Friday, May 24, 2013

The DCNR will hold a public meeting on gas development in the Loyalsock State Forest!

Monday, June 3, from 4 to 6 p.m. 

Wendle Hall, Lycoming College, Williamsport        
DCNR Secretary Richard Allan: "DCNR is responding to requests that the public be given the chance to provide the department with information and comments on possible gas development in the Loyalsock, in an area where we do not own the subsurface rights."   

 Now is your chance to show your opposition to gas development in this special place. Speak up, or come to show your opposition and support those who will. Bring friends. Make a difference.

The meeting will begin with a presentation explaining what a wonderful job DCNR will do of mitigating the destruction of a wild and remote gem of the state forest system. Next, you will have an opportunity to question Secretary Allan and State Forester Dan Devlin. You will then be able to speak your mind, with a 5-minute time limit for each speaker. 

DCNR’s announcement of the meeting included a sense of finality with this language: "This meeting is the completion of a series of interactions with the public regarding this complicated and long-standing issue, including a local stakeholder meeting and a public web-based information session." If unable to attend the meeting, written comments may be submitted by email to

Come and join the fight to preserve your public land. 
"The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people." - Article 1, Section 27, Pennsylvania Constitution

Thursday, May 23, 2013

End of the Year Banquet

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

PA Marcellus Digest - May 14, 2013

PA Marcellus Digest – May 14, 2013

Dugan: Forest Service Has ‘Sovereign Police Powers’ Over National Forests

The Bradford Era

Marcie Schellhammer
May 14, 2013

What is the scope of the U.S. Forest Service’s authority on national forest land? According to the attorney for the Sierra Club and Allegheny Defense Project in the appeal of a federal lawsuit over mineral rights on the Allegheny National Forest, the U.S. District Court in Erie erred by saying the government had the same rights as private property owners.

Poll Shows Support for a Drilling Moratorium in Pennsylvania

State Impact

Marie Cusick

May 14, 2013

A new poll out Tuesday shows strong support for a moratorium on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, despite showing general support for gas extraction.


Radioactive Drilling Waste Sparks Concern

State Impact

Marie Cusick

May 14, 2013

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, there has been a fivefold increase in garbage trucks setting off radiation alarms at landfills over the past three years:


DEP testing air quality in Susquehanna County

The Times Tribune

Staci Wilson

May 14, 2013

The state's environmental regulatory agency will monitor air quality in Susquehanna County this week. As a response to concerns expressed by area residents and with the growth of natural gas activity in the county, the state Department of Environmental Protection's mobile analytical unit will be conducting air-quality testing in several locations, including Elk Lake School District.


Lawrence County power plant takes another step forward

Timothy Puko

May 14, 2013

A $750 million power plant project in Lawrence County has taken a big step toward reality with the approval of its state air permit by the Department of Environmental Protection. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

PA Marcellus Digest - May 1, 2013

PA Marcellus Digest – May 1, 2013

Controversy builds over Loyalsock forest drilling
Citizens Voice
Robert Swift
April 24, 2013
A controversy over possible natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest is building as several state lawmakers and environmental groups called Tuesday for Gov. Tom Corbett to take a stronger role in protecting the forest.

Report: State politicians need to address climate change more aggressively
The Patriot News
Robert Vickers
April 24, 2013
Pennsylvania needs to do more to curb it's carbon emissions, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium.

Harvard Study Gives Failing Grade to Fracking Industry Disclosure Website
State Impact
Marie Cusick
April 24, 2013
Bloomberg reports on a new study from Harvard Law School, which finds the fracking industry disclosure website, FracFocus fails as a regulatory compliance tool:

Stronger rules, new commitment to enforcement will restore public confidence
April 25, 2013
 John Hanger, Democratic candidate for governor today announced a comprehensive plan to restore public confidence that state government can ensure the safe extraction of natural gas from the Marcellus shale formation.

Duke Lake to be restored in $36M settlement
Observer Reporter
Bob Niedbala
April 24, 2013
Duke Lake at Ryerson Station State Park, dry for almost eight years, will be restored under an agreement announced Wednesday between the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Consol Energy Inc.

Firms tell Peters that seismic testing is safe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Janice Crompton
April 25, 2013
Peters council members on Monday heard from officials representing seismic testing companies, who came to reassure council that their work is safe. Despite those assurances, council voted to go forward with a new ordinance governing seismic testing for Marcellus Shale gas formations.

