Sierra club PA Marcellus News Digest March 12
Sierra strikes back, PPG OP ED excoriates medical gag in HB 1950, Shippensurg urges repeal of HB 1950, pollution increases in drinking water not of concern, PSU trains gas regulators with industry funding, Westmoreland passes impact fee, Parks Foundation funding anti-fracking projects, PSEA calls for gas industry to pay their fair shae
Pennsylvania Sierra Club Exposes the Truth of New Fracking Law
Releases Mythbuster Factsheet to Reveal the Ugly Facts of the New Pro-Drilling Law
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Jeff Schmidt: 717.232.0101
Jason Pitt: 202.675.6272
Pennsylvania Sierra Club Exposes the Truth of New Fracking Law
Releases Mythbuster Factsheet to Reveal the Ugly Facts of the New Pro-Drilling Law
Harrisburg—Today the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club launched a new tool in the fight against the Mad Rush to Drill Act or Act 13. The Mad Rush to Drill Act Mythbuster Factsheet is designed to not only discredit industry talking points but also cite specific pieces of the law that promote dangerous fracking practices.
“As the industry looks to begin fracking in other states it is important for everyone to know what is happening in Pennsylvania,” said Deb Nardone, Director of Sierra Club’s Natural Gas Reform Campaign. “This new law shows how deep industry claws are dug into Pennsylvania. The PA mythbuster resource provides the facts that every state with potential for fracking should read before they let this dangerous industry take control.”
“Pennsylvanians deserve to know the truth about what the future of the state will look like with this fracking law in place,” said Jeff Schmidt, Director of Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania Chapter. “The gas industry and the law’s supporters like to make claims that it promotes safe and responsible drilling but the text of the law shows the very opposite. This resource gives the public the facts they need to fight back against this terrible law and protect the health of our communities and environment from fracking.”
The Mad Rush to Drill Act Mythbuster Factsheet provides the truth on fracking fluid disclosure requirements, municipal rights, setbacks of fracking from houses and many others. The Mythbuster Factsheet can be found here: http://www.sierraclub.org/pressroom/downloads/FrackingMythbustersFactSheet.pdf
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Fracking Democracy: Why Pennsylvania's Act 13 May Be the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway
Pennsylvania's Republican leaders have given the natural gas industry unprecedented power to overrule local government and drill anywhere
Editor's Note: This is the first of two articles about Pennsylvania’s Act 13, perhaps the worst new environmental law in the nation, and the effort to stop it from taking effect.
Pennsylvania, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed and where the U.S. coal, oil and nuclear industries began, has adopted what may be the most anti-democratic, anti-environmental law in the country, giving gas companies the right to drill anywhere, overturn local zoning laws, seize private property and muzzle physicians from disclosing specific health impacts from drilling fluids on patients.
PA Sierra Club Exposes the Truth of New Fracking Law
Sierra Club Compass
It is great to see the Natural Gas Reform Campaign, the Hydrofracking Activist Network Team, and Sierra Club activists coordinating great work at local, state, and national levels to rein in the natural gas industry. I want to highlight the PA Chapter's latest effort in particular.
Today our Pennsylvania Chapter launched a new tool in the fight against the State's latest effort to cozy up with the natural gas industry. A factsheet designed to fight back against the new, pro-fracking state law Act 13 of 2012 or, more accurately, the "Mad Rush to Frack Act." This mythbuster factsheet gives us the facts we need to reveal the ugly side of this new law.
Drills & Skills
NEW MILFORD - Brian Hollister has an unusually full résumé for a recent college graduate.
Before school, he served in the Coast Guard, built and restored houses, worked for years at Bendex Corp. and a decade at Procter & Gamble, then retired.
When the sour economy wiped out his savings, he looked at the hills and roads of Susquehanna County and recognized everywhere signs of ready work in the natural gas industry.
Quakes in Ohio tied to area shale operations
State says waste hit unmapped fault
Recent earthquakes along a previously unknown geologic fault line in eastern Ohio were caused by a deep-injection well used to dispose of wastewater from Marcellus Shale gas drilling, a state investigation has revealed.
Pa. teachers union calls for funding from taxes, drilling
Education budget proposal criticized
HARRISBURG -- The state's largest teachers union is calling for lawmakers to increase funding for public schools and pay for it through heightened fees for drilling and new taxes.
