Date: Sun, Feb 6, 2011 at 9:50 PM
Subject: NYRAD Newsletter February 2011
NYRAD Newsletter February 2011
The Broome County Legislature has convened for 2011 with 7 new legislators. The legislature may be looking again at a proposal to lease county land for gas drilling. Does your legislator know what your views are? If not please contact him/her and let your legislator know how YOU feel about the dangers of fracking in Broome County. Contact info available here: http://gobroomecounty.com/legis/legis
In Chenango County, the Chenango County Gas Advisory Committee has been working to answer the question, "How can we make it easier for a driller to do business in our area?". Is this what YOU want them to do? These monthly meetings are open to the public, and Chenango County residents are urged to attend. Let the committee members know about your concerns. For more information call Rema Loeb at 607-693-1150.
In Tioga County concern about increased industrial activity near residential areas in Owego continues to mount. A new group called Concerned Citizens of Tioga County has begun meeting to address these issues. For more information write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next NYRAD Meeting is on Monday, February 14 at 7-9 PM at the Unitarian Church on Riverside Drive in Binghamton (next to Lourdes Hospital). We are expecting guests from affected areas in Pennsylvania who will share their experiences with us. All who share NYRAD's goals are welcome.
Events of Interest:
Feb 11 – 13
More Info: http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org/node/2407
February 14, Monday, 7-9 pm
NYRAD monthly meeting
Community room, Unitarian Universalist Church, 183 Riverside Dr., Binghamton (next to Lourdes Hospital) (map)
We are expecting guests from affected areas in Pennsylvania who will share their experiences with us. We will talk about the ways in which each of us can make a difference - by educating others and by engaging our town, county, and state government representatives. If you have an agenda item you would like to bring up at the meeting, please email Elaine Perkus at email@example.com with your idea. We look forward to seeing you there!
February 17, Thursday, 7pm
NYPIRG Meet and Greet
University Union Building, Room 102 (just off of the union lobby)
Come out and meet the students and interns at Binghamton University working on hydrofracking.
NYPIRG will be hosting a Meet and Greet for student and community activists to meet each other, network, and share ideas for how they can work together. There will be short presentations by chapter president Briana Hussey and campaign organizer Brendan Woodruff on what NYPIRG is, what they have done on the issue thus far, and what their upcoming plans are. A reception for students and community members to network, share ideas, and plan out future actions will follow.
February 20, Sunday, 2-4pm
Two Scientists Debate the Pros and Cons of Gas Drilling
SUNY Cortland, Brown Auditorium, 9 Main St, Cortland, NY(map)
Professor Anthony R. Ingraffea (Cornell University) and Professor Donald Siegel (Syracuse University) debate the pros and cons of gas drilling
Organized by GDACC (Gas Drilling Awareness for Cortland County)
February 23, Wednesday, 7-9 pm
Hubbard Auditorium, 56 Main St, Owego, NY
Q & A after the movie with Chris Burger
March 3, Thursday, 7pm
Fracking 201 with Chris Burger
University Union Building, Room 102 (just off of the union lobby)
The first installment of the Fracking 201 lecture series will feature Chris Burger talking on the effects that hydrofracking will have on outdoors enthusiasts, including hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers, hikers, and anyone else who enjoys being outside. 30 - 45 minute talk followed by Q & A.
Art show opening: "Our Priceless Planet"
PUT UP A SIGN !!!
We have all 3 of these yard signs available NOW.
Call (607) 798-0787 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org to get one for YOUR yard.
Let your neighbors know that YOU care================================================
Fire chiefs: traffic congestion is delaying emergency response times in Bradford Countyhttp://thedailyreview.com/news/fire-chiefs-traffic-congestion-is-delaying-emergency-response-times-in-bradford-county-1.1095692
NORTH TOWANDA TOWNSHIP - As a result of the increased traffic on roads in the Towanda area, the number of traffic accidents last year on the "Golden Mile" in Wysox Township more than doubled, and the increased traffic congestion is delaying firefighters from getting to the scene of emergencies, two fire chiefs said Tuesday.
