Fracking

California Borough Holding Public Hearing on New Fracking Ordinance

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California Borough, a municipality in Washington County situated along the Monongahela River, will hold a public hearing for their new draft zoning ordinance on Thursday, June 7th, 2018 at 5:30 pm in the Municipal Building. Sections 407 and 421 address compressor stations and unconventional gas wells.

There is currently no active drilling within the Borough - home to California University of Pennsylvania, The Village Early Childhood Education Center, and California Area School District - and this is the Council's first time writing an ordinance to regulate the industry. Residents have been meeting to discuss needed changes to the ordinance with the support of the Center for Coalfield Justice and the broader Protect Our Children coalition.

Here's how you can help: if you or someone you know lives in the area, make a plan to get to the public hearing. You can also sign and share this petition, which will be delivered to Borough Council Members.

For more information, contact Sarah Martik at smartik@coalfieldjustice.org or 724-229-3550x.1!

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Ordinance Struggles in the Mon Valley

 CCJ Board member and Clean Air Council representative Lois Bower-Bjornson giving part of the presentation in California Borough. 

CCJ Board member and Clean Air Council representative Lois Bower-Bjornson giving part of the presentation in California Borough. 

Residents of West Pike Run Township and California Borough are at various stages of the zoning ordinance process, attempting to create protective safeguards around homes, schools, and farms from unconventional oil and gas development, or “fracking.”

Last month, CCJ and Clean Air Council teamed up through our work with Protect Our Children to host an informational meeting in California Borough. Residents there can expect a draft ordinance allowing “fracking” activity within Borough lines for the first time to be released soon: this draft has yet to be released to the public.

A longer-running campaign has been ongoing just across the municipal line in West Pike Run Township, where Protect West Pike Run Township members, who are all concerned, local residents, have been speaking up in support of a 1,000 foot setback distance from the edge of a well pad. Their current ordinance follows state standards of a 500 foot setback from the wellbore. Residents have also raised numerous concerns about super well pads, which would be permitted well pads that take up 30 acres of land and can hold upwards of 20 wells per pad. With the 1,000 foot setback distance, one such proposed super well pad would not be permitted on land owned by residents who do not want it, easing the burden on them to fight for their rights.

Both of these campaigns, while at various stages, are ongoing and could use support. If you’re interested in supporting or joining with these residents, contact Sarah Martik at 724-229-3550 x.1 or at smartik@coalfieldjustice.org

Anti-Falcon Support at DEP Hearings

Nearly 500 concerned residents of Beaver, Washington, and Allegheny Counties gathered on April 3, 4, and 5 in their respective counties to raise their concerns over the Falcon Pipeline. CCJ attended the hearings in Beaver and Washington Counties to represent our members and supporters.

Specific to Washington County, CCJ is concerned that the pipeline will be built in an area where subsidence places the integrity of the pipeline at a greater risk, and therefore would place those living in the pipeline’s path at a greater risk. In 2015, an ATEX pipeline in West Virginia ruptured, causing an explosion which damaged the nearest house 700 feet away. Subsidence in Washington County can be difficult to predict for two reasons: first, a lot of mining within the county happened a long time ago, and mine maps for these legacy areas are not always accurate and are sometimes nonexistent; also, if mining utilized room and pillar techniques, the surface may not have subsided yet, meaning that the subsidence event could still happen. Washington County also has large karst formations, which are responsible for the sinkholes that are a growing problem with the Mariner East pipeline. Karst also allows pollutants to travel swiftly and widely, meaning that a spill in a karst-heavy area would affect a larger area than in an area where there is no underlying karst. These more localized issues, coupled with the broader effects to the Pittsburgh region, raise the question of whether Shell can safely build, operate, and maintain this pipeline.

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One of CCJ’s major concerns over the proposed plans for the Falcon Pipeline is the fact that, should the pipeline leak and contaminate the headwaters of the Ambridge Reservoir, 30,000 people would be without safe drinking water. The lack of safe drinking water is already an issue that affects so many across the country, whether by lead pipes or de-watered wells, and it is unconscionable that we would add to this crisis by permitting an unnecessary pipeline.

