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Friday, May 31, 2013

5/31/13 Links: PA State Rep's Apology Not Accepted, Transparency Lacking in Water Testing, and Much More

StateImpact PA:  Gas Industry Supporters Don't Accept Rep. Jesse White's Apology for Online Bullying

Akron Beacon Journal:  Ohio eco-groups to ask court to block water sales by MWCD

StateImpact PA:  Gas Industry Building Database of Water Test Results, But Won't Make it Public

Huffington Post:  Liability Bombshell:  Must-Read Letters From PA and WI Fracking Victims to Illinois Lawmakers

StateImpact PA:  DEP's Fracking Record-Keeping Blocks Transparency

No Fracking Way blog:  Natural Gas Waste Hauler Raided
Also: Raided NG Waste Hauler Blames Former Employees
Also: Minuteman Environmental Services - Tip of the Drill Bit?

Washington Times:  Illinois Edges Closer to Endorsing Gas Fracking 

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MWCD May Cut Costs for Property Owners As It Receives Oil & Gas Royalties

From WKSU News:
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District is considering a plan to reduce the assessments it began levying on nearly 500,000 parcels of land in 18 counties last decade. 
How much the assessments are lowered will depend on how much the district collects in oil and gas royalties from Utica shale drilling. The Conservancy Court will review the plan at a session Saturday at the Tuscarawas County Courthouse, but the district is cautioning that no reductions will likely occur before 2015. 
Since 2011, the conservancy district has approved three leases in the Utica Shale region. It cleared $77 million in signing bonus payments, and has just received its first royalty payment of $750,000. The district collects about $11 million in assessments on land owners. Themoney goes toward operation of dams and reservoirs.
Read the whole article here.


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Carroll County Back on Top in Latest Permit Report

After Harrison County had been the hot spot for permitting over the past couple of weeks, Carroll County was once again the leader last week.

In the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' latest report on weekly permitting activity in the Utica shale, 10 new permits are listed.  4 are for Carroll County, while Columbiana and Noble counties each had 3 permits issued.

This brings the total Ohio permit count to 686, with 335 wells drilled and 100 producing.

View the latest report here.

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MarkWest Utica EMG Expands Utica Shale Midstream Infrastructure

DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--MarkWest Utica EMG, L.L.C. (MarkWest Utica EMG), a joint venture between MarkWest Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE: MWE) (MarkWest) and The Energy and Minerals Group (EMG), is announcing an additional expansion of its large-scale midstream system to support the rapidly growing drilling programs of Antero Resources (Antero), Gulfport Energy Corporation (NYSE: GPOR) (Gulfport) and other producers in the southern core of the Utica Shale. MarkWest Utica EMG will now construct a third 200 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) cryogenic gas processing facility at its Seneca processing complex in Noble County, Ohio.
“We are very excited to be developing premier midstream solutions in the southern core of the Utica shale for successful and proven operators such as Antero and Gulfport”
The Seneca complex continues to expand and will include three processing plants totaling 600 MMcf/d. The first two plants are scheduled to begin operations during the fourth quarter of 2013 and will support rich-gas production from a number of key producers including Antero, Gulfport, Rex Energy, PDC Energy, Consol Energy and others. In addition to the Seneca I facility, Antero’s rich-gas production will also anchor the Seneca III facility, and MarkWest Utica EMG expects the plant to be operational in early second quarter of 2014. Antero is a premier operator in the Northeast and is quickly developing its significant acreage position in areas surrounding the Seneca complex.
MarkWest Utica EMG is also developing the Cadiz complex in Harrison County, Ohio, which is anchored by Gulfport. Gulfport is successfully executing on its significant drilling program and continues to report very strong well results and rapidly growing production. In the past two weeks MarkWest Utica EMG began operations of the first major cryogenic processing facility in eastern Ohio, the 125 MMcf/d Cadiz I plant. The Cadiz complex currently has 185 MMcf/d of processing capacity, which includes a 60 MMcf/d interim refrigeration plant. The capacity at Cadiz will increase to 325 MMcf/d by mid-2014 with the completion of Cadiz II, a 200 MMcf/d plant and the removal of the Cadiz interim plant. The Cadiz and Seneca complexes will be connected by a rich-gas header that will provide Utica producers with unparalleled redundancy and reliability.
In just over a year, MarkWest Utica EMG has executed agreements with seven producers developing acreage in the southern core of the Utica Shale. By mid-2014 MarkWest Utica EMG’s fully integrated midstream system in the Utica Shale will consist of more than three-hundred miles of gathering pipeline, five processing facilities totaling almost 1 billion cubic feet per day and 100,000 barrels per day (Bbl/d) of C2+ fractionation capacity. The joint venture’s midstream system will also be connected to MarkWest’s expansive Marcellus NGL infrastructure.
“We are very excited to be developing premier midstream solutions in the southern core of the Utica shale for successful and proven operators such as Antero and Gulfport,” stated Frank Semple, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of MarkWest. “Together with our joint venture partner EMG, we are committed to providing our producer customers with fully-integrated midstream infrastructure and award winning customer service in one of America’s most exciting emerging resource plays.”
MarkWest Energy Partners, L.P. is a master limited partnership engaged in the gathering, processing and transportation of natural gas; the gathering, transportation, fractionation, storage and marketing of natural gas liquids; and the gathering and transportation of crude oil. MarkWest has a leading presence in many unconventional gas plays including the Marcellus Shale, Utica Shale, Huron/Berea Shale, Haynesville Shale, Woodford Shale and Granite Wash formation.