In a report titled "Sounding the Alarm," the Pennsylvania State Education Association says that years of inadequate and inequitable state funding, coupled with the recent recession, have put Pennsylvania schools at risk of financial distress. After a year in which school districts have increased class sizes and cut jobs, the union says in a report to be released today, the budget proposed by Gov. Tom Corbett would require districts to raise taxes or cut more programs and positions.
Pennsylvania highlighted in new gas-drilling film
The HBO documentary "Gasland" won an Oscar-nomination and left thousands of viewers wondering about the safety of natural gas drilling and the practice of hydrofracturing.
The Pennsylvania gas law fails to protect public health
Our legislators punted when it was time to protect us, say Pitt experts Bernard Goldstein and Jill Kriesky
Gov. Tom Corbett recently signed a bill that goes beyond just ignoring concerns about the potential human health effects of Marcellus Shale drilling, it retains some of the worst aspects of industry secrecy about proprietary hydrofracking chemicals while making unethical demands on physicians.
Gas drilling isn't harming reservoir water, IUP tests show
Routine water-quality checks at Beaver Run Reservoir indicate that the drilling and production of Marcellus shale wells have no affected on the public drinking supply, according to officials of the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County.
Agencies outline plans for drilling fee revenue
HARRISBURG - Two state agencies are making specific plans for how they will use the earmark of Marcellus Shale drilling impact fee revenue coming their way.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Office of State Fire Commissioner are to each receive $750,000 annually as part of the 40 percent revenue share going to state programs. PEMA Director Glenn Cannon and Fire Commissioner Edward Mann told the House Appropriations Committee last week that this money will be spent in the Shale drilling regions of Northeastern Pennsylvania and western Pennsylvania.
Plans for natural gas pipelines include Lancaster County
Companies drilling in Pennsylvania need better distribution
The rush to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania is expected to have an impact on Lancaster County.
No wells will be drilled here but new underground interstate pipelines need to be built to distribute the natural gas to the East Coast's heavily populated markets.
State official lauds IEER at Wilkes
DEP chief Michael Krancer says unbiased science needed on issues such as gas drilling.
WILKES-BARRE – To understand the impact Marcellus Shale gas drilling is having in Pennsylvania, nothing is more important than unbiased science and public transparency.
Gas drilling industry paying Penn State to train those who regulate the gas drilling industry
What happens when the fox builds the hen house?
The drilling industry helped get some of the most influential lawmakers elected with lavish donations to their campaigns. It paid millions to lobbyists to influence legislation, and it has hired many of the experienced regulators away from public service.
Borough adopts resolution opposing state’s heavy hand
Mayor, Councilman slam Unconventional Gas Well Impact Fee Act
Shippensburg Borough Council members rebelled against state government interference in local matters Tuesday by approving a resolution that urges Pennsylvania legislators to repeal recent legislation that strips municipalities of input in regulating the Marcellus shale industry.
Westmoreland County imposes impact fees on drilling
Every municipality in Westmoreland County is expected to get a share of the money generated by impact fees on Marcellus shale wells.
County commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved an ordinance to impose the annual fees that are anticipated to raise about $4 million this year for the county and local governments to spend on road projects and other infrastructure improvements.
Quiet foundation funds the 'anti-fracking' fight
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In the fight against shale gas drilling, it seems all roads lead back to a low-slung brick building in Ithaca, N.Y.
Inside is the office of the Park Foundation, where a staff of eight has underwritten the rock stars of the anti-drilling movement.
Josh Fox, maker of the Oscar-nominated anti-drilling documentary "Gasland," got $175,000. Robert Howarth, the Cornell University professor whose research first questioned the belief that gas is cleaner than coal, got $35,000. Duke University professor Rob Jackson got $50,000 to continue his work on methane in drinking water.
Cornell, a leading recipient of Park's largesse, has emerged as the academic bastion of resistance to shale drilling, or "fracking," as it is often called. And New York state, where Park focuses its grants, has put up more resistance to the shale boom than any other state. A de facto moratorium has kept rigs out of the state.
"In our work to oppose fracking, the Park Foundation has simply helped to fuel an army of courageous individuals and NGOs," or non-governmental organizations, said Adelaide Park Gomer, foundation president and Park heir, in a speech late last year.
Since 2008, the foundation has given at least $2.8 million to groups and publications fighting shale drilling, showing that drilling opponents do have financial backing.
"You realize there's got to be money coming from somewhere," said Dan Fitzsimmons, president of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, a pro-drilling group, "but we never dreamed of anything like this."
