Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Independent study finds significant fault line methane leaks near PA natural gas operations

“Two methane plumes were detected,” said Dr. Bryce Payne, environmental scientist and author of the report. “One larger plume substantially increased in size over a few hours, which suggests large amounts of methane were being emitted into the air. A smaller plume was also detected about 2 miles west of the larger one. The data and observations suggest natural gas has spread through an extensive underground area beyond where the plumes were found.”
Read the entire article!

Monday, June 25, 2012




House to vote on bad DEP permitting bill
This week, the House is expected to vote on legislation that would severely limit (or possibly eliminate) the role of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to adequately review applications for pollution and other permits.

House Bill 1659 sets very short deadlines for DEP to review permits, then declares that permits are approved if DEP can’t meet any of the deadlines. Meanwhile, the General Assembly has been cutting DEP’s budget, hindering its ability to timely review permits.

House Bill also requires DEP to develop a plan within 90 days to outsource permit reviews to non-DEP employees. Sports teams cannot bring their own referees or umpires to games, but FRACKERS in Pennsylvania may soon be able to decide who reviews their permit applications.  This will encourgage the Gas Industry to go Permit Review Shopping to find the "reviewer" with the fastest and cheapest rubber stamp.

DEP opposes HB 1659, but Secretary Michael Krancer has been uncharacteristically timid in sharing his opinion of the bill with legislators.

HB-1659 will give the Natural Gas Industry yet another gift.  No other industry in Pennsylvania enjoys such special considerations. 

HB-1659 will turn the permitting process into a wink and a nod. 

HB-1959 renders the entire notion of permits completely useless and fit only for use as toilet paper.

With Act 13 the Natural Gas Industry is free to frack where ever it wants and NOW the Natural Gas Industry wants to frack even faster with an EZ-Frack permitting process?

Of the 7,019 applications that DEP has processed since 2005, only 31 have been rejected - less than one-half of one percent.  The Average time spent on reviewing a permit is 35 minutes.  Aren't we rubberstamping permits fast enough already?

HB-1659 will allow the Natural Gas Industry to go "reviewer shopping" and find the the cheapest and fastest rubberstamper in the state.

Lobbyists spent $1,300,000 just on the “impact fee bill”.    This is approximately 1/3 of the amount spent for the entire previous year.  How much are they paying for HB-1659?

It seems in the best interest of public health and safety and the environment that this bill does not proceed to the senate. Please email your Representative and ask them to vote NO.

Emails are preferred over phone calls.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission....the DOTS

Shortly after becoming Governor-Elect in 2010, Corbett assembled transition teams.  One of the "teams" was the Energy-Environment team.  This diagram shows who is who on that team.  It is still a work-in-progress and there may be changes and/or corrections.  It served to form the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission which Corbett established in March of 2011

CLICK HERE 2010 Transistion: Energy-Environment team 

 This diagram examines the connections within the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.  It is still a work-in-progress and there may be changes and/or corrections.
Click Here Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission

What color is your Sky?

This week Josh Fox, creator of the documentary GASLAND, released a short 20-minute video entitled THE SKY IS PINK.   The short film examines the disconnect between what is being reported on the news, what the Natural Gas Industry says and what is scientific fact.  

The phrase "THE SKY IS PINK" is fast becoming the meme for PR ads and statements issued by the Natural Gas Industry, and will most likely enter into the American lexicon to encompass any questionable positions for any corporation or politician.

The film isn't just about the color of the sky, it also shows some eye-opening facts about the practices of the Natural Gas Industry.   If you haven't seen it, you are missing important information.

Click Here to Watch.

What color is the Sky over Wyalusing, PA?

Pa. families settle gas drilling pollution lawsuit with Chesapeake Energy for $1.6 million
KEVIN BEGOS  Associated Press
June 22, 2012 - 6:09 pm EDT

PITTSBURGH — Three northeastern Pennsylvania families have reached a $1.6 million settlement with a gas drilling company over contaminated water wells.

    But Jared McMicken of Wyalusing said the agreement reached Thursday provides little comfort since his drinking water was ruined by nearby drilling, and his family must move.

"We've lost our house, and we're not going to get out of it what we got into it," he said. "We have a bunch of people who have to leave their homes."
 Chesapeake Energy maintains the sky is pink:

Chesapeake said in a statement that it believes there is no permanent damage to the properties and that other water wells in the area showed natural contamination before drilling began. McMicken disputed that, saying his water and that of his neighbors was fine before the drilling.

