Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cuomo Says No To Fracking in NY: Sandra Steingraber Responds

Hallelujah!  The news is astounding, but the report from Acting Health Commissioner Zucker and Commissioner Martens of the DEC have weighed in today on the matter of horizontal slickwater hydrofracking.  Based on the findings of the long-awaited report of health risks and harm caused by this extractive industry, the commissioners recommended that Governor Cuomo ban fracking at least for the foreseeable future. The Governor has agreed with the report and announced this afternoon that horizontal gas drilling will not be permitted in New York State.   This is a huge day for all those who have worked so hard to stop fracking which has destroyed water, air, and soil in areas of the country where this industry has operated.  There is much work to be continued, especially in regard to infrastructure related to the gas industry which will still affect NYS:  pipelines, wastewater treatment, railroad transportation of gas, among other issues. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Compendium of Health Risks (drilling and fracking): Hot off the press!

A new report is out from Concerned Health Professionals of New York (December 2014)

Compendium of Scientific, Medical, Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (unconventional gas and oil extraction)

Executive Summary
Evidence of risks, harms, and associated trends demonstrated by this Compendium:
Air pollution – Studies increasingly show that air pollution associated with drilling and fracking operations is a grave concern with a range of impacts. Researchers have documented dozens of air pollutants from drilling and fracking operations that pose serious health hazards. Areas with substantial drilling and fracking build-out show high levels of ozone, striking declines in air quality, and, in several cases, increased rates of health problems with known links to air pollution. Air sampling surveys find exceedingly high concentrations of volatile organic compounds, especially carcinogenic benzene and formaldehyde, both at the wellhead and at distances that exceed legal setback distances from wellhead to residence. In some cases, concentrations exceeded federal safety standards by several orders of magnitude.

Water contamination – Emerging science confirms that drilling and fracking inherently threaten groundwater. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 240 private drinking water wells have been contaminated or have dried up as the result of drilling and fracking operations over a seven-year period. A range of studies from across the United States presents strong evidence that groundwater contamination occurs and is more likely to occur close to drilling sites. The nation’s 172,000 injection wells for disposal of fracking waste also pose demonstrable threats to the drinking water aquifers. Disposal of fracking waste in sewage treatment plants can encourage the formation of carcinogenic byproducts during chlorination. Overall, the number of well blowouts, spills and cases of surface water contamination has steadily grown. Meanwhile, the gas industry’s use of "gag orders," non-disclosure agreements and settlements impede scientific study and stifle public awareness of the extent of these problems.

Inherent engineering problems that worsen with time – Studies and emerging data consistently show that oil and gas wells routinely leak, allowing for the migration of natural gas and potentially other substances into groundwater and the atmosphere. Recent research suggests that the act of fracking itself may induce pathways for leaks. Leakage from faulty wells is an issue that the industry has identified and for which it has no solution. For instance, Schlumberger, one of the world’s largest companies specializing
in fracking, published an article in its magazine in 2003 showing that about five percent of wells leak immediately, 50 percent leak after 15 years and 60 percent leak after 30 years. Data from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for 2000-2012 show over nine percent of shale gas wells drilled in the state’s northeastern counties leaking within the first five years. Leaks pose serious risks including potential loss of life or property from explosions and the migration of gas or other chemicals into drinking water supplies. Leaks also allow methane to escape into the atmosphere, where it acts as a powerful greenhouse gas. There is no evidence to suggest that the problem of cement and well casing impairment is abating. Indeed, a 2014 analysis of more than 75,000 compliance reports for more than 41,000 wells in Pennsylvania found that newer wells have higher leakage rates and that unconventional shale gas wells leak more than conventional wells drilled within the same time period. Industry has no solution for rectifying the chronic problem of well casing/cement leakage.

Radioactive releases – High levels of radiation documented in fracking wastewater from shale raise special concerns in terms of impacts to groundwater and surface water. Studies have indicated that the Marcellus Shale is more radioactive than other shale formations. Measurements of radium in fracking wastewater in New York and Pennsylvania have been as high as 3,600 times the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) limit for drinking water. One recent study found toxic levels of radiation in a Pennsylvania waterway even after fracking wastewater was disposed of through an industrial wastewater treatment plant. In addition, the disposal of radioactive drill cuttings is a concern. Unsafe levels of radon and its decay products in natural gas produced from the Marcellus Shale, known to have particularly high radon content, may also contaminate pipelines and compressor stations, as well as pose risks to end-users when allowed to travel into homes.

