An Injunction Against the First Amendment

by Walter Brasch

Vera Scroggins of Susquehanna County, Pa., will be in court, Monday morning.

This time, she will have lawyers and hundreds of thousands of supporters throughout the country. Representing Scroggins to vacate an injunction limiting her travel will be lawyers from the ACLU and Public Citizen, and a private attorney.

The last time Scroggins appeared in the Common Pleas Court in October, she didn’t have lawyers. That’s because Judge Kenneth W. Seamans refused to grant her a continuance.

When she was served papers to appear in court, it was a Friday. On Monday, she faced four lawyers representing Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., one of the nation’s largest drillers. Seamans told the 63-year-old grandmother and retired nurse’s aide that to grant a continuance would inconvenience three of Cabot’s lawyers who came from Pittsburgh, more than 250 miles away. He also told her she might have to pay travel and other costs for the lawyers if she was successful in getting a continuance.

And so, Cabot presented its case against Scroggins.

The lawyers claimed she blocked access roads to Cabot drilling operations. They claimed she continually trespassed on their property. They claimed she was a danger to the workers.

Scroggins agreed that she used public roads to get to Cabot properties. For five years, Scroggins has led tours of private citizens and government officials to show them what fracking is, and to explain what it is doing to the health and environment. But she was always polite, never confrontational. And when she was told to leave, she did, even if it sometimes took as much as an hour because Cabot security often blocked her car.  Cabot personnel on site never asked local police to arrest her for trespassing.

But now, Cabot executives decided to launch a mega-attack, throwing against her the full power of a company that grosses more than $1 billion a year and is the largest driller in the region.

In court, Scroggins tried several times to explain that while near or on Cabot drilling operations, she had documented health and safety violations, many of which led to fines or citations. Every time she tried to present the evidence, one of Cabot’s lawyers objected, and the judge struck Scroggins’ testimony from the record. Cabot acknowledged Scroggins broke no laws but claimed she was a “nuisance.”

Scroggins tried to explain that she put more than 500 short videotapes online or onto YouTube to show what fracking is, and the damage Cabot and other companies are doing. Again, Seamans accepted Cabot’s objection, and struck her testimony.

And that’s why Cabot wanted an injunction against Scroggins, one that would forbid her from ever going anywhere that Cabot has a lease. It had little to do with keeping a peaceful protestor away; it had everything to do with shutting down her ability to tell the truth.

Four days after the hearing, Seamans issued the temporary injunction that Cabot wanted. It forbid Scroggins from going onto any property that Cabot owned, was drilling, or had mineral rights, even if there was no drilling. The injunction didn’t specify where Scroggins couldn’t go. It was a task that required her to go to the courthouse in Montrose, dig through hundreds of documents, and figure it out for herself.

The injunction violates her rights of free speech by severely restricting her ability to document the practices of a company that may be violating both the public trust and the environment. According to the brief filed on her behalf, “The injunction sends a chilling message to those who oppose fracking and wish to make their voices heard or to document practices that they fear will harm them and their neighbors. That message is loud and clear: criticize a gas company, and you’ll pay for it.”

The injunction also violates her Fourteenth Amendment rights of association and the right of travel. Scroggins can’t even go to homes of some of her friends, even if they invite her;  that’s because they had leased subsurface mineral rights to Cabot. However, Cabot never produced a lease, according to what the ACLU will present in court, to show that “it had a right to exclude her from the surface of properties where it has leased only the subsurface mineral rights.”

Because Cabot had leased mineral rights to 40 percent of Susquehanna County, about 300 square miles, almost any place Scroggins wants to be is a place she is not allowed to be. That includes the local hospital, supermarkets, drug stores, several restaurants, the place she goes for rehabilitation therapy, and a recreational lake. It also includes the recycling center-Susquehanna County officials leased 12.5 acres of public land to Cabot.

The injunction establishes a “buffer zone.” Even if Scroggins is on a public street or sidewalk, if it is less than 150 feet from a property that Cabot has a subsurface mineral lease, she is in violation of the court order.

The injunction, says the ACLU of Pennsylvania, “is far broader than anything allowed by the U.S. Supreme Court or Pennsylvania courts.”    