"While Chesapeake remains confident that the water supply is consistent with area water quality standards, it has entered into the settlement so the families and the company could bring closure to the matter," the company said.
 The HUGE outcome of this settlement is the absence of a non-disclosure clause or agreement.   In the past, the Natural Gas corporations have included these types of gags in settlement agreements which has prevented families from talking about their experiences as well as the terms of the settlement.   

"Attorney Todd O'Malley said he believes this is the first case involving pollution in the Marcellus Shale region where settlement terms were publicly disclosed. Past disputes have been sealed."
 Will these families now go public?  We'll know more when we see what color the sky is over Wyalusing.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Sky Is Pink in Tioga and Bradford County

It's funny how the sky has turned pink near gas drilling well sites.  Not to worry - pink skies are naturally occurring, right? 

Methane migration probed in Tioga County

While a Shell representative listed several precautions that the company is taking to manage the situation, she also noted methane gas has historically been found in groundwater in the area.

"These pre-existing conditions make it difficult to identify a specific source of the methane detected," wrote Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh in a statement. "We are evaluating the timing of the incident, reviewing other pre-drill data from nearby residences, determining the methane signature [specific characteristics], and evaluating overall water quality changes.

The Department of Environmental Protection believes that the "milky appearance" of the creek is caused by methane moving fine sediment through the bottom of the stream, spokesman Daniel Spadoni said. The theory is "based on our past experiences with this same kind of occurrence," not sampling of the sediment, Mr. Spadoni said.
Same kind of "OCCURANCE"???  Really? 

‘The Sky Is Pink’
Josh Fox, writer and director of the anti-fracking documentary “Gasland”, has a new short film that focuses on New York’s deliberation over whether to allow the controversial natural gas drilling process in the Marcellus, and specifically targets Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the man in whose hands rests the future of the state’s public health, air and water safety and general quality of life.

Fox pulls no punches with his 18-minute film, “The Sky Is Pink.” The title stems from a PR strategy in which the waters of the debate over a hot-button issue are muddied by interjecting competing claims that are then dutifully reported by the media in the interest of providing balance.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Corbett's Special Interests

As a candidate for governor of PA, Tom Corbett promised to work to reduce the burden of taxation. And so I guess he is keeping his word by supporting a proposal to allow the foreign-based corporate giant Royal Dutch Shell to reap the economic benefits of the Marcellus exploitation without having to pay its fair share of tax on earnings from the natural gas processing plant that it hopes to build here in PA.

 On some fronts, Corbett is working to eliminate state spending. For example, the budget of PA DEP has already been cut, and the governor is pushing for further cuts. The message to the gas drilling, processing, and transport businesses is “Not only will we exempt you from paying your fair share of taxes, we’ll also stay out of your way while you do whatever is deemed necessary to get the gas.”

Royal Dutch Shell will gain about 72 million dollars over each of the next 25 years, whereas the average middle-class Pennsylvania taxpayer may end up with an annual tax reduction in the neighborhood of $50.    Royal Dutch Shell already stands to receive up to 15 years of tax cuts and exemptions under a bill Corbett signed earlier this year to designate the cracker-plant site as an expanded Keystone Opportunity Zone.

 Before construction of the cracker plant could even begin, the still-operating zinc smelter site needs to be cleaned up.  Its owner, Horsehead, has racked up numerous federal and state environmental violations and some experts suggest cleanup costs could reach into the tens of millions.  It was originally reported that taxpayers of Pennsylvania would be paying for the cleanup, although now Corbett is backing off on this. So it appears there will be no environmental remediation whatsoever, given that our governor is reluctant to impose upon the mineral extraction industry.

 How is Pennsylvania going to pay for cleanup, tax credits, tax cuts, and exemptions for this one extra- special corporation, Royal Dutch Shell? Looking at Corbett’s budget proposal, he will be doing it through cuts to state-funded education initiatives and needed social services.   Hasn’t the natural gas industry received enough special considerations through the passage of Act 13 and with $1.8 billion per year in subsidies from Pennsylvania tax dollars?

 At a recent town meeting, representatives from one natural gas corporation were asked why they were at the meeting.  The response was, “so we can educate you, get on with our job, and leave. “  Key point – get on with our job and leave.   The natural gas industry, as a whole, has no vested interest in Pennsylvania communities.   They do not live here; they do not raise their families here.  They exploit what they are allowed to exploit, and they leave. 