Occupational health and safety hazards – Fracking jobs are dangerous jobs. Occupational hazards include head injuries, traffic accidents, blunt trauma, burns, toxic chemical exposures, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sleep deprivation. As a group, oil and gas industry workers have an on-the-job fatality rate that is 2.5 times higher than the construction industry and seven times that of general industry. A new investigation of occupational exposures found high levels of benzene in the urine of workers on the wellpad, especially those in close proximity to flowback fluid. Exposure to silica dust, which is definitively linked to silicosis and lung cancer, was singled out by National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health as a particular threat to workers in fracking operations where silica sand is used. At the same time, research shows that many gas field workers, despite these serious occupational hazards, are uninsured or underinsured and lack access to basic medical care.

Public health effects, measured directly – In Pennsylvania, as the number of gas wells increases in a community so to do rates of hospitalization. Drilling and fracking operations are correlated with elevated motor vehicle fatalities (Texas), self-reported skin and respiratory problems (southwestern Pennsylvania), ambulance runs and emergency room visits (North Dakota), infant deaths (Utah), birth defects (Colorado), and low birthweight (multiple states). Benzene levels in ambient air surrounding drilling and  fracking operations are sufficient to elevate risks for future cancers in both workers and nearby residents, according to new studies.

Noise pollution, light pollution and stress – Drilling and fracking operations and ancillary infrastructure expose workers and nearby residents to continuous noise and light pollution that is sustained for periods lasting many months. Chronic exposure to light at night is linked to adverse health effects, including breast cancer. Sources of fracking-related noise pollution include blasting, drilling, flaring, generators, compressor stations and truck traffic. Exposure to environmental noise pollution is linked to cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and sleep disturbance. Workers and residents whose homes, schools and workplaces are in close proximity to well sites are at risk from these exposures as well as from related stressors. A UK Health Impact Assessment identified stress and anxiety resulting from drilling-related noise—as well as from a sense of uncertainty about the future and eroded public trust—as key public health risks related to fracking operations.

Earthquake and seismic activity – A growing body of evidence, from Ohio, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado, links fracking wastewater injection (disposal) wells to earthquakes of magnitudes as high as 5.7, in addition to "swarms" of minor earthquakes and fault slipping. Many recent studies focus on the mechanical ability of pressurized fluids to trigger seismic activity. In some cases, the fracking process itself has been linked to earthquakes and seismic activity, including instances in which gas corporations have acknowledged the connection. In New York, this issue is of particular concern to New York City’s aqueduct-dependent drinking water supply and watershed infrastructure, as the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) has warned repeatedly, but similar concerns apply to all drinking water resources. The question of what to do with wastewater remains a problem with no viable, safe solution.

Abandoned and active oil and natural gas wells (as pathways for gas and fluid migration) – Millions of abandoned and undocumented oil and gas wells exist across the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. All serve as potential pathways for pollution, heightening the risks of groundwater contamination and other problems when horizontal drilling and fracking operations intersect with pre-existing vertical channels leading through drinking water aquifers and to the atmosphere. New research from Pennsylvania shows that, cumulatively, abandoned wells are a significant source of methane into the atmosphere and may exceed cumulative total leakage from oil and gas wells currently in production. No state or federal agency routinely monitors methane leakage from orphaned and abandoned wells. Industry experts, consultants and government agencies including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office), Texas Department of Agriculture, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission have all warned about problems with abandoned wells due to the potential for pressurized fluids and gases to
migrate through inactive and in some cases, active wells.

 Flood risks – Massive land clearing and forest fragmentation that necessarily accompany well site preparation increase erosion and risks for catastrophic flooding, as do access roads, pipeline easements and other related infrastructure. In addition, in some cases, operators choose to site well pads on flood-prone areas in order to have easy access to water for fracking, to abide by setback requirements intended to keep well pads away from inhabited buildings, or to avoid productive agricultural areas. In turn, flooding increases the dangers of unconventional gas extraction, resulting in the contamination of soils and water supplies, the overflow or breaching of containment ponds, and the escape of chemicals and hazardous materials. In at least six of the past ten years, New York State has experienced serious flooding in parts of the state targeted for drilling and fracking. Some of these areas have been hit with "100-year floods" in five or more of the past ten years. Gas companies acknowledge threats posed by flooding, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has recommended drilling be prohibited from 100-year flood areas; however, accelerating rates of extreme weather events make existing flood maps obsolete, making this approach insufficiently protective.

