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Monday, December 24, 2012

Thursday, October 25, 2012

USGS: Pressure from higher-ups at USGS forced our hand

A report from a group called the Radioactive Waste Management Associates (RWMA), which is researching the risk of increased radon pollution in the Marcellus Shale belt.
They found the U.S. Geological Survey appeared to be underreporting radon levels, and there’s evidence that the industry is controlling the location and other details of the test wells.
Why were the USGS measurements so low and at variance with other EPA and USGS studies? Here the story takes an interesting turn. A call to one of the USGS researchers revealed the following:
In response to a request for the well logs, to examine whether the wells reached the Marcellus shale formation, the USGS researcher said they had none.
RWMA: Then, can you give us the location of the Pennsylvania wells? With the location, we could find the well logs in Pennsylvania State files.

USGS : Well, no, that would break the trust with the gas companies that allowed us access.
RWMA:  Okay, then how do you know you reached the Marcellus shale formation?
USGS : Because we were told so.
RWMA:  Who selected the wells?
USGS : The US Department of Energy in collaboration with the gas companies.
RWMA:  Did you feel comfortable publishing what are essentially screening results?
USGS : No, but pressure from higher-ups at USGS forced our hand .

To summarize:  The oil and gas industry chose specific wells, in which USGS researchers unsurprisingly measured low radon concentrations and were then pressured by the oil and gas industry to publish these preliminary findings, under the USGS imprimatur.  It appears the USGS has been corrupted by the oil and gas industry.

What have We Done?

Below is an essay by Carol French, October 11, 2012.
 These are her words describing her experiences and observations of living in Bradford County. 
 What have We Done?
Nearly 30% of the rural farm land located in Bradford County, Pennsylvania was already leased prior 2006. We and 50% of the county decided to lease our land for an average $5- $85/per acre. It would take two more years before the gas companies would convince another 10% to lease their land at $2,500 or more/per acre. During this leasing process, you could feel the excitement. It was the talk of the town. There were suggestions made that if a gas well was drilled on your property you would become the next “shaleionaires.” Everyone was to prosper, new roads, jobs, additional money from leasing and royalties. It was too good to be true!
By the spring of 2009 there was uneasiness among the farmers that had had a gas well drilled on their property. The local newspaper was reporting contamination found in water wells, death occurring on a gas pad and the farmer was facing the fact that he could lose his farm due to a lawsuit based on the gas companies operation. For myself, I was thinking that our lucky neighbor was going to become the next Millionaire, because they had the gas well drilled on them. Soon my mind changed. Those farmers were facing penalties lodged against them, due to their land becoming industrial use instead of agricultural use. Landowners found themselves seeking legal advice, only to find that the attorneys were not experienced in Oil & Gas law, and had a conflict of interest. Example: If the landowner could not afford the attorneys fee, the attorney would simply attach his name to the royalty interest for payment.
My neighbor (Carolyn) and I attended a presentation by a professor from Penn State University. He made a statement, saying that we must sacrifice; it was our patriotic duty to assure our Country would be independent from foreign oil. I could not wrap my mind around what he was saying. Was there legislation insuring that our natural resources would stay in this country? What did he mean we would have to sacrifice?
In December, 2010 – January 2011, three gas wells were drilled near our farm. Farm land was getting ripped up like old material for a patch work quilt. In the middle of 2011, five more gas wells were drilled, surrounding our farm. Two of the gas wells were less than 4,000 feet away.
My water changed March 15, 2011. Our water appeared pearly white. Then it had a layer of green moss settling on top of a 1/4 inch of sand as the water would become gelatin like. By October 2011, my daughter became ill. She had a high fever, diarrhea, weight loss of 10 pounds in 7 days, and severe pains in her abdomen. At the hospital they found her liver, spleen and her right ovary was extremely enlarged. Our neighbor living north of us had the same health issues after her water changed in March of that year, except her spleen burst three days after she went to the hospital. We knew our daughter would have to leave Pennsylvania in order to have a chance of a healthy, normal life. She moved to Tennessee. We don’t drink the water or the milk from our cows. We still have to bathe in it. Our state agency (Department of Environmental Protection) refuses to test our water; therefore the gas company will not provide water for our cows and my family.
I now believe I understand what he met by “we are to sacrifice”
It is October 3, 2012, Many that quit their previous job to work for the gas related companies are now unemployed. We have become “prudent partners” with the gas company, by signing a lease, now are finding ourselves responsible for their debts (Mechanics Leans). There are for sale signs in the yard of a contaminated farm. The farm lost 80%-90% of its value, possibly losing his milk market, and who will buy his cows? Many living in Bradford County have “changed” water, depending on the gas companies to provide water for their families and farms. This has become a huge, expensive burden to the gas companies. Some of the gas companies operating in Bradford County have chosen not to pay for the water bill, resulting in no more water deliveries to the effected families. Other residents have been given water filtration systems, resulting in additional cost to the resident.
We were given a chance to dream, not knowing the true value of what lie so far beneath our land. Not aware of the type of operations that would be conducted on our land. We believed in the false promises made by the gas industry.  Now I wonder, will these private gas companies produce natural gas for this country or produce natural gas for sales overseas, selling to the highest bidder. This would crush the theory of “sacrifice for our country allowing independence from foreign oil”.
 I keep asking myself, what have we done?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Neutering of the DCNR

How would you go about rendering a governmental department useless or make it more amiable to your policies while still preserving the façade of operating in the public interests?

1.       Appoint a Director or Secretary who is in agreement with your policies, or will follow those policies regardless of personal views.
2.       Cut the budget for that department which will result in loss of staff and resources needed for optimal management and operations.
3.       Create a work environment which will force out those in opposition to the policies.  If they do not leave in protest – fire them.
4.        Public Relation events to maintain the façade and distract the public from what is really being done.
This is what is happening at the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

1.       Richard J Allen was appointed as DCNR Secretary in March 2011, and confirmed by the PA Senate in June 2011.
2.       2011-2012: DCNR’s budget fell from $82 million to $55 million, a reduction of 33%. The bulk of these decreases are in state park and state forest operations.   However, DCNR could make up the budget reduction by leasing our state parks for gas drilling.
Mr. Allan, a Luzerne County native, is at the helm of an agency set to receive $69 million from the separate Oil and Gas Lease Fund in fiscal 2012-13 to help support operation of state parks and forests and other administrative functions. This fund collects rents and royalties paid by oil and gas firms drilling on state forest land. The fund has been tapped for decades to pay for a wide range of conservation and recreation projects under terms of a 1955 law, but since 2009 a significant chunk of fund revenue has gone to prop up DCNR's budget.

A total of 152 wells are producing gas in state forests while another 442 wells have been drilled, said Mr. Allan. About half of the 1.5 million acres of state forest land in the Marcellus Shale formation has been leased to drillers.           
3.       Dr. Paulette Viola, a professor of ecology at Slippery Rock University, resigned as a member of Conservation and Natural Resources Advisory Council (CNRAC) in September 2012.  She cited public input and advice from council members were no longer valued and CNARC being unable to work effectively with DCNR Secretary as reasons for her resignation.

As you well know the degradation of council is a result of multiple actions. They include the:
1) loss of council’s independence as an advisory body,
2) removal of the executive director’s position,
3) reassignment of council’s secretary,
4) extremely disproportionate budget reduction,
5) low response time for requested information,
6) quality of information that is eventually shared and
7) displayed hostile atmosphere created by the administration for public input during a council meeting
Viola’s resignation was soon followed by the October 2012 “resignation” of State Parks Director John Norbeck.  Technically, Norbeck did resign after being given a termination notice or the choice of resigning.          
In a phone interview from his home Sunday, Mr. Norbeck, 56, said he received a termination letter from the state's human resources office on Oct. 1, informing him that his last day of work would be Friday, Oct. 5, but "if he wanted to tender his resignation it would be considered."
On Wednesday he agreed to resign and asked for, and was granted, a two-week extension, through Oct. 19, to prepare a transition document for a new parks director.
Mr. Norbeck said he wasn't told why the administration wanted him out. The closest anyone came, he said, was when Adam Gingrich, an executive assistant to DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan, said the "administration has decided to go in a different direction."
Although Mr. Norbeck said he didn't know of any one issue that caused the administration to sour on him, he cited several on which he differed with it.
Norbeck is known to be an opponent of drilling in state parks.
Prior to Viola and Norbeck’s resignations:
The head of a citizens advisory panel for the state’s parks and forests has been canned, purportedly to cut down on costs. But one member and Natural Resources committee says that’s baloney, reports the Associated Press:
Eric Martin, one of two remaining original council members, accused the administration of trying to pre-empt public oversight of gas drilling on forest land.

"Aside from what we the council feel was an illegal firing, this is a clear message from the executive suite regarding citizen paper in an e-mail. “Funny that one of our hot topics is Marcellus Shale."

4.       PA Gov. Corbett takes a Kayak Trip and promotes nature.
"Here in the Pocono Mountains, there is a long tradition of defending the Delaware," Corbett said. "Because of that awareness, there is also a tradition of enjoying the waters, mountains, lakes and trails.

