Monthly Archives: February 2014

Protesters Waiting to Deliver Petition to Gov. Corbett Asking for Ban on Fracking of Public Forests

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(Photos of protesters waiting to deliver petition to Corbett is courtesy of the John Hanger Campaign)

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About 100 protesters waited Tuesday afternoon to deliver a petition to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

More than 15,000 people signed a petition calling for a ban of fracking in state forests. Held in the rotunda of the state Capitol, the rally was organized by League of Conservation Voters and Clean Water Action.

John Hanger, a Democrat seeking the nomination for governor in the May primary, posted on his Facebook page that he supported those gathering in Harrisburg to oppose Corbett’s plan to allow Marcellus Shale gas drilling in state forests.

In a press release, he said:

I salute the coalition of almost three dozen organizations led by the League of Conservations Voters to bring the message to Corbett’s doorstep that “no means no.” They deserve our thanks and support.

For coverage from NPR, click here.

 

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UPDATED: PA Supreme Court Denies Request to Reconsider Act 13 Decision

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 6:03 p.m. Friday to add quotes from two lead attorneys who challenged Act 13.

By Amanda Gillooly
Editor

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Friday announced that it will not reconsider its decision that Act 13 – the state’s set of laws regulating the Marcellus Shale gas drilling activities – is unconstitutional.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Public Utility Commission last month requested the court reconsider the case following its Dec. 19 decision, which declared key provisions of Act 13 as unconstitutional, including portions that would have taken zoning control out of the hands of local government bodies.

The DEP and PUC hired an outside law firm, Conrad O’Brien, P.C., to handle the filing. One of the partners of the firm is Christopher Carusone, who joined the firm after leaving his position as Gov. Tom Corbett’s chief of staff in July.

John Smith, one of the lead attorneys representing the handful of municipalities such as Cecil and Peters township, a non-profit and medical doctor, said he was pleased with the decision.
Reached Friday, Smith said:
“We are extremely pleased the court acted as justly and swiftly in denying this unprecedented request to reconsider. We look forward to litigating the injustices that the Supreme Court remanded back to the Commonwealth Court.”
One of those issues, he said, relates to gag orders on medical doctors.

Jordan Yeager, one of the lead attorneys on the case stated, “The Corbett Administration wanted a ‘do-over.’ The Supreme Court said ‘no.’ Act 13 violated our fundamental constitutional rights. The court’s landmark ruling stands and we are all safer as a result.”

Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and one of the original petitioners in the case said, “The State has heard the final word on Act 13 from the highest authority. Once again the primary rights of clean air, water, and a healthy environment for the people of the Commonwealth have been reiterated. We hope the Governor and his administration can now finally accept that they were wrong in their attempt to undo the Court’s deliberations. The governor should listen to what the Court has said and realize that the Court’s thoughtful, extensive set of opinions instructs all levels of government to fully adhere to their ruling. This is a great day for Pennsylvania”.

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Social Media Users Bash Chevron’s Free Pizza Coupons Following Explosion, Petition Seeks Apology

Here is a screen shot from the Chevron Facebook page.

Here is a screen shot from the Chevron Facebook page.

The Facebook and Twitter sites for Chevron were hammered Tuesday by angry users who pummeled remarks that for the most part were sarcastic, snarky and outraged.

Users took to social media to express their displeasure over a form letter and coupons for a free pizza-and-pop combo distributed by the company to Greene County, Pennsylvania, folks who were inconvenienced by a gas well explosion there that injured a man. Another man is still missing, and presumed dead.

Some just wrote comments, while others paired theirs with a link to one of myriad news organizations to run a story about the matter.

Some were angry:

“Pizza? I hate you people. I have many colorful suggestions for you on what to do with your free pizza.”

And then there was this comment:

“20 billion dollars profit and you offer these unfortunate people a slice of pizza? how far removed from human emotion/intelligence/understanding are you?”

Still another woman wrote this:

“How is it you people aren’t in jail yet?”

Then there was the snark:

“free pizza if chevron almost kills you YAY free pizza, once the third degree burns heal and you can eat solid food again this will be nice… does it have an expiration date?”

The comments on Twitter were even more brutal. A search for #Chevron yielded this tweet:

#chevron,#fracking,#freepizza,#frackingwellblowout. So I can get a free pizza when a fracking well blows out and kills a human? Suhweet!

And this one:

geeze, sorry we blew up your back yard and killed your neighbor. Here’s a coupon, thanks #chevron :http://blogs.marketwatch.com/energy-ticker/2014/02/18/chevron-fracking-explosion-brings-free-pizza-to-rural-pennsylvanians/?link=sfmw …

And this one:

#Chevron, how dare you blow up our neighborhood, HEY, free pizza!!!! http://www.salon.com/2014/02/18/chevron_apologizes_for_fracking_well_explosion_with_coupons_for_free_pizza/ … via @Salon

Meanwhile, a petition was created Tuesday asking John Watson, Chevron CEO, to apologize for what many social media users have called a botched PR move.