While anti-Falcon residents were in the majority at these hearings, a group of pro-Falcon residents were also in attendance. Predominantly industry representatives or union workers, stressed the importance of new jobs for reviving the Rust Belt. “Jobs” was not the only pro-Falcon claim made at these hearings: check out our infographic to see just what was said and how the major points were not quite accurate.

 

 

The Plastics Problem

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Last week, our Community Organizer, Sarah, participated in a meeting in Houston, TX to learn more about plastics and to discuss the various ways that groups across the country can come together to support anti-plastics work at every part of the plastics chain. Here are her thoughts:

After visiting Houston, I’ve come to the daunting conclusion that it is impossible to go through everyday actions without touching or using plastic. I’m so much more aware of it now, from the various types of plastics in my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup to the plastics in the microfiber cloth I keep in my car to wipe the coffee I inevitably spill when trying to drink hot coffee while driving. Throughout the plastics chain, we live with varying degrees of plastics exposure, with some experiencing different elements of it than others. Because we live in the shale fields, we live with unconventional oil and gas activity in our backyards. The natural gas liquids are then sent to a “cracker” plant to be turned into plastics. At the point of sale, plastics allow processors to ship foods over long distances to be sold (think: salads and sandwiches at Starbucks that were made in Rhode Island instead of in-store). Consumers then purchase products made of or packaged in plastics, sometimes in overwhelming quantities (think: meal-prep delivery services like Blue Apron and low-priced microfiber bedsheets). Plastic is then either recycled, incinerated, or tossed in landfills or the ocean. Even some plastics that consumers think they are recycling end up being burned, contributing more carbon pollution to the air than coal-fired power plants. In the end, our water is either full of plastic bags and bottle caps or microparticles of plastic that were washed into our water systems. Like I said, it’s daunting.

This is a monster of a system that has been in place for decades. The task we now face in the Ohio River Valley is to stop another head from growing. The Petrochemical buildout that is planned for this region is designed to support an increase in plastics production and use. At CCJ, we fight it from the source by supporting communities’ efforts to keep unconventional oil and gas activity away from homes and schools while advocating for a just, sustainable future that does not rely on fossil fuels. Other groups and organizations like Break Free From Plastic, Upstream, and GAIA work to tackle the problem from other points in the chain.

The good news is this: there was consensus among the groups in this meeting that now is a real opportunity to affect change. On a nation-wide scale, people are becoming more aware of the problem, and are interested in learning more about how to tackle it. There are so many small changes you can make to your daily life that would make a difference. There are massive campaigns you can take part in to elevate your voice in favor of a cleaner earth fueled by cleaner energy. To find out more, and to take action, check out Upstream’s website or contact us at the office.

CCJ joins regional response to petrochemical buildout

 This screen shot shows the planned route of the Falcon Pipeline network and its associated facilities.  The interactive map can be found here:  https://maps.fractracker.org/latest/?appid=ae3e7531eae0453abb62e10fecdf3818

This screen shot shows the planned route of the Falcon Pipeline network and its associated facilities.  The interactive map can be found here: https://maps.fractracker.org/latest/?appid=ae3e7531eae0453abb62e10fecdf3818

In November of 2017, CCJ joined a regional meeting at the People vs. Oil and Gas Summit to discuss the planned petrochemical buildout for the Ohio River valley, focusing primarily on the Shell Ethane Cracker Plant, the Appalachian Storage Hub, and the Falcon Pipeline. Various organizations throughout the region - from Pennsylvania to Kentucky - came together to identify what was known about each project, but also to plan how to move forward to protect our air and water quality.