The objectively estimated Marcellus reserves would meet U.S. gas demand for about six years, using 2010 consumption data, according to the Energy Department. This is quite a bit less than the 17 years previously projected by gas-friendly estimates.   If this new prediction is correct, in approximately 6 years the natural gas industry will pack up their carpet bags and leave.   The natural gas industry will leave the financial responsibility of cleanup and generations of health costs to the people of Pennsylvania.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

ACT 13 Corporate Government

Constitution challenge to Act 13's frack anywhere zoning provision went before a panel of seven Commonwealth Court judges on June 6, 2012.
The heart of the argument is the extent of the state's power to tell municipalities where they must allow drilling-related activity, including rigs, waste pits, pipelines and the compressor and processing stations that help move gas from the underground Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania to consumers across the northeastern United States.

Among the objectionable provisions cited by the towns' March 29 lawsuit are requirements that drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as operators observe certain buffers.

At one point, President Judge Dan Pellegrini asked a lawyer representing the Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission what would happen if the state passes similar laws for every industry it considers an economic engine.

"If you make that argument, pretty soon zoning becomes irrational," Pellegrini said.

Five of the largest natural gas interests spent a total of $1.3 million on lobbying Pennsylvania legislators from January through March 2012 on the Act 13 legislation. 

Leading the pack was the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group based in southwestern Pennsylvania. The group spent $978,766 during the first three months of the year trying to influence government, disclosure records showed.

Rounding out the top five were the drilling company Range Resources, $133,766; Chesapeake Appalachia LLC, $111,099; Shell Oil, $102,400 and Spectra Energy Transmission, $48,088, records showed. The four companies and the industry trade group also led the pack on lobbying expenses during the first nine months of 2011.

On January 12, 2012 a letter was sent to Representatives Sam Smith, Mike Turzai, and Brian Ellis from Kathryn Z. Klaber, President – Marcellus Shale Coalition, and Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Executive Director – Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania.  The letter was also cc’d to Governor Tom Corbett and all House Members.

The letter contained a list entitled “Suggestions for Final Marcellus Shale Legislation”.  There were 27 “suggestions”.   All but 3 of the suggestions found their way into the bill.

What we have in Pennsylvania is a Republican controlled government dancing to the tune of the Natural Gas Industry.   Whatever the Natural Gas Industry wants - they get, and they pay good money for it.   

Ironically, for a political party which hammers against "big government", and blindly adheres to Grover Norquist's manta of  shrinking  goverment "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub", they have expanded the powers of state government and drown local government in the bathtub.

The smallest form of government is the local government of cities and towns.  This is where people work, live and send their children to schools.  This is where decisions are made to determine the future and growth of each city and town.   ACT 13's one-size-fits-all zoning, for a single special interest industry, eliminates the power of self-determination from the people.

(For more in depth look at the Marcellus Shale Coalition read Marcellus Shale Coalition: In the Lobby, for larger views of diagrams and more info click here.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Pegulas: You Can't Tell the Players Without a Scorecard!

Connecting the Dots
The Marcellus Natural Gas Play Players - Part 1
You Can't Tell the Players Without a Scorecard!

The Beginning
One Sunday afternoon in the summer of 2009 there was a knock at our door.  It was a landman from Encana.  He wanted us to sign a gas drilling lease; we agreed to look it over.

We didn’t know much about gas drilling and what it would mean to our area.  Although we only have 3/4 of an acre this was our little piece of heaven, from the woods behind our home to the view of the Endless Mountains.  

I began searching the internet to learn about the Marcellus Shale Formation and gas leases.  Much of what I found was industry talking points promising a lot of money for leases in the form of a signing bonuses and royalties.   The money would be nice, but what was the real cost?  The industry talking points didn’t say.

A local group, Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County began holding informational meetings and we went to learn the other side of the issue, the risks, and the potential hazards.
I am naturally skeptical of what I am told by any group, or corporation.  My rule of thumb is to disregard half, and verify the rest – so back to Google I went and did my own digging.   This resulted in my becoming more involved with GDAC and going back to Google to check out the various Gas Corporations operating in Marcellus Shale.

As I researched Gas Corporations, I found certain names appearing in conjunction with other Gas Corporations.   I soon realized that jotting down names was not the way to go, and the Marcellus Gas Play Players spreadsheet was born. 

Connect the Dots
The Marcellus Gas Play Players spreadsheet is very much a work in progress.  To date, it contains over 3,800 names of gas corporations, their leadership, and boards of directors, lobbyists, astro-turf groups, industry organizations and politicians.   One dot leads to another and creates a very interesting picture of how gas drilling and politics mix.