The petition, which had 17 signatures (the goal is 500) as of 7:11 p.m., reads:

We, the undersigned, are calling on John Watson to apologize for giving neighbors of a gas well that exploded In Greene County, Pennsylvania coupons for a free pizza and two-liter bottle of soda. One man was injured, another is presumed dead, and neighbors were forced to evacuate for days until the fire could be extinguished. A tragedy occurred. A coupon for pizza and soda to make up for that is an insult.

To read the entire petition, and see comments from those who have signed, click here.

Editor’s Note: What’s your take on this? Please comment below. Thanks! -amanda

UPDATED: How Does Chevron Say Sorry for Gas Explosion? $1,200 Worth of Pizzas

Photo courtesy of nofrackingway.us

Photo courtesy of nofrackingway.us

Editor’s Note: What follows is not satire. I telephoned Bobtown Pizza Monday after reading about the issue on two other blogs. On Tuesday, Raging Chicken Press confirmed the letter and gift certificates with Chevron. You can read about that here: http://www.ragingchickenpress.org/2014/02/18/breaking-chevron-confirms-that-it-is-responsible-for-pizza-and-soda-party/

The gentleman who answered the phone at Bobtown Pizza in Greene County on Monday said he was surprised how quick word got out about gift certificates Chevron bought from the shop and distributed locally.

Word got out so quickly, he said, that the pop that goes along with the one-large-pizza deal hasn’t even gotten a chance to chill.

That was reportedly how Chevron, the operator of the gas well in Greene County that exploded, killing a man, apologized to local folks.

A form letter, and a gift certificate for a pizza and pop combo.

The cost of the “hey, we’re a good neighbor and we’re trying to prove it” effort? $1200.

Yes, you read that right. The company that earned $21.4 billion in profit last year (that’s billion with a “b”) bought 100 of the gift certificates – each with a retail value of $12.

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Accountability Should Be Demanded in Wake of Greene County Gas Well Explosion

Editor’s Note: I felt this needed to be said. Op ed piece below.

Let me ask you a question: In your experience, what would happen to your neighbor – the guy who lives, say, a half-mile down the road – if he was working on his property and something exploded?

Like, a crazy-flames-shooting-into-the sky, local-first-responders-need-to-set-up-a-perimeter kind of explosion. Before you answer, let me add this query: What if the explosion sent someone to the hospital (while another disappeared during the incident)? What if it was the kind of explosion that burned for days – the kind of explosion that, the day it happened (in, say, the dead of winter) there was an air quality alert?

Think he would be taken in for questioning? Think he might get criminally charged? Have some explaining do?

I do.

For some folks in Greene County, Pennsylvania, Chevron is that neighbor down the road.

Local news reports confirm: The explosion happened early Tuesday morning. A half-mile perimeter has been established by local first responders. The fire is expected to rage for days. There will not be access to the site for days.

If past practice is any indication, our state Department of Environmental Protection will, at best, say it is “investigating.”

Just like it was investigating the various incidents of billowing black smoke and unexplained, prolonged flaring at one of the Marcellus Shale compressor station sites in Washington County, Pennsylvania. And let’s not forget about the DEP’s “investigation” into what internal emails from a water hauler in Washington County referred to as a “massive” spill that was the subject of a “cover up.”

A state official asked the DEP (and Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone’s office) to refer the case to the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.

What’s happened with all that in the past couple of months? Nothing that the public is, or likely will be, privy to.

Because it seems like when it comes to environmental accountability for incidents that may impact the community, the term “it’s under investigation” is the equivalent of a junk drawer where you throw all the stuff you don’t want to deal with.

If you haven’t seen video footage online, please take a look. Like, now. The video is embedded above.

Now tell me: Would you feel safe living 500 feet away from a well? Would you feel your child was safe if she attended school within 500 feet of a well? What if your child attended school 2,500 feet away from a drill site? Safe? (If you answered no, and live in the Fort Cherry School District, for example, it’s just too bad– because the junior-senior high is 2,500 feet away from the Chiarelli well pad).

Here’s my last question: What is it gonna take for people to start getting pissed off enough by these incidents to demand accountability and transparency?

We live in a society where a petition to get Justin Bieber deported got 100,000 signatures almost overnight, but there is little righteous outrage over these kind of incidents. The people who do raise a little bit of hell? They are criticized for being radical activists.

Caring about your community, your neighbors and your natural resources – and demanding accountability from people and corporations that threaten them – is far from radical activism.