Not everyone agrees with Scroggins or her efforts to document the effects of horizontal fracking. Many consider her to be a pest, someone trying to stop them from making money. Hundreds in the region have willingly given up their property rights in order to get signing bonuses and royalties from the extraction of natural gas. Their concern, in a county still feeling the effects of the great recession that had begun a decade earlier, is for their immediate financial well-being rather than the health and welfare of their neighbors, or the destruction of the environment.

The anti-fracking movement has grown from hundreds slightly more than a half-decade ago to millions. Where the oil and gas lobby has been able to mount a multi-million dollar media campaign, the people who proudly call themselves “fractivists” have countered by effective use of the social media and low-budget but highly effective rallies. Where the oil and gas lobby has been able to pour millions of dollars into politicians’ campaigns, the fractivists have countered by grass-roots organizing and contacting government officials and politicians, promising them no money but only the truth.

Vera Scroggins never planned to be among the leaders of a social movement, but her persistence in explaining and documenting what is happening to the people and their environment has put her there. Cabot’s “take-no-prisoners” strategy in trying to shut her voice has led to even more people becoming aware of what fracking is-and the length that a mega-corporation will go to keep the facts from the people. No matter what Seamans does to correct his unconstitutional order, Cabot has lost this battle.

[Dr. Brasch’s current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation into the process and effects of horizontal fracking, and the collusion between politicians and the oil and gas industry. The 466-page critically-acclaimed and fully-documented book is available from Greeley & Stone, Publishers; Amazon.com; Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores.]      

You Can’t Wash Away Fracking’s Effects

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José Lara just wanted a job.

A company working in the natural gas fields needed a man to power wash wastewater tanks.

Clean off the debris. Make them shining again.

And so José Lara became a power washer for the Rain for Rent Co.

“The chemicals, the smell was so bad. Once I got out, I couldn’t stop throwing up. I couldn’t even talk,” Lara said in his deposition, translated from Spanish.

The company that had hired him didn’t provide him a respirator or protective clothing. That’s not unusual in the natural gas fields.

José Lara did his job until he no longer could work.

At the age of 42, he died from pancreatic and liver cancer.

Accidents, injuries, and health problems are not all that unusual in the booming natural gas industry that uses horizontal hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, to invade the earth in order to extract methane gas.

Of the 750 chemicals that can be used in the fracking process, more than 650 of them are toxic or carcinogens, according to a report filed with the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2011. Several public health studies reveal that homeowners living near fracked wells show higher levels of acute illnesses than homeowners living outside the “Sacrifice Zone,” as the energy industry calls it.

In addition to toxic chemicals and high volumes of water, the energy industry uses silica sand in the mixture it sends at high pressure deep into the earth to destroy the layers of rock. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) issued a Hazard Alert about the effects of crystalline silica. According to NIOSH there are seven primary sources of exposure during the fracking process, all of which could contribute to workers getting silicosis, the result of silica entering lung tissue and causing inflammation and scarring.  Excessive silica can also lead to kidney and autoimmune diseases, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). In the Alert, NIOSH pointed out that its studies revealed about 79 percent of all samples it took in five states exceeded acceptable health levels, with 31 percent of all samples exceeding acceptable health levels by 10 times. However, the Hazard Alert is only advisory; it carries no legal or regulatory authority.

In addition to the normal diesel emissions of trucks and trains, there are numerous incidents of leaks, some of several thousand gallons, much of which spills onto roadways and into creeks, from highway accidents of tractor-trailer trucks carrying wastewater and other chemicals.

The process of fracking requires constant truck travel to and from the wells, as many as 200 trips per day per well. Each day, interstate carriers transport about five million gallons of hazardous materials. Not included among the daily 800,000 shipments are the shipments by intrastate carriers, which don’t have to report their cargo deliveries to the Department of Transportation. “Millions of gallons of wastewater produced a day, buzzing down the road, and still nobody’s really keeping track,” Myron Arnowitt, the Pennsylvania state director for Clean Water Action, told AlterNet.

Drivers routinely work long weeks, have little time for rest, and hope they’ll make enough to get that house they want for their families.