Threats to agriculture and soil quality – Drilling and fracking pose risks to the agricultural industry. In California, fracking wastewater illegally dumped into aquifers has threatened crucial irrigation supplies to farmers in a time of severe drought. Studies and case reports from across the country have highlighted instances of deaths, neurological disorders, aborted pregnancies, and stillbirths in cattle and goats associated with livestock coming into contact with wastewater. Potential water and air contamination puts soil quality as well as livestock health at risk. Additionally, farmers have expressed concern that nearby fracking operations can hurt the perception of agricultural quality and nullify value-added organic certification.

Threats to the climate system – A range of studies has shown high levels of methane leaks from gas drilling and fracking operations, undermining the notion that natural gas is a climate solution or a transition fuel. Major studies have concluded that early work by the EPA greatly underestimated the impacts of methane and natural gas drilling on the climate. Drilling, fracking and expanded use of natural gas threaten not only to exacerbate climate change but also to stifle investments in, and expansion of, renewable energy.

Inaccurate jobs claims, increased crime rates, threats to property value and mortgages and local government burden – Experiences in various states and accompanying studies have shown that the oil and gas industry’s promises for job creation from drilling for natural gas have been greatly exaggerated and that many of the jobs are short-lived and/or have gone to out-of-area workers. With the arrival of drilling and fracking operations, communities have experienced steep increases in rates of crime – including sex trafficking, sexual assault, drunk driving, drug abuse, and violent victimization, all of which carry public health consequences, especially for women. Social costs include strain on law enforcement, municipal services and road damage. Economic analyses have found that drilling and fracking operations threaten property values and can diminish tax revenues for local governments. Additionally, gas drilling and fracking pose an inherent conflict with mortgages and property insurance due to the hazardous materials used and the associated risks.

Inflated estimates of oil and gas reserves and profitability – Industry estimates of oil and gas reserves and profitability of drilling have proven unreliable, casting serious doubts on the bright economic prospects the industry has painted for the public, media and investors. Increasingly, well production has been short-lived, which has led companies drilling shale to reduce the value of their assets by billions of dollars, creating shortfalls that are largely filled through asset sales and increasing debt load, according to a recent analysis by the US Energy Information Administration.

Disclosure of serious risks to investors – Oil and gas companies are required to disclose risks to their investors in an annual Form 10-K. Those disclosures acknowledge the inherent dangers posed by gas drilling and fracking operations, including leaks, spills, explosions, blowouts, environmental damage, property damage, injury and death. Adequate protections have not kept pace with these documented dangers and inherent risks.

Medical and scientific calls for more study and more transparency – With increasing urgency, groups of medical professionals and scientists are issuing calls for comprehensive, long-term study of the full range of the potential health and ecosystem effects of drilling and fracking. These appeals underscore the accumulating evidence of harm, point to the major knowledge gaps that remain, and denounce the atmosphere of secrecy and intimidation that continues to impede the progress of scientific inquiry. Health professionals and scientists in the United States and around the world have urged tighter regulation of and in some cases, suspension of unconventional gas and oil extraction activities in order to limit, mitigate or eliminate its serious, adverse public health hazards.

Go to this website to read the entire document.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gas Wells Can Cost You: Glenn Aikens of Bradford County, PA

Published on Nov 4, 2014
Mr. Aikens received checks for ten cents and $1.10 from a division of Chesapeake Energy as royalty payments for his three Marcellus shale gas wells, after the company deducted post-production costs from his royalty payments.

Read the full story here.

"In Litchfield Township, Glenn Aikens, a member of the Bradford County Planning Commission, also has three shale gas wells on his land. Signing a lease brought a host of unexpected costs, Aikens says : $22,000 to set up an L.L.C. to make sure that his children could inherit the farm's suddenly valuable acreage in spite of estate taxes, pre-drilling water testing for the farm's seven wells (“He charged me $14,500 dollars, but I wouldn't have had a leg to stand on had I not,” says Aikens. “If they ruin the water, what do I do with this farm?”), and perhaps most painfully, the permanent loss of a valuable tax credit for farmland, now that the leased land is considered commercial property instead. Land that was assessed at $500 an acre was now assessed at $2,500 – and taxes were due retroactively."

Mr. Aiken had to pay literally thousands and thousands of dollars for the privilege of having gas wells on his property.  One royalty check from Chesapeake Energy was for 10¢.  The cost of testing the water was $14,500.  Does this sound like a lucrative enterprise for a land owner?


Hold Your Breath: Fracking and Clean Air Don't Mix

Published on Dec 8, 2014 IS IT CLEAN? This video examines the impact of oil and gas development on the health of people living it. Using a FLIR (infrared) camera designed to detect normally invisible, sometimes toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mother and activist and FLIR-certified-technician Sharon Wilson went on a road trip to document pollution at oil and gas operations -- and its human cost. EPA might require that oil and gas companies clean up their pollution. They're deciding now. Go to to urge them to act. FOR MORE INFO: 5-state study finds unsafe levels of airborne chemical near oil and gas fields, Oil & gas wells map: CREDITS: FLIR video - Sharon Wilson, Earthworks Dir. of Photo. for non-FLIR video/photo - Video Production -

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Fracking America: Is It Worth It?

Published on Dec 3, 2014
In the past decade, we've fracked 80,000+ wells in the United States.


** Learn a LOT more at

DISCLAIMER: Well locations and numbers are approximations based on best available data.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I Hate Goodbyes: Fracking Kills So Many Things

Resident of Susquehanna County, saying goodbye to the life she once had on her parents' property and growing up there and now grieving for the coming changes, as Fracking starts next door to her and her family homestead.....
Yesterday, I swam in the pond. It was November 9.

It started with a run. I’m not much of a runner, but in deer season there isn’t much woods walking to be done, and I needed to get outside. I donned my orange vest and started up the same hill that I have been running or walking for 25 years.

This time, I passed two gas pads. One has been there for a few years, but the most recent rig was towed away in pieces a few days ago. In better days it was a just a dairy farm and home to my bus driver and township commissioner. Now, periodic methane releases break the silence like a jet engine, sending me running the other way. A coyote darted across the road with the same idea.

The other started as a logging road. Months ago, I stood at the entrance on the edge of our property, holding my breath until a dirty logging truck limped out. My neighbor had never mentioned a surface lease, but the rig came anyway. The drilling was finished about a week ago.

Now I wait, in the space between drilling and fracking; the space between the life and death of our little place in the world. This land was a labor of love for my parents, who personally collected the fieldstones that they used to build our house, stone by stone. Three of our beloved dogs are buried by the pond, and my mother’s spirit still lingers in the garden.

Last week, a reporter asked me what brought me home. In the same way that I would sit at the bedside of a dying loved one, I choose to sit beside my land. If I can't stop it, I want to witness the sad reality. To have closure.

Yesterday, I wandered to the pond, as I often do after a jog. Even though I hate cold water, I realized this might be my last chance to swim here. I ran straight in.

Today, the frack trucks came.
Thanks to Vera Scoggins for this Facebook Post.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Frac Sand Mines: Are they contaminating water?

We have been inundated with the word "fracking."  Most people now recognize that word and know a little bit about it.  But the gas industry would love to distract us with that word, and in some cases, use truthiness to claim that fracking is safe, which, of course, it really isn't, and never will be.  So we have to spread the word that fracking is only a small part of what is wrong with fossil fuel extraction.  We now know about pipelines, spills on well sites, air pollution, noise pollution, truck traffic, and, perhaps the newest worry which has actually been around all along: frac sand mines.  We are starting to notice the ill effects of silica sand and possible water contamination at frac sand mines. 

Here is a news report and article about this issue from Trempealeau County, Wisconsin.

To investigate further, check out this link which discusses the detrimental health effects of acrylamide.  The news report referred to above states:

"Polyacrylamide is used to wash frac sand. It contains the chemical acrylamide, which studies have linked to cancer. The Guza mine in Trempealeau County is allowed to use polyacrylamide in its settling ponds, but the pond must be lined with concrete. During an investigation last week at the mine, Trempealeau County officials discovered two ponds did not have that concrete. Now the mine's neighbors are concerned their drinking water is contaminated."

One of my questions is this: Isn't concrete permeable?  I think it is.  The same kind of problem happens with fracking wastewater ponds which are supposed to be lined with plastic.  I have personally seen with my own eyes these plastic liners falling in on themselves, allowing contaminated frackwaste to seep into the soil.  And several years ago I saw a video showing a bulldozer pushing a liner under the dirt as a well pad was being closed down.  The point is that there are many examples of procedures going awry.  And there is little oversight. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

PA law enforcement sharing intelligence with Marcellus Shale drillers

"Anti-fracking activists protesting a natural-gas conference in Philadelphia last fall were being monitored by a private security company that sent a photo of a demonstrator to the Pennsylvania State Police, according to an email obtained by Pittsburgh City Paper.

