Tag Archives: Marcellus Shale

DA Reviewing Private Criminal Complaint Against Republican House Candidate for Alleged Voter Fraud; PA Dem Chair Calls for Recusal of DA/Campaign Donor

Jason Ortitay (left) and District Attorney Gene Vittone (right)

A formal private criminal complaint was filed this week against a Republican state House candidate asking the Washington County District attorney – who after being questioned Friday said he might have a conflict of interest in the case – to investigate whether “(Jason) Ortitay knowingly and intentionally changed his voter registration to an address he never lived at in order to run for the General Assembly.”

According to a campaign finance report filed this week by Ortitay’s campaign, the Committee to Re-Elect Gene Vittone donated $200 to the fellow Republican’s political campaign.

Asked Thursday about whether his office would investigate, Vittone first said the state Attorney General would have jurisdiction. When told the Attorney General’s office indicated that his office had jurisdiction, Vittone then suggested that the state House of Representatives would need to take up the issue if and when Ortitay got elected. He then said that his office would not be able to investigate unless a formal criminal complaint was filed.

“That’s the procedure,” he said Thursday.

Reached Friday after Marcellus Monitor obtained the formal criminal complaint, Vittone said it would be reviewed, and that he could not make a decision or comment extensively until he had read it.

Asked if his campaign committee donating money to Ortitay’s campaign would constitute as a conflict of interest, he said he would need to review what was being alleged before making that determination.

“If I believe there is a conflict, I will farm it out to the Attorney General’s office,” Vittone said.

Asked why he didn’t mention the potential conflict of interest when asked about the issue Thursday, he said, “You didn’t ask,” then added, “I forgot about it.”

Vittone, who said he was “permitted to donate to political campaigns like anyone else,” then added:

“There is nothing sinister going on.”

But reached Friday evening, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn called on Vittone to immediately recuse himself from the case.

Burn gave the following statement:

“The evidence suggests – in my opinion – that further investigation is warranted and should start immediately. The candidate needs to come clean or hire a lawyer. It is of extreme significance to us in the Democratic Party: (Vittone) must recuse himself immediately. In my opinion it creates the appearance of a conflict because he gave money to a candidate who is the subject of a private criminal complaint.”

Burn then added:

“It’s unfortunate that Republicans made so much noise in 2012 about voter fraud on the part of Democrats. When we raise similar concerns, we can’t seem to find a Republican who wants to do anything about it.”

The private criminal complaint filed Friday, names both Ortitay and Pam Church, the woman with whom he said he lived when he filled out a voter registration form on Oct. 7, 2014 – the last day on which he could register and still meet the residential requirements to run for office in the 46th legislative District.

The complaint alleges that Ortitay violated Pennsylvania election law, specifically 25 Pa.C.S.A. § 1703(a)(3), which prohibits an individual from declaring a residence he knows is not his legal residence on a voter registration form.

Violation of this statute is a first-degree misdemeanor that carries a fine of as much as $10,000, and/or five years in prison. It also calls for the loss of voting rights for a period of 10 years.

Documents obtained by Marcellus Monitor indicate that while Ortitay registered to vote in Burgettstown Oct. 7, 2013 – certifying under penalty of perjury that he would have lived there for a minimum of 30 days prior to that year’s election – he then, just a day later on Oct. 8, signed a lease for an apartment in South Fayette.

On Oct. 8, Ortitay also filled out a change-of-address form through the U.S. Postal Service asking that his mail be forwarded from his former Pittsburgh address to his South Fayette apartment, beginning on Oct. 11. The lease for his former Pittsburgh apartment did not expire until Oct. 31, 2013, according to that document.

To read Marcellus Monitor’s investigative report about Ortitay’s voter registration, click here.

Oritay did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the matter.

Oritay is the Republican facing off against incumbent state Rep. Jesse White, a Democrat from Cecil Township in the 46th District race – one in which Marcellus shale is a leading issue.

 

 

 

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Did A Republican Candidate in Shale-Centric PA House Race Commit Voter Fraud?

Editor’s Note: Faithful readers of Marcellus Monitor likely have noticed the vast majority of stories I’ve published over this past year have originated from southwestern Pennsylvania, or, more specifically, from Pennsylvania’s 46th Legislative District.