Legislator: Drilling in state forest needs input
Sun Gazette
Matt Hutchinson
April 25, 2013
State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, will hold a hearing of the Democratic Policy Committee at 2 p.m. May 1 at Lycoming College's Wendell Hall, room D001 on the topic of natural gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest.

Petition signers urge whistle-blower bill’s sponsor to kill bill
Times Online
Natasha Khan
April 25, 2013
Nearly 800 people in Pennsylvania have signed a petition against proposed Pennsylvania House Bill 683, which would criminalize taking photos, video or recording audio on farmlands.

Federal agency, lab to study natural gas emissions
The Associated Press
April 24, 2013
A federal agency and laboratory will conduct research on air emissions at natural gas drilling sites, and on possible hazards to workers.

Consol Energy Inc. to pay $36 million to replace Greene County damTribLive
Timothy Puko
April 24, 2013
State officials plan to reopen Duke Lake in Greene County by the summer of 2017, now that they have a multimillion-dollar deal with Consol Energy Inc. for dam repairs and gas drilling at Ryerson Station State Park.
Governor: Pa. plant decision probably next year
The Associated Press 
April 27, 2013
The governor says an oil company's decision on whether to build a proposed petrochemical plant in western Pennsylvania may be pushed back into next year, but he remains optimistic about the plant coming to the commonwealth.

EPA Slashes Natural Gas Drilling Emissions Estimates
State Impact
Marie Cusick
April 29, 2013
In a move that could redefine the fracking debate, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically reduced its estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production.

How towns spend their Act 13 drilling fees Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Erich Schwartzel
April 28, 2013
How much rock salt will $12.55 buy?
It's a question that will be answered in Ben Avon Heights, where officials received a check for that amount courtesy of the impact fee levied last year against energy firms drilling for natural gas in the state. There isn't any drilling in Ben Avon Heights, and the amount was proportionally small.

EPA report further divides fracking camps
Observer Reporter
April 28, 2013
The Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its estimate of how much of a potent heat-trapping gas leaks during natural gas production, in a shift with major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists: Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?
Asides: A park lake reclaimed, a state agency rebuked and a hotel ready to dazzle again
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
April 28, 2013
Nothing quite adorns a country scene like a lake -- and Duke Lake at Ryerson Station State Park in Greene County was once a popular spot for swimming, fishing and boating. But in July 2005 the lake was drained amid safety concerns after inspections of the dam forming the lake found it to be cracked and leaking.

Plant could be first to discharge treated wastewater into Susquehanna
Times Online
Rachel Morgan
April 27, 2013
 Eureka Resources’ proposed plant in Bradford County could discharge up to 210,000 gallons of treated fracking wastewater a day into the Susquehanna River if its permit should be approved.

Officials report little progress on drilling in state forest
Sun Gazette
Mike Reuther
April 26, 2013
A discussion held Thursday to consider possible natural gas development in Loyalsock State Forest revealed that the two sides considering the issue appear to be no further along in resolving legal issues and other problems involving drilling.

Experts to testify Thursday about making shale drilling more protective of human health and the environment
April 26, 2013
State Rep. Greg Vitali will host a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday, May 2 in the Minority Caucus Room, 418 Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg. The purpose of the hearing is to explore what state government can do to make shale drilling more protective of human health and the environment.

Buried Secrets: Nearby Ohio company accused of burying and dumping petroleum waste; area impact uncertain
Times Online
Rachel Morgan & Patrick O’Shea
April 25, 2013
An Ohio company about a mile from the Pennsylvania border has been accused of dumping and burying petroleum-contaminated waste on its property close to the Mahoning River, a waterway that eventually flows into the Beaver River.

Hearing set on potential gas exploration in state forest
The Express
April 26, 2013
The public and members of the state House will have an opportunity next week in Williamsport to learn more about efforts to conserve a part of the Loyalsock State Forest open to natural gas development.

CONSOL Energy & the MAWC Partner with the PA Game Commission to Celebrate Arbor Day
April 26, 2013
A Marcellus Shale gas well site got a little bit greener today thanks to CONSOL Energy, the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County and the PA Game Commission.  In honor of Arbor Day, 15 employees from CONSOL Energy spent the morning planting white spruce hardwoods on a well pad to restore the land to its original habitat.

Oil, Natural Gas Spills In Lafayette Township
The Bradford Era
Amanda Nichols
April 29, 2013
A considerable amount of natural gas and crude oil residue blew out of a pipeline when a valve broke in Lafayette Township on Saturday afternoon. Around noon, passersby on U.S. Route 219 reported the spill, visible from the highway shooting about 60 feet in the air out of a pipe, according to fire chief Don Fowler of the Lafayette Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Jail term imposed for Marcellus pipeline damage
The Patriot News
John Beauge
April 26, 2013
A Marcellus Shale natural gas worker who admitted he knowingly on three occasions in June 2011 damaged a buried pipeline in northern Lycoming County with an excavator will spend a year and a day in prison.

In Sunbury, Drilling Waste, Politics, And A Pile Of Dirt
State Impact
Marie Cusick
April 29, 2013
A pile of dirt has sparked controversy in the city of Sunbury, Northumberland County. Recently, an otherwise civil city council meeting devolved into a shouting match. Councilman Joe Bartello and Mayor David Persing sparred over the city’s stormwater management rules.

At long last, Duke Lake is back
Observer Reporter
April 28, 2013
Finally, after eight years, Duke Lake is coming back to Ryerson Station State Park. It’s been a long wait – too long in our opinion – for the parties involved to finally reach an agreement.

Many Stressors Associated With Fracking Due to Perceived Lack of Transparency and Trust, Pitt Finds
April 29, 2013
Pennsylvania residents living near unconventional natural gas developments using hydraulic fracturing, known by the slang term “fracking,” attribute several dozen health concerns and stressors to the Marcellus Shale developments in their area, according to a long-term analysis by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers.

NOTE See our blog post on Sierra Club's Opposition to  House bills 301-309: the so-called "Marcellus Works" package

By Mike Howells

Business leaders from across the state joined a bipartisan group of House members today to highlight the benefits of natural gas as a fuel for heavy duty and commercial vehicles in Pennsylvania, and to promote the Marcellus Works legislative package.

“Just as timber, coal and steel allowed Pennsylvania to prosper in the past,” Rep. Stan Saylor (R-York) said, “so will natural gas, as we work to tap our growing energy industry here.”

Rep. Saylor remarked that in addition to the economic benefits of natural gas, it has environmental benefits, compared to traditional combustion engines. He said a reduction in 90 percent of carbon monoxide emissions is possible by switching to natural gas, along with decreases in non-methane organic gasses, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide.

“This can and should be our reality of the future,” Rep. Saylor said.

Nick DeBenedictis, Chairman and CEO of Aqua America, Inc, said the provisions of the Marcellus Works package are “just the right thing to do environmentally because the payoff is less pollution when more compress natural gas (CNG) vehicles are on the road.”

DeBenedictis reported Aqua expects to have 90 CNG vehicles in operation within the next five years, and has pilot-tested five vans, two dump trucks, and two biofuel pick-up trucks that run on natural gas. He characterized the legislative package as the “jumpstart” the industry needs in Pennsylvania.

Karen Teslovich, President of CNG One Source, and Mark Pergolese, General Manager of Republic Services, added their support for natural gas and Marcellus Works. Pergolese said CNG reduces greenhouse gas emissions and offers quieter vehicles than those powered by traditional engines. In addition he said a greater benefit to the commonwealth is increased energy security, as dependence on foreign fuel sources declines.

“The benefits of natural gas are clear,” Pergolese said.

Tony Bandiero, Director of Greater Philadelphia Clean Cities, said his organization has been pushing for more natural gas and other greener energy solutions for 20 years. He said the mission remains unchanged – to drive support for cleaner fuels in Pennsylvania. He called the Marcellus Shale “a game-changer” and urged support for more adoption of CNG vehicles.

The Marcellus Works package includes nine bills sponsored by Representatives Saylor, Dan Moul (R-Adams), Kathy Watson (R-Bucks), Jim Marshall (R-Beaver), Tina Pickett (R-Bradford), Gordon Denlinger (R-Lancaster), Eli Evankovich (R-Westmoreland), and Seth Grove (R-York). They are:
·         House Bill 301 (Saylor) - Creates a tax credit for private fleet vehicles
·         House Bill 302 (Moul) - Establishes Keystone Transit grant program to cover the incremental cost of transitioning to natural gas buses.
·         House Bill 303 (Watson) - Creates a revolving loan program available to large mass transit agencies to cover the incremental cost of natural gas buses.
·         House Bill 304 (Marshall) - Requires PennDOT to conduct a feasibility study regarding the purchase of natural gas-powered buses for large mass transit agencies in Pennsylvania.
·         House Bill 305 (Denlinger) - Creates a natural gas corridor tax credit which incentivizes the construction of natural gas fueling stations along an eligible corridor.
·         House Bill 306 (Pickett) – Establishes the Keystone Fuels Incentive Fund to provide grants to municipalities, schools and the private sector for the purchase of natural gas vehicles.
·         House Bill 307 (Evankovich) Repeals CARB section 2030 in order to eliminate the costly duplicity of both EPA and CARB certifications for natural gas vehicles.
·         House Bill 308 (Saylor) - Establishes the Keystone Vehicle Program to fund grants for the incremental cost to purchase new natural gas motor vehicles having a gross vehicle weight rating of at least 33,000 pounds.
·         House Bill 309 (Grove) - Establishes a three-year program, the Natural Gas Vehicle Tax Credit, to provide incentives for Pennsylvania businesses to purchase heavy-duty natural gas vehicles.

Sierra Club Testimony at the Democratic House Policy Committee Hearing on Loyalsock State Forest Gas Drilling


I would like to thank the Policy Committee for convening this public hearing on the matter of gas drilling in one of Pennsylvania's natural gems:  The Loyalsock State Forest.  Sierra Club and other conservation organizations have been working since September of 2012 to convince the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to hold public hearings on this matter.  We have largely been ingored.  It took more than six months before we even got an acknowledgement from DCNR Secretary Richard Allan to our letter, but have never gotten an agreement on a public hearing.   We have also appealed to Representative Ron Miller, Majority Chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, to convene a formal public hearing into this matter.  To date, Chairman Miller has declined to hold a hearing, although he did travel to Lycoming County to attend an "invitation-only stakeholders' meeting" with DCNR.  And we are very appreciative of Representative Greg Vitali's efforts to open up the process concerning the gas drilling proposal in the Loyalsock State Forest.

As you will hear from other witnesses, DCNR has a unique ability to control the surface of the Loyalsock State Forest, regardless of who owns the gas rights below.  Unfortunately, it appears that DCNR refuses to acknowledge and exercise this authority, and is choosing to try to simply extract as much money from Andarko as they can.  We believe that DCNR should assert its legal authority and deny Anadarko access to the Clarence Moore tracts.  

As you may know, DCNR never announced that they were negotiating with Anadarko, the gas drilling firm, about allowing Andarko access to the Loyalsock State Forest.  In fact, it was hikers on the Old Loggers' Path who came across survey stakes driven into the ground who alerted us that something was happening in a much-beloved part of the Pennsylvania Wilds.  From the beginning, DCNR has operated in secret, negotiating with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation behind closed doors.  It is this tendency of the Corbett DCNR to eliminate public involvement in decisions about public lands management that is at the heart of our concerns. 

We note that more and more decisions are resulting in changes to long-standing DCNR policies, with no willingness or effort to consult the public.  Perhaps it is because the high-level appointees in the Corbett DCNR have no previous public lands management experience.  They did not come from a background of public service, but rather were political appointees.  Perhaps it is due to pressure from the Governor's office to generate money from our public lands.  This is in contrast to previous DCNR (and DER ) Secretaries who understood that the public should have a say in how our public lands are managed.    And that DCNR has an obligation to serve the public interest, rather than only special economic interests.

Other witnesses will describe the natural attributes that are at risk with the plans to allow gas drilling in the Loyalsock State Forest and specifically the Clarence Moore lands, the Old Loggers' Path and Rock Run.  I would like to contrast the approach to gas drilling of state forests by the Corbett administration's DCNR to the Ridge administration's DCNR.  While both  Republican administrations, their reaction to public concerns are markedly different. 

In 2002, The Ridge administration's DCNR announced plans to lease more than 500,000 acres of state forest land to gas drillers interested in exploiting the two to three mile deep "Trenton Black River" formation.  The planned lease area included major portions of what is today called the Pennsylvania Wilds, including the State Forest Districts of Elk, Sproul, Susquehannock, Tioga, and Tiadaughton.  This huge gas lease sale met swift and strong public opposition from those who used those public lands for fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, paddling and bird watching.  The lease sale threatened the emerging tourism industry of the region, as more people learned about the danger to their cherished lands.  Conservation organizations including Sierra Club banded together to call for a halt to the lease sale, and to open up the process to involve the public.  As a result, DCNR Secretary John Oliver ordered a halt to the lease sale, and convened a series of six public hearings to gather public input on the gas drilling proposal.   Secretary Olliver called the original lack of public involvement "an oversight". 

Those six hearings generated a total of 4,871 formal comments to DCNR.    As a result of the public input, DCNR made significant changes to the proposed lease sale, cutting it by more than half, and  reducing the number of individual tracts from 141 to 75.  The DCNR also significantly strengthened the lease requirements, incorporating public comments concerning set back buffers, and tightening waiver provisions.  "With these modifications in place, I believe the Department has made a good faith effort to deal with the public's concerns", said Secretary Oliver, as he addressed the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on June 25, 2002.

Contrast this to the track record of the Corbett administration's DCNR on the secretive Loyalsock State Forest gas drilling negotiations.  At no time did DCNR announce their intent to allow Anadarko to drill in the Loyalsock.  They had a series of closed-door meetings, while refusing to acknowledge their negotiations in response to formal letters from conservation organizations and local citizens.  Frustrated by DCNR's stonewalling, our coalition turned to legislators, including Representatives Garth Everett, Rick Mirabito, Ron Miller and Greg Vitali, requesting a formal hearing be convened by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.  We asked them to pressure DCNR to open up their process, halt the negotiations and convene public hearings.  In the end, Chairman Miller declined to convene an Environmental Committee hearing, but apparently convinced Secretary Allan to hold a meeting.  That resulted in DCNR's "invitation-only stakeholders" meeting, specifically excluding the state-wide organizations who had been pressing DCNR to open up the process.

The closed door stakeholders meeting included a number  of local elected and appointed officials and a handful of conservationists.  Those in attendance continued to press DCNR to open up the process, and convene more formal public hearings.  In the meeting, we are told that Secretary Allan scoffed at taking public input, stating that "if we had a thousand people give us their comments, we wouldn't learn anything we don't know".  The local Williamsport Sun-Gazette, on April 5, described Secretary Allan's position on public input:  "Before the meeting took place, DCNR Secretary Richard J. Allan and State Forester Daniel Devlin said they chose to keep the group closed to control the conversation. Allan says DCNR has no policy - and no intentions - of holding public meetings on natural gas drilling on state forest lands.  'Its not something that we have ever done.  Its not something that we do.' he said".  People attending the stakeholders meeting complained that DCNR was not interested in hearing their concerns.  DCNR wanted to tell the stakeholders what they are plan to do.  Since that time, DCNR has held a "webinar" to explain certain facts.  

In addition to Secretary Allan claiming that DCNR had no policy to hold public meetings on gas drilling, which is in direct conflict with the Ridge administration's policy, other changes in policy are being made with no public involvement.  DCNR has had a long-time policy that they DO NOT lease gas rights they own under state parks.  This is important, since DCNR only owns about 15% of the gas rights under the state park system, while 85% are severed from the surface, and privately held.  However, with no public notice or input, DCNR has now changed this policy.   This policy change occurred in a private settlement just announced with Consol, the mining company that ruined Duke Lake dam at Green County's Ryerson Station State Park.  In exchange for Consol paying the state $36 million to repair the dam, DCNR will allow Consol to drill for natural gas from deposits the state owns, underneath Ryerson Station State Park.  This new policy was not disclosed by DCNR when they announced the settlement; rather it is buried in the fine print of the legal settlement documents   This new policy for DCNR is a clear violaton of the current moratorium on new gas leasing in state forests and parks, put in place by Governor Rendell.

When viewing the Corbett DCNR's approach to managing our public lands, the pattern is becoming clearer.  Rather than protecting the Commomwealth's natural treasures for future generations, Governor Corbett is directing DCNR to liquidate our assets for short-term gain.   Instead of engaging the public to seek input on the management of our public lands, the current approach is to meet behind closed doors, stonewall when questioned, and hope the media doesn't pick up on what is happening.  We cannot allow this approach to go unchallenged.

We urge the members of this Committee to consider passage of legislation that would compell DCNR engage the public in decisions related to the management of our public lands.  Many other states have Environmental Policy Acts that require state agencies to conduct an environmental impact study for decisions that have significant environmental effects.  This process includes a formal public input process, and a requirement that agencies respond to public comments. 

In addition, the General Assembly should adopt a natural gas severance tax, similar to what every other natural gas producing state has in place.  The current "impact fee" that was adopted as part of Act 13 in 2012 rasies much smaller revenues for the state, than a severance tax would raise.  Governor Rendell proposed, and the PA House passed a severance tax, only to see it die in the PA Senate.  The conservative Senate leadership instead forced the Rendell administration to fill the budget gaps by opening up the state forest system to new gas leasing.  We need to eliminate this pressure to use the state forest system as a cash cow to fill Governor Corbett's budget gaps. 

In the instance of the Loyalsock State Forest specifically, we urge you to do everything in your power to compell DCNR to stop the negotiations with Anadarko, and exercise their authority to prevent any surface disturbance.

Thank you.