Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Krancer Responds To Claims State Withheld Water Contamination Data

Last week, we told you about a Department of Environmental Protection employee’s deposition testimony claiming the state does not report complete lab results, when testing for water contamination near natural gas drilling sites.  ”The heavy metals left out of one particular report back to a resident of Washington County,” we reported, “included cobalt, silicon, tin, titanium, zinc, boron, silicon, aluminum, copper, nickel, lithium, and molybdenum.”

DEP Secretary Mike Krancer is responding to the charges in a letter addressed to House Democrat Jesse White, who publicized the deposition in a press release last week. Krancer tells White his “characterization of the testimony…is untrue and inaccurate,”

Krancer says state lab employees were following protocols developed in 1991, and revised after the state’s Marcellus Shale boom began. Read an excerpt from Krancer’s letter below:

Professional staff, trained in evaluating Water complaints, utilize  the relevant data and information to inform their conclusions. Although other results are  generated by the lab tests, such results would not contribute to answering the question at hand–  determining whether there is a connection between the gas Well activities and the Water supply.

Your press release also omits that these parameters subject to investigation in Pennsylvania are
substantially similar to the ones used in other states such as, for example, New York, Ohio,
Colorado and Wyoming.

In this particular investigation, the levels of the additional parameters were extremely low. None  exceeded a primary or secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for drinking Water.  Silica, one of the additional parameters mentioned, is one of the most common compounds found  in our natural environment. Therefore, finding Silica – particularly at these low levels – doesn’t inform DEP about Whether a Water supply is adversely affected by oil and gas related activities.

Read the full letter here:

Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessewhite46 Jesse White

    The DEP released this letter to the media, not me, even though it was addressed to me.
    But it actually reinforces my position in the following ways:

    1. The claims about DEP’s training are suspect; in the sworn deposition of DEP water quality specialist John Carson, he admitted he had no specialized training for Marcellus Shale impacts, had no idea what to look for to know if groundwater was impacted from drilling, and confirmed the only requirement to be a DEP water specialist is a driver’s license. All his words, not mine.

    2. Despite the inference that DEP hasn’t used Suite Code 942 since 2010, they used it as recently as 2011 and 2012 to test the water in the Kiskadden case, which is verifiable through court records. Again, DEP’s words/records, not mine.

    3. I agree there is a firewall between DEP labs and DEP field agents; in fact, it’s the crux of the whole problem. Although DEP’s lab tests for all 24 heavy metals under EPA Standard 200.7, by writing in Suite Code 942, the results of 16 of those 24 never make it from the lab to the field. And Suite Code 946 isn’t much better; it withholds 13 of the 24 heavy metals.

    4. Reports issued by the Marcellus Shale Coalition in 2009 list many of the unreported metals as components of flowback and produced water from drilling. There are not maximum concentrations for many of them because they aren’t supposed to be in groundwater at any acceptable level. He may as well have said there isn’t a maximum concentration for Grape Kool-Aid listed.

    5. Silica is sand, which can exist naturally, but it’s also a known component in the drilling process. By withholding data on the other components in drilling by using Suite Code 942, the DEP field agent would have no way of knowing whether those metals existed in a combination that would suggest whether the silica was natural or related to drilling. It gives the DEP plausible deniability to say they can’t prove impact from drilling- sort of like putting a blindfold on someone and saying “I can’t say for certain you are wearing a blue shirt” without acknowledging the presence of the blindfold.

    All of this reinforces my central point; the DEP is choosing to ignore their own valuable test results for metals which are hazardous and have a clear connection to drilling activities. The lack of a viable explanation, coupled with sworn testimony which directly refutes claims about inspector training, only strengthens my belief that an independent investigation into DEP needs to take place.

    Jesse White
    State Representative, 46th District

    • Anyone but Jesse White

      Jesse,

      Your arguments are weak. Don’t you have better things to do as an elected (if that’s what you call yourself since no one ran against you) official than troll social media and news websites to see if your names appear somewhere?

      Silica is in sand and sand is used in drilling, sand is also highly prevalent in something else, let me think what that may be…Oh right, SANDSTONE, which is usually the source rock for the aquifer that supplies most water wells. If it appears in minute amounts, as was stated, it should be ignored.

