Monthly Archives: April 2014

PA State Rep Introduces Law Requiring Full Disclosure of Fracking Chemicals, Mandatory Air Quality Monitoring

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

PA state Rep. Jesse White D, Cecil, recently introduced the legislation.

By Amanda Gillooly

A Pennsylvania state representative announced this week that he has introduced two new bills in the state House that he said would help further promote responsible Marcellus Shale drilling operations in local communities.

House Bill 1721, the “Fair Frac Disclosure Act,” would mandate the full disclosure of all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, including the disclosure of compounds labeled as “proprietary” by drilling company vendors and subcontractors.

White said that when companies dump drilling waste water from multiple sites into open-air waste water impoundments, chemicals from the fracking process can mix, react and release into the air or into groundwater if the impoundments leak.

White said that the Fair Frac Disclosure Act would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to maintain a public database of all compounds used by an applicant before a permit could be issued, thus providing transparency and accountability to Pennsylvania residents.

“Local residents who live near industrial drilling operations at the very least deserve to know what chemicals are being put into the air and water as part of the fracking process,” said White, D-Allegheny/Beaver/Washington. “While I applaud the recent news of hydraulic fracturing supplier Baker Hughes deciding to disclose all of its chemicals, not all companies are following suit. This legislation would simply add another layer of protection for our local communities.”

White’s second bill, House Bill 2172, would mandate that air-quality monitoring systems be placed near all natural-gas compressor stations, processing plants and centralized waste water impoundments.

Centralized impoundments have become a controversial issue in western Pennsylvania, with news earlier this month that there was a “significant leak” at a Range Resources pit in Amwell Township, Washington County. The DEP said hundreds of tons of contaminated soil has already been removed, and a source says thousands of tons more may follow suit. The incident spurred the DEP to issue notices of violation to the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company.

Under this bill, White said such monitoring systems would be required at all current and future sites as a condition of their permitting. The legislation would require that all air-quality levels recorded by monitoring systems be made publicly accessible through a real-time display posted on the Internet.

White pointed to a recent Associated Press report on preliminary data from the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project regarding cases in which residents might have experienced problems as a result of living in close proximity to natural gas drilling operations. To date, the project has discovered 27 cases in which residents developed symptoms and illnesses after nearby operations began.

Natural gas drilling in our region is here and here to stay, but that does not mean we should ignore simple and commonsense practices that would promote more transparency and provide for honest, fact-based debate,” White said. “When dealing with the health and well-being of our local communities and residents, the public should have access to the scientific facts and figures surrounding drilling in an unfiltered way, and my legislation offers that – nothing more, nothing less.”

 

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Tuesday Must-Read: PA PUC Hired PR Firm With Marcellus Shale Coalition Ties to Help With Act 13

marcellusmonitorbanner.png

State Impact published a report Monday regarding how the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has for the past two years hired a public relations firm with ties to the Marcellus Shale Coalition to advise it on Act 13 and other zoning regulation matters related to the industry.

The story by NPR reads:

The law firm of McNees, Wallace and Nurick is an associate member of the gas industry trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition. The firm’s attorneys routinely represent energy companies before the state Public Utility Commission (PUC).

In fact McNees is currently representing Sunoco Logistics in a high-profile case before the commission. The company is seeking permission from the PUC to be considered a “public utility corporation,” which would exempt its Mariner East pipeline from local zoning codes.

McNees has also spent the past two years working as outside legal counsel to the PUC– advising the PUC on its authority under the state’s two-year-old oil and gas law, known as Act 13. The firm was hired in 2012 and has received $29,593 for its work so far.

A political science professor in the story is quoted as saying the situation is “pretty bizarre.”

Read it for yourself here.

And let me know what you think.

-amanda

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Range Resources Issued Notice of Violation Over “Significant Leak” at Washington Co. Impoundment

By Amanda Gillooly

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN)
Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a Notice of Violation on Friday to Range Resources over what it is calling a “significant leak” at a Washington County impoundment.

DEP spokesman John Poister said the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company was cited under the Clean Streams Act for failure to contain pollutants and failure to contain production fluids.

He said a civil penalty has not yet been assessed, and added that is the final step in the process of issuing a Notice of Violation.

“We are waiting for completion of the cleanup,” Poister said.

Asked how long the cleanup would take, he said, “I don’t know right now.”