If anyone tells me that corporate money does not influence politics – please let me know where you live, because it sure isn’t in America.  The amount of money pouring into Pennsylvania from the gas corporations is outrageous.  Pennsylvania does not have campaign donation limits for state offices – it’s unlimited and its power is enormous.

The natural gas industry gave $7,175,234 to Pennsylvania candidates and Political Action Committees (PACs) from 2000 through the end of 2010, according to a Common Cause/Pennsylvania (CCPA) analysis released today.  $3,442,212 was donated to elected officials currently in office.  

The top recipient remains Governor Tom Corbett, with a total $1,634,096 in contributions from the natural gas industry. Corbett raised $1,083,315 of that total in 2009-2010 from 216 donations.  He is followed by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, with $293,333.  

Giving by the industry doubled from the 2008 election cycle ($1,004,757) to the 2010 election cycle ($2,608,187).

Let’s take a look at one of the donors and the recipient.

In February 2011, Bloomsburg reports Billionaire Terry Pegula bought the National Hockey League’s Buffalo Sabres.  What does hockey have to do with gas drilling?  Maybe nothing, and maybe in the case of Terry Pegula – a lot.

On February 23, 2011 the Buffalo News reported:

Pegula drew violations as gas driller
In the course of making his fortune, the Florida billionaire, negotiating to buy the Buffalo Sabres, contributed heavily to politicians in a position to advance his business interests and established a less-than-stellar track record in the environmentally dicey business of drilling for natural gas, The Buffalo News has found.

A news review of compliance records found East Resources, the company Terrence M. Pegula sold last summer for $4.7 billion, had a middling record of complying with environmental regulations in Pennsylvania, his base of operations. The company last year paid the largest regulatory fine in its history and was involved in a spill of toxic wastewater that resulted in the first quarantine of cattle in the history of natural gas drilling in the state. 

(See: A Fracking First in Pennsylvania: Cattle Quarantine - by Nicholas Kusnetz - ProPublica, July 2, 2010)

On Sept. 17, Pegula announced his donation of $88 million — the largest philanthropic act in university history — to help fund a state-of-the-art ice arena, as well as the addition of men’s and women’s NCAA Division I hockey programs to his alma mater (Penn State).Buying a Hockey Team, big donation to Penn State .

Where did the money come from?
By Tom Taulli Posted 10:57AM 05/28/10 Energy, Company News                            

About a year ago, private-equity firm KKR struck a $350 million deal to invest in East Resources, a natural gas exploration and development company focused on an area called the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from Ohio and Virginia to New York. At the time, the transaction got little fanfare.
Well, now it's getting lots of attention. On Friday, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS) announced it had agreed $4.7 billion in cash for most of the assets of East Resources.

In Pennsylvania the subject of gas drilling was beginning to heat up, and it was also mid-term elections.  The future of gas drilling would depend heavily on who would be Governor.
There is no campaign donation limit in Pennsylvania.  Anyone can give any amount to any candidate. Corporate wallets and Political Campaign are wide open.
Approximately on September 2010:

Pegula: Marcellus Shale Development Good for Us                                                                                                                     

  “If you could tell students here at Penn State one thing, what would it be?”
He (Pegula) paused for just a millisecond before saying,

" I would tell students that this contribution could be just the tip of the iceberg, the first of many such gifts, if the development of the Marcellus Shale is allowed to proceed."

Penn State wasn’t the only beneficiary of the Pegula’s fortunes.
Kim Pegula (Terry’s wife) donated $180,000 to Tom Corbett’s campaign for Governor. 
Terry Pegula donated $100,000 to Tom Corbett’s Campaign for Governor

Kim and Terry both list their employer as Royal Dutch Shell:
Total Given to Date: $180,500 (4 records)
Contributor Type: Individual
Occupations Listed: HOMEMAKER, EXECUTIVE
Parent Organization: ROYAL DUTCH SHELL
Total Given to Date: $100,500 (2 records)
Contributor Type: Individual
Employers Listed: EAST RESOURCES, SELF
Occupations Listed: PRESIDENT & CEO, RETIRED
Parent Organization: ROYAL DUTCH SHELL
Per Source Watch : Pegula and his wife, Kim's, donations to lobbying groups and candidates accounted for 15 percent of all donations by the fracking industry.

Political Donations by Company Execs
Senior management has donated large amounts of money to politicians, front group PACs and the Republican National Committee.

Pegula and his wife, Kim, were frequent funders of pro-drilling politicians. Kim Pegula donated the most money in 2010 to a single candidate: $360,000 to Tom Corbett. Pegula and his wife are also major contributors at the federal level, with donations of $106,350 since 2006 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and national and state Republican committees.

