Tuesday, December 18, 2012

PA Marcellus News Digest 12/18/12

PA Marcellus News Digest
December 18, 2012


Setting the Record Straight on LNG Exports, Health, and Hydraulic Fracturing  (The Empire Strikes Back)
Energy in Depth
Steve Everley
Dec 14
This week, a group called Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSEHE) organized a petition to urge the United States to block natural gas exports. Their reasoning?  Exports of natural gas would increase the use of hydraulic fracturing and thus, they claim, the public’s exposure to adverse health effects. We’re here to set the record straight.

Fayette farmer defends face-off with gas crews in field
Pitt Trib
Liz Zemba
Dec 18
A Fayette County farmer who spent four days in jail for contempt of court said he was trying to protect the environment from acidic wastewater when he disobeyed a judge‘s order and confronted a crew that was laying gas pipeline on his property.

Ruffalo: Gas industry hiding behind deals
Don Hopey
Dec 18
Actor Mark Ruffalo, an outspoken and longtime opponent of shale gas fracking who is in southwestern Pennsylvania to work on a movie, said lawsuit settlements that prevent those involved from discussing their problems are "un-American" and infringe on the public's need to know about drilling impacts that could damage human health and the environment.

Farmer released from jail after confronting workers over mine discharge
Don Hopey
Dec 18
UNIONTOWN, Pa. -- A still-indignant 73-year-old cattle farmer walked out of the Fayette County Jail on Monday morning after serving a four-day contempt-of-court sentence for confronting natural gas pipeline company employees who he said were pumping acidic mine water onto his pasture for a second time.

Salamanders among species facing greatest threats from Northeast drilling -- report
E&E News, Energy Wire
Gayathri Vaidyanathan
Dec 18
Salamanders do not have lungs or gills, and breathe through their skin; thus, they are particularly vulnerable to water quality and acidity in the woodland streams of Pennsylvania and New York.
Together with salamanders, 14 other species of animals and plants in the Marcellus and Utica shales are especially at risk from shale gas development, according to a report published in the journal Environmental Practice.

Of the 15 species, four -- the Cheat Mountain salamander and West Virginia spring salamander, along with the plants shale-barrens pimpernel and northern blue monkshood -- are on federal or state endangered species lists.

In hydraulic fracturing, companies blast millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand at shale to release trapped gas. In the process, flowback and produced water come back to the surface and need to be disposed of.

Recent studies have suggested that streams in the Marcellus Shale have become more saline due to oil and gas-related activities (EnergyWire, Nov. 7). The increased salinity can pose a threat to salamanders, which are sensitive to water quality, according to the report.

Of the many species that reside in regions that overlap with potential shale gas development, the West Virginia spring salamander is of special concern, said Erik Kiviat, executive director of the nonprofit research group Hudsonia and co-author of the study.

There are about 250 individuals of this species, which is on the federal endangered species list. The reptiles live in the General Davies Cave and depend on the water quality of a nearby stream. The species is vulnerable to extinction because it occupies such a small geographic range, Kiviat said.

The report focuses on shale gas in combination with threats from coal mining, urbanization, logging and other developments.

The effect of shale gas extraction in the Northeast on biodiversity has been relatively unstudied. Few studies that establish baselines of biodiversity exist.

In other states, such as North Dakota, where energy extraction has been happening for a few years, scientists are beginning to set up some baselines for charismatic species such as mule deer. Even so, animals often get lost amid the larger concerns over public health impacts (EnergyWire, July 9).

"Conservation scientists are very concerned about forest fragmentation because there are many animals and plants that require relatively large areas of contiguous forests," Kiviat said. "And if something happens such as clearcutting or clearing of the forest for energy development or agriculture or something else, it can fragment a forest in a way that it can make it unsuitable for some of these species."

Designing management programs to protect some of these species can be challenging, since they have not been well studied, according to the report.

And fracking may be beneficial for a few species, such as the Appalachian cottontail rabbit, which is known to colonize clearcut areas and shrub lands. Pipelines and abandoned well pads may be an ideal habitat for the animals.

But the study cautions that the benefits to a few species will be at the expense of threats to many other species.

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