Science Panel Takes Close Look at Shale Gas Drilling

From Pipeline:
A National Academy of Sciences committee will review a host of risks and public concerns associated with shale gas drilling operations nationwide -- what's known and much that isn't -- during a two-day workshop starting next Thursday and Friday in Washington, D.C.

Presentations at the gathering will focus on air and water pollution -- and the health, economic, social and climate change impacts of shale gas development -- but will stop short of making recommendations about how best to manage and mitigate them.

"This review will be successful if the current state of knowledge about shale gas drilling is clarified and the uncertainties identified so we have better understanding and insights to help manage the risks," said Mitchell Small, the NAS committee chair and Carnegie Mellon University professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He will moderate a discussion this morning on a survey of concerns about lesser-studied drilling issues including impacts on rural quality of life, domestic animals, industry transparency and social justice.
Read the rest here. 

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Division of Geologic Survey Not Getting Worked Up Over Utica Shale Production Report

From The Marion Star:
In response to a request to speak with the state geologist regarding what new knowledge could be gleaned from the production data, the natural resources department provided this comment: 
“The production data is one piece of information that the Division of Geological Survey uses to better understand the Utica play in Ohio but it is not enough to warrant an update of our previously released maps. Generally speaking, the production data corresponds to information in the released maps and ODNR geologists will continue to gather all pertinent information relating to the shale play in Ohio.”
Read the whole article here. 

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How Much Can Youngstown Benefit From Leasing Mineral Rights For Public Lands?

From WEKU News:
The 'Frackmolishing' Plan
Last fall, the city council agreed to seek bids for mineral rights on city-owned parcels, which collectively add up to several hundred acres. As early as this summer, Youngstown officials plan to consider lease proposals for $5,000 to $7,500 an acre, plus signing bonuses.
DeMaine Kitchen, chief of staff for Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, is a proponent of this plan, which some refer to as "frackmolishing." Kitchen, who is running for mayor to succeed the out-going Sammarone, says old buildings must be cleared away to make room for growth.
"It's more than just tearing down everything," Kitchen said. "It's what you can build up."
He wants to replace decayed buildings with vibrant neighborhoods and businesses.
"If we had the money, I would like to create these, like promise neighborhoods, where you give special incentives to people to move into these neighborhoods," he said. "Or you create research parks or technology parks."
Read more about the decision facing Youngstown's leaders here.