But fatigue causes accidents. And contrary to industry claims, workers don’t always wear protective gear when around toxic chemicals they put into the earth, and the toxic chemicals they extract from the earth. Or the toxic chemicals they drive on public roads.

In the Great Recession, people become desperate for any kind of job. And the natural gas industry has responded with high-paying jobs. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is ecstatic that a side benefit of destroying the environment and public health is an improvement in the economy and more jobs-even if most of the workers in Pennsylvania now sport license plates from Texas and Oklahoma.

The drivers, and most of the industry, are non-union or are hired as independent contractors with no benefits. The billion dollar corporations like it that way. It means there are no worker safety committees. No workplace regulations monitored by the workers. And if a worker complains about a safety or health violation, there’s no grievance procedure. Hire them fast. Fire them faster.

No matter how much propaganda the industry spills out about its safety record and how it cares about its workers, the reality is that working for a company that fracks the earth is about as risky as it gets for worker health and safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Rain for Rent nine violations for exposing José Lara to hydrogen sulfide and not adequately protecting him from the effects of the cyanide-like gas.

It no longer matters to José Lara.

The effects from fracking should matter to everyone else.

 

FRACKING: Pennsylvania Gags Physicians

(Part 1 of 3)

A new Pennsylvania law endangers public health by forbidding health care professionals from sharing information they learn about certain chemicals and procedures used in high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing. The procedure is commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is the controversial method of forcing water, gases, and chemicals at tremendous pressure of up to 15,000 pounds per square inch into a rock formation as much as 10,000 feet below the earth’s surface to open channels and force out natural gas and fossil fuels.

Advocates of fracking argue not only is natural gas “greener” than coal and oil energy, with significantly fewer carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur emissions, the mining of natural gas generates significant jobs in a depressed economy, and will help the U.S. reduce its oil dependence upon foreign nations. Geologists estimate there may be as much as 2,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas throughout the United States. If all of it is successfully mined, it could not only replace coal and oil but serve as a transition to wind, solar, and water as primary energy sources, releasing the United States from dependency upon fossil fuel energy and allowing it to be more self-sufficient.

The Marcellus Shale-which extends beneath the Allegheny Plateau, through southern New York, much of Pennsylvania, east Ohio, West Virginia, and parts of Maryland and Virginia-is one of the nation’s largest sources for natural gas mining, containing as much as 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and could produce, within a decade, as much as one-fourth of the nation’s natural gas demand.  Each of Pennsylvania’s 5,255 wells, as of the beginning of March 2012, with dozens being added each week, takes up about nine acres, including all access roads and pipe.

Over the expected lifetime of each well, companies may use as many as nine million gallons of water and 100,000 gallons of chemicals and radioactive isotopes within a four to six week period. The additives “are used to prevent pipe corrosion, kill bacteria, and assist in forcing the water and sand down-hole to fracture the targeted formation,” explains Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research. However, about 650 of the 750 chemicals used in fracking operations are known carcinogens, according to a report filed with the U.S. House of Representatives in April 2011. Fluids used in fracking include those that are “potentially hazardous,” including volatile organic compounds, according to Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental Health, a part of the federal Centers for Disease Control. In an email to the Associated Press in January 2012, Portier noted that waste water, in addition to bring up several elements, may be radioactive. Fracking is also believed to have been the cause of hundreds of small earthquakes in Ohio and other states.

The law, known as Act 13, an amendment to Title 58 (Oil and Gas) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, requires that companies provide to a state-maintained registry the names of chemicals and gases used in fracking. Physicians and others who work with citizen health issues may request specific information, but the company doesn’t have to provide that information if it claims it is a trade secret or proprietary information, nor does it have to reveal how the chemicals and gases used in fracking interact with natural compounds. If a company does release information about what is used, health care professionals are bound by a non-disclosure agreement that not only forbids them from warning the community of water and air pollution that may be caused by fracking, but which also forbids them from telling their own patients what the physician believes may have led to their health problems. A strict interpretation of the law would also forbid general practitioners and family practice physicians who sign the non-disclosure agreement and learn the contents of the “trade secrets” from notifying a specialist about the chemicals or compounds, thus delaying medical treatment.