The sitting representative in the district, which encompasses portions of Washington and Allegheny counties, is state Rep. Jesse White, a Democrat from Cecil Township. White has been called a “watchdog” on matters pertaining to Marcellus Shale. Because of his outspoken criticism of the Marcellus Shale industry and the state Department of Environmental Protection, which is tasked with regulating it, White has been painted as the “anti-shale” candidate by some.

His opponent, Republican Jason Ortitay (who owns Jason’s Cheesecake Company) is, by contrast, largely considered the “pro-shale” candidate (in fact, EQT’s political action committee is hosting an event to benefit the first-time state representative candidate this Thursday at the Cambria Suites in Washington.

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By way of background, DEP recently announced it is seeking a $4.5 million fine from the company for what the department called an impoundment leak. If assessed, it will be the largest such civil penalty in state history.

All that said, this story, while a bit different from the types of investigative reports I have published in the past, is pertinent, I believe, to all those who have been following this shale-centric race, and to all those who live  or work in the 46th District. -amanda

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(This house on Maple Avenue in Burgettstown – the home of Pam Church – is where Jason Ortitay, Republican candidate for the 46th District state House seat, said he lived when he registered to vote in Burgettstown, Washington County. Ortitay registered to vote there on the very last day he could move into the district and still, under Pennsylvania statute, be eligible to run for office during this year’s election. Photo by Faith Cotter. Taken on Oct. 13, 2014)

By Faith Cotter

Despite admitting in a recent interview that he was in between apartments at the time, Republican candidate for the 46th state House seat, Jason Ortitay, registered to vote in Burgettstown, Washington County – an address that, on paper, moved him into the district on the very last day he could and still be eligible to run for office there in this November’s general election.

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However, state election code dictates that, by registering, a prospective voter is stating – under penalty of perjury – that they will have lived at that residence for 30 days prior to the election in which they wish to vote. But according to documents, Ortitay signed a lease in South Fayette in Allegheny – which is also in the district – just a day after registering to vote in Burgettstown. And according to documents, Ortitay never even received mail at the Burgettstown addresss.

According to a change-of-address form filled out by Ortitay on Oct. 8, 2013 – just a day after he registered to vote in Burgettstown—he had his mail forwarded from his former Pittsburgh address to his new South Fayette Township address. The change of address was scheduled to take effect just days later on Oct. 11, 2013.

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Had Ortitay waited to register Oct. 8 at his South Fayette address, he may not have been eligible to run for office in the 46th District because he would not have lived in the district for the amount of time required by state statute.

When asked about when he moved in and out of Church’s Burgettstown home, and why he registered there when he signed a lease in South Fayette Township only a day later, Ortitay said:

“I changed my voter registration on the last day I could. Everything I did was completely legitimate. I asked if it was legitimate, and they said yes.”

But according to obtained documents, Ortitay, on paper, was still living in a Pittsburgh apartment until Oct. 31, 2013, when the lease expired. His former Pittsburgh address is not part of the 46th District.

He then signed the new lease for his South Fayette Township apartment (in which he currently resides) on Oct. 8, 2013, the day after he registered to vote in Burgettstown.

During an interview in a Panera parking lot on Oct. 13, 2014, Ortitay was unable to provide specific dates on which he moved in and out of the Burgettstown home – or why he registered there when he signed a lease elsewhere just a day later.

Although a car was in the driveway and a light was on in Church’s home the afternoon of Oct. 13, 2014, nobody answered the door to help clarify when Mr. Ortitay allegedly resided there.

While no one answered the door there after three attempts at knocking, a neighbor across the street answered hers. The neighbor, Carrie Ferris, has resided at her home for 16 years and said that she is “pretty familiar” with the neighborhood.

After being shown a photo of Ortitay, she said, “No, I’ve never seen him around.”

According to Pennsylvania election code, a person is committing voter fraud if they, “Declare as residence a place or address which the individual knows is not the individual’s legal residence.”

If an individual is found guilty of violating this section of Pennsylvania law, which is a first-degree misdemeanor, the penalty could include a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years. Additionally, individuals who are found guilty of violating the statute may lose their right to vote for a period of 10 years.

According to the Criminal Law Division of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, if there is evidence of an individual committing voter fraud, the case would be investigated by the district attorney’s office in the county the individual voted in, unless there is a conflict of interest. In that case, the state Attorney General would have jurisdiction to investigate.

A phone message left with the Washington County District Attorney’s office last week was not immediately returned.

Ortitay did not return two voice mail messages left on his cell phone seeking comment on this story. He hung up on a reporter without answering during a third attempt to make contact prior to publication.

Author’s Note: Faith Cotter is an award-winning writer and editor based in Pittsburgh, PA. Her background includes working as an investigative reporter for The Innocence Institute of Point Park University. She is currently working toward a Master of Arts in Professional Writing from Chatham University. She can be reached by email at faithc3865@gmail.com, or via her website: http://faithc3865.wix.com/faithcotter

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DEP Issues Notice of Violation to Range Resources for Leaking Cecil Township Impoundment

worstell

The state Department of Environmental Protection has issued a notice of violation to Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources for groundwater contamination at the former Worstell centralized waste water impoundment in Cecil Township.

News of the NOV was given to Cecil Township officials at a private meeting with DEP Monday night, board Chairman Andy Schrader said Tuesday morning.

Schrader said the NOV was issued to Range Resources because liquid from the frack pit, now known as Cecil 23 Impoundment, “escaped containment.”

“Since the DEP issued the notice of violation, this confirmed that the Cecil Township 23 is leaking. For the safety of our residents this was the township’s concern from the beginning,” Schrader.

He said DEP will arrange for further testing to be done at the site to determine the extent of the soil and water contamination.

Three officials from DEP met with all five Cecil supervisors and township Manager Don Gennusso at the municipal building for about two hours Monday to discuss ongoing concerns over possible groundwater contamination stemming from what is now confirmed to have been a leak.

The Monday meeting was requested by township officials after news that, on July 11 Range Resources notified the DEP that there were elevated chloride levels detected by the ground water monitoring wells at the Cecil 23 waste water impoundment.

“Range has until September 24 to respond.  It is our expectation that Range would perform a full characterization of the extent of the plume of contamination and to implement an appropriate remedial response to address the release,” DEP spokesman John Poister said in an email. “Still to be determined would be any civil penalty for Range.”

In response to repeated inquiries by Cecil Township officials, the DEP said last month that it would conduct a limited investigation. Cecil officials in turn sent letters to about 50 nearby residents letting them know about the potential for groundwater contamination.

The Worstell impoundment made headlines in 2013, when Cecil Township supervisors sought to meet publicly with DEP regarding concerns over the frack pit.

DEP refused to meet in public, and documents obtained through a state Right to Know request showed high-ranking officials making a joke about using a provision in the open records law to keep the gathering in private.

News of possible groundwater and soil contamination at the Cecil 23 Impoundment comes in the wake of a “significant” leak at another Range Resources impoundment in Amwell Township, Washington County. That leak necessitated the removal of at least 15,000 tons of soil. DEP issued notices of violation for the leak.

A third frack pit in Amwell run by Range Resources known as the Yeager impoundment – which was the subject of lawsuits and a federal probe – is reportedly in the process of being closed.

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

Editor’s Note: It should be acknowledged that the former Worstell impoundment was the subject of industry PR spin. Check out this story and feel free to leave a comment asking for a correction.

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Cecil Township Warns Residents of Potential Water Contamination Near Frack Pit After DEP Refuses To

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EDITOR’S NOTE/UPDATE: DEP spokesman John Poister emailed me the following statement regarding the Cecil 23 Impoundment:

“DEP was notified of elevated chloride levels in one of its groundwater monitoring wells on July 11.  On July 21st Range did additional sampling on the site.  DEP will have inspectors on site next week to take our own samples from the groundwater monitoring and leak detection system at the impoundment. We do intend to contact property owners who are closest to and down gradient  of the impoundment to determine if they would provide DEP access to their property to conduct sampling of their wells.

Samples will be analyzed for a wide range of inorganic and organics as well as other compounds.  These lab tests generally take between 30 and 45 days to complete.

If DEP determines that groundwater may have been impacted, the DEP will require a comprehensive investigation of the groundwater including an assessment the private water wells with the potential to be impacted.

DEP has not had any complaints from private water well owners in the vicinity of the impoundment.”

 

A controversial Marcellus Shale centralized water impoundment Cecil Township operated by Range Resources and used in the fracking process may have contaminated nearby soil and groundwater, prompting municipal officials there today to hand-deliver letters to about 50 nearby residents.

“The township has come to learn that the impoundment is currently no holding any fluids and was taken out of service in April of this year,” the letter reads. “It is the township’s understanding that the impoundment was taken out of service as part of an investigation to determine whether any fluids entered the groundwater and soils in and around the impoundment site and the source of any fresh water.”