The increased number of motor vehicle accidents in the county and the breakdown of gas industry trucks are driving up the number of calls that area fire departments are responding to, North Towanda Fire Chief Terry Sheets said at a summit held Monday on traffic and road issues, which took place at Bradford County's 911 center.
Last year, for example, the North Towanda Fire Department last year responded to 197 calls, up from 134 the year before, Sheets said.
And the Wysox Fire Department responded to over 200 calls last year, whereas it would on average respond to 130 in a year, Sheets said.
"I think every fire department in the county is taxed because of (the need for) manpower and the (delayed) response time because of the traffic," Sheets said.
The summit, which was organized on behalf of the Bradford County commissioners and the Bradford County Department of Emergency Services, was also attended by officials from the state police, the state Department of Transportation, several gas drilling companies, all three Bradford County commissioners, the Troy and Towanda police chiefs, the Wysox fire chief, and representatives from the Bradford County Emergency Services Department and Bradford-Susquehanna EMS Council.
Sheets said firefighters are being delayed as they try to get through congested traffic to their fire stations, where they transfer to fire trucks.
"It's just about impossible to get through" U.S. Route 6 in Wysox Township (the Golden Mile) to get to local fire stations, Sheets said.
"People don't yield to the caution lights" on the firefighters' personal vehicles as they drive to the fire stations, Sheets said.
"It's delaying the response time (to get to emergencies) because people can't get to the station in a timely manner," Sheets said.
The traffic congestion on Route 6 in Wysox Township between the Veterans Memorial Bridge and state Route 187 is so bad that "ninety percent of the time it takes 20 minutes to (drive) those two miles," Wysox Fire Chief Brett Keeney said.
On that two-mile stretch of road, there were 120 motor vehicle accidents last year, up from the approximately 40 to 50 accidents a year that would normally occur on that section of Route 6, Keeney said.
And he said the 120 accidents only represents the ones that the fire department was called out to.
The fire department is not called out to minor accidents, such as rear-end collisions where no one is hurt and the vehicles involved can pull off the road, Keeney said.
Keeney estimated that, in total, there are now over 200 accidents a year reported through 911 on that two-mile stretch of Route 6.
Bradford County Public Safety Director Gary Wilcox has said that the advent of the gas industry has resulted in a lot more vehicles on the roads in Bradford County. And with more vehicles on the road, there is an increased likelihood of accidents, he said.
Sheets said another problem is that firefighters "are being called out constantly for trucks being broken down."
"We spend two, three, four hours doing traffic control for disabled, broken-down vehicles in the road," Sheets said.
"Our people have lives, too," Sheets said. "We're being burdened to take care (of this)."
Still another problem is that firefighters are being called out because traffic on local roads is being impeded due to trucks that have run out of fuel.
He said the problem is that the companies that own the trucks will only allow them to refuel once a night.
The trucks "can sit there for two hours" while they wait for another truck to arrive on scene to refuel it.
But state police Cpl. Roger Stipcak said that the state police could order the trucks towed immediately to clear the roadway, so that firefighters wouldn't have to wait for the refueling truck to arrive.
Bradford County Commissioner John Sullivan said he was concerned about the increased call volume that fire departments are experiencing because it is a burden for the volunteers in the fire departments.
Eventually, he said, there are going to be volunteers who quit because they need to spend more time with their families or on their jobs, he said.
"Whatever we can do to ease that callout volume is something we want to look at," Sullivan said.Read more at:
How many water supplies have been impacted by gas drilling? Pa. doesn't keep count
Strengthened oil and gas regulations to be considered by a state review board this week will help answer an increasingly urgent question in the era of Marcellus Shale exploration: how many water supplies have been impacted by drilling activities?
Right now, no one is keeping a complete count.
The Oil and Gas Act does not require drillers to notify state regulators when landowners alert them that drinking water has been harmed by the companies' operations.
Under current law, the Department of Environmental Protection must look into cases of potential drinking water pollution only when it is asked to investigate a problem by a landowner.
The department also does not track how often gas drillers voluntarily replace drinking water supplies, either temporarily or permanently.