It’s being a good citizen.

And I wish I saw more of it.

Pissed off enough to make a phone call or send an email? Here’s a page of contacts to start with.

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One Missing in Gas Well Explosion Reported in Greene County, PA

Multiple media organizations in Western Pennsylvania have confirmed a gas well explosion in Greene County.

No injuries have been reported as of 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, although at least one media organization, the Herald-Standard in Uniontown, has indicated that one worker is missing. Here is coverage from the paper.

Coverage from WPXI can be accessed here.

WTAE’s coverage can be viewed here.

KDKA’s reporting can be seen here.

Here is coverage from the Tribune Review.

Here is the report from the Observer-Reporter newspaper.

Reporting from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette can be viewed here.

This story will be updated as more information/photos are gleaned.

Editor’s Note: If anyone has info, pictures or video of the fire, please email me at marcellusmonitor_editor@yahoo.com

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PA Man Petitions State to Ban Frack Ponds, Asks for Your Help

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By Amanda Gillooly

Pennsylvania resident Rob Slabe thinks frack pits are a travesty, a Marcellus Shale industry practice that serves as a “source of toxic waste-waters and cancer-causing agents (that) pollute our environment through leakage, spillage, and evaporation of toxic volatile organic compounds.”

His goal? To have them banned in the Keystone state.

Slabe started an online petition to that end – and as of Friday morning, more than 1,400 people had signed.

The petition reads:

Frack pits are a danger to animal, plant, and human life and have no place in our Commonwealth.

In place of the frack pit, all gas operators should be required to use some form of a closed loop system for waste storage.

We, the undersigned, demand an end to the open impoundment or frack pit and demand PA place the health and welfare of its citizens above all other interests.

To allow the continued existence of frack pits in our Commonwealth is unconscionable.

The petition will be forwarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Quality Board, which is now accepting comments on proposed regulations.

A western Pennsylvania lawmaker, state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, last year introduced legislation that would ban the use of frack ponds.

That legislation is now pending, and is before the House Environmental Resources Committee.

The new Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which includes industry partners Shell, Chevron, CONSOL and EQT, have identified eliminating waste water impoundments as one of their performance standards.

Impoundments, or frack pits, are banned in North Dakota and are not used in Texas.

For more information or to sign the petition, click here.

Like us on Facebook by clicking here. Email us anytime at marcellusmonitor_editor@yahoo.com.

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Chemicals That Contaminated West Virginia Water Transferred to Armstong County, PA

Chemicals related to the West Virginia spill are now being stored at Dutch Run Coal Preparation Plant operated by Rosebud Mining Co.

Chemicals related to the West Virginia spill are now being stored at Dutch Run Coal Preparation Plant operated by Rosebud Mining Co.

By Amanda Gillooly

It was good news for West Virginia residents grappling with the recent chemical spill in West Virginia: Freedom, the company responsible for the incident, was forced to transfer “chemical spill-related” materials out of the state.

But that could be bad news for Pennsylvania residents, because those materials have been moved into a coal-processing plant in the Keystone state.

Here’s a press release, issued Monday, by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection:

Freedom Industries has begun the process of transferring from its Poca Blending facility in Nitro MCHM and other chemical spill-related materials that are being stored at the facility and on adjacent property being leased by Freedom.

The company informed the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Monday night that it would begin today shipping materials from the Nitro site. Freedom was scheduled this morning to transfer to a coal facility in Pennsylvania approximately 3,500 gallons of MCHM from an inventory that was already being stored at Poca Blending prior to the Jan. 9 chemical leak at Freedom’s Elk River facility.

Freedom said it will continue MCHM shipments from Poca Blending to customers over the next several days and weeks. Those shipments will include both MCHM transferred to Poca Blending from the Elk River spill site and MCHM already being stored at Nitro. The WVDEP will have inspectors on site as Freedom unloads tanks and transfers the materials.

During the moving of materials, there is a potential for area residents to detect odors. The WVDEP will closely monitor the activity to ensure that it is done safely and with as minimal of an odor impact as possible.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister confirmed Thursday that the materials were transferred on Monday to the Dutch Run Coal Preparation Plant in Armstrong County.

Dutch Run is operated by Rosebud Mining Co. The Tribune Review reported that Cliff Forrest, owner of the Kittaning company, had ties with Freedom Industries.

Poister said there while inspectors from the department did not supervise the transfer, which he said was “not an unusual move.” He also said that those sorts of chemicals have long been handled at the Pennsylvania facility.

He added that while it is not feasible for the department to track all chemicals being used and stored in the state, it does monitor the storage of those chemicals using what he referred to as a “robust” regulation of holding tanks.

A phone message left for the public information officer at the WVDEP was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

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