Cecil Township supervisors for more than a year have raised concerns about Cecil 23 impoundment, formerly known as the Worstell impoundment – and the board said in a press release that information it recently received “has furthered those concerns.”

Previously unknown to both the township and the public, is that on July 11 Range Resources notified the DEP that there were elevated chloride levels detected by the ground water monitoring wells at the Cecil 23 waste water impoundment, according to the press release.

In response to repeated inquiries by Cecil Township officials, the DEP confirmed Thursday that they will conduct a limited investigation.

Upon learning this information, Cecil Township called DEP and requested that they notify Cecil Township residents of potential ground water contamination. Unfortunately, the DEP declined to do so initially stating ‘the DEP will not make a general notification to residents, according to Cecil officials.

“Based on recent evidence of water and soil contamination at other Range Resource impoundments in Washington County coupled with concerns raised by Auditor General, DePasquale’s report on DEP performance; we feel that the public has a right to know if it’s safe to live in their neighborhood,” supervisor’s Chairman Andy Schrader said. “Our residents’ safety is our first concern.”

The township intends to closely monitor this investigation and keep residents informed.

The Worstell impoundment made headlines in 2013, when Cecil Township supervisors sought to meet publicly with DEP regarding concerns over the frack pit.

DEP refused to meet in public, and documents obtained through a state Right to Know request showed high-ranking officials making a joke about using a provision in the open records law to keep the gathering in private.

News of possible groundwater and soil contamination at the Cecil 23 Impoundment comes in the wake of a “significant” leak at another Range Resources impoundment in Amwell Township, Washington County. That leak necessitated the removal of at least 15,000 tons of soil. DEP issued notices of violation for the leak.

A third frack pit in Amwell run by Range Resources known as the Yeager impoundment – which was the subject of lawsuits and a federal probe – is reportedly in the process of being closed.

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

Editor’s Note: While the township intends to closely monitor this investigation and keep residents informed, concerned citizens should contact both the township at 724-745-2227 and the DEP at 1-866-255-5158 with any questions or concerns.

 

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DEP Issues Notices of Violation to Range Resources Over Washington County Methane Leak

Range_Resources_Logo

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday issued notices of violation to Southpointe-based Marcellus Shale drilling company Range Resources over a methane leak last month at a gas well in Washington County.

DEP spokesman John Poister said the “equipment failure” May 14 at the Herman Pad in Mt. Pleasant Township that spurred a precautionary evacuation of a few dozen residents resulted in the company being issued Thursday with an NOV for failure to operate a well according to regulations, and for hazardous release of a gas into the air.

He said DEP is requiring Range Resources to provide it with a full explanation of what caused the equipment failure, as well as its plan to correct the problem. Additionally, Poister said DEP is requiring the company to provide it with information about the future of the well, which he said was not operational at the time of the leak.

That information is due back to DEP by July 11, he said.

Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella did not immediately return an email seeking further information on the matter.

 

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Obit: Daisytown Farmer Terry Greenwood, Whose Well Water Was Polluted by Dominion Energy, Dead at 66

Terry L. “Crow” Greenwood, a Washington County man who made headlines in 2008 after the Department of Environmental Protection forced Dominion Energy to supply his family with drinking water after Marcellus Shale drilling activities near his Daisytown farm polluted his water well supply, died Sunday after a three-month battle with cancerous brain tumors.

He was 66.

Born in McKeesport on October 26, 1947, he was the son of the late Harold and Eleanor (Kles) Greenwood.

“Crow” was a retired truck driver from Supervalu in Belle Vernon and also enjoyed farming. He was a member of the Harry Enstrom Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America and the St. Dominic’s Social Club in Donora.  His interests were many and included riding his motorcycle, going to auctions, and he was especially interested in protecting our environment.

His motto was, “Water is more important than gas.”

He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Kathryn (Yanachik) Greenwood and their children, Terence Greenwood of Daisytown, Todd (Amy) Greenwood of Charleroi and Tracy Greenwood of Bentleyville; his son, Jeffrey (Tina) Greenwood of Cincinnati, Ohio;  two grandchildren, Cassidy & Eric Greenwood; 2=two brothers, Dennis (Cindi) Greenwood of RuffsDale and Randy (Jo) Greenwood of Rostraver Township; two nieces; a dear cousin, Gaylen Spinnenweber; and his best friend, Barry “Sunday” Nartowicz.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by two nephews, Tim Greenwood and Allan Greenwood.