Of course, there is plenty of opposition to the idea of generating money for the city in this way.  For example, one opponent of the plan says fracking uses hazardous chemicals and some kids already have asthma, so that makes leasing park land to the oil and gas industry a ludicrous idea.  She then pointed to the following health impact studies that have proven the clear and imminent danger to asthmatic children from the use of chemicals in fracking:




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EPA Accused of Showing Partiality to Green Groups

From Watchdog:
That’s why the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the parent organization of Watchdog.org, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with theEnvironmental Protection Agency in January.  Specifically, we asked the agency to provide us with copies of correspondence it had with green groups going back to August 2012. This would include email, snail mail and other written reports. We picked August as the cutoff so our request would correspond with the election season when energy policy was a hot topic of discussion.
What we asked for
We narrowed our request to include correspondence that would impact the Marcellus Shale, which cuts across Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Maryland,Virginia and West Virginia.In our FOIA, we asked the agency to provide us with “any discussion and correspondence with outside groups that concerns potential regulatory action that would impact the fracking process.”
We also limited the FOIA to the green groups most active in the Marcellus Shale. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Greenpeace, The Sierra ClubPhysicians for Social Responsibility, Union of Concerned ScientistsEarthjustice, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, and Earthworks are among the environmental groups named in the request. We also asked for communication between agency and the Park Foundation, based in Ithaca, N.Y., which is largely responsible for funding green activism in the region.
Franklin has yet to receive the information it requested. In a phone message to Watchdog earlier this month, an EPA representative said we could expect a response “shortly.” In February, the agency sent a letter to Franklin asking us to address six different factors, which are used to determine whether a fee waiver will be granted. After addressing those six factors the EPA still denied Franklin’s fee-waiver request and our request for expedited processing.
Read the whole article here, where it goes on to detail how the EPA has granted fee-waiver requests to green groups 92 percent of the time and denied them to conservative and free-market critics 93 percent of the time.

What do you think of how the EPA is handling their business?


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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gulfport Energy Doing Well Finding Utica Sweet Spot

From the Motley Fool:
Utica sweet spot 
While the Utica is loaded with potential, it has not developed into the top-tier oil play that Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy had hoped. That's caused Devon to decide to exit its position in the play while Chesapeake is looking to reduce its position. Gulfport, on the other hand, has found the best spot in the play and is increasing its acreage. That's no surprise when you consider that its first 14 wells averaged an initial rate of 3,055 barrels of oil equivalent per day. While those wells were certainly more gassy than expected, Gulfport sees the Utica as a catalyst to substantially increase its production and reserves.
Read more of this article, which is focused on why this analyst feels that Gulfport is a good investment, by clicking here. 

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Study Says Methane in PA Groundwater is "Best Correlated" to Things Other Than Shale Drilling

The findings of a new study in the journal Groundwater®​ suggest that methane concentrations in Susquehanna County water wells in Pennsylvania can be explained without the migration of Marcellus shale gas due to hydraulic fracturing.

“Testing of 1,701 water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania shows that methane is ubiquitous in groundwater, with higher concentrations observed in valleys vs. upland areas and in association with calcium/sodium/bicarbonate, and sodium chloride-rich waters,” the article states.

The article goes on to say that “on a regional scale, methane concentrations are best correlated to topographic and hydrogeologic features, rather than shale-gas extraction.”

The study authors are from the Houston, Texas-based GSI Environmental Inc. and Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The study’s assessment of isotopic and molecular analyses of hydrocarbon gases in Dimrock Township suggests that gases present in local water wells are most consistent with Middle and Upper Devonian gases sampled in the annular spaces of local gas wells, as opposed to Marcellus production gases.

Groundwater is published by the National Ground Water Association.

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PA Legislator Jesse White Found to Have Posted Anti-Gas Messages on Internet Under False Names

State Rep. Jesse White
In what has to be one of the weirder stories from the annals of drilling opposition, Pennsylvania State Rep. Jesse White, who has become something of a small-scale celebrity for his outspoken opposition to drillers (although he has claimed in the past to not be anti-drilling), has been exposed as the real person behind a collection of false names that have been posting anti-drilling messages on the Internet.  The posts often included insults and name-calling directed at commenters who supported drilling, many of whom are White's constituents.

