I'm afraid I've come up with some more items which I should have included in my previous testimony. I hope it's not too late to add them.
11) Accountability 101
A major problem with this gas rush is that no one is effectively holding prominent citizens to account for their role in promoting, or failing to challenge, irresponsible activities.
Could the commission submit the following press release - with appropriate introductory and closing remarks - to as many papers across the state as possible?
We are soliciting input from elected officials and other community leaders. What we would especially like to know is, what negative impacts associated with extracting Marcellus Shale gas you are concerned about and what you have done to address them.
if you get no useful feedback, you may cause people to reflect upon
the costs that they have so far overlooked. Perhaps citizens would
echo these questions to elected officials, regulators and other
prominent citizens and organizations. I believe that would be a good
12) Animals, frack ponds and regulation
There are reports from the West that wildlife and livestock have been poisoned, or suffered health effects such as miscarriages, from drinking contaminated water from frack ponds.
Here is a relevant quote from someone right here in Tioga County who had some cattle quarantined because they likely drank strontium laced water that leaked from a frack pond.
From http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2011/09/27/burning-questions-quarantined-cows-give-birth-to-dead-calves/ ,
[Carol Johnson] "warns hunters she sees near her property not to eat any of the game they catch. 'Deer, grouse, rabbits, they’re up on that [well] pad licking,' she says. 'They don’t know what’s in the water.…The whole thing has become one big mess.'"
I suggest you read the whole article and look into this case in depth.
While some companies are moving to steel containers for flowback, why haven't they been mandated? If we have laws making it illegal to run a stop sign, why shouldn't we mandate best drilling practices to protect our health and environment? It is clearly in my interest to stop at all stop signs but having a law to make it a legal requirement makes perfect sense, why leave far more serious health and safety decisions to industry's discretion?
Other areas where this principle applies are, green completions vs flaring; the exemption to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act which decrees that anything coming out of an oil or gas well is not hazardous waste; unrealistically low limits on the area where pollution is presumed to be the result of drilling; so called "green" chemistry; worker hours (do 12 hour shifts, or longer, promote safety?); and full, mandatory disclosure of all chemicals used.
Failing to mandate best practices only invites industry to cut corners.
13) Incompetence or malfeasance?
The attached document, entitled "Strontium Goats", contains an email exchange I had with DEP regarding an alleged case of animals killed by exposure to strontium from Marcellus drilling.
I am disappointed and disgusted by DEP's handling of my complaint. They have failed to do even the most cursory investigation, failed to answer numerous questions that I raised and the explanations they did provide are hogwash.
I urge you to look into it. Perhaps you could ask Shell, which took over East Resources, whether such an incident occurred in Rutland Township.
14) National interest
Why is oil & gas flaring off 30% of the gas produced in the North Dakota oil fields? Is this industry concerned about the national interest or only its own bottom line?
15) Road safety
The Pennsylvania State Police have conducted 4 Operation FracNET inspection sweeps in conjunction with DEP that I am aware of. This table summarizes the results.
Note that these statistics only consider those trucks and drivers with violations serious enough to be taken out of service. Do you find these statistics anywhere near acceptable? They are particularly disturbing because what some of these trucks are hauling as "residual waste" should actually be classified as hazardous waste but for the unwarranted exemption EPA granted oil & gas to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act .
Why should we believe this industry conducts its other operations any more safely or responsibly than it does its trucks? Why haven't we seen any significant improvements? Has there been another sweep since March? If not, why? Mission accomplished?
Another factor in road safety is the lack of any improvements to handle the increased traffic, for example, turn lanes are obviously needed at the intersection of US 6 and Main St in Mansfield, and even more importantly a traffic light at the intersection of US-6 and PA-14 North in Troy.
16) Global warming
While industry touts methane as a bridge fuel, it is really a bridge to disaster. In this report, http://www.springerlink.com/content/e384226wr4160653/fulltext.pdf, evaluating greenhouse gas footprint of fracked gas, Howarth, Marino and Ingraffea state, "our analysis indicates that conventional gas has little or no advantage over coal even over the 100-year time period."
Given that most scientists agree that we are already seeing the consequences of global warming and could soon reach a tipping point, it is imperative that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions rather than merely replace one fossil fuel with another; especially if Howarth et al are correct about fracked methane's greenhouse gas footprint.
What's more, the methane bubble has dried up capital which was being invested in sustainable energy sources like solar and wind. China and Germany are now the leaders in solar energy technology while the US pursues technology to scrape the bottom of the fossil fuel barrel - tight shale gas, tar sands and deep water off shore oil. These dirty energy sources are only "economically viable" because many of their costs are externalized and government is providing huge subsidies and tax breaks.
17) Water drillers
It would be instructive to hear what people who drill water wells for a living have to say about the use of Air Foam HD at a gas well whose casing to protect the aquifer had not yet been poured. They may also have insights into how gas wells are or should be drilled in general. Perhaps the state should hire some of them to observe and evaluate the gas industry's procedures and practices.
18) Fair share
The profits from gas extraction should be fairly shared among the gas companies, the landowners and the government, as trustee for society at large. I would like to see a discussion which takes as its starting point an equal share for each of these parties and then justifies why one should get more than the others. All costs, harms and risks associated with gas extraction should, of course, come out of gross revenues before profits are divvied up. We need to stop allowing the gas companies to externalize costs, harms and risks.
19) Moratorium now
I think we need a moratorium on new permits until these issues, and those raised by others, have been properly addressed.
This gas rush, and the Marcellus is merely one of many, is another instance of the greed and criminality which brought about the 2008 financial meltdown. We must not allow it to go forward unchallenged.
The true measure of a society is not how much wealth its most powerful sociopaths can amass but rather if its most humble members can live in comfort and dignity. Sadly, today I would give the US an F. We can and must do better.
Thank you for your attention and for all you are doing.