Background Information:  

The Shell Ethane Cracker Plant in Beaver County is a proposed plant where oil and gas would be transported to be broken down into ethylene and polyethylene. Ethylene, in turn, is used to make plastics. The process of “cracking” the oil and gas to make ethylene, though, can release pollutants like nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter into the air. They also can emit volatile organic compounds that react with other compounds in the air when exposed to sunlight, causing smog. Pittsburgh’s air quality, while significantly better than it was years ago, still remains in the dirtiest 6% of U.S. cities. While legislators like to say that they are not spending money on the Cracker Plant, the tax credits to Shell Chemical will value $1.65 billion over 25 years, the largest tax break in PA history.

The Appalachian Storage Hub (ASH) is a proposed underground storage area. One hundred million barrels of natural gas liquids would be stored in a yet-to-be-built system underground, utilizing underground caverns, salt caves, and other voids. Once natural gas is extracted from the Marcellus, Utica, and Rogersville shales in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it can be stored underground until it is ready to be sent through a pipeline network to its destination. When the Aliso Canyon storage facility had a leak in 2015, the carbon footprint is said to have been larger than the Deepwater Horizon storage leak in the Gulf of Mexico, with further-reaching consequences.

The Falcon Pipeline Network is a planned buildout of a 97.5 mile high-pressure pipeline, similar to the Mariner East 2, that would transport ethane through Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania to Shell’s Ethane Cracker Plant in Beaver County. Pipelines, particularly highly pressurized ones like this, leak: the high consequence areas (HCAs), or areas that would be affected by the vapors leaked from the pipeline, include more than 8,700 residents, 5 schools, 6 daycare centers, and 16 emergency response centers.

CCJ is working with allies to convene regional efforts to protect public health and safety from the threats posed by these projects. Not all of these projects are in our communities (the falcon pipeline cuts through northern Washington County)but we will feel the effects of increased fracking - and in some cases we already have, as we are hearing from more landowners being asked to sign leases. Our communities are already overly-extracted and the risks to water and air quality will affect the region at large. We continue to support and stand for the people who are most impacted by fossil fuel extraction and its related activities.

Shell Falcon Pipeline Permits Open for Comment at Department of Environmental Protection

Shell has applied to build a 97-mile Falcon pipeline to feed the Shell Petrochemical Plant in Beaver County. The pipeline will traverse 22 townships in Pennsylvania (including several in Washington County) and others in West Virginia and Ohio. The track record of other pipelines like the Mariner East 2 pipeline, for which DEP needed to halt construction because of many permit violations, means this pipeline should take all necessary steps to get public input and ensure public safety for the hundreds of homes, hiking and biking trails, waterways, and public drinking water sources it is planned to cross. Please take action and send this letter to the DEP permit reviewer Dana Drake and request a public meeting as well as a 60-day extension to the public commenting deadline.

Please take action now and send a letter to PA DEP: 

 

 

A Hazy Future: Pennsylvania's Energy Landscape in 2045

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by Sam Rubright, DrPH

FracTracker Alliance released the report: A Hazy Future: Pennsylvania’s Energy Landscape in 2045 on January 10, 2018, which details the potential future impacts of a massive buildout of Marcellus Shale wells and associated natural gas infrastructure.

Industry analysts forecast 47,600 new unconventional oil and gas wells may be drilled in Pennsylvania by 2045, fueling new natural gas power plants and petrochemical facilities in PA and beyond. Based on industry projections and current rates of consumption, FracTracker – a national data-driven non-profit – estimates the buildout would require 583 billion gallons of fresh water, 386 million tons of sand, 798,000 acres of land, 131 billion gallons of liquid waste, 45 million tons of solid waste, and more than 323 million truck trips to drilling sites.

Read more and see the study here.

CCJ in Daisytown, PA for lease-reading training

 Ryan and attendees have a Q&A about unconventional oil and gas leases.

Ryan and attendees have a Q&A about unconventional oil and gas leases.

On Tuesday, September 19, CCJ held a workshop on the basics of unconventional oil and gas drilling leases in Daisytown, PA. Ryan Hamilton (Hamilton Law LLC) gave a presentation and answered community members’ questions like “How do I know who owns the mineral rights below my property?” and “If I am approached about leasing my land, but I don’t want to, will they be able to drill anyway?”

