Friday, October 19, 2012

PA Marcellus News Digest 10/19/12

PA Marcellus News Digest
October 19, 2012


Pa. could withold South Fayette's impact fee revenue
Laura Olson
Oct 19
In its first official ruling since gaining new powers under the state's 6-month-old Marcellus Shale law, the Public Utility Commission on Thursday told South Fayette to revise its drilling ordinance or it will miss out on this year's impact fee dollars.

EPA adds $84,500 fine for Washington County well fire
Atlas Resources paid state fine last year
Sean D. Hamill
Oct 19
In a move that may be a first for the state during the Marcellus Shale era, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced it had fined Atlas Resources LLC $84,500 for a 2010 well fire in Washington County -- the same well fire the state had already fined Atlas $80,000 for last year.

Driller agrees to $84K federal fine for pollution in Washington County
Pitt Trib
Timothy Puko
Oct 18
A Findlay-based drilling company agreed to pay an $84,506 federal fine for air pollution and hazardous chemical violations partly connected to a 2010 fire in Washington County, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

MSC Highlights Pro-Marcellus News Coverage
Keegan Gibson
Oct 18
Election day is a mere 19 days away, and the Marcellus Shale Coalition wants to remind voters that Pa. is better off thanks to natural gas development.

Pennsylvania governor benefited from untraceable $1.5 million donation
Center for Public Integrity
Paul Abowd
Oct 18
At a campaign stop near Philadelphia early in his 2010 bid for governor, Republican Tom Corbett announced “we’ve got to raise money,” that it was the “number-one” priority. In an answer to his prayers, that same July day, a $1.5 million contribution arrived from — Wisconsin?

Abrupt exit: The state parks are losing a friend and protector
Oct 13
The sudden departure of John Norbeck, head of the state parks system, is not good for Pennsylvania parks or Pennsylvanians.

State universities have no drilling plans
Pittsburgh Business Times
Anya Litvak
Oct 19
Don’t expect to see giant rigs pummeling the campuses of Slippery Rock, California University or Indiana University of Pennsylvania anytime soon. Despite a new law that now allows state universities to receive leasing and royalty payments on the gas produced on their land, none of the three southwestern Pennsylvania state universities are rushing to sign away their Marcellus drilling rights.

Illnesses more common closer to gas operations, Pa. survey finds
E&E News
Gayathri Vaidyanathan,
(full text below)
A new effort to quantify some of the health effects believed to be caused by shale gas development in Pennsylvania has found a correlation between the distance from the well sites and observed health problems.
That is enough, project leaders say, to warrant a more systematic look at public health impacts at a pace faster than currently adopted by states and the federal government.
"States are far, far slower to respond to information that is available, let alone to take the steps necessary to address and prevent impacts. As a result, they are playing roulette with public health," said Nadia Steinzor, eastern program coordinator of Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project and lead author of the report.
The rumored health impacts of shale gas development include headaches, fatigue, sinus problems, bad odor and pets falling ill. The study, based on self-reported surveys of people living near oil and gas sites, found that 88 percent of those surveyed experienced sinus and respiratory issues since extraction began. About 80 percent reported a change in mood or energy. And 74 percent reported neurological problems.
The frequency of reported health problems increased closer to oil and gas facilities. For example, only 27 percent of the respondants living more than 1,400 feet away from wells reported throat irritation. In comparison, 74 percent of respondents living less than 500 feet away reported the symptom. Eighty-one percent reported bad odors.
"Think about what it's like to live when you have ongoing emissions from the gas operations as well as these odor events inflicting health impacts on you on a daily basis," said Wilma Subra, prominent environmentalist and co-author of the report.
The project leaders also collected water and air samples from the environments of the most severely affected respondents to find possible routes of exposure. They did basic air testing for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and water testing for certain chemicals.
The tests found VOCs, which can be carcinogenic beyond safe limits, are present in at least some sites, matching results from earlier tests conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (EnergyWire, July 25).
At some sites, the levels of benzene in the air equaled or exceeded the levels found in urban areas of the United States, remarkable for rural Pennsylvania but still below federal safe limits.
The water samples contained a number of metals and methane, but without background readings from before shale gas extraction began, the study could not say whether the amounts have changed over time.


The point of the study was to establish exposure and then to identify the routes of exposure through air, water or soil, something that no federal or state agency is currently undertaking.
Given that health problems can have a strong psychological component, the research needs to have a strong baseline or control to compare against.
In this context, the survey was limited since it looked at just 108 people living in 55 households across 14 counties between August 2011 and July 2012. The surveyors did not have baseline data of health effects from the same families from before the shale gas activity, meaning they could not document a change since oil and gas extraction began.
The project leaders did, however, ask the respondents about the health issues they had before gas development as a limited way to background their study.
The study also informally surveyed five people who lived farther away from gas facilities than the main survey group. That control group generally reported fewer symptoms and less bad odor, the report states. This raises "the possibility that fewer health symptoms exist at longer distances from facilities, an aspect indicated by the project findings overall that warrants further investigation and analysis."
But even without controls, the very presence of some chemicals in air is problematic, said Calvin Tillman, former mayor of Dish, Texas, and founder of ShaleTest.
"History has shown us many of the chemicals that we are detecting does cause health effects, and so why would it be any different in this instance than in other instances?" he said.
Click here to read the report:

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