      You are not a geologist or chemist, I will stand behind what they say and not what some unelected official says. You won’t be running unopposed next term.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=609676053 Sean Indignado Kitchen

        Silica exposure at high rates also silicosis – the hardening of the lungs. So please why are you posting as an anonymous user?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1522786448 Scott Cannon

        There is nothing better to do than to protect the people of one’s district. That is the number 1 job of any elected official, except for those who forgot that and are protecting corporations, like many of our state officials. Grow a set and put your name on your posts, coward.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bridgette.crockett.9 Bridgette Crockett

        We obviously know whose side you are on and that is NOT the side of reason and health. PA people know the truth and we will keep fighting for it!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vera-Scroggins/725945851 Vera Scroggins

    thanks, to Jesse White and others willing to examine and investigate the DEP, we must call for further investigation in DEP practices and training and seek greater protection for the citizens of PA..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Liz-Rosenbaum/100000486492990 Liz Rosenbaum

    So, will DEP release the full results, or not?

  • Maggie Henry

    Thank god for Jesse White – He represents the people of Pa, not just the district of the people who get to vote for him!!! JESSE WHITE for president!

  • Gizmo

    An ardent critic of the impact of gas drilling, state Rep. Jesse White of Washington County once enjoyed a cozy relationship with Range Resources Inc. — asking for a corporate plane ride to a Super Bowl and complaining the driller didn’t give him enough campaign money, emails between the lawmaker and company show.

    In late 2011, White and Range executives in Cecil began battling publicly over Marcellus shale gas drilling. Just last week, Range canceled a private meeting with Cecil officials when White said he would attend.

    Range says it wants to expose a lawmaker who tried to strong-arm the company and continues to challenge its Pennsylvania business dealings. This month, White urged several agencies to investigate the state’s handling of contamination tests at a Range drill site.

    White, 34, says the company is organizing a smear campaign against him because he tries to protect constituents in land-control disputes. He suggests Range took his emails out of context or altered them, but would not produce any emails from his archive to prove that. Range stands by the accuracy of the emails it released.

    “Just found out I had a few tickets to the game and am looking at our travel arrangements,” White wrote on Jan. 28, 2011, to Range Chief Operating Officer Ray Walker, in emails Range gave the Tribune-Review. “If the Range plane was heading down, any chance we could stowaway in the cargo hold?”

    The Steelers lost that 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas, to the Green Bay Packers. White, a Democrat elected in 2006, did not travel with Range. He told the Trib he requested the ride as “a joke” and said he did nothing illegal or hypocritical in seeking campaign donations from Range. He said Range earlier invited him to its Super Bowl barbecue in Texas.

    Five days after Walker denied his request, White, a former Cecil supervisor, formed Marcellus Municipal Co-Op, suggesting that communities hire a shared official to help enforce land-use rules during the gas rush. White said he worked for months to organize the co-op.

    That sparked friction between White and Range.

    “It’s always been Range’s approach to have good relationships with the community, which includes lawmakers,” said company spokesman Matt Pitzarella. “In working with Rep. White, frankly, we became uncomfortable with his tactics and behavior. He went from reasonable to ridiculous. … He may think his antics are part of some game, but these are real issues, involving real people looking for real solutions, not grandstanding or politicking.”

    RELATIONSHIP SOURED

    As the largest driller in Washington County, Fort Worth-based Range has offices at Southpointe and 545 wells in towns including Cecil, South Fayette and Mt. Pleasant in White’s district. Range executives and the company’s political action committee from 2009 to May 2010 gave $80,000 to state lawmakers, including $10,000 to White, Pitzarella said.

    Pitzarella said Range decided to release the emails and some letters to White — regarding his claims that Range divides and conquers communities and violates federal hiring practices — because “I have been asked time and time again, ‘What has happened with this relationship? Has Range changed, or has Jesse changed?’ and we believe these emails provide people with that missing context.”

    When he emailed Walker about the Super Bowl, White said he wondered whether Range might use it against him.

    “This would be a good way to see if these guys can be trusted,” White said he thought as he sent it. “They knew and I knew it wasn’t real. It was obviously a joking answer to whether I’d be attending their event or not.”

    “That’s preposterous,” said Pitzarella. “There’s no reference to that (barbecue) in (White’s) email. … He ‘trusted’ us enough to strong-arm campaign contributions and fundraisers for him for nearly five years. He told us he would attend the event, but canceled due to the ice storm. His behavior of saying anything to anyone to only suit himself is at the core of why we could no longer associate ourselves with him.”

    The company did not fly any lawmakers to the game or pay for their tickets, Pitzarella said. Range invited a number of Pennsylvania officials, land owners and employees to its burger-and-rib cookout. Pitzarella said Wednesday some lawmakers attended but he didn’t have an exact count.

