DEP-DON’T KNOW FRACK (PART 3)

Michael Krancer was appointed as Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary by Governor Tom Corbett in 2011.  Krancer resigned his position effective April 15, 2013 and returned to his old law firm of Blank Rome which represents a number of natural gas corporations operating in the Marcellus Shale.  He is now head of Blank Rome’s Energy, Petrochemical & Natural Resources Practice.

His famous quote, “At the end of the day, my job is to make sure gas is done and gas is done right” provided many observers a unique and different perspective as to the term ‘environmental protection’.

According to DEP Compliance Report (i.e. violations) for dates between Jan 1, 2009 thru August 31, 2013, Range Resources has had:

  • Inspections:  151
  • Inspections With Violations: 151
  • Violations:  260
  • Enforcements:  96
  • Wells Inspected:  113
  • Total Fines: $1,066,825.00

Range Resources currently holds permits for 5, 133 gas wells, of which 677 have been drilled.

In February 2013, Krancer appeared before the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee.

Excerpt (emphasis added):

At least one lawmaker expressed disappointment in the agency’s enforcement of Marcellus Shale violators.

Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-38, voiced surprise that nine of every 10 violations cited by DEP inspectors at Marcellus Shale gas wells in 2011 resulted in no fines.

“How do you reconcile that?” the Pittsburgh lawmaker asked.

Krancer said the number of inspections have increased from 4,900 in 2010 to 12,000 this year. With more oversight, the DEP secretary said violations have been cut in half.

“The idea of an issuance of a notice of violation is not to issue a fine. The idea is to bring conduct which is potentially volatile to the attention of the operator so the operator can do something about it,” Krancer said.

But that wasn’t enough for Ferlo, who is a member of the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee.

“You’re the secretary of DEP and the citizens are demanding that there be proper enforcement and proper citations to correct the behavior of an industry that, in my opinion, has run amok, despite your perception of the industry. Citizens feel very shortchanged right now,” Ferlo said.

“I’m sorry for that perception on your part. I think it’s an incorrect perception,” Krancer responded.

Perhaps this is why the Pennsylvania DEP has earned a few nicknames such as Don’t Expect Protection, Department of Energy Protection or Department of Energy Producers as well as becoming the best example of how NOT to do natural gas industrialization.

 DON’T KNOW FRACK

In parts 1 and 2 of this series it has been pointed out the information regarding “fracking fluids” provided by Range Resources to the DEP has been incomplete and sorely lacking sufficient information.

From A Motion for Contempt and for Sanctions in the Form of An Adverse Inference Docket No. 2011-149-R Footnote 1 Page 2:

Range MSDS to DEPAnd Footnote 3 Page 8:

Range MSDS to DEP2Pennsylvania is one of 11 states which requires natural gas corporations to disclose chemicals used in their operations.

Per Range Resources Hydraulic Fracturing page (emphasis added):

Range supports the ongoing scientific research of our industry (link collaboration tab here). Reputable universities such as the University of Texas and MIT have done intense scientific research on natural gas development in prominent shale plays like the Barnett, the Marcellus and the Haynesville.  These studies found “no evidence” of hydraulic fracturing leading to groundwater contamination.

In other states like Virginia, where Range develops a number of different geologic formations that produce hydrocarbons Range utilizes a combination of nitrogen, water, sand and some chemicals. For instance the Lower Huron Shale formation is now being completed using 100-percent nitrogen. Nitrogen is an inert gas that makes up approximately 78-percent of the air that we breathe. Nitrogen is not listed on the greenhouse gases list and has proven to be one of the greenest chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. Keep in mind that nitrogen cannot be used to stimulate all geologic formations. In other instances we may be required to utilize some concentrations of chemicals typically guar gum, foaming agents and potentially some other chemicals, all of which can be found at FracFocus.org on a per well basis.

What are the “potentially some other chemicals”?   We don’t know.  Regarding  the “no evidence of hydraulic fracturing leading to groundwater contamination.”, that depends on the definition of hydraulic fracturing.

See:

In November 2011, Krancer appeared before the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.  He stated (emphasis added):

“The myth that terrible chemicals are getting into the groundwater is completely myth.  It is bogus,” Mr. Krancer told the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. He said sand and water comprise 99.5 percent of mixtures blasted into wells to free gas from the Marcellus Shale.

Under Krancer’s leadership there was little interest in really protecting the natural environment, and more interest in protecting the natural gas environment.

DEP’s lack of knowledge about fracking fluids used on site also extends to drilling mud, filtered water,  re-fracked frack water  and pit liners used on drill sites.

Range paragraph 27 footnote 5With regards to pit liners for “impoundment ponds” also known as frack ponds, the DEP compliance reports show natural gas drillers are still being cited for rips, tears, inadequate barriers, and sloughing of liners.