"We want clean rivers, lakes, skies and forests to leave to our children and grandchildren," Corbett said. "Each of us has a role to play in that cause. And if we all do, this region and this river will bring us not only prosperity, but joy."
Meanwhile, behind closed doors, the DCNR is in “discussions” with Anadarko Petroleum Corporations of Woodlands TX, to “develop” the Loyalsock State Forest and at the same time Anadarko is staking out drilling locations along the Old Loggers Path.  
"DCNR has given us permission to perform preliminary survey studies, which includes staking the area to show where development locations could be and guide our environmental assessment of the area," Mary B. Wolf, an Anadarko spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
The Old Loggers Path is a 27-mile loop which the DCNR describes as having “stunning vistas and clear, cold cascading streams.”  The area also includes Rock Run stream which the DCNR has touted as being “exceptional”.  
"Few streams in Pennsylvania can match Rock Run's rich tapestry of deep, crystal-clear pools, cascading waterfalls and massive, weathered rock formations," an agency official said in a 2008 DCNR news release.

Say good-bye to the stunning vistas, crystal-clear pools, cascading waterfalls and massive rock formations, they will soon be replaced by bare dirt, cement pads, frackwater pools, drilling spills and massive drill rigs.

See DCNR webpage on Natural Gas Drilling.   They are tearing down a forest to put up an industrial zone.

Appeals by public groups for information on the drilling plans and requests for hearings have been ignored.

DCNR says the issue is not open to discussion.  Neutering complete.
Rep. Camille George (D-Clearfield), Minority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, Tuesday called for a hearing into the resignation of John Norbeck as director of the Bureau of State Parks within the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
”If smoke indicates fire, this has turned into an inferno,” Rep. George said. “We need to get to the bottom of this, and quickly.”Rep. George noted that the House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee has not held a voting meeting in more than four months.“Many important environmental and energy issues are begging for attention, including the need for stronger oversight over deep injection wells for Marcellus waste water and bolstering pre-drilling water quality surveys near proposed Marcellus shale gas wells,” Rep. George said. “The days are getting shorter, but that doesn’t mean our attention span to critical issues should wane.”

© 2012 by Dory Hippauf

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Encana: Hens are Safe

In July 2012, Reuters reported Chesapeake Energy and Encana worked together in regards to land bidding in Michigan. 

Encana tipped off Chesapeake to land plans in Michigan - Emails

Reuters | By Brian Grow and Joshua Schneyer | Wed Jul 11, 2012

Excerpt (Emphasis added):   As Chesapeake Energy Corp and Encana Corp face antitrust investigations, emails reviewed by Reuters indicate that top executives of the two rivals shared sensitive information that gave Chesapeake the upper hand in deals with Michigan land owners.

The emails show the competitors traded information about whether Encana was halting new land leasing in Michigan in 2010, and the information prompted Chesapeake to dramatically change its leasing strategy in subsequent weeks and helped send Michigan land prices tumbling from record highs.

Excerpt (Emphasis added) : Encana said it held talks with Chesapeake without reaching an agreement on a joint venture. It has begun an internal inquiry led by the chairman of its board of directors. Chesapeake also acknowledged it held talks with Encana but said the two companies never consummated any agreement and never bid jointly.

 Today, Encana announced, following an internal investigation, the hens are safe.

Encana clears itself of collusion in Michigan | Reuters | By Brian Grow and Scott Haggett | ATLANTA/CALGARY, Alberta | Wed Sep 5, 2012

 Excerpt (Emphasis added): Encana Corp said on Wednesday an internal investigation has determined that it did not collude with Chesapeake Energy Corp to lower the price of land acquisitions in Michigan two years ago.

The company's board of directors, which led the investigation launched on June 25 with the assistance of outside attorneys, did not provide a report on the scope of the inquiry, nor explain how it reached its conclusion.

"We can't offer more detail than what we've released as the issue is still under investigation by the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Michigan Attorney General," Encana spokesman Jay Averill said in an email.

Encana has been served with subpeonas from Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and a civil investigatory demand from the Michigan Attorney General.  Encana said it will cooperate with the two agencies.

Chesapeake Energy has confirmed a federal grand jury is looking into the company's acquisition of land and leases in Michigan.
NewsOK | By Paul Monies | August 9, 2012

Excerpt (Emphasis added) : In regulatory filings, Chesapeake said it received a subpoena from a field office of the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust division. Federal prosecutors in the Western District of Michigan have opened a federal grand jury inquiry into the purchase and lease of oil and gas rights.

Chesapeake also said several state government agencies have asked for documents in connection with oil and gas leases. It did not provide additional details.

“Chesapeake intends to provide information in response to these investigations, and its board of directors is conducting an internal review of the matter,” Chesapeake said in the filing.

Nothing to worry about.  The hens are safe and the foxes are teaching the hens how to make omelets.


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