The story from CBS Pittsburgh:


First, State Rep. Jesse White allegedly posted Gibbs’ real identity. Then, someone posting under the name “Prouder American” called her an “industry troll.”
Another posting under the name “Harold,” called her an “undereducated yonder,” “dumber than a box of rocks,” “an embarrassment to her community.”
Gibbs has long suspected all the comments were actually posted by White himself.
“I can’t prove it Mr. Sheehan, but hopefully somebody can and stop it because it’s getting worse,” Gibbs said.
And things did get worse. Gibbs was soon under attack by someone posting under a name “Janice Gibson.”
One of the comments said, “Janice Ludwin Gibbs is a local mole for the gas industry propaganda group Energy In-depth.”
“A mole, an Internet troll, I’m getting paid by Energy In-depth. I wish my paycheck would hurry up because I could sure use it,” Gibbs said in reaction to the comment.
Energy In-depth is a gas industry funded organization. When anti-drilling posts appeared on their website from “Janice Gibson” and another from someone falsely representing themselves as “Janice Gibbs” herself, the organization traced them.
The internet protocol — or IP — address of those people came up as the same computer as Rep. White’s state e-mail address.
There is more to that story, including White's evasive responses to an investigative reporter when confronted with the evidence that he was posting under false names and that an anti-drilling website which he claimed to have no association with was found to be registered in his name.  Read it all here.

Pennsylvania Independent has an interesting further twist to the story:  when state Rep. Kathy Watson introduced a bill to make "online impersonation" a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of $5,000 the bill progressed from the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 22-1 and was passed by the full house with a vote of 196-1.  The one opposing vote in both cases belonged to...wait for it...state Rep. Jesse White.

That article also features an update with White's response to the reports that emerged regarding his Internet postings:
Thursday afternoon, White released a statement apologizing for any actions he may have taken that were “harmful or offensive” to the individuals named in the KDKA story. 
He admitted to responding online to what he called “numerous misleading and personal attacks against me in an attempt to distract people from the real issues.” 
“On occasion, I have exercised my First Amendment rights and responded in kind, which was an error in judgment that I regret,” White said. “To be clear, I did not use government resources while posting comments on these sites.” 
White said he will not stop “asking the tough questions and standing up for what I believe in, because the stakes are too high to allow petty differences to distract us from ensuring that we’re developing our natural resources in a responsible way that generates an economic benefit to our community but also protects the people who live and work here.”
Read the rest of that article here.

This story is pretty surprising, to say the least.  Although really, if one has been following the comments that White has made under his own name, it's not that surprising.

Maybe White was inspired to use multiple identities by another well known opponent of drilling:



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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Many Landowners in PA Opting to Sell Royalty Rights

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The investment firms moving into the region are offering to buy those left-behind mineral rights. Landowners get money for that vacation home today, and the investment firm gets access to the royalty payments that may -- or may not -- come later. 
If there's one word associated with the practice, it's risk -- risk for the company that might acquire useless mineral rights, and risk for the landowner who could miss out on lucrative royalty payments in the future. 
The investment firms represent investors as varied as pension funds and Ivy League universities and bring a level of speculation typically found on Wall Street to the farmlands of Western Pennsylvania.
Read more about this here.

No doubt this is something that many in our area have considered doing, or even done, themselves.  What do you think of the idea of flipping your mineral rights for immediate payment?  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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Chesapeake Expecting Its Utica Shale Production to Increase by 500% By End of Year

From The Salem News:
"We are currently operating 14 rigs in the play and we will continue to develop that with the benefit of a drilling carry from Total (French oil company) that will last at least through the end of 2014. The Utica Shale, we're very excited about, it's still very early in the play. Our production today is currently about 65 million cubic feet a day on a net basis. We expect to ramp that up to about 330 million by the end of the year as additional processing capacity comes on line. I believe the Natrium facility is coming on line right about now and mid- to late summer we should have incremental processing capacity at Momentum's plant at Kensington in Columbiana County. And that should also lead to strong growth."
Chesapeake said it will focus on drilling and completion activities on its existing leases for 2013, he said adding the company remains zeroed in on its 10 key plays.
Read the entire article here. 

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shift to Natural Gas Won't Reduce Greenhouse Gases Enough, Study Says

METHANE LEAKS IN NATURAL GAS SYSTEM WOULD ERODE CLIMATE BENEFITS


Touted 50 percent benefit over coal could take this century or longer to achieve


Princeton, N.J. - The ongoing shift from coal to gas in electric power generation in the U.S. is unlikely to provide the 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions typically attributed to it over the next three to four decades, according to a new report by the science and journalism organization Climate Central.

The organization’s analysis of published studies finds projections that ignore methane leaks in the natural gas system are overly optimistic about the global warming impact of increasing gas use in place of coal.

