My testimony in Wysox was extemporaneous but since I would now like to present several additional issues for you to consider, I shall also include written versions of my 4 original concerns. The wording will differ; hopefully it will be clearer and more complete.
1) harms/benefits analysis
What the gas industry is in the process of building in Pennsylvania is a 10,000 square mile industrial site. This could contain up to 160,000 wells (if they backfill to 40 acre spacing), untold miles of pipeline and an undisclosed number of compressor stations and other infrastructure. Would any modern, civilized society which has the least regard for its citizens allow a project of this magnitude to go forward without a comprehensive harms/benefits analysis?
If we assume that they only drill 80,000 wells and that each well is expected to produce 1% of the pollution that would necessitate an EIS (a figure provided by a PennFuture attorney), this project should entail 800 EIS's, just for the wells. But, thanks to DEP's policy of not looking at cumulative impacts, not one will likely be required. This policy makes about as much sense as concluding that we never need worry about a tsunami because the danger posed by each single drop of water is inconsequential.
Do bear in mind that similar, smaller developments in West Virginia, New York and Maryland will adjoin this massive industrial project. To date most residents have still not been properly informed of its scale or what it entails. This begs the question, are our politicians, to include the previous administration, really so naive or are they complicit in a criminal conspiracy to sneak this monstrosity in without informed public input?
2) questions for industry
Despite claims by both Shell and Range Resources that they are committed to safety, environmental stewardship and the communities they work in, and that they strive to be transparent, neither has responded to a set of questions I submitted to them; last June and July respectively.
Attached is my current version of that list of questions, slightly expanded and revised. I urge you to see how many of these questions the industry will answer for you. The questions themselves raise a host of issues which should concern you.
When people's water is contaminated and the company offers a settlement, it includes a non-disclosure agreement to keep the victim from telling what happened. Probably the best known example is that of Laura Amos in Colorado, which has been fairly well documented in the film Split Estate.
I have personally spoken to two people in Tioga County who claimed that East Resources had contaminated their water and had installed, or was in the process of installing, water treatment equipment in their homes. One of them stated this in front of a group of about 30 residents and I later confirmed with the installer that East had paid for the equipment and installation. One later said he wanted to keep the matter private and the other said the problem was solved and she didn't want to talk about it. Can I prove they signed non-disclosure agreements? No. Do you think they didn't?
Neither of these cases made the press, but 4 others where people or livestock were exposed to water contaminated by Marcellus drilling did, DEP told me about 2 more when I asked - but also confirmed that sometimes the parties reach a mutually agreeable solution without ever notifying DEP - and up to 6 others which I've heard about 2nd or 3rd hand. Details on some of these hearsay reports are very sketchy, so up to 4 may be refering to cases I've already counted. To summarize, I have heard from people I judge to be credible of between 10 to 14 cases of water contamination in Tioga County. When I brought the question of non-disclosure agreements up with my county commissioners they said, "This is a legal matter, we are not going to get involved."
In one case, a Tiogan was diagnosed with acute heavy metal poisoning. His was prescribed an experimental drug from Norway which he got through the CDC. A Shell Marcellus well was implicated in contaminating his water. Shell offered a settlement.
I do not know this person, but was told the above by someone I consider highly credible who claims to, and who says they got the story directly from him. At the time they spoke the victim was weighing whether to accept Shell's offer, which included a non-disclosure agreement, but didn't see that he had much choice - his medicine is apparently very expensive. This story was later confirmed by two other people whom I also consider reliable and who also claim to know and have spoken to the victim about the incident.
At the 8/23/11 Tioga Board of Commissioners meeting I asked if they had heard about anyone in the greater Wellsboro area coming down with acute heavy metal poisoning. When they said no, I related the facts above and suggested that they look into the matter. At the 9/13 meeting I asked if they had followed up and was told it was a private matter. At the 9/27 meeting they again admitted to have done nothing. Would you have at least asked Shell about this?
Does contaminated water respect property boundaries? Don't drillers have a moral obligation to report water contamination? Why don't they have a legal one as well? Why have DEP and EPA turned a blind eye?
4) betrayal by county officials and prominent citizens
This industry has caused terrible air pollution, including ground level ozone in various locations throughout the west, for example in the Jonah-Pinesdale play in Wyoming and the Barnett Shale in Texas. When I asked my county commissioners why we shouldn't expect the same asthma levels as in the Barnett Shale - 25% vs 7% statewide for certain age groups - their reply was straight out of the tobacco industry's playbook, "Can you prove it was the gas drilling?" (Actually, an SMU study determined that gas drilling was responsible for 1/2 the pollution in the area, so there is every reason to believe it contributes significantly to the high asthma rate.)
This document, http://www.tiogapartners.org/docs/2011_Tioga_County_Community_Compact.pdf, was recently unveiled by the Tioga County Partnership for Community Health. I denounced it as pure puffery when the Tioga County Commissioners voted to endorse it. While I'm not a lawyer, it is quite clear that there is nothing legally binding in it and it does not address a single concrete problem with gas drilling. It is in short no less than propaganda to convince the naive that the gas industry is responsible and caring. This is typical of the rose tinted view of the gas rush presented by the powerful and influential in the county.
5) water specialists
Here are 3 excerpts from an email sent to me in 2010 by a water specialist working in Northcentral Pennsylvania.
* "So in the interest of feeding my family, I try to not publicly align against the gas companies."
* "But, I see so many problems with the whole process. Those of us in the ground water industries are really concerned, even if you can forget about the contamination possibilities, the amount of water withdrawn form the water table is almost devastating, especially in a year with so little recharge. There needs to be more third party oversight, gas companies being allowed to run virtually unregulated for years has given them an attitude that they know what's best, and we don't know crud."
* "The people in my industry think it's criminal what the gas companies do, but property owners see that money, and caution goes to the wind."
I urge you to solicit comments in confidence from certified water specialists. I believe they are very justifiably afraid of backlash for openly speaking out, not only from the gas industry, but also from powerful neighbors who stand to make a killing.
6) 20 answers
Attached is then DEP Secretary Hanger's response to a set of questions I presented to Governor Rendell on behalf of Citizens Concerned about Natural Gas Drilling when he visited Wellsboro on 8/27/2010.
7) honest answers?
In August 2009, Schlumberger held an open house in Horseheads, NY where they were opening a large facility. I asked one of the two frack experts how they knew gas released by fracking wouldn't find natural faults to follow to the surface. He responded, "Well, why hasn't it migrated to the surface over the millions of years its been down there?" I said, "Maybe because it's been trapped inside the shale you're fracturing in order to get it to flow into your well."
After a moment or so I realized that he was not going to offer any further explanation, so I ask if he had any idea what had gone wrong with the well in Dimock eight months before. He said he'd never heard of any problems but he'd only come up from Texas for the open house. So he asked his colleague, who'd been in charge of their Marcellus operations for about a year. He also hadn't heard of any problems in Dimock.
As the Brits say, "Pull the other, it's got bells on." At least neither of them said he'd never heard of Cabot.
8) informed consent
Attached is a copy of the lease East Resources offered my wife and me. There are numerous parts which I find very troubling but none more so than the section on extension of term. As I read it, East, at its sole discretion, can extend the primary term by a period equal to the original term. So, what looks at first glance like "East can extend the lease for another 5 years" can actually be interpreted as "East may at any time double the remaining primary term of this lease." In other words, this may well be a lease in perpetuity.
Would that stand up in court? I don't know, but I can well imagine some unfortunate widow being intimidated into believing it would after East's lawyer explained it to her.
When I mentioned this provision at a seminar on Marcellus leasing, a woman, who turned out to work for Talisman, piped up with, "Oh, we cross that provision out from our leases." Which begs the question of what such egregious language is doing in a boilerplate lease to begin with? Would anyone in their right mind truly give informed consent to such nonsense? Unfortunately, I fear our courts might think so. Why has the state failed to ensure that boilerplate leases are fair? Why isn't it protecting its citizens?
9) how thoroughly is each well inspected?
In Wysox a gentleman, I believe his name was Miller, who owns a company which builds well pads and preps used drilling muds for disposal stated that DEP inspects his sites several times a week. Given the number of DEP inspectors and the number of wells for them to inspect, I am highly skeptical of that claim. Perhaps you should check with DEP to see how much time it spends inspecting each well.
10) preexisting conditions
When people's water is contaminated, the gas industry's first line of defense seems to be to claim, "preexisting condition" - you can watch Penn State's Terry Engelder admit that such "lying ... is just part of the process" at about minute 7 of this video, http://shaleshockmedia.org/2011/01/30/2-engelder-cumulative-environmental-effects-of-gas-drilling/ .
Do contaminants from drilling bio-accumulate in hair or nails? Can samples provide an estimate of when exposure began? Where can victims have such an analysis done? Would it stand up in court?
Thank you for your consideration and for undertaking what our elected officials should be doing, looking out for the public interest. If I can be of any assistance in your endeavor, please do not hesitate to ask.
628 Bailey Creek Rd
Millerton PA 16936