The clauses are buried on pages 98 and 99 of the 174-page bill, which was initiated and passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly and signed into law in February by Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

“I have never seen anything like this in my 37 years of practice,” says Dr. Helen Podgainy, a pediatrician from Coraopolis, Pa. She says it’s common for physicians, epidemiologists, and others in the health care field to discuss and consult with each other about the possible problems that can affect various populations. Her first priority, she says, “is to diagnose and treat, and to be proactive in preventing harm to others.” The new law, she says, not only “hinders preventative measures for our patients, it slows the treatment process by gagging free discussion.”

Psychologists are also concerned about the effects of fracking and the law’s gag order. “We won’t know the extent of patients becoming anxious or depressed because of a lack of information about the fracking process and the chemicals used,” says Kathryn Vennie of Hawley, Pa., a clinical psychologist for 30 years. She says she is already seeing patients “who are seeking support because of the disruption to their environment.” Anxiety in the absence of information, she says, “can produce both mental and physical problems.”

The law is not only “unprecedented,” but will “complicate the ability of health department to collect information that would reveal trends that could help us to protect the public health,” says Dr. Jerome Paulson, director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children’s Health and the Environment at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Paulson, also professor of pediatrics at George Washington University, calls the law “detrimental to the delivery of personal health care and contradictory to the ethical principles of medicine and public health.” Physicians, he says, “have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect the health of the public, and this law precludes us from doing all we can to protect the public.” He has called for a moratorium on all drilling until the health effects can be analyzed.

Pennsylvania requires physicians to report to the state instances of 73 specific diseases, most of which are infectious diseases. However, the list also includes cancer, which may have origins not only from chemicals used to create the fissures that yield natural gas, but also in the blow-back of elements, including arsenic, present within the fissures. Thus, physicians are faced by conflicting legal and professional considerations.

“The confidentiality agreements are worrisome,” says Peter Scheer, a journalist/lawyer who is executive director of the First Amendment Coalition. Physicians who sign the non-disclosure agreements and then disclose the possible risks to protect the community can be sued for breech of contract, and the companies can seek both injunctions and damages, says Scheer.

In pre-trial discovery motions, a company might be required to reveal to the court what it claims are trade secrets and proprietary information, with the court determining if the chemical and gas combinations really are trade secrets or not. The court could also rule that the contract is unenforceable because it is contrary to public policy, which places the health of the public over the rights of an individual company to protect its trade secrets, says Scheer. However, the legal and financial resources of the natural gas corporations are far greater than those of individuals, and they can stall and outspend most legal challenges.

Although Pennsylvania is determined to protect the natural gas industry, not everyone in the industry agrees with the need for secrecy.  Dave McCurdy, president of the American Gas Association, says he supports disclosing the contents included in fracturing fluids. In an opinion column published in the Denver Post, McCurdy further argued, “We need to do more as an industry to engage in a transparent and fact-based public dialogue on shale gas development.”

The Natural Gas committee of the U.S. Department of Energy agrees. “Our most important recommendations were for more transparency and dissemination of information about shale gas operations, including full disclosure of chemicals and additives that are being used,” said Dr. Mark Zoback, professor of geophysics at Stanford University and a Board member.

Both McCurdy’s statement and the Department of Energy’s strong recommendation about full disclosure were known to the Pennsylvania General Assembly when it created the law that restricted health care professionals from disseminating certain information that could help reduce significant health and environmental problems from fracking operations.

Part 2 looks at the health issues and research studies. Part 3 looks at the truth behind why Pennsylvania has given advantages to the natural gas industry. Assisting on this series, in addition to those quoted within the articles, were Rosemary R. Brasch, Eileen Fay, Dr. Bernard Goldstein, and Dr. Wendy Lynne Lee. Walter Brasch’s current book is Before the First Snow, a critically-acclaimed novel that looks at what happens when government and energy companies form a symbiotic relationship, using ‘cheaper, cleaner’ fuel and the lure of jobs in a depressed economy but at the expense of significant health and environmental impact. The book is available at amazon.com and through the publisher’s website, http://www.greeleyandstone.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D.