Climate Central has also created an interactive tool to help understand the relationship between methane leakage and the global warming benefit of shifting from coal to gas in power generation. (To embed our interactive tool on your site, use this iframe code.)

Methane is a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2). On a pound-for-pound basis, methane has a global warming potential about 100 times that of CO2 initially, although over 20- or 100-year timeframes this reduces to 72 or 25 times.

Climate Central’s analysis found enormous uncertainty about the rate at which methane leaks from the process of natural gas drilling, processing, transmission, and distribution. Published estimates of methane leak rates range from 1 to 8 percent, with peer-reviewed measurements for individual drilling regions as high as 17 percent. The EPA recently revised its national estimate of methane leak rates downward by one-third (to 1.5 percent from 2.2), although there are significant uncertainties in these figures.

“It is impossible to know with confidence what actual leak rates are at a national scale, with the currently available data,” said Eric Larson PhD, a senior scientist at Climate Central and director of the organization’s energy program.

“But even a relatively low overall methane leak rate of 2 percent may not achieve a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to coal in this century because of the greenhouse potency of methane.”

In addition to the rate at which methane leaks from the natural gas system, the climate benefits of switching from coal to natural gas depend heavily on the rate at which coal-generated electricity is replaced by gas-generated electricity and how much time has passed after beginning a switchover from coal to gas.

Natural gas use in the U.S. grew by 25 percent from 2007 to 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Within the power sector, natural gas use grew to 36 percent from 30 percent of all gas use. Shale gas produced by hydraulic fracturing has grown especially rapidly, from close to zero a decade ago to about one-third of all gas today. Continued growth is projected, and shale gas could account for half of all gas in another two decades.

As gas production has grown, electricity generated using gas has also grown, from less than 19 percent of all electricity in 2005 to more than 30 percent in 2012. During the same period coal electricity fell from 50 percent to 37 percent.

“More measured data and better understanding of gas industry practices are needed to guide the nations’ energy choices,” Larson said. “Fortunately, we know how to measure methane leaks, and we could get a handle on the uncertainties relatively quickly with a sufficient commitment of resources.

Headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey, Climate Central is a non-profit research and journalism organization providing authoritative information to help the public and policymakers make sound decisions about climate and energy.
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Tracers to Help in Determining Source of Water Contamination Continue to Be Developed

From Shale Reporter:
Researchers in the Rice University chemistry professor's laboratory have developed nanoparticles that will flow with the fluid used to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells, slip through rocks and travel wherever the water ends up — in a holding pond at the surface, a tanker on the highway or, in a worst-case scenario, a nearby drinking water well.
The particles, which can bear unique magnetic signatures tailored to each fracking company that uses them, have the potential to clarify the troubled debate over whether and how oil and gas extraction damages water supplies.
"Whether you are Matt Damon or the president of Halliburton, for different reasons you should be interested in this," Barron said in a lounge off his laboratory on the Houston, Texas campus early this year. "If you're worried about the environment, then for once you might be able to find out if they've really done it and who did it. If you're Halliburton, maybe this is a way of saying, 'You're right, someone contaminated your water. But it wasn't us. It was that guy.'"
Read more about the ongoing efforts to come up with tracing technology that can be used in drilling by clicking here. 

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PA College Goes Against its "Image" By Considering Oil and Gas Lease

From Shale Reporter:
Now, the school touted in the Princeton Review’s guide to green colleges as a leader of environmental friendliness, is talking about leasing land for “fracking,” the horizontal drilling technique used to get gas from shale.
Even more surprising is that the most likely place is in the Bousson Environmental Research Reserve, 283 acres of university-owned land. It is part of the Bousson Forest, which sits atop the Utica Shale.
There is no offer on the table yet, but gas leasing companies expressed interest late last year, and the school is trying to head off controversy. It may become a model for handling the issue on campuses across the state.
Allegheny College has tried to avoid some of the tension around the subject on campus by creating a group of faculty members, students and alumni to help the school navigate a discussion of drilling.
But many students PublicSource talked with aren’t buying the arguments for fracking.
Annie Krol, 23, said she chose to attend Allegheny because of its green reputation.
“It shocked me that we would consider subsidizing fossil fuels,” Krol said. “It’s not in line with our image.”
Read the rest here.