Friends will be received 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in the James C. Stump Funeral Home Inc., 580 Circle Drive, Belle Vernon/Rostraver Township where a Blessing service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Friday with Msgr. Roger Statnik officiating.  Interment will follow in Monongahela Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of one’s choice. To leave online condolences or for more information on services, click here.

On Jan. 28, 2008 Green wood told the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that “the water from the water well supply turned cloudy and discolored and contained sediment,” according to DEP documents. He asked the department to investigate.

The surface of the a nearby Dominion Energy gas well was about 400 feet away from the Grenwood family’s well water. And while pre-drilling tests showed iron and magnesium in acceptable levels, a post-drilling test indicate the level of those chemicals in the Greenwood’s water exceeded drinking water standards.

“The water…continues to be cloudy and discolored and cannot be used for the drinking and cooking purposes served by the well water supply.”

 

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MarkWest Issues Statement on Fire at Washington County Processing Plant, Evacuation

MarkWest Energy Partners has issued an emailed statement through spokesman Robert McHale – who is on scene –  regarding the fire at the Chartiers Township/Houston, Washington County, Marcellus Shale gas processing plant.

“At approximately 6:00 p.m., during severe weather conditions, MarkWest¹s Houston facility was struck by lightning. All employees and contractors are accounted for and there are no reported injuries. The facility will remain shut down until a thorough inspection is completed.

MarkWest has highly trained personnel on-site working with first responders and will continue to monitor the situation.

First responders have secured a perimeter and out of an abundance of caution, several residents have relocated to a local community center.

MarkWest has an employee at this location and will  work with these residents to ensure that accommodations are made until they can return to their homes.

We thank the first responders for their professionalism and will provide updates as more information becomes available.”

Editor’s Note: The Observer-Reporter and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette both reported that those evacuated were told they could return to their homes just before 10 p.m. Wednesday. To read the OR’s report, click here. To read the PG’s report, click here.

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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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Marcellus Shale Coalition, PIOGA Petition Court to Intervene in Act 13 Case

marcellus monitor

The Marcellus Shale Coalition and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association on Wednesday filed a petition again asking the Commonwealth Court to allow them to intervene in the ongoing court case revolving around Act 13, the state’s law governing Marcellus Shale drilling activity.

In a 23-page court filing, attorneys for the industry groups – two attorneys from K&L Gates firm – argue that their clients have a “unique and compelling interest” in the case.

The state Supreme Court in December upheld a Commonwealth Court ruling that declared portions of Act 13 as unconstitutional – specifically, the portions that pre-empted local zoning ordinances.

But the Supreme Court also remanded several issues, such as medical gag orders, back to the lower court.

Both industry parties had petitioned the Commonwealth Court in April of 2012 to intervene in the case. They were denied. The industry groups also petitioned the Supreme Court to allow them to intervene. The Supreme Court also denied their request.

In Wednesday’s filing, attorneys wrote:

“The industry parties have…unique, compelling and legally enforceable interests in the outcome of this case.”

The attorneys argue that the industry’s interests can no longer be soundly represented by Commonwealth parties involved in the case.

They write:

When the issue before this court was the constitutionality of Act 13 in its entirety, this court concluded that those interests were adequately represented by the Commonwealth parties. Now, however, there are several issues before this court related to the interpretation and application of the Supreme Court majority decision and, more importantly for purposes of this petition in respect to the new issues presented, the industry parties are neither necessarily aligned with nor adequately represented by Commonwealth parties.”

They later add:

“Rather, the parties are potentially directly adverse to the Commonwealth parties.”

The petition also suggests that industry parties should be permitted to intervene in the case on remand because of the substantial impact the eventual outcome will have on them.

“The industry parties have a substantial and unrepresented interest in how the underlying issues are addressed and how pending questions are resolved. Act 13 contains a myriad of regulatory provisions including…the payment of impact fees; the content of permit applications, well site construction (and more).

No current party to this case must actually plan for, finance and comply with Act 13’s extensive list of regulatory requirements. Thus, no party has the same interests as the industry parties.”

Reached Wednesday afternoon, John Smith, one of the lead attorneys who spearheaded the Act 13 challenge on behalf of a handful of communities such as Cecil and Peters townships, a nonprofit and a medical doctor, said:

“In our review, it’s the same argument they have raised and lost in the same court.”

A status conference in the case has been set for Monday in Harrisburg.

Application for Relief[2]

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