    The Steelers invited nine state and local officials to the Super Bowl, but said the team would not pay for flights. Senate President Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County, attended courtesy of Cecil-based Consol Energy Inc. and later said he’d repay the coal and gas producer when his trip became public knowledge.

    FUNDRAISING HELP SOUGHT

    White’s correspondence includes a March 2010 email about a May fundraiser Range was organizing for him. White wanted Autumn Haines, his former district aide who then worked for Range, to oversee the event planning.

    His email said he and Haines had “a relationship” at the time. Range said involving her in the fundraiser would be a conflict of interest. White wrote: “Understood — I just don’t want to get shortchanged, especially because I am going to catch (expletive) no matter what. I don’t have the money some of my colleagues do.”

    Haines, 28, who works in Strattanville, Clarion County, declined comment.

    “That’s a past chapter in my life,” she said.

    White insists he did nothing illegal in pursuing fundraising help nearly three years ago.

    Range spent $1,000 on White’s fundraiser. When the event’s contributions totaled less than $5,000, counting the Range money, White emailed Range on June 17, 2010: “This was considerably short of the intended target and to be perfectly blunt, I attest the low turnout to a somewhat substandard effort in working your vendor list.”

    Range claims the $10,000 it gave White during that time made him one of its top three recipients.

    “We do not routinely give to all lawmakers but we give to some who understand our issues,” Pitzarella said.

    Drilling companies put $6.1 million toward Pennsylvania campaigns from 2001 to 2010, according to a November 2011 report by Common Cause of Pennsylvania.

    Legislators request campaign money in writing “all the time,” said Barry Kauffman, Common Cause executive director. “Every lobbyist in town gets requests for breakfasts and dinners,” he said, noting that if a solicitation involves support or opposition to legislation, it “crosses the line.”

    In the June 17 email, White told Range he found it “disheartening” the company would send only one employee to another industry fundraiser he organized.

    “I spent the better part of the day Tuesday working my colleagues on the House floor to oppose the proposed severance tax bill, which was defeated because a core group of ten Democrats (myself included) flatly refused to vote for it while other members who profess to support your industry were busy cutting deals in exchange for their votes,” White wrote.

    White later sponsored a failed bill to impose a per-well fee on drillers.

    “I take massive amounts of abuse from my constituents every single day about the Marcellus industry,” White wrote in the same email, “and I believe I have done an honest and sincere job of supporting your efforts to create jobs and educate people about Marcellus (shale). I just wanted to express my disappointment at this lack of public support.”

    In a July 2011 YouTube video, White talked about his proposed yearly well fee of $20,000. When lawmakers instead passed a $50,000 fee seven months later, his stance had changed. In a House floor speech, he contended $50,000 wasn’t enough because lawmakers stripped communities’ control.

    That December, White told the Trib: “These towns that I represent, they’ve always been willing to work with the industry. But the problem with the industry is that what they want is always a moving target.”

    As White’s positions evolved, industry spokesmen lobbed that same complaint at him.

    ‘I THINK RANGE CHANGED’

    White represents communities in the heart of shale-gas fields. He supports South Fayette and Cecil in legal challenges Range filed against them. Those townships and three others in his district are suing the state over Act 13, a February 2012 law to regulate the industry.

    “I still am in favor of drilling. … I get that drilling is a big benefit for a lot of the people I represent around here,” White said. “The political path I’ve chosen, in some ways it’s walking the political tightrope. I’ve subjected myself to the wrath of the industry PR machine, but I’ve never wavered from saying I’m in favor of drilling.”

    Because the emails Range released are years old, White said, he doesn’t believe they reveal any hypocrisy. He wouldn’t release his emails because he said they might embarrass Range and some of his colleagues.

    “The breaking point with Range was when their actions start impacting my constituents in a negative way,” White said. “Somewhere there’s this implication that I changed. I think Range changed in the way they deal with me and the way they deal with the people I represent.”

    Read more: http://triblive.com/home/2950709-74/range-emails-company-industry-pitzarella-cecil-changed-drilling-lawmakers-2011#ixzz2CJdkpCBq
    Follow us: @triblive on Twitter | triblive on Facebook

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.cummings.9843 Jim Cummings

    I don’t see a link to the full Krancer resposne. Can you post it?

  • Whitedog

    I’m not sure they are doing full QA on everything they get back, especially if the parameters in question are not typically related to energy development or above an action level dictated by federal or state laws. But, given the distrust around the issue, maybe they should just report everything.

    BTW–silica is a primary constituent of most ( I think all) sedimentary rocks in PA, save for the carbonates. As are most of the metals listed.

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