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Interior Department Being Pressured to Slow Down Fracking Rules

From The Hill:
The American Petroleum Institute (API) on Tuesday urged Interior to extend the public comment period on revised draft rules to regulate the process called hydraulic fracturing.

The industry group, which opposes the rules floated on May 16, wants the public comment period quadrupled to 120 days.
Interior is already under pressure from the bipartisan leadership of the House Natural Resources Committee to extend the comment period.
The whole article can be read by clicking here.  

Whether they are for drilling or against it, no one seems to be crazy about the proposed rules for fracking on federal land.

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Rural Action Shares Success Reducing Acid Mine Drainage

CARROLLTON, OHIO: Carroll Concerned Citizens will host Rural Action Coordinator Marissa Geib-Lautzenheiser at its June 6 meeting. She will share the organization’s collaborative success in the restoring local Huff Run watershed health from the affects of pre-regulation coal mining operations.

Rural Action’s mission is to foster social, economic, and environmental justice in Appalachia Ohio, and Rural Action believes every individual can make a difference in their community. It’s members, staff, and volunteers actively work on community-based, grassroots planning and development; environmental preservation and education; sustainable agriculture and forestry, and waste stream reorganization.

According to Coordinator Geib-Lautzenheiser, “There have been nineteen reclamation projects completed in the Huff Run Watershed, and one project is currently being designed for the Mud Run Watershed. These projects treat acid mine drainage (AMD) discharges before they reach the stream, greatly reducing the overall amount of pollution in the watershed.”

AMD is caused by a chemical reaction when pyrite in coal seams is exposed to water and oxygen. AMD contains high levels of iron, manganese and aluminum and often has a low pH (meaning acidic water) resulting in an orange precipitate that coats stream bottoms harming aquatic habitat and animals.

As coal mining operations increase in Carroll County, citizens are becoming more attuned to the potential impacts of bad mining practices and we are glad to see the success of this public/private collaborative to rectify the sins of the past.” said Paul Feezel of Carroll Concerned Citizens.

Adding final comment about their work, Ms. Geib-Lautzenheiser noted “Huff Run and Mud Run are proof that concentrated effort, support, and collaboration can result in marked water quality increases. We’ve seen the stream come back and be able to support healthy fish populations, and although there is still a lot of work to be done, we can celebrate our successes. We’re looking forward to replicating our work in Mud Run and beyond.”

The Rural Action presentation will be held at the Church of Christ, 353 Moody Ave. Carrollton, OH beginning at 7pm and is free and open to the public. 

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Resistance in Ohio, Fracking's Dumping Ground


This is the third installment of Truthout's Fracking Road Trip series.

The Ohio River valley is lush in the spring. The eastern Ohio River, one of America's most economically vital waterways, winds through the rolling green foothills of Appalachia as it ambles past small towns and cities in Ohio and West Virginia. The valley has been heavily industrialized for decades. Coal-burning power plants, chemical processing facilities and mills dot the riverside. In 2012, the Ohio River was ranked the nation's most polluted waterway, according to government datacompiled by Environment America. Elisa Young is determined to keep the river from getting worse.
Trucks load up with fracking waste at the
GreenHunter Energy transfer station in
New Matamoras, Ohio. (Photo: Mike Ludwig)

Young, an activist living in southeast Ohio, sits in a car outside a fracking wastewater transfer station nestled in the center of a residential neighborhood on the riverside in New Matamoras, Ohio. Trucks laden with liquid waste from hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," oil-and-gas drilling operations pull out of the parking lot one by one. The trucks are bound for injection wells, where the wastewater will be pumped deep beneath the earth for permanent disposal.

The Ohio River is easily visible behind the transfer station. For the facility's operator, Texas-based GreenHunter Energy, the location is perfect. The firm was one of the first to propose transporting fracking wastewater on the Ohio River by barge. GreenHunter Energy wants to turn the New Matamoras facility, along with another property upriver near Wheeling, West Virginia, into waste terminals, where barges carrying up to 4.5 million gallons of waste could unload their cargo. The proposal has sparked national headlines and currently awaits federal approval.