Latest Book: Before the First Snow: Stories from the Revolution

(www.greeleyandstone.com)

www.walterbrasch.com

News & Notes November 22, 2011

Tonight’s GOP debate on national security should be interesting.  What great tidbits will we learn this time?  How much pounding of the war drums towards Iran will occur?  How many gaffes can Herman Cain make in one night?  Newt’s advantage tonight is that it’ll be tough to spin his adultery and ethics issues in a discussion of foreign policy.  Someone will try however.

Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have yet to gain their moments in the spotlight as front runners.  The former Senator is aghast at this as it would mean people would be Googling him.   Paul is afraid his white supremacist past will show up in internet searches.  What these guys need is a good white sheet.  Paul to wear and Santorum to contain all of that spreading stuff.

Ron Paul got mic checked in New Hampshire.

A Farleigh Dickinson poll shows that New Jerseans who get their news from Fox are less informed than those who don’t follow the news at all.  This, of course, is a result of their programming which feeds its viewers lies and propaganda instead of facts.

Rush Limbaugh called Michelle Obama “uppity.”  It seems she had the audacity to attend a NASCAR race.  The entire issue of being “uppity” is what fuels all the racist hatred against the President and First Lady.  Having those titles is the height of being uppity for African-Americans of course.  How dare they think they’re as good as white people?  At least conservatives no longer feel any obligation to hide their true feelings.  They do know there’s an election next year though, don’t they?

And, by the way, Obama didn’t call Americans lazy.  Check the context folks.

If corporations insist on being persons then their executives need to go to prison for the same offenses as you and I would.  Three executives from West Chester discovered this the hard way this week.

When Mitt Romney left the Governor’s mansion he had all of his aides wipe their hard drives so no documents were left.  He says he did this to prevent his political opponents from getting any dirt to use against him.  What, exactly was Mitt doing there in Massachusetts that necessitated such a grievous attack on open and transparent government?  More importantly what does that say about the type of president he’d be?

Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law has snared someone who may come back to haunt them:  a high executive of Mercedes-Benz.  Daimler Benz has a factory there and the German didn’t have all of his “papers” with him so was arrested.  hmm, will Alabama soon kiss all of those good jobs good-bye?  Serves them right for their bigotry.

Republicans are blaming the President for Congress’s failures.  Haven’t they read the constitution about all those separation of powers?  The Executive Branch is actually separate from the Legislative.  Of course Cain feels that, as president he can simply override the Supreme Court.  How, by assassination?  Perhaps he’d simply feed them some Godfather’s Pizza, give them an offer they can’t refuse.

The idea of proportioning our presidential electoral votes is finally dead.  It finally occurred to Republicans it could cost them several Congressional seats.

Rioting in Egypt is collapsing yet another government.  The military regime which took over hasn’t allowed democracy to the people took Tahrir Square once again.  Today they are engaging in a million man sit-in.  Imagine if a million Americans sat down on Wall Street or Capital Hill?

Occupy Philadelphia has decided to move.  The city wants to rebuild the plaza and the folks camped there decided not to stand in the way of good jobs.  Philadelphia gave them an ultimatum:  no more tents and protesting can only happen from 9 AM to 7 PM.  We’ll see how that flies…

Opponents of gas drilling rallied in Trenton yesterday.  The Delaware River Basin Commission postponed a controversial vote so people decided to have a rally anyway.  Gasland director Josh Fox called Gov. Corbett from the steps and got…no answer.  The lights are on at the Governor’s Office but no one’s home.

A report from NEPA about the dangers and risks of gas drilling hit the newspapers over the weekend.  This is must reading for anyone considering signing a lease.  This whistleblower tells what happened at one site near Dimock.  Cabot is now refusing to supply water for the people’s whose wells they poisoned.  What good are jobs and royalties if they’re going to kill us?

Why has New Mexico had relatively safe hydrofracturing for thirty years without all of these accidents, explosions and spills?  Regulations and taxes which fund the proper regulation and inspection of wells.  When I was in santa Fe last August I had a conversation with Dan Fuqua, the state geologist.  I simply walked into the offices of the New Mexico Land Commissioner and asked for an appointment.  They took me right up to see Mr. Fuqua.  Would that ever happen in Harrisburg?  No.