Critics say the real total is closer to double the $2.8 million figure, and accuse the foundation of understating the amount of money it's putting into the fight.
No matter what the total, it's far less than the millions of dollars oil and gas industry groups spend to influence policy and public opinion. But the outsized influence of Park's seed money has infuriated some in the drilling industry.
"Park funds headlines, pure and simple. It funds activities most likely to generate the most attention in the press," said Chris Tucker, spokesman for Energy in Depth, a project funded by oil and gas companies to fend off expanded federal regulation of drilling. "It doesn't fund the hard stuff, the time-intensive, rigorous stuff. And that explains why they're able to do what they do on only a couple million dollars a year."
Such criticism has meant a lot more scrutiny of a charitable institution whose experience with national exposure had been confined mostly to mentions at the end of PBS programs.
Park's supporters and grant recipients say adversaries are peddling conspiracy theories to cast industry as the underdog.
"There's a narrative about Park's agenda that there's some conspiracy to influence public policy," said Jackson, whose grant will fund baseline testing of water in upstate New York. "It's an attempt to dismiss work funded by them, to say, 'Oh, it's a Park project, so we can ignore it.'"
Jon Jensen, the foundation's executive director, acknowledges the heightened criticism. He says the organization has tried to respond by being more public about its affairs. But he says Park has been responding to concerns in the upstate New York community it serves. In Ithaca, "it's probably hard to find anyone who supports fracking," he notes.
"The industry has tried to characterize the foundation as special-interest money," he said. "But we're responding to what's coming at us."
Duncan Hines to drilling
Gomer is the daughter of Roy Park Sr., who built a media empire from the money he made promoting the Duncan Hines food brands. When he died in 1993, Park Communications controlled 21 radio stations, seven television stations, and 144 newspapers and other publications. Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at $550 million and ranked him 175th richest in the country.
He created the Park Foundation in 1966 to support programs in communities where his company had interests. When he died, Park bequeathed more than 70 percent of his holdings to the foundation. Park Communications was sold to Media General.
The foundation's endowment, buffeted during the recession, now stands at about $300 million. For the past few years, the foundation has spent $17 million to $20 million a year on philanthropy. The lion's share of that money goes to education -- scholarships and other funding at Ithaca College in Park's hometown of Ithaca, and his alma mater, North Carolina State University. Another foundation, spun off in 2002, now handles scholarships at Cornell.
Park also puts significant money every year into media -- NPR and the Society of Environmental Journalists have gotten money -- in addition to the academic and environmental grants.
But the foundation's focus increasingly has become the fight against drilling.
Drilling rigs have roared across Pennsylvania as companies rush to tap the Marcellus Shale. They haven't been able to cross into New York, and Gomer wants the temporary moratorium made permanent. Gomer's speech last year was titled, "New York Should Become the First State to Ban Fracking."
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is a segment of the drilling process in which crews blast millions of gallons of chemical-laced water deep underground at high pressure to break apart rock formations and release gas. Some, particularly opponents, use the term "fracking" for all aspects of the drilling process. Many of their concerns relate to aspects of drilling other than the specific fracturing process, such as truck traffic and wastewater disposal.
Others have welcomed drilling as a boost for economic development and a chance for farmers and other rural landowners to cash in their gas rights for hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars.
People like Fitzsimmons, whose organization represents thousands of families who want to lease their gas rights, say Park's grant-making is an example of wealthy, liberal donors blocking economic development in rural areas such as upstate New York.
"They don't want to see any industrialization around their second homes," he said.
Fitzsimmons recounts how he traveled to Ithaca to ask Park officials to fund an education campaign for homeowners interested in leasing.
He wasn't surprised to be turned down. But he said he was surprised when Jensen told him rural landowners were "collateral damage."
"Hearing that we're collateral damage wasn't pleasant," Fitzsimmons said.
Jensen recalled meeting with Fitzsimmons and indicating Park likely wouldn't be interested in the education campaign. But he said he did not recall using the term "collateral damage" or taking that position about landowners.
Gomer rejects the charge of elitism and the idea that opposition is simply a matter of "not in my backyard" thinking.
"The opponents of this are not NIMBY, and the opponents are not wealthy," she said in an interview with EnergyWire. "They don't have second homes. These are people who have children. They're people who care about the beauty of New York state."
Pinning down a total
Park's anti-drilling grants began in 2008 with one for $15,000 and grew to a little more than $1 million in 2011, by the foundation's count.
