Shalefield Stories Rolls Out Volume 2


Shalefield Stories Volume 2 will be released Friday, September 4th, 2015 with a Book Release Event – 6:00pm – 9:00pm at Thomas Merton Center Annex  5129 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

What started out as a project to find out how many people have been harmed by shale activities turned into a much larger endeavor.   Shalefield Stories roots began with the List of the Harmed which now contains 16,719 entries and growing.

Sales of Shalefield Stories Volume 1 raised $17,500 in direct aid in the form of water delivery, air scrubbers and emergency testing for those living the drill.

Shalefield Stories is a volunteer, collaborative project by concerned citizens. This publication provides a voice to individuals and families who have been impacted by the recent oil and gas development in their area. Our aim is to educate the public and our representatives through our first-hand shared experiences, testimonials and the most up-to-date information and research. We collaborate with public health researchers, environmental organizations, and grassroots groups to provide support and aid to affected individuals and families in Western Pennsylvania through our non-profit organization, Friends of the Harmed, a project of the Thomas Merton Center. Donations collected from the distribution of this book help provide that assistance.

Fracking is Safe?
The fossil fuel industry and politicians continue to standby the talking point that fracking is safe and there isn’t one documented case showing where fracking has contaminated water supplies.

Technically this is true by the definition of “fracking” where it is limited to the point of shattering the shale. Drilling and the rest of the process as a whole is a different matter.

In 2014, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) made public the details of 243 cases which took place in Pennsylvania between 2008 and 2014 involve a wide range of contamination problems including the contamination of multiple water supply wells by one fracking operation. State officials did not indicate how many more cases of contamination may have occurred since 2008 that are not included in this list.

More recently, DEP settled citations against three Marcellus shale gas drillers and collected a combined $374,000 for water pollution cases dating to 2011 and 2012.

“These were complex and lengthy investigations that took a considerable amount of time to resolve, but the department was able to conclusively determine that methane gas from natural gas wells had migrated off-site and impacted private wells serving homes and hunting clubs,” John Ryder, director of district oil and gas operations for DEP, said in announcing the settlements.

The signed agreements indicate the companies — Shell, Chesapeake Energy and XTO Energy — installed treatment and monitoring systems at polluted water wells, fixed faulty gas well casings and other equipment, and in some cases replaced water supplies.

How many other cases are out there?

We don’t know.

How many families are now dependent on water deliveries because their original water supply has been contaminated?

We don’t know.

Unless a family reports that their water has been impacted by the fossil fuel industry, DEP doesn’t track it.  More often than not a household will contact the driller first about a water problem.   The driller will require them to sign an agreement which includes a gag clause forbidding the family to discuss the “water problem” in order to receive water deliveries.

Drillers are not required to report such water deliveries to DEP.

Air that We Breathe
It’s more than just water to drink, contamination of the air from drilling operations, compressor stations and other industry facilities have created health problems for many. As it related to an actual well pad, methane has migrated into homes to the point where families are forced to leave a window or two open year round. This is to vent the methane and reduce the risk of explosive levels building up in the home.

Multiple respiratory problems are happening to families living near industry facilities such as a compressor station.   The industry maintains the emissions are a “minor pollutant” and fall below air standard levels.

In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency, the Supreme Court found that environmental regulators can require facilities to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the federal Clean Air Act, but only if those facilities are already considered “major” emitters of conventional pollutants, like those that create soot and smog.

Power plants, compressor stations and other stationary facilities, the court said, can’t be considered major emissions sources for permitting and other regulatory purposes on the basis of their greenhouse gas emissions alone.

In Pennsylvania, natural gas compressor stations and processing plants are usually regulated under the terms of a streamlined general permit known as GP-5 as long as they don’t meet or exceed the threshold for any one of eight categories of pollution. If they hit one of those limits, they are considered a major source under the Clean Air Act and have to apply for a different permit that could require more extensive pollution controls.

To avoid being considered a “major pollutant”, multiple permits for a compressor station are submitted separately.   Each permit application is for just enough equipment to be considered a “minor pollutant”, despite the fact all of the equipment is being installed at the same location.

The filing of multiple permits for the same site is a huge loophole for the industry as DEP considers the permits on an individual basis without regards to its relationship to other permits for the same site and its cumulative emissions.

Joyce Epps, the director of DEP’s bureau of air quality, said only three natural gas compression or processing facilities in the state would have been considered major sources based on their greenhouse gas emissions alone — two in north-central Pennsylvania and Laurel Mountain Midstream’s Shamrock compressor station in Fayette County. All three can now apply for authorization under the general permit instead.

As of December 2014, DEP has issued roughly 530 authorizations, associated with about 512 natural gas compression and processing facilities, to use the general permit.

From shalefields to pipelines, Pennsylvania regulatory authorities are not learning. Politicians and elected officials remain blinded by the “shiney”, i.e. money collected from impact fees.   They only see the short term gains and ignore the long term pains being felt by those in the shalefields and along the pipelines.

Ultimately the long term pains will fall on every Pennsylvania taxpayer to clean up the mess left behind.


©2015 by Dory Hippauf


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