By the way he said if anyone from Pennsylvania wants to learn about what they do they’re welcome to come to Santa Fe and see him.

Corbett to DEP: Stop Gas Regulation

DEP has now been completely defanged by Tom Corbett.  The Governor’s DEP issued orders saying only the top people at the environmental agency can issue permits and allow regulation of gas drillers within Pennsylvania.  Michael Krancer, a former statewide candidate for the appellate judiciary, will oversee all lack of enforcement and regulation of the industry.  Even prior violations will be rescinded under the new policy.

This means there is no longer even a semblance of oversight as gas drillers pepper the state with new gas wells.  Each well requires millions of gallons of water for fracking and much of the toxic fluids are being illegally dumped and more is being shipped to waste water treatment systems unprepared to remove radioactivity and heavy metals.  The poisons are then being dumped directly into our rivers.  Gas well explosions are happening and residents are discovering they can light their tap water on fire.  The contamination of water supplies is making properties worthless.  Welcome to Tom Corbett’s Pennsylvania.  1,500,000 acres of state forest has now been leased for drilling, so much for “clean natural gas.”

The Marcellus Shale Political Contributions

Penn Action has renamed Tom Corbett “Tom Corporation” for his million dollars in Marcellus shale energy company contributions.  He is, by far, the leading candidate in accepting payoff money from the energy industry trying to cover our landscape with gas drilling rigs.  As such he has also said he opposes any severance taxes on these companies.  

Drilling in Pennsylvania is costing us money.  The vast field of natural gas covers 2/3 of this state and is a valuable natural resource belonging to every person in the Commonwealth.  The cost of extracting the gas should fall on the shoulders of the energy companies not the taxpayers.  Each well drilled means hundreds of large trucks barreling over country roads, every gas well which explodes means a heavy burden on volunteer emergency crews in rural Pennsylvania.  Every poisoned well means DEP must provide fresh, potable water to hundreds of households.  Every contaminated aquifer means worthless homes and properties.  Extracting this gas is not free but, so far, it has been for these corporations.  A fair gas severance tax shared with local governments is essential for Pennsylvania but politicians taking their money are opposed.  In addition to Tom Corbett here is a list of the guilty parties.

Just because someone has accepted a small amount doesn’t mean they’re selling you out.  The more money involved the more they’ve been bought.  Call your legislator is he/she is on the list and ask where they stand.  It is imperative to know who is corrupted before voting Tuesday.

Gas Well Explodes, 2 Dead This Time

Another Marcellus gas well exploded and this time two workers were killed.  DEP responded promptly this time because, apparently, someone notified them in time and I have to wonder how many more wells are going to explode, how many houses will follow as gas seeps up through the ground from fracking and whether the ground water near this explosion is now poisoned.

The EPA is conducting some public hearings on hydro fracturing and 1200 people showed up for one in western Pennsylvania to listen to oil and gas industry spokespeople claim no one has ever proven gas has contaminated ground water.  That is correct bit consider why:  since Dick Cheney’s energy task force exempted them from the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act the EPA has no authority to test the air, water or ground for contaminants, the industry doesn’t have to tell us what they’re putting into this fracking fluid (it isn’t water after you infuse it with hundreds of toxic chemicals and substances), and science isn’t exact enough to prove beyond a doubt any direct causal relationship.

Of course it doesn’t take a genius to understand that people live for hundreds of years on using water supplies then cannot directly after wells are drilled.  It doesn’t take a genius to know if there’s enough gas in your water you can light it on fire the gas came from somewhere new, perhaps that well across the road…

Some of Mark Critz’s brilliant campaign people were on Facebook this week claiming no wells have been contaminated and that its all about “jobs, jobs, jobs!”  Yes, theirs.  What good are jobs when all the people are being poisoned?  The jobs won’t help much once we’re all dead.  If wells aren’t being contaminated by this drilling why is DEP providing replacement water to hundreds of people?