But that total includes only the grants specifically targeted at anti-drilling programs. Park also provides less specific financial support in five and six figures to groups at the forefront of the anti-fracking fight in New York and nationally.
Before 'fracking,' foe fought a family feud
The words fire quickly from the mouth of Adelaide Park Gomer as she explains the horrors of shale gas drilling, or "fracking."
"I'm just totally opposed to it, along with just about everybody I know with a brain in his head," she said. Farmers' fields "will be a wasteland," she said. "Their animals will die."
But there is a pause, however brief, when she is asked if her father, the late media mogul and philanthropist Roy Park Sr., would have opposed drilling, too.
"I think he probably would have. My father loved the environment. I don't think he'd want to drink polluted water," she said in an interview with EnergyWire. "I think he'd be very proud of what we're doing."
It is the fortune her father assembled that she, as president of the family foundation, has harnessed to take on the oil and gas industry. The Park Foundation gives most of its money for scholarships. But it has become a leading source of money for groups fighting shale drilling, particularly those trying to keep it out of New York.
In the years after his death in 1993, but long before most anyone in upstate New York had heard the term fracking, there was a feud between Gomer and her brother, Roy Park Jr., about giving money to environmental and liberal causes.
The tension could be seen in the foundation's grants. The foundation's 2001 tax return, for example, lists a $5,000 contribution to the conservative Heritage Foundation along with $139,000 for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Her brother laid out the dispute starkly, though without naming names, in "Sons in the Shadows," the 2008 autobiography he wrote about his strained relationship with their father.
"Our foundation's grants were beginning to be based on barely concealed political activism, pessimism, criticism, radical environmentalism and other-isms," he wrote. "My father held conservative principles and as I said, my family will not be the ones who trample on his grave."
By "my family," he meant himself and his two children. Gomer's daughter, Alicia Wittink, served on the board then and now.
In the middle was their mother, Dorothy Park, the elder Park's widow. She decided to spin off a new foundation in 2002. In an affidavit quoted in The Ithaca Journal, Park Foundation board member Jerome Libin said the idea was to provide it with enough money "to support all of the programs Roy Jr.'s side had been supporting."
Called the Triad Foundation, in reference to the trio of Roy Park Jr. and his two children, it has assumed some of Park's commitments to higher education at Cornell and North Carolina State universities. It also provides five-figure grants to Heritage, along with other traditional adversaries of environmental activists, such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute.
In an emailed message, Gomer took issue with her brother's characterization of their father's opinions on the environment.
"My father hailed from a farm family in North Carolina," she wrote. "His parents lived off the land and would never have wanted their property to be turned into a moonscape, despoiled by hundreds of toxic, unidentified chemicals.
"My father's business was the media. He was not involved in assaulting the environment. He loved the outdoors. He lived in a home surrounded by lush vegetation and beautiful gardens and meandering streams."
With Gomer at the helm of the Park Foundation, its donations outside the academic realm are more liberal, from the Humane Society to the Adopt-A-College program of Vegan Outreach.
Gomer describes herself as a grandmother, a former teacher and a cancer survivor. She is also an executive board member of Defenders of Wildlife.
According to a biography from Ithaca College, where she is a trustee, she taught reading and special education in school districts in the Ithaca; Rochester, N.Y.; and Richmond, Va., areas. She has also worked in public relations and advertising in New York and San Francisco.
In the interview, she said her passions run more to "independent media" than stopping drilling, "but it drew me in because it's such a dangerous process."
The country needs to move more quickly, she said, toward clean energy, and people need to change their energy habits.
"We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children," she said. "The Earth and its resources are finite. We cannot use up our children's future."
In a speech last year, she recalled her reaction when she learned how advances in a process called "hydraulic fracturing" would expand natural gas drilling in upstate New York and throughout the Northeast.
"I felt somewhat like an Iraqi must have felt in reaction to 'shock and awe,'" she recalled.
She is given to such attention-getting statements in pursuit of liberal causes. When the village near Ithaca where she lives considered responding to a deer infestation by shooting some, she told municipal leaders the plan would "turn Cayuga Heights into an annual killing field."
While some might see such statements as bombastic, at least one has proved to be understated. In 2002, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Gomer wrote a letter to the Ithaca newspaper arguing against war. Among her other points, she questioned the cost.
"It is estimated that this war will cost as much as $200 billion," she wrote. "Where will this money come from?"
It cost substantially more.