Ohio has become a dumping ground for the fracking industry that has boomed in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and, most recently, eastern Ohio. Records from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) show that Ohio's 179 underground disposal wells have absorbed more than 1 billion gallons of fracking wastewater since 2010, with much of the waste coming from Pennsylvania and other states.

Oil and gas drilling produces millions of gallons of salty wastewater - known as "brine" in industry lingo - often laced with harmful chemicals and radioactive material from deep underground. Wastewater from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale formation, a hotspot for gas drilling, can be particularly radioactive. A 2011 study by the US Geological Survey found that the level of radioactive radium in a brine sample from Pennsylvania was 300 times higher than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's limit for industrial discharges.

Young looks out on the streets lined with houses on either side of the GreenHunter Energy waste transfer station. She recently discovered that another firm, Weavertown Environmental, is seeking permits to build a fracking waste solidification facility next to GreenHunter Energy's wastewater station. The Weavertown proposal has drawn concerns from local residents, according to reports.

Young is concerned about the people living there. Who would want to live in the shadow of a waste depot? "It's amazing," she says. "There is no public input." Young, who discovered the barging proposal on GreenHunter Energy's web site, says state regulators did not issue any public notices or permits for the facility because the fracking wastewater is only stored there temporarily.

Young is also worried about a spill. The Ohio River supplies drinking water for millions of people. GreenHunter Energy argues that barges have much safer track records and fewer environmental impacts than trucks, but Young fears a barge accident could release much more waste into the water supply than a leaking truck. She is not alone.

"I don't think the people of Ohio should have to choose what they like better, truck accidents or barge accidents," says Madeline ffitch, (who spells her name with a lowercase "f"), an organizer with the Ohio-based anti-fracking group Appalachia Resist!. "Its funny, the industry is tying itself in knots because the consequences of even one barge leak are much bigger than a truck accident because the Ohio river is a primary drinking source for 5 million people."

On February 19, Appalachia Resist! brought dozens of demonstrators to the GreenHunter Energy terminal to shut down the facility and protest the barging proposal. One demonstrator, Nate Ebert of Athens, Ohio, ascended a 30-foot pole anchored to a truck in the process of unloading waste fluid, preventing other trucks from entering the site for six hours. Ebert and 10 others were arrested as police broke up the protest.

After the protest, GreenHunter Energy released a statement claiming its facility was "held hostage by protesters," but the facility did not suffer damage. GreenHunter Energy President Jonathan Hoopes tells Truthout that the protest was "dangerous," and his employees were scared.

"It's unfortunate that people have to resort to terrorist tactics," Hoopes says.

According to ffitch, demonstrators did not terrorize anyone and even brought donuts into the facility's office for employees to eat while they waited for the demonstration to end. Perhaps, she says, the employees were intimidated by the HAZMAT suits worn by demonstrators to highlight that fracking wastewater can be radioactive. "You think donuts are scary?" ffitch says. "You know what is scary? Millions of gallons of radioactive waste."

Ohio's Dumping Ground Controversy

Ohio has more injections wells for oil and gas drilling waste than other states in the region - and, according to environmentalists, a business-friendly regulatory atmosphere - making the state a popular destination for fracking waste from nearby states.

In 2011, Ohio's injection wells absorbed 532 million gallons of fracking waste fluids, up from 359 million in 2010 and more than any year before that, according to state records. The Center for Health and Environmental Justice reports that Ohio injection wells accepted an all-time high of 581 million gallons of waste in 2012.

More than half of the 144 million gallons of waste injected into Ohio wells in the first four months of 2012 came from Pennsylvania and other states, according to  records from the state Department of Natural Resources. ODNR regulates wastewater injection and charges higher fees for out-of-state waste. In the first quarter of 2012, the ODNR grossed $76,068 in fees on in-state waste disposal and $379,165 on waste from Pennsylvania and beyond.

The influx of waste has already caused problems. In the spring of 2012, state regulators linked an injection well near Youngstown to a dozen minor earthquakes including on 4.0-magnitude quake felt for miles. Last year, a Truthout investigation found that the ODNR permitted the injection well's operator, D&L Energy, to raise the maximum injection pressure of the well twice, once shortly before and once again after the well caused two initial earthquakes on March 17, 2011.