Congressman Joe Sestak is now calling on the EPA to investigate and prevent water supply contamination.  Though he sees the economic benefits from gas exploration he thinks it must be done safely and responsibly:

“There is extraordinary economic potential associated with the development of Marcellus Shale resources,” said Congressman Sestak. “However, as the oil spill in the Gulf reminds us, there is also great risk. It is, therefore,  critical that this study is detailed and completed in a transparent manner. I encourage the EPA to create a thorough and scientifically based study, and I suggest that they do so in as expeditious a manner as feasible, given strong economic pressures and rapid development already taking place, especially in Pennsylvania.”

In his comments, the Congressman outlined key points which the study must address: the impact of many wells in a small area, as is already the case in Pennsylvania; the effectiveness of municipal wastewater treatment systems in handling the fluid drawn out of the wells; standard engineering controls and safety practices related to the drilling technology; and the risks posed by abandoned wells, acknowledging that more than one-half of the location of Pennsylvania’s abandoned oil and gas wells are unknown.

“Communities in Pennsylvania are facing significant amounts of drilling in relatively small areas,” said Congressman Sestak in his comments. “They were approved and initiated prior to this study, and created, I believe, in an expeditious manner that is potentially harmful. While we must understand the impact of fracking in individual wells, this study must also consider anticipated high-density drilling in relatively short periods of time to account for the cumulative effects of drilling on a region’s drinking water supply.”

Along with these comments, Congressman Sestak has joined Senator Casey in support of the FRAC Act, which would restore Safe Drinking Water Act protections for drilling operations using fracture drilling. In addition, after a blowout and explosion at a drilling site in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania last month, Congressman Sestak wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to urge improved safety measures to protect Pennsylvanians from the potentially detrimental effects of hydraulic fracturing noting that oversight was inadequate and putting workers at risk.

Individuals or organizations wishing to contribute written comments to the EPA regarding the proposed hydraulic fracturing research study can do so from now until September 1, 2010 by emailing comments to hydraulic.fracturing@epa.gov or by mailing them to:

Jill Dean

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Mail code 4606M,

Washington, DC  20460

Rendell Cuts DEP While Key Aides Move to the Gas Industry

Now we may know why Gov. Rendell gutted the DEP budget the past two years:  his office is a revolving door to lucrative jobs in the shale gas drilling industry.  Fast Eddie’s Administration has been frought with appearances of corruption his entire tenure.  Major contributors received tens of millions in tax money in return for generous campaign contributions and Rendell’s former law firm got huge state contracts.  There have been direct connections between being cozy with the Guv and getting tons of tax dollars back to your company.  Albert Boscov is just one example.  The department store magnate gave Rendell hundreds of thousands in $50,000 campaign contributions then $50 million in tax funds to buy back his firm.  The state even contributed money for a statue of the man in Reading.  Boscov is one of many who got very, very good returns for their money.

Now three of Rendell’s aides have left his office to work for shale gas drilling companies.  K Scott Roy, Sarah Battisti and Barbara Sexton have all gone straight from the Governor’s Office to gas drillers.  If you’re wondering who sold you out now you know where to look for a culprit.  There are usually reasons when the people get screwed and these normally reside directly within campaign finance reports.  This year the gas industry is buying Tom Corbett lock, stock and barrels.

Penn’s Woods to be Renamed Gasland

Pennsylvania, once a place of green hills, clean water and beautiful spaces is being ravished and her open spaces raped by energy companies exploiting the Marcellus Shale deposits and greedy lawmakers, is renaming itself Gasland.  The HBO documentary film illustrates the effects of fracking on water supplies and our environment but people like Tom Corbett and others would rather sell us all down the river.  A very dirty, polluted river at that.

Gas drilling operators are seeking to seize your property’s mineral rights by eminent domain so they can pollute your drinking water and despoil our waterways without your permission.  Thank the Bush Supreme Court for this because they determined the public use of property seizure by eminent domain is legal when used for private corporate profit rather than the public good.  In fact, in this case, it would be greatly to the public detriment.

How much do you think your property will be worth with no access to potable, clean drinking water?  Try zilch.  This stands to be the largest land grab since America seized Indian lands and engaged in a century long period of genocide towards our aborigines.  Perhaps this is the circle closing on greedy white men who are now going to seize the same lands we took from the Iroquois and Delawares.  Take some advice:  leave now while you can.