Pa. banks, schools lead leasing education effort
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As companies race to develop natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, some Pennsylvania banks and schools are reaching out to landowners whose properties are falling squarely in the sights of oil and gas producers.
While many Pennsylvania residents are familiar with the complex leasing process, some have never before been approached by energy companies. To help people negotiate the terms of what may be a once-in-a-lifetime financial opportunity, local banks and colleges have rolled out publications and seminars on the subject.
The information campaign comes at a crucial time for the natural gas industry, which is facing growing scrutiny and public backlash as well as increased regulation in some states. It also has made millionaires of some landowners.
"We, like probably every other financial institution situated in this market, started to witness and acknowledge that there was definitely some abundance of behavior driven by the impact of the Marcellus Shale" industry, said Kim Craig, president and CEO of First National Bank of Pennsylvania, which he says has helped many of its customers handle new wealth from oil and gas leases.
But as First National Bank was helping clients with their investments, they noticed many customers were also struggling to find answers to legal and environmental questions related to leasing. Soon after, a number of banks joined forces with local attorneys and colleges to craft comprehensive seminar series to gather all the experts under one roof.
Northwest Savings Bank launched a new website in January to help homeowners navigate the process after being approached by customers who wanted help investing their bonus checks and royalties from leasing. That made bank executives think about who might not be asking for assistance, said Jim Holding, the bank's vice president of communications.
Rural, agricultural families tend to be people with the most land to spare, but they are also the ones who are most distanced from attorneys and other educational resources, he said. Due to these communities' ingrained hardy and independent attitudes, they are also the least likely to reach out for help, either from paid professionals or their own neighbors, Holding said.
"If we're talking about land, these are folks who care deeply about what they have ... and maybe they don't care a lot for lawyers," he said. "We want to throw this [information] out. Call us. It doesn't cost anything."
The bank's online leasing guide, OilandGasHelp.com, is an effort to reach out to those isolated populations to explain common complications in the leasing process.
On the site, users can find advice blogs and frequently asked questions. Site visitors are often encouraged to seek more detailed information from attorneys -- the site often mentions that leases are legal documents -- and neighbors who may have already signed a lease or are in the negotiating process.
Among other things, the site recommends users ask companies what resource is of primary interest to them and encourages landowners to negotiate separate leases for development of each resource. Pennsylvania residents, for example, might own land above both the Marcellus Shale and the deeper Utica Shale and should have the opportunity to reach separate deals for developing each, Holding said.
"If I sign a lease that says [a company is] allowed to drill on my property wherever [it] wants," that company will have free range over the land, Holding said. If property owners want to impose limits on drillers, they need to specify those restrictions in their leases, he said.
Once the document is signed, the landowner's bargaining leverage is severely diminished, so it is better to go into the negotiating process armed with as much information as possible, Holding said. Still, he added, lease holders can also benefit from some of the information found on the site.
Last month, Northwest Savings Bank sponsored a three-night Marcellus Shale seminar series by Pennsylvania's Butler County Community College (BCCC), which has been running information sessions like these for the past two to three years. Most of the workshops feature experts on topics from protecting water quality to ensuring heirs profit from a landowner's wells.
Steve Catt, executive director for workforce development for BCCC, said he has noticed the workshops have soothed some of the controversies that have sprung up around oil and gas drilling. Catt said landowners are often confused by conflicting messages from the energy industry and environmental groups.
"There is a line in between," he said. "That's the line of reality."
Although many of BCCC's seminars have been geared toward Pennsylvania residents, Catt said the school is looking to extend its offerings across the Ohio border as oil and gas companies consider developing the deeper Utica Shale that, like the Marcellus, underlies the eastern part of the state.
Sherry Kyne, owner of wholesale tree grower Eisler Nurseries Inc. in Pennsylvania, said she has attended as many as five leasing seminars since oil and gas companies approached her three years ago about negotiating leases on her three farm properties.
Before she signed her leases, Kyne said, she used the seminars as a way to learn about the different types of leases available -- one of her leases is a no-drill contract that does not allow for wells on her property but lets the company take gas from underneath her land -- and to get a sense of things to look out for.
Although Kyne has since signed the leases, she said she attended a recent BCCC seminar in an effort to keep up to date with the latest leasing information. The workshop prompted her to have her water wells tested in an effort to monitor the effects of nearby drilling.
"Even though we'd already signed a lease, I think it's good to know what other people are doing," she said. "Hopefully, we didn't make any mistakes in our lease."