Poister also clarified information issued last week by the department regarding contaminated soil that has been trucked out of the John Day impoundment.

He said Range Resources has been trucking 128 tons of contaminated soil out of the Amwell Township impoundment and into three area landfills – the Arden landfill in Chartiers, the Imperial landfill and the Territa landfill in Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County.

Last week, Poister said the soil was being taken solely to the Arden landfill.

Last week the DEP also indicated that the old permit, also known as a Form U, was being used until the driller could obtain a new one.

On Monday, Poister said that the company cleaning up the leak, Weavertown Environmental, was actually applying for the new permit.

That permit, Poister said, was still pending.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not return an email seeking more information.

Editor’s Note: The information in this story reflects a phone conversation with Poister at 11 a.m. Monday.

 

 

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Range Resources Hauling Contaminated Soil to Washington Co. Landfill Using Old Permit, Thousands of Tons More Need Removed

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN)
Stock Photo of the John Day Impoundment

By Amanda Gillooly

More than 500 tons of contaminated soil has already been trucked out of the John Day impoundment in Washington County and into at least one area landfill on an old permit, the state Department of Environmental Protection confirmed late last week.

Sources have said the incident is worse than previously reported in the media, and that thousands of tons of contaminated soil still need to be removed.

DEP spokesman John Poister on Tuesday (April 22) said Range Resources had “removed” 500 tons of soil from the impoundment and had been “stockpiling” it in a contained, secure area locatedat the Amwell Township site. He added the company was using vacuum trucks to ensure any dirt that escaped from the area would be immediately removed.

But Wednesday night, sources told Marcellus Monitor that Range had actually been trucking the soil to area landfills – and that they had seen as many as five tri-axle trucks hauling material out of the impoundment for days.

Reached Thursday (April 24) for clarification on where the soil was being stored or transported, Poister reversed the DEP’s previous statement, saying, “We know now” the company had, in fact, been transporting the soil off site.

He said the soil was trucked to the Arden landfill in Chartiers Township, Washington County.

Poister said it was legal for the Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company to use a previous permit – called a Form U – because it was issued earlier this year for the same site.

However, that permit only allowed the company to remove about 100 tons of soil a day.

Poister said Range Resources has applied for a new permit, which would allow them to haul out more soil from the John Day impoundment in Washington County.

While the DEP spokesman could provide no further details related to the pending Form U permit, a source has said it could allow Range Resources to haul out as many as 800 tons of soil each day.

A copy of the old Form U, which contains analysis of the contaminated soil previously permitted to be hauled from the pit to area landfills, was not immediately available. Marcellus Monitor is working to obtain a copy, as well as the soil analysis Range Resources would have had to have submitted in order to obtain the former permit.

Asked if by using the old permit, Range Resources was asserting that the soil effected by the most recent leak contains the same chemicals as the soil removed during the previous incident, Poister said, “I don’t know. I am waiting to get clarification on that.”

While no further information on the permit or the amount of soil needed to be removed from the site was available from DEP, a source told Marcellus Monitor that “thousands” more tons would need to be removed.

While the DEP and Range Resources director of corporate communications Matt Pitzarella has said the leak essentially consisted of “salt water,” the department is still awaiting the a soil analysis from the company, Poister said Thursday afternoon.

The DEP spokesman on Wednesday added that Range Resources had exhausted the amount of tons it was permitted to remove from the site, which necessitated the new permit.

Sources, though, said they observed trucks hauling material out of the impoundment throughout last week – including Thursday and as recently as this Monday morning.

Asked if Range was permitted to haul additional soil out of the impoundment given that DEP indicated the company had “exhausted” the former permit, Poister said, “I don’t know if they shipped” all of the stockpiled soil.

Poister also confirmed last week that Range Resources – which has two crews working at the John Day impoundment, one to remove soil and the other to place plastic tarps over the impoundment to prevent rainwater from pushing what they have said is salt water further into the ground – was having difficulty getting the plastic to stay put.

While he said the issue was under control as of last week, sources say the plastic could be seen blowing into the yards of neighboring farms – and that the plastic tarps remain an issue this week, as well.

It was still unclear when the DEP would issue a notice of violation to Range Resources, although Poister said Thursday it was still in the process of being drawn up.