"Often, homeowners and drillers work out agreements without needing the department's assistance," DEP spokesman Tom Rathbun said. "We get involved when we are notified of a problem, but we are not made aware of every case."
A revised Oil and Gas Act will change that. When the new regulations go into effect, likely in January if they pass all reviews, drillers will have to notify the department within 24 hours of receiving a complaint.
An earlier draft of the revisions, which gave drillers 10 days to notify the department of a complaint, was changed after commentators on the regulations argued that was not quick enough.
The change from no notification to nearly instantaneous notification signals an increasing awareness of how often drinking water complaints go uncounted at a time when everyone from farmers to the federal government is looking for more complete information on the short- and long-term impacts of gas drilling on water resources.
Without the mandatory disclosure, critics say, voluntary arrangements can take advantage of the fact that there are disincentives for landowners to ask DEP to intervene: People may feel intimidated about pushing their complaints or fear causing any disruption to the gas companies that pay them royalties.
On some occasions, gas companies, even when working side-by-side with regulators to address water complaints, have made clear efforts to keep voluntary water replacement arrangements out of the public eye.
How many problems?
There is a clear gap between the relatively small number of state orders for drillers to provide homes with replacement water and the visible proliferation of water tanks (called buffaloes), well vents, new wells, treatment systems and bottled water being delivered or installed in gas-drilling regions.
After a records search in June 2009, DEP reported there had been fewer than 80 cases of groundwater contamination caused by oil and gas drilling in the state in more than 15 years, as measured by the number of official orders the agency sent to drillers to permanently restore or replace damaged water supplies.
With 32,000 oil and gas wells drilled within that time span, that amounts to a .25 percent incident rate - a track record the industry frequently touts.
But unofficial counts put the number of disturbed water supplies much higher.
Daniel Farnham, an environmental engineer who has tested more than 2,000 water wells in Northeast and Northcentral Pennsylvania where Marcellus Shale drilling is under way, estimates as many as 50 homes in Bradford County alone are currently getting replacement water supplies provided by gas companies.
In Susquehanna County, Dimock Twp. offers a vivid example of the gap between the officially determined size of the problem and the true number of drinking water supplies that have been replaced.
DEP has ordered Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. to replace 18 water supplies - connected to 19 homes - that were tainted with methane the agency traced to faulty Cabot Marcellus Shale gas wells, a claim the company refutes.
But according to Cabot documentation provided to the department as part of the order, at least 36 Dimock residences have at some point had water supplies replaced or remediated by Cabot at least temporarily.
At the time Cabot provided DEP with its water replacement list, in June, the company had drilled 89 natural gas wells in and around Dimock - meaning Cabot remedied or replaced a water supply, on average, for more than one in every three gas wells it drilled.
Cabot spokesman George Stark said the numbers reflect Cabot's policy of investigating all water supply complaints and "when we see the immediate need" providing replacement water during an investigation. Some complaints may turn out to be unfounded, unrelated to gas drilling, or temporary disruptions that clear up on their own, he said.
Cabot, the most active driller in Susquehanna County, has removed nine homes from the list of 36 receiving water, Mr. Stark said. The company drilled one replacement water well and reconditioned three others. Five homes accepted filtration systems that are in the process of being installed.
Chesapeake Energy, the most active driller in Bradford County, did not answer a request to disclose the number of water supplies it has replaced or remediated.
"Waiting to blow me up"
Most drillers and many landowners say voluntary arrangements for solving residential water problems are amicable, even generous.
Gary Lopez, a Dimock resident, wrote grateful letters to area newspapers thanking Cabot "for solving my water problems" by first delivering replacement water then drilling a new well after his old well "tested high for methane and barium."
In the worst cases, though, homeowners have found gas company representatives bullying even as they appear to be helping to fix the problem.
Sherry Vargson noticed her faucets began to sputter and blow what seemed like air after Chesapeake Energy performed what workers told her was a maintenance procedure on the gas wells yards from her Granville Summit home in June.
