Mark Schmerling / Courtesy of Protecting Our Waters
Stephanie Hallowich with her two children. A court order forbids the children from speaking about fracking or Marcellus Shale for the rest of their lives.
Two young children are forbidden from speaking about Marcellus Shale or fracking for the rest of their lives. The court action stems from a settlement in a high-profile Marcellus Shale lawsuit in western Pennsylvania.
The two children were 7 and 10 years old at the time the Hallowich family settled a nuisance case against driller Range Resources in August 2011. The parents, Chris and Stephanie, had been outspoken critics of fracking, saying the family became sick from the gas drilling activity surrounding their Washington County home.
According to court testimony released Wednesday, the parents were desperate to move and reluctantly agreed to a gag order that not only prevents them from speaking of Marcellus Shale and fracking, but also extends to their children.
Stephanie Hallowich told Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Pozonsky that she agreed to the gag order in order to get enough funds to move out of the house. But she said she didn’t fully understand the lifelong gag order on her children. Continue Reading
The Hallowich’s had been outspoken critics of gas drilling, suspecting it made them and their two young children sick.
Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA
Victoria Switzer in her Carter Road home. As part of her settlement with Cabot Oil and Gas, she can no longer discuss issues of water contamination in Dimock.
One of Dimock’s most outspoken critics of gas drilling in Northeast Pennsylvania says she has shifted gears and changed tactics by networking with industry. Victoria Switzer says she wants to persuade drillers to use the best available technologies that reduce air emissions beyond current regulatory requirements.
Switzer may be best known for her witticisms shaming and ridiculing both local lawmakers and industry representatives who she saw doing little to protect the environment, or the health of local residents. As one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Cabot Oil and Gas, Switzer could be heard speaking out in newspapers, on national TV news programs like CBS’s 60 Minutes, and Josh Fox’s Gasland Part 2. But since settling her lawsuit with Cabot Oil and Gas, Switzer has had to muzzle her thoughts on Dimock’s water issues. So, she says she’s turned to air quality.
“We knew we had hit a wall with the water issues,” said Switzer. “You couldn’t persuade people in a town like this where the hospitals are funded by the gas industry. We more or less gave up on that.”
But Switzer says she’s not giving up on remaining in her home on Carter Road, where she wants to breathe clean air. She’s working with a new organization called Breathe Easy Susquehanna County to limit the air pollutants that could come from dozens of new compressor stations planned for the area. Continue Reading
Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania
A Cabot Oil and Gas drill rig in Susquehanna County.
Regional officials with the Environmental Protection Agency based in Philadelphia did not agree with EPA’s national office to close the investigation on water contamination in Dimock, according to a piece published in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. An internal Power Point presentation leaked to the Times shows at least one staffer at Philadelphia’s region 3 office linked contaminants such as methane, arsenic and manganese to nearby gas drilling.
“Yet as the regulator moved to close its investigation, the staff at the mid-Atlantic EPA office in Philadelphia, which had been sampling the Dimock water, argued for continuing the assessment.”
The Times article doesn’t say who at region 3 wanted to continue the investigation, nor did it describe their role in the process. One question seems to hinge on whether or not the methane detected in the water wells came from shallow formations, or bears the imprint of the deeper Marcellus Shale gas. But Region 3′s assessment seems to agree with the investigation carried out by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection back in 2009, finding Cabot Oil and Gas responsible for methane migration in ten Dimock water wells.
“The presentation, based on data collected over 4 1/2 years at 11 wells around Dimock, concluded that “methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality.” The presentation also concluded that “methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking [hydraulic fracturing] and other gas well work.”
Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania
A truck delivers drilling waste water to a frack water recycling plant in Susquehanna County
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from Lackawanna County, has introduced a bill to end an oil and gas exemption to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which was passed back in 1976 establishes standards for proper disposal of hazardous waste. RCRA tracks industrial wastes from “cradle to grave.” But when it comes to the oil and gas industry, as long as the waste water is on the drill site, or in transit, it is not considered hazardous. This also applies to drilling mud.
“Under current federal law, oil and gas companies do not even have to test their waste to see if it is toxic,” said Cartwright in a press release, “leaving us with no way of knowing what is being disposed of and how it is being treated. It is time oil and gas companies comply with existing minimum standards and oversight.”
With no federal oversight of the waste, regulation is left to the states. Cartwright says that has yielded mixed results, and thinks there needs to be one federal standard. The “Closing Loopholes and Ending Arbitrary and Needless Evasion of Regulations” Act, or CLEANER, would eliminate the oil and gas exemption. But the bill may have a tough time getting through the Republican controlled House.
Because a small section of the pipeline will cross into Delaware, the company can exercise eminent domain. Sunoco Logistics filed its first claim in Westmoreland County. The pipeline would bring “wet gas” or propane and ethane east, to their refinery in Delaware County.
Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA
Marcellus Shale Coalition CEO Kathryn Klaber speaks to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Pennsylvania’s top natural gas trade group is looking for a new leader. The Marcellus Shale Coalition announced on Friday that the current CEO Kathryn Klaber, will be leaving the organization after four years. The MSC was formed by a group of Marcellus Shale producers in late 2009, to be the public face of the state’s burgeoning energy industry. Klaber has directed the organization since its inception. Its staffers work to influence drilling-related legislation, host the annual “Shale Insight” conference in Philadelphia, interact with the press, and promote the benefits of gas drilling. Its members were heavily involved in shaping the state’s new drilling law, Act 13.
Klaber earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Bucknell University. She worked previously at the consulting firm Environmental Resources Management, led the Pennsylvania Economy League, and before taking the job at the MSC, was an executive vice president at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Continue Reading
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY/Newsworks
The offshore loading pier at Dominion has not received a ship importing liquefied natural gas since January 2011.
In energy-hungry countries, all eyes are on Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas. In a dramatic shift from just five years ago, the U.S. is looking to export, instead of import natural gas. And if more natural gas starts getting shipped abroad, Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale could help change the global market for natural gas, and lighting homes in Tokyo.
The U.S. currently has two export terminals, one in Sabine Pass, Louisiana, and the ConocoPhillips LNG export terminal in North Cook Inlet, Alaska. The U.S. Department of Energy just gave preliminary approval for ConocoPhillips to expand its Freeport, Texas import terminal to export liquefied natural gas. About 17 other export proposals now await approval by the DOE, including the Cove Point liquefied natural gas import terminal operated by Dominion Resources.
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY/Newsworks permalink
Ice forms on the liquefied natural gas pipes on a 70 degree-day at Dominion's Cove Point LNG Terminal. Liquefied natural gas is stored at minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit.
An escape capsule fits 28 people in case of an accident on the offshore loading pier. There are three capsules located on the pier.