A few months earlier, at another industry-led conference, state trooper Michael Hutson delivered a presentation on environmental extremism and acts of vandalism across Pennsylvania's booming Marcellus Shale natural-gas reserves. He showed photographs of several anti-fracking groups in Pennsylvania, including Shadbush Environmental Justice Collective protesters demonstrating at an active well site in Lawrence County, in Western Pennsylvania."

An intelligence-sharing network has emerged in Pennsylvania that brings together law enforcement in many forms: FBI, Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security, the oil and gas industry, and private security firms.

"They're using the state police to try to silence us."

Read entire article here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

An Important Message From Bill McKibben

Yesterday 400,000 people from all around the country and the world marched in New York city.  It was a great day!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Wrong Direction: Compressed Natural Gas Public Fueling Stations

Governor Corbett (PA) is celebrating the opening of a new "clean-burning" CNG public fueling station in Philadelphia.  "Clean-burning" is a total lie because the process of getting the fossil fuel out of the ground is a very dirty, polluting process.  Fracking is not the only, or even the most worrying, part of the whole industry.  The infrastructure needed, the pipelines, the impoundments, the trains, the quarries, the silica sands, to name a few, and the leaks on well pads, the surface contamination, the explosions, all these things are a very real threat to our environment.  To make the use of natural gas the up and coming trend for our vehicles, busses, trucks, is insanity.  So Governor Corbett is really leading his state into a terrible mess which will be expensive and ultimately ill-advised.  State tax dollars are funding this. 

Gas companies have harvested too much natural gas and love this idea of making natural gas more needed domestically.  But there is a lot of exportation of gas, too, since foreign countries pay so much more for it.  Why are we exporting natural gas?  The idea of energy independence as the reason for drilling is questionable, given the rate of exportation.
Governor Corbett Opens New Clean-Burning Natural Gas Fueling Station in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA -- Governor Tom Corbett today joined officials from VNG Co. to announce the opening of a new compressed natural gas (CNG) public fueling station in Philadelphia to support the widespread use of natural gas vehicles in the region.
“Pennsylvania has the second-largest energy field in the world, and cities from Pittsburgh to Williamsport to Towanda to Philadelphia are benefiting from our game-changing energy resources,” Gov. Corbett said. “The convenience of a local CNG fueling station makes it possible for local governments, organizations, companies and residents to make the switch to this cleaner and affordable alternative fuel. By harnessing natural gas, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and putting Pennsylvania at the forefront of American energy independence.”
The VNG public fueling station was constructed in-part with a $253,752 Alternative and Clean Energy (ACE) grant and $169,150 ACE loan from Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) which is administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). VNG provided matching funds of more than $422,000. The CFA approved the funding at its public board meeting on September 17, 2013.
The ACE Program provides financial assistance in the form of grants and loan funds that will be used by eligible applicants for the usage, development and construction of alternative and clean energy projects in the state, including CNG and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) filling stations.
The company also received Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) awards totaling nearly $270,000 from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), to support the purchase of 35 natural gas vehicles by its partners at Comcast, Aqua America, H.B. Electric Services, and the Safelite Group, to be fueled at the station. AFIG grants are an annual solicitation, administered by DEP, providing financial incentive for a variety of transportation projects with the result of reducing air emissions in Pennsylvania.
Governor Corbett was joined today by DEP Secretary Christopher E. Abruzzo, along with Philadelphia Gas Works CEO Craig White.
In 2013, Pennsylvania became the second-largest natural gas producing state in the nation.  The abundance of low-cost natural gas has driven electric and natural gas prices down nearly 40 percent since 2008, saving the average Pennsylvania resident nearly $1,200 annually in lower energy costs. After importing 75 percent of its natural gas just five years ago, Pennsylvania has become a net exporter of gas for the first time in more than 100 years.

To learn more about the Natural Gas Vehicle grant program, visit, Keyword: AFIG.

To learn more about the ACE program, visit

Read the announcement here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

North Dakota farmers fight soil contamination

One county's infertile land offers a test case of the long-term effects of wastewater spills....

Read the article here.

"Bottineau County offers an unusual, decades-long test case, since the region has a long history of contamination and a plethora of aging wells, tanks, pipelines, disposal sites and other infrastructure left from North Dakota's earlier oil booms in the 1930s, 1950s, and 1980s.  And the experiment is not over yet...."

Nothing will grow.
The crop is dying as we watch it.