Friday, January 25, 2013

PA Marcellus News Digest 1/25/13

PA Marcellus News Digest
January 25, 2013


Over 200,000 Public comments Delivered to the Department of Energy Critizing Flawed Economic Study on Natural Gas Exports
Sierra Club
Jan 24
WASHINGTON, DC- Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, CREDO, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Food & Water Watch, and the Sierra Club delivered over 200,000 public comments, including extensive technical comments and a companion economic analysis report, along with a letter signed by 80 organization to the Department of Energy (DOE) expressing outrage over an economic study on exporting natural gas overseas that it is reviewing.


Fracking supporters offer more fiction than fact
John S. Detwiler
Letter to the Editor
Jan 23
Terry Engelder and David Yoxtheimer use the film "Promised Land" as the hook for their Jan. 17 Perspectives piece "Marcellus Shale, Movie Star," so it's ironic that there is more fiction, myth and slick stereotyping from these supposedly objective academicians than is found in Matt Damon's movie script.

An Increase in Radiation Monitoring for Fracking
NY Times
Green Blog
Jan 25
Pennsylvania will step up its monitoring of naturally occurring radiation levels in water, rock cuttings and drilling wastes associated with oil and gas development in a yearlong study that will be peer-reviewed, the state’s environmental agency reports.

The politics and business of unconventional energy
Energy Wire
Jan 25
(full text below)
Environmental regulators in Pennsylvania will spend the next year preparing what they call the "most comprehensive study of its kind" of radioactive material in flow-back water and other natural gas drilling waste.

The Department of Environmental Protection announced yesterday that it will sample flow-back water, treatment solids and drill cuttings to analyze naturally occuring radioactivity that enters the drilling materials when they are pushed thousands of feet underground.

"This administration is undertaking what will be the most comprehensive study of its kind anywhere," DEP Secretary Michael Krancer said in a statement. "Gov. [Tom] Corbett has directed us to do so in order to be proactive for the future and to continue Pennsylvania's leadership in responsible development of domestic natural gas resources."

The agency said in a news release that it routinely reviews radioactivity data and has found levels to be low, but launched the study to do more thorough research. Krancer also dug in his heels in the ongoing national discussion of whether the federal government should increase its regulation of shale drilling technologies like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.

"[The study] is further demonstration that states are best suited to responsibly oversee the natural gas exploration and production activities taking place in our respective borders," said Krancer, a staunch opponent of U.S. EPA involvement in shale development.

Radioactivity is part of the battle cry from environmentalists who warn that fracking fluid can contaminate drinking water via spills or leaks at the well site or during handling of wastewater, which must be reused, stored or treated after a well has been completed. The wastewater contains chemicals used during fracking, along with traces of radioactive material churned up underground (EnergyWire, Sept. 6, 2012).

Nadia Steinzor, of the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, said she welcomed news of the study and increased attention to wastewater risks. But she questioned the agency's assumptions going into the study.

"DEP's emphasis in its press release that radioactivity levels related to oil and gas are inconsequential raises the possibility that the agency may have reached a foregone conclusion," she said in an email. "So we can only hope the study will be truly rigorous and unbiased."

Pennsylvania already requires radiation monitoring in landfills, where drillers sometimes send cuttings and other solid waste. DEP said less than half a percent of that waste triggered a radiation monitor last year.

The agency has also tested state rivers downstream of treatment plants that used to handle Marcellus Shale waste and found radiation levels to be at or below safe levels. Public wastewater treatment plants in Pennsylvania can no longer process flow-back water.

Peer reviewers are looking over DEP's study plan, which will be posted online when it is finalized.

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