.  Steeply cut that $70 billion; cut military spending by 25% and we can fund refugee services, infrastructure, anti-poverty programs, public health and environmental protection without pitting legitimate needs against each other."

Iris Marie Bloom
Director, Protecting Our Waters

Host, "Frack Radio: The Shale Gas Report"

Episode 5: Bradford County's Bastion of Hope (half hour)
Episode 4: "Mythbusting Ingraffea and Philadelphia Courage"
Episode 3:  Protest in Pennsylvania
Episode 2:  Marcellus Money & Clean Water in the Age of Corbett
Episode 1:  Fractured Democracy: Rules Rushed in Delaware River Basin

Contact Iris:c (215) 840-6489

"The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives"
                             --Teton Sioux

"A stream is not just a collection of resources for us to exploit, but a community of which we are members."
        -- James G. Blaine,
        "Seeing the Whole River,"
        Waterkeeper (Volume 6 Number 1)


noel jones said...

Did anyone else catch Alan's show on WDIY? One thing frustrating me is that we now seem to have arrived at a state of awareness that exists in duality--in other words--denial. As Alan reiterated several times, this issue is the "bummer" of all bummers.

Everyone now seems to agree that there are detrimental health effects associated with fracking, including cancer, brain lesions, chronic headaches, loss of sense of smell, dizziness, nausea, hormone disruption, etc. and yet the conversation quickly turns to how important it is to extract a severance tax on drillers to plug holes in the state budget, rather than making spending cuts.

Let's please get this straight--you cannot extract a severance tax on something that isn't happening. So what we really have here is a choice between letting something detrimental to the health of thousands--potentially millions of people--HAPPEN OR NOT HAPPEN.

Until we have a complete cumulative impact report from the EPA, effective safety standards cannot be established (if possible at all), and we should have a state-wide moratorium on all drilling until the study is done and safety standards are established.

So far only partial moratoriums have been established, the state-wide moratorium introduced by Phyllis Mundy failed in our State Assembly, and drillers are getting rich and racking up all kinds of violations for illegal dumping--including into the river that supplies drinking water to the taps in our homes.

This either concerns you, or you're fine with the idea of you and your family getting cancer. But if it DOES bother you, and you don't want it to happen, there is NO ONE IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF IT FOR YOU.

This is where "personal responsibility" comes in. PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR PUBLIC COMMENT TO THE DRBC AS DESCRIBED IN THIS POST, and call your elected officials. Make it a priority to take 10 minutes out of your day, to fight for your water, your family's health, and your property values. Kind of important.

If we do not stop this with public outcry (in other words, letting our elected officials know that we will not vote for them again if they do not support a state-wide moratorium), then thousands of new wells will begin drilling within a few short months along our drinking water source (the Delaware). THIS IS AN EMERGENCY.

By the way, one thing that I did not hear mentioned among "things we can do" on the radio program was to work with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) throughout our state to create anti-fracking ordinances like those that have successfully passed to ban fracking in Pittsburgh, Licking Township, and Nockamixon.

We DO have the power to stop this. But we each have to do our part--we can't just stay busy with our personal lives and hope someone else will handle it for us.

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
I spoke to our Water Authority about advanced monitoring for contaminants associated with gas drilling. It is in the works. They have requested and received bids from certified labs and are presently scheduling sampling dates. The contaminant groups we will be sampling are:

1. Radiological contaminants
2. Volatile organic contaminants
3. Synthetic organic contaminants
4. Inorganic contaminants

The EPA and PADEP have established required monitoring frequencies for several of the contaminants that are on our list, with frequencies ranging from once every three years to once every nine years. The Authority recognizes that these sampling frequencies set by the regulatory agencies may not be adequate and will move forward with monitoring periods, i.e. quarterly, semiannually, annually, that will be determined on initial and follow-up monitoring results.

Similar to the testing of non-regulated pharmaceuticals, that they implemented a few years ago, they will be establishing a base line for the well drilling contaminants which will be used to determine testing frequency. Unlike the base line established for the pharmaceuticals, the amount of potential gas drilling wastewater will be commensurate with the number of existing and new drilling sites, which may result in the base line being a moving target.

The Authority is committed to the safeguard of our water supply and they will provide information as to our progress and results which I will then pass on to you.

Thank you for your concern.

david said...

Okay, followed the link, sent the letter. Watch out though, apparently their is a button to hit to hide your personal info which I missed.
I am happy to see us doing something on a local level about this. Thanks Mr. Mayor.

noel jones said...

Thanks for all the new info, Mayor Panto!

And David, thanks for sending a letter in--we are getting there slowly but surely--a year ago no one knew what fracking was, and now it's on the news, in the movies on TV shows, all over the NYTimes, etc.--the public is becoming aware and the new governor will have to deal with that. Hopefully he will do the right thing, like the New York's governor did. They got a statewide moratorium and there is no reason why we shouldn't too.

Keep the pressure on!