Pegula has also donated to his alma mater. In September 2010, he gave $88 million to build a Division I arena for Penn State's hockey team. Penn State is also the home of The Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.  The center funds research for the advancement of methane drilling technology and procedures in the Marcellus Shale area. They are currently conducting a study on the safety of tap water in the homes surrounding the wells and fracking sites owned by East Resources and Shell.

Politicians who received contributions: Governor Tom Corbett (R-Pa.), Gubernatorial Candidate Lynn Swann (R-Pa.), Senator Don White (R-Pa.), Senator Joseph Scarnati (R-Pa.), Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) and Senator Patrick Toomey (R-Pa.).

Below is a list of East Resources employee contributions between 2002-2010:
    Terrence and Kim Pegula - CEO and President - $630,000
    Robert Long - Executive Vice President - $50,000
    William Fustos - Chief Operating Officer - $7,000
    Jack Showers - Director of Community Relations and Regional Affairs  
                              for East and Shell - $1,500
    Paul Dudenas - Engineer - $1,000

According to Common Cause's "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets", Pegula and his wife, Kim's, donations to lobbying groups and candidates accounted for 15 percent of all donations by the fracking industry.
In November 2010 Tom Corbett became Governor Tom Corbett.   The gas drilling issue is a priority for the new governor, so he decides to form a committee to make recommendations.

One of the newly appointed committee members is none other than Terry Pegula.

 I’m so surprised.  NOT.

November 2011 – The Penn State Sandusky Scandal breaks
November 9, 2011, 11:49 PM
What does Western New York's most prominent Penn State alum and booster think of the sex-abuse scandal allegedly involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky that has rocked the university? So far, he's silent.

Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula has declined to make any comment on the chaotic situation at his alma mater that resulted in Wednesday night's firings of football coach Joe Paterno and president Graham Spanier.

Business First by James Fink, Buffalo Business First Reporter
Friday, November 11, 2011, 12:20am EST
Cliff Benson, Pegula’s close friend who helped broker the deal to buy the Sabres and is now a team executive, is listed as a board member of the The Second Mile, an agency founded by Sandusky in 1997, that aids at-risk youth in Pennsylvania.

Published: Friday, November 18, 2011, 3:42 PM     Updated: Friday, November 18, 2011, 10:27 PM
Terry Pegula, the Penn State alumnus whose $88 million gift funded two Division I ice hockey programs, said this week he's "standing behind the university" in the wake of a child sex abuse scandal, but also had candid words for university officials in an interview with Canadian sports network TSN.

Pegula also told TSN he intends to be more active in university affairs in the wake of the scandal to make sure "the right things are done."

Is Terry pushing for the big chair as President of Penn State, or a seat at the Trustee’s table?  And will Marcellus Gas Drilling take even more control over Penn State and other institutions of higher education?

Recent Updates
June 2012:  Gov. Corbett is in the process of  wooing Royal Dutch Shell and its ethane cracker includes the top-secret promise of a $67 million annual tax credit, starting in 2017, for 25 years.  This amounts to $1.7 billion dollars.  How will Corbett pay for this?  Probably by cutting needed state services, education and other things which benefit Pennesylvania residents - the people who actually live in Pennsylvania, not the frack and run carpet baggers.

Although 2012 isn't an election year for PA Governor, Corbett is already filling his campaign coffers for 2014.   He currently has $2,758,326.

Kim Pegula has already tossed him $50,000.

Oil & Gas contributions, as a sector, comes in at 2nd place.   Expect that number to increase significantly the closer we get to 2014 elections

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Big Nose Government: Krancer and Pennsylvania

Once again Krancer barks "BACK OFF" to the EPA and keep your nose out of our business.

Krancer wants "big government" to keep it's nose out of state's business.   How many times, over the years, have we heard the Republicans complain about "big government"?  

The smallest form of government is the local government, the government in every town and city which directly serves the people, which plans for it's own future, which determines it's own path for growth for THE PEOPLE.  

With that in mind, I find it ironic that Krancer, Corbett and the republican PA legislature, through ACT 13 (and similar) have decided BIG HARRISBURG GOVERNMENT sticking it's nose into LOCAL SMALL GOVERNMENT is perfectly fine.  That BIG HARRISBURG GOVERNMENT will now decided the zoning and thus decide on the future, the growth path and wellbeing of every city and town in Pennsylvania.

Geee. what's wrong with this picture?