Centralized impoundments are used to store millions of gallons of water used during the hydraulic fracturing process. Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process. Critics have long maintained that impoundments, sometimes called frack pits, are not an industry best practice, and have pushed for safer storage methods, such as closed-loop systems.

Pitzarella did not immediately return emails seeking further information.

Editor’s Note: Poister said Monday morning that there was no new information on the leak or cleanup efforts at the John Day impoundment in Amwell Township.

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DEP: 500 Tons of Contaminated Soil Removed From Range Resources Impoundment Following Washington County Leak

By Amanda Gillooly

 

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN) The John Day Impoundment

(PHOTO CREDIT: ROBERT DONNAN)
The John Day Impoundment

Crews have removed 500 tons of contaminated soil from a Range Resources centralized impoundment located in Amwell Township, Washington County – the site where the state Department of Environmental Protection last week said was a “significant leak.”

Although Matt Pitzarella, the Marcellus Shale drilling company’s director of corporate communications, disputed there was, in fact, a “leak” at the site, DEP’s spokesman John Poister on Tuesday morning was clear: Yes, there was a “significant leak” at the impoundment – one that will require even more soil to be removed.

Poister indicated that a DEP inspector was on scene Tuesday, and said two crews are working at the John Day imundment to remediate the area. One crew is removing soil, he said, while the other is using plastic to cover the ground in an effort to shield it from rainfall.

Rain, Poister said, would “just push the salt further into the ground.”

Poister said the DEP was not aware of where the soil is being transported, but confirmed that Range Resources is in the process of having its contents analyzed.

The DEP, he said, has not yet received a form from Range Resources that shows what chemicals are in the soil. Such a form is required by the state before contaminated soil can be dumped into a landfill.

Poister said DEP also did not know how much soil would potentially need to be removed from the John Day impoundment. However, a confidential source has said a significant amount of soil still needs to be removed.

The spokesman said DEP officials are in the process of drawing up a notice of violation, but could not say when it would be finalized and sent to Range Resources.

“We’re moving pretty fast on this, but we’re still collecting information,” Poister said.

Poister could not provide further details about whether the John Day impoundment in Amwell Township had been used to store fresh water or waste water, but said there “is not distinction” and could have been permitted either way.

He did say, however, that he did not believe the impoundment was being actively used when the leak was reported last week.

Further details on the nature of the leak were not immediately available Tuesday. It was not immediately clear how 500 tons of soil was contaminated following a leak from what Pitzarella told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was an empty impoundment.

Centralized impoundments are used to store millions of gallons of water used during the hydraulic fracturing process.

Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process.

Critics have long maintained that impoundments, sometimes called frack pits, are not an industry best practice, and have pushed for safer storage methods, such as closed-loop systems.

A spokesman from Range Resources’ media relations department did not immediately return a voice mail seeking more information.

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DEP Issuing Notice of Violation to Range Resources for ‘Significant Leak’ at Washington County Impoundment

marcellus monitor

(Impoundments are used to store the water utilized during the fracking process)

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman John Poister on Thursday afternoon confirmed that a notice of violation would be issued to Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources for what he said was a “significant leak” at the John Day Impoundment in Amwell Township, Washington County.

Poister said Range Reported reported the spill Wednesday, and that the company hired a consultant to help determine what remediation steps are necessary. A DEP inspector is also on scene.

Poister said the notice of violation would go out “very soon” for the leak, which Range Resources officials told DEP was detected during an inspection. Salt was found in the soil, Poister indicated.

He said Range Resources would have to remove a “significant amount of soil” because of the leak.

The DEP will be working with the Southpointe-based company, he said, to ensure the site is completely remediated, and to ensure corrections are made to prevent similar incidents in the future.

He said the notice of violation will also include a civil penalty.

“I can’t tell you right now what the extent of that penalty would be,” Poister said Thursday.

A Range Resources public relations spokeswoman did not immediately return a voice mail seeking more information on the leak.

Centralized impoundments are used to store millions of gallons of water used during the hydraulic fracturing process.

Range Resources impoundments in Washington County have been the subject of both controversy and national headlines this past year – mostly over questions about what exactly is in the water stored at the sites.

State Impact reported that company executives testified in a civil court case that they do not know what chemicals they are using in the fracking process.

Critics have long maintained that impoundments, sometimes called frack pits, are not an industry best practice, and have pushed for safer storage methods, such as closed-loop systems.

 

 

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