D&L continued to operate in Ohio until February 2013, when owner Ben Lupo admitted to ordering employees on at least six occasions to empty 21,000-gallon tanks of fracking waste containing toxic chemicals into tributaries of the Mahoning River near Youngstown. Investigators say that as many as 20 illegal dumps were performed under Lupo's watch. In February, Lupo plead not guilty in federal court to felony charges under the Clean Water Act, and state regulators revoked operating permits for D&L and related firms owned by Lupo.

There is little federal oversight of fracking waste injection in Ohio. The ODNR is the primary regulator of drilling wastewater disposal and claims to have one of the sturdiest programs in the country. But on March 14, in the wake of the Lupo dumps, hundreds of Ohioans petitioned the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to audit the ODNR's injection well program and consider taking over regulatory responsibilities in the state.

On May 1, two Democratic Ohio lawmakers introduced legislation that would ban new injection wells in Ohio.

"These wells are changing the earth's geology by adding man-made cracks that allow water and waste to flow freely," said Rep. Denise Driehaus, a Democrat from Cincinnati and sponsor of the ban, in a release. "We cannot sit idly by as our state is used as a dumping ground for toxic waste and Ohioans' health and safety are increasingly put at risk."

The legislation is supported by dozens of environmental and community groups, but it remains to be seen if it will gain any traction in the state legislature.

Ohio's Fracking Waste Dilemma

Ohio is prevented from stopping shipments of fracking waste from other states under the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives the federal government authority over interstate commerce. So if the waste is bound for Ohio, why not bring it in as safely as possible?

GreenHunter Energy's Jonathan Hoopes says barging is safer and more environmentally friendly than trucking the liquid in tanks. Unlike a fleet of trucks, a barge does not wear down local roads and cause traffic congestion. Barges also produce less carbon dioxide emissions per ton of waste transported. A study conducted by GreenHunter shows that barges also have the lowest rate of accidents compared to other modes of surface transportation. "The fluid is already coming in, it's coming in by truck," Hoopes says. "Our argument is to bring it in by barge because it's a lot safer to do it that way."

But environmentalists in Ohio are not happy about any excuse to bring more waste into the state.

"That's the position the industry takes when it comes to Ohio . . . and it makes you feel like you're living in a Banana Republic," says Julie Weatherinton-Rice, a senior scientist at Bennett & Williams Environmental Consultants and an adjunct professor at Ohio State University. "So he unloads [the barges] here in Washington County, and then what happens? He puts it in a truck."

Weatherinton-Rice says hazardous materials are already barged on the Ohio River, but that doesn't mean Ohioans should be happy about another potential source of contamination on an already polluted waterway. "I'm not against fracking," she says. "I am against stupid." The aquifer under the river is porous, she says, and a spill of fracking waste or any other pollutant could contaminate drinking water well fields near the river.

Weatherinton-Rice is also concerned about the amount of fracking fluid injected underground in Ohio. The fees collected by state regulators are "peanuts" compared with the price of fixing a contaminated drinking water well field, she says. "Ohio does not have magic geology that just swallows all this stuff without belching it back every once in a while," she says. "So I go into these things expecting trouble and thinking about how we're going to handle this if we do [have trouble]."

Elisa Young is also unconvinced. "They've never done anything like this before," Young says. "Without doing an environmental impact statement, how do you know it will have less impact?" In March, Young petitioned the Coast Guard demanding that a formal environmental impact study be conducted on the GreenHunter Energy facility and its barging proposal, but she has yet to get a reply.

The proposal to barge the fracking waste on the river landed in the lap of the Coast Guard earlier this year, where Young says her requests for information and transparency also fell on deaf ears. The Coast Guard has since sent a proposal to the White House's Office of Budget and Management (OMB), where it currently awaits approval. An OMB spokesman told Truthout in an email that the office does not comment on pending regulatory rules, and the Coast Guard did not respond to a Truthout inquiry.

So what about the people of New Matamoras, Ohio who live by the waste transfer facility? Madelin ffitch says that several residents came out to support the Appalachia Resist! protest, and some even let demonstrators stand on their lawns. But when Truthout went door to door in the neighborhood by the facility, no one wanted to talk to the media about the waste terminal. One local woman, who did not give her name, simply said, "What are you going to do? These businesses come in and do whatever they want."


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