In a letter to the Editor (Feb 2013), John Krohn, a team member from Energy-In-Depth stated:

The author also cites wastewater management as a concern noting the use of “frack ponds” poses a risk to the health of nearby residents. The good news for those residents is that whatever a “frack pond” might be, they aren’t being used in Pennsylvania. Here, the natural gas industry uses closed-loop management systems which ensure fluids and other wastes never come into contact with the environment.

Contrary to Krohn’s assertion there are “no frack ponds”, a simple google search revealed that  Range resources has eight pits in Washington County, PA.  More than any driller in Pennsylvania and a third of centralized impounds statewide according to DEP records.

Excerpt:

The state Department of Environmental Protection, in a regulatory update proposed last week, moved to block some of the smaller, open-top pits often common at well sites. Larger pits, such as Carter, called centralized impoundments, would be OK.

Unlike smaller pits, in which brine can sit for a long time, centralized impoundments are designed to be transfer stations. Water comes in and out relatively quickly, officials said.

Range has eight such pits in Washington County, more than any driller in Pennsylvania and a third of centralized impoundments statewide, DEP records show.

Consol Energy Inc. has five such pits and a sixth pending, the second most in the state. The Cecil company said it wants to put three at Pittsburgh International Airport, where it will begin drilling in spring.

Consol uses the pits for wells within five to seven miles. It connects them by pipes, generating no truck traffic except when loading or emptying the pits, said Katharine Fredriksen, who oversees Consol’s environmental strategy and regulatory affairs.

The DEP has not inspected Consol’s centralized pits, according to its online records. Of seven Range impoundments in that database, all received at least one state environmental violation, most commonly for improper waste handling.

THE PEOPLE EQUATION

The lack of full disclosure and the reluctance of DEP to enforce its own regulation puts many people in sacrifice zones, not just where drilling is occurring but all along the path of industrialization.  It is like pulling the trigger on a gun when you don’t know if it’s loaded or not.

Air and water flows where it wants to go; it is incapable of stopping at property line or town border which means everyone in its path is at risk.

Per Chemical Hazard Communication U.S. Department of Labor  Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA 3084 1998 (Revised):

Under the provisions of the Hazard Communication Standard, employers are responsible for informing employees of the hazards and the identities of workplace chemicals to which they are exposed.

About 32 million workers work with and are potentially exposed to one or more chemical hazards. There are an estimated 650,000 existing chemical products, and hundreds of new ones being introduced annually. This poses a serious problem for exposed workers and their employers.

It further states:

A written hazard communication program ensures that all employers receive the information they need to inform and train their employees properly and to design and put in place employee protection programs. It also provides necessary hazard information to employees, so they can participate in, and support, the protective measures in place at their workplaces.

Employers therefore must develop, implement, and maintain at the workplace a written, comprehensive hazard communication program that includes provisions for container labeling, collection and availability of material safety data sheets, and an employee training program. It also must contain a list of the hazardous chemicals, the means the employer will use to inform employees of the hazards of non-routine tasks (for example, the cleaning of reactor vessels), and the hazards associated with chemicals in unlabeled pipes. If the workplace has multiple employers onsite (for example, a construction site), the rule requires these employers to ensure that information regarding hazards and protective measures be made available to the other employers onsite, where appropriate. In addition, all covered employers must have a written hazard communication program to get hazard information to their employees through labels on containers, MSDSs, and training

If Range Resources or any other driller in Pennsylvania doesn’t know what is in the fracking cocktail, how can they adequately inform and train employees?

ACT 13 requires medical professionals seeking information about fracking chemicals to sign a disclosure agreement.  This is presumably done to protect “trade secrets” held by the gas drillers and their vendors.  It is more commonly known as the MEDICAL GAG RULE.   However as demonstrated in A Motion for Contempt and for Sanctions in the Form of An Adverse Inference Docket No. 2011-149-R, Range Resources and the DEP do not know what is in the fracking chemicals.

How can medical professionals diagnose and treat patients based on incomplete and inaccurate information?  This not only puts medical professionals at risk regarding malpractice, but may delay or compromise a patient from receiving life saving treatment.

When a water source has been contaminated it may not be limited to one property.  Often there are multiple water wells on multiple properties all tapping into the same source.  To complicate matters further there also may be multiple well pads within range, any of which could be a source of contamination.

Without complete, accurate and full disclosure of the fracking chemicals determining the source is nearly impossible and keeps the finger pointing at the gas driller.    If, as the natural gas industry talking point states that their activities do no cause water contamination then it is to their benefit to provide complete, accurate and full disclosure of the fracking chemicals and thus through the process of elimination rule out a given drill site as the cause.

Related:

 

© 2013 by Dory Hippauf

 

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