A company contractor tested the head space in her water well and found elevated levels of methane. DEP tests a month later found the flammable gas present in her water supply at 56.3 mg/L - twice the level at which water can no longer hold the gas and releases it into the atmosphere or enclosed spaces, creating a risk of explosion.
Because pre-drilling water tests "did not find the presence of the methane gas," DEP found that the tests indicated that gas well drilling caused the change in the water supply.
Chesapeake has provided the Vargsons with bottled water since the day in June when the company detected the gas, but despite DEP recommendations that the company install a vent stack on the well to help keep the gas from concentrating, the well is still not vented.
Instead, Chesapeake presented Mrs. Vargson with an agreement in July which required the family to release the company from all claims and liabilities related to the water up until that date in exchange for installing a vent "as a precautionary measure."
The agreement, which the Vargsons refused to sign in its original form, also included a non-disclosure clause meant to bar the family from discussing the agreement, its terms or Chesapeake's role in providing a vent.
In a statement, Chesapeake's senior director for corporate development, Brian Grove, said the company does not believe its activities affected the Vargson water well, which he said was "equipped with a venting cap predating our operations" because of "pre-existing methane." The company's pre- and post-drilling water tests show the water "virtually unchanged," he said - a position at odds with DEP findings reported Sept. 2.
Whenever a question is raised about any water supply, Mr. Grove said, the company "routinely provides a temporary replacement source of water as a courtesy and notifies the DEP immediately while we begin to investigate" - a process that "most often" finds that the problem is not related to drilling activity, he added.
The purpose of the legal agreements is to grant the company permission "to access the property and provide needed equipment or services" in cases where a lot of activity will be required in or near a home.
"Confidentiality clauses are common in these and many other types of agreements," he said.
Mrs. Vargson, who now sleeps with three windows open, is frustrated that the DEP has not enforced its finding linking gas drilling to her water problems, which she is not afraid to discuss.
Last week, she held a match to the sputtering water running from her kitchen faucet and a flame ran up the stream to the spout.
"All of that is aerating in here," she said, "pocketing in the house, waiting to blow me up."
About 20 miles across Bradford County, near Spring Lake, two Chesapeake-provided water buffaloes sit in the yard behind the more than 100-year-old farmhouse owned by Jacqueline Place.
On April 1, nearly two weeks after the water to Ms. Place's home turned cloudy then dark brown and her sister's cows refused to drink it, a DEP inspector and Chesapeake contractors came to test the water. Chesapeake disconnected the well, filled the water buffaloes and plumbed them into the home - a project that took hours.
At around 10 p.m., the last Chesapeake contractor handed Ms. Place a document and told her he would not flip the switch on the system he had just installed unless she signed it. According to her sister, Roslyn Bohlander, the contractor told Ms. Place the document was "nothing" important and, when pressed, told her it was a nondisclosure agreement.
Ms. Place would not acknowledge the document or release it to The Times-Tribune.
"It was such a crisis point," Mrs. Bohlander said. In the previous days, Ms. Place and her son had not used the water to shower, cook or clean dishes or clothes. They took sponge baths, Mrs. Bohlander said, and the cows, "they were just drinking enough to live."
DEP and private tests have since shown elevated levels of methane and metals in the water.
"They did all they had done to make it not be a bad situation," she said, "but then they said you can't have this water."
Mr. Grove said Chesapeake does not believe its operations have affected the water supply and "have not caused any reduction of quality of the water in the well.
"Repeated analyses have not detected any constituents related to natural gas drilling and production," he said.
The company continues to provide replacement water to the Places and Bohlanders, like the Vargsons "as a courtesy," he said, "while we work with the DEP and residents to bring closure to these matters."
Chesapeake has told the family on three occasions, each with between 24 and 48 hours notice, that it planned to take away the buffaloes and stop the water deliveries. DEP officials have told the family they cannot stop Chesapeake from taking the water because they did not order the company to provide the water in the first place, Ms. Place said.
Mrs. Bohlander said the price of a buffalo and frequent water deliveries for the cows and the home is "unaffordable."
"We no longer have a plan B," she said.