It’s important to remember that everything in the stock lease you are presented is negotiable. You can add an addendum and strike out details that are not in the best interest of you, your family, or your land. However, legalese can be confusing, and leases are primarily written to benefit the company, not the landowner. We advise that you contact an attorney to ensure that everything is in order.

If you have questions about unconventional oil and gas leases, or about activity in your area, please reach out to CCJ at any time by calling 724-229-3550 or emailing smartik@coalfieldjustice.org.

If you would like to reach Ryan Hamilton, please call 412-567-9799 or email ryan@hamiltonlawllc.com.

Public Hearing on Proposed Natural Gas Plant in Robinson Township, Washington County

 Map of Shale Gas Activity in Robinson Township, Washington County

Map of Shale Gas Activity in Robinson Township, Washington County

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 6:00 PM at the Fort Cherry Jr./Sr. High School Auditorium (110 Fort Cherry Road, McDonald, PA 15057) for an Air Quality Plan Approval application for the proposed Robinson Power Company, LLC Beech Hollow Project. The proposed natural gas-fired combined cycle power plant with a 1,000 MW generating capacity would be located adjacent to the Champion Processing Inc. waste coal pile in Robinson Township, Washington County.

Attend the meeting to learn what Robinson Power plans are and get your questions answered. Public testimony will begin at 7:00 PM and each individual will have 5 minutes to testify. The DEP encourages people to register beforehand to testify at the hearing by submitting written notice to Lauren Fraley, Community Relations Coordinator at lfraley@pa.gov, care of DEP’s Southwest Regional Office, 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, or by phone at 412-442-4203. There will also be an opportunity to register on site on the evening of the hearing.

Individuals who cannot attend the hearing may submit written public comments to the attention of Alan Binder, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222 or abinder@pa.gov. Written testimony must include the commenter’s name, address, and phone number and reference the proposed Robinson Power Plan Approval (PA-63-00922D). Public comments will be accepted until July 22, 2017 at 4:00 PM.

Documents for the application are available at DEP office or at the link below:

http://www.dep.pa.gov/About/Regional/SouthwestRegion/Community%20Information/Pages/default.aspx

Living with the Effects of Shale Gas Extraction

 SWEHP Presenting in Buffalo Township (Photo Credit: Sarah Martik)

SWEHP Presenting in Buffalo Township (Photo Credit: Sarah Martik)

Living near a shale gas extraction site, compression station, or pipeline comes with some expected and some potentially unexpected effects of which all residents in the area should be aware.  The release of chemicals and particulate matter into the atmosphere is expected; however, an event like a well fire or pipe leak is not something you can predict.  The most important thing for residents to do is to be proactive:  document your health on a registry, and be prepared to respond in case of an acute disaster.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (EHP) has an online registry where residents can document their health symptoms by filling out a questionnaire. The benefit of regularly updating your information on the registry is that researchers can use this data to find correlations between shale gas activity and health issues.  Knowing your symptoms and what causes them can help you add the right air filtration systems to your home and know what you should tell your doctor should you ever need treatment.  This information can also then be used when talking to legislators about why we need strong regulations on this industry.

In addition to being vigilant about your health, you should also make sure that you are prepared to respond in case of a disaster.  The EHP recommends that you contact your local volunteer emergency coordinator to get his or her recommendations for how to prepare an emergency kit.  Bottled water is important for any emergency situation; pliers are useful for turning off your gas valve to stop gas from flowing into your house; a whistle can be used to help first responders know where you are in the event that you are trapped.  Some disasters may require that you evacuate your home, and knowing your evacuation route can help all residents of your community get to safety quickly.

Thinking about these issues is not pleasant for anyone – when I listened to this presentation, I started to panic a bit myself – but being aware and prepared is the reality of being a